The Phillies have entered the last two seasons with little emphasis on wins and losses, as they instead focused on developing their young players and finding out about the prospects that have begun to emerge from triple A. That should change in 2018.
"Without question," manager Pete Mackanin said. "When you're looking to sign free agents, they're out there and they want to have a choice to make. To me we have to show we're on the verge of becoming that team that we're looking for. If a free agent has a choice between us and a team that's perennial in the race, that doesn't bode well. I think it's important for us to take a step forward."
Make no mistake, the Phillies will not enter next season as contenders. They will finish the season with one of baseball's worst records after the manager set a modest goal of a .500 record. But they should expect to play competitive baseball with a young team that has showed promise over the season's final month. The Phillies entered Monday with 19 wins in their last 36 games since Aug. 19.
There finally seems to be some energy around the Phillies, and a young core — Rhys Hoskins, J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, Odubel Herrera, and Nick Williams — is identifiable. The Phillies won't just enter next season with an emphasis on wins and losses, they will also enter it with some interest. Finally.
"There's a lot of players that aren't going to be on this team next year. But we have some players that I think we can build around," Mackanin said. "That's about the best way I can put it."
Mackanin will gather his players this week before they part ways Sunday for the offseason. He has a message to deliver.
"Remind them that if they think they're tired and ready to go home, that it's been a long season, I'm going to remind them that if you want to go to the World Series, then you're going to play an entire other month," Mackanin said. "So you better get used to it. If you think you're tired now, you better just rethink the whole thing, because it's another full month."
Perhaps that time is soon. The last few weeks have at least created some hope that winning baseball could soon return to South Philadelphia. And finally, the wins and losses will soon matter again. The outcome of a game at Citizens Bank Park will outweigh what happened that night in Allentown or Reading or Williamsport. The Phillies will enter next season with some relevance. It will then be their task to maintain it.