On paper, things look good at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies have won six of seven to improve to 47-37, 10 games above .500 for the first time since 2011 and just 1.5 back from division leader Atlanta.
Aaron Nola is an ace pitcher. Young talent abounds and the manager is an interesting and unique and charismatic guy. There’s a lot to like about this team, but it feels like the buzz just isn’t there yet, right? 30,943 people showed up yesterday (72% capacity) to watch the Phils beat a wretched Orioles team on a sweltering Independence Day, and if the thought of sitting there for three hours in the middle of a heat wave is enough to drive people away from the ball park, then you can start and stop the story right there. It’s July 5th, so I understand.
But it just seems like something is “missing.” It doesn’t feel like the same type of interest or excitement we saw from 2008 to 2012.
They were, of course, a World Series winner and perennial contender back then, chock full of superstars in the field and on the mound. That’s what our resident Phillies guy, BWanks, seems to think is the main issue here. This Phillies squad still doesn’t feature a marketable star. They’ve got young risers like Nola and Rhys Hoskins and Odubel Herrera, but would those guys fit on the I-95 billboard in the same manner as Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, and Jimmy Rollins? Maybe next year if they keep it up. Manny Machado would certainly move the needle:
Phillies fans with banner
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) July 4, 2018
It could be the fact that that this team wins ugly, if that’s how you want to describe seven innings of Nola dominance and three hits from the offense, like we saw yesterday. I love a great pitching performance as much as the next guy, but I’d also prefer to watch my college football team win 31-17 instead of kicking three field goals and defensively smothering a directional school for a 9-3 victory. The problem with this Phillies team is that they’re a “whole is greater than the sum of the parts” type of squad, which makes for good “rah rah” stories but doesn’t do much to motivate the casual “4 for 4” Anthony Gargano/meat locker type of Philly sports fan.
And maybe people see a ceiling for this team, even if they’re playing well. Does anybody think this club beats the Cubs or Dodgers in the playoffs? Brewers? I don’t know, I don’t think winning a seven-game series against those squads is as big of a task as most people seem to believe. It’s not like the National League is murderer’s row right now.
Some reasons why I think the Phils aren’t getting a lot of attention right now:
It’s July 5th
Baseball really doesn’t start until Independence Day, right?
I think LeBron James-mania certainly overshadowed anything the Phils were doing over the last month or so. With free agency wrapping up and summer league beginning and ending shortly, the Sixers will fall off the radar soon enough.
Sports can be cyclical in this town. The Phils dominated not so long ago, and now we’re back to being a football town again. Training camp starts on July 26th and the Super Bowl champions will fully and rightfully dominate pages B1 through B10 in the Inquirer once that begins.
People are still hung over from the 2008 to 2012 run
Maybe? I don’t know.
I’d describe myself as a casual baseball fan but I don’t feel like I’m worn out on Ruben Amaro Jr. and Kyle Kendrick and Dom Brown and Cody Asche. I think that whole non-era has run its course and people are ready for relevant baseball in Philadelphia again. As much as everyone bitched about all four teams (plus the Union) sucking at the same time, it feels a bit weird to me that people have been so lukewarm on the Phils and Flyers, two teams that are clearly on the “ascendancy,” as the Brits would say.
People are anti-Kapler for the sake of being anti-Kapler
Gabe Kapler does things differently, yeah. He’s always positive, sometimes too positive. The horror! He rubs some old school fans the wrong way and he probably got some decisions wrong earlier in the year.
But the guy has shown himself to be a quick learner and it looks like he has the chops to coach a big league club. I’m fine with the job he’s done this season.
More millennials don’t watch baseball
Yeah, it’s true.
A lot of twenty-somethings find the sport to be boring, mostly because they don’t have the attention span to sit there and watch nine innings of pitching changes and foul balls and career .219 batters stepping out of the box. It’s a smart phone and internet generation, the same type of people who go to brunch with their friends and spend the entire time scrolling Instagram instead.
MLB has made some small tweaks to speed up the game in recent years, but I don’t even think “speed” is the biggest issue here, it’s just that 162 games is way too much regular season baseball. I love playoff baseball and I want more of it, not shortened wild card and divisional series where a team can get knocked out in less than a week after playing 25+ times per month from April through September.
And while national baseball ratings are down, local ratings are still very good, which shows that people still have a ton of passion for the sport in general even if the typical Phillies fan has no interest in watching the Diamondbacks and Rockies play a Sunday night game on ESPN.
The irony is that baseball fans seem to find soccer boring, while soccer fans find baseball boring. Maybe football fans find both sports boring. I don’t know. I did 8 years on the Union beat, so I watched a lot of boring nothingness, but I also didn’t have to sit through four hours of commercials and whatnot. I think comparing the two sports is utterly pointless, since they are both broadcast and consumed in completely different ways. God forbid you watch and enjoy both soccer and baseball, but I digress.
Either way, we’ll learn a lot about this Phillies team over the next month. They’ve got 11 road games before the All-Star break and won’t be back at CBP until July 20th. Do they return home 10 games over .500? Or do they drop results to the mediocre Pirates and crappy Marlins and Mets? I think this road trip will probably shape the outlook of the team and the fan interest moving forward, because that home stand with the Padres and Dodgers is going to butt right up against the beginning of Eagles camp.
I’m ready to put my butt back on the Phillies bandwagon; they just need to keep this thing going through the summer and pull the sitters off the fence.