October 25, 2010
As the playoffs wear on, the eliminated teams are entering an offseason filled with golf rounds and hot-stove strategery.
Meanwhile, the fans of those squads are looking at the prospect of spending the winter with the warm memories of a team that earned a playoff berth but the cold reality of ultimately falling short. In an attempt to bring some closure between franchise and follower, we're asking a blogger from each team to write a cathartic missive to their 2010 squads.
Dear Philadelphia Phillies,
I don't know what to do today. It's still October and you aren't playing baseball anymore. My Chase Utley(notes) Halloween costume won't have the same cachet this year. Okay, that's not actually true, I'm not dressing up like Chase Utley this year. But I did plan to slick back my hair, chew copious amounts of gum and double clutch before I errantly toss candy into the buckets of neighborhood kids. Now I'm just going to have go dip back into the closet to wear my Donovan McNabb thinks I'm a Racist t-shirt, and that's a terrible costume.
See, that's the problem with you Phillies — you've spoiled us. Think about the fact that my daughter, who is three, has never seen a season in which the Phillies haven't made the playoffs. But I almost feel like you've entered Atlanta Braves territory — except for the fan apathy of course — in that just making the playoffs just isn't enough anymore. This is a World Series or bust town now. And that's a pretty cool place to be, even when you fall a few games short.
I'm not going to lie; when I asked Kaduk about writing this last month, I never anticipated writing a Dear John. I actually asked him what he'd be doing for the team that wins the title. But somehow I'm writing this now instead of making plans to meet up with the 500 Phillies bloggers (more on them in a bit) at a parade next week. And that's terrible too.
Ah, a parade. That would have been nice. Alas, you may be the Atlanta Braves, redux, if you can't win another World Series. A lot of people think this was your best chance and as a fan, all I can hope is that it's not your last.
The Best of Times: Roy Halladay(notes). You cannot get much better than Roy Halladay. A perfect game. A playoff no-hitter. A near certain lock for the Cy Young Award. You don't do much better than that guy.
Only, from the All-Star break on, Halladay was the third-best starter on the staff. Roy Oswalt(notes) was clearly the best midseason pickup of the season. He lost just one game during the regular season after coming over to the Phillies, and that was his first game with the team, 15 minutes after getting off a plane, when he admitted he was nervous. After that, "Lil Roy" (note: nobody in Philly calls them Lil Roy and Big Roy, and I have no clue who at TBS made that up) was better than Phillies fans expected.
And let's not forget about Cole Hamels(notes). He finished the season with a 12-11 record with nine no decisions, but had, by my estimation, nine runs of support in those 33 starts. It was ridiculous how little support Hamels got this season, as evidenced by his start in the NLCS. But Hamels was lights out — better than 2008 Hamels — in the second half. He had a 2.23 ERA with a 4.73 K/BB ratio in the second half, including an opponent batting average .214 and an sOPS+ of 67. From what I hear, that's pretty good.
Let's not forget about Chooch. Carlos Ruiz(notes) (or Rooies as Tim McCarver likes to call him) may have been the best catcher in the National League this year. He hit .302 with an OPS of .847 as the seventh and eighth hitter. Chooch had a .400 on base percentage, which would have been seventh-best in all of baseball if he qualified for plate appearances. That's not to mention the fact that Ruiz masterfully handled the Phillies pitching staff. Catchers never get enough credit for good pitching performances, so it was great to see Halladay give Chooch the credit Phillies fans know he deserves. Let's hope the rest of the league starts paying more attention too. Maybe he should change his last name to Molina.
The Blurst of Times: Everybody lets' go streaking!
