Trade deadline hanging over Phillies' heads
Same town. Same team. That’s the message in one of the Phillies' commercials – even though only half of the proclamation has been true for much of the season.
It has not been the same team, not in terms of production. The Phillies returned to Citizens Bank Park on Friday night – and got smacked by the San Francisco Giants in a 7-2 loss (see game recap)
The Phils were coming off a road trip that included taking two of three from the Rockies and Dodgers, along with a four-game winning streak. It was a mostly successful stretch.
The problem is that mostly successful doesn’t do them much good. As of Friday, mostly successful still left them double-digit games behind the leaders in the NL East and wild card races. What the Phillies need is something closer to entirely successful. Just to get to 87 victories and an outside shot at a wild card appearance, the Phils would need to win two out of every three games for the remainder of the season. Put another way, they have to win each series from now until the end of September.
In the absence of something resembling that kind of momentous push, the team – like the town – is left to wonder what will happen between now and the July 31 trade deadline. It is a strange situation for the Phillies and everyone else around here.
“I’m very positive with our players,” Charlie Manuel said. “I pull for every one of them. And I look at this, we’ve got something to do. And as an individual coming to the ballpark every day you’ve got something to do. And that’s to do your job the best you can. You go out there and play better or harder, if that’s possible. Don’t cheat yourself. You don’t have time to be worried about that. If you do your job, things will take care of itself.”
Don’t worry about it. That is an easy thing to say, but not such an easy thing to make happen.
For the last five years, the city has been spoiled by an organization that won games and then went out and bought fun new toys to play with around this time each season. Even the most optimistic Phillies loyalists have to admit that might not be the case this year. On the contrary, there’s a real possibility that the front office will subtract familiar names rather than add them this time. It is the darkest of professional sports scenarios. Hitting the eject button and jettisoning players would be a tacit admission that the season is already over.
Some of the potential trade pieces sat around before Friday’s game. In the back of the clubhouse, Cole Hamels talked to a national baseball writer from Fox Sports, a man dispatched to ask him how the contract talks are going and where Hamels thinks he’ll be after the deadline. Not far from that interview, Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino and a host of others prepared to play the Giants. They pulled on Phillies uniforms just as they have countless times before. It made me wonder if the same scene will play out in August, or if their name plates might be taken down from above their lockers and replaced with new ones.
“We’re always the team that’s buying or whatever,” Ryan Howard told Comcast SportsNet after the team returned from the West Coast. “I think right now the mindset of everyone is going out there and just doing our job to the best of our ability. I’ve always had the mindset that, hey, if someone is going to get traded, there’s nothing you can do. The only thing you can do is go out there and play and control what you can control. When they call your number and say ‘Hey, you’ve been traded’ then all of a sudden you’ve been traded. But until then everyone who’s in that clubhouse is a member of the Phillies and you go out there and you play like one.”
That would be fine – going out and playing like a member of the Phillies – except so few of them have done that this year. That’s why they’re left, like the rest of us, to puzzle over what will happen between now and July 31.
“If we’re talking about mental toughness, which I am in some ways, this ain’t no pampered position to be in,” Manuel said. “I was a player for 20 years and no one ever pampered me. Feeling sorry for yourself and things like that? No. No, you can’t do that. This is Major League Baseball. We’re a high market team. We’re supposed to win games. We’re supposed to go get it. We’re supposed to be men. We’re supposed to be fighters. I mean really.”
He’s right. They need to fight – particularly between now and the trade deadline. Failing that, the town will remain the same, but the team won’t.