PHILADELPHIA -- It seemed more than possible, even with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley injured to start the season.
The Phillies won a franchise-record 102 games last year, so even without the heart and soul of their lineup they figured to be competitive through the All-Star break. They might not be in first place in the National League East, but they would be within striking distance. They might not have one of the two NL Wild Card spots, but they would be close.
Competitive seemed like a reasonable expectation because the Phillies still had former All-Stars and MVPs in their lineup and former Cy Young winners and former World Series MVPs in their rotation. But in arguably the most disappointing first half of Phillies baseball in memory, considering the payroll, talent on the roster and recent success, even with the injuries to Utley, Howard and Roy Halladay, the Phillies left Citizens Bank Park following Sunday's 4-3 loss to the Braves with their worst record at the All-Star break since 1997.
The 2012 Phillies are 37-50 (.425).
The 1997 Phillies were 24-61 (.282).
"This was rough with a capital 'R,'" Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said in a telephone interview Sunday evening with MLB.com. "It almost felt like a rebuilding-type thing with Chase and Ryan out and guys filling in, then Roy going down. It was like a rotation in the bullpen. There was nothing really stable, as far as one team collectively from the Opening Day roster to what it is now. It's just a lot of variables, and you mix that in with inconsistent play and here we are."
The Phillies are 13 games under .500 for the first time since they finished the 2000 season 65-97. They are 14 games behind the first-place Nationals in the NL East, and 10 games out of the Wild Card with eight teams in front of them in the standings.
Looking at those numbers, it's difficult to picture the Phillies playing baseball in October.
"The focus at this moment should be definitely more on playing good, quality baseball," Rollins said. "You do that and you look up and find out where you are in September. That happened to be the formula back in 2007, when the focus shifted ... forget about winning the division, let's focus on playing good baseball and see how close we can get to the Wild Card. If we get the Wild Card, who cares about the division?
"It just so happened it all happened at one time. With that experience, the regulars, we know what it takes. Is it going to happen? That's a question that really can't be answered, except on the baseball field."
The Phillies' first half ended Sunday with outfielder Jason Pridie, who replaced Jim Thome on the roster last weekend in Miami, going 2-for-3 with a double, home run and three RBIs, to lead the offense. Pridie started only because Phillies manager Charlie Manuel scratched Shane Victorino about an hour before the game because Manuel thought Victorino wasn't in the right frame of mind to play.
Phillies right-hander Vance Worley allowed a two-run homer to Dan Uggla in the fourth to tie the game at 2 and three consecutive singles in the fifth to tie the game again, at 3. Left-hander Raul Valdes then allowed a solo homer to Brian McCann in the seventh inning to give Atlanta a 4-3 lead.
Players cleared out of the clubhouse quickly after the game.
"I think we're looking forward to this All-Star break," Worley said. "Kind of clear our minds, come back and start off strong. I think it'll help. We're around each other every day. We can finally get some time to ourselves and get away from the game."
The Phillies clubhouse has been a tough place to be this season, with players showing little life.
"It's heavy after the game," Rollins said. "Before the game, I think it's always the same. Guys come in expecting to play winning baseball and have the right attitude as they go about their work. Nothing changes with the way everybody goes out there. But after the game, that's when one loss becomes two losses and two losses become three losses. It's like, 'Geez, no matter how good we feel coming into the game, the end result hasn't changed.' Getting there every single day remains the same. It's just after the game it carries a little more weight."
The Phillies now have to hope the All-Star break will refocus them for the second half. They have a .614 winning percentage after the All-Star break since Manuel became manager in 2005. That is the second-best mark in baseball.
But even if the Phillies play at a .614 clip in the second half, they would finish 83-79. It would be a nice turnaround, but it also likely would leave them short of a sixth consecutive postseason berth.
Perhaps just as interesting as the Phillies' potential for a second-half recovery is what will happen to Cole Hamels, Victorino and others before the end of the month. The Phillies front office could become sellers and trade some of their most valuable talent before the July 31 Trade Deadline.
Rollins hopes that isn't the case.
"If guys are going to get traded, it has nothing to do with contracts," Rollins said. "That means that was their plan from the beginning. You just don't trade a guy right now, especially a guy like Cole Hamels, for example, just because the team is losing. You don't do that. If you're going to let them go to free agency and hope to sign them after the season, then that's what you're going to do. You're not going to all of a sudden start jumping to trade guys. That doesn't make any sense.
"I know that's what a lot of times people want to see happen: 'Well, we need to start rebuilding the team.' No, you don't. You don't hit the panic button. You let it play out. And with some guys, you have to take a chance."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.