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October 10, 2017

Another lost fall means Philadelphia is once again green with envy

Absence is supposed to make the heart grow fonder, but in the case of the Philadelphia sports fan, the prolonged absence of the Phillies from the postseason has helped the heart grow greener – as in Eagles green.

The Eagles and the National Football League cast a huge shadow over Philadelphia and the nation’s sporting landscape, but if you are not taking at least a short peek at the Major League Baseball playoffs you are missing some terrific drama.

Then again, there is a real danger you might be reminded of what you are missing. You might be reminded of just how great it was to be a Philadelphia sports fan when the fall was not all about football.

No doubt, the eyes of the Philadelphia sports fan will be trained on the Eagles as they put a 4-1 record on the line Thursday night in Carolina. There is nothing as important on the local scene than the development of quarterback Carson Wentz into one of the NFL’s biggest stars.

But there is plenty of room for more. There is plenty of room for the former four-for-four fan with great hopes for the Sixers, Flyers and Phillies in addition to the Eagles. That empty feeling is more obvious in the early fall when you think back and recall what it used to be like around here.

Eagles green is great, but red Octobers with the Phillies were remarkable during their reign as a baseball powerhouse.

The Phillies provided a great element during those glory years, but teams move in and out of the playoffs, and it doesn’t change much in terms of the entertainment provided. Last fall there was the historical march of the Chicago Cubs, and around here some eyeballs were on Chase Utley.

Utley and the Dodgers are again involved in the postseason party. The other actors in this season’s postseason have ranged from the usual suspects from the now-eliminated Boston Red Sox, to the passion play of the Cleveland Indians, to the Houston Astros to the revived New York Yankees.

If you want a vivid look at why baseball is such a great sport, but take a look at the dramatic difference between a couple of Most Valuable Player candidates in the American League. There is the pint-sized power of Houston’s Jose Altuve, who torched Boston in the playoffs, and the giant-sized world of Yankee star Aaron Judge.

The argument against baseball as a growing sport is that the game is too slow.

Funny how “too slow” doesn’t fit the narrative when your home team is in the game. Funny how “too slow” doesn’t fit the narrative when there are the highest stakes and a team facing elimination.

On Monday afternoon in Boston, a nine-inning game took four hours. By the time it was over the Astros had won one of the most intriguing games of any postseason and Josh Reddick had provided one of the greatest plate appearances before delivering a crucial hit.

Once again, this baseball postseason has featured great pitching, clutch hits and those wonderful visuals of fans folding their hands in prayer as they wish for the best outcome. It is October and as usual Major League Baseball has provided a cauldron of emotion on a daily and nightly basis, and the joy of watching is tempered by the fact that once again there is no such drama taking place at Citizens Bank Park.

Was it really that long ago when Doc Halladay was twirling his magic in the month of October ... or Ryan Howard was tormenting a pitching staff ... or Cole Hamels making way to a postseason MVP?

Yes, it’s been that long and the longer the Phillies are absent from the postseason party, the fuzzier the memories. The longer the Phillies are stuck in the spin cycle of rebuild, the longer it will take to make the connection of baseball equals great emotion.

The lack of success by the Philadelphia Phillies has created an enormous hole in the Philadelphia sports calendar.

All right, you can argue that once the Eagles start their preseason there is no room for anything else in Philadelphia. In fact, the Eagles 4-1 start and their looming big-time matchup in Carolina have covered up for the lack of fall baseball.

Maybe, but there should be a demand for the Phillies rebuild to be over and for the team to finally make a real run into October.