The Philadelphia Phillies are staying right at home as the postseason starts - and not because they are hosting a Game 1 of the NLDS. Phillies fans like myself are still adjusting to our first October without Philadelphia baseball since 2006. But it is even harder because reminders of the Phils are everywhere in the two NLDS series.
This is particularly true in the series between the Washington Nationals and the St. Louis Cardinals. The same Nationals team that ended the Phillies' five-year NL East reign is now facing the same Cardinals team that destroyed Philadelphia 12 months ago.
Phillies fans don't want to see the Nationals go far in October, since it could propel them to dominate the NL East for some time - and keep Philadelphia from dominating it again. But for this first series, we'd have to root for a St. Louis club that broke all our hearts last October. Nevertheless, the Cardinals put the Atlanta Braves in another free fall by winning the wild-card playoff game on Oct. 5, so that could be a gift to the Phillies down the line.
The other divisional series doesn't have as much of a Phillies' flavor, but it is a reminder of better days. The Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants both faced Philadelphia in the 2010 playoffs, with vastly different results. The Phillies' last postseason hurrah came by sweeping and no-hitting the Reds in the NLDS - then the Giants upset them in the NLCS and really kicked off Philadelphia's current decline.
Cincinnati was overmatched against Philadelphia two years ago, but it has come much further since then. The Reds proved it by actually winning a playoff game this time around, beating the Giants in Game 1 on Oct. 6. Now San Francisco - and former Philadelphia favorite Hunter Pence - needs a rally to recapture its championship magic from 2010.
The National League playoffs are filled with the Phillies' last three postseason foes, along with their successors in the NL East. Although Philadelphia is long gone from this year's action, it is still easy to be reminded of the Phils in these playoffs - or at least it is for their fans.
We will either fear the Nationals for starting a potential dynasty, envy the Giants or Cardinals for winning another pennant, or be wary of the Reds for breaking through. It is going to be a hard task for the Phillies to rebound in 2013 no matter what - and the eventual NL champions of 2012 won't make it any easier, no matter who they are.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
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