Commentary

A letter to Phanta Claus: our holiday wish list

Martin-Santa11-228x300.jpgDear Phanta,

The Phillies faithful were good this year. Well, most of us were. When we actually came to games, anyway. Except for that one guy and that other guy.

Let me start over.

Dear Phanta,

It’s been a tough year for Phillies fans, but that hasn’t tarnished our hope for the future or appreciation for the people and players who can make it brighter. There are still some things that would make our holiday season a little better, though.

We would like:

More hot dog launchers

If you need me to explain this, you need to take yourself off the nice list.

There aren’t many things being launched out of Citizens Bank Park lately, which only increases the importance of sending tubed meats into the stratosphere between innings. There are few pleasures humbler and easier to appreciate than a hot dog sandwich smacking into a fan in the upper deck and landing on an unsuspecting spectator below, bouncing along Ashburn Alley, or even being wrestled over by fans who forget the same hot dogs are in an almost limitless supply a few meters away from their seats. In some strange and undefinable way, the whole display makes me a better person.

Sure, an improved on-field product would be nice, but a good on-bun product goes nicely, too.

More bat flips

On one level, I do mean more offense and more runs, which are the usual catalysts for bat flips. Part of what made the Phillies so thrilling to watch during most of their recent winning seasons (aside from, you know, all the winning) was that they might unleash an onslaught of offense at any time. No deficit was insurmountable, no part of the stadium was off limits as landing zones for longballs, and fans could expect to see scoring and excitement every single game (the Phillies averaged 5.5 runs per game in 2007, for example).

At the same time, I’d settle for bat flips even without actual offense just for the unbridled joy they bring us. You’ve already given us an early Christmas present in the form of Odubel Herrera’s contract extension, and he’ll go a long way in accomplishing this. He’s willing to toss his bat in celebration of a walk or a potential sac fly, so he might be the gift that keeps giving.

A team doesn’t have to win 102 games to be fun to watch, so anything that keeps us entertained until the Phillies reach that point will help fend off the soul-rotting ennui and existential despair of the last few seasons.

People to stop asking for Mike Trout

I know you get dozens of letters asking for Millville, N.J., native and baseball superstar Mike Trout to wind up on the Phillies, but we both know they aren’t going to get him right now. Even you can’t guarantee him, Phanta, or you’re at least wise enough to know that enabling that trade would get you just as many letters next winter asking to replenish our farm system after emptying it out for the guy.

So, no, I’m not going to ask you to put him in red pinstripes.

Instead, I’d like fans to spend less time pretending the Phillies would give up enough to get him or suddenly become a playoff team with one upgrade. The questions and demands are so incessant that they’ve become a kind of tinnitus drowning out the sounds of the game.

Aaron NolaThe same things we hope for with our own families

It’s not time yet to be asking for shiny new on-field additions like expensive free agents or top-tier trade chips; the Phillies were right to not be suitors for Yoenis Cespedes or Chris Sale because 2017 will be another year in the holding pattern that allows them to wait for prospects to become big leaguers.

What is worth asking for, though, is the health and development of the current youth in the franchise. We’ve been nervous about Aaron Nola ever since he was shut down last season with low-grade damage to his UCL. Aaron Altherr and Roman Quinn, who are both likely competitors for the remaining outfield spot in 2017, have also suffered a number of injuries that have interfered with the chance to demonstrate their ability and reach their ceilings. Moving Tommy Joseph from catcher to first base has hopefully put an end to his history of concussions.

It would be great to see everyone on the team, whether they have an injury history or not, remain healthy and productive throughout the season. So, just as the best gift for our own families is their continued health, the same goes for the members of the Phillies organization.

Also not unlike what we need for our families, I want the Phillies to just grow the heck up already.

While for my family “growing up” would mean finally going a single holiday meal without someone using apps that mimic the nuanced tones of gastric distress, the Phillies could use continued growth in their prospects and young major leaguers. J.P. Crawford could be argued to have taken a step back in his performance last year, but he’s still 5 years younger than the average player in triple-A; Vince Velasquez flashed great stuff on the mound, including a 16-strikeout performance, but hasn’t put it all together to show himself as an ace; Nick Williams remains an outfielder with huge upside he hasn’t reached yet; some of the team’s best pitching prospects are still in the low minors and several seasons away; the list goes on.

We’d love another year of positive things from a prospect system that has gained a reputation for being deep and full of potential.

What I’m leaving out

You’re smart enough to realize, Phanta Claus, that what I’m not asking for is as revealing as what I am asking for.

While we’d all love to see the Phillies make the postseason and play deep into October this season, I think they’ll need a darker magic than what you work with to make that happen. The theme in what I do hope for is a simpler kind of joy – bat flips, hot dogs, watchable games, and continued development – and, as always, a better year ahead than the one we’re leaving behind.

Yours,
Daniel and your friends at Phillies Nation

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