The Phillies had been doing their thing for a few weeks, when, buried under the headlines of the team’s official web site, one headline forced its way out of the toxic waste and let the sun shine on its face.
Now, I’m not a betting man, due to a court order and a law apparently existing to prevent the wagering of human children. But it doesn’t take too many quick glances and horrified screams at the Phillies divisional standings to glean that this team will not be forming a dog pile in October.
Of course, there is the Wild Card–that newly stretched, endlessly exploited concept that gets the spotlight in this year’s post season. As the inaugural year for Professor Bud Selig’s Grand Expanded Playoff Experiment, it will be curious to see which previously eliminated squad gets a chance they wouldn’t have had any other year in professional baseball. Two Wild Card team now make the playoffs from each league, giving one a chance it wouldn’t have had, and forcing the other to jump through an undeserved hoop in a one-game playoff.
It is this aspect that the Phillies are clinging to; and based on their outpouring media, Selig’s plan is working perfectly. A team eight games back in the WC race still considers itself a contender with less than a month left, keeping more fans interested, and maintaining the chug of dollars from ticket gates and TV revenues right into Bud’s office.
But the Phillies are not relenting on this topic. Two days after the first story, a second was posted, just in case you didn’t hear them. Sure, it may have just been a nice little piece in which they could use some hopeful leftover quotes from Kevin Frandsen. But it’s a topic that people want to know they aren’t the only ones thinking about. Look at me, thinking ab0ut it so hard that I ended a sentence with a preposition! Madness!
And we can cite the last two World Series champions as teams that were real pieces of crap until the right players got hot and the momentum didn’t stop. If nothing else, the ’10 Giants and ’11 Cardinals will forever give hope to teams that really had no business sniffing the October Classic.
So is this ‘playoff push’ merely the team playing well for the first time all year in September? Or do they illegitimately have a shot at the title? The way their built is designed for short bursts of success, meaning all they need is a passable regular season to go deep in the playoffs. The pitching has come around, to the point that a one-game playoff might put the odds heavily in their favor, let alone a best-of-five series. We can pretend we just love seeing the young guys who could play a part next year get their initial shot, but let’s be honest: we’ve been throwing sandwiches at the TV for weeks.
It is a tad ambitious for this belief to catch on, but while we’re still treading over statistical elimination, why not take the chance to believe in something. I mean, it’s not like Kevin Frandsen’s going to stop giving us hope.