There is a scene in Back to the Future II when Marty McFly is staring down the barrel of a shotgun being held by what had been his high school's disciplinarian Mr. Strickland. Marty is in the Alternate 1985, the 1985 in which Biff Tannen has become rich and powerful, and has turned Hill Valley upside down.
As Strickland threatens to Marty that he has "three seconds to get off this porch with your nuts in tact," a confused, overwhelmed, and scared Marty screams "Please, Mr. Strickland, I just wanna know what the hell's going on here!"
As of right now, the 2010 baseball season has become the Alternate 1985, the Philadelphia Phillies are Mr. Strickland, and Philadelphia Phillies fans are Marty McFly.
We just wanna know what the hell is going on here.
With their 9-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Monday afternoon, the Philadelphia Phillies have now lost nine out of their last 13 games; what's worse, they have officially fallen out of first place.
The problem with this 13 game skid, of course, is that the Phillies have been lucky to have won the four games they've won. Remember, one of those wins was a 1-0 victory in which Roy Halladay had to pitch a perfect game to ensure the Phillies' win when the Phils managed only one unearned run.
Suddenly, the Phillies are in an alternate universe in which they have to rely on pitching and defense to win games because their offense is too anemic to consistently score runs. The problem, of course, is that this team is not built around pitching, and defense.
Admittedly, Jamie Moyer is losing hard-luck games—he has three losses in his last three starts despite giving up only seven earned runs in 18 innings—for the first time in his career. Nevertheless, this is not a staff that is going to hold teams to four or fewer earned runs very often.
Where this all gets scary is when you look at the offensive numbers for the Phils during the last 13 games.
In eight of the last 13 games, the Phillies have scored either one run or no runs. During that stretch the Phillies have gone from one of the top offenses in the National League to seventh in the NL. The Phillies haven't finished a season that low in offense since 2002.
The Phillies went an entire week without a homerun from Sunday May 23rd to Monday May 31st. The Phillies haven't gone that long without a homerun since 1999. Plus, the last homerun they hit was by Ross Gload; no offense to Ross, but he's not the guy we need homeruns from.
And then there are the individual stats: Jayson Werth, who had the day off on Monday, is currently on an 0-for-17 slump, and has watched his batting average drop 40 points in 13 games.
Chase Utley has also watched his average drop almost forty points, and is now hitting .277, which would be a full season career worst.
With an 0-for-4 outting on Monday, Ryan Howard's OPS dropped below .800; his career OPS is .950.
The first two months of the Phillies season are now over, and it would be difficult to say that this has been a "bad start" to the season. The Phillies are still six games over .500, and they are still only half a game out of first place in the NL East.
However, what has been a near-historically lethargic month for one of the best offenses in baseball is troubling nonetheless, and the Phillies need to prove to themselves and their fans that they can still snap out of this funk.
At the end of Back to the Future II, Doc and Marty catch up to Biff back in 1955 and save the day, returning the Alternate 1985 to the real 1985, and returning all life to normal. Will the Phillies be so lucky?
Mr. Strickland's got his gun pointed at the Phillies' fans nuts, and we've got three seconds to get off his porch.
If the Phillies can't get this offense turned around soon, we may all find ourselves stuck in the Alternate 1985 forever.