Jim Thome’s on the Wall of Fame; Chase Utley has come and gone. What else is there to look forward to for the 2016 Phillies-watcher? Other than the glory and majesty that is America’s pasti blah blah blah crack of the bat blah blah young team blah mustard blah.
The Phillies may have lost more series than they’ve won this season, but it cannot be said that they didn’t show up for each game. You can rely on this team to be there. Name a place and a time, and the Phillies will show up there and lose.
Here are a few series I plucked from the remaining schedule for which it could be worth opening your eyes.
@White Sox, August 23-24
The Phillies only play two non-divisional opponents for the rest of the year, the first of which being the White Sox, a team whose season has been defined once again by disappointment and for the first time by a savage uniform massacre.
Ever since May 10, Chicago has been crumbling, and they will be no less of a mess when the Phillies limp into town fresh off a thrashing from the Cardinals. If you’re a regular viewer, it’ll be nice to get a change of scenery, I suppose? No one is screwing anything up, except for possibly their faces, by beating the other here. If you are still tuning in to these games, then seeing the Phillies play a team they don’t normally play is a novel reason to catch a few innings, but that applies more usually to teams with polarizing players. The Sox are probably keeping a tight lid on Chris Sale, who won’t even be pitching this time through, but perhaps some hilarious new drama will unfold while the Phillies - and you - happen to be watching.
Chicago is a fun place, too! Did you know a bear just jumped out of a plane there? A Chicago Bear, I mean. I know. Not as fun. But they’re also shooting scenes from the upcoming TV series based on The Exorcist there! If they need tens of thousands of extras vomiting 360 degrees, they’ll know where to find them.
Braves, September 2-4
Can you even imagine what the Phillies rotation will look like at this point? We will be going seriously off the map if one more of these poor men are leveled by a disgusting injury. Now try to envision that sorry lot taking on the Braves in September, a team whose GM just announced that Matt Kemp was fat in a radio interview. It’s going to be some real live wire baseball, folks.
The important thing here isn’t the nine innings of what experts will never be able to confirm is "baseball," but the first time the Phillies’ favorite prospects will be called up for September, their youthful faces appearing in the dugout like baby bunnies emerging from a burrow in the spring. Some of the young guys we’ve been demanding to see all year (and in turn have been politely rebuffed by Matt Klentak) will finally show their faces, giving us a clear look at the near future, when every position on the Phillies roster is filled by a league leader.
Of course, since all of the Phillies’ minor league affiliates will be in the playoffs, the big league club stealing all of their best players could ruin everything. But it’s we Phillies fans are always saying, "Nothing else matters except for our happiness."
@Nationals, September 8-11
Every time the Phillies play the Nationals, I think the game may be worth watching, because wouldn’t it be fun to beat the Nationals? Even a bad team can knock the Nats down and keep them down from time to time. Why shouldn’t the Phillies be able to steal a series from them?
And then, it never happens, because the Nationals just beat the Phillies. They’re better, and then they just beat them. I always forget that for an unlikely victory to take place, the "unlikely" part has to be established first. It usually looks like the Phillies have no chance at beating the Nationals, but then, in a twist, they don’t beat them.
This time, though, the Phillies will have those September call-ups around. Remember back when Cole Hamels hit Bryce Harper with a pitch on purpose? And then Bryce Harper came around to score by stealing home because Hamels’ was really lollipopping his throws to first base? Remember how ridiculous everyone felt, and how vindicating that must have been for Nationals fans to feel like they had finally, finally overtaken the Phillies as the NL East owners? We could be on the verge of our own version of that moment, people. Moisten those eye balls.
Marlins, September 16-18
In an odd weekend series, the Phillies will be hosting Red Goes Greek night on Friday and the just as rowdy Grandparents Day on Sunday. In between, however, you could get this free hat. You can wear it in the still somehow disgustingly humid mid-September air, sweat profusely, get asked "Are you okay" and "Sir are you sure you are okay" by multiple ushers, and then finally take it off.
In the mean time, these Marlins might be more of a post season threat than the Mets, who are of course blowing it (Last night on Sunday Night Baseball, Dan Schulman called any efforts by the Mets to make the postseason a "desperate attempt to get into it"). After going 16-10 in July, the Marlins lost Giancarlo Stanton, thought about acquiring Alex Rodriguez, and have gone 8-11 in August. However, the Marlins just swept the Pirates. However, this was after losing seven of their last ten. Nobody in the NL East wants to rattles the Nats or make the playoffs, but if the Fish stay in it without Stanton’s bat, this will be a chance for the Phillies to throw their bodies onto the gears of the machine and jam things up for Miami.
@Mets, September 22-25
The Phillies play the Mets in seven of their last 12 games this season, at a time when the wild card race in which the Mets are attempting to compete while their team is worn away by the grinding of bones will be at its tightest. Or, knowing the Mets, they’ll accidentally agree to spot the other team six runs before the game, and discover a gerbil living in Jacob deGrom’s brain, and Terry Collins will sprain his ankle trying to scissor kick Yoenis Cespedes, and suddenly, the Mets will have sucked their way out of it and playing them will be just as meaningless as ever. Thanks a lot, Mets.
But just think if this four-game set in Flushing were to actually be a series of must-win situations for the Mets. What if something humiliating happens to sentient, extremely full garbage bag Jose Reyes, and we’re all there to see it? This series and the three-game set the Phillies and Mets play to close out the regular season could be - if you subtract the three games against the Braves that the Phillies play in between that definitely win "most meaningless baseball of 2016" - a seven-game sequence that determines whether Mets fans end the year jubilantly feasting from their slop buckets or sobbing face down in them.