With a distinct snapping sound, a threshold was reached.
Forget the 2012 season you expected for the Phillies. It isn't over, because it never really started. It's just gone, buried forever under the rubble of injuries, bad luck and a couple iffy decisions. This is officially the season of Ty Wigginton, Freddy Galvis and John Mayberry Jr. It is officially the season that no one was expecting.
For that season, believe it or not, there is still hope.
Forget your expectations. Forget that the Phillies won the last five National League East titles. Forget that October baseball has become an annual rite in a city where it once was a once-a-decade novelty.
Look at this particular team in the context of this particular season. Other than the Dodgers, no NL team has really separated itself by more than a few games from the rest. Eleven teams, including the Phillies, are bunched up between 22 and 30 wins. With two wild-card spots, there is every reason to believe the Phillies can overcome the early adversity and remain in postseason contention.
So there is no reason - and no excuse - for general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. to be a seller rather than a buyer as the trade deadline approaches. There is no reason - and no excuse - for mainstays such as Jimmy Rollins and Hunter Pence and Cole Hamels to perform at anything less than their highest levels.
Amaro's first priority should still be getting Hamels' signature on a contract extension. The injuries to Lee and now Halladay could be seen as signs the Phillies' old policy of avoiding long contracts for pitchers might have been sound. But it would be folly to apply that logic to Hamels, who is just 28. He'll be Halladay's current age, 35, at the end of a seven-year deal.
The Phillies have enjoyed an embarrassment of riches in their starting pitching the last few years. It would be a bigger embarrassment, by far, to lose the one homegrown star in the bunch.
Mostly, Amaro has to proceed as if the team's window for winning is still wide open. And it is, even if it is being propped open at least partly by the rest of the NL East.
The Mets have lost two shortstops in four days. They started three position players hitting under .200 here Tuesday night. Jason Bay and Josh Thole are on minor-league rehab assignments.
Down in Atlanta, the Braves had lost eight games in a row. Chipper Jones is on the disabled list. Miami has improved, but you don't get the feeling the Marlins are going to run away with the division. Not with Heath Bell as their closer.
Washington is in first place, but the Nationals lost Jayson Werth to a broken wrist and are steadfast in their plan to limit ace Stephen Strasburg to 160 innings in his first season after Tommy John surgery. It is going to be tough to survive a pennant race that way.
None of the other NL East teams have the winning pedigree the Phillies have. None of the other NL East teams are adding Halladay, Howard and Utley - assuming the Phillies really do get Howard and Utley back.
"That is my expectation," assistant GM Scott Proefrock said. "I don't have a crystal ball. Our expectation is we will get them both back at some point. When we get those guys back it will be great, but in the interim we have to worry about what we are doing out here. The players who are able to play for us and contribute are the ones we need to be concerned about and try to find a way to make them better and move forward."
Without Halladay, Howard and Utley, the Phillies are not a great team. The point is that there isn't a great team in the division, and there isn't more than one or two in the league. As bad as the Phillies' luck has been, there is plenty of season left for their luck to turn around.
Or for more boulders to fall.
Contact Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Sheridanscribe on Twitter. Read his blog, "Philabuster," at www.philly.com/philabuster. Read his columns at www.philly.com/philsheridan