A recent article in The New Yorker described going down the rabbit hole as “a bizarre and disorienting alternate reality.” That perfectly describes how many Phillies fans feel at the halfway point of the 2015 season. We followed the Phillies here and have now fallen into the proverbial, Alice in Wonderland-esque rabbit hole.
This team is such a departure from that of the 2008-2011 teams that watching them really does feel like a bad acid trip. The Phillies are dead last in all of baseball with a 29-62 record. Their closer, Jonathan Papelbon, cannot stop yelling to the media about how badly he wants to be traded. Cole Hamels is pitching like a man who has given up on life. And their manager, Ryne Sandberg, ran screaming from his duties, despite the obvious detriment to his career by doing so.
But the most depressing part of the season has been the lightning fast decline of Chase Utley’s career. According to the general manager, Utley is no longer the starting second baseman, even after he comes off the disabled list. This is officially the end of Phillies baseball as we knew it. Indeed, an alternate reality that is painful to watch.
But even with Utley’s downfall, there was no reason to think the Phillies would be THIS bad, as in 62 losses bad, the worst half way mark in team history. There is a lot of young talent here, like Maikel Franco. Ben Revere is hitting .297 with 21 stolen bases and 45 runs scored. Ryan Howard has hit 15 home runs and has 45 RBI, which is really pretty good considering he is on the tail end of his career. Papelbon has been perfect in saves, although he has had limited opportunities. But most of the pitching has be atrocious. Even so, this team should have won more than 29 games, given their talent.
Perhaps Pat Gillick’s pre-season declaration about this team not being able to compete for several years has created a culture of losing? And not only that, but the team seems to have accepted this. They are not showing any fight, maybe because they simply expect to lose. They are just collecting their fat paychecks and then going home. And if this attitude continues, attendance will continue to drop to levels where you can hear crickets chirping. Hopefully, the Phillies will emerge from their slumber in the second half and at least put on a good show. Then again, that could just be the psychedelic acid talking.