Citizens Bank Park on Saturday, May 6, 2023. (John Stolnis/Hittin Season)

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It’s a beautiful evening in late spring. You’ve left the office and thrown your work phone in the river. The sun on your face refreshes you from a long day in the trenches and the laughs you hear coming from a nearby beer garden have you feeling social.

As you slide onto a stool, the bartender turns on the TV and finds the Phillies game. Oh, right. There’s a game tonight. They’ve got the lineups and everything. 

Good evening everybody and welcome back to South Philadelphia… you hear Tom McCarthy say. 

Right, you think. Another Phillies game. 

You’re not supposed to be this fatigued by them already. You’re supposed to feel like anything is possible, and nothing in baseball is real before Memorial Day, except for season-ending injuries. You’re supposed to see those red pinstripes jog onto the diamond and know that this is just the exciting precursor to the real summer action — a teaser of the hot dog-flavored madness to come. 

And yet, nothing. Nothing at all. You don’t even notice the bartender has been trying to get your order for the last two minutes. Their mouth is moving, but all you hear is a mundane madness. My god — Have the Phillies actually driven you mad?!

Oh, right. 

You take out your earbuds and apologize. 

What is it with this team that’s so maddening? Well, they’re under .500 again. That’s annoying. There were a few days there where they were going to let Mets fans take over the stadium and throw out the ceremonial first pitch again. The starting pitching remains questionable and the hits with runners in scoring position haven’t come. And at a time two thirds of the National League is underperforming, or crashing back to earth after a hot start, it sure would be nice if the Phillies played like they were supposed to and climbed to the top of the heap.

That’s the problem, isn’t it? They’re supposed to. The team that’s going to be good this year — the team that got so great last year — is still in there, because this is mostly the same group of guys, only with one of the best shortstops on the planet thrown into the mix (and a beloved first baseman taken out of it). There’s no big move to make at the moment because the Phillies are all big moves: Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber, Alec Bohm, Byson Stott, Brandon Marsh, Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suarez… these are the guys. There’s no more guys coming. 

And as far as guys go, that’s a great group. Blue Jays pitcher Kevin Gausman just faced them and called them the deepest lineup in baseball. Which they probably are. But they haven’t been playing like it.

That’s the problem. No one wants to watch the Phillies blow a lead or fail to score and be told “it’s early,” or “it’s May” or “there’s a lot of baseball left,” so we’ll spare you that. Frustration is easy to feel when you’re emotionally invested in an outcome that’s either going to be good or bad every night of the week. 

We know the Phillies’ problems. It’s a decent bet that they know them, too. And if they don’t, they can just tune into the radio or hop on Twitter to find out. But the problem with the Phillies’ problems is that the only way to fix them is by taking their hacks. Making their starts. Getting their heads right. When you’re a bunch of established major league stars stuck in the mud of April and May, the best thing you can do is just keep playing baseball. 

So, stop gripping the edge of the bar like that. The Phillies are going to get hot. They already have, actually, a couple of times. They just undid the hotness by becoming decidedly not hot immediately afterward. That doesn’t make it easy on the people watching, but you’re a Philadelphia sports fan. At what point did you think this would ever be easy? 

But don’t worry! There’s good news. The Phillies just have to keep playing baseball. 

And there’s a lot of baseball left.

Justin Klugh has been a Phillies fan since Mariano Duncan's Mother's Day grand slam. He is a columnist and features writer for Baseball Prospectus, and has written for The Inquirer, Baltimore Magazine,...