When Taylor Swift re-released her Grammy-winning album Fearless in April 2021, there was cause for excitement amongst Phillies fans. Fearless was originally released in 2008, the same year the Phillies last won the World Series, and Taylor Swift even sang The Star-Spangled Banner at the World Series that year.
Was this a sign that the Phillies would finally end their playoff drought?
Not so much. The Phillies once again failed to make the playoffs, and while Fearless (Taylor’s Version) was met with critical acclaim and topped the Billboard charts in several countries, the 2021 Phillies finished around .500 for the fourth consecutive season.
So what does this mean? Is it possible that there is no magical connection at all between one of the most famous pop stars on the planet and a mediocre baseball team that happens to play close to her hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania?
No, don’t be ridiculous. Of course there’s a connection. We were just looking for the connection in the wrong place. Because the true connection is between the 2012 Phillies and Taylor Swift’s 2012 album Red. Let me explain.
Red was released in October 2012, during the first postseason without Phillies baseball since 2006. Red, as any Taylor Swift fan will tell you, is a breakup album. It is about how something “good and right and real” can “break and burn and end”. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Taylor Swift has never publicly called herself a Phillies fan. But it’s not Taylor Swift’s style to publicly say much of anything. Instead, she prefers to leave hints about her personal life in her music, and based on the hints she dropped on Red, it’s pretty clear that the 2012 Phillies broke her heart, just like they broke all of ours.
Here is just some of the evidence.
- “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” – the first single from Red – was released on August 13, 2012, less than two weeks after the Phillies traded World Series heroes Joe Blanton and Shane Victorino. The Phillies’ reign atop the NL East was ending, and Swift knew that one of the greatest teams in franchise history was never getting back together.
- The second single from Red, “Begin Again”, was released on October 1, mere days after the Phillies were eliminated from postseason contention for the first time since 2006. The last time the Phillies were eliminated during the regular season, Swift had yet to even release an album. Taylor Swift knew now that the Phillies’ only option was to rebuild — to begin again.
- Then, on October 22, 2012, the entire album was released, and there was no question it was about the Phillies. From the album’s name itself to the words of each and every song. Just look at some of these lyrics.
From the opening track “State of Grace”:
This is a state of grace / This is the worthwhile fight / Love is a ruthless game / Unless you play it good and right / These are the hands of fate / You’re my Achilles heel / This is the golden age of something good and right and real
- “The worthwhile fight” sounds a lot like The Good Phight...
- This was certainly “the golden age” of Phillies baseball.
- “Achilles heel”?? Come on. She’s not even trying to be subtle with that one.
From the title track “Red”
Loving him is like driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street / Faster than the wind, passionate as sin, ending so suddenly / Loving him is like trying to change your mind once you’re already flying through the free fall / Like the colors in autumn, so bright just before they lose it all
Losing him was blue like I’d never known / Missing him was dark grey all alone / Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you never met / But loving him was red / Loving him was red
- The opening verse clearly applies to the 2007-2012 Phillies. From 2007-2011, we knew we were watching greatness unfold, and in 2012 it all came to a screaming halt.
- Don’t lie, we’ve all had thoughts about Chase Utley that were “passionate as sin”.
- Losing him was blue? That’s obviously a reference to Blanton and Victorino being traded to the Dodgers.
From the hit single “22”
I don’t know about you / But I’m feeling 22
- Nate Schierholtz, who the Phillies acquired in the Hunter Pence trade, wore the number 22 that season. Clearly, this was Taylor’s way of telling us that she high on Nate Schierholtz and thought he could be a key contributor in 2013. Unfortunately, Swift was wrong about this one and the Phillies did not tender Schierholtz a contract for the 2013 season. Oh well, even Taylor Swift can’t be right about everything.
From “Stay Stay Stay”
Stay, stay, stay. / I’ve been lovin’ you for quite some time, time, time. / You think that it’s funny when I’m mad, mad, mad. / But I think that it’s best if we both stay, stay, stay, stay.
- As Taylor watched the 2008 World Series team slowly disappearing in front of her eyes, this song must have been her plea to the rest of the core to stay with the Phillies. She had already said goodbye to Pat Burrell, Jayson Werth, Brad Lidge, and more. Now she had lost Joe Blanton and Shane Victorino too. She needed Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, and Carlos Ruiz to stay. She had loved them all for years. They all understood what it was like to play in front of a passionate Phillies crowd. They had to stay. They had to. But of course...
“Everything Has Changed”
I just wanna know you better, know you better, know you better now / I just wanna know you better, know you better, know you better now.
- While Taylor Swift did not want to see the old core leave, she was still full of hope and excitement for the new young players. Domonic Brown was there. The baby aces were around the corner. And seemingly, she couldn’t wait to get to know all of them better. Little did she know.
I really can’t make my point any clearer than that. Red is a breakup album about the 2012 Phillies. And why does that matter now, ten years down the road?
Because in November, 2021, Taylor Swift re-released Red. And while the songs were the same (along with some new additions), it was no longer a breakup album. Instead, it resonated with fans as an album about moving on from heartbreak. On Red (Taylor’s Version), Swift is able to look back on her old heartbreak with a fresh perspective. She has learned from her past. She is no longer heartbroken, she is stronger now than she ever was.
While the original Red was about the downfall of the 2012 Phillies, Red (Taylor’s Version) is full of optimism for the 2022 season. Taylor Swift clearly believes that the Phillies will go on a run in 2022 — let’s hope she’s right.