Panic would be too extreme a word.
Resignation would be more accurate.
Local Phillies fans seem resigned to the fact that they may be watching an aging team in a slow decline.
That sentiment gained steam in the offseason when chatting with the many Phillies followers in the York area.
Their numbers have grown greatly over the past decade, fueled by a beautiful new park, a handful of home-grown all-stars and a run of nearly unprecedented success.
It's become cool to be a Phillies fan in York County.
York is still Oriole Country, to be sure, but the Birds' ugly string of losing seasons _ now at 14 straight _ has left the door open for the bandwagon jumpers to hop on board with another regional
The Phillies filled that void with nine straight winning seasons, five straight National League East titles, two World Series appearances and one World Series championship.
Suddenly, however, the Phillies appear quite vulnerable.
That may seem strange to say about a team that won 102 games last season and features the best starting pitching staff in baseball, but the folks who follow the team closely just can't shake the feeling.
And it's not just because the Phils are off to a 1-3 start and are struggling mightily to score runs.
The sense of dread actually started when first baseman Ryan Howard collapsed in a heap while making the final out in the Phils' season-ending playoff loss to the Cardinals last October. It soon became apparent that his Achilles tendon injury would force him to miss a sizeable chunk of the 2012 season.
Yes, even before the injury, Howard's numbers had been on the decline, but he was still a dependable 30-homer, 110-RBI anchor in the middle of the team's lineup. That kind of production isn't easy to replace.
Then came the news in the spring that second baseman Chase Utley was battling a pair of seriously bad knees. It's uncertain when he'll return and there's talk that his career may be in jeopardy.
Like Howard, Utley's numbers have been slipping for several years. Even if he does return to the lineup, it's apparent that Utley will never again be the MVP-caliber player who once was the engine that made the Phillies' offense go.
The loss of Howard and Utley has helped transform a vaunted Phillies lineup that was once the best in the National League into one that scares absolutely no one. The fact that they've scored just eight runs in four games comes as little surprise. This team will struggle to score all season, even if/when Howard and Utley return.
Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco are nice complementary players, but they shouldn't serve as the centerpiece of any lineup.
Yes, starters Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels form the best "big three" in the majors, and Vance Worley looks solid at No. 4, but how many 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 games can they win?
Even with the starters, however, there are questions. Halladay and Lee are both in their early-to-mid 30s and have tons of innings on their arms. They can't go on forever, can they?
Hamels, meanwhile, is in his prime, but will be a free agent in the offseason. If he sees the Phils as a team in decline, he may opt to head elsewhere for a huge new contract and a better chance to win.
Worley, while promising, still hasn't proven he can win consistently in the majors over an extended period.
The bullpen, beyond new closer Jonathan Papelbon, remains a huge question mark. The relievers have already struggled this spring to close out games.
Put it all together, and the Phillies look like a team that will struggle to make the playoffs. The NL East looks significantly stronger this season. The Nationals and Marlins are improved, young and hungry. The Braves nearly made the playoffs a season ago. And the Mets started the season 4-0. There are no pushovers in the division.
Of course, maybe this is all an over-reaction to a slow start. Maybe Howard and Utley will return and the stellar starting pitching will carry the Phillies to their sixth-straight division crown.
Just don't bet on it.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 854-1575, ext. 455.