Baseball seasons, like days at the beach, are not created equal. The 2012 Phillies season to date brings to mind a beach day you looked forward to, only to be alternately aggravated and disappointed by what you actually got.
You might say “who can complain about a day at the beach?” The sun, the sand, and the waves. You imagine a breeze carrying a hint of salt air. The gently tumbling surf serves as a white noise soundtrack, turning the workaday part of your brain off. There might even be a cocktail after. What is to complain about?
Days like today, that’s what. For starters, it is hot. Not “unseasonably warm,” not even “a trifle uncomfortable.” No – it is brutally hot, the sort of heat you ordinarily only hear news stories about from places like Texas or Missouri. Low triple-digit temperature, high double-digit humidity. The absolute worst.
Compounding matters is that this is one of those days at the beach where the breeze comes stiffly off the land. The breeze not only provides no relief, it makes you feel like a kernel of corn spinning in a hot-air popper.
That same land breeze carries biting flies by the thousands onto the beach, and these flies are hungry. Usually, if you can walk far enough into the water, the flies circle back to look for easier prey. Not today. You are up to your waist in the water and still flailing away, looking like you are fighting an apparition and getting more annoyed by the minute.
And it is not helping matters that your kids are whining about the heat, begging for ice cream, and asking when you can go back to the house. Maybe staying on the boardwalk until 9:30 last night was not the greatest idea after all.
So, at 1:30 in the afternoon, it is decision time. Are you going to stick it out? Are you going to wait for the wind to turn? It won’t be 100 degrees the whole day, right? Maybe the flies will leave you alone if you slather on some more Off! You paid good money to rent this place for this week. Can you just call that money wasted for today?
This is the predicament of the Phillie fan nearly halfway through the 2012 season.
Tickets are bought and paid for. Because of that, even if the vaunted sellout streak ends, 35,000+ fans will be in the seats for every game on the schedule until the team is mathematically eliminated from the wild card race or until the Eagles play their first regular season game, whichever comes first.
The question the Phillie fan needs to answer is whether it will be worth holding on to hope through what is shaping up to be a long, possibly lost summer.
Like the beach-goer waiting for the wind to shift in the face of mounting adverse evidence, the Phillie fan waits for Chase Utley and Ryan Howard to begin playing baseball. The Phillie fan waits for Roy Halladay to come off the disabled list. And for Cliff Lee to win a game, and for any middle relief pitcher to get a meaningful out, and so on into the endless regular season.
The Phillie fan needs more than that, though. The Washington Nationals need to make a decision, and fast. Either run away and hide in winning the division while laying waste to the Phillies’ competitors for a wild card berth, or come back to the pack and give the Phillies a chance to catch them.
The fans are not the only ones going crazy from the heat. Charlie Manuel has had closed-door meetings. He has told the press that other teams don’t fear the Phillies any more. He has observed that his team does not defend like it used to. Whatever you do, do not ask him about the way his team has hit.
Ruben Amaro Jr. is no sunnier. Asked recently about when some of his injured stars might be back, RAJ somewhat bemusedly sighed that he wanted to stay away from timetables because they have proven inaccurate in the recent past.
So it is hot on the beach, and getting hotter. Is it time to go home? Or will you stay, knowing that while it may not get much better, it is unlikely to get too much worse?
Decision time is here.