One of the biggest differences between the Phillies of my childhood – the hardscrabble, slovenly, much-more-often-bad-than-good – than those of recent vintage – powerful, pitching-heavy, and perennial World Series contenders – is the size of their average paycheck.
Granted, the team of the early 90s, even the early part of the 2000s, existed in a world where they were considered “small market” and where they couldn't possibly get enough talent to warrant a higher-than-average payroll, and even then, it seemed like only the New York Yankees could muster enough spare change to approach 200 million.
The times, they have changed. Gone are the days when the Vet or Citizens Bank Park was a half-empty tome where the spectacle of baseball went to die. No longer are the denizens of South Philadelphia relegated to watching minor leaguers kick the ball around while highly talented players begged their way out. In a relatively short amount of time, the Phillies put an entirely new face on the franchise, and one that is garnering much attention from those around the league.
Tom Van Riper, a writer for Forbes magazine, even went so far as to suggest that one team, the Texas Rangers, are the “new” Phillies. It's one of the sincerest forms of flattery, right behind imitation, when someone refers to another successful brand as the “new” version of something else.
In a column penned on Tuesday, Van Riper had this to say:
The Phillies, once receivers in baseball’s revenue sharing plan, have doubled revenue since 2004 thanks to the opening of Citizens Bank Park and a run of success on the field that’s landed them in the playoffs for five straight years. Nightly sellouts are now routine in Philly, where attendance lagged among MLB’s bottom few teams in the early 2000s.
“Success breeds branding,” says Rishe.
Indeed. Much like the Phillies have, who turned the organization on it's head and churned out winning season after winning season to transform the entire idea of baseball in the area, the Rangers have done likewise. The days of being an also-ran are gone, and the days of being the toast of the town have arrived.
And also like the Phillies of 2007 and 2008, the Rangers are doing it without a considerable amount of star power. They aren't chalk full of huge names, and their pitching staff doesn't have any “Aces,” but they can hit the ball like few other teams in the game. In a game that is supposed to be won by pitching, the Rangers are slugging their way through the American League.
They've come a long way, and like the Phillies, are just beginning their run of success. So for that reason, I guess it means that we, as Phillies fans, can adopt the Texas Rangers as our surrogate baseball team for the next two weeks, as they face off against the now-hated St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Because even though the Phillies are eliminated, that doesn't mean we still can't root against Albert Pujols.