An old, familiar chant is back after a long absence at the Philadelphia Phillies’ cozy ballpark. It goes like this: “E-A-G-L-E-S!”
The Phillies are last in the N.L. East and headed toward their second straight losing season and third in a row missing the postseason. So, fans are turning their attention to the football team.
Cheering for the Eagles during a Phillies game is the ultimate sign of apathy, a flashback to the way it used to be around here before the baseball team won over the city.
Less than three years removed from a dominant run that featured five straight National League East titles, two pennants and one World Series championship, the Phillies barely resemble the team that captured the hearts of a sports-crazed town.
Attendance is down, of course. After seven straight seasons of drawing at least 3 million fans, the Phillies are on pace for a half-million drop this year. They had a consecutive sellout streak of 257 games – the third-longest in MLB history – between July 7, 2009 and Aug. 6, 2012. Now, empty, blue seats fill the stands.
Several of the star players who led the most successful period in franchise history are still here – Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels, Carlos Ruiz. They’re getting paid for past performances and each – except Hamels – is well past his prime. That’s part of the reason why the Phillies are in this mess.
Thanks to the big contracts general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. gave the stars of ’08 and money spent on Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, A.J. Burnett and Marlon Byrd, they have the highest payroll ($184 million) in club history and third-highest in the majors.
All that produced a 42-53 record before the All-Star break, putting the Phillies 10 games behind Washington and Atlanta.
Clearing the bases
Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was forced out of Saturday’s game against the Pirates by a cramp in his left thigh. … Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig left a game against St. Louis in the eighth inning, five innings after he was hit on a hand by a pitch from Joe Kelly. … Marlins pitcher Henderson Alvarez left a game against San Francisco in the third inning after being struck on the left leg by a grounder off the bat of Joe Panik. … The Braves have optioned struggling relief pitcher Luis Avilan and purchased the contract of left-hander Chasen Shreve. … The Tigers have recalled right-handed reliever Corey Knebel and optioned right- hander Chad Smith.