The Philadelphia Phillies thought they would have more than one World Series ring by now. But as Phillies fans like myself know too well, a fourth straight year has now ended without another title - and this one ended without a playoff berth. More and more, Philadelphia looks like a one-hit wonder - unlike the now twice-crowned champions in San Francisco.
The downfall of the Phillies really started when the San Francisco Giants upset them in the 2010 NLCS. And just as the Giants proved superior to them in the short term, they proved superior in the long term by finishing a sweep of the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 World Series on Oct.28. Now the Giants are world champions for the second time in this era, just as the Phillies should have been long ago.
How did the Giants find a way to repeat their glory while the Phillies came up so short after 2008? The answers were littered throughout the 2010 NLCS and for much of the 2012 season as well.
Back in 2010, San Francisco matched Philadelphia's every strength. Although the Phillies had dominant pitching, the Giants matched them with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Brian Wilson and more. While the Phillies could find a new hero every night at their best, the Giants stunned them by having Cody Ross come from nowhere with an MVP performance. And although Charlie Manuel may be the best Philadelphia manager in 30 years, then-unheralded Bruce Bochy outfoxed him time and again.
That magic came back tenfold for San Francisco in 2012, despite how it faced even more severe challenges than Philadelphia did. The Phillies struggled to get Ryan Howard and Chase Utley on track after their injuries last year - but when Buster Posey returned to the Giants after a devastating collision last season, he became the likely MVP. In addition, when Wilson went down in the first week, Sergio Romo became just as reliable - and just as hairy - as the new closer.
Unlike this year's Phillies, the Giants found answers for their various injuries and absences. There was no greater proof than when Melky Cabrera was taken out for a positive drug test, leaving the Giants severely shorthanded - and perhaps even illegitimate. Yet in that span, San Francisco took Hunter Pence away from Philadelphia, brought unknown Marco Scutaro up to play second base, and then went on to blow out the NL West and the bloated Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Phillies could always count on Pat Gillick or Ruben Amaro Jr. to make a huge move before the trade deadline and make them stronger. But the maneuvers by the Giants' front office this summer went beyond that. Before the playoffs even started, the Giants rose from the dead with smart moves on and off the field - which made them more than ready to make their impossible rallies in the NLDS and NLCS.
The Phillies used to never say die at the peak of their power, but they had nothing on the 2012 Giants and their six wins in elimination games. After that, a four-game sweep of the favored Tigers was only barely as shocking.
Back in 2008 and for much of 2009, 2010 and 2011, Philadelphia appeared to be the class of the National League in this era. Instead, it is San Francisco that has become the model franchise of the NL by far, if not all of baseball. It should be the Phillies that made history for multiple championships in these last few years, but the Giants are now everything that the Phillies wish they could be.
The Giants replaced stars, found new ones and got injured ones to become better than ever, unlike this year's Phillies. And while Philadelphia's pitching collapsed due to age, injury and unprecedented struggles, San Francisco had an ace in Cain, redeemed Lincecum's awful season by making him a dangerous reliever, had 35-year-old journeyman Ryan Vogelsong become their postseason ace, and was saved by the infamously expensive Barry Zito in the NLCS.
All of these breaks were ones the Phillies could only dream of, but it seems the Giants have a lock on that kind of survival. That makes sense, since San Francisco's reign of glory started at Philadelphia's expense two years ago.
Back then, it didn't seem like the Phillies were passing the torch to the Giants, since they thought it was just starting to burn bright for them. Instead, Philadelphia is being burned alive under age, bloated contracts and an inability to recover from injuries, while San Francisco has stolen the honor of being the true team of this decade.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
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