The pattern for the summer was injuries, followed by batting slumps, followed by an uneven bullpen. The one thing you can take away from the regular summer schedule is this: three excellent starters can't carry the entire team. When all the bats are firing, the team can't be beat, and that reveals the potential for the team overall. Whenever the bats were lined up, though, the bullpen then seemed to be unable to deliver. It was a summer spent out of sync.
Now, after game three of the championship series, and a loss to the Giants, where the bats didn't show up, it looks like we're out of sync again. I've learned with the Phillies, and baseball in general, you have to take the long view. It's a seven-game series and anything could happen, but today's play didn't offer too many bright spots. When the top slots in the batting order can't deliver the hits needed, you can't win. Statistically, the Phillies had the best record in baseball, but apparently, that run to the end, where everything clicked, burned the team out and now the engine is stuttering.
What seems most distressing, though, is the team seems to be... grinding. They don't appear to have any joy in the games they're playing. They're tight and anxious, and it's sometimes downright painful to watch, like they're psyching themselves out of the running as millions watch.
When you see that level of frustration in high definition, you start to ask yourself why you're watching the pain. I've got enough stress in my life, without spending three hours watching a team that has the potential to dominate all comers stumble over their own anxieties. Yes, of course I'm reading too much into this. A shrink would say I'm projecting. But I, like most people in this economy, have a lot more to do than I did last season, so sitting to watch baseball is an indulgence. Lately, indulgences make me anxious, because I can't shake off the knowledge that I've got an ever-increasing list of responsibilities waiting when the game is over. I'm looking to trim anxieties out of my life and, unless things turn around, baseball might not survive the cut.