BOSTON - They met behind the batting cage, Ryan Howard and David Ortiz. The Big Piece and Big Papi, two gigantic men with similarly gigantic accomplishments on their resumés.
As the two embraced and made pregame small talk, they could be seen as kind of macro-size microcosms for their franchises. And the Phillies didn't do any better in that comparison than they did in the one-sided baseball game that followed Monday night.
Things have gone very wrong for these Phillies. Some of that is bad luck, with Roy Halladay, Chase Utley, and Carlos Ruiz on the disabled list. Some of that is bad planning, with Tyler Cloyd and Jonathan Pettibone in the starting rotation and the Outfield From Hell clogging up the lineup.
Howard is a perfect microcosm because he is a bit of both. His luck has been brutal since the ankle injury led to the Achilles tear, which led to the truncated 2012 season, and, quite possibly, the burgeoning 2013 knee crisis. But his contract, which counts in the planning column, handcuffs an organization that just isn't getting $20 million worth of production from Howard.
Ortiz? He made a career-high $14.575 million last season and is scuffling along on just $14 million this year. In the four years since he was Howard's current age? Ortiz has hit .300 with 92 home runs, 292 RBIs, and an OPS of .955.
He is the last remaining player from the 2004 team that shattered Boston's eternal World Series drought. And now he remains in the middle of the lineup as the Red Sox rebuild from the rubble of their 2007 championship team.
The heroic closer of that team, Jonathan Papelbon, sat in the visitors' dugout before the game and chatted amiably with the Boston media who covered him in his own finest hours. The heroic closer of the 2008 Phillies World Series team, Brad Lidge, will be honored at a game in August.
In other words, the glorious past is receding for both franchises. The Red Sox seem to be doing a much better job at creating a winning present. They cleared the clubhouse of Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez last summer in a monster trade with the Dodgers.
L.A. is in last place. The Red Sox are in first, one game ahead of the Yankees.
Ruben Amaro Jr. cleared the Phillies clubhouse of Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence. Victorino is here in Boston, enjoying another winning season. Pence has a World Series ring.
Amaro added Ben Revere, Delmon Young, Michael Young, Mike Adams, and John Lannan. The jury may be out on all five, but the deliberations won't take long.
Here's what it has come to: With a designated-hitter spot available, Charlie Manuel started the sore-kneed Howard at first base Monday night. Why? Because the idea of Delmon Young's puttering around Fenway's large and tricky right field was terrifying. He put John Mayberry Jr. out there and was rewarded with an error that allowed a run and a terrible throw that allowed Ortiz to walk (literally) into second with a double.
This is the team Manuel is managing. He has all-star-caliber players falling apart physically right before his eyes. He has a couple of rookies in his starting rotation. He has a bullpen he'd probably like to delete from his speed dial. He has the Outfield From Hell.
One of the popular story lines when the Phillies began printing money in their new ballpark was that they had joined the Yankees and Red Sox among baseball's wealthiest franchises. It was a story line that held up nicely as the Phillies developed into contenders, won a title, and went on all those super-fun spending sprees.
But now we're going to find out whether that was a brief golden era or if the Phillies really are among the elite franchises. Because the big boys don't just polish that lonely trophy and accept a descent into mediocrity as inevitable.
This was supposed to be a bit of a down year for the Red Sox. They are 12 games over .500. The Yankees have no Jeter, no A-Rod, no Teixeira, and they have been neck and neck with their AL East rivals.
The Phillies are three games under .500.
It might have been a trick of the pregame light, but it sure looked like Big Papi was smiling wider than the Big Piece.