Spring Training is the classic enigma wrapped in a riddle surrounded by mystery.
Wins and losses are never a predictor of the season to come.
Phenoms in March can flame out once the calendar reads April.
Some veterans hanging on manage to catch on; others retire or simply fade away. A few even attempt to come back from the dead. Right, Manny?
Hurlers experiment with pitches they wouldn't consider throwing in the regular season, unless of course the experiment is successful.
And., as always, hope springs eternal, even in cities like Baltimore, where a once-proud franchise struggles to overcome a meddling owner.
The Phillies spring-to-date certainly qualifies as the classic enigma. Much of the national media regard them as the team to beat in the NL East. Most of the local media seem more skeptical. Worrying is a birthright in the City of Brotherly Love and this year's installment of the Phillies is more than accommodating on that front.
One half of its heralded infield has yet to step on the field, and of that duo, Ryan Howard isn't likely to appear in a real game before July, provided he does heal. As for Chase Utley, he is now the poster boy for mystery. No one has a clue what is going on with him. Worse, no one believes management is forthcoming about his condition. Are things worse than last year? Are they simply conserving his energy for the regular season? Does he tell the team the truth about his condition? Is management prepared with a replacement?
Left field still remains no man's land insofar as no man has laid claim to it. Hopeful Domonic Brown has done absolutely nothing to quiet fears about his fielding. The only route to the ball he seems certain to take is through AAA, and we don't mean the auto club that provides road maps either!!!
The local blogosphere and its followers are preparing tar and feathers for GM Ruben Amaro, whom many see as having prepared poorly for the coming season with its alarming questions about age and availability. In addition, few are ready to give him a pass for having seriously overpaid for closer Jonathan Papelbon, who hasn't acquitted himself all that well on the quotation front with his suggestion Phillies fans are smarter than Red Sox fans. Less smug, yes indeed. Smarter? I won't go there.
Meanwhile, one of their ex-closers, Brad Lidge, has helped stoke the budding rivalry with the Washington Nationals by suggesting they are at the very least as talented as some teams for whom he previously played, including the 2008 World Champs, for whom Lidge literally knelt down! The Nationals were already doing a fair job of inciting their followers before signing Lidge when management threatened to limit the number of tickets available to Phillies fans, who in the past have outnumbered the locals at games between the two teams played in the nation's capital. As I wrote several years ago, when the franchise was moved from Montreal to DC, how are the Nationals going to fill their stadium when half the city is in Rehoboth and Bethany, Delaware during the season?
But let us not dwell on all of these potential obstacles to our happiness. After all, not everything is enigmatic, as Chaucer said,
that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale fowles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages),
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages.