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August 03, 2022

Eytan Shander: Phillies snag (a part of) the spotlight as fall approaches in Philadelphia

Opinion Phillies
Dave-Dombrowski_060821_usat Jonathan Dyer/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

Dave Dombrowski has given you an alternative.

He’s provided just enough from Tuesday’s trade deadline to ensure we are all talking about his team – still – in September. The optics of the deals, who they got – or maybe who they failed to acquire, will be broken down to the simplest of standards by people who consume sports in total extremes.

Dombrowski has also provided an alternative from that noise.

You don’t need to spend every hour of your day debating whether this is the year for Jalen Hurts, or anything else with the Eagles that won’t be decided in helmets and shorts. There won’t be any conscious effort by the “media” to push this team to the back burner, while other more important stuff – like some bland quote from Carson Wentz gets front page material.

We (meaning not me) here at PhillyVoice did a wonderful job covering the major points about the trades, and it’s worth looking at the recap and analysis. The Phillies are simply better today than they were yesterday, and that’s ultimately the foundation of whether a team had good or bad movement.

Yes, Dombrowski did what he had to do, with bidding wars and better names off the table, to ensure the Phillies would continue to be a topic of conversation. That can’t happen unless the team gets better, even if it’s not as much better as people want.

“…But Shander, the Phillies aren’t winning the World Series after Tuesday”

No, but they were never able to win the World Series prior to any deal being made, and even bringing in Juan Soto would come at an extreme cost. They were never in contention to make the World Series, nor was that ever going to change with a trade.

The Phillies needed key areas addressed, and they did – to an extent. That’s either all Dombrowski could do or all he truly wanted to do – again, based on circumstances like bidding wars and rentals. The team is good enough to continue its press towards the playoffs, and Dombrowski did bring in a pitcher and center fielder with a glove. There is help on the back end of the pen to stabilize what’s been a disaster.

“…Dude, what’s your problem? This team is barely good enough to make the Wild Card.”

Now we’re talking.

That’s the point of this season, the trades, and the final two months of this year’s team lying in front of us. Tuesday came with a sobering reminder about how strong the Braves can be, and how excited they are about a young pitcher. The Mets welcomed back one of baseball’s best pitchers too. Philadelphia isn’t any closer to beating either team, but they aren’t any worse.

Those realistic expectations were upheld following the trade deadline and Dombrowski has ensured the team has every single realistic possibility to make the playoffs. Over the course of a long season with injuries already impacting this team, the front office made sure the team still has a clear path to the post-season.

The Phillies were never going to compete to represent the National League in anything outside of winning the Home Run Derby, and we know how that went. There’s nothing wrong with being happy about a team making moves and addressing needs, even though they aren’t those moves.

“…This sounds like a bunch of moral victory crap to me.”

Somehow falling on the way to walking has been looked at beyond simply as a negative, but an underlying weakness of team and executives alike. The Phillies have some veteran components in place, combined with some heavy contracts. The goal should always be building a contender, but this isn’t the NFL, it’s baseball.

A slow, methodical, and deliberate sport. This thing takes forever to sit through for nine innings, and people want some seismic shift to happen with one trade or offseason. The NFL rewards teams with parity, helped governed by a salary cap. The talent level outside of like 5-8% of the top players is pretty even overall.

Comparing the turnaround of teams like the Eagles and Sixers to the Phillies represents a mind that’s unable to comprehend anything outside of the extreme. A team either sucks or is winning it all, as evident by people’s continued disdain for "The Process” despite it holding no current negative bearing on the Sixers.

If you came into Tuesday, or the week prior, thinking that the Phillies were going to make a move to win the NL East, or be a contender in the NLCS, then you are to blame. Stop blaming it on what you heard or read, you are actively consuming whatever you can to hopefully hear the same, in order to validate some bizarre reaction to being disappointed by all of this.

“…This is pretty depressing.”

Only because you let it get this way.

The team has a Wild Card in its future and the excitement should be around that, and that alone. That isn’t “World Series level” excitement but you know that coming in each day. You know where you stand when you drive to work, or get to work, or take lunch, or hit the gym, or grocery store, or anything else in your day where you communicate about this team.

The bus driver or teacher or clerk or boss may hit you with the “I told you they weren’t going to do anything” but you come back with a nice “Grizzly Adams did have a beard” and enjoy the day.

The Philadelphia Phillies saw a bunch of big-name movement around baseball and weighed their options. They looked at current contracts, where the team is, how close a deal for a Luis Castillo truly is versus someone more realistic. They factored in a playoff chase for a Wild Card spot, no, not to win the back page or some random Tuesday afternoon on WIP, rather to send a message to the players and fans, that making the playoffs is still important to the growth of this team.

Yes, it’s not what you want to hear today, but sometimes being yelled at via a microphone or column over and over wears thin. It’s the sports media equivalent of crying wolf and I don’t need to slam the table every time something happens, especially if I’m ok with the results.


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