Better days will come, I promise

I’m sensing tons of pessimism.

You wanted Ryne Sandberg gone. You got that.

You wanted a change in organizational philosophy. You got that.

You wanted Ruben Amaro Jr. shoved into a cannon and fired into the haze beyond the Conshohocken Curve. In a way, you got that.

But the Phillies still stink, you say. Ryan Howard is still there, blocking your enjoyment like a screaming patron inside a darkened movie theater. This franchise will never learn. And why the hell are Freddy Galvis, David Buchanan and Aaron Harang still on this team? They’re garbage! Everyone is garbage! They won’t win anything next year; why should we care? Not like they’re giving anything back to us!

Yeah, tons of pessimism. I see it everywhere – on the boards, on Facebook, on Twitter. An ugly summer and an ugly franchise and this sucks and forget it Phillies can go to hell.

I urge you to please stop. Stop it right about now.

Most of us have grown up with bad Phillies teams. Some of us are old enough to remember the teams that surrounded the 1950 Whiz Kids and 1964 heartbreak. Most of those teams were atrocious, so when the Phils pulled together some incredible run or harvested some potential stars, we embraced them so much that the fall was that much harder. My dad was 12 in the summer of ‘64. I can’t imagine how he felt that September and October.

I was born after the Phillies’ first golden age ended. I lived through Shane Rawley and Ron Jones, and all those names we bring up as a way to flash our fan cards. On the day I turned 9, I was sitting in the outfield at Veterans Stadium, watching the Phillies play its first World Series home game in 10 years. Imagine how I felt that day, a human ball of elation ready to explode because on my birthday, I was inside the most important place on Earth at that moment. The Phillies lost. That didn’t matter.

I had to endure more bad teams and one-dimensional players, but at every opportunity, I was seated at Veterans Stadium, even in sweltering August heat, watching baseball unfold before me.

So many cliches surround baseball, from its pastoral grace, to its slow-motion tradition, to its natural season timeline. We’ve accepted these cliches: the myths they foster are now reality skewed by our imaginations. We cannot escape baseball’s gravitational pull, especially when it arrives like that lingering sun every April, burning new life to the damp winter earth. It consumes us until we’re wary in summer, and our emotions either lift us above the heat, or sink us to a sweaty mess of madness.

Lately, we’ve been mad.

It’s understandable. The great days have passed us quickly, leaving us with a mix of fond memories and frustrated resignation. We feel cheated by men who made poor mistakes, wrongfully evaluating talent and supplementing that soiled talent with poor reinforcements. We see fellow franchises ebb and flower faster, and we hear the sharp instigating goads of neighboring fans.

So we tend to grow so angry that the only medicine is a proper tirade over the internet, at the bar, or even at the ballpark.

Channel that anger. Laugh it off. The Phillies aren’t good today. They probably won’t be good next season. But they should improve.

Odubel Herrera will run an obscure route to a fly ball. Laugh it off. Because he’s running better routes today. He’s working. He’s improving.

Cody Asche will strike out in a major spot. Laugh it off. Because he’s swinging in those cages. He’s working. He’s improving.

Justin De Fratus will surrender a line drive hit with runners on base. Laugh it off. Because he’s tinkering all the time. He’s working. He’s improving.

Aaron Altherr and Alec Asher. Darnell Sweeney and Carlos Ruiz. Darin Ruf and Cameron Rupp. They’re all working. They’re all improving.

Some of these players won’t be here next year. Some of these players won’t be part of the next great Phillies team. But I swear to you that it’s coming. That team will arrive. And it may not be in two years or five years. It may not even be in ten years. Ryne Sandberg is gone. Changes have been made. Ruben Amaro Jr. is gone. Ownership has heard your pleas. And if you doubt ownership, remember that this very ownership watched over this last golden age of Phillies baseball.

Give it a chance. Be patient. Laugh it off.

For all its cliches, the one truism about baseball I cannot argue is that every year, when April emerges, I feel a sense of calm, of hope, of happiness. So quickly the emotions waver, and I try to check myself every day, but regardless of everything, on opening day, my world stops for baseball. It makes me feel the way I felt on that rainy October evening in 1993, this burning cellular body grinning and giggling because baseball is one of the best things about life.

So please, stop the pessimism. If you believe today is dark, remember that baseball is one of the best things about life. We’ll have our day again, soon enough.

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