By Justin Russell – I would like to begin with a story from my past, if you would indulge me…
When I was 14 I decided that in order to get into the The Prep (Don’t ask which, that’s not even a question) I needed to take placement test preparation classes. This was in 2008, and to my dismay one of these classes took place during the Phillies-Brewers National League Divisional Series. In order to keep myself informed on the score I asked my 8th grade teacher, and fellow fan, if she could come to my desk during the two-hour class, and quietly give me updates on the score whenever it changed.
About an hour into the class, she told me the Phillies had taken a 3-0 lead in the third inning. My classmates were confused as to why I cared so much about the score of the game. Some even teased me and told me interrupting the class “for a sports score” was totally unnecessary. Those same kids were suddenly the world’s biggest Phillies fans thirty days later.
This brings me to today. Many fans who have been through all the awfulness the Phillies have endured for the past twenty years with a six year gap of greatness were probably thoroughly offended by Deadspin calling us front runners. I was too, but it got me thinking about who we, as Phillies fans, are. We will be the Philadelphia team that will be completely unrecognizable in three years (one year if Ruben opts for a “fire sale”) and no one is ready for that except for the fans who have been around for forever, and it’s time to remember who we are.
We identify with core players no matter how new or old they are, as long as we like them. I already identify with MCW as “The Guy” for the Sixers. He’s talented, he loves Philly, and he’s establishing the franchise for the future. Giroux is obviously “The Guy” for the Flyers and the Eagles have several guys, first and foremost being LeSean “Yes, he is the best running back in the NFL” McCoy. If we get rid of Jimmy, Ryan, Chase and Cole, who is there? Jesse Biddle? J.P. Crawford? Darin Ruf? This is a slippery slope. We need a core group of guys and to get them we need a fresh set of eyes. If we do not get new players then we just identify with the logo. This just doesn’t seem right to me. Call me crazy but I can’t just connect with the Red P regardless, I need someone I’m comfortable giving my money to who can represent that P.
We are in the midst of a long and tough rebuild that may not even work. We need to get ready to hear some new names. These names may be as memorable as Jason Michaels,
Danny Sandoval (no relation to Pablo, I looked into it) Tomas Peréz, and Rheal Cormier. However, if we play our cards right, we could get names as memorable as the team that led us to five straight division titles.
But for now, we are going to have to go back to that glorious mess of a team that used to be the Phillies. We have to go back to the team that would boo Geoff Geary after one inning of mediocre relief pitching, that team who sold so few tickets the “Wolf Pack” and “Burrell’s Girls” would buy entire sections and just party. I remember going to Phillies games at the Vet before I was even ten years old and not even expecting the Phillies to win. I remember being overly giddy about a better than average home run hitter coming to Philly and not doing anything of consequence for us. These are the days of mediocrity we will have to go back to, but at least they were the days of hopeful mediocrity and not futility. In those days we knew we had something to look forward to and hope for.
Not many people outside of Philadelphia would believe me when I say that we were one half of the youngest world series of all time (2008). We had such a young and enthusiastic core of guys. We didn’t care when those guys were not up to the standard we wanted just yet in the ’04-06 era. We were building something. As bench coach Larry Bowa said in a recent interview with Tony Bruno, “It’s the way we’re are losing that frustrates the fans, and they should be frustrated.”
We need young talent, but not just that. Fans need to keep going to the games to support the team. We need to invest in some people who will build and make our moves ‘non-moves,’ like Gillick did. We need “The Guy” to come back, but most importantly, us, the real Phillies fans, need to go back to the park.