Phils Fall Further Without Even Playing

The Phillies lost Friday afternoon in Chicago. The loss made them 0-5 on what is generally considered to be the most important stretch of the season – a 13 game road trip. While the loss hurt, it may not have been the biggest set back that the Phillies suffered on Friday. No, the biggest losses came shortly after the game had ended and the Mets and Marlins really swung into action – off the field.

If there was one man who did more damage to the Phillies than Aramis Ramirez on Friday, his name would likely be Jim Duquette or Larry Beinfest. Those are the names of the Mets and Marlins general managers, who each made major moves to improve their teams.

The saga starts in New York where Duquette didn't wait until the free night-time minutes kicked in on his cell phone. By late afternoon, Duquette had added pitchers – yes, plural – Kris Benson and Victor Zambrano. The cost was high, and included Scott Kazmir, the young pitcher considered by many to be the Mets best prospect. If Phillies fans need a barometer to measure Kazmir by, think Gavin Floyd. The really scary part is that he didn't go in the biggest deal of the day that brought Benson to the Mets.

The Mets sent Ty Wigginton, Matt Peterson (another highly touted prospect, who was playing at AA) and Jose Bautista (who they had to get from Kansas City) to Pittsburgh for Benson and minor league infielder Jeff Keppinger. They shipped young catcher Justin Huber to the Royals for Bautista. Imagine that, getting a player from another organization to make a different deal work – are you listening, Ed?

The Mets weren't done. Kazmir and his minor league teammate, pitcher Joselo Diaz then went to Tampa Bay for Zambrano and AAA pitcher Bartolome Fortunato.

The Mets did two things in a few hours that Ed Wade would likely never do. They involved a third team to get a trade done and they gave up a top prospect to get a pitcher that they believe puts them over the top.

Further south, in Miami, the Marlins kept pace with the boys in New York. Beinfest pulled off a blockbuster. The Marlins sent Brad Penny, Hee Seop Choi and minor league pitcher Bill Murphy to the Dodgers for Paul LoDuca, Juan Encarnacion and reliever Guillermo Mota. Of course, that immediately means that LoDuca, Encarnacion and Mota become Phillie killers, destined to beat the Phillies when next the two teams meet. It also means that Penny and Choi will get to beat the Phillies sooner than they thought, since the Phillies visit Los Angeles next week.

Word has it that the Dodgers might not be done. Penny may have been a missing piece in a potential deal for Randy Johnson.

Yes, it wasn't the Cubs who did the most damage to the Phillies on Friday. The Mets and Marlins made bold, aggressive moves that will likely improve their teams. The Mets needed pitching and while neither Benson or Zambrano are great, they're improvements over what they had. The Marlins filled a glaring hole at catcher and added a huge piece to their bullpen in Mota. They also showed that they can adapt. After focusing on Arizona outfielder Steve Finley, the Marlins changed direction after Finley said he would veto any deal that sent him to the east coast. Finley says no to the Marlins – and the Phillies, by the way – the Marlins move elsewhere and get a deal done.

This isn't to say that the Phillies should have given Gavin Floyd for Kris Benson or for anyone else. It is simply to say that the Phillies unwillingness to budge on one of their top prospects that other teams were drooling over could wind up hurting them. There is enough young pitching coming through the system that the Phillies could have at least considered moving one of their top prospects. While the early returns are that Zambrano especially wasn't worth Kazmir, perhaps, to the Mets chances in the division and potentially in the wild-card race, it was worth giving up a top prospect.

If the Phillies do stand pat at the trading deadline and if they do fall in the division standings, don't look at this stretch of games as a turning point. Look at this stretch of player moves by other NL East teams as a turning point. Only time will tell if the moves that the Mets and Marlins made will truly help them. The point is though, that they did something. They made moves to fill holes on their respective clubs and swallowed hard, doing things that they didn't really want to do (like trading Scott Kazmir) because they saw the necessity.

Wow, what a concept!

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