"I understand the window talk. Yeah, there is a window of opportunity, but if you focus on the window closing, then you never let that cool breeze come in."
This was the happy spin that Ryan Howard put on what he perceived to be media negativity about the Phillies' 2013 prospects for another championship run, per Jim Salisbury of Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia.
Howard did not stop there. In his opinion, the Phillies' window of opportunity remains agape.
"For us, the window closes when the window closes, but right now the window is still open, so we have to go out and take advantage of this nice breeze while we can."
Howard is entitled to his opinion, even if it is dead wrong.
The Phillies' window was closing in Clearwater this time last year. The 2012 Phillies were defending their fifth straight National League East title.
They had Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels coming off strong seasons—those three won a total of 50 games in 2011.
Howard and Chase Utley were never deemed likely to begin the season in Philadelphia, not with Howard's wrecked Achilles and Utley's degenerative knees. But as long as they got back in the lineup before Memorial Day, the logic went, it would be all right.
Then they didn't, and it wasn't.
Utley's first game of the 2012 season came on June 27; Howard's was on July 6. By the time Howard returned to live action last year, the Phillies were 37-47 and buried in the National League East basement, 13 games behind the eventual division winners, the Washington Nationals.
So despite Howard's breezy optimism, the Phillies' window is not open anymore. It closed when they went 81-81 and finished third in the division in 2012.
And sure, Howard and the Phillies will try like hell to jack the shut window back up. Even Howard acknowledges, though, that the group applying the elbow grease looks familiar but not the same.
"People keep talking about older, and older and older," Howard noted. "I don't buy into the whole old thing. It's about how young you feel inside. It's all about how well you take care of yourself."
Maybe. But Howard's Achilles, Utley's knees and Halladay's right shoulder did not betray them because they failed to take care of themselves. Older players get hurt, and the Phillies have a lot of older players.
So the next time Howard wants to blow some sunshine up everyone's apertures, he would do well to remember that he is not paid to talk.
Except by Subway—and they tell him what to say.
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