The Philadelphia Phillies didn't have one of their typical 90-100 win seasons. Yet while Phillies fans like myself considered 2012 to be a losing season, it didn't reflect that way in the standings. A hot early September wasn't enough to get Philadelphia in the playoffs, but it did help it avoid its first losing season in a decade. But while it wasn't a losing year, it wasn't really a winning one either.
As such, it made perfect sense that the campaign mercifully ended with the Phillies splitting the difference. A 5-1 loss to the Washington Nationals on Oct. 3 not only gave the Nationals home field for the entire playoffs - which used to be the Phillies' ranking - but also made Philadelphia finish with an 81-81 record .
For a team that spent several months losing and just one month really winning, a .500 record is pretty generous. But it shows that the Phillies may not have declined that steeply, which still gives us hope that they can make a few moves to get back on track in 2013. Yet they did win 21 fewer games than they did in 2011, which shows that their era of dominance is over no matter what.
While they have fallen quite a few pegs, the Phillies haven't fallen far enough that they can just blow everything up and start over - as if they could even do that with the huge contracts they are tied to. Right now, the Phillies are in limbo for their future, which makes the limbo of a .500 record in 2011 the perfect statement.
It also made sense that the year ended by losing to the NL East's new powerhouse in Washington. While Philadelphia struggles to figure out what to do next, the sky is the limit for the division's new champions - in this October and in others.
The 2012 Nationals are where the 2007 Phillies were, with years of opportunity right in front of them. But by that pattern, they'll be swept out of this year's playoffs only to win it all in 2013 - which wouldn't suggest the Phillies would be back on top instead.
They won't return to power unless they get their offense back on track, which it wasn't in the season finale. And the Phillies won't rise again unless they stop wasting years like the one Cliff Lee had. He became the first pitcher in the modern era to have more than 200 strikeouts and less than 30 walks - and yet his final loss left him with a 6-9 mark to show for it.
Philadelphia still did better than that, at least, although an 81-81 record offers little else to be proud of - especially when it lost its last two games and couldn't finish above .500. But with this kind of season, there weren't many other ways for it to finally end.
The Phillies weren't winners like usual, yet they weren't total losers either, even though it feels like it. They are caught between trying to recapture their old glory and trying to rebuild for the future - but another 81-81 finish in 2013 would put their old glory even further in the rear view mirror.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
Other stories from this contributor
- Sports & Recreation
- Washington Nationals