As Christmas approaches, the talk around the Philadelphia Phillies is not very festive. What a difference from Christmas in the not-so-distant past, when the club was signing Cliff Lee, trading for Roy Halladay, and generally adding to a contender.
If they can, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr, with the blessing of president Pat Gillick, of course, will trade everyone they can from among Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon, Marlon Byrd, and Carlos Ruiz.
Undoubtedly some of them will indeed go, just as Jimmy Rollins this past week. And fans may not blink too hard at the loss of Papelbon, Byrd, and despite his great past accomplishments, even Howard.
But if, or when, Hamels, Lee, Chase, and Chooch go, they will be missed by the fan base right away. And who will take their place? No one.
That’s a huge problem right now. There is no one among the youngsters likely to play a significant role in the next couple of years that has the heart of the fan base.
Once the Phillies deal away those final pieces to the ‘Glory Era’, they won’t just be unattractive and unrecognizable in the lineup and pitching rotation. Things will be unrecognizable at the turnstiles, in the stands, and in the souvenir shops.
What we’re talking about here are the most marketable players remaining. Particularly Hamels, Lee, and Utley. These are the players left who hold a special place in the hearts of a wide range of the fan base.
Utley and Lee have been among the top-selling MLB jerseys for years, easily the most popular Phillies players. Hamels contract extension and continued excellence have made him the Phillies next guy.
There are many reasons these players sell so well. Frankly, there is no one coming along who even closely fits the bill as a marquee face.
This may be the final Christmas that a jersey or a shirsey of one of these favorites can be given as a gift to the Phillies fan on your Christmas list. Next year’s holiday shopping is likely to be much harder.