This isn’t for the comments or the clicks. It’s not the same news flipped upside down and repackaged to appear different. It’s not a breakdown of projected statistics or analysis of a new rumor or even a painfully stupid thought, shouted loudly because I haven’t said anything in a while. It’s not a columnist raising an index finger while exclaiming, “Aha! But have you considered this aspect of the Harper/Machado news!” If you clicked this, thinking it would be a fresh batch of analysis or sizzling nonsense just off the rumor mill, you’re wrong.
This is simply a piece of the present for the future historians, looking back on this era. Hello, historians. We’re all cranky and covered in popcorn kernels. And the Phillies haven’t signed Manny Machado or Bryce Harper yet.
Have they come even close? Oh, who knows. Sure. Why not. Apparently they’re flying out to Las Vegas to look Harper in the eye this weekend, and—no. There I go again. Treating travel plans as though they’re news. And once you repeat one word of this chatter, hearsay, and propaganda, you have to say it all, suddenly blurting out the entire string of non-events that brought us to this point.
Know this, historians: we fought bravely against the tedium. We thought that by mid-January, we’d have more to go on. But the Phillies have shuttered their headquarters and sealed their leaks. The best we can get are the vague offerings of national writers, which serve more as “predictions made while shrugging.” The Phillies were long said to be the prime players in this frenzy, and they have been, but we thought it would be their actions turning us silly; not their silence driving us mad. Any other year, signing a new all-star shortstop, a former MVP outfielder, and a premier reliever would be seen as huge, blockbuster steps. This season, they were just pebbles in the ocean while we stare at the waves.
If you are wondering what we were like in this period, awaiting news of whether or not the Phillies have signed one of the two free agents we seek, or neither—at one time, we had demanded both; such avarice—we have mostly sat quietly. On occasion, a media outlet will throw a take into our midst and we will scuffle and bite over it like savage animals. Words are said, refuted, denied, and repeated, and it has begun to not matter the order in which this occurs. As I write this, some believe a video game has given us a hint of where Harper’s intentions lie. Others subscribe to the idea that the White Sox have the upper hand, luring Machado’s family and friends onto their roster as bait. At one point, we believed in “stupid money.” Now, we’re told no one wants to pay.
To the clairvoyants among us, I know, I know—this isn’t about you at all. You are the smartest people in the room, as always. You have started multiple comments this off-season with the phrase, “I guess I’m in the minority...” or “I don’t understand why everyone else...” No matter what occurs, whether it’s something or nothing, you’ve seen it coming. Well done.
The rest of us can admit our short-sightedness. Our utter foolishness. Our arrogance. That we, mere mortals, once believed this would all somehow be fun. That this winter, which we saw in the distance, years ago, and have waited for ever since, would be full of whispered rumors riding hot breath from ear to ear; quipping super-agents riling up press conferences; megastars draping fresh jerseys over their long-sleeve button-downs. Every morning would be met by a recap of late-night shenanigans over coffee; every afternoon, we’d watch gossip evolve into headlines.
We’d like to live in that world. But it never existed. Instead, we have this one. There have been highlights, sure. An electrician yelled at Machado, carrying on the classic Philadelphia traditions of both “fans acting as passionate diplomats for the team” and “yelling.” But we have turned what had been envisioned as a fertile, lavish winter, into a debate over whether or not we should do nothing for two years and then sign somebody else because the Eagles keep giving him footballs.
Perhaps in retrospect, we’ll look back and realize this wasn’t so bad. Other winters have been spent mulling over prospect lists and learning about the latest fringe reliever added to the pitching staff. This one, at least, has had an entertainment factor, as long as you’re entertained by mentions of air travel or people threatening to set themselves on fire.
It may all be for nothing. You may be reading this, somewhere in the future, shaking your head. “The Phillies were never even close,” you’re muttering. “Their ‘negotiations’ with Harper were shouted through a closed condo door.”
I hope, instead, you’re saying, “The Phillies had secretly signed both free agents before the holidays; they simply had to track down the global position of the unstoppable bullet train on which John Middleton’s money was kept.”
But I would take, “You poor fool. You gave up now, so close the end,” regardless of what that means.
I ask only that you remember us how we were, or at least how we imagined ourselves: Ready. Ready for the next step, the start of a new journey, and the return of something in Philadelphia that always feels a little bit wrong: Victory.
I bid you——ah; what’s this?
Shall we cling to these words? These promises of conclusion? Or turn away, distrustful and sarcastic from weeks of torment?
Hey there @hesser_tom, really enjoying all of your very carefully sourced stories and rumors on the Phillies that are definitely legit but I think it's time for you to stop now pic.twitter.com/OMSCz75xdo— The Stupid Money Phight (@TheGoodPhight) January 10, 2019
Farewell, keepers of the past. May this journey to our time fail to sour your passions and haunt your sleep.
Oh—this is also the historical era in which Kyle Kendrick joined Twitter. I don’t know how detailed of a chronicle you’re writing, historians, but maybe that could be like a footnote, or something.