Dear Phillies: It's Over.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Phils' string of solid play last week against Atlanta and St. Louis was nice, but reality smacked them hard in the face this weekend.

Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Braves at Citizens Bank Park should just about do it.

Swept by first-place Atlanta in four home games this weekend, the Phils are now once again 10 games under .500 at 36-46. They are eight games out of first place. They have a run differential of -40, third worst in the National League. They are a staggering 18-27 at home with an offense on pace to score 622 runs, which would be the fewest since the legendary 1988 squad that captured our hearts and imaginations 26 years ago.

And, according to Fangraphs, their odds of making the playoffs stands at 0.2%.

Two weeks ago, after the Phils' sweep of the Braves in Atlanta, I argued there was still time for the team to consider its options for this year. Now, it's impossible to argue anymore that the Phillies are legitimate contenders for anything other than the top pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. And every loss should signal to the front office that it's time to rebuild and begin a new era of Phillies baseball.

Of course, someone is going to have to tell team president Dave Montgomery that. Montgomery told Kevin Cooney of the Bucks County Courier Times over the weekend that the team will never engage in a full rebuild of the roster because they fear a complete exodus from Citizens Bank Park.

"In 1998, what were we drawing? Where were we ranked of the franchises in the city? We were last," Montgomery said. "When I took over, we thought it was a moral victory to go 44-46 in the second half and still lose 97 games, drawing a million and a half and we couldn’t get into a new ballpark.

"Some people say that the Phillies worry too much about attendance. Yes, we do. When you are low in attendance, the risk is only on the upside. When you are (drawing well), the risk is dropping any further. And that’s what we’re trying to avoid."

Of course, Montgomery's reasoning is faulty for many reasons, chief among them the current state of attendance.

Fans aren't going to come see a $180 million payroll win 75-80 games. That's painfully obvious right now, as the team has drawn 1.37 million fans in 45 home dates this year, averaging 30,437, or 69.7% capacity so far this year. That's 14th in Major League Baseball, and far below last year's 85.2% of capacity (5th in MLB) and the 100.8% of capacity they drew in 2012 (2nd in MLB).

It doesn't matter if many of the star players from the 2008 team is still on the field. To fans, an 80-win season is no different than a 65-win season. Neither brings hope of baseball in October, or even a September pennant race. In both cases, the Phillies are playing out the string. At least in a full rebuild, the process for forming a new team, one that might be able to compete sooner than one that just stumbles along, gets the process underway faster.

However, Montgomery is correct that attendance will fall during a rebuild. There's no getting around that. But, in case Mr. Montgomery hasn't noticed, fans are already staying away from Citizens Bank Park as this core ages and the product on the field languishes in mediocrity.

Of course, anyone expecting the rebuild to happen at the trade deadline is fooling themselves. As has been written by a million different people in a million different blogs, the Phillies don't have much to trade. Teams don't give up rebuilding pieces for aging veterans with injury concerns and huge contracts. The Phils are not going to trade Chase Utley, their Derek Jeter, and Jimmy Rollins probably won't waive his 10-5 rights either.

The Phils have some pieces to dangle, namely Marlon Byrd, A.J. Burnett, and Jonathan Papelbon, but none of those players will merit anything more than a potential relief pitcher or organizational position player.  Cole Hamels could bring a nice prospect back, but it sure sounds like the Phillies would need to be blown away to deal him, as they rightly should.

A fire sale, by its very nature, implies selling things for pennies on the dollar, which will certainly be the case for the team this July and August.

No, the rebuild will come through the draft and the international market, a market in which the team should be ready to spend even more money than they are now.

This weekend should have ended all hope that there is anything left to play for in 2014, and get the process started for rebuilding, retooling, or whatever it is the Phils' front office wants to call it.

And frankly, that is probably the best news anyone could have gotten this weekend.

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