John Middleton is lying in bed, unsure if his encounter with the Ghost of Phillies Past was real or just a dream. He has his eyes closed when he feels something climb onto his bed. He opens his eyes to see Craig Kimbrel posed in his bird-like stance hovering above him.
Middleton: Craig! What the heck are you doing in my bedroom?
Kimbrel: I am the Ghost of Phillies Present!
Middleton: You mean it wasn’t a dream?
Kimbrel: It was not! There is more you must be shown.
Middleton: Do you have to stand over me like that?
Kimbrel: Yes! I have taken the form of Craig Kimbrel, so to capture the whole effect, I must copy his mannerisms. Now, come with me!
There is a flash of light, and Middleton finds himself in the press room of Citizens Bank Park. The room is empty.
Middleton: Are we at the stadium? What are we doing here?
Kimbrel: We are indeed at the stadium. And what do you see?
Kimbrel: Correct! There is no press conference to announce a major free agent signing! And unless you become active on the free agent market, it will remain empty.
Middleton: But the offseason isn’t over. There’s still time to sign a few guys who could help.
Kimbrel: Guys “who can help” will not fill this room with reporters, and it will not fill the stadium with fans.
Middleton: I have faith in my people. Dave Dombrowski knows what he’s doing and can fill in the roster with cheaper players.
Kimbrel: Can he, though?
There’s another flash of light and they are in the home of Dave Dombrowski, who is sitting in a chair talking on the phone.
Dombrowski: I just don’t know what he expects me to do, Sam! Sure, I can bring in some more Josh Harrisons, but how much impact can a guy like that make?
Middleton: But that’s supposed to be Dave’s strength! That’s what I’m paying him for!
Kimbrel: There is more you must see.
There is another flash of light, and Middleton finds himself in an unfamiliar house. Middleton is confused where they are when he sees Jake Cave enter the room with his wife.
Cave: We are truly blessed! I thought for sure that the Phillies would try to find another player to play in the outfield, but the way the roster looks right now, I could very well win a starting job in camp.
Mrs. Cave: It’s a Christmas miracle, baby!
Middleton: But maybe Jake can have a better season next year.
Kimbrel: Do you truly believe that?
Before Middleton can answer, there is another flash of light, and he is back in his bed.
Middleton: I know what point they’re trying to make, but they don’t understand the implications of going over another luxury tax threshold! Even we have limits!
Middleton’s soliloquy is interrupted when he senses another presence in his room. He looks over to see a figure cloaked in black standing in the corner.
Middleton: Are you... Are you the Ghost of Phillies Yet to Come?
The ghost silently nods.
Middleton: What are you going to show me?
With a flash of light, they are in Citizens Bank Park. The stadium appears to be run down, and there are few fans in the stands. Middleton hears the announcer: NOW BATTING, DESIGNATED HITTER, NUMBER THREE, BRYCE HARPER. The few fans in attendance emit half-hearted boos.
Middleton: Wait, why are they booing Bryce? What’s going on? What year is this?
The ghost points to a newspaper discarded on the ground. The date says October 1, 2032. Middleton turns to the baseball standings and sees the Phillies are in last place, 40 games behind the Braves.
Middleton: What? How could this happen?
The ghost points at a couple of people sitting in the stands. As Harper flails at a curveball to strike out, the fans boo again, and Middleton can hear them clearly.
Fan One: Does this bum ever do anything but strike out?
Fan Two: And he’s signed for another year still! We gave him all that money, and never won a World Series!
Fan One: At least he’s still playing. That lousy Turner is still collecting a paycheck and hasn’t stepped foot on the field in two years because of some injury!
Fan Two: They told us those long-term contracts would be worth it because we’d be winning early on, but then the team said because they paid these guys so much, they couldn’t afford anyone else.
Middleton simply stares in horror. The ghost then points to the pitcher on the mound.
Middleton: Is that Ranger Suarez?
Fan One: And they said they couldn’t afford to extend this Suarez guy, so he goes to the Braves and wins two freaking Cy Young Awards!
Middleton: No! This can’t be! Surely, there’s something I can do to change this!
With another flash of light, Middleton finds himself in front of a computer. His own Wikipedia page is on the screen. Middleton scans the page until he comes to a bolded sentence near the bottom: THE PHILLIES HAVE STILL YET TO WIN A WORLD SERIES SINCE 2008 AND HIS OWNERSHIP IS REGARDED AS A MAJOR FAILURE
Middleton: Noooooo! Noooooo! I’ll change! I’ll change! We’ll spend the money! We’ll make the team better! I promise!
With that, Middleton awakes in bed. He grabs his phone to find that it’s Christmas morning. He immediately dials Dave Dombrowski.
Middleton: Dave! Dave! Sorry to wake you, but I’ve changed my mind! Spend all the money you need; luxury tax thresholds be damned!
Elsewhere, Sam Fuld is standing anxiously. He looks over with anticipation and sees the Ghost of Phillies-Yet-To-Come who is holding a phone. The ghost pulls down his hood to reveal Dave Dombrowski with a wide smile on his face.
Fuld: Did it work?
Dombrowski: It did. We have the green light to do whatever we want.
Fuld: I gotta hand it to you, Dave. I didn’t think this had a chance of working.
Dombrowski: I told you; I did something similar in Detroit a few years ago. These owners are easy enough to fool. A little hallucinogen in the food, and then some elaborate video screens, and they’ll believe whatever you want them to.
Fuld: What’s our next move?
Dombrowski: Get the agents for Tommy Phan and Josh Hader on the phone. We’ve got work to do!
That concludes our joyous holiday tale! I hope you enjoyed it, and from all of us at The Good Phight to all our wonderful readers: Have a Merry Christmas!