The trouble Phillies fans have with the team they have now is that it is not the team they used to have.
The offensive numbers the Phillies used to put up are, in the context of what the team looks like going into the 2012 offseason, patently absurd.
Let's start with Ryan Howard. You probably remember that Ryan Howard once hit 58 home runs in a season. He drove in 149 runs that year. He was the National League's Most Valuable Player.
What you may not remember is that that year was 2006. The Phillies did not even make the playoffs in 2006. But Howard's breakout season signaled a new era in Phillies' baseball, an era where the team's hitters would start making better use of the bandbox dimensions of Citizens' Bank Park.
The Phillies made the playoffs in 2007 for the first time in fourteen seasons. Howard went off again, with 47 home runs and 136 RBI. Chase Utley had his true "here I am" campaign, hitting .332 with 22 home runs and 103 RBI despite missing 29 games (an omen, sadly.) They both had great years, but 2007 was Jimmy Rollins' MVP season: .296, 30 home runs, 94 runs batted in and an astounding 139 runs scored.
In 2008, another 48 home runs and 146 RBI for Howard, another 33 home runs and 104 RBI for Utley. Rollins stole 47 bases. Video game stuff and a World Series title.
The Phillies fell short of a successful world championship defense in 2009, but the pennant was not all bad, and it certainly was not for a lack of offense. Howard had another monster season with 45 home runs and 141 RBI, Utley was in with 31 and 93.
And they started getting it from different places. Raul Ibanez hit 34 home runs and drove in 93. Jayson Werth (in the season that probably convinced the Washington Nationals to give him his current crazy contract) hit 36 home runs, drove in 99 runs, scored 98 more and stole 20 bases for good measure.
"Enough," I hear you saying. "Yeah, that was all fun, but those guys are gone now."
Yes, they are. Which is why, if you are going to hold out hope for the 2013 Phillies, you have to hope they can get it done the way the 2010 Phillies did.
The Phillies won 97 games in 2010, good enough to win the National League East by six games. By comparison, the Washington Nationals were slobbered over for winning 98 games this season. Unlike the prior four seasons, though, the 2010 Phillies could not rely on MVP candidates and breakout years. They had to patch it together.
Can they do something similar in 2013? Let's see.
Howard hit .276 with 31 home runs and 108 RBI in 2010. The average probably will not be there, but given a full, healthy season, the counting stats should be very similar.
Utley hit .275 with 16 home runs and 65 RBI in 115 games in 2010. Granted, that might be the best he can do in 2013. But he is playing for his baseball life with his contract ending. If anyone is properly motivated on the 2013 Phillies, it is Utley.
Ibanez hit .275 with 16 home runs and 83 RBI in 2010. Can Darin Ruf give you something similar? Can Domonic Brown? Maybe not. But Delmon Young is a free agent after this season, he does not figure to break the bank, and his 2012 slash line was .267/18/74. Hmmm.
Rollins hit .243 in 2010 and missed almost half the regular season with injuries. He will be at least that good and, if 2012 is any indication, he will be much better.
The 2013 Phillies will miss Shane Victorino, sure. But Victorino's 2010 season was pretty mediocre: .259/18/69. If they do not break the bank on B.J. Upton, can the Phillies squeeze that out of a John Mayberry Jr./Domonic Brown platoon?
All that said, there are still two fairly significant components the 2010 team had that the 2013 as of this writing just does not. Werth was solid again with .296/27/95. And Placido Polanco had his last decent season, hitting a punchless-but-dependable .298.
The answer there may need to come from outside the organization. Chase Headley is on track to waste his prime with the San Diego Padres after going for .286/31/113 while playing half his games in cavernous Petco Park.
If the Phillies could find a way to extract Headley, they could count on him to replicate Werth's 2010 numbers and live with an inexpensive light-hitting right fielder or center fielder. Dexter Fowler?
And no, I am not going to address the pitching. All of the foregoing assumes that the Phillies will get something like 85-100 healthy, productive starts from Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, and that Jonathan Papelbon will still be a reliable (if unspectacular) closer.
Why am I assuming that? Because save for Halladay's anomaly of a season, none of them gave any reason to think they will not be what they have been. Questionable as Halladay was, he still won 11 of his 25 starts in 2012.
So no, the 2013 Phillies are never going to look like the offensive juggernauts of the end of the last decade.
But that does not mean they do not have one last run left with this team.