Oct 112011

Phillies logoAnother Fall has led to another fall.  A fall that has Phillies fans everywhere trying to recover from broken dreams. For the second year in a row, the best team in baseball failed to live up to the hype and the faith that the Phillies fans put into them. Unlike last year however, this team did not even make it to the National League Championship Series versus Milwaukee.

For a team picked by many to be World Series Champions the results of this season can only be considered an abject failure by any who follow them.  This team was supposed to be built specifically for the playoffs.  Four ace pitchers, playoff savvy position players, and a winning atmosphere in the clubhouse.  The game is not played on paper, as much as the stats people like to think it is, it’s on the field where everything is decided.

When the pitching started to get shaky, an aging and failing offense was not good enough to overcome the adversity the team was faced with.  The St. Louis Cardinals took advantage of this with patient at bats making the Phillies vaunted starters throw numerous pitches during innings.  There was some luck involved with some of the bloop hits but hey like the old adage says, it is good to be lucky.

Luck isn’t all there was to the series though. The Cardinals were a pretty good team in their own right, with the best player in baseball and the comeback player of the year in their lineup.  They also got big series out of their lesser players who stepped up in a huge way. Skip Schumaker and Ryan Theriot are not thought of in the same breath as Pujols, Berkman, and Matt Holliday (who played injured for the series) but they sure hit like them.

Yadier Molina also was a big factor on both the offensive and defensive sides.  With respects to our beloved Carlos Ruiz, Molina is the best defensive catcher in the National League, if not in all of baseball, and the Phillies found it out as he negated a lot of their running game when they were on base by throwing out several runners trying to steal.  The Cardinals also got some big game pitching out of their bullpen, half of whom were newcomers to the team or their roles. The Cardinals starters did enough to keep their team in the games after Game 1, something which only Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay seemed to be able to do for the Phillies.

Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard seem to be getting most of the blame for the loss. They do have some responsibility but the team as a whole is to blame.  Anyone who disagrees does not know what they are talking about.  The entire team did not show up as a team and got beat by a team that did.  Hitting, base running, defense, pitching, there were costly mistakes made in all facets of the game and it was not just one or two players making them.  This was a team wide self-destruction, not a major one ala the Braves or Red Sox, but enough to make them golfers instead of baseball players.

This team now has some major holes.  The offense is aging and there still are no major replacements at any of the high minor league levels for the position players. The bench was abysmal and the relief corps was hit with injuries and inconsistency from everyone but Ryan Madson at one point or another during the year.

Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez, Ryan Madson, Brian Schneider, and Ross Gload are free agents, Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge will most likely both be bought out, and Ryan Howard’s torn Achilles tendon means his status is up in the air for at least the beginning of next season.  Jose Contreras’ status is up in the air as well after arm surgery.

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Barry Jeffrey Jr. writes “The Crow’s Nest” column for PSC.