Plenty of misconceptions going on in this town. There’s this notion that the Phillies and Eagles have some rivalry going. That’s just fuel for the over-zealous media. All these guys love each other. They bond together over their mutual distaste of talk radio and Philly fans. The other misconception is that the Eagles were actually doing work during their bye-week. Getting ready for Dallas? Hardly. What’s to get ready for? They’re coming of a win over Washington. They control their own destiny. I don’t even think Castillo was sleeping at the Nova Care Complex. Talk about some free time. So, what did the Eagles get into? Well, the brain trust farmed out their skills to the Phillies. Old Ruben brought Joe and Howie in for a powwow. He wanted some fresh eyes on these personnel decisions he has to make. They met last Saturday down at the Bank. I happened to deliver the assorted muffin basket, and just stuck around to see what happened.
Ruben welcomed the guys in. His dress was “forced casual,” almost like he wanted to give the impression he had just been working out. He’s grinning ear-to-ear.
RUBEN (faux graciousness after a round of handshakes): Sit down guys, grab a seat, grab a muffin. There’s bran, double bran, pumpkin spice, boysenberry….
JOE BANNER (takes seat, spreads a pile of papers in front of him): Grab me a double bran, Howie.
(Howie pouts, gets up and goes over to the muffin basket. He’s scanning the room, checking to see if it’s nicer than his conference room)
RUBEN (Pouring a Sugar Free Red Bull into some orange juice): Should we cut through the pleasantries and just get to the point? What’d you guys think?
HOWIE (Distracted, fighting his muffin wrapper): What?
BANNER: He wants to know what we think!
HOWIE: OK! Sorry.
BANNER (scratching his head): Well, honestly Ruben, we don’t see your problem. You’ve been to the playoffs five straight years, you sold every seat in the stadium, I can’t go anywhere without seeing one of those god-forsaken Cliff Lee T-Shirt jerseys, what more do you want?
RUBEN: Well, we’re trying to build a championship team here.
BANNER: What’s a Championship?
(Howie whispers something in Banner’s ear)
BANNER: Oh, right. Are you sure about that? We’ve found it actually has no impact on our revenue.
RUBEN: You guys aren’t trying to win a Super Bowl?
BANNER: A Super What?
(Howie whispers something in Banner’s ear)
BANNER: Oh, that thing. Well, we’re not trying to not win it, if that makes any sense.
ME: Actually, that doesn’t make sense.
ME: Another double bran?
RUBEN (frustrated): Gentelmen, can we just move on then, forget about the championship for a second. What do you see when you look at the roster?
BANNER (shuffling through papers): Ok, well, we see a lot of areas where you could cut. Do you realize how old your team is? Howie who are we cutting?
HOWIE: Ryan Howard.
BANNER: Right, Howard. And..
HOWIE: Polanco Placido. He’s gone. Then you dangle Chase Utley for a 3rd and a conditional 5th, if not…CUT.
(Banner looks at Roseman, they nod in agreement)
RUBEN: We can’t just cut guys, they have contracts.
BANNER: What do you mean you can’t cut them? What do you do with players once they turn 30?
RUBEN: We keep them. The contracts are guaranteed.
BANNER: Guaran-what now?
RUBEN (Getting more and more livid): Guaranteed!
BANNER: Howie, Google “Guaranteed.”
(Howie whips out an iPhone, punches away for a second and shows Banner the screen)
BANNER: You’ve got to be f*cking sh*tting me. What moron thought that up? Who did your collective bargaining for you, Antoine Walker?
RUBEN: I don’t think this is going to work, guys. I was under the impression you had some basic understanding of what we were doing here. Several of these players, Howard, Polly, Chase, etc. we are committed to. There’s no wiggle room, there.
BANNER: To be clear, you can’t cut players under contract?
RUBEN: NO! Look, stay and enjoy your muffins, but I think we should probably just call it a day.
HOWIE: It’s a great muffin.
BANNER: Wait, wait. We’ve got other ideas. Sorry about the whole (air quotes) cut half your roster thing. Look, we’ve put together a projected starting lineup for 2012.
(Banner slides a piece of paper across the table to Ruben)
RUBEN (after studying the sheet for a moment): There’s no 3rd baseman in this lineup, and you’ve got two guys playing centerfield.
BANNER: We don’t value 3rd base as a position.
RUBEN: What does that mean?
HOWIE: It means we don’t value it. You don’t need one. Poof! Problems solved.
RUBEN: How can we play without a 3rd baseman?
HOWIE: Change your scheme. Have you thought about bringing in a new defensive coordinator? You might be interested in hearing about this thing called a wide-nine.
RUBEN: There’s no such thing as a defensive coordinator in baseball.
HOWIE: Well, there should be. We’ve got a guy for you. Bobby Abreu.
RUBEN: Bobby Abreu is a terrible defensive player. What the hell are you guys talking about? This is ridiculous.
BANNER: Whoa, let him explain. This is good. This was actually Coach Reid’s idea.
HOWIE: Right, Well coach Reid and Abreu go way back. Don’t know if you knew that, but they do. One day they were supposed to meet at Denny’s at 2:30 am for a Grand Slam. Well, Abreu isn’t there. Coach Reid meanders through a few orders of Moons over Mi-ham-i and finally at 4 am, Abreu walks through the door looking like a mess. Turns out his Bentley broke down and he had to walk 23 miles to the Denny’s. Talk about Dedication! Plus, he’s always wanted to be a good defensive player. He’s been around plenty of good defensive players. It makes sense.
ME: It makes no f*cking sense.
RUBEN (slams table, stands up, yelling like a lunatic): Why the hell is the muffin guy still here? Is this a practical joke? Am I on camera right now? If I’m on camera, someone is fired. You’re all fired.
HOWIE (to BANNER): What’s his problem?
BANNER: Ruben, these are just ideas, don’t get so emotional. There’s no room for emotion in any of this.
RUBEN: Get the f*ck out of my conference room.
(Howie hurries to finish his muffin and Banner collects his papers. Ruben starts walking them to the door. As soon as they’re through he slams it with authority, and let’s out a huge breath)
(KNOCK on the DOOR)
RUBEN (opening door): What?
BANNER: You should franchise Hamels.
HOWIE: Franchise him. Next year too, then when his arm goes, it’ll save you a For….
(Ruben slams door shut again. He untucks his shirt and sits heavily back into his chair)