The Philadelphia Phillies are fun.
They are immensely talented, their fans are wild, Citizens Bank Park is packed to the brim, and most of all, the team is hungry.
And it’s palpable.
Remember in 2004 when the Boston Red Sox made their magical World Series tour de force? They were “the idiots;” long-haired, big beards, and their intensity was unwavering.
The Phillies are like that: relentless.
Philadelphia overwhelmed a powerhouse Braves team in four games to advance to the NLCS—the team’s second knock-off Atlanta in as many years.
So what happened? How have the Phillies become so damn likable over the course of two seasons?
The Phillies Train That Got Rolling in 2022
In 2022, the Phillies made a heroic playoff run (while going 5-0 at home) and strolled into the World Series for the first time since 2009.
Bryce Harper proved himself and his $330 million contract with a stellar postseason, highlighted by one of the Phillies’ most electric home runs in franchise history.
The Phillies lost to the Houston Astros in the 2022 World Series to quite possibly the least likable team in baseball: the Houston Astros.
(If you see similarities between the Phillies and 2004 Red Sox, the Astros are akin to the early 2000 Yankees…)
The 2022 offseason is where the Phillies cranked their likability factor into high gear. And it all starts with owner John Middleton. He made waves in the pre-Harper era when he told everyone the front office would “be stupid” about signing players. And they’ve come through.
“Nobody cares about whether I make money or not,” Middleton told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “If my legacy is that I didn’t lose any money owning a baseball team on an annual operating basis, that’s a pretty sad legacy. It’s about putting trophies in the cases.”
Every MLB owner should be like this.
Riding the high from making the World Series, the Phillies signed Trea Turner to an 11-year, $300 million deal and added Taijuan Walker to the rotation and Craig Kimbrel to the bullpen.
At over $245 million, the Phillies have the sixth-highest payroll in all of the bigs.
That includes the likes of the very talented and enjoyable, Kyle Schwarber (4 years, $79M), Nick Castellanos (5 years, $100M), J.T. Realmuto (5 years, $115M), and Zack Wheeler (5 years, $118M).
The Phillies turned their World Series run to gain nearly 10,000 fans per game in 2023 compared to 2022, the biggest fan growth increase in all of MLB. Attendance at Citizens Bank Park jolted up by 800,000 fans in total during the 2023 season, as per the Philadelphia Business Journal.
Middleton wants to win.
The American businessman says his goal is to “create a team that, 100 years from now, when people ask the question, ‘What are the greatest teams in the history of baseball,’ the Phillies are in the conversation.”
Come on, how can you not like an owner like that who’s so intent on winning?
“How much money did the ’27 Yankees make? Or the ’29 A’s? Or the ’75-76 Big Red Machine?” Middleton said. “Does anybody know? Does anybody care? Nobody knows or cares whether any of them made any money or not. If your ambition is to be good, you don’t make those decisions [to sign Trea Turner]. If your ambition is to be great, you make those decisions. It’s about desire, really. I just want to win.”
Middleton’s desire to win is reflected in the fans.
Phillies fans are wild. Look at how they orchestrated a standing ovation that turned around Turner’s first season in The City of Brotherly Love.
The fanatic Phillies fans seemingly make Citizens Bank Park a nightmare for opposing teams — especially the Braves.
They trolled Atlanta fans by doing “the chop” during their game four rout, continually howled Orlando Arcia, and were absolutely electric after the Phillies knocked Spencer Strider out of the clinching game.
The Phillies are relentless. They have a stacked lineup that’s capable of doing some serious home run damage, multiple dudes with long flowing hair, a team leader in Harper who has ice in his veins, two ace pitchers, the best mascot in baseball, a vivacious crowd, an owner intent on winning, and they’re eight wins away from winning their third World Series title.
Hop on the Phillies bandwagon, it’s going to be worth it.