The Phillies are in a Phree Phall


See what I did there?

Seriously, the Philadelphia Phillies are a complete mess.  Their dynasty is over, yet more depressing–for them–another dynasty isn’t anywhere on the horizon.  The Phillies have fallen behind the New York Mets and currently sit in fourth place.  I’ll remind you the Mets weren’t even trying to contend this season.  The Mets are in full rebuilding mode, unlike the Phillies who seriously, honestly, thought they could squeeze one more year of contention out of their aging core.

There are million reasons why the Phillies fell apart so quickly, but first let’s look at where they are.

– The Phillies put together 5 straight division championships starting in 2007, topping out at 102 wins in 2011.  Since then, they won 81 games in 2012, and this season they’re on pace for only 73 wins.

– Here are the ages for Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Michael Young, and Carlos Ruiz: 33, 34, 34, 36, 34.  Cliff Lee, in case you were wondering, is 34.

– At the beginning of this season, ESPN ranked their farm system 27 out of 30 teams.  Here’s some non-inspiring commentary: “Their highest-ranked prospect on my top 100 (no team was shut out entirely) is the lowest of any team’s highest-ranked prospect.”  I don’t see that quote making it into the Phillies Media Guide anytime soon.

– First basemen Ryan Howard is still owed $75 million over three years after this season.  Howard had a -1.1 WAR last season and has a 0.5 WAR this season, according to Baseball Reference.

– The Phillies have a $156.8 million payroll for this season, and $103.5 million already committed for next season, and that’s not even including a big pay raise for Ben Revere and the Chase Utley contract extension, which will probably be worth at least $15 million a year.

This all adds up to a bad situation for our friendly neighbors to the north.  The Phillies are getting worse, not better.  And it couldn’t come at a worse time.  The Phillies TV deal with Comcast expires at the end of the 2015 season.  Common sense would tell you the Phillies are in line for a huge Dodgers-like deal.  But TV ratings for Phillies games have dropped 36% this season.  And the rising apathy is everywhere–attendance at Citizens Bank Park has fallen 5.5 K per game this year.

An aging team plus a thin farm system usually equals rebuilding.  But for the Phillies, a looming TV deal means the team will try to squeeze as much winning out of their current crop of players as they can.  Common sense would normally require them to trade Cliff Lee and Chase Utley for prospects.  But common sense doesn’t dictate this situation.  TV Money does.  The team likely can’t afford the PR hit from starting a rebuild.  That means players like Lee and Utley stay put, and the Phillies instead try to patch together another playoff team with Michael Young-like free agent acquisitions.  Good luck.

If the Phillies and their fans weren’t so loathsome, it would be sad to watch.  But since they are, enjoy it.  The losing has only just begun.


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