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We’ve spent plenty of time over the past few weeks picking apart the Phillies’ flaws. It’s been easy to do during a six-week stretch in which they have faded from one of the National League’s best teams to a fringe playoff contender. Their problems – a lack of rotation depth, bullpen injuries, offensive inconsistency – seem to trade places as the most devastating flaw on a nightly basis, but each of them leads us back to the same conclusion, which is that the Phillies have to do something, perhaps a trade – or three – to save their season.
Sound familiar? It should.
Plenty of Phillies coverage lately has focused on the team’s needs, possible trade targets, and the potential roadblocks that exist, and rightfully so, but the truth is that nobody – including the team’s decision-makers – knows how the market will develop in the coming weeks. So rather than speculate about guys who aren’t here right now, let’s go about this in a different way by examining how those who are here can improve, and I don’t mean in a numerical sense. This isn’t going to be a data-driven analysis on how Bryce Harper’s exit velocity should yield a higher slugging percentage in the second half, though that’s true. Instead, I want to look at the human element of what’s at play here.
This team has no juice right now. It’s totally flaccid, but it wasn’t always this way. Just go back to Opening Day when Rhys Hoskins stepped to the plate after the Braves intentionally walked Harper in the seventh inning of a 6-3 game.
Walking Harper to get to me? Cool, no problem. Watch this.
Know what’s good? Grand slams. Know what’s even better? “F*** you” grand slams that come after intentional walks. This is the type of shit teams feed off of.
Listen to that crowd. Look at the energy, the celebrations, the confidence. Where has it gone? There seems to be no buzz around the Phillies right now. Sure, some of that has to do with the problems already outlined. I get it. It’s difficult to overcome mediocre starting pitching or blown leads – sometimes both – but too often it feels like the Phillies are slogging their way through games without the energy and fight we saw earlier in the season. At least when they aren’t playing the Mets.
Where is the intensity, brashness, and confidence the Phillies played with through 55 games during a promising 33-22 start?