Tuesday, September 21, 2004

What Did You Expect?

While George Bush and John Kerry spend copious amounts of time dropping verbal cluster bombs on each other, their staffs can't praise each man's opponent quickly enough when it comes to debating skills. It's a funny thing, this expectations game. Set the bar low, and the most pedestrian performance seems outstanding; set it high, and anything less than excellence will seem like a complete failure.

Sound familiar, Phillies fans? The heavily favored Phils, whose discomfort with frontrunner status has been painfully obvious all season long, collapsed almost with the first pitch. What management must ask itself now is whether the expectations were justified. If so, wholesale changes may not be necessary -- a tweak here and there, and certainly a new guy in the manager's office, could make the difference between this year's flops and next year's contenders. But if the boys upstairs take a hard look in the mirror and decide they've been deluding themselves since spring training, then you might expect to see a vastly different team take the field next season at Citizens Bank Park.

Then again, this is the Phillies we're talking about. Honest self-assessment has never been high on the organization's to-do list. Compare the Phils' approach with that of their South Philly neighbors -- the Eagles have spent every season under Jeff Lurie trying like hell to get better. Three straight losses in NFC championship games is nothing to sneeze at, and for all the grief the Birds get from the paunchy, clueless gasbags on WIP, they clearly know what they're doing. Each year has brought higher and higher expectations, and Philadelphia has come damn close to meeting them every single time. Picture the Phillies playing under the weight of what fans expect of the Eagles -- they'd be under the home dugout bench in the fetal position, praying someone would toss them some sunflower seeds so that they wouldn't have to leave to find food.

Isn't it interesting what can happen when the people in charge -- on the field and off -- act like grown-ups and demand accountability?


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