For a period of a couple of years, I was obsessed with the anonymous and lackadaisical owners of the Philadelphia Phillies, people who were merely content to let their paper wealth of their investment grow while cheating a major U.S. market and its die-hard sports fans out of the winner it deserved. If only these faceless millionaires and billionaires could be pressured into selling to a single dynamic owner (think Jeffrey Lurie, only better) then our civic nightmare would be over.

Well, I haven't dwelt on the issue so much lately -- winning the National League East with a healthy outlook for more in 2008 will do that -- but I have to hail Richard Rys and Philadelphia Magazine for shedding a lot more light on the situation than anyone else ever has.

And yes, it's as bad as you think. Like most long magazine articles, it doesn't easily excerpt, but here's a taste:

Giles wasn't successful in recruiting anyone as passionate as he was about the Phillies. The Buck brothers were longtime season ticket-holders and ponied up $5 million, but as Jim Buck would later tell the Daily News in the middle of a dreadful 67-95 season in 1996, it wasn't an easy decision. "My first reaction when the opportunity [to buy the team] was presented to me was, 'Hell, no,'" Buck said. "Why would I want to get into something like that and run the risk of being dragged down around the community? Like now."

Next on board were Widener family heir Fitz Dixon and horse-racing magnate Bob Levy, who pledged a combined $3.5 million. Both were experienced owners — Dixon of the Sixers, Levy of Thoroughbreds — but neither ranked baseball as his favorite sport. Then Giles approached Jack Betz, whose family-owned water-­purifying company, Betz Laboratories, enjoyed annual sales of around $500 million. Betz wasn't interested at first — he was a football guy. But the Eagles weren't for sale, and his wife, Claire, had a thing for Tug McGraw and the Phanatic. She also wanted the parking passes Giles was offering — for Eagles games. "We've invested $5 million in dumber things," she said, and the Betz family was in.

It's all there, including the front office that values collegiality over a hard-nosed approach to winning, and a passive ownership, for the most part, that holds its annual year-end meeting in September, as if October baseball isn't even on the table. As a journalist, I applaud what Philadelphia magazine has done, because I know how little information is out there about the Phillies' owners -- just do a Google search for public images of any of them...they simply don't exist. Apparently the print article does have photos -- that involved the use (and I'm not making this up) the help of a private detective. Hey, the Phillies are a quasi-public institution in my book, playing ball in a stadium built with taxpayer dough.

We have a right to know.