The last thing you need to read this morning is another prophesy of doom about the suddenly resurgent Phillies, especially after an exhilarating four-game sweep of Cincinnati. Hey, who knows? Maybe they are really back.
Maybe this really is the turning point. Maybe our boys of summer are plotting another amazing finish. But I don’t feel it. After a totally unscientific poll on the beaches of Sea Isle City, N.J., I’m pretty sure most Phillies fans don’t feel it, either.
The last four games before the All-Star break felt like nothing more than a temporary reprieve, a taste of what could have been. Even in victory, these are not the champion Phillies of 2008 or the pennant winners of 2009.
How many times can we hold our breath when Brad Lidge saunters into the game? How many games does Roy Halladay have to wait before the NL’s best offense begins to score runs for him? And how often are we going to have to pray that Jose Contreras or Wilson Valdez or the immortal Cody Ransom will deliver a big moment?
At the risk of exposing a full-blown obsession, I must return one more time to the actual turning point of this season. It was back on Dec. 15 when Cliff Lee continued his vagabond life by moving from Philadelphia to Seattle. For no good reason, he was traded that day, just as he was dealt yet again last week to Texas. Nothing that has happened since then has felt the same to me.
When the Mariners got four good prospects for Lee, it was further confirmation that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was fleeced, and Seattle stole more than an ace pitcher. They stole our confidence. If Lee were still here, Atlanta wouldn’t be up by 4 games in the standings.
That’s why last weekend became an interesting test of how we really feel about these Phillies. For the first time this year, they played the kind of ball that made us fall in love with them — tense, thrilling, clutch baseball. If ever we were going to feel the hair rise up on the back of our necks again, it would have been then.
Well, I didn’t feel it. When I returned to my WIP radio show yesterday after vacation, the prevailing emotion was a rare one in Philadelphia — hesitancy. Fans wanted to believe that the back-to-back shutouts by Halladay and Cole Hamels and the late-game heroics by Jimmy Rollins were a return to normal, a foreshadowing of the inevitable second-half run that these Phillies have mastered.
But what they wanted to believe and what they actually believed differed dramatically. These are the smartest fans in sports, and it’s going to take more than one weekend to convince them that the champs are really back.
– Angelo Cataldi is host of 610 WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays from 5:30-10 a.m.
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