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The Phillies Might As Well Keep Spending

1:07 PM EST on December 6, 2022

Bryce harper
Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Philadelphia Phillies should stop nickel-and-diming their roster and get serious about Aaron Judge. They should enter negotiations with the once-and-potential-erstwhile Yankee, which is to say they should start stacking money like they do at those poker final tables and not stop until the table collapses. They should sign him for one more year than he's asking for and a dollar more than he demands. They should act like the Elon Musk impersonators they like to play at, because of all the marketing ideas that have ever worked in sports there is nothing that has worked quite like burning money in public.

The Phillies have not been bashful about spending, to be fair. They just tied down Trea Turner for 300 large and 11 years, right after doing the Bryce Harper deal, and now have SIX players making $20 million or more this coming season. They could even make it seven if Aaron Nola hits his $4 million bonus for being named Aaron Nola. Not even the Golden State Warriors are paying that many guys that much, and one of them (Jordan Poole) had to get punched in the face to get his raise. The Warriors are currently paying the equivalent of Paraguay every year just in luxury taxes, and franchise operator Joe Lacob has not yet said "basta" on the windfall.

The money the Warriors have spent is in recognition of the number of ways they can suck in money through their arena and the corresponding real estate; they are the NBA's super-puff exoplanet of throwing stuff around. They cannot lose money if they let everyone in free for every game and buy them each two beers, kids as well as adults.

The Phillies don't quite have the same money magnet the Warriors do, though, which means John Middleton, their own drunken-sailor-on-leave/benefactor, is spending this with a thinner thread count on the sheets and towels. Not that he will lose any money, either; sports has more udders on its cash cows than nearly any other business, and Middleton will go broke the day manatees learn to crochet.

That's why he has to man up, as the old folks used to say, and throw gold bricks at Judge—not necessarily because he absolutely needs another power hitter, but because he can. The Los Angeles Dodgers have had the biggest payroll for years now and have only one more title than the Phillies in the last 15 years, so it's not about the winning as much as it is about making the other owners snarl in dog-collared envy. Middleton, who is believed to be worth $3.4 billion and is described as a philanthropist, has decided that charity starts in his own outfield, which is exactly the kind of thing that tells his team's fans that if he doesn't care about the money, neither should they.

The Warriors are again the best comparison here, because they have become their own international brand through the blind pig luck of drafting Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green and the spending those picks have inspired. This blow-money-to-grow-money plan isn't to everyone's comfort but it's worked brilliantly for Lacob, and if he has cheaped out on anything it's in not commissioning the platinum statues around the arena for every Warrior from Curry to Leandro Barbosa.

So Middleton has to sign Judge, and if it takes a decade and $400 million, well, then that's what it takes. The hilarity of the phrase "What, you think you have money like the Phillies?" is too delicious not to coin. Let's just hope that J.T. Realmuto has a clause in his deal that he has to be no lower than the third-highest paid player on the roster. Hey, you have your philanthropy and John Middleton has his.

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