When you’re a fan of a big league team, I suppose it’s the case that you become a fan of their minor league affiliates by default. Interest adjusts depending on who is down there; if your Triple-A club is made up of Quad-A outcasts, rejects, and gypsies, and they aren’t banding together to take down the team from the rich side of the tracks for one magical season, then it’s easy not to pay attention. But when there are levels of rich talent being cultivated up and down the system, it’s all the more rewarding to tune in, especially when the best player on the franchise’s major league level is this guy.
The Reading Fightins are 15-3 in the month of June. Jorge Alfaro is hitting .304, good for third in the Eastern League - and they own two of the top three SLG as well in Rhy Hoskins (.527) and Dylan Cozens (.570). That pair also holds the top two HR spots with 19 and 17 respectively. Nick Pivetta just threw the first complete game of his career. In the wide reach of professional baseball, the Fightins alone have the best record at 49-21. Even better than the Cubs.
The IronPigs are 14-5 in the month of June. Unlike the Fightins, they lose occasionally, and because of that, they sit three games back in the International League's North Division. The Yankees and Twins affiliates cackle above them with 3.0 and 1.5-game leads over Lehigh Valley, keeping them down but forcing a fight. Of course, though J.P. Crawford is here, this roster's offense is powered by guys who missed their tryouts with the big club (Darin Ruf, Cedric Hunter, David Lough) or who aren't with the team anymore (Tommy Joseph). Also, Cam Perkins. In either case, if we're talking about baseball now, being played in front of you, and not worrying every second over a future we may never see, the 'Pigs are scrapping for a fight in the IL North. Right now, they're about to take on the middling Mets affiliate to try and make up some more ground before a four-day slog in which they play both the division leaders twice, starting on the birthday of America.
Meanwhile, we who voluntarily inhabit the hamlet of Philadelphia just watched the Phillies lose an entire home stand. The pitching never lasts very long. The offense never produces very much. Everyone who surged has fallen back to the earth. Doubts are creeping in about Maikel Franco. They fall down a lot. They can't hold a lead. They don't hit home runs. Peter Bourjos.
So, as fans chained to the radiator that is this team, we don't have to bury our naturally supportive natures for another season and instead spend it cursing at friends and loved ones. We can just re-channel it into something easier to watch! Instead of waiting for prospects to arrive, we could just see them as they play baseball now! You forgot, didn't you, that prospects aren't placed in stasis until their promotions, as far as we know. They're out there, playing baseball, the sport you are pretending has only one legitimate level appropriate for your attention.
Hell, I'm part of the problem. I've never even been to Coca-Cola Park. I've heard it's lovely. Lovelier still is a Nick Williams stand-up triple.
When's the last time one of the Phillies hit a TRIPLE? I guess it was Cameron Rupp, a few days ago.
Look, no one is telling you what to do, or suggesting you weren't already watching these teams (except for me, moments ago), but when the Phillies can't even beat the Diamondbacks in one out of four tries, no one is also going to blame you for getting burned out. Maybe you're not the kind of person who can drop everything and drive to northeastern or south central Pennsylvania because a whimsical blog post told you to ("What?" your spouse asks as you explain your sudden road trip, but oops, your phone died). But just know that, somewhere, or multiple somewheres, in the Phillies universe, there is winning happening. There is applause. There is laughter. There are walk-offs (in which the team you like is the one who wins). There is J.P. Crawford, getting past his initial stumbles at Triple-A eventually, while his enormous husky nods sagely at him from the stands.
It's just nice to know it's there, even if it leads to nothing.