Business has been great at Citizens Bank Park this season.
The baseball has not.
The Phillies played their 20th home game yesterday in front of their 15th sellout crowd. They have sold more than three million tickets for the season and should be able to roll out of bed and break the franchise attendance record of 3.42 million, set during the magical season of 2008.
Winning is the best of all marketing tools. According to Baseball-Reference.com, two-thirds of major-league teams are down in average attendance from this point last season, and overall attendance (entering yesterday) was down about 900,000, from 15.3 million to 14.4 million.
But it's always sunny in Philadelphia, at least after you win the World Series. That parade down Broad Street has made the Phillies recession-proof. Yesterday's sellout put their average attendance over 43,000. Only the Yankees' is higher.
Citizens Bank Park is the place to be. It's pleasing to the senses. The sight lines are terrific. The food is great and the beer is cold. It's nothing but fun, fun, fun till Daddy takes the T'bird away.
But as good as those Schmitters are, the primary reason people go to the Bank is to see victories. Finish in fourth place this season and the recession suddenly will hit Phillies fans next winter.
None of this is meant to alarm the Phillies' bean counters - it would take a lot more than that to wipe the smiles off their faces right now - but it is worth noting because the 2009 Phillies have played some lousy baseball at home.
Yesterday's 10-inning loss to the Dodgers dropped the Phils to 8-12 at home and 16-16 overall.
Last year, the Phillies went 48-33 at home during the regular season and 7-0 in the postseason.
The home-field advantage has not carried over to 2009.
"You really want to win at home because we're having endless sellouts, and that's something that's really exciting and can help push you and motivate you to play a little bit better," Cole Hamels said. Winning at home "is something we're going to have to figure out."
Yesterday, the Phils completed their fourth homestand. They have had losing records in three of them. They earned their losing record (2-4) in this one.
The pitching, poor for much of the season, showed signs of life, with Chan Ho Park turning in a good start and Brett Myers and Hamels (yesterday) pitching well enough to win in close losses. Sure, Jamie Moyer's work has been worrisome, and despite Brad Lidge's proclamations to the contrary, the quality of the closer's stuff appears to be down from last season. But this homestand went poorly because the Phils' vaunted offense, save for a lightning bolt here or there, reeked.
There are a handful of guys who make the Phillies' offense go. Here's how they did on the homestand:
Jimmy Rollins: 4 for 26, one intentional walk.
Shane Victorino: 1 for 27, one walk.
Chase Utley: 3 for 23. He has had four consecutive hitless games.
Ryan Howard: 3 for 23, one walk.
Howard had one RBI during the homestand. Of course, it's difficult to drive them in when no one is on. The Phillies hit .187 (35 for 187) in the six games and their on-base percentage was .298.
Howard and Utley talked about the team's offensive woes after the game, but Rollins, a man who fancies himself a team leader, blew off reporters for the second time in less than a week. It wasn't fun for Chad Durbin to talk about the two RBI doubles he allowed in the 10th, but he did it. It wasn't fun for Howard to talk about his difficult homestand, but he did it. Moyer hasn't enjoyed dissecting his recent losses, but he's done it. Why? They're pros.
That's enough about Rollins. It won't affect this life one way or the other if he ever talks. But it would be nice, for his teammates and his manager, if he'd do some talking with his bat. Oh, wait, he has. He's up to .200.
Charlie Manuel wasn't pleased with the homestand. The manager is never happy when his boys don't hit.
Yesterday's loss gave him even more reason to scowl. The Phils had just five hits. They were 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position. They struck out 13 times. They made miscues in the field and between the ears - Hamels thwarted a potential rally in the fifth with a boneheaded baserunning play.
Dodgers righthander Chad Billingsley was tough, yielding one run and three hits in seven innings, with nine strikeouts.
"He was good, but we didn't play good," Manuel said. "We made mental mistakes. We're not hitting. We need more consistency in every phase of our game."
Manuel made it no secret that he also wasn't thrilled with the overall level of effort.
"We've got to get after it a little more," he said. "It's a matter of us getting a little more hungry."
The fans are hungry, but not necessarily for the concessions. They are showing up - big-time. They couldn't have been happy with this homestand. Another bad one and the boobirds who were silenced by the World Series triumph might start clearing their throats.