Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Last year I was so disgusted and tired of blogging a team that seemed bound for nowhere that I actually did quit and declare the Phillies finished. They then proceed to make a run on the wildcard while the Eagles floundered along in a season of discontent that leaves many people nervous about what 2006 holds.
This year I am once more tempted to wave my arms and shout: “That’s it! Season’s over! Good-bye!” I won’t do that though, because while things seemed bleak, there is always a chance, always a glimmer of hope. Thomas Paine speaks to