By Jack Ryan
Thanks to the buzz about drafting Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday’s draft, the Sixers are the most talked-about team in town.
At least until Eagles training camp opens in a month!
Even the mediocre Flyers are showing signs of breaking their “We’re Entitled to Support Because of Our Two Stanley Cups More Than 40 Years Ago” attitude.
And the worst-in-baseball Phillies?
Well, they are drawing better than they did last year, but they ranked 10th of 15 National League teams in attendance going into the weekend.
In 2012, they led the league.
That was the first of what will soon be six consecutive seasons without a winning record, a string that followed a five-year run atop the NL East.
The Phillies won a championship in 2008 — the only crown for a major pro sports franchise in Philly over the last 34 years — but have fallen hard, with a major-league-worst 24-48 record through Friday.
“The teams that have gone through successful rebuilds have gone through periods much like we’re going through right now,” GM Matt Klentak told the New York Times last week.
“The Washington Nationals were the worst team in baseball for two straight years. The Houston Astros were the worst team in baseball for three straight years. The Chicago Cubs were among the worst teams for a handful of years. In all of those stretches, there were stretches very similar to what we’ve gone through in the last six weeks.”
“It doesn’t make it fun to go through. We’re trying everything we can to pull out of it. But we know this is one of the challenges of rebuilding. We owe it to our franchise, to our fans, to our ownership to make sure that we don’t deviate from what we know is the right thing for the future of the club.”
For this season, the Phillies believed that meant adding veteran placeholders who could, in theory, become trade targets for contenders. But starter Clay Buchholz got hurt; outfielder Michael Saunders struggled so badly that he was designated for assignment; starter Jeremy Hellickson has compiled a 6.17 earned run average since the end of April. Reliever Pat Neshek and complementary players like Howie Kendrick and Daniel Nava have value but will not command a bonanza in return.
For fans, perhaps, it may be more troubling that the major league roster seems to lack future superstars. The team’s payroll shows as much: The Phillies have committed to just one player, outfielder Odubel Herrera, beyond this season. Ownership has shown it will spend when the time is right. But that time is not now, and the best prospects are not ready for a promotion.
“I think there are impact players coming in our system,” Klentak said. “From year to year, some players in minor leagues have better performances than others. They may shoot up a few places on a prospect list or fall a few places, but we’re confident that our system is going to produce players. And the combination of the players we produce internally — plus the financial resources that we’ll be able to devote to free agents or trading for big contracts in the near future — should bode well for the on-field success of this organization.”