If you listen carefully, even with all of those snow piles still dotting the Delaware Valley, you can hear the chirping.
No, not the chirping of spring robins and cardinals. The idle chirping of ancient Philadelphia Phillies trying to convince you (and themselves?) that their time as relevant baseball players is not long gone.
"I feel like I can play 162 games," said Ryan Howard, according to ESPN.com (citing an Associated Press report.)
"We've had a bad couple years and had injuries and all that stuff, but I don't think it's over," Howard continued.
Removing all doubt from the degree of his own delusion, Howard recently told Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News: "I’m more than capable of hitting 58 home runs."
Resident lightning rod/closer Jonathan Papelbon is also letting the world know that, at least in his mind, the Phillies are far from over.
Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com was one of many writers who were present when Papelbon let fly this proclamation: “I have looked at what people have predicted us to do. I don’t necessarily agree with that and if I was a gambling man, I would take us.”
Asked to clarify what he meant, Papelbon replied: "To go all the way."
Marlon Byrd, 36 years young and new in Philadelphia for the second time in his career, is similarly going out of his way to allay your fears that the Phillies are too old to compete.
"You keep hearing old, old, old ... we're not an old team," Byrd said to Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com. "We can still play. Once you can't play, then you're old. We still have a lot in the tank, we just to have to show that and stay healthy."
The longer all this happy-speak goes on, the more evident it becomes who is behind it all.
"Listen, I don't want to be foolhardy,'' said Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. "But I do believe we have the talent to make a run at the National League East this year. And if we're making a run at the National League East, it puts us in position to win the World Series."
There are those words again. World Series.
Admittedly, there is nothing new to optimistic spin coming from baseball players and management in February. For the most part, such chatter is harmless, too.
With this Phillies team, though, it rings more hollow and borders on the sad.
"I don’t expect the GM of a major league team to actually say things like 'well, if everything breaks right, we can finish at .500,'" wrote Craig Calcaterra of HardBallTalk.NBCSports.com about Amaro's remarks. "But I do expect at least a bit of a nod to realism."
Which is precisely the point.
After winning 81 games in 2012 and 73 games last season, the last words anyone affiliated with the Phillies in 2014 should be tossing around are "World Series." Or anything related to October for that matter.
Now would be an excellent time for the Phillies to stop talking to the media about all of their big dreams and start figuring out how all of these old players are going to stay healthy and produce.
Because if the Phillies are 23 games out of the division lead again this coming September, all of this February's chirping will sound even sillier than it does right now.
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