After 27 games, the Philadelphia Phillies are in first place, and no one is very impressed.
The offense has been terrific - 3rd in the National League in runs, 1st in home runs, 2nd in strikeouts (in the good way, with very few of them). Raul Ibanez has been a more than worthy replacement for Pat the Bat, Chase Utley has recovered from hip surgery much faster than anyone thought and Ryan Howard looks slim, focused and fantastic in the field.
But the pitching has been historically awful. A 5.41 ERA, 28th out of 30. 51 homers allowed, worst in baseball. There's been signs of life lately - Joe Blanton and Chan Ho Park have both put together solid outings (Blanton has thrown three solid innings as of this writing), and Cole Hamels looked like his old self last night against the Atlanta Braves. But Brett Myers seems every bit the headcase he's always been, and Jamie Moyer is making Phillies fans fear that he might be running on empty.
Luckily, we just won the World Series, and fans and management alike seem to have acquired a new championship-style patience. Park is on a short leash, especially with Happ looking good out of the bullpen and Kendrick pitching well in AAA, but the rest of the starters don't seem to be in any immediate trouble. And they shouldn't be - May games matter just as much as September games, but our top four starters' track records indicate they'll turn it around.
However, everyone should keep one thing in mind. The Phillies are currently paying Adam Eaton and Geoff Jenkins millions upon millions of dollars to go away, something that previous Phillies teams would never, ever do. Seems like our World Fucking Championship banner is the cause - ownership has decided (rightly, I believe) that the returns from another deep playoff run will far outweigh the already wasted money owed to those two players.
Does this mean that a guy like Jamie Moyer could be in the same boat someday? Unlikely, but I think it DOES mean that winning now officially trumps all for the Philadelphia Phillies. If May goes by and Moyer is not performing, I have no doubt that a move will be made. All of a sudden, we've got some internal pitching options, and we might have the prospects to bring in an Erik Bedard or a Roy Halladay at the trade deadline. I'm not sure what the Phillies are thinking in that regard, but after locking all of the key cogs up for the next two-three years this last offseason, I'd be surprised if they wouldn't at least poke around.
The NL East is wide-open - despite all those flaws I've mentioned, we're still ahead of the pack. There's a time for teaching, correcting and understanding, and there's a time for action. If the summer begins and a player is still hurting our chances to repeat, I'm not sure how long our memories might be. And I'm not sure that that's a bad thing - as the Philadelphia Phillies have made enjoyably apparent over the last few months, winning is now everything.