The point isn't to compare the 2010 Phillies with the 2012 version. It's that the Phillies have time to make important decisions with potential wide-ranging implications on the franchise's direction.
They will not be made tomorrow or Friday or next week. There are three weeks until the all-star break and this group of Phillies will probably have until at least then to salvage a sinking season.
"That will dictate the things we do," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We can't afford to get much farther behind. We're already behind. We can't afford to get any farther. Those are decisions that have to be made, depending on where they see us at."
No one will write the obituary yet; especially not when a second wild card increases everyone's chances of qualifying for the postseason. The Phillies entered Monday nine back in the division but just five back of the second wild-card spot.
That added postseason spot will also complicate the trade market. All but five teams in baseball were within seven games of a berth before play Monday. Even if the Phillies were to consider dealing away some of their pieces right now, there is uncertainty even over who would buy them.
And there are chips to play if the Phillies decide it is prudent. Cole Hamels, Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton, and Placido Polanco will all be free agents at season's end. Hunter Pence is under team control for 2013, meaning he could fetch a better package of prospects than a rental would. Bit players such as Jim Thome, Ty Wigginton, and Juan Pierre could attract others.
The glass half-full faction would say this: The National League East, coming off a 2-13 weekend, is vulnerable. Washington has its cracks and Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to be shut down some time this summer. Atlanta is promising but could lose the league's leader in ERA, Brandon Beachy, for an extended period. Both Miami and New York have their flaws.
"I've seen us make climbs," Manuel said. "But we have to get healthy. We have to get everybody back."
Chase Utley could return before the end of June; he played a minor-league game at second base for the third straight day Monday. Roy Halladay has yet to show symptoms of the muscle injury that sidelined him and could pitch before the end of July. Ryan Howard is still weeks away.
Imploding the National League's most expensive team isn't so easy. The rental players the Phillies could offer to teams would not bring a bounty of prospects. The model for any Hamels trade would be what the Mets received for two months of Carlos Beltran last summer. San Francisco sent New York a top pitching prospect while the Mets paid the majority of Beltran's remaining salary.
But the Phillies have not eliminated the possibility of re-signing Hamels, 28, to a long-term deal. The viability of such an agreement this close to free agency is in doubt. Whether or not trading Hamels during the season would have an effect on future negotiations is unknown.
Another factor that could decrease the potential return on any rental: The new collective bargaining agreement does not permit an acquiring team to offer arbitration to a traded player. In the past, teams would trade a package of prospects for a rental knowing they could recoup draft picks if he signed elsewhere in the winter. That no longer is the case.
Either way, these are decisions that do not require an immediate resolution.
"We're in a stretch here," Manuel said, "where we have to come out and we have to start playing better and winning some games."
They will be afforded that opportunity. If there is failure, change is not outlandish.
The Phillies return to Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night for the start of a 10-game homestand against Colorado, Tampa Bay, and Pittsburgh. So far this season, the Bank has mostly provided a home-field disadvantage. The Phillies are 12-19 at home, their worst 31-game home start since they moved into the park in 2004. Here are some comparisons between this year's home numbers and the five previous seasons, when the Phillies won the National League East.
YEAR THRU 31 GAMES FINAL
2007 16-15 47-34
2008 19-12 48-33
2009 13-18 45-36
2010 17-14 54-30
2011 20-11 52-29
2012 12-19 ?????
YEAR AB R H AVG. 2B 3B HR BB K
2007 1,032 150 276 .267 57 6 36 109 213
2008 1,407 177 285 .272 58 2 51 120 205
2009 1,054 146 262 .249 65 7 41 124 227
2010 1,028 157 269 .262 50 7 49 102 181
2011 1,055 133 272 .258 44 7 25 110 192
2012 1,038 109 277 .267 49 5 25 75 184
YEAR IP H ER ERA BB K HR
2007 282 303 156 4.98 109 244 51
2008 283 305 120 3.82 86 205 33
2009 286 315 170 5.35 131 238 53
2010 283 259 122 3.88 77 206 31
2011 297 279 104 3.15 87 265 21
2012 280 261 118 3.79 74 281 35
- Bob Brookover
Contact Matt Gelb at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @magelb.