Fan Appreciation Day at Citizens Bank Park Feels More Like "Closing Time"

Phil Keidel@@PhilKeidelContributor IISeptember 22, 2013

Lee should probably be hitting eighth when he pitches. Or maybe seventh.
Lee should probably be hitting eighth when he pitches. Or maybe seventh.Rich Schultz/Getty Images

"Closing time/Open all the doors and let you out into the world."

By great planning or dumb luck, the Philadelphia Phillies had Cliff Lee set to take the ball for Fan Appreciation Day (Sep. 22), otherwise known as the last home game of the 2013 season.

Lee is the Phillies' best pitcher and, based on his last outing, probably one of the five or six best hitters on the team as it is presently constituted.

The Phillies were also set to take the field in glorious, first-day-of-fall weather with bright blue skies and temperatures just creeping up toward 70 degrees without ever getting there. The Phillies could not have drawn up the setting for Fan Appreciation Day any better.

They even got the local sports stage to themselves, since the Philadelphia Eagles, who normally steal fall Sundays from the Phils, already played (and lost) earlier in the week.

It is difficult to imagine a more stark contrast in fan experience from what Phillies fans were treated to at Citizens Bank Park the night before.

After granting deposed manager Charlie Manuel one last hurrah (albeit in absentia), the locals were treated to five-plus innings of Tyler Cloyd getting touched up (again) followed by a long rain delay and then the game mercifully being called:

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So for the second consecutive season, the Phillies will be closing Citizens Bank Park in September, at least a week or two earlier than anyone hoped. And for the first time since 2002, they will bring the curtain down on a losing season.

"Closing time/Time for you to go out to the places you will be from."

When the Phillies re-signed Chase Utley, they confirmed that there is no full roster purge in the offing. Lee, Utley, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels and Jimmy Rollins are all likely to be back, as is Jonathan Papelbon. Domonic Brown made the All-Star team on the back of a great month, so he'll be back.

But it is hard to imagine Roy Halladay returning, because the Phillies will probably want him to take a deep pay cut and some other team is likely to pay him more.

John Mayberry Jr. is eligible for arbitration, but the Phillies would be wise to let him and his .226 average go. Same with Kevin Frandsen (.230.) And Erik Kratz will almost certainly be asked to take his turkey bacon and leave.

The Phillies pitching staff is such a mess that only John Lannan seems an obvious candidate not to return.

The Phillies will probably have more pitchers in camp than most college football teams dress on game day, hoping that some of their underachieving arms (Jeremy Horst, Justin De Fratus, Phillippe Aumont) might have "found something" in the offseason.

The only real certainty for the Phillies right now is that the glorious 2007-2011 era of five straight National League Eastern Division titles, two pennants and a World Series crown is finished.

Maybe the Phillies can redirect some of the money they wasted this season on Halladay and Michael Young (about $25 million) into the free-agent market and give their fanbase a reason or two to renew their season ticket plans.

But to contend next year, the 2014 Phillies will have to overcome the awful truth of their relatively rapid descent from being the only team to win more than 100 games in 2011 to being a sub-.500 club now.

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."

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