The nighttime darkness of the Philadelphia sky hung over Citizens Bank Park in a cold, dreary and miserable winter.
The emptiness that filled Citizens Bank Park over the winter months might exceed the average attendance the Phillies get through their 81 home games this season.
A division championship run from 2007-2011 that included a World Series championship in 2008, and another World Series appearance in ’09, had this city rocking and rolling with joy. We had been waiting for what seemed like forever for the Phillies to be a quality team every year.
And now, after three straight years of missing the playoffs and a rebuilding process that the Phillies began this offseason, four years too late, this franchise has hit rock bottom.
It seems as though that is the theme for the Philadelphia sports’ landscape. The Flyers have completely messed up the franchise with no sense of direction. The Phillies are going to miss the playoffs for a fourth straight year.
The only two teams with promise are the Sixers and the Eagles, one of which isn’t even trying to win.
The Phillies are a team that could lose 100 games this season. Easy.
They are a team that has Aaron Harang as their No. 2 starter, a team with Freddy Galvis, who has shown nothing in the MLB, as their starting shortstop, and they are a team with a Rule Five draft pick starting in center field.
They are also a franchise with around 100 scouting and player development employees who haven’t been able to produce one decent prospect in their farm system in years.
If you gave me thousands of frequent flyer mileage, I could go around and find one good player. The Phillies have nothing.
Their best prospect – shortstop J.P. Crawford – most likely won’t be Major League ready until 2016. Then they have Aaron Nola, a right-hander and their first round pick from 2014, who will start the season most likely in Double-A Reading.
The problem with this whole ordeal is that this is what the Phillies are trying to sell to their fan base.
From 2007 to even mid-2012, Citizens Bank Park was sold out every night. I won’t be surprised if their average attendance drops below 25,000 this season.
They have managed to put a product out on the field that they expect the consumers of the product, the fans, to buy into.
This is not basketball where rebuilding can take maybe three years. This is baseball where top prospects, who can make it and succeed in the MLB, are few and far between. This is a Phillies organization that could be at rock bottom for four or more years.
But wait: the Phillies have introduced new amenities to Citizens Bank Park, including a nine-patty cheeseburger, wine and hard liquor. Maybe that will bring some more people out.
It can’t hurt, because people are going to need hard liquor to watch this team this year.
An old and washed up Ryan Howard, who hit .171 in the spring, won’t bring people out to see them play. Neither will a team with Harang, David Buchanan, Jerome Williams and who knows who else as their No. 2 to No. 5 starters.
Bottom line is that this situation is entirely the organization’s own fault. They neglected to turn the table after a divisional-round exit in 2011, get rid of the old core group of players, get younger, and transform.
They refused to clean house, including front office positions, and start over. They failed to be a team like the Red Sox, who will win a World Series one year, transform the next year into a bad team and then be able to contend in the third of those three years.
This season is miserable already and it just began.
Baseball season is here. Citizens Bank Park will be brightened with lights at night, but the darkness that engulfed Citizens Bank Park over the cold and miserable winter will be the darkness that swarms the Phillies’ organization this season.