Maybe it was a new revelation. Maybe the World Series prompted the realization. Or maybe they've known for a long time, and were just waiting for the guy with the credibility of three championship rings and a Hall of Fame enshrinement to say so without too much hedging. But whatever the case, the Phillies might have laid their illusions to rest on this gray October day, with interim team president Pat Gillick making the obvious but crucial admission:
"I think where we are right now, it's probably a couple years," Gillick told CSN's John Clark in a 1-on-1 interview Thursday. "I wouldn't think  or [2016,] '15 or '16 I don't think is in the cards. I think somewhere around 2017 or 2018."
The immediate impression Gillick gave was that this means every player will be on the table for trade this winter: no longer will the starting premise be to keep together the 2007-2011 core, try to add complementary pieces, and hope for good health, a time machine or Springfield Power Plant type misfortunes to befall the opposition. But I wonder if there's a subtle push here as well: if any of the veterans on the roster with limited or full no-trade protection hope to play October baseball in the next couple years, here's the top baseball man in the organization all but saying that won't happen for them in Philadelphia.
Then again, this could mean not very much: perhaps Cole Hamels will be more eager to accept a trade, for better or quite possibly for worse, but it's not like the Phillies' concession to the obvious makes Ryan Howard more attractive to trade partners. The 2017 target could have more to do with when the team comes clear from its heavy contract obligations, and perhaps when developing talents like Maikel Franco, J.P. Crawford or Aaron Nola are ready to succeed at the major league level, than anything else.
Still, it's reassuring to have new confidence that any or all those young players won't be shipped out for a 31 year-old, or that any additional deals for veterans will be with at least half an eye toward flipping them next summer or winter. If the first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one, Gillick's statement today really might represent progress.