Playoff invoices normally hit the mailbox at this time. It's been a mid-August tradition for Phillies season-ticket holders. At this point, they receive a letter asking them if they would like postseason ducats.
Well, it's been a very different year. The fans have given up on the 2012 season. The Phillies waved a white flag when they sold off outfielders Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, and starting pitcher Joe Blanton.
Everybody is talking 2013 -- everyone except the players. They've noticed that some key contributors are gone, but don't tell them about the lack of playoff invoices. Despite being buried in the NL East, the Phillies still believe.
"I really think we can get back in this," Vance Worley said. "We put ourselves in a hole but if we just win, we can come back."
Let's say it takes 89 victories for the second, wild-card spot. That means the Phillies can't afford to lose more than 11 games with a month-and-a-half of baseball left.
"We're not seven out with 17 left to play," Jimmy Rollins said.
The confident shortstop is referring to the Phillies' situation in 2007, when they miraculously surpassed the Mets on the last day of the season.
The 2012 Phillies were 11 back (entering last night) with six teams ahead of them.
"We know how to win," Rollins said. "And we have some key guys back."
Yes, the Phillies are a different team with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley at the heart of the order. Roy Halladay is on the mound again, and he's finally pitching like a Cy Young winner. Cole Hamels, who owns a 22-inning scoreless streak, is in the Cy Young conversation, too.
But is it too late?
"I hope not," reliever Josh Lindblom said. "This team just didn't get the breaks earlier this season. When I was with the Dodgers, we had a lot of injuries just like the Phillies with Matt [Kemp] and Andre [Ethier] out but we got some breaks. and the Dodgers are right there in the NL West race."