Last week, in the immediate aftermath of a new $2.5 billion rights deal the Philles signed with Comcast SportsNet, the hammer fell on two-thirds of their TV team, Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews.
Not many off-the-field sporting developments elicit as much interest as changes in the baseball booth, and these, involving both a familiar voice and a relatively new and unique one, were no exception.
The reason we care so much is that few relationships are as intimate or as personal as that between baseball fans and broadcasters. A beer. A couch. A summer night. You get the picture.
Over the course of a recent season, devoted Phillies followers probably spent several hundred hours listening to Wheeler, Matthews, and play-by-play man Tom McCarthy.
Multiply that by 20, 30 years or longer, and it's likely that many Philadelphians have frittered away as much time in the broadcasters' company as with family and friends.
And while the jobs are both highly attractive and lucrative, they aren't easy ones.
Baseball announcers have to appease nervous rights-holders who increasingly are more concerned with bottom lines than lineups, plus a broad and diverse TV audience.
Some viewers merely want to be entertained and are turned off by all the statistical esoterica technology has fostered. Those same stats, meanwhile, are craved by the fantasy geeks, the seam heads, and sabermetricians. Still others demand a mix of both.
Tolerances are low.
If broadcasters too regularly slip up factually, or misspeak grammatically, or fail to display the expected level of allegiance to the home team, they'd better be extremely likable.
Social media have broadened the targets on their backs, given their critics a voice. Disgruntled viewers can create a firestorm out of the slightest mistake or misguided comment.
What exactly it was that sent Wheeler and Matthews to the showers remains a mystery. All we know is that it was CSN that made the call to the bullpen.
Everyone's got an opinion, of course, because everyone, deep down, believes he can call a baseball game.
Wheeler, for all his strengths - and few announcers anywhere were as insightful when it came to the duel between pitcher and hitter - just didn't happen to be warm and fuzzy.
That shortcoming was exacerbated by his bad timing. He ascended into a lead role following the deaths of the folksier, less-analytical, and long-loved duo of Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn.
Viewers didn't get much inside baseball from Kalas and Ashburn, but they did get a look inside the two men - and they liked it. Also, both died with their broadcasting boots on, tragic endings that only enhanced their popularity and made their successors' tasks even more difficult.
Matthews seemed to have the opposite problem from Wheeler. He was likable enough but not analytical enough. He was also quirky, and quirky is dangerous in baseball's corporate landscape.
It's not easy striking the right balance.
The TV audience they address each game isn't a monolith. Every viewer comes to each broadcast with different expectations, different likes and dislikes. There are easier jobs than trying to maintain, night after night for three-plus hours, the interest of several hundred thousand people.
Whatever the recently discharged duo's failings, we can be certain that CSN made its demand armed with something more than emotions. Network officials likely had surveys that measured Wheeler's and Matthews' likability factors, their ratings effectiveness, their appeal to advertisers.
By Saam never had it so hard.
"It's a brave new world for these guys," Curt Smith, the former Reagan speechwriter who authored the definitive history of baseball's broadcasters, Voices of the Game, said Friday. "All these multibillion-dollar contracts have created an environment in which today's broadcasters better be able to perform and meet whatever expectations are out there."
He's right. It's in the Phillies' new deal where the answer to the sudden demise of Wheeler and Matthews almost certainly lies.
Baseball couldn't sustain its out-of-whack salary structure without ever-larger TV contracts.
It's a formula that on its surface appears to make little sense. Baseball's TV ratings - especially nationally - have been free-falling for decades. Yet year after year the money TV is willing to pay for it grows exponentially.
But the system is sustainable as long as all those cable subscribers who don't care much about baseball continue to pay for it.
Live sports, despite their generally diminished audiences in this fragmented TV world, still attract relatively large audiences and appealing advertisers.
Because of that, these sports networks can charge cable providers a hefty per-customer fee - $5 in the case of ESPN - and the providers in turn pass on the increased costs to consumers who have few options.
That's why, according to the NPD Group, which conducts research on the subject, the average cable bill should top $200 by the end of the decade. Right now, it's at $86, with half that total going toward sports programming.
Baseball's immediate future rests on this formula, which is one of the reasons we are seeing the kind of long-term deals teams like the Phillies and Dodgers have signed recently. They're insurance policies against the dark clouds looming on the horizon.
Efforts, legal and otherwise, are underway to change the system, to give viewers the means to choose only the programming they want.
In such a scenario, Philadelphians who don't care about the Phillies would no longer have to support them, and pay-per-game TV might be nearer than we think.
Staring at such an existential crisis, the Phillies can't afford to make a mistake on choosing the persons - or, more likely, person - who will replace Wheeler and Matthews.
"It's an unsustainable model for sports rights to escalate at a pace that's exponentially higher than wages for families," Dan York, DirecTV's chief content officer, recently told LA Weekly magazine. "It's coming to the breaking point."
Baseball may be more vulnerable than most sports. Its TV fan base not only is diminishing, it's aging. The 2012 World Series telecasts, as an example, attracted more women 50 and older than men under 49.
"I'm certain that at some point in the very near future, the balloon will burst," Matt Polka, president of the American Cable Association, told the magazine. "And when it does, baseball will bear the brunt of it."