WASHINGTON -- Relax, Phillies fans. Baseball's non-waiver trading deadline passed Thursday, and the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs escaped being butchered.
Open your eyes now, Phillies fans. On a day when Ken Griffey and Manny Ramirez were available, Pat Gillick threw his body in front of the Reading Phillies and protected their historic collection of baseball maestros.
Don't worry, Phillies fans. All around baseball this week, good players were going to contending teams in exchange for bush-league promises. But if anyone thought the Phillies were going to improve their chances at winning a world championship at the expense of -- dare it be mentioned -- the Clearwater Threshers, well, they quickly learned otherwise.
"Crickets," Pat Burrell said.
The left-fielder was walking through the visitors' clubhouse in Nationals Park Thursday when 4 o'clock became 4:01. That meant the trade deadline had passed, with the many TVs in the room reporting the quiet truth: The Phillies had done nothing.
They acquired no left-handed bullpen help.
They acquired no veteran catcher.
They didn't tweak their offense, the one prone to month-long slumber.
They didn't add a starting pitcher, team speed, a pinch-hitter or a defensive specialist. They still had So Taguchi. So inactive were Ruben Amaro, Mike Arbuckle and their assistant, Gillick, that the atmosphere called out for the roaring years of the Ed Wade administration. Back then, at least Larry Bowa could expect upper management to provide him with Turk Wendell, the human walk-off homer. But no more. Not this year.
"We could please other clubs," Gillick said. "But we have to please ourselves a little bit."
If ever there were justification for the nickname Gillick used to lug around Toronto -- Stand Pat -- it came Thursday. That's because it is exactly what he did: He resisted making a trade. It wasn't that he wasn't using his carry-over cell-phone minutes to discuss the possibility; indeed, he insists, he was yakking with baseball executives all afternoon, and at one point had a feeling that his equipment staff was going to have to find an triple-extra-large cap, beneath which Ramirez could tuck his hair.
The Phillies discussed a starting pitcher, apparently of some renown (Roy Halladay?) at length, but couldn't justify the done-deal handshake. They went left-handed-reliever shopping, but laughed out loud at the price tags. So it wasn't as if they decided, well, they are in first place and, as such, are free of the burden of trade-day proof. They considered a trade, and were even willing to tolerate Manny being Manny.
Instead, they wound up with Pat being Pat.
"Yeah, we were talking," Gillick said, of the failed Ramirez discussions. "We were involved. Yeah. We just couldn't get where they wanted to be. And we couldn't get where we wanted to be."
Had the cost of Ramirez been a hunk of the Phillies' division-championship foundation, Gillick would have been right to file a complaint with the business bureau. Or had the Phillies decided that they had no use for a player who once said that losing a playoff series wouldn't be "the end of the world", at least they could have rejected Ramirez from high baseball ground -- not from their position high above a pile of job-protected Iron Pigs. But they wanted Ramirez. They just didn't want him at the price the Dodgers had to pay. And for Ramirez, Ned Colletti -- the former Philadelphia Journal sportswriter, now general managing the Dodgers -- spent minor league pitcher Bryan Morris, and Andy LaRoche, a 27-year-old infielder hitting .203 in the big leagues.
A minor-league pitcher. And an infielder who aspires to match Eric Bruntlett's offensive prowess. That's what the Dodgers spent for Ramirez, in a deal laundered through Pittsburgh. That's what made Gillick's sales resistance so curious: If he was OK with the notion of acquiring Ramirez, what was so outrageous about the price Colletti paid?
But that's Gillick, whose idea of taking a risk is to park 14 feet, not 15, from a fireplug. And that means, it will be the Phillies being the Phillies, with perhaps an after-hours waiver acquisition or two later in August.
"That's all right," Charlie Manuel said. "I'm not disappointed. We'll take what we've got and work with it."
In itself, that is an honorable -- and a workable -- position. The Phillies employ enough talent to have entered August in first place. Chase Utley is beginning to hit again. Jimmy Rollins hasn't missed muster in nearly two weeks. They did trade some minor league value for Jon Lieber, I mean Joe Blanton. A hitch in the minors seems to have refreshed Brett Myers. Tom Gordon will be back in September.
But if the prices that were paid for Ramirez and Ken Griffey, Ivan Rodriguez and even CC Sabathia were market-setters, the Phillies apparently wouldn't have had to compromise their nucleus for immediate help.
Instead, they created such silence at the deadline that it took Shane Victorino to melt the chill. "Hey," he announced. "I think I was just traded for Brett Favre."
Only if the Packers weren't insisting on a package of Lakewood Blue Claws.