All across Philadelphia this morning, Philadelphia Phillies fans are waking up to the reality that the hometown team has now dropped four out of five to begin the second half of the season, and the Atlanta Braves are beginning to slip from view in the NL East. The odds of making it three trips in a row to the World Series are seeming slimmer and slimmer.
But you know what, Phillies fans? Maybe that's okay.
Look at all that the Philadelphia Phillies have accomplished in the last four years. Three trips to the playoffs, two trips to the World Series, and a World Series championship in 2008. The manager of the World Series manages the All-Star Game the following season, and we've now seen Charlie Manuel manage two of them.
During the last four years, Philadelphia Phillies players have gone from relative anonymity to the spotlight. Chase Utley is now considered the best second baseman in the game, even if he technically isn't, and he has been to each of the last five All-Star games.
Jimmy Rollins made a big splash in 2007 when he said that the Phillies—and not the heavily favored New York Mets—were the team to beat that season. When he backed it up, and helped lead the Phils to one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history in September of that year, he was rewarded with the NL MVP.
And Ryan Howard may be the biggest star of them all. The National League's Rookie of the Year in 2005, Howard led the NL in home runs, RBI, and total bases in his first full season and won the NL MVP in 2006. Howard has since led the NL in RBI two more times and is looking to become only the seventh player since 1901 to lead his league in RBI three seasons in a row.
Earlier this season, the Phillies rewarded Howard by making him one of the highest paid players in baseball history.
For Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth, the last four years have been career making.
Victorino was going no where fast when the Phillies made him a Rule 5 draft-pick in 2004, and he has slowly but surely made himself into an All-Star and a back-to-back Gold Glove recipient. He is leading the NL in triples for the second year in a row, and last season he actually received some votes for NL MVP.
Werth, meanwhile, was watching his career circle the drain before he joined the Phillies in 2007. Since then, he has gone from a platoon outfielder, to a starter, to an All-Star, and after this season Werth looks to cash in with a top-flight free-agent contract.
While the Phillies' hitters have experienced personal success, the pitching staff has not been without its heroes.
Brad Lidge's 2008 performance will live in baseball history, as he went a perfect 41-for-41 in regular season save opportunities and 7-for-7 in the postseason.
Cole Hamels, another hero of the 2008 World Series run, has emerged as one of the bright young pitchers in the NL East.
This season he has a deceptive 7-7 record to go with a 3.63 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 119 innings.
Perhaps the most remarkable story in terms of pitching for the Phils has been Roy Halladay. For the first time in, perhaps, a generation, a top flight elite pitcher decided he wanted to be a Philadelphia Philly. Not since Steve Carlton have the Phillies had arguably the best pitcher in baseball on their team.
But you know what? Sometimes things just don't go the way you plan them to.
Sometimes your elite hitters, after all of the awards, accolades, and big-money payouts, just go through a little slump.
Once your big-time defenders become big-time stars, sometimes their glove seems a little tighter, their throws a little less crisp.
And sometimes your starting pitchers just can't get the job done every fifth day, and your bullpen can't be trusted day in and day out.
But that's okay. No one said we have to win every year.
Do you think the Chicago Cubs fans would argue with two trips to the World Series in back-to-back years? They'd take another 100 years of losing for even one World Series victory.
Do you think the Kansas City Royals would argue with being four games over .500 and getting to watch some of the elite players in all of baseball toil for a summer, even though it might not mean a playoff appearance? Royals fans would sign over their homes just to have a guy hit 40 home runs for them.
At the end of the day, this has been a very good baseball team, and it has accomplished a lot of things. If a trip to the World Series, or even the playoffs, isn't in the cards for the Phillies in 2010, who cares? No team, even the Yankees, wins every year .
The Philadelphia Phillies finally have a good team playing in a great ballpark, and the Phils' players are All-Stars, Gold Glovers, and MVPs. We should enjoy that, celebrate that, and not worry ourselves over whether we can win the NL East, the National League pennant, or the World Series.
Let's just enjoy the run, shall we?
There will be those, of course, who criticize me for saying winning isn't important, we should celebrate the individual achievements of our players even if they don't lead to victories, and we should be happy with what the Phillies have given us up until now, and not worry about what's to come in the future.
To those people, I would say: Don't blame me.
I'm not the one playing mediocre baseball without any perceptible sense of urgency. I'm not the one failing to string together consistent effort, or struggling to make sure I play each game better than the last. I'm not the one worrying about my next contract rather than my performance on the field.
In short, I'm not the one who doesn't seem to care whether or not I win now, instead appearing to be content to live off the glory of my previous plunders.
The Philadelphia Phillies are the ones who are playing like there's nothing to play for; all I'm doing is following their lead.
If they don't care, why should I?
Asher B. Chancey lives in Philadelphia and is a co-founder of BaseballEvolution.com .