Injecting some reality into Phillies' second half

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Charlie Manuel has his team at .500, even with injuries and lack of talent, but can it translate to a playoff berth?
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Charlie Manuel has his team at .500, even with injuries and lack of talent, but can it translate to a playoff berth? (has his team at .500, even with injuries and lack of talent, but can it translate to a playoff berth?)
Posted: July 19, 2013

IT'S FUNNY the lengths to which some folks will go to try to convince you that this Phillies team has a legitimate shot at contending for a World Series this season. They will point to the 2011 Cardinals, or the 2007 Rockies, or the 2005 Astros, when all they really need to do is point to a few seasons ago, when the 2010 Phillies were two games over .500 and seven games behind the division lead on July 21. They finished the season on a 48-19 tear and rolled into the postseason with 97 wins and homefield advantage.

Perhaps people ignore that comparison because it is too familiar, and even those who think Ruben Amaro Jr. should push the rest of his dwindling chip stack into the pot before July 31 are not pathological enough to think that this year's version of the Phillies belongs anywhere close to a conversation about that 2010 squad. Hell, it's pretty much the same team, except 3 years older, and without Roy Halladay, Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard, and with a bullpen that is leaking oil like somebody replaced its spark pPlugs with firecrackers.

Let that sink in. For the Phillies to qualify for the postseason, they are likely going to have to come close to duplicating that ridiculous run that the 2010 team rattled off. Right now, the second wild-card team is on pace to finish with 90 wins. For the Phillies to reach that mark, they need to go 42-24 the rest of the way. Remember how hot the 2007 and 2008 teams were at the end of the season? Neither of them went 42-24 during any 66-game stretch those years. Last year's team didn't do it either. The teams that did it were 2009, 2010 and 2011, because those teams were bona-fide World Series contenders.

Ask yourself: Does this team look anything close to those teams?

None of this is meant to ruin your post-All-Star-Break baseball before it begins. It's meant to remind you that it might be a good idea to wear your Mets, Cardinals and Tigers gear over the next 10 days, because the more you hear Amaro talk, the more you wonder what kind of lighting he enjoys in the executive suite.

And it isn't just the GM. We all know where the manager stands (and he darn well deserves to stand there, because he is paid to win, and he has somehow managed to conjure up a .500 record out of a team whose run differential says it should be 10 games below).

The club president sounds bullish. In fact, the only realistic appraisal of the situation thus far has come from the front office executive who is farthest removed from the situation: On Monday, former team prez Bill Giles was quoted by the Inquirer as saying that "this is the most difficult July I have ever seen."

It's important to note that it does not matter what Amaro and David Montgomery say to the media, and that it does not help their hand at the bargaining table if they appear desperate to sell. Still, if their steadfast belief in this team is a bluff, then voting for the Golden Gloves can pretty much end tonight.

Amaro and Montgomery have spent the first three-and-a-half months of the season wanting to believe that their team has what it takes to contend, and now the team is dangerously close to giving them a reason to do so. Forget about the ramifications if they become “buyers” at the trade deadline. There are no indications that there will be anything worth buying in the next couple of weeks. The Phillies hold most of the attractive assets, which is the whole reason they are facing this conundrum. Jesse Biddle isn’t going anywhere, Maikel Franco isn’t going anywhere, Roman Quinn isn’t going anywhere, Cody Asche isn’t going anywhere, and that is all you really have to worry about. If they “buy,” they are going to buy a role player, and chances are that role player is going to pitch in the bullpen.

The real danger lies not in deciding to buy, but in deciding not to sell. Deciding not to sell essentially means deciding to return to the rodeo with the same gang in 2014, because the only way the Phillies are going to inject the kind of talent that they need to contend over the next two-to-three years is by parting with one , and perhaps two, of their most valuable assets: Jonathan Papelbon, Chase Utley, or Cliff Lee. Reality isn’t always a fun thing to experience, but this is the one the Phillies have created for themselves with their maneuvering over the past few years.

Problem is, a lot of folks in Philadelphia seem to be ignoring reality. That’s fine if you are a fan. In fact, that’s a big part of the allure of being one. But the people charged with making the difficult decisions need to take a less sentimental view of things. And right now, it does not sound like pragmatism is their governing philosophy.

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