The defending World Series Champions strutted into Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night. As they felt the infield diamond against their cleats, it was different than the last time they visited. The grass was dry and the dirt unkempt. Thoughts raced through the Braves’ heads. ‘How do they play on this field?’ ‘Wow, their grounds crew took a turn for the worse.’ ‘Can they not afford better care?” After hours of pondering, it hit them. Citizens Bank Park was missing the World Series, playoff magic.
Yes, indeed, the Phillies have been missing the enchantment of players piling on top of each other on the pitchers mound after recording the final out, while the stadium wildly celebrates. Eager Philadelphia fans have been waiting, waiting, and you guessed it, waiting. When Bryce Harper was signed, fans thought for sure they’d be partying on Broad Street soon.
The reality is, it is 2022 and Broad street feels farther than ever, as the Phillies just lost their two-time MVP to a fractured thumb. Playoff hopes, squashed; or are they?
Almost one year ago, the Atlanta Braves were in a similar situation. On July 10, 2021, young star Ronald Acuña Jr. tore his ACL, in an attempt to make a play against the warning track, off the bat of Jazz Chisholm. The injury took him out for the rest of the season.
Little did they know that three months later, the Braves would be holding the World Series trophy, without the help from Acuña on the road to victory. Personally, I believe that Acuña’s injury was a blessing in disguise, as it sparked unity among the team to work together on and off the field, and put themselves in the best contention to win the title.
Bryce Harper may not be out for the season, however his absence comes in the most crucial part, the second half. The timetable for his return is still unknown, although reports speculate his recovery will take 6-8 weeks. According to Phillies beat writer Matt Gelb, “Roughly 35 games (will be) missed with about 50 to play if Harper hits this timeline.”
The bottom line is, Harper is irreplaceable, and the team has no excuses. As mentioned in my article last week, “Harper’s spirited energy and vast experience can definitely affect the team’s momentum, but the bats should not fall quiet without him. Their lineup is full of completely capable hitters, with numbers to prove it.”
Now is the time for the team, especially the veterans in JT Realmuto, Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber, and Rhys Hoskins to STEP IT UP. As we’ve seen this season, the young players can get it done. However, the veterans need to reach base consistently, drive in runs, and lay a foundation for the rest of the team’s success. Strong fundamentals are essential to reaching the team’s full potential.
So, how can the Braves lend the fightin Phils some magic? On the field, the Phillies need to learn from their mistakes in this series, and observe how the Braves are getting the job done.
Metaphorically speaking, the Phillies need to steal the sparkle from the Braves. Sprinkle it on the field, on their bats, in their gloves, in the clubhouse and in the stands of Citizens Bank Park. The Braves took their turn with the title, now it’s time to lend the spotlight to their hungry division rivals. Maybe the upcoming Xfinity Firework shows will leave behind a glimmering sheen on Citizens Bank Park. Shhh, don’t tell the umpires, we don’t want a new “sparkle tack” case in Philadelphia.