Anyone who follows and/or roots for the Philadelphia professional sports teams has learned to lower their expectations. In fact, they’ve learned not to have any expectations because it’s just not worth the effort.
That’s the worst thing about being a Philly fan (and especially a Phillies fan) in the month of August – nothing they’re doing right now matters. And that’s all we really want, to watch a game featuring a local team that means something. We want to watch a game that has us sitting on the edge of our seats. We want to watch a game that has us cheering or booing, depending on how our heroes are doing that day. We want to watch a game that’s worth hanging around until the end because it means something. We want to care.
Eventually, the Eagles will kick off their 2014 season and even though we’re not sure if they’ll be good or bad, we know they’ll be entertaining. But right now they’re just practicing and playing pretend games, and even those training camp practices and NFL preseason games aren’t as interesting as they used to be, back in the day when the players actually hit each other in practice and the stars played more than 25 seconds of the exhibitions. And, of course, all teams are keeping their offensive and defensive schemes as vanilla as possible while they save the good stuff for the regular season. The NFL preseason is something that must be endured, not enjoyed.
Still, as meaningless and sloppy as the Eagles’ preseason games are, they’re still more fun to watch than most Phillies games. It’s hard to believe that this nightmare of a season still has a month and a half to go as the Phils aimlessly wander through the desert on their way to last place. The Phillies will finish double-digit games out of first place in National League East and the team that packed Citizens Bank Park for years is now the subject of local ridicule and, worse, lack of interest.
The backlash against the Phillies – or, more to the point, the lack of backlash because nobody cares anymore – is largely because of the stunning decline of a team that won more than 100 games just three seasons ago. At least the 76ers seem to have a plan, whereas the Phillies appear to be clueless. That’s reflected in how they’re running things now. Do they keep playing washed-up veterans who make a lot of money or do they start playing younger guys with an eye to the future? Do they trade their ace pitcher or do they keep him to prevent their starting rotation from being the worst in baseball?
The answers to those questions are the only things that interest Phillies fans now. If we have to put up with six more week of this nonsense, at least show us that you have a plan, even if it’s as drastic as the Sixers’ blueprint to rebuild their sorry franchise.
Most of all, admit you’re rebuilding. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. keeps insisting that the Phils are merely retooling, but the tools he has to work with are all rusty and dull. That’s why Phillies fans would rather see Darin Ruf play left field instead of a still-productive veteran like Grady Sizemore, who probably won’t be here next season and definitely won’t be here when/if the Phils become contenders again. That’s the same reason we would like to see fireballing youngster Ken Giles get a shot at the closer’s role, even though Jonathan Papelbon has been the Phillies’ best and most reliable player this season. That’s why we never, ever want to see Kyle Kendricks on the mound again in a Phillies uniform, no matter how thin the starting rotation is.
More than anything, we want a reason to care about the Phillies again. Almost all of the focus around here now is on the Eagles, even though their practices are boring and their games are meaningless. And in another month all of the focus will be on them. The Phillies will limp to the finish line once again and, sadly, nobody will even notice, much less care.