Then along came Forbes magazine.
In its latest edition, the financial publication listed the estimated values and 1998 profits and losses of each major league team.
Fourteen of 30 teams finished in the red last year, according to the magazine's calculations.
The Phillies weren't one of them.
In fact, according to the magazine's research, the Phillies actually had an operating profit of $4.5 million last year and a net worth of $145 million.
Phillies president Dave Montgomery reacted sharply to the report.
"Forbes is totally inaccurate," he said in a statement issued through the team's public relations department.
"Their estimate does not come close to accurately representing our 1998 results. I wish their projection represented reality. It is my understanding their estimates on other clubs are equally flawed."
The Phillies have baseball's seventh-lowest payroll this season. According to Forbes, they had baseball's 10th-best profit margin last year.
And while spending an extra $4.5 million this year might not have turned the Phillies into an instant World Series team, the perception that a team that talks poor actually might have turned a healthy profit last year can't help a franchise politicking for a new stadium and asking its fans for patience.
THE CLOSER ISN'T IN
After making his first appearance since April 29 at Veterans Stadium on Sunday, closer Jeff Brantley told manager Terry Francona he wasn't available last night.
This wasn't an unexpected development for a pitcher who, two weeks earlier, appeared headed for season-ending shoulder surgery.
"My shoulder feels great," Brantley said. "I feel like I could throw, but I just don't think it would be a very good idea right now."
Until further notice, it appears Brantley will be able to pitch every other day.
Said Francona: "We're going to try to make this work. I'll go on what he says he needs."
In a touch of nostalgia, the Phillies will take a train to their weekend series in Baltimore June 4 to 6. Amtrak has reserved additional cars for the team's traveling party . . . Righthander Ken Ryan has until 11:15 tonight to inform the Phillies whether he will accept an optional assignment to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. If he does not reply by the deadline, the Phillies must trade or release him. Ryan was designated for assignment Saturday night when Jeff Brantley was activated from the disabled list . . . After gunning down Mike Mordecai at second in the third inning, Mike Lieberthal had thrown out five of the last six runners who have tried to steal against him . . . The Phillies have firmed up their pitching plans for Thursday night's exhibition at Lackawanna County Stadium against the Red Barons. Righthanders Justin Fenus and Clay Eason will be brought up from the minors, along with infielders Will Polidor and Aaron Royster, for the game.