This article is a long time coming. I know the team is only 5.5 back in the division, but with the strength of the NL East and the National League in general, things may become very bleak on Broad Street.

This city of Philadelphia talks about 2008 like it was yesterday, the season where everything was perfect and the Phillies were kings of the world…guess what, it’s not and they are slipping HARD.

Phillies fans have been sold a bill of goods from management with two promises about this season:

1. The team would walk into the playoffs…

2. They would pretty much spend the entire season leading the NL East…

The team has walked with a certain sense of entitlement, believing these things, and if certain parts of their performance don’t change soon, it’s looking like neither will happen.

Just like many Phillies fans, I watched tonight’s Game four of the Cubs series with a sense of urgency. Halladay was on the mound and after stealing a win yesterday, I was hoping tonight would be a sign of brighter days, a refresher toward the team’s potential.

Like the rest of Philly, I watched as the game came and went, seeing much of the same inconsistent play that has haunted the team this season.

The Phillies were given a gift in Game three and, if it weren’t for the epic collapse of Carlos Marmol, they could have been looking at a sweep.

It seems the story of the season is inconsistency. Whether it’s the bats, the pitching, or the roster, this year’s Phillies have been suffering from a severe lapse.

Phillies fans are an interesting breed. Not only do we come off as critical but, at points, show signs of complete oblivion.

Fans are aware of the issues this team is facing, and they talk about how things need to be done; all it takes is a 12-2 win to turn things around and they are once again talking sunshine and daisies.

The four-game sweep of the Reds was incredible. The Phillies were the walk-off wonders and seemed as if the stars were aligning. It seemed as if their luck could never run out. The Reds were leading the Central at the time and, going into the break, all seemed well in the world.

Guess what…they just lost three of four to a team that’s 10 games back in the same NL Central.

The Phillies live and die by the long ball and if the line drives aren’t flying, then they are suffering.

I bet many fans aren’t aware the Phillies are ranked 23rd in batting average and 22nd in hits…not positive for a team coming off of back-to-back World Series.

The Phillies are hemorrhaging and every talking head in the media has their opinions on how to fix it. The talking points for tomorrow’s radio shows are written and the situations are well known. It’s important to address them and realize the logical and sad truths around many of them.

Jayson Werth: Can they/would they trade him and get legitimate compensation?

Most fans in the city have accepted the fact, at the completion of this season, Werth will hit the open market and play elsewhere next year. The Phillies have stated their salary cap ceiling and made it clear with the move of Cliff Lee that there are no exceptions to this rule.

Is it time for the team to sever ties with Werth in an attempt to bolster the team?

Yes this statement can be taken as treason, and without his bat the team will be lacking a strong presence from the right side of the plate. He has the ability to help the team via trade and it is a valid option the team needs to look into.

What would they get for him and would anyone want his expiring deal?…thus bringing up issue No. 2.

Do the Phillies still need another starter?

J.A. Happ is still working on his rehab and no definite date is set. With this known, the team needs to address the fact without another starter in the rotation things are going to get dicey around playoff time.

Fans throw out names like Roy Oswalt, Dan Haren, and Ted Lilly but none of these seems logistically possible without giving up more quality minor league prospects. Seeing as the only legitimate prospect the team has is Dominic Brown, who is the heir apparent to replace Ibanez, the team will balk with any deal involving their prized prospect.

Sure Cole Hamels is improving but with his history of meltdowns, he is never reliable enough to sleep well at night. Jamie Moyer is now you second-most reliable starter and, at 47, you never know what showing you will get.

If you can make a legitimate argument for Kyle Kendrick as a fifth starter, I would like to hear it; in 19 appearances, his 5-3 record and his inability to make it past the sixth inning wont allow fans to sleep well at night, and the same goes for Joe Blanton.

A record of 3-5 from a third starter will not help you in the playoffs, and batters have an .844 on base percentage against him.

Roy Halladay has been everything we thought he would be. He has had his rough outings, but with 10 wins fans are feeling comfortable when that fifth day comes around.

With the way the bullpen has produced, the team may need to send either Happ or Blanton to the pen to ease the suffering. The only problem with that is both may be needed to start.

The Phillies need more depth, and adding another solid starter could make taking the NL East a little bit easier.

Is it just injuries?

Placido Polanco is back from the DL and has looked relatively solid.

Ryan Madson is back from “Toe Gate” and has allowed three runs in 3 1/3 innings since returning with a record of 1-1 and a blown save.

Chase Utley is only weeks away from a return. No word of the healing thumb but even his presence should boost a normally second-half team.

What are their options?

Do they hold out and see how the returns of Utley and Happ help the offense, or is a move the only way to get back on track? And if they make a move, what can they trade and who’s interested?

With the July 31st trade deadline fast approaching, they may not have time to rely on Happ or Utley, and front-office decisions need to be made. If not, instead of talking three-peat World Series visits and 2008 Champions, we may be talking 2006 and missing out on the playoffs.

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