The danger of the future is that men may become robots. True enough, robots do not rebel. But given mans nature, robots cannot live and remain sane, they become Golems, they will destroy their world and themselves because they cannot stand any longer the boredom of a meaningless life.--Erich Fromm, The Sane Society
What do Fromms cautionary words, concerning the potential pratfalls of advanced technology on modern society, have to do with the 2012 Phillies?
While the talent level at the big league level has improved incrementally over the past five seasons, the club has seen a regression in personality since claiming the franchises second World Series in 2008. As Comcast SportsNet Philadelphias foremost believer in the merits of advanced statistical metrics, it pains me to write the previous sentence. Yet, stats at their best frame what our eyes already know. Sports fans dont need a number to know that camaraderie and swagger play an important role in winning.
Champions have a persona; as in person, as in human being. To enjoy victory is to be human.
The Phillies of recent years, however, have become more like a machine than a team.
Roy Halladay: Robot
Cliff Lee: Robot
Chase Utley: Robot
Placido Polanco: Robot
Raul Ibanez: Robot
The above players have unquestioned work ethic. In fact, they may be the five hardest working players from last years club. But they also helped to foster a culture with a joyless identity. Success is just a part of the process. It is to be acknowledged as good, but not celebrated.
Thats a tough way to play. The Braves of the 1990s and early 2000s were plagued by the same problem. Division title after division title was devoured by Atlantas pitching-fueled mechanism. Yet, when the postseason arrived, Bobby Coxs clubs rarely could shift to that next gear. Some October nights, it felt like the Braves didnt feel the adrenaline that should accompany competing in the postseason.
As I watched from press boxes in both Philadelphia and St. Louis this past fall, thats the sense I got from the Phillies. Playing in the postseason wasnt special. It was just another step in the process.
Speaking of that series, the moment I knew the Phillies were in trouble was the day before Game 1. After sifting through a lifeless home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park, I made my way to the Cardinals clubhouse following their workout. The first player to come into sight was Chris Carpenter. The St. Louis ace had a beer in hand and jovially held court with the media for over 10 minutes. It was clear he and his teammates were happy to be there.
One week later, the Cards were happy to be in Milwaukee for the NLCS after Carpenter vanquished Halladay in an epic Game 5 pitchers duel.
It may just be meaningless symbolism. But it certainly felt like the Cardinals could meet a moment and a stage that did not compute for the Phillies.
Two-thousand twelve needs to be a season where the Phillies overwhelming talent relents on their rigidity while embracing the energy of the hunt. If not, Philadelphia will likely be relegated to the boredom of baseball-less October.
Casey Feeney is the producer of Phillies Clubhouse on Comcast Sportsnet. E-mail Casey at email@example.com