By the time Rhys Hoskins had his first hit of the game on Saturday night, the matchup between the Marlins and Phillies was over. It was the second inning, and the Marlins were up 3-0. The outcome of the game was just as decided a few innings later when Hoskins hit a home run in the fourth inning, and when he scored in the fifth. The Phillies were never going to win Saturday night’s game. Not this Phillies team.
Saturday’s game was a delight for people who love when things fall exactly as they’re supposed to. The Phillies lost because that’s what they do. Rhys Hoskins hit a home run because that’s what he does. I watched because that’s what I do. These days that’s about the only answer I have to the question of why I follow the three-hour long games of a team that boasts a winning percentage that looks more like a batting average and hasn’t had a winning season since I was 14.
The Phillies have a losing record because that’s what they do. A look through the team’s history shows that the Phillies of my youth, a team that won their division five times in a row and hoisted a World Series trophy, was nothing more than a statistical anomaly. And so, in July, with the Phillies finding new ways to lose every day, it would not have been unthinkable to assume the season was nothing more than typical for the first sports franchise in North America to have lost 10,000 games.
By September, however, something had changed. The Phillies will still have a losing record this season. In fact, they haven’t even won too many more games in the last month. But, a 6-foot-4 home run machine with a baby face came swooping in from AAA to save the season from mundanity. Since getting called up on August 10, Hoskins has done things no rookie in the history of the sport has done. He became the fastest player in the history of the MLB to hit 11 home runs, needing only 18 games. He hit 8 home runs in 9 games and held an impressive five game homer streak.
With his odd left-foot mechanics and wide grin, the 24 year old has ensured that Phillies fans were treated to, at minimum, three at bats a game of entertainment. Those who have followed this team all season know just how much these mean.
For Phillies fans, Hoskins means more than just a fun glitch in an otherwise unwatchable season. Yes, he makes it easier to justify sitting down and watching this team for nine innings (I regret to admit that I didn’t need Hoskins to justify this, although he certainly lets me save face), but it is his allure as the future of the team that makes him draw the eyes of the Delaware Valley. For a fanbase long waiting for any sign of life, Hoskins’ – and to a lesser extent his teammate Nick Williams’ – addition to and success in the Phillies’ roster has been a realization of the hopes that came about when the franchise’s minor league update was the only thing worth watching in most home broadcasts for the major league team.
To Phillies fans, Hoskins’ home runs don’t matter because they affect the outcome of the games he plays in. Some certainly do, but most fans are by now beyond such trivial matters as wins and losses. The draw to Hoskins is two-fold. Yes, it’s fun that his home runs and RBIs make us enjoy the still too-few at bats he gets per game. But, even more appealing is the idea that one day, maybe one day soon, these at bats will be relevant to games, these games relevant to seasons, and dare I say it, these seasons relevant to a dynasty. If they do, we fans will have been there from the start.
It is impossible to know how history will look back on our exact moment in time, and so we cannot yet say what will be made of the late summer and early fall of the 2017 season. History is a dynamic between the past and the future, and so those of us in the present are left out. It could be that this last month will be viewed as a spark of something great, kicking off another period of division and league dominance. It could also be that Hoskins is another player who showed a sign of promise but was ultimately lost to something that can best be described as the Phillies being the Phillies. What this past month means to history will depend on whether, in ten years, Hoskins is the butt of a cruel joke about this city’s miserable sports luck or an All Star on a contending team.
To find out, we’ll have to stay and watch.