SirTheory’s Treatise on Life

(opinions on just about anything)

The Phillies Are Phinally In The Post Season

I remember during the first 1/3 of the season telling my co-working that it would be horribly ironic if the Phillies actually made the playoffs this year. They had gotten of to an abysmal 4-11 start, good for the worst record in the major leagues. People were calling for Charlie Manuel’s head. Manual had taken their star starter, Brett Myers, and made him a closer. Players were falling like flies due to injury. The reigning MVP winner Ryan Howard was barely hitting .200. The bullpen was taking fantastic starting efforts and blowing them. It was bleak.

Yet there were bright points. Both Jimmy Rollins and, more surprisingly, Aaron Rowand were in the process of cranking out career years. Cole Hamels was the only bright point in a starting rotation hobbled by inconsistency and injuries. Yet the loses were mounting, albeit at a less heart-attack inducing rate as before.

It is hard to pinpoint when the turnaround really started, although there are several ways to look at it. The first thing that had to happen was a righting of the ship. Start winning series consistently. Eliminate the constant petty errors. Believe. Yet specific events can help catapult a team to another level.

The first event was something that didn’t even appear in the box score. They were playing in Colorado, facing the Rockies. It was the beginning of July and the rains came in the middle of the game. They delayed the game and the grounds crew went to work. The winds became violent and caught the tarps, whipping the grounds crew around like rag dolls. Without a seconds hesitation the entire Phillies team ran onto the field and helped out. The video (a poorly recorded version is on youtube if you wish to see it) is spectacular. It is possible to look at this event as a catalyst: the team felt more like a team, not to mention karma favored Philadelphia in a way the team hasn’t seen in years (or at all.)

The other huge turning point was the four game series at the end of August with the New York Mets. Going into the series you felt that you had to win three of those. The sweep would be impossible, but three games? That would mean gaining two games on the Mets, which would be quite good. Well, not only did the Phillies win three games, but they decided to go ahead and win the 4th one, as well. But not only were all four games won, but each win was crazier and more insane than the last. You had a game end on an interference call… and then some how the following game went and topped that. It was a whirlwind series that left the Mets reeling. (The Phillies ended up sweeping three series with the Mets during the year and beat them 12 out of 18 meetings.)

Yet individual contributions from smaller players were huge, too. When the Phillies starting rotation was ripped to shreds with injuries and inconsistency, Kyle Kendrick was called up from Double-A to fill in a start. The kid, who wasn’t really on anybody’s radar, proceeded to dominate his spot start. He never went back down to the minor leagues and became the Phillies second most consistent starter after Cole Hamels.

The team was put on life support when Chase Utley suffered a broken hand after getting hit by a pitch. In Pat Gillicks’s greatest move of the season he quickly dealt a nobody pitcher from the system for Tadahito Iguchi, a major league level second baseman. Iguchi, while not quite playing up to Chase Utley’s high level of play, did a fantastic job both defensively and offensively. He got clutch hits and raised his off-season value. The Phillies had a winning record during Utley’s injury due in no small part to what Iguchi did for the team.

The Phillies outfield was a big strength, getting a ton of outfield assists. In the same game both Shane Victorino and Michael Bourn got injured. Both were big speed demons, and, although Bourn was just the backup, had been hitting well and playing a great outfield when called upon to backup. When Victorino went down I was sad, but figured Bourn would do a capable job of filling in. Yet when Bourn went down I was despondent. Who would fill in and give us any kind of production? The answer came in Jason Werth, who had acquired the not too endearing nickname “Werthless” by some Phillies blog commenters. He became clutch offensively, getting all kinds of huge hits. He didn’t have the speed of Victorino or Bourn, but demonstrated better plate discipline. Werth just totally stepped it up. And with the likely departure of Rowand in the off-season, could very well become a starter next year.

Perhaps the thing that benefited the Phillies the most is how every win seemed to feature a new hero. It wasn’t up to Howard or Utley to get the big, clutch hit every single game. In one game you have Greg Dobbs piling on his gaudy Major League-leading pinch-hit RBI total. In another you have Chris Coste hitting a pinch hit home run. Turn around and Abraham Nunez flashed serious leather at third base to save several runs. J.C. Romero was an absolute God-send for the battered bullpen. Kyle Lohse was a trade deadline acquisition and gave the Phillies quality starts.

Also worth mentioning is the Phillies major league-leading 48 come-from-behind wins. They never quit on a game, just like they never quit in the race for the post season. Not only did they reach the post season, but they overtook the NY Mets, something everyone thought was impossible at the end of August.

Congratulations, Phillies. You have made the season exciting.
But don’t get too complacent. We have a myriad of great teams to weave through yet to reach the World Series and, hopefully, win.


September 30, 2007 - Posted by | Sports

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