This week we’re asking writers at Phillies Nation to give us their new year’s resolutions for 2017. Today, Daniel Walsh.
The only way to keep your passion as a fan of a bad team – and the Phillies were a bad team in 2016 – is to keep looking forward. Instead of focusing on how the Phillies scored the fewest runs in baseball, struck out 23 percent of the time and had baseball’s third-worst ERA in September and October, fans will have to draw hope by setting new goals for the year ahead.
That spirit of looking to the future is the whole reasoning behind New Year’s resolutions, and it plays a large part in inspiring my Phillies resolution for 2017: to spend more time at IronPigs games.
Since I lived in Allentown during the first few years the Phillies’ triple-A affiliate called it home, I can corroborate Baseball America’s claim that Coca-Cola Park is one of the best parks in the minors. The park has received no shortage of recognition since it opened in 2008 and, while the big league club’s recent struggles have no doubt hurt attendance, it still holds the longest active streak of season attendance over 600,000 and remains a fine place to watch minor league ball and running meat.
The minor league affiliates offer a chance to watch competitive baseball again. Last year, while the Phillies were competing for little more than the chance to be slightly less embarrassing than the Braves, the IronPigs won the International League wild card by going 85-58, and the Reading Fightin Phils (89-52) won their division in the Eastern League. Even in the midst of a rebuild – which carries with it the understanding that the team will probably lose more than they win – losing brings either frustration or apathy. When there’s something to root for, as there is throughout the Phillies’ minor league system, baseball is fun again.
The level of talent and excitement on the Pigs’ roster this season blows away what I saw when I moved away from Allentown in 2010. There weren’t many IronPigs on that team we followed as closely as we follow J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, Andrew Knapp, Jake Thompson, or the handful of other promising prospects who filled out the IronPigs roster in 2016. At one game I attended in 2010, Cody Ransom got the most cheers of any home team player. The same Cody Ransom who accumulated 1 win above replacement in 11 years and hit .190 for the Phillies.
Seeing more of these games in person – especially considering none will be televised where I live now – is a way to learn about the players beyond their box scores and the words of scouts. It’s a way to focus on the players that fill the pipeline, and not just the runs and strikeouts they hope to take with them to Philadelphia.
And, of course, there’s the fact that many of these players represent, in a very literal way, a future worth looking forward to.