For the first time since the late 1990s, we begin a Phillies season knowing not only that the team won't contend, but that it will be horrendously bad. Many outlets are predicting the Phillies to have the worst record in baseball, and there's serious discussion going on between intelligent people (ok, that may be a stretch as I'm talking about the TGP email list) that the team may lose 100 games or more this year.
So how do we approach this season as fans? On Opening Day, one of the greatest days on the calendar, how do we look at the game today and the other 161 games that follow with anything other than fear and disgust?
This is a serious problem, as there is so much negativity surrounding the team and so much disaster awaiting us. Even the most optimistic predictions can't have the Phillies winning more than 75 games (which just seems absurd to write because that number sounds impossible). So do we just give in to the negativity and stop watching?
No, definitely not. Below is a list of five approaches to surviving the 2015 Phillies season. Consider it somewhat of a how-to guide for enjoying the Phillies 2015 season.
1) Nostalgia: The list of active lifelong Phillies decreased by 3 this off-season (with Jimmy Rollins being traded, Kyle Kendrick signing with the Rockies, and Ryan Madson finally making another team's roster), but the remaining 4 are worth your attention: Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley, and Cole Hamels. Only Hamels is still in his prime, but all four were a part of the best run of Phillies baseball ever. They are and will always be Phillies heroes, and as long as they're on the team, you'll be rooting for them and enjoying their contributions.
2) The future: The present is not good, but the future is beginning to unfold, and watching that is going to be a blast. Ken Giles, Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola, J.P. Crawford, Zack Eflin, etc. - these kids are the future of the team and you're going to watch 2015 with an eye on them. Sure the old guys and the fillers are going to make up most of the squad for the year, but these youngsters are where the excitement is. You'll watch them progress, follow their ups and downs, and hope that they stay on the path that is going to make this team great once again.
3) Embrace the tank: The Phillies have the potential to be really bad this year, we all know that. But unlike most, you relish this, not because you want the team to fail, but because you know that the only way up is to go down as far as possible. If the team wins a game, it's a bad thing because you know that every win is a lost chance to finish with the worst record and get the #1 draft pick next summer. Consider this the Sixers approach to enjoying the 2015 Phillies season.
4) Eternal optimism: This is baseball goddammit. Everyone can win until they are mathematically eliminated from contention. You know that there's no such thing as a losing team on Opening Day and you are going to remain optimistic until there's literally no chance for the team to make the playoffs. It doesn't matter to you that the outfield could be out-slugged by most AA teams and that the pitching staff behind Cole Hamels is made up of waiver wire fodder. With the second wild card and the inherent unpredictability of life, you remain convinced the Phillies may just squeak into the playoffs. And then from there, who knows?
5) The beauty of your team playing this game: This is your Phillies playing baseball. Is there really anything more to say? You've stuck through this team through thick and thin because you love baseball and you love the Phillies. It doesn't matter whether Ruben Amaro Jr. (fire him now!) or Dallas Greene (never!) or a Theo Epstein clone (please!) is running this team. It doesn't matter if Cole Hamels or Dustin McGowan is starting. It doesn't matter if Jeff Francoeur (why oh why?) or Chase Utley is at the plate. It's all good when the team with the red P takes the field. Nothing else matters.
I'm sure there are others, but these are five basic ways to enjoy this season. If you have other ways, share them in the comments.
Because we have to figure out how to enjoy the next six months. After all, it's Opening Day - all's right in the world!