The Phillies…working class heroes

Last week I smacked right into a Phillies wall. For the first time since the season started, I didn’t care all that much about what was happening to the team. I hadn’t watched any games or even checked highlights to see how they were doing. I just didn’t really care and this was somewhat tragic because I really did want to care. Since moving down to Philly, I had vowed to be an avid Phillies’ fan, similar to how I am an avid Red Sox fan. Some people had issues with trying to like another team, but since they were in different leagues, I didn’t see it as a problem. Really the only problem I had was going from watching Sox games (which I did recently when back in Maine for the weekend, then on Cape Cod for Party Time’s wedding) to watching Phillies’ games.

This is not meant to be about the Red Sox.

No, this is meant to be solely about the Phillies and the realization I had about the team last week. Yes friends, a realization. Heavy stuff. Luckily this happened before the Sopranos’ finale so I was able to think about something else besides the meaning of a sharp cut to black.

What I realized was within Major League Baseball there is a class system that mirrors the class system found in society. There is an upper class, a middle class, and a lower class. Now within those classes are various sub-sections, but overall, there predominately those three classes.

The Red Sox are upper class. They have all of the cars, the lavish houses, and the six-disc DVD changers. Other teams that are considered upper class are the Yankees, the Mets, and the Dodgers. Being upper class isn’t strictly based on wealth, but is also based on certain heights of national popularity, number of top players, and overall quality of the organization in terms of management, facilities, and corresponding sports network. So that would make the Braves, Angels, Cubs and mainly because of Barry Bonds, the Giants, also upper class teams.

The Phillies however, are not an upper class team. They are middle class. Whether or not they are upper middle class or just middle class is certainly debatable, but they are definitely middle class. They’re able to dodge lower class because of young stars like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Cole Hamels, as well as Citizens Bank Park, and historical significance of both the team, the city, and the Phanatic in the cannon of baseball.

Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with being middle class. I have been middle class all my life and it’s suited me just fine. Sure there are some disadvantages here and there that come with a middle class existence, but they are at least manageable as long as you’re comfortable with your place in life.

Yet that’s the problem with the Phillies, they are trying to pose as if they were upper class instead of middle class. Ah! We hate posers! Posers are like the Others on Lost or a band like Fall Out Boy. The Phillies need to accept the fact that as they stand right now, they are firmly middle class. Sure at the end of last season they might have flirted with upper class and appeared to be upwardly mobile, but that was months ago and things have settled back down. Just look at Jimmy Rollins’ statement during Spring Training, when he denounced the Mets as the favorite in the NL East and proclaimed the Phillies as the team to beat. If Rollins were more realistic he would have called out the equally middle class Marlins or even better, the lower class Nationals. When you’re middle class you have to know your limits and live within your means, two things the Phillies consistently fail to do.

But then the rest of the week happened and like they did to the Braves in Atlanta a few weeks ago, the Phillies swept the Mets in New York and climbed above .500. Yet a few days later they traveled to Kansas City and lost two of three to the lower class Royals. See? If the Phillies were upper class, sweeping the Mets wouldn’t be so surprising as Tony not getting whacked and losing a series to the Royals wouldn’t be so predictable as Phil getting whacked.

The Phillies won’t be upper class until they right the ship and get their act together. It’s not hard and they have the means to do it, they just need to take the necessary steps. It would only take three simple steps to push the Phillies up to upper class or at least towards full-fledged upper middle class (i.e. the Cardinals, Twins, and Tigers.)

1.) They sign a key free agent that can bat behind Howard. This is not a knock against Mr. Miyagi, but as I’ve maintained, Pat Burrell is not suited to be the protection Howard needs in the line-up. Andruw Jones of the Braves, a free agent next year, however, would be perfect. Big free agent signings have become the best way to sustain interest in your team year round. Look at the buzz generated by the possibility of the Phillies signing Alfonso Soriano, and he wasn’t even what they were really looking for. The Hot Stove, which is rampant year after year with news of upper class teams wheeling and dealing, needs to include the Phillies before the team can even consider moving up the class ladder.

2.) A big trade needs to happen in the next few weeks. Obviously the Phillies need bullpen help and with Freddy Garcia likely out for the season, the rotation needs help too. But rotation help is hard to come by and bullpen guys generate about as much excitement as an episode of the Real World. A big bat gets people talking, but a big pitcher would do just as well. Brad Lidge of the Astros (middle class) would work. So would the Reds’ (lower middle class) Adam Dunn or the Blue Jays’ (middle class) Troy Glaus. This could be a twofer as well, because getting help now may offset the cost of making a big free agent signing in the off-season. I love multi-tasking.

3.) Please, please, please get new announcers. For a few months in high school, my buddy Joy Boy hooked me up with a job at a nursing home. Sometimes I would wander the halls, listening to the conversations the various residents would be having with each other. Sometimes I think two of those residents escaped and are know calling Phillies’ games. Frankly I’m worried that one of them might die of old age during a game and while this provides more suspense than the actual game, it makes me quesy…and that’s before the bullpen comes in. When the fifth inning comes around during another explosive barnburner between the Phils and the Nats, I don’t even want to hear about the game anymore. I want witty banter, fun anecdotes about mascots, or stories about cab drivers getting lost on the way to the ballpark. All the Phillies’ announcers provide at that team is a meaningless switch in the booth, which is like sitting through Mad TV only to be sucked into Mind of Mencia.

But until these three things happen, the Phillies will be firmly entrenched in the middle class and I urge you to come to this same realization that I did. It’ll not only put the team in context for you, but make them easier to watch. It’s like the new HBO series, John from Cincinnati. Don’t watch it as a replacement for the Sopranos, because that is dooming it from the start. Watch it as a replacement for Deadwood and the patiently wait for something better to come along.

Like Flight of the Concords. That looks hilarious.

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