Trade Decisions Key to Phils' Future

In another week we’ll know if the Phillies have officially run up the white flag on this season and on this era.

The trade deadline of July 31 is fast approaching and that’s the only thing that interests Phillies fans anymore. They don’t care about last night’s loss to the Giants and they don’t even care how many games the Phillies are out of first place. Not anymore. But they do want to know the answer to a simple question: Who will stay and who will go?

You’ve probably already seen the names of the players who seem the most likely to have a new home on Aug. 1, including Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, A.J. Burnett, Antonio Bastardo and Marlon Byrd. Of course, there are no guarantees any contender would want any of those players, all of whom have question marks next to their names, not to mention a lot of dollar signs.

What would really be earth-shaking is if one of the Big 4 was dealt to another team – Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels were the heart of the Phillies team that won a World Series and was a serious contender for more than five years, which is a long time in professional sports. But those glory days are long gone and they’re not coming back for a long time. Everyone knows that, including the Phillies, even if they haven’t publicly acknowledged it yet.

That could all change on July 31. Nobody wants Ryan Howard, not even American League teams looking for a power-hitting designated hitter, but the other three could have a positive impact on a contender. They’re not as good as they used to be, but they’re still good enough to make a difference in a pennant race.

Regardless of who goes to whom, it will be interesting to see how much the Phillies are willing to shake this team up. They can’t possibly believe their club just needs a tweak here and there to become a contender again. But are they willing to tear it apart completely and start from scratch?

One thing the Phillies brass will certainly consider is attendance. Management has said for years that the long string of sell-outs at Citizens Banks Park is what gave the Phils the financial clout to go after star players like Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. Well, attendance has been dwindling for the last couple of years and running up the white flag with two months left in the season will pretty much empty the Bank.

Just look at the Sixers, who, like the Phillies, made it clear that they had given up on their season — hardly anybody showed up for their games. And at least the Sixers appear to have a plan in place to turn things around and it’s easy to see them contending in a couple of years. The Phillies, however, are groping in the dark and, unlike the Sixers, they don’t have young, potential stars to rebuild with.

So, this is a team that still lives in the past and appears to have no present and no future. Everyone is just waiting for the official announcement on July 31.

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