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April 08, 2021

Eytan Shander: Don't let Phillies' hot start spoil the rest of the season for you

If (when) this team comes back to earth, the suddenly heightened expectations will only hurt the playoff-starved fanbase even more.

Did you catch yourself doing it again? Taking a refreshing early start to a long MLB season as something much deeper? Like, say, a run at the World Series?

Let me stop you right there. Not from thinking that, but rather from thinking that this is one of those “chastise you for being happy” columns.

It’s not. Nowhere close. It’s actually more of an exploration into why we choose to overreact, elevate or destroy young things. We did it to Carter Hart. We did it to Carson Wentz. We even did it to Scott Kingery! And we are doing it now with this “young” Phillies season.

This is the perfect year to watch each game with zero expectations of what the season (and postseason) may bring, or if signing Bryce Harper was a mistake — I assume people will need to fill time on the radio — or if someone is on the hot seat if they're not playing in October.

Nobody of any importance – meaning anyone who made an immediate impact on this team this season from last – is on the hot seat. Pipe down, Twitter.

This ridiculously hot start deserves attention. It deserves your emotion. You should be enjoying this ride as long as it lasts. But stop putting any large cart before a miniature horse. You did it with players and now are doing it again with this team. 

Expectations can be a difficult thing to overcome. 

This team was expected to finish fourth in a difficult division. So, who cares if they don’t make the playoffs? They have a lot to continue to build with and more proof of concept to ownership to keep spending money. 

And if they do make the playoffs? Be happy about it, of course. After all, it's been a decade in the making. But don’t put those “World Series or Bust!” bumper stickers on the back of this Phils’ season. This isn’t the team for that type of stuff. Work the angles like a game of billiards and use this season as practice.

The Phillies this year are basically the driving range. They're the weight room. The offseason for fandom. A chance to truly sharpen your “care less about living and dying on winning a championship, and care more about being happy in moments” skills.

This isn’t about chastising happy fans after a win. That is insulting and utterly absurd. This also isn’t about not caring after a loss. You should. Instead, it’s about understanding each season for each team. It's about having realistic expectations that don’t waiver — at least not until they have to.

I was so disgusted with this team last year that I had no other option but to call for a boycott of the sport. But things can change, and they don't need to flip 180 degrees to do so. You are allowed to maneuver through middle ground without having to serve an extreme.

There are plenty of reasons — from the existing pandemic to social and political issues – that just sitting down and watching a baseball game can be rejuvenating to the soul.

Why mess that up by talking about the World Series or even winning the NL ten days into the season?

Put those championship expectations on this year’s Sixers team. Ask them to take advantage of a hobbled Nets and underachieving (postseason) Bucks squad. Absolutely tear into the Flyers for missing the playoffs this year. Hell, even the Union deserve lofty expectations after their amazing season last year!

This year’s local baseball team doesn’t deserve that and neither do you. Instead, just enjoy the ride, wherever it may mind up. 

Betting The Masters

I am fully aware this column is coming out on the first day of the Masters Tournament. It’s actually playing right into the – only – angle worth considering in picking a winner. This might be the simplest strategy I can offer in placing a wager, and it has everything to do with one key stat.

You have to understand what truly takes this from a stat to a narrative to a winning ticket. It’s the outlier. The one golfer who has defied the odds. Who he is and what he’s accomplished reinforces why you approach Augusta this – and only this – way.

This came from Harry Mayes on The Middle, so I can’t claim the stat despite me betting it. Over the last 16 Masters, only one eventual winner was sitting outside the Top 10 after round one... Tiger Woods.

The outlier over the last 16 tournaments in Augusta happens to be the best golfer of all-time. So why rush into any bet for the winner when you can simply wait a day and narrow it down to ten people? Seriously, it’s the only tournament that provides this level of difficulty backed with that impactful of a stat.

For the record, I like Justin Thomas. And I’m more than happy to sacrifice a little value to ensure he’s a Top 10 player come Friday morning.

The Middle w/ BROOKS, MAYES & EYTAN – Clip of the Week

No Shander. No Brooks. No problem! Harry took over the show and killed it. Harry Mayes doing solo work!

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Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow

You can listen to Eytan on The Middle w/ Brooks, Mayes and Eytan right here on PhillyVoice (Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-1 p.m.) and on @foxphlgambler (Mon.-Weds., 6-8 p.m.). You can also catch him on FOX 29 Good Day and on his new show Props & Locks Thursday nights on FOX 29.

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