Last week's relatively quiet announcement that the New York Yankees had signed Chan Ho Park to a $1.2 million one-year contract raised some eyebrows. If Park was willing to sign for such a meager sum and accept a bullpen role, why didn't the Phillies lock him up?
Throughout the offseason, indications had been that the pitcher was seeking an opportunity to be a starter and bigger dollars than the Phillies were willing to offer. Perhaps that was true early on, but obviously neither of those desires were fulfilled with the Bronx Bombers.
Surely then, Park must have been unhappy in Philadelphia and/or preferred to play in Yankees pinstripes, right?
According to an article in today's Philadelphia Inquirer (Chan Ho Park wanted to stay with Phillies), however, the Korean right hander is very upset about trading in his red pinstripes. Park stated that his No. 1 choice was Philly, and that he loved the fans and his teammates.
Of course, there may be more to the story, but at this point—it sure looks like the Phillies blew it here.
The Park signing did not carry the fanfare of the Phillies deal with Placido Polanco, but it might have almost as much impact. After his early season failure as a starter, Park became a highly valuable and effective option out of the 'pen, posting a 2.52 ERA and striking out more than one batter per inning.
In fact, as the season wore on, Park probably evoked the most confidence of all the team's relievers when he was summoned into the game. At times, Ryan Madson looked dominating, but was also prone to some occasional meltdowns.
Scott Eyre enjoyed a fine season in a left handed specialist role, but he went deep into the count with most hitters and walked almost as many as he struck out. But, it was Park who went after hitters with nasty stuff.
On most nights, Park lit up the radar guns with a 95 mph fastball that also possessed great movement. He complimented that pitch with a hard breaking curveball that kept hitters guessing and at times was unhittable. And, he attacked the zone, yet worked both pitches on the edges.
The bottom line is that Park may be sorely missed in Philadelphia this season. Both free agent acquisitions, Danys Baez and Jose Contreras, come with question marks. The former is five years removed from his last good season and the latter looks to be a fanciful roll of the dice.
Additionally, both players also signed for more money, especially Baez at $5.25 million for two years. For a team that just unloaded Cliff Lee at least partially for budget reasons, it seems odd that they left the cheapest and most viable option on the table.
Perhaps there is some truth to the perception that Charlie Manuel was uncomfortable with Park's willingness to pitch when less than 100 percent. Many read between the lines that Manuel was taking a shot at Park when he recently said that his two new relievers would take the ball and not use injury as an excuse not to pitch.
So, again, maybe there is more to the story that only someone on the inner circle would know. But, it is also dangerous to try to get inside players' heads when it comes to injuries, especially considering that Park made a rapid return from what appeared to be a very severely pulled hamstring to pitch in the postseason.
Perhaps human emotion and stubbornness got in the way. It will not be the first time or the last that contentious negotiations result in a lose-lose scenario, but that does not excuse the foolishness.
Lastly, adding insult to it all is the fact that Park is now wearing a Yankees uniform. If the Phillies hope to regain the "World Champions" moniker in 2010, the majority of baseball experts believe that the team will have to go through New York.
Now, it will be Joe Girardi, not Manuel, who would have the opportunity to benefit from Park's nasty repertoire of pitches—possibly against the pitcher's former teammates. And, at a bargain basement price. It sure looks like the Phillies blew this one.