This was going to be one of the most exhilarating columns of the season. It was going to describe how Charlie Manuel had gotten his Phils out of a historic slump and how Chase Utley’s demise had been greatly exaggerated.

I actually started putting my thoughts down on paper in the ninth inning of Saturday’s game between the Phillies and Twins. The Phils were leading by five runs, well on their way to a fourth consecutive victory. It was time to declare the slump over and predict a summer of sunny skies for our beloved baseball team.

Well, by now we all know better. We are all painfully aware that the bullpen imploded, the bats died again on Sunday, and now all of the same doubts about this team have crept back.

So, how should we feel now? I’ll tell you exactly how we should feel. We should finally accept the fact that these are not the 2008 Phillies — or the 2009 Phillies, for that matter. This team doesn’t have the same killer instinct that those teams had. This team isn’t as hungry as those.

The telltale sign can be found in a simple statistic from Sunday’s game. Carl Pavano, a journeyman known more for his brittle body than his pitching acumen, needed only 104 pitches to throw a complete game in the searing heat against the most dangerous offensive team in the National League. Knowing how important it was to make the pitcher work, the Phillies gift-wrapped the game for him.

After the lost weekend, the only logical conclusion to draw is that these Phillies are tired — mentally and physically — after three straight thrilling seasons. If so, they would hardly be unique. Other than the Atlanta teams of the 1990s, no NL club has made it to the postseason four straight years since the New York Giants of the 1920s.

If the Phillies couldn’t draw inspiration from two big victories against the Yankees, when will they wake up? If they weren’t impressed with the way Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick baffled the world champs, what will it take? If 32 runs in four games didn’t provide a new sense of confidence, how many runs are they going to need?

Yes, better days are ahead. Jimmy Rollins is due back tonight, and the horrible Cleveland Indians are in town. Next week, the putrid Pittsburgh Pirates will be sitting on a platter, waiting to be devoured.

The Phillies will be back. They will make another run. But after a week of highs and lows, big wins and bad losses, the lesson we learned is a sobering one. It’s really starting to look like this is not our year.

– Angelo Cataldi is host of 610 WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays from 5:30-10 a.m.

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