June 14 will forever be a key date in Philadelphia sports history. Jimmy Rollins, who has been the Phillies' shortstop since the turn of the century, has established a new franchise all-time hits record with 2,235 and counting. This feat is special for the Philly fans because it will at least divert the fans’ attention from the standings, where the Phillies are last in the National League East.
The phrase “it’s early” can be nauseating at times. It is a phrase often used to excuse the failures of the premier teams and dismiss the success of the little guys.
In the case of the Philadelphia Phillies, nobody is saying it’s early. Nobody has a problem pointing out what was first the rise of a spunky young group that quickly turned into Philadelphia’s first pro sports championship since the days of Dr. J has been eroded to a group of aging, highly overpaid veterans playing and failing in a young man’s game.
However, it may also spark the team and propel them to a run that gets them well into contention. Their only 6.5 games back of the Washington Nationals. To put that in perspective; 6.5 games is just two games less than what is separating the NL West leading San Francisco Giants from the second place Los Angeles Dodgers.
“No one is running away from our division,” Rollins said. At least you know that once you get hot, you have a good shot of running ahead. But if you’re below .500 it doesn’t matter how close it is, you are not going to be in it.”
There’s currently a three-horse race to the top of the NL East. The Nationals, Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves are all separated by just one game. They all have one thing in common is they’re all young teams filled with energy and life in their arms.
The Phillies are the only team in that division that runs on grizzled vets and elbow grease. Chase Utley looks like he could be the guy in the Viagra commercials. If there is any advantage that the Phillies have, it’s experience.
“When you’re young, you have a lot of hope,” Rollins said. “You have this fire and venom that makes you think you can be world beaters everyday out there. Truth is that isn’t the case. You’ll get hot in moments, no doubt about it, but young teams can get very high in those moments. Then when it doesn’t work out quite as well, they can go the very opposite direction and get very low.
“In an older team, you learn how not to get too high or too low during your successes and struggles and steer your way through it understanding that the world isn’t going to end now that you’re struggling. “
After their series with the Chicago Cubs, they will spend the rest of the first half facing off with their division rivals and NL Central teams who are in the thick of the Wild Card chase.
They’ll have to pick up the pace with their hitting which ranks 11th in the National League in both batting average (.241) and tenth in runs scored (252). They score an average of four runs a game while allowing an average of four runs per game. With that math, one would think this would be a .500 team.
Like Rollins said, .500 is where they'll need to be in order to first talk about playoff contention.