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October 25 Philadelphia Daily News columnist Sam Donnellon:
“Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and little children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.
CASEY TOOK his first two borderline strikes, swung at the third. The sadness in Mudville could be muted over time by that, by the thought their slugger had taken his shot and just plain whiffed.
It will be different here this winter. The way Ryan Howard went down at the end, standing, bat on shoulder, giving his best “not my style” look to plate umpire Tom Hallion after taking a 3-2 pitch for a season-ending strike three?
Standing amid media an hour later, unapologetic when someone asked if he thought, in retrospect, that he should have taken a hack at what seemed to be a hittable pitch?
October 25 Philadelphia Inquirer:
“Ruben Amaro Jr. passed through the solemn clubhouse, stopping at lockers for brief hugs and few words. There was little for the general manager to say after the Phillies’ season had ended in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, two wins short of history and six wins shy of the team’s ultimate goal, becoming a dynasty.
When Ryan Howard took strike three at 11:38 p.m. Saturday, the off-season began. And with it comes a great deal of questions for the four-time defending NL East champions.
Yes, much of the core will return. The Phillies have about $145 million already committed to 16 players under contract for 2011. A handful of others are under control, with offers to come.
“We’re going to be around for a few years,” Shane Victorino said.
For sure, when the Phillies have their three aces – Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels – back for another season, they expect to be competitive.
October 25 Camden Courier-Post:
“The Phillies have played the role of underdog before. It’s a spot they’re used to. It’s the role they played as they stormed back from a seven-game deficit in the division in July to finish with the best record in the league.
But playing the part of favorites? It never really suited them.
The Phillies were supposed to return to a third straight World Series. Instead, they watched the Giants celebrate a National League pennant at Citizens Bank Park.
Did the best team win?
The Phillies don’t think so, but it doesn’t much matter.
“They’re the team that got it done, point blank,” said Ryan Howard, who struck out looking with runners on first and second to end Saturday’s Game 6 clincher.
The Phillies played the National League Championship Series as if they knew they were the better team, as if another opportunity to vanquish San Francisco was right around the corner.
October 25 Philadelphia Daily News:
“The window is still wide open.
The window is closing fast.
Half-full, half-empty, there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground over what Saturday night’s NLCS loss to the San Francisco Giants signifies.
The Phillies likely will return six of the seven All-Stars that took the field for them Opening Day, and they added an All-Star starting pitcher to a rotation that already included a Cy Young winner and a World Series MVP. But they are older, and the plight of their core stars this season leaves the uneasy sense that age is no longer an ally.
“I can go back and point out teams that had to battle through what we battled through,” Shane Victorino said early yesterday morning. “And they finished 20 games behind in the division.”
He’s speaking of the Mets, of course. A team largely built on resumés accomplished elsewhere, of stars who broke down repeatedly as they moved into their 30s. Carlos Beltran. Carlos Delgado.
Brian Schneider, the Phillies backup catcher this season, was once one of those guys.
October 25 Philadelphia Daily News:
“LATE SATURDAY NIGHT, as the Phillies clubhouse slowly cleared in the wake of a stunning loss to the Giants in the National League Championship Series, Chad Durbin shared a lighthearted moment he had with his wife Crystal, who was accompanying him on a recent road trip. As the team charter sailed high above the country, the reliever joked about what might be his waning days in the organization.
“I’m probably not going to be hanging out with you at all,” Durbin said, a wistful smile on his face as he recalled the conversation.
Durbin is one of a select few veterans who spent the stretch run savoring his time with a group of teammates who, over the course of a 162-game season, can grow into extended family. The Phillies enter the offseason with six veterans who are likely to become free agents once the signing period begins 5 days after the World Series ends.
The headliner is rightfielder Jayson Werth, whose departure could leave a gaping hole in the middle of the order after a three-season stretch in which he averaged 29 home runs and 18 stolen bases while hitting .279 with a .376 on base percentage and .889 OPS. But there are several other familiar names in the group, including Durbin, ageless starter Jamie Moyer, reliever Jose Contreras, midseason acquisition Mike Sweeney and lefty specialist J.C. Romero.
October 25 Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Bob Ford:
“Charlie Manuel finished his last official utterances of the baseball season in front of the national media late Saturday night, and he exited the news conference room by a side door and began a long, familiar trudge through the back corridors of Citizens Bank Park.
“I’ve said basically the same thing every night,” Manuel had said in his valedictory for a team that was consistent in its inconsistencies. “The downside of our club this year . . . is that at times we didn’t score enough runs.”
There are a hundred strands in the web that finally ensnared the Phillies in the league championship series against the Giants, but that was the stickiest. Their offense, so potent during their ascendancy in the National League the last few seasons, finally let them down.
The door closed behind Manuel, and he made his way down the narrow hallways, loping along in the half-limping, half-meandering gait of a man in no particular hurry. He passed the batting cages where the big problem was never solved, the netting hanging quietly like funeral shrouds, and kept on going.
“It’s kind of funny, but you could see this coming. You could see how difficult it was becoming for us to win,” Manuel said. “That’s what happens when you are winning games the way we were. And a game like this one we just lost. We were winning those games, but sooner or later the laws of baseball come at you. Even though we swept Cincinnati, we were having trouble scoring runs, and it kind of grew on us.”
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