I, like many Phillies fans, am sad and angry. I am not, however, sad and angry for the same reasons all of you are, which makes me sadder.
There once was a young boy who loved ice cream. Of course, lots of people love ice cream. Everyone who isn’t lactose intolerant loves ice cream, and even those poor bastards would love it if they could. But this boy loved ice cream so much that he became interested in exactly how the ice cream was made. Are there weird flavors out there? What ingredients go into it? Does the quality of the cow impact the quality of the ice cream? How can we identify those cows? He started to become so obsessed with ice cream that he no longer enjoyed eating ice cream. Instead he enjoyed the art of ice cream making.
This is what has happened to me with baseball. I’ve become so immersed in the art of baseball processes that the results of those processes no longer impact me on an emotional level. I felt this coming in 2008 when the Phillies won the World Series. Eric Hinske struck out, I high fived my roommate, and then sat down on the couch with a smile on my face. That was all. I did not shotgun a beer with my next door neighbors. I did not sprint aimlessly about the streets of Philadelphia. I did not become overly emotional. I don’t admonish those of you who did celebrate with the sort of epicurean fiesta a fan base deserves to enjoy when their team wins a championship. Trust me, I really wanted to join all of you, I just couldn’t. Instead I sat on my couch, not overjoyed, merely content. I remember being consciously disappointed that I wasn’t enjoying the sports orgasm I thought it would be. It felt good, just not nearly as good as I had hoped.
Fast forward to last night. The Phillies lose and I felt…tired? Exasperated? You know when it snows and you’re hoping to get off from school and instead you just have a 2-hour delay? It felt like that. Nothing more. It devastated me knowing that I wasn’t devastated by their loss.
I know with each passing season I will grow increasingly numb to the Phillies’ exploits. I don’t love baseball any less, it’s just a different kind of love. If you told me, “Eric, you can have a job in a scouting department if you agree not to feel any emotion whatsoever for the Phillies ever again.” I’d make that trade in a heartbeat. That’s why I’m desperate for them to win as soon as possible while I still feel something.
So forgive me for not being able to console you with my words here, but I don’t feel like you do right now. I see and hear the output of your emotions and all I can do is work with that. Forgive me if the following statements are a bit jumbled and random. They are my responses to the outpouring of anger and sadness the fan base has begun to emit.
The blame for this year’s loss can be spread across the roster like cream cheese on a bagel of shame. Chase Utley made base running mistakes. Ryan Howard and Hunter Pence didn’t get one base. Shane Victorino had defensive miscues. Carlos Ruiz and Placido Polanco were just plain awful. That’s just the beginning of the list.
Please don’t say things like, “St. Louis just wanted it more.” Or “The Phillies just didn’t play hard enough.” That’s crazy. Platitudes like that are thrown around by those who don’t know enough to come up with even the simplest analysis. How about, “Wow, Chris Carpenter was really good.” He was. Or, “Polanco looks too hurt to be useful.” Totally true. Don’t think for one minute those guys didn’t want to win because they did.
The future is not bleak for the Phillies but it’s not the brightest, either. The older players on the team are getting worse, not better. The payroll is climbing to altitudes the likes of which we’ve never seen. It’s going to be hard to retain guys like Ryan Madson (I’d let him walk) and Jimmy Rollins (I’d let him walk if he demands 3+ years). Young guys coming up? Sure, I like a bunch of them. But sometimes we’re wrong about those guys. If they’re going to win a World Series, the Phillies will need a sound process by which they make their decisions, relatively good health, luck, a few surprise performances from guys you wouldn’t expect it from and at some point will have to overcome some adversity.
Can they do it? Sure. Once you get to the playoffs the sample size is so small that anything can happen. Hell, the Orioles finished 28 games out of first in the AL East. That means they lost only 1 more game per week than the Yankees. So in a 7 game sample (the length of a series) the Orioles are 1 game worse than the Yankees. The window is closing slowly for the Phillies. Maybe by the time it slams shut, I won’t care at all. Unless I have exchanged my love for the Phillies for a scouting job by then, I sure hope not.