The Philadelphia Phillies have won their division for the past five years. In 2008, they won the World Series. In 2009, they won the National League Pennant. They have had great moments. Great players to root for in Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, and more.
The rise of the Phillies began as they built their team in the 2000s and acquired players to ultimately bring them success. They developed Ryan Howard, a super power MVP hitter, at first base. Chase Utley, arguably the best second baseman in the game (when he’s not hurt), emerged. Shane Victorino, a Gold Glove center fielder came up. Jimmy Rollins became a dominant shortstop who won an MVP as well.
Eventually their pitching got better. Cole Hamels emerged and became dominant in 2007 at age 23. He ultimately was their World Series MVP in 2008. The Phillies even traded for the 43-year-old Jamie Moyer in 2006 and he helped the rotation to win it all at age 45.
The parade was beautiful. Phillies fans cried. The Phillies had risen and life was brighter than the noon sun. They were World Champions.
Yet, I think a lot of fans are going to have some bitter memories because they could’ve had more. Right now the Olympics are going on and U.S.’s Nathan Adrian beat Australia’s James Magnussen in the 100 freestyle by .01 seconds.
I can’t type a letter on this keyboard in .01 seconds. That’s how close it was. I think a lot of Philly fans will feel like James Magnussen. They got the silver medal, but were just THIS close to the gold.
The reason for that is because the Phillies got even better than they were in 2008. From 2009-2011 they had a superior team than their World Series team, yet they have no championships to show for those three years.
What could’ve been a dynasty has become a team with one championship ring unless some amazing turnaround happens in the near future.
Now what’s left is an aged team looking to rebuild again, but not before three years of crashed dreams.
In 2009, they managed to get Pedro Martinez on their rotation. They traded for Cliff Lee, the reigning AL Cy Young winner, they still had Hamels and Moyer. Granted, their closer Brad Lidge stunk worse than a skunk, but they had a good bullpen. Cliff Lee was truly dominant in the postseason, going 4-0 including two wins in the World Series.
But, a Brad Lidge collapse in game four and a sad showing in game two was the difference and the Yankees won the World Series in six.
The Phillies weren’t going to give up though. They still had some juice left in them. Chase Utley was the best second baseman in the league. Ryan Howard led the league in RBIs. Jason Werth was coming off an All-Star season. This team still had talent and some time to play. They decided they wanted to upgrade on pitching.
In a three-team deal, they gave up Cliff Lee to the Mariners and the Blue Jays gave them the Roy Halladay. The Roy Halladay. The future Hall of Famer. The guy who was dominant in Toronto. The guy who had won a Cy Young in Toronto. One of the nicest and coolest pitchers to watch. Philly, a baseball town, gobbled him up like the hot dogs at the park.
So what happened? The team was so dosh darn good in the regular season. Roy Halladay pitched a perfect game, Jayson Werth led in doubles with 46, Ryan Howard wasn’t as magnificent as before, but he still had 108 RBIs and 31 home runs.
The Phillies even traded for Roy Oswalt and took him from the Astros. Oswalt was going downhill, but he still was a good pitcher. They had the two Roys and Cole Hamels for a stud rotation. Wow, that’s just cool. Being a Phillies fan was super fun that season. 93 wins and playoffs.
They swept the Cincinnati Reds and the NL MVP Joey Votto in the NLDS. Roy Halladay pitched a no-freaking-hitter in the first game. He was the second pitcher in baseball history to ever do that in the postseason. That game set the tone for that series, but not the postseason. That game was supposed to symbolize the Phillies dominance from here to the end.
Instead, the Phillies bats decided to go to the South Pole and go cold and freeze in the NLCS. The Phillies lost the series 4-2 when they should’ve won it 4-0 and the San Francisco Giants, a pure pitching team, went on to win the whole thing.
Roy Halladay winning the NL Cy Young may have soothed the pain, but to be that close with a team as good as the Phillies were, and to lose against a one-dimensional team has got to be gut-wrenching. It has got to be traumatic. One of those things in sports where you just can’t believe it happened, but it did!
The Phillies looked a little different after that series. After the postseason, teams start to stare at themselves in the mirror to figure out what to fix. Looking back on it, it was obvious that the bats needed to be addressed. What was once their greatest strength in 2008 was now becoming unreliable as they aged.
Utley’s injury didn’t help either. He played in only 115 games in 2010. That’s 41 less than the year before. Rollins had his own injury that limited him to 88 games. He was going to be 32, Howard 31, Werth 32, Utley 32, Victorino 30, Raul Ibanez 39, Placido Polanco 35, and Carlos Ruiz 32.
Granted, these men are in the prime of their lives when it comes to mental things like law, business, medicine, and stock trading; they were senior citizens with Ibanez and Polanco becoming old geezers in terms of athletics.
When free agency hit, the Phillies were quiet. They could’ve gone after Adrian Beltre, Carl Crawford, and others. Werth left them for the Nationals, but it was a blessing for the Phillies. He was old and the Nationals gave him way too much money.
Then the Phillies stunned the world when they came out of NOWHERE to grab Cliff Lee from the Yankees and Rangers. Lee took less money to play for the Phillies. The sports world’s eyeballs all popped out simultaneously when that happened. The ace pitcher they had traded away had returned like a prodigal son.
Cliff Lee. Roy Halladay. Roy Oswalt. And Cole Hamels. Are you kidding me? There hadn’t been a rotation of that caliber since the 1990s Braves that had three future Hall of Famers on it.
As soon as that signing hit the presses, the Phillies were crowned World Series champions. Forget the season. Let’s spend a year with our kids and take our wives out dancing. There is no chance anyone can beat the Phillies.
However, while everyone was blind and still searching for their eyeballs, the fact of the Phillies bats hadn’t changed. I think everyone thought Philly was the automatic winner for a little while at least after getting caught up with the stunning realization of what just had happened because no one saw it coming.
Eventually, some baseball followers started to realize that the lineup was a ticking timebomb. It was a crap shoot. The Phillies organization either convinced themselves that the lineup would naturally rebound or they realized that they were running out of time. They were rolling the dice and praying for double sixes.
For a while, it was double sixes. The press came. The photos were taken. The four aces were paraded around like they were Miss America candidates and ogled like them too.
The Phillies were in control of baseball. Not the champion Giants. Not the Yankees or Red Sox. The Phillies were in control.
The season started and Roy Halladay was Superman with Cliff Lee opposite him as Batman. They had fantastic seasons and only the triple crown winner, Clayton Kershaw, could say he did better at pitching than those two aces. Oswalt was not as effective when his back gave out, but Hamels was great as usual.
The Phillies won 102 games in 2011. They had the best record in baseball, but they did it all with their bats going downhill.
Utley re-injured himself and played in only 103 games. Ryan Howard’s batting line slumped. It got bad enough to where the Phillies traded for Hunter Pence because they needed his bat so much.
Their record was a mask. As the season goes on, the travel, the wear and tear on the body, the workouts; all of it gets to the players. When October rolls around, what do the players have left is the biggest question.
The Phillies had nothing. They played the Cardinals. A team that barely qualified for the playoffs, but managed to get hot and they crushed the Phillies. Well, they didn’t crush the Phillies, but they crushed the fans. The Phillies lost the series 3-2 and the saddest thing I ever saw was game five.
Game five featured Chris Carpenter vs. Roy Halladay. Master vs. Master. The Cardinals got a triple early in the first and scored one run. Roy Halladay didn’t make another mistake after that. Problem was Chris Carpenter held the Phillies to a measly three hits.
Inning by inning. Out by out. The Phillies saw the door slowly close on their title hopes. It’s like watching the hourglass run slowly out of sand. Piece by piece falling with each out.
I’m not a Phillies fan and I was disgusted with them. I could only imagine how Philly fans were reacting. I’m sure the ones in bars downed their beers and started asking for shots. It was arguably the worst loss in Phillies history that was compounded with Ryan Howard tearing his Achilles while grounding out to end the game.
Ryan Howard lay on the ground in agony and Philly fans all over were experiencing emotional agony. It was over for the dream season.
The Phillies team that seemed to get better each year was finishing less each year.
2008 the Phillies go 92-70, 2008 the Phillies win it all.
2009 the Phillies go 93-69, 2009 the Phillies lose it all.
2010 the Phillies go 97-65, 2010 the Phillies lose in the NLCS.
2011 the Phillies go 102-60, 2011 the Phillies lose the NLDS.
We come to the present year, and we see the Phillies. They are 15.5 games behind in last place. They are 47-58. Roy Halladay has been injured, losing his velocity and having the worst kind of year. Cliff Lee is 2-6 because the lineup never seems to score with him on the mound.
Cole Hamels is having a great year, so the Phillies extended him, but they have given up. They just traded two of their best bats in Pence and Victorino to the Giants and Dodgers respectively to get prospect.
Utley’s played in just 27 games. Howard’s played in just 20 games. Once core members of one of the best lineups in baseball just four years ago are now fractured fractions of their former selves.
Rollins isn’t producing. Oswalt’s gone. Polanco is bad. Carlos Ruiz has been good, but he’s older and not expected to stay forever.
The Phillies just put Cliff Lee on waivers and he’s been claimed. The Philles will either give him up or attempt to trade him for prospects now.
Once a team filled with promise and ability has been crippled by age, by injuries, and by a good run of bad luck.
The Phillies have fallen.