Michael Conroy is a freelance sportswriter and Flyers fan, and a guest writer for Spike Eskin Dot Com. You can find him on Twitter @MichaelConroyPM.
Those damned, dirty Phillies are ruining our summer. How could Reuben Amaro Jr. do this to us loyal fans? How could Charlie Manuel put us through such agony? The players clearly don’t care about winning and it’s time to trade and fire everyone.
Okay, that was a little engagement in some hyperbolic sarcasm. I can’t actually join the angry mob that is forming over at Citizen’s Bank Park even though I’m bored and I REALLY want to. The truth is that Charlie Manuel has never been a great manager but he is better now then he was when the Phillies won the world series in 2008. We can’t get mad at Michael Martinez for being Michael Martinez either. As for Ruben Amaro, maybe this is a “me problem” but I will never be able to attack a general manager for going out and spending gobs of money on the best talent available. My heart just wouldn’t be in it. With all of that in mind, I feel it’s important that we, as a fan base, collectively come to one realization. The Philadelphia Phillies are a bad baseball team and it’s nobody’s fault.
If you were to ask me if this season has been a disappointment, I’d reply with a question of my own: “Do you still beat your wife?” That’s because your question is a loaded one. I think we need to identify what our expectations were coming into a season with a worse roster, one year older. If you didn’t expect a step back, you were being unreasonable. The problem is that no one knew how to quantify that expected drop off. There was no way to tell how far the team would fall as a result of injury, aging, and turnover on the depth chart.
As of right now, the Phillies sit four games below .500 and everybody has their own solution to this “problem.” I’m writing this to tell you that you’re wrong. You’re wrong and you should stop wasting your time. There is no bright young talent for this team in the minor leagues. There is no blockbuster trade that is going to return the team to title contender status. We have exhausted all of the team’s resources in pursuit of the success that we’ve enjoyed during the past five seasons…and that’s okay.
When a perennial championship contender falls from it’s pedestal in a city, the situation can be categorized in one of two ways. One of these categories is divorce. This is, by far, Philadelphia’s favorite way to process the loss of a title contending team. It’s very simple, we get to pick sides, gossip and our anger can be directed at clearly defined targets as we see fit. The fans have lost something, but we get to make someone pay for it. The loss of our 2008-2011 Phillies simply cannot be processed this way. That team lived a vibrant life, accomplished many great things, realized it’s dream; our dream as a world champion and now it’s gone. This falls under the category of death. In Philly, we hate accepting this point of view because in this scenario, there is simply nobody to blame; no one to direct our anger at.
We went through our denial phase before the year when we signed a $50 million closer to an aging team that had assuredly taken a massive step backwards with the loss of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley as we knew him. Next came anger, which we have directed towards just about anyone we possibly could. From Reuben Amaro Jr. and Charlie Manuel to Michael Martinez, Mike Fontenot, and even our beloved Chase Utley, they’ve all been the “reason” we lost our Phillies this summer.
Next up was bargaining. During this phase is when you heard all of the talk about “treading water” until Halladay, Utley and Howard come back. Countless media members brought up how much of a second-half team this is and that if the team could just get in to the post-season, then anything could happen. For the past week or two, Philadelphia has been in the depression phase. The fans have finally realized how bleak the situation is and that the team just simply isn’t who they were anymore. The run of division titles; the dominance over the National League is over.
Now we have finally come to face the most difficult stage of grief: acceptance. Our dominant Phillies are dead and gone. It won’t be an upset when they lose anymore. We all won’t “expect” to see a win everytime we spend money on a ticket to a game. The time has come for us to accept these facts and move on. I am asking you all to just move on. Stop all of the trade talk and stop pointing fingers. This team has given us fans so much to cheer for since 2008. The core of Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, and Cole Hamels provided fans with everything we could have asked for. They brought us wins, excitement, consistent playoff success and above all, this team brought Philadelphia a world championship. This had to end at some point. The fans needed to pay for all of it but I wouldn’t give the time and experiences we had with that team back just to avoid the pain we are feeling now.
So go to the games and cheer for the team. Enjoy the treat of watching Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee pitch for as long as they remain here. Take in the at-bats of our captain, Jimmy Rollins who has been a symbol for one of the most successful teams in Philadelphia sports history. Do all of these things and don’t agonize over the many losses this hollowed team will undoubtedly suffer. For a world series in Philly, for the memories the team gave us, we can watch some ugly baseball for the next few years and do it with a smile on our faces.