Keeping with the custom, Penn State football writer and former Philadelphia Phillies blogger Kevin McGuire is here to discuss his beloved baseball team as they take on my Washington Nationals.
WFY: Flags fly forever, err Phlags Phly Phorever? A year ago, the Phillies were 22-29 after doing nothing with a Bryce Harper MVP season in 2021. And then what happened? Where does 2023 rank among Phillies seasons to you?
KMc: While the 2023 season is off to a brutal start, it is only because the 2022 season came almost out of nowhere to deliver on what expectations had been for a few years. It looked like we were heading to another year of mediocrity but a managerial change (so long, Joe Girardi) and the June revival of Kyle Schwarber helped fuel a memorable October run that looked destined to once again slip away. The 2022 run is up there with the 1993 run for me because it came at the perfect time for me as a sports fan dealing with some real life battles. It was the perfect escape for me and served up some memorable moments that will be replayed forever.
WFY: Harper, Kyle Schwarber,
Peter Parker Trea Turner – a third of the lineup are former Nats, but older! I looked at the stats and oh, my. Schwarber may be a bigger “three true outcome player” than Adam Dunn, but the line is really bad for a player on pace to hit almost 40 homers. Turner’s are hard to comprehend, what happened? Harper seems to be his normal self, post Tommy John.
KMc: Schwarber is once again cold out of the gate but capable of smashing a long ball almost at any moment. Harper has been terrific given his quick return, but Trea Turner has been a massive disappointment both offensively and at times on defense. I’m not panicking just yet because Nick Castellanos had a similar rough year in his first season in Philly and he seems to have improved this year. These guys are all too good to be so cold for so long. But this team needs a bit of a winning streak in a bad way to reverse the fate of this season.
WFY: Rhys Hopkins never became a superstar or even an All-Star. Now that he’s out with an ACL injury, is he effectively done as a Phillie? Does last year’s pennant change the perception of his career on S Broad Street?
KMc: While I was never a major fan of Rhys Hoskins, the dude stepped up in some big moments last year, and it was gut-wrenching to see him go down in the spring with a season-ending injury. I’m not certain we’ve seen the last of him in a Phillies uniform, especially the way the first base position has panned out this season. The Phillies may need Hoskins more than they would have thought.
WFY: How is the pitching doing this season?
KMc: I’d rather NOT talk about the pitching because it has not been good. Talk of early season fatigue from a long postseason run and adjusting to the pitch clock were used by some for Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, but not by me. Those two, in particular, have not carried their weight outside of just a couple of outings, and the lack of a fifth starter has been terrible to watch. There could be hope on the horizon if top pitching prospect Andrew Painter gets healthy, but yikes. This has been horrible.
WFY: It’s June and we’re finally seeing a Nats – Phillies series. What’s your take on the new scheduling? Are you happy that the Phils will have less games in the division in exchange for more games against the Twins, Royals and Mariners?
KMc: I’m not at all a fan of the new scheduling format, but I also thought interleague play outplayed its welcome years ago. But I am looking forward to making a trip to Anaheim when the Philliies visit the Angels next year (I’m assuming that will be the case after hosting them this season).
WFY: Everybody knows and respects the Phanatic, but this winter the algorithm shared with me the first team mascots – “The Dancing Dutchman and his rat Chauncey.” Where you familiar with these two?
KMc: Wow, I had no idea about that old mascot. I was only aware of Phil and Phyllis. If I have nightmares tonight, I’ll know why. But I wonder how Tommy Lasorda would interact with that demon.
WFY: Who is the best #23 in Phillies history?
KMc: Yuck, do I really have to say Greg Gross here? It could be Brian Schneider!
WFY: If I were to take the train up to Philly and catch a Nats game with my sons in the cheap seats, how would we be received in our curly W gear?
KMc: I don’t think you would have any trouble in Nats gear. The Phillies fans are usually more accommodating than other fans in the city, but I can’t be responsible for the actions of the bad apples that may be in the crowd looking to get drunk on dollar dog night. Stupid college kids.
But in all seriousness, the Nats don’t stir up the emotions a team like the Mets would. I willingly avoid going to games when the Mets are in town, partly because I hate seeing my team get dominated by them!
WFY: This last year, Philadelphians watched their baseball, football and soccer teams make it to the championship round, but lose. How tough was it? Who is closest to returning? I am going to see more Phillies merch in line at Springer’s next month?
KMc: It has been quite a year for the Philadelphia sports teams. Having three teams lose in the championship while knowing the Sixers are once again two rounds and done and the Flyers…. existing… it’s a bit of a roller coaster ride. The Phillies were a fun ride we hope can be revived, and the Union have their dedicated fans (I’m not invested), but the Eagles look like they have the best shot to get back to the championship stage with a legitimate chance to do something. And don’t forget about the “Philadelphia” Stars in the USFL! They ALSO lost in the USFL championship! At least I had Penn State winning a Rose Bowl to celebrate. You should see a good amount of Phillies gear when in line at Springer’s.
WFY: Back to the diamond, how much do the Phillies beat up on the Nats this year and how do the standings and postseason look?
KMc: I do think the Phillies take out some frustrations on the Nationals again this season. A sweep would give them a 5-5 NL East road series that could instill some confidence, but getting owned by the Mets really hurts after holding serve against the Braves (as they did last season).