It can be a dangerous thing. To a person who is extremely passionate about something, hope can very quickly lead to despair. But hope can also lead to what could be the greatest feeling in the world. The feeling that things can go the right way. The feeling that your devotion and dedication have paid off.
This is what Philadelphia sports fans go through on a daily basis with their teams: And now the Phillies—who have grabbed the attention of a city—have reminded them that there is always hope.
These are the same Philadelphia Phillies who traded two starting outfielders along with a strong bottom of the rotation starter at the July trade deadline and were left for dead.
The Phillies were 46-57 at the trade deadline. They are now 71-71 and are only four games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot.
Can this team really come back and make the playoffs?
Just as Philadelphia turned its focus to the Eagles, the Phillies craved our attention. They demanded it. They started winning games.
The city knew that the team was winning; they always know. But they didn't want to get too excited. Because as I said, hope can be a dangerous thing.
So they waited.
"Wait until we're under 10 back, then I'll start thinking about believing." I remember saying that (or something similar to that). Then it happened.
And I said, "Wait until we're under eight back." And then that happened.
And then I said, "Wait until we're under five back," because the difference between six and five back at this point in the year is crucial in my desperate mind.
And then I went to the game on Tuesday, September 11th against the Miami Marlins.
I sat down in my seat behind home plate and prepared myself. It was a perfect view. I wasn't simply at a Phillies game; I was scouting the team. Is this a team that I can believe will make a run? I sat back and watched, looking for signs of life. And what I saw made me a believer.
I watched a team that finally has some heart. A team that has as strong a rotation as any team in baseball and a lineup that, at its best, can compete with anybody. A team that just got its spark plug back: the city's hero, Carlos Ruiz. I watched a team that is now only four games out of the playoffs.
This could happen. This could be real.
Look who the Phillies have left on their schedule. Four games against the Marlins. Four games against the Astros. Three games against the Mets. Three games against the Braves. Six games against the Nationals.
That is 11 games against teams with a sub-.500 record, which ideally would mean at least eight wins.
Then there are nine games against teams in front of the Phillies in the National League East. For the sake of somebody searching for hope, let's say the Phillies go 5-4 in those games.
So, the Phillies go a respectable 13-7 for the rest of the year and finish 84-78. How would they make the playoffs?
What would have to happen is that the Cardinals would need to go 9-11 or worse for the rest of the season; and Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, or Milwaukee can't do better than the Phillies, in order for the Phillies to win the Wild Card outright.
That's it. It's possible.
The Cardinals have lost six of their last ten games and have a shaky rotation outside of the surprisingly reliable Kyle Lohse. Their last six games are against the Nationals and Reds which could create some crucial losses for the defending champs.
Also ahead of the Phillies are the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are currently on the decline and have no chance in my mind of making the playoffs; and also the big-money Los Angeles Dodgers, who apparently can't buy wins after all. But perhaps the most dangerous team is the Milwaukee Brewers, who are the hottest team in baseball. They play their last six games against the Astros and Padres.
There really is a chance, isn't there?
Just look at the facts and you'll see that yes, there is a real chance.
What if they miss the playoffs by one game? What if their hot streak ends tomorrow and they're out of the race by next Tuesday? What if, after all of this, they don't make the playoffs?
I don't care about how dangerous hope is.
Just imagine if they made the stinkin' playoffs.
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