Philadelphia Phillies' Aaron Nola during Game 2 in the NL wild-card baseball playoff series, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

We know that any time the Phillies announce any offseason news, its purpose is twofold: To convey information to the public that is an objective update and/or strategically beneficial to a secret plan — and to elbow the Eagles out of the spotlight.

Would they ever confirm this? No, of course not. 

The two sports overlap in very little of the calendar, largely depending on how deep into the playoffs the Phillies go. But by mid-November, any MLB playoff run is over and the Eagles are starting to hit the homestretch. That makes it not a very jaw-dropping time of year for Phillies news, barring any exciting acquisitions. But those have no set date, and are not guaranteed to even occur every year. 

So it’s not a very expressive time of year for the Phillies. When this article began, there was nothing. Sure, it was newsworthy that the Phillies had re-signed Jake Cave. But was it more newsworthy than the fact that the defending NFC champion Birds will be playing a rematch of Super Bowl LVII on Monday night against the Chiefs in a game that Taylor Swift will not be attending?

No. But of course, the Phillies could not let that stand, and it was reported today that they re-signed Aaron Nola to a seven year, $172 million contract.

Take that, Eagles! The two franchises are constantly at war for the spotlight in November, a time when the Phillies are typically trying to claw through all the in-season Eagles coverage. 

Occasionally they find a way through. Many times… they do not.

1997: Bursting back as a contender vs. picking a rookie off waivers

By this time, memories of the 1993 disappointment were, through the power of repression and the magic of therapy, losing their power. 

There would always be a slight twitch in the eye of anyone who’d witnessed how that season had ended, but as the members of the ‘93 World Series-losing team were ticked one-by-one off the roster, every move made that memorable run a little further away. Kevin Stocker had been promoted in the middle of 1993, a burst of youth meant to stop the Phillies from bleeding at shortstop. The 23-year-old made a lot of friends with his glove and was generally considered a welcome addition. But the years went by, the eighth and longest MLB work stoppage occurred, canceling the 1994 Fall Classic and trimming some games off the schedule in 1995. 

By the time 1997 was over, people had learned to look ahead. The question was, how far?

As expansion franchises in Arizona and Tampa Bay started swiping unprotected players in their player drafts, other teams watched hungrily. Perhaps the Diamondbacks or Devil Rays would acquire a player that they’d be willing to trade before he even put on their uniform. Perhaps these fledgling franchises could be swindled by the seasoned GMs waiting outside, sharpening their knives. 

The Phillies, not known for their knife-wielding, were one of these teams. They shoved their now-27-year-old shortstop out of a van near the Rays’ ballpark in exchange for an outfielder Tampa had acquired named Bobby Abreu, who was coming off an injury. 

The deal shocked Stocker and his wife, but it also meant Desi Relaford would take over at shortstop, a move that worried everyone except for Desi Relaford (who, to his credit, had been voted the International League’s best defensive shortstop… despite committing 34 errors in 130 games). 

The media did its best to build this into a harrowing development:  “It was a move that signals, in shrill and unmistakable tones, that the Phillies realize they are not going to be a contender again this season,” wrote Paul Hagen in the Philadelphia Daily News. “It was also a move the Phillies are convinced will make them a better team in 1999.”

But who gives a s*** about all that — the Eagles picked a rookie off waivers!!!

Randy Kinder was the new kid in town, and Eagles coach Ray Rhodes dropped him onto special teams, where the 22-year-old made a couple of big plays, outrunning two Ravens players down the field. “An example of how [Rhodes] wanted all special-teams players to compete,” the newcomer was described.

Abreu, meanwhile, joined a list of currently-developing elements that the Phillies were hoping would draw you to the ballpark in 1998: Would Relaford stick at short? Would Abreu work out at the plate? Would the team get the new stadium it wanted?

At least the Phillies have J.D. Drew. They’ll lock him up any day now. 

2016: Protecting future hopes vs. Carson Wentz discourse

We must protect the future! Not for our children, or our children’s children, mind you, but for the Phillies teams who will continue to play on the hazy, disease-ridden hellscape that will soon be our planet. 

That was the thinking in November 2016, when the Phillies protected 11 prospects by putting them on the 40-man roster, and therefore keeping other teams’ grubby hands from snatching them in the Rule 5 draft.

The Phillies were committed to their youth, like Mark Appel and Dylan Cozens, Drew Anderson and Nick Pivetta. From guys who were considered part of a future potential core, like Nick Williams, called by the Inquirer “the most fascinating player in the entire organization,” or other guys like lefty pitcher Elniery Garcia, who didn’t strike out a lot of batters, but boy, could he throw hard.

It was GM Matt Klentak’s second year on the job, and he was diving on top of his litter of prospects like an animal who senses a predator sniffing around. 

Despite his efforts, he still expected to lose at least one player he didn’t want to; the question was who? What future Phillie would be dragged from the organization, squealing in fear, as Klentak looked down, tears welling in his eyes?

It was high drama, certainly, and people couldn’t look away. Largely because they hadn’t looked very hard in the first place. But still, after 2015 — and, as we were guessing but didn’t yet formally know, 2016 — the organization wouldn’t have much going for it other than the future. So in a way, since the Phillies weren’t considered big buyers in free agency, this was the biggest Phillies news possible; a broad glimpse at what that future might be.

The Eagles responded by starting their season 5-5 under Carson Wentz, culminating in a 26-15 loss to the Seahawks. Obviously, the results weren’t spectacular, but in a way, that made them even more newsworthy. 

A great Eagles season will be filled with angry muttering, and a bad one will have plenty of on-air fuming. But a mediocre season leads to the worst outcome of all: discourse.

Should Wentz be blamed? Why hasn’t he been blamed? How much blame should he get? When will they start using Zach Ertz more? When will Jalen Mills’ production match his confidence? Why can’t all the Eagles be Brandon Graham? Can Doug Pederson wake his team up? Does Nelson Agholor know what direction from which the ball will be thrown to him, generally? 

These frequent and often screamed questions filled the air in Philadelphia, leaving the Phillies’ efforts to protect their babies a footnote on the increasingly manic sports scene. There was nothing for them to do but wait for everything to work out. What were the odds they’d whiff on an entire generation of prospects?

2001: Rolen drama vs. Cowboys drama

All right, fine. If we can’t talk about some Phillies team absolutely owning mid-November, that special time between the Owners Meetings and the Winter Meetings, and weeks after the GM Meetings, then we’ll talk about the next best thing: Messy drama.

That’s always a draw. Maybe the Phillies will finally be able to take back some column inches from the Eagles by splitting with their third baseman of the future.

We’ve re-lived the Scott Rolen debacle plenty of the last calendar year, as his entry onto the Phillies Wall of Fame in 2023 stirred up everybody’s old, bad feelings on the matter, if they still felt anything about it at all. So we won’t go back through the whole affair here, we’ll merely remind you of what you already know: 

That in November 2001, the Inquirer wrote that “[Phillies GM Ed] Wade will spend the rest of the off-season trying hard to get top value for Rolen, bringing a sad conclusion to a relationship that once seemed so perfect.”

Why couldn’t they have just stayed in 1997, the Phillies and Rolen’s honeymoon period, in which Rolen became the first Phillies player to win the Rookie of the Year award since Dick Allen, over 30 years prior? The sun shone brightly in those halcyon days; after all, the Phillies had a stud third baseman recognized as a superstar across the sport. Surely we were on the verge of another Mike Schmidt. 

But no. The saga’s sloppy end had the city captivated. It had everything: Silence. Betrayal. Public tongue-lashings. Conflicting leadership styles. Personality clashes. Great back-handed stops along the third baseline. What could the Eagles even offer that would compare to such compelling and deeply saddening off-season theater??

Ah. Well. 

The Eagles absolutely pasted the Cowboys that November. And when that happens… nothing else matters.

Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter’s family was from Texas, and when the Eagles played there, they would always come out to see him play. Well, him indirectly — they were a bunch of Cowboys fans, and did not enjoy it when Dallas had been stuffed in a locker by the Eagles in their last couple of meetings.

Hopefully they were able to get some excitement out of Trotter himself running an interception back 50 yards for six points, as well as recovering a fumble and making five tackles. 

Emmitt Smith got stripped of the ball, Cowboys QB of the future Ryan Leaf (Ryan Leaf!!!) got erased and possibly destroyed by the Eagles defense, and the Dallas run game never really established itself–how could it, with an Eagles defender in their face on every play.

It was a glorious time for the Eagles to win, 36-3, sending the Cowboys to an unideal (even for them) 2-7 record. Throw in that the Eagles had left three players behind in Philadelphia after they’d been stopped by police on South Street, with one of them getting a misdemeanor possession of marijuana charge, and there was plenty to discuss in regards to the Birds.

Or the Cowboys. 

“I’m not losing my confidence,” Ryan Leaf told reporters. 

His next game would be his last in the NFL.

Pitchers and catchers vs….

Look, baseball can’t last all year. It already takes up the majority of the calendar, and the Eagles deserve their coverage as well. Soon enough, it will be February and pitchers and catchers will report to Clearwater, starting the cycle off all over again. And what will the Eagles be doing in February that will be interesting? 

Oh, right.

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,...