MY PREDICTION was for 88 wins. It was not an outrageous number, although it was a guess that was partially influenced by emotion. It was the last go-round, and I'll acknowledge rooting for it to be interesting, if nothing else.
Eighty-eight. I thought it would maybe, possibly sneak the Phillies into the playoffs as the final wild card. Because while this was not a World Series-caliber team, or anything like it, this could have been a good team. Given that it was Roy Halladay's last shot, and how much better Chase Utley was navigating, and how hot Ryan Howard was in the spring, and how the core of the team had championship experience, it seemed possible that they would go down swinging, at the very least.
To get to 88 wins, the 31-33 Phillies would have to play .581 baseball in the 98 games from here to the wire. Not once last year did they play .581 baseball, or anything close, in any 98-game stretch. You have to go back to 2011 for that, which seems like a long time ago.
Another problem: The way things are going, 88 wins will not come close to making the playoffs this year in the National League. Given the way the Pirates and Reds are playing, and if they maintain this pace, it will take something like 95 wins to get a wild card in the NL.
It is time for everybody to start getting used to the idea that this is it, and that there has to be change, drastic change.
The Phillies' predicament leaves them with three choices: try to add, do nothing, or sell and prepare the ground for 2014 and beyond. It is possible to argue about the other two, but it should be obvious to everyone that the worst choice would be to do nothing. To sit there and watch this team bounce around .500 all summer and be paralyzed by the emotion of this time - the last time through for Halladay, Utley and Carlos Ruiz, to name three - would be to compound the miscalculations of the offseason.
It will not be easy, but it has to happen.
It has to happen, with few restrictions.
Don't trade Domonic Brown.
Don't trade any starting pitching.
Other than that, have at it.
Some people think Cliff Lee should go. To me, that's crazy. Any team with Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee in their prime is a potentially formidable team. You do not trade away potentially formidable. The lineup needs a complete overhaul, and that is obvious, and the bullpen needs a complete overhaul, and that also is obvious, but starting pitching is still the toughest part of building a baseball team, and the Phillies should not mess with it. They should use it as their foundation.
But, to repeat: Other than that, have at it. There is no other way to look at it. Moving people such as Utley, Ruiz or Jonathan Papelbon at the trade deadline is an opportunity, even if some of it will carry an emotional toll. To move some of the core players from the 2008 team will signal to some the turning of a page nobody wants to turn.
But look at the standings. Look at the team play for a week. The page has already turned. This will merely be a recognition of that reality.
One final thing. The Phillies, after years of upping their spending on players, have plateaued here. We thought there were no limits, and it turns out that there are. All of which is fine. Nobody can accuse this team of not spending enough; the issue is that they have not been spending well.
But here is the thing. The history is limited, but we do know the team overspent its budget to sign Jim Thome back in 2003 in anticipation of new stadium revenue that would begin arriving in 2004. And we do know the Phillies' local television deal expires at the end of the 2015 season, and the new deal will bring them what likely will be a windfall.
All of which means that, if it means spending extra money now to move contracts, or if it means spending extra in free agency in the offseason, there is a precedent for the franchise. This does not have to be the start of a long stay in the wasteland. If the Phillies keep the starting pitching, the turnaround does not have to take forever.
Today on PhillyDailyNews.com: A lesson for the Phillies as Nate Schierholtz makes good -- for the Cubs.
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