I like to think that I am a pretty knowledgeable baseball fan.
I follow the games closely, read a ton about Major League Baseball, and think about the Phillies almost constantly. My interest in baseball is probably a bit unhealthy, although I'd like to think I put it safely behind the care and well-being of my wife and children.
At least, when the Phillies aren't in the playoffs.
As my interest in baseball has grown and the internet has allowed me to absorb more information about the Phils (sometimes to a saturation point), I suddenly have a lot more information at my disposal. The emergence of some terrific sabermetrics sites and blogs from all over, including this one, have done a terrific job of making me think differently about the game I've loved since I was eight years old.
My first year closely following Phils baseball was 1985. They were two years removed from a National League pennant, but I didn't know that. I was in third grade and no one else in my family cared about baseball. I attended a game with a friend, and from that time on, I was hooked.
I rooted for the Phillies to win every single game, with no reservations whatsoever. Even when they were terrible (which was pretty much every year from 1985-2001) I rooted for victory. I made no apologies for it. I wanted Floyd Youmans, Kyle Abbott, Jeff Stone, Gary Redus, Travis Lee, and every other mediocre player employed by the team during those lean years, to succeed and help the team win games.
Here in 2014, the Phillies are out of the race. They are eight games out of the second wild card spot on September 8. There will be no coming back. But the team has played well over the last few weeks nonetheless. The Phillies have won 12 out of their last 18 games and have taken four of their last five series, all against teams with a winning record (Seattle, St. Louis, Atlanta, and Washington twice).
As a child, this turn of events would have thrilled me. At 66-76, I would have rooted hard for the team to get to .500 and avoid a losing season. There was something pure about that, rooting for your favorite team to win every single game, to play the spoiler, no matter what.
But now I know about draft picks. Now I know about the order in which teams draft, and I know about Top 10 pick protection. I'm aware that if the Phils finish with one of the ten worst records in baseball, they'll be able to sign a top free agent (if they want to) without having to relinquish that top 10 pick.
Which means it's actually better for the Phillies to lose games this month. It's better for 2015 and beyond for the Phillies NOT to win right now.
Intellectually, I know this. And I almost wish I didn't.
There was something pure about watching baseball with some childlike ignorance. There was only that night's baseball game, one you hoped they'd win at any cost. My 10-year-old brain didn't think about how the team's record affected their draft position. It only thought about beating the stinking Mets every single time.
Of course, I'm happy I know more about the game now. I get annoyed at people who put their heads in the sand and approach the remainder of this season with an emphasis on winning every single game. It's why I get annoyed when Ryne Sandberg puts Grady Sizemore and Ryan Howard in the lineup instead of Maikel Franco or Darin Ruf.
The rest of this season should be all about the future. In the end, it is what will help return the Phils to the playoffs sooner.
But some of that knowledge has taken away the sheer joy of watching a baseball team do what it is designed to do; win a baseball game.
As I watched Ben Revere's game-tying home run on Friday night and the Phils' subsequent comeback, I was happy. But it was tinged with the knowledge that every series the Phillies win, and every game they don't lose, hurts them in some way, too.
I miss just rooting for wins. Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss.