THEY DON'T score many runs. Sometimes they don't score any. They play awful one night, put you to sleep the next, make you say 'Wow' the day after.
The crooked numbers once posted by the all-powerful, mostly American lineups of the most recent resurgence of the Phillies, the one that electrified this town over the previous decade, are long gone, replaced by wins of the smallest of margins, and a game played on them as well.
Bunting. Sacs in the air and on the ground. First-to-thirds.
Yawn, yawn, yawn, right?
And yet Citizens Bank Park is electric again, charged with an energy, enthusiasm and excitement generated not as much by the plays themselves, but by the players.
"If you look at the way this team plays, and keeping it loose, a lot of it has to do with the Latin guys here, for sure," said Andrew Bailey, the Phillies veteran reliever. "It's the way they go about their business. Baseball is a fun sport, and they bring that youth and energy to the field with them."
According to statistics released this spring, 238 of the 864 major league jobs available on Opening Day were filled by those born outside the 50 states, a bump from last season's total and the largest since 2013. Of those, 211 hailed from Latin America, including 82 from tiny Dominican Republic and 63 from Venezuela.
"Now it's easier for the coaches to find the talent," said Andres Blanco, the Phillies' invaluable veteran utility man from Venezuela. "But what I'm seeing is more baseball all over the place. The news, there's more media, where you can go and watch any sport. So that makes it even easier for young kids to be seen."
And with U.S. relations with Cuba loosening and the increasing investment made in Latin American scouting by all major league clubs, including the Phillies, it's getting easier. Consider that the 10 players on their current roster is a big increase from the three from the 2008 team that won the World Series - Carlos Ruiz, Pedro Feliz and J.C. Romero. Yet, as the statistics underline, this team is only two over the major league average of eight.
The overall effect is a different vibe from that team, a culture of high energy in which emotions offset a lack of oomph in their swings. Odubel Herrera clapping his hands after a walk. Maikel Franco flipping a bat. Freddy Galvis doing just about anything with a sense of fun and flair.
It's a welcome contrast to the pallbearer approach of the American player whose arrival to the big leagues was a carefully constructed plan involving elite teams and be-seen tournaments and leagues. And in a day when a certain segment of sports fans, particularly in baseball, see the humanity on the field as a study of percents and probability, the culture change has felt - amid the winning - like, well, a tropical breeze.
"They really seem to be good at being able to flip that switch,'' Bailey said of players such as Blanco, Hector Neris and Franco. "OK, happy go lucky - OK, it's go time! So maybe some American guys always have to be focused. These guys, they can put the cape on and off."
Blanco said it wasn't always that way for him. Now 32, he was 17 when he signed with Kansas City and 18 when he played for their Class A team in Wilmington. Little money, a strange language, and not nearly the numbers of today could make Latino players strangers even to teammates - especially in the transient and singularly focused world of minor league baseball.
"The system has changed a lot," he said. "Now we have a translator. Which is good. Something that makes you feel comfortable. Because you're going to have somebody on the field to help you with that information that we pass around on the field and in practice. It's easier to just play now."
There is, however, one final obstacle to overcome. Baseball is simply played differently down there than up here, and the increased presence of Latin players has brought with it a debate over what of baseball's unwritten rules, if any, should be re-unwritten.
"They've been brought up differently," said Phillies manager Pete Mackanin, who has spent a significant portion of his career coaching and managing in the winter leagues. "And Dominicans are different than Venezuelans. Venezuelans are different than Mexicans. They all come from a different outlook. Fortunately I've been able to see that, how they grew up and how they are."
Mackanin leaned back and laughed.
"It's . . . interesting. You hear about a Latin flair. That's kind of in them. I don't want to stereotype, but in general I notice that in spending a lot of time down there. Like when Wilson Valdez came to us in '09, we got him as a utility infielder. And he came from the Mets, and he was pretty flashy. He wanted to be flashy. His work ethic was good, but he wanted to be flashy. And Freddy, last year - (bench coach Larry) Bowa was constantly talking to him about, don't try to be flashy, make the routine plays, get your feet set. He wasn't using his feet properly. Because he never really had to on a consistent basis. And he's changed.
"Valdez, for a while, you had to tell him, knock off the fancy (bleep). Just catch the ball. Knock all that other stuff off. Because down in Venezuela, Dominican, it's different. It's just kind of a different flavor."
I said it sounded more fun down there.
"It is," Mackanin said with a smile. "Especially when they bring out those dancing girls, half-naked, on top of the dugout. That's fun."
That likely won't happen here anytime soon. For now, we will have to settle for a consistently hysterical full-fuzzed mascot on top of our dugout and a brand of baseball that is high on energy and enthusiasm, if a bit low on eruptions.
You don't have to tell this group how lucky they are to be out there. They tell you that, with every clap of the hands, jump in the air, with every little effort that has resulted in this surprising start.
"It feels good," Blanco said. "Everyone wants to have a great team. As a manager, I want to have a great team. And if I have to have more Latin players than American players or players from all over the world to make a team compete, that's what this means to me. Just go out and play and win."