The Philadelphia Phillies were in dire straits before the All-Star break. As a number of key players were regaining their health and after some trades were made, Charlie Manuel's annual second-half push was seen once again.
Considering that players like Erik Kratz, Kevin Frandsen, Kyle Kendrick were called upon to play meaningful roles in this late-season drama, I really have to give this team credit for creating genuine excitement down the stretch run.
Too many caps to look over
Even though the Phillies' first-half performance damaged their chances of making the playoffs this season, they still managed to make a spirited push toward October.
Standing five big games behind the St. Louis Cardinals and having to look over the caps of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers, the Phillies' five-year playoff run has five Wild Card elimination games left in it.
Like all hardcore fans, I fully realize that by the end of this week 'Red October' is likely to be the Phillies' past-tense marketing moniker for its recent postseason pursuits. Regardless, I'm encouraged by what I've seen overall since July.
Moving toward next season
Choosing to be optimistic about 2013 doesn't mean that I'm delusional.
A number of positive transactions will have to be made to shore up positional holes and to boost middle-inning bullpen stamina. Beyond those points: Roy Halladay's arm issues can hopefully be resolved and Chase Utley's knees will need to remain in reasonably good working condition through next fall.
Let's not forget Freddy Galvis. After serving his 50-game performance enhancing drug suspension this season and still recovering from his spinal surgery, it's possible that he could become the team's second baseman next year. That assumes that Utley does actually transition to third base and then takes to his new spot on the diamond.
The concept of adding Texas Rangers' rock star Josh Hamilton to the outfield is intriguing, but that free agent is going to be very expensive. I also wonder if his somewhat injury-prone nature and occasionally erratic behavior would cause an organization like Philadelphia to shy away from a long-term commitment to him?
Re-signing Shane Victorino would seem to be a backwards step, but welcoming back Atlanta Braves' outfielder Michael Bourn could spur progressive motion. If he can't be obtained, I would still be interested in revamping the Phillies' leadoff slot with another player and moving Jimmy Rollins to a different location in the batting order.
Something that balanced fans learn to do over the years is to appreciate the good times, shrug off those personality types who never allow the sun to shine and realize that baseball is just a game.
This is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) eras in Phillies' history. A recent World Series flag that continues to fly with pride, five consecutive National League Division titles and reasonable hope that next season could result in another playoff push is enough for me right now.
People who have unusual definitions of what it means to be a fan (of any team, or of any sport) might disagree with most of these statements. Meanwhile, those of us who love the game will still enjoy the playoffs this fall. Then, we will prepare through the winter for those inviting spring days that are yet to come.
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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