That was the biggest problem for the offense that some thought was the best in all of baseball. Sometimes, they seemed like the most dominant offense in the league, but it sure wasn't most of the time. Look, injuries had a lot to do with the fact that Ryan Howard(notes), Jimmy Rollins(notes) and Chase Utley probably had their worst seasons. But that's not an excuse, actually. The team was hurt — heck, Wilson Valdez(notes) is the team's MVP — but when they were healthy, they still weren't all that productive. Jayson Werth(notes) is the streakiest player in the league, so much so that some Phillies beat writers were saying the team should trade him to get something before he leaves for free agency. Some writers questioned his heart. Everyone wondered why in the world he suddenly forgot how to hit with RISP and the SABR folks screamed a the top of their internet lungs that hitting with RISP is not a repeatable skill.
You know what is a repeatable skill? Striking out. Werth had 147 strikeouts in 652 plate appearances. Who was worse? Ryan Howard who fanned 157 times in 620 plate appearances. That's awful. But that said, it felt like times when Werth and, yes, Howard, were carrying this team on their backs to the playoffs.
It's Not All You: Again, this isn't an excuse, but you were among the most injured teams in the league this year, playing something like 20 of the 162 games with your opening day roster. But you know what happened? You got healthy at the right time and went on a ridiculous run to lead the league in wins. It was an incredible test of fortitude this season ... something the previous World Series teams never had to face. Phillies bloggers will get this more than most of the readers, but the team developed one heck of an "aura" in the second half.
When you got to the playoffs, you did so on your pitching and timely hitting — until that hitting disappeared. Look, the San Francisco Giants have a great pitching staff, but they didn't win that series because they outpitched you. They won that series because the Giants have a bunch of spare parts who came through in the clutch and you had big stars who didn't.
When Howard came up to bat with two outs in the ninth inning of game six, he was either going to hit a walkoff home run to force a game seven or strike out. There was no other option. Who knew, though, that Howard would strike out LOOKING? It's inexplicable.
But it wasn't just on him. Shane Victorino(notes) had the bases loaded and the chance to break the game open and he tapped to first. Chase Utley's head down jogs to first base have become to much to handle. Raul Ibanez(notes) looked about 600 years old. And I hope Jimmy Rollins was just hurt and not two years past his prime.
Let's also note that you got pretty unlucky against Brian Wilson(notes). Chooch had what looked like an RBI base knock in the eighth inning of game six ... until it was turned into a double-play to end the inning. There's a lot of luck in baseball. The Phillies ran out of it in the LCS. I mean, come on ... Ryan Madson(notes), who was pitching as well as he's ever pitched, had given up four home runs against 217 batters faced this season and Juan Uribe(notes) hit an opposite field series clincher against him? That's nothing other than unlucky.
Shape Up Or Ship Out: What if you let Jayson Werth walk, told Raul Ibanez he's going to platoon with a yet-to-be-named right handed bat (or Ben Francisco(notes) who would be fine in left field), put Domonic Brown(notes) in right all season, throw Danys Baez(notes) off the Betsy Ross Bridge and filled his roster spot with a trust-worthy reliever? What if the you sign, gasp, ANOTHER starting pitcher?
It's not going to be Cliff Lee(notes), but could you imagine if Joe Blanton(notes) was the fifth starter on this team? Even if you don't replace Kyle Kendrick(notes) (remember, you'll be paying Halladay and Oswalt but saving Werth and Jamie Moyer(notes) money), I don't see how this team won't be the favorite in the division. Remember, we have all the Roys.
The one thing I'd really hope to get rid of by next season? About half the Phillies blogs out there. We have the best and most dedicated fan base in the National League (yes, Cardinals fans, you've been passed) but when did every single one of them start their own blog? Look, everyone is entitled to their opinion, even though some of your opinions are asinine, obnoxious and angry for the sake of being angry. But can you guys consolidate a little? Someone ran a bracket pool for Phillies blogs this season and there were SIXTY FOUR sites listed in the bracket ... and some people were upset their blogs were left out.
Get it together, people. The Fightins, The700Level, Beerleaguer, the beat writers' blogs and what, Zoo with Roy? How many more do we really need? Just join up and make one big site. Like a Phillie Phanatic-shaped Voltron.
See you all in February,
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Follow Dan on Twitter — @onthedlpodcast