The FOX29 sports commentator says that Phils president David Montgomery has been forced out by soon to be majority equity partner John Middleton and that the team is seriously shopping Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard

By Lewis Gould

This article comes with a warning:

It is based on “reporting” by Howard Eskin of FOX29.

Never does he name names, which should send a red flag up immediately that it is a wild-ass rumor instead of a premature fact.

When he was riding high at WIP, he would report anonymous “news” all the time, and considering he was coach Andy Reid’s butt boy everyone knew the source and ignored most of it as Reidspin.

But this particular report does have a scintilla of truth to it.

Eskin reported last night that Phillies president David Montgomery, currently on leave from the team while he battles jaw cancer, was forced out of his decision-making role by minority owner John Middleton, as Middleton makes a power grab to become majority owner of the franchise.

In his report, Eskin states Middleton has been collecting more shares of the team in recent months and now owns 48% of the Phillies. His plan is to remove Montgomery from the day-to-day operations of the club, allowing interim president Pat Gillick and general manager Ruben Amaro more freedom to conduct business as they see fit.

Montgomery has been president of the team since 1997, but Gillick has been calling the shots since late August. Eskin says Montgomery was “pushed out,” and that his jaw bone cancer was “a convenient story” that, while legitimate, also served as an effective cover for a baseball decision.

Eskin reported that Montgomery hasn’t actually been away from the team at all during his recovery and has, in fact, been at the Phils’ offices every day since May. Eskin intimates that many of the decisions the team has made in recent years were not the call of the current GM, but that of Montgomery, including re-signing Ryan Howard, Chase Utley,Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz to new contracts.

However, with Middleton soon to be the majority owner, Eskin notes there would be major changes coming on the field, including a willingness by the former cigar magnate to eat virtually all of Howard’s salary, ensuring he will not return to the team in 2015. Also, Eskin reports Middleton would be more inclined to trade Cole Hamels to a team like the Cubs, Dodgers or Red Sox, all of whom have top notch young talent and have expressed interest in the ace left-hander in recent months.

Middleton is known as one of the more aggressive of the Phils’ owners, and has been among the most vocal in recent years. It is believed he is the one who freed up the money and pushed the team to sign Jim Thome to a free agent contract back in 2003, and for Cliff Lee before the 2011 season.

Obviously, there are a lot of uncertainties in this report, so everything contained in this report should be considered with that in mind. However, if this report is true, it would signal a sea change in how the organization conducts business moving forward.

Certainly, it would be best if the Phils can move on from Ryan Howard. He offers nothing to the Phils, and freeing him from the roster would allow the team to try out younger players at different positions, possibly shifting Chase Utley to first base. But there are a lot of baseball reasons not to trade Hamels. Holding onto him wouldn’t be just out of raw loyalty.

Eskin told WIP on Thursday night that, if the owners vote to allow Middleton to acquire a majority stake in the Phillies, he would “spend whatever it takes,” which could be good news for those who want the Phils to make signing Cuban free agent Yasmani Tomas a priority.

Tomas was officially declared a free agent on Thursday, and it’s reported he has said he will go to whoever will offer him the most money. The Phils have held a private workout with him, and if this report is true, it’s likely the team will make a strong push to sign the 23-year-old slugging left fielder.

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