Phils manager Charlie Manuel (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
It’s almost that time of year.
The leaves are changing, the temperature is dropping and the Philadelphia Phillies are playing in the post season. That last part wasn’t always true about autumn – seeing the Phillies play past September – but in the last five years, Phillies baseball has almost become synonymous with the word “fall.”
And what does that mean? It means it’s the time of year when the expectations rise and the pressure mounts. Losing streaks no longer become something to joke about – like the last slide the Phillies were able to put together. Instead, each loss is looked upon as one step closer to failure and disaster. Every year for the past four years now the expectations have remained the same: World Series or bust.
But this year feels different.
Had the Phillies lost in 2008, would you have really been that disappointed? Yes, the loss would have meant the title drought would still be upon us, but it would still be looked upon as a nice run, as a successful season.
What about 2009? You were pissed off, I’m sure, but once again satisfied with the product the Phillies put out that year, right? Two straight World Series appearances? Hard to complain about. The loss stunk, but no one hated the team afterwards, like when Donovan McNabb was throwing interceptions in NFC title games.
Then came 2010… When Ryan Howard’s bat rested on his shoulder as strike three was called to end the NLCS, Phillies fans were in outrage. This loss didn’t have the sentimental feeling the one against the Yankees had. This one left a sour taste.
So what did the Phillies do? Create the best pitching staff ever (that’s right I said it). NLCS losses are unacceptable here in Philadelphia, and you know what else? World Series losses are unacceptable too. The only thing accepted here are World Series rings; take your cash and credit card somewhere else. This of course begs the question that no one wants to ask: what if this team doesn’t do it?
Uh oh, didn’t want to think about that one right? The “what if?” How do we remember this team if they fall short of the grand prize? Phillies fans call this “The best team ever” in Phillies history. Are they still the best team ever if they fail miserably in October?
Personally, I think they are. If the 2008 Phillies went head to head with the 2011 Phillies, there’s little doubt who would win in a best of seven. Just imagine game 2: Lee vs. Myers. How about Hamels vs. Moyer or Hamels vs. Blanton? Yeah, that wouldn’t end well.
2011 vs. 1980? Close, but no cigar there Mr. Carlton. 2011 has the edge in pitching, and as bad as today’s lineup can be sometimes, it still gets the job done. Hey, the 1950 “Whiz Kids” were good too, but they aren’t comparable to today’s baseball.
But for some reason I don’t think any of that matters to any of you. No matter what the stat geeks say, if the Phillies lose this post-season I doubt they will be your “best team ever.” You’ve put all your eggs in this basket and if Howard drops the basket and breaks all the eggs, you’re going to be pissed off. No sentimental loss here; just anger.
So how will this team be remembered if the-scenario-that-must-not-be-named (Harry Potter jokes?) happens? Probably not as “the best team ever,” but rather, “the biggest disappointment ever.”