“The Phillies suck right now!”
“But they’re the best team in baseball!”
“Yeah, but they can’t hit, it’s ridiculous!”
Such is one of the loud arguments I have made with friends and family over the course of this Phillies season, and in my opinion, it has a good amount of validity to it. Yet, even as I write that dialogue, I find myself saying, come on, do I really want to say they suck?
The second argument is no joke, the Phillies have the best record in baseball at 61-36. In fact, the Phillies have had the best record in all of baseball for 70 out of the last 93 days. They have currently won seven straight series and have not lost two games in a row since the beginning of June when they fell to the Nats and Pirates for four straight. Maybe the most incredible stat; the Phillies have had the best record in the National League for 85 of the last 93 days.
Yet, for some reason I can’t say this season has been extraordinary. Now, I may be becoming jaded a little as the Phils have kept a culture of dominant winning ever since bursting into the playoffs in 2007. But when you begin a season with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels as four fifths of your rotation, the bar setting gets to be a little higher than usual. It seems as though almost every game is a grind, offensively speaking. The whole lineup may go cold against a Kyle McClellan, and then suddenly they will erupt with 10 runs against a Kershaw, no real rhyme or reason.
Then again, the Phillies have not needed the luxury of scoring five plus runs each night to ensure victory, part of the reason for getting these sometimes untouchable aces. Amaro’s decision for giving up Jayson Werth to free agency and opting to sign Lee was not merely an internal decision, but a move based on the trend happening in baseball. The year of the pitcher last year was not a fluke, rather the start to a new era of baseball where solid pitching is more coveted than above average hitting. Part of this decline is due to the ban on PED’s. I mean, just look at the home run totals, just look at the offense, or lack thereof coming from teams these last few years. “Chicks dig the long ball.” That was the quintessential phrase for most of the 2000s, but now we as fans must shift our train of thought. “Chicks dig the K/BB ratio, is more like it.” Doesn’t have the same ring to it but then again just look around baseball. Victories are victories, and we just have to realize that getting enough rather than getting plenty still gets the job done.
Still, it just doesn’t seem as though this team is elite and playing to their potential. Maybe the reason is because I rarely see the Spring Training projected lineup on the field at one time. I have gotten used to seeing Wilson Valdez as the starting second baseman over the last two years that I now become puzzled when he sits on the bench. This may be the heart of the Phillies’ and many teams’ problems: the disabled list. Dating back to last year, every player on the Phils’ starting roster has shared DL time for some significant amount of weeks, sans Doc Halladay ( aka God among mortals). First Utley, then Polanco, then Victorino, then Jimmy is day to day (By the way Grady Sizemore is out for 4-6 weeks again). The correlation between steroids and injuries suddenly slips its way into the picture. But then that’s when I must punch in some perspective for myself. Now more than ever, having a healthy squad for a whole year is now a pipe dream. How can an offense stay consistent when its key assets are moving parts for weeks at a time?
I remember when I was little, I would make icons out of all the Phillies and all the Mariners, good or bad. These major leaguers were infallible, stars that could hit .200 and I would still love them because they played for my team, and I loved my team. Yet when you get older, some of that infallibility starts to rub off. Parents, you soon discover, do not know everything and have their weaknesses like you. Now that I am 19, I have spent so much time with this Phillies team, watching, analyzing, living and dying with them. You get to that state of comfortability and seeing athletes for their fallibilities and soon every mistake becomes so heightened within that personal, small sphere. But with all the negativity, as I must repeat to myself, must come perspective.
That means that our whole solar system…
could be, like…
one tiny atom in the fingernail
of some other giant being.
Well, not the Animal House pot smoking perspective, but simply reminding oneself to look at the paper in the morning and look at the division standings. 61 wins, the best record in baseball. Then comes the positive stuff.
This team has gotten to this point without the likes of Utley and Blanton for nearly two months, Polanco for the last 3 weeks, and Oswalt for the last month, and most replaced by a fo-hawk kid named Vance Worley and a Rule-5 prospect Michael Martinez. Oh yeah, the trade deadline is coming up, and Ruben always has something up his sleeve.
What if I were a Mets fan, or and Astros fan, or etc.? These questions should not bring a feeling of complacency but a renewed viewpoint into how to appreciate our team. Yes the Phils could have more wins, like any other team, but at the end of this year, I want to look back on the 2011 season and say “Wow, what a great year of Phillies baseball!,” because for all of the easy negatives, it really has been.