Wednesday, June 14, 2006
This month’s “the sky is falling” / “the season is lost” column is courtesy of the Inquirer’s Phil Sheridan. (Click here to read.) I like his work (I particularly liked “The Big Foldo” from his column), I think he’s a talented writer, but I think Sheridan’s pessimism is unwarranted. Is the season lost? No. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the Phillies won’t catch the Mets for the NL East title. The last five NL wildcards had 89, 92, 91, 95 and 93 wins, an average of 92. Right now the Phillies are 33-31, so to go 92-70, they’d have to go 59-39 the rest of the season, a .602 winning percentage. Do-able. Very do-able. The New York Giants had to win 80% of their games down the stretch to take the pennant in 1951.
Now, Sheridan does make a good point about the Phillies losing the head-to-head matchups with teams they are competing with, but I think that is minor. You are going to beat some teams and lose to others. We could fixate on the fact that the Phillies went 0-6 against the Astros in 2005, or we could concentrate on the fact that the Phillies dropped a total of six games to the Reds and Pirates in 2005. If we had won one more of those six games, there would have been a one-game playoff for the wildcard. It’s just the law of averages. The Phillies have always played the Braves well, usually taking the season series 10-9 despite failing to capture the division title each year. We should consider ourselves lucky to play such a good team so tight.
This gets back to something I was mulling over a few days ago: why are the Phillies less than the sum of their parts? Why are the Phillies 33-31 and the D-backs are 35-29? By every measurable standard the Phillies are much more talented than the D-backs. And yet the D-backs sit atop a division where all of the teams are .500 or better and the Phillies struggle to keep up with the Mets in a division where three of the five teams are sub-.500 …
This is the question. I have some ideas I plan on expounding on, but I’ll leave everyone with the question instead of the answer … And I’ll note that Phil Sheridan shares the same name as a fiery Union General during the Civil War whose courage and fearlessness so impressed General Ulysses S. Grant at the Battle of Missonary Ridge (November 25, 1863, near Chattanooga, Tennessee) that he brought Sheridan with him when he went east to assume command of the Union Army. The next spring, during the Battle of the Wilderness, Grant listened to a fellow Union general nervously speculate that Robert E. Lee was poised to cut off their retreat and destroy the Army of the Potomac because the battle was going badly that day. The normally mild-mannered Grant angrily swore and told his officers to stop thinking about what Robert E. Lee was going to do to them. Let’s start thinking about what we are going to do him, he exclaimed. Despite the Union Army’s defeat at the Wilderness, Grant rallied his men and fought a series of battles that sapped the Army of Northern Virginia’s morale. The next year the war was over.
Have phaith, Phillies phans.