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The Phillies are still flirting with historical lousiness

Only once in the last 40 years have the Phillies started a season with such an anemic offense.

In their first 44 games of the season, the Phillies have scored 156 runs, which is 3.55 per game, which is somewhere between lousy and historically lousy -- and even the splendid absurdity that was Sunday's Erik Kratz/Freddy Galvez back-to-back, ninth inning, walk-off resuscitation does not alter that reality.

To repeat: historically lousy.

Only once in the last four decades have the Phillies had a more anemic offense to start a season. The year was 1988. The team would lose 96 games that year, completely on merit.

Lee Elia was the manager. Lance Parrish was the catcher. Steve Jeltz was the shortstop. Phil Bradley was the leftfielder. Mike Schmidt was 38 years old and looked every bit of it.

Chris James led the team with 19 home runs. Juan Samuel led with 67 runs batted in. Among the regulars, the highest OPS on the team belonged to Von Hayes at .764, except nobody knew what OPS was back then.

They stunk -- oh, and the franchise itself was an absolute circus. Because 1988 was the year the Phillies hired and then fired a man named Woody Woodward as their vice president in charge of cleaning up the mess the franchise had become. Then they hired Lee Thomas as general manager. Along the way, they fired coaches Del Unser and Dave Bristol, relieved minor league director Jim Baumer of his duties, extended the contract of Elia and then, just to put some punctuation on the absurdity, fired the manager with a week to go in the regular season.

As Charlie Manuel might say, "What the hell."

It is obvious that the Phillies should feel pretty damn lucky to be only two games under .500 at this point. But it also should be obvious that luck is ephemeral, and that a lot of bad stuff can happen when you flirt with the historically lousy -- bad stuff that reaches well beyond the box score.