CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 16: Nick Maton #29 of the Philadelphia Phillies celebrates with Matt Vierling #19 after defeating the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on August 16, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Philadelphia defeated Cincinnati 11-4.

Over the weekend, the Phillies went out and acquired an All-Star Closer. Gregory Soto. Two straight years of being named an ALL-Star. A Sub 3.5 ERA both years. It was undoubtedly a good trade. Is he guaranteed to be a star here? No. Relief Pitchers can be a crap shoot and look great one year then be unreliable the next. But he is a talented left whose fastball can reach 100 mph. All you can do as a team is acquire as many talented bullpen arms as possible and hope that they all pan out. But for some reason, certain Phillies fans were upset. Why, because they had to give up Matt Vierling and Nick Maton. Two average role players.

Why as a fanbase, do we have such a love affair with these types of players? To the point where we get overly attached to them and treat their loss as if we are losing star players? I liked Vierling and Maton. They were solid players off the bench and could fill in when needed. But if you can give up two guys, who if all goes right will never see the field in the playoffs, for an All-Star, you do it no questions asked. But after the trade, there were Phillies fans who were acting like the Phillies gave up too much.

Vierling went 2-13 in the playoffs. Maton went 0 for 1. Did they help the Phillies get there by filling in for injured players occasionally? Sure. They were not without value. But they are also easily replaceable. The MLB is chock full of average 4th outfielders and Utility infielders. In fact, the Phillies already have a Utility infielder in Edmundo Sosa who contributed more in the playoffs. And they added Jake Cave to take Matt Vierling’s place.

Remember Tony Bradley? He played 20 games at Center for the Sixers and started a few with Embiid out. He filled in admirably. But when the Sixers had a chance to trade him for George Hill, they did. Because George Hill had a chance to actually contribute in the playoffs, and Tony Bradley was your third, maybe 4th center. Now the George Hill trade did not end up working out, but the idea was still a good one. And you did not give up too much to get him. But we took so many calls from Sixers fans acting like Bradley was a massive loss. A guy who can barely get on the court now. We still sometimes take calls from people saying we should have never traded him.

More recently Sixers fans are obsessed with the loss of Isaiah Joe. A week ago he had a game where he scored 21 against the Celtics. Sixers fans freaked out. “See, he could be doing that for us, if only Doc played him.” What they miss is all the games surrounding that. In the 5 games leading up to the Celtics one, Joe scored 23 total points. He had one game where he scored 0 points in 12 minutes.

Can Joe shoot a bit? Yea. So like Furkan Korkmaz, he will have the occasional game where he puts up some points. But he is still playing only 13.5 minutes per game after averaging 11.1 with the Sixers. The Sixers are full up in the backcourt. With the addition of DeAnthony Melton, the emergence of Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle as the defensive specialist, and of course James Harden and Tyrese Maxey, there would be no playing time here for Joe. Especially in the playoffs.

But the other day I mentioned Joe as one of these average role players we got too attached to, and my mentions were swarmed by people telling me how great he is. Yes, a player averaging 7 pts a game is “great”. A guy who can still barely get on the court is “great.” Could Joe turn into a quality bench guy still? Yes. His shooting ability will probably keep him on teams as at the very least a reserve guard. But it seems Sixers fans think he is so much more than he is.

Matt Vierling and Nick Maton were nice players to have. They fit the culture of the locker room and did their jobs well enough when called upon. But they were not going to make a difference to if this team succeeded in the playoffs or not.

The Phillies got a very talented bullpen arm, as well as a bench bat that could very easily be the next Nick Maton. They won that deal, and it is not even close. Even if Gregory Soto has a down year, it was still a good trade, because the logic of the deal checks out. He is a talented arm capable of coming in during the 9th inning. The Phillies now have a plethora of that type of player. Are there question marks on some of them? Sure. But that is nearly everybody’s bullpen. There are a handful of relief pitchers you can trust from year to year. The rest is just hoping the talent pans out. And the Phillies at the very least, have a lot of arm talent in their bullpen now.

Liking these types of role players makes sense. This is the city of underdogs. We like rooting for the little guy. But the obsession some fans have goes beyond that. To the point, some fans would rather have role players like Nick Maton than an All-Star like Gregory Soto. Liking them is not the problem. But making them more than they are, is one. We can like a guy like Matt Vierling, but still understand his value to them the team is easily replaceable. Especially if you can flip him for an All-Star.

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