I thought this was the low point for Steve Phillips, I really did. At the time, it seemed impossible for someone to say something dumber than, basically, “a center fielder that is hitting .370/.467/.584 is hurting his team.” But I think I’ve finally learned to never, ever underestimate Phillips’ singular and unparalleled penchant for stupidity. Because today, Phillips said he would trade Stephen Strasburg for Roy Oswalt if he were running the Washington Nationals. If you are already as avid a baseball fan as I am, then I don’t need to explain to you why this ludicrous. But if you aren’t, I’ll explain it to you, because I’m your buddy.
Here’s exactly what was said during his interview with WFAN’s Mike Francesa:
PHILLIPS: “Here’s the thing. If I’m the Astros, I’m saying to the Washington Nationals: ‘Sure, Oswalt? I think he’d fit great for you. I’ll take Strasburg.’
FRANCESA: “Never. Never. They won’t do that.”
PHILLIPS: “Well, let me ask you this: do you think that Strasburg is going to be Roy Oswalt in his career?”
PHILLIPS: “He will? I don’t know that. And if he is, and if I want Roy Oswalt to help me win this year, you know what, I make that deal.”
FRANCESA: “Wait a minute, you can’t give up Strasburg.”
PHILLIPS: “Absolutely. Strasburg is… I mean, listen, he was a good college pitcher, he’s been a good minor league pitcher so far, but if I can get one of the top five starting pitchers in the game today for Strasburg? Because I really hope [Strasburg] can be that guy, but I have to tell you, I don’t know that he can be that guy, and with his delivery, I could see the potential for sort of a Mark Prior sort of a breakdown.”
My computer is overheating due to too much stupidity present on my screen at one time. It may never forgive me, and I wouldn’t blame it. I don’t even know where to start.
First, Phillips says that he would shoot for the stars if he were running the Astros and ask for Strasburg, even though less than a minute later, he (a) expresses concern over Strasburg’s ability and health and (b) acknowledges that the Nationals would laugh at that proposal. He’s basically arguing with himself; Steve Phillips would love to take Strasburg off the Nationals’ hands in exchange for Oswalt, but you know what, Strasburg isn’t going to be as good as Oswalt. That makes sense only if you’re a schizophrenic. Or if you’ve ever done a segment like this.
The only other problem has to do with literally everything else that Phillips said. Let’s start with the salaries. Oswalt is 32 years old and will make $15 million this season and $16 million next season. Strasburg is 21 years old and will make $15 million total from now until 2012. So, Strasburg is much younger and much cheaper. But how does he compare to Oswalt, based purely on pitching ability?
Well, in his final year at San Diego State, Strasburg threw 109 innings, striking out 195, walking 19, and allowing four home runs. He was more than a “good” college pitcher. He was exceptional. He put together perhaps the greatest season a college pitcher has ever had. But how is he doing in the minor leagues? In eight starts (five at AA and three at AAA), Strasburg has recorded 49 strikeouts and 10 walks in 40 innings, allowing zero home runs. He’s more than a “good” minor league pitcher. He’s been dominant. Now, it’s not a sure thing that he’ll equal Oswalt’s very good career (which is Phillips’ point), but given the differences in age and cost, and the mounds of on-field evidence suggesting that Strasburg is absolutely the real deal, and the legions of scouts who say the Strasburg is the best pitching prospect they’ve ever seen, Phillips wants to deal him? For an older, more expensive, and arguably less effective pitcher? So that the Washington Nationals can make a World Series push?
Also, as a final kick to the groin from me to Phillips, on what planet is Roy Oswalt one of the five best pitchers in the game? The following starters are either better than Oswalt either right now or going forward: Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander, Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay, Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, Jon Lester, Dan Haren, CC Sabathia, Adam Wainwright, Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Carpenter, Josh Johnson, Clayton Kershaw, James Shields, Brett Anderson, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Chad Billingsley, Johan Santana, Yovani Gallardo, Francisco Liriano, Matt Garza, Tommy Hanson, David Price, and Rick Porcello. There are like ten other pitchers that you could argue about, too. Phillips is insulting you by saying that Oswalt is one of the five best starters in the game. He’s one of the five best starters on the Astros, but that’s about it.
Look, if Mike Francesa is audibly stunned by the insanity of an idea, then the idea probably belongs alongside the XFL, bloodletting, and the Children’s Crusade in the Pantheon of stupid ideas. And let there be no doubt: Francesa was floored by this suggestion.