Phillies fans can breathe a little easier today as Todd Zolecki of MLB.com has reported that the Phillies have finally given Adam Eaton his dishonorable discharge. Nightmares of Adam Eaton somehow finding his way back onto the mound at Citizens Bank Park have been put to sleep, so those of you who sit along the first base line can stop bringing your harpoons to Phillies games. Eaton was set to make more than $8 million in 2009, despite not being in contention for the fifth spot in the rotation or any spot on the Phillies roster. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. had been looking to move Eaton, but could not find a suitor foolish enough to take him, even for only a one year, one million dollar commitment. So today, the Phillies gave up and cut the cord that tied them to one of Pat Gillick’s few mistakes as GM of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Since being signed by the Phillies in November of 2006, Eaton posted a record of 21-22 and an ERA just below six. His win-loss totals is a great testament to how amazing the offense has been the past few years. In three years, he had a .304 AVG against, allowed 56 homeruns, gave up 219 earned runs, and struck out 197 batters. Sounds like a Ryan Howard season. Quickly, the Phillies’ high hopes for Eaton deteriorated to deep regrets and the overpaid pitcher drew severe animosity from Phils fans. He was the only player to be booed during Opening Day 2008 introductions and the only player to be booed in almost every game he entered. By the end of his tenure, even the organization treated him with disrespect as they did not offer Eaton an invitation to the World Series parade.
There’s much discussion about why fans care so much about how much players on their favorite team are paid. Certainly Eaton would not have drawn as much wrath from fans had he not been receiving such a large amount of money from the Phils’ front office. Some argue that this is because fans should and do care about how their favorite team allocates their resources, salary cap or no salary cap. This is part of the case, but personally, I believe something different. I feel that bringing in a player with a big contract sets high expectations amongst fans. When a player making the big money comes in there are hopes that the move can help push a team over the top and when the player underperforms, these hopes are dashed. This was especially the case with Eaton, who at the time of his signing was coming to a team who had come close but failed to get over the hump that was the NL East in a couple of seasons. Of course, no fans have had their expectations spurned more than those in Philly and we make sure to let you know when you do so.
However, while I’m happy he is gone, I am trying to look at this in a different way to accompany my new outlook on the Phillies (at least for a few seasons). Every game counts in baseball. Even the third game of the season is key if you want to go all the way as the Phillies did last October. And early on last season, Eaton had his fair share of success for the Phils. At one point, he had more quality starts than Cole Hamels. Granted he wasn’t able to keep this up, but I’d hate to think where the Phillies would have been without those wins. Not to mention, had Eaton not faltered during the middle of the season, we may have never traded for World Series homerun hitter, Joe Blanton, who has yet to lose a game in a Phillies uniform. So instead of ‘good riddance’, I bid this farewell to Eaton: Thanks for the little contributions you made this year, but you will not be missed.