Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Phillies' Ownership Group: The Phantom 5


NOTE: I've included a picture of the anger management pyramid for your benefit as a Phillies fan. You may need to understand anger management after reading the article referenced in this post.

I've been asked on several occasions on why I'd want to have season tickets to the Flyers.

Afterall, the NHL is a gate driven league, and to be honest, NHL hockey tickets are a bit overpriced. While I don't always enjoy cutting the check for my share of the tickets, the one thing I am always certain about is that as long as Ed Snider owns the Flyers, he will give a damn about how the team does on the ice.

Contrast this to the current ownership of the Philadelphia Phillies. Did you ever get the impression that they gave a crap about anything, much less winning? Do you know their names? Do you know what they look like?

No? Me neither.

Some stories have been written over the years (Bill Conlin always finds a way to take veiled and unveiled shots at a group he calls the "Teflonics" ), but the fact is, these people could be made up entities for all we know. We've never seen them and you wouldn't know them if you bumped into them at Reading Terminal.

If you are a Phillies fan and have only one magazine article to sit down and read, please either pickup the latest issue of Philadelphia Magazine or read the article here (although I recommend buying it too, as Philly mag editor Larry Platt should be rewarded for having tried to sniff this story out). The article, written by Richard Rhys, makes a valiant attempt to paint a picture of the Phillies ownership group, but it's damned near impossible to paint a picture if the subject you're painting won't cooperate. The picture that Rhys does paint is not a flattering one. The Phils' front office (save outsider GM Pat Gillick) is, according to this article, a self-satisfied, chummy little den of mediocrity.

The names of the owners? 87 year old Claire Betz, the Buck Brothers (Jim, 82; Bill, 78, and Whip, 75), and 53 year old John Middleton. They are certainly not names that roll off of the tongue nor are they in the forefront of the minds of Phils fans. This is because they are fronted by Penn grad Dave Montgomery, whose only role seems to be that of a resident pinata. His job is to simply be the mouthpiece and protect the core ownership group from any media exposure, either positive or negative. It is also Monty's job to maintain the most fucked up sports business model of all time: if the attendence lags, lower payroll.....if attendence is good, raise payroll.

It is bad enough that Dave Montgomery simply just carries water for the ownership group, but he is also portrayed as a syncophant for Commissioner Bud Selig when it comes to holding the line on salaries. Why Montgomery feels the need to satiate Selig's agenda in one of the largest markets in the United States is not explained in any way, but you will form your own opinion after this article.

Essentially, the Phillies franchise boils down to a cash cow for these owners, for whom, "winning would be nice". Winning would be nice? Winning a title should be the only reason why you would want to own a sports franchise. You'd have to be a rank incompetent as a businessman to not make money owning a sports franchise in a city like Philadelphia. Is a "winning would be nice" attitude really the type of ownership we should have in a demanding city such as this one, where the public gave them a ton of money to build a ballpark that has practically given them permission to print money?

Your only hope as a Phils fan? Rhys delves into that question a little bit. Maybe minority owner John Middleton, who has been portrayed as actually caring about winning in an interesting couple of anecdotes and is the youngest member of the group, outlives all of the other minority members and buys them out.

Maybe Pat Croce puts together an ownership group. Maybe.

No, the article will not make you happy, but consider yourself so informed as to why the baseball team's potential has been at much less than optimal since 1981.

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