Philadelphia Phillies fans have almost reached the point where they know how this season's story will end. While they understand that anything is possible, their deep summer seasoning has allowed them to soak in the flavor of reality.
The Washington Nationals are currently the National League Eastern Division leaders. They are also looking down their noses at the Phillies, who are nine games behind them. Charlie Manuel's team also continues to see numerous teams in front of them in the Wild Card race.
With trade hunting season soon set to begin, a strategy of both selling and buying might be the best approach for this Phillies team to take.
Reading about the past
The Phillies 2012 season might be comparable to a number of past years in franchise history. Fans could argue that this season is like 1979, or 1982. Those two non-playoff years were inserted between postseason runs.
General manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. could look at this year's roster in a way that is somewhat similar to how his predecessor Pat Gillick saw the 2006 team. The Phillies former GM accurately assessed that season's squad didn't have enough energy to make a legitimate pennant chase.
Gillick moved Jim Thome to the Chicago White Sox in the fall of 2005 for reasons that centered upon Ryan Howard's emergence and the need to fill an outfield slot. Then, in July 2006, he dealt Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle to the New York Yankees for a package of modest prospects. That move created payroll flexibility that later allowed dollars to be allocated in different ways.
In August 2006, he acquired Jamie Moyer from the Seattle Mariners and then signed him to a two-year extension in October. In January 2007, Gillick signed Chase Utley to a seven-year contract extension.
The Phillies must try to maximize whatever return they can get from their current assets, reduce their payroll and then shift newly available money toward smarter long-term investments as they head toward 2013.
Anyone who thinks that they firmly know what the Phillies will, or won't do, is mistaken. Only they know and soon everyone else will as well.
For me, one theory will likely become a fact in the near future. If Amaro doesn't initiate a series of major changes during this calendar year, the Phillies won't be a contender by the time next season arrives.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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