On October 7th, the Philadelphia Phillies lost Game 5 of the NLDS to the St. Louis Cardinals by a score of 1-0. The way in which they lost wasn’t startling—they fell behind early before Roy Halladay settled in and pitched incredibly down the stretch. The bats never got going, and the few guys they managed to get on base couldn’t come around to score. They lost—it sucks. But I can’t seem to follow the logic behind a lot of the feelings I’ve heard expressed throughout the city since the season ended.
Callers have complained on talk radio; members of the media have condemned Ruben Amaro, Jr. or Charlie Manuel, alluding to the fact that the players and mentality in place weren’t good enough. There’s been a backlash at the way the players have been using Twitter since losing. At best, people complain in disheartened tones.
These feelings were expressed at the end-of-the-season press conferences. Hot topics of conversation were the expiring contracts of Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez and Ryan Madson, along with the approach the team would take into the offseason. How will they address Ryan Howard’s injury? Are they looking to get younger? Are they looking to bolster the lineup? Are they looking to bring in free agents for next year’s bullpen?
Those are all valid questions that need to be answered before everyone shows up in Clearwater in February. But, for now, can’t we all just relax for a bit?
This is a team that set a franchise record in wins. They did so without Chase Utley for most of the first half of the season. Rollins spent time on the disabled list, as did Placido Polanco, Roy Oswalt, Shane Victorino and Madson. The bullpen was a rag-tag militia of arms commissioned after Jose Contreras and Brad Lidge couldn’t find a way out of the trainer’s room. Hunter Pence didn’t join the team until the end of July.
On paper they were built to win a championship, but baseball is a tricky sport. One or two at-bats can change the course of a season.
While I’m well aware that this team has issues that need to be addressed this offseason, I’m struggling to see that some massive overhaul is needed and I certainly don’t feel that the players or organization should feel obligated to soak in the disappointment of falling short. A bat here and an arm there will do the trick for next year—that, and timely hitting in October. The team just played the best six months of baseball in the history of the franchise. Right now, they shouldn’t be depressed or worrying about the 2012 season. They should be on a tropical beach or playing golf or watching TV. I don’t expect them to be hugging their knees and
balling bawling hysterically in the shower or listening to Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” on repeat.
I expect the organization to take the loss the way Chase Utley wears an inside fastball—with a slight grimace before tossing the bat and running down to first base. And we, the fans, should do the same. All we can ask is that our team is relevant every year, and with five straight division titles, the Phillies have done more than that.
The way 2011 ended is not Amaro’s fault, nor is it Charlie Manuel’s. If Cliff and company had held onto Game 2 the Phils would probably be suiting up to play the Rangers right now. It’s not fun, but that doesn’t mean there’s someone specific to blame. We’re upset, but that doesn’t mean we should go out and change everything that’s worked for the past half-decade.
“A brilliant player can get a strong hand cracked, go ‘on tilt’ and lose his mind along with every chip in front of him.” — Rounders
Right now the city is on tilt. Let the players relax, have confidence that Amaro will handle the situation—he’s earned it—and focus on the Eagles and Flyers for a few months. I’ve put a pin in the Phils, and I’ll come back when the hurt has dissipated and the team shows up in Clearwater.