The impossible happened. The Phillies lost the NLDS to the St Louis Cardinals. Roy Halladay was great but not good enough. The offense was the failure everyone feared they would be.
Anger. Sadness. Heartbreak. Disbelief. Bitterness. Disgust. Disappointment. How many emotions is it possible to feel at once over something that is supposed to be just a game?
It’s incredibly difficult to comprehend this loss. This outcome. This Phillies team was supposed to be the best ever. A rotation for the ages. 102 wins. The promise of immortality. None of it good enough.
They choked. Choked horribly. The only thing in recent memory that compares to this is the Eagles crushing loss to Tampa in the NFCCG. That defeat still resonates and likely always will. Now this Phillies version of that terrible outcome will be indelibly stamped into the collective consciousness of the fanbase for a long, long time.
Unlike the Eagles the Phillies did at least win it all in ’08, but that title doesn’t really mean much right now. Not when hopes and expectations were so high. Not when it was assumed to be a pre-ordained right to another parade this year. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Last year’s team came up short in the NLCS, but this team was better. They added Cliff Lee on a magical December night. They executed what seemed like one of the best trades in history by acquiring the much needed Hunter Pence mid-season. It was all coming together. There was no way the rotation could lose. The lineup was supposedly fixed with the addition of the right-handed hitting Pence in the five-hole behind Ryan Howard.
But no, when it mattered most, when all they needed was a couple runs in the biggest game of the year to that point, the lineup did nothing.
And that lineup may now be without Howard himself for a while. As if him crumpling to the ground as he made the last out wasn’t enough of a summation of the entire failed Phillies season, it could be much worse. Howard thinks he tore his Achilles tendon and is scheduled for an MRI on Saturday to assess the damage. If he’s right and it’s a full tear, he could miss the entire 2012 season. Say what you will about Howard’s declining production and ability to come up big in tight spots, but his potential loss is absolutely devastating.
A Phillies lineup without Ryan Howard and a deteriorating Chase Utley is a scary sight. And not in a good way. Yes, Pence is a great piece but beyond him the cupboard is looking emptier than Marlins stadium.
Jimmy Rollins is a free agent and will likely be gone, but even if he’s not his production is barely adequate and he’s clearly nearing the end. Placido Polanco is well past his prime and will be undergoing hernia surgery this offseason, not to mention his other various injury issues. Shane Victorino started strong but his production dropped as the season wore on — is his post-30 decline starting as well? Raul Ibanez will be gone, and how much will a potential platoon of John Mayberry and the disappointing Domonic Brown actually give them out in left field? And everyone knows Chooch is there to catch not to hit.
With a tight budget there won’t be much room to add any big contracts, so it’s unlikey the high-priced free agent cavalry will be coming to save the day.
Ultimately, the Phillies came up small when it counted most, missing out on becoming the legends they were told they would certainly be. No more Four Horsemen. No more cute catch phrases or overly pimped t-shirts. No more laughing at the woeful Mets (for now anyway).
It’s going to be a long, cold winter.