All week on Philly Sports Talk on CSN, we examine how our teams got to this point and where they are in the rebuilding process.
Today, we take a look at the Phillies.
How did we get here?
The Phillies pretty clearly got here by holding onto the 2008 championship core several years too long, but they've also arrived at this point because of an inability to develop difference-making talent.
The Phils have some pieces, but they don't have a star or two to expedite the rebuild, nor do they have multiple solid, complete players like the Royals did.
Maikel Franco is a piece. Odubel Herrera is a piece. Aaron Altherr is a piece. But are any of them going to make multiple All-Star teams? Will any of them bat .300 or hit 30 homers in the middle of the order for a playoff team?
That's the big problem right now. Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff are valuable pitchers to have, but you're not going to make the playoffs if they're two of your top five players.
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This season, 2017, was supposed to be the year the Phillies inched closer to .500. Pete Mackanin went out on a limb before the season saying he thought they could get there. Right now, they're on pace to win 58 games.
However, the thing to remember here is that teams don't necessarily improve in a straight line, going from 63 wins to 71 to 80 to 85 to 90-plus.
The 2014-15 Cubs jumped from 73 wins to 97.
The 2012-13 Pirates went from 79 to 94.
The 2012-13 Royals increased from 72 to 86.
So it can change in a year with the right mix of development, spending and luck. The Phillies have money to spend. Development and luck just haven't been on their side the last five years.
Are the Phillies on the right path back to prosperity?
It doesn't seem so, but the right things are happening below the major-league level.
They're happening with first baseman Rhys Hoskins and catcher Jorge Alfaro, who could be batting fourth and fifth next opening day.
They're happening with Dylan Cozens, who looks like he'll provide 30-plus home run power, even if it might come with a .220 batting average and a ton of strikeouts.
And they're happening at the lower levels, where pitchers Sixto Sanchez and Seranthony Dominguez, outfielder Mickey Moniak and second baseman Scott Kingery all have an upside ranging from "very good" to "star."
The question is just: How much more of this waiting can Phillies fans take? That 2018 free-agent class is fun to think about, but it also means waiting out one more season with a team in the bottom 10 in terms of true talent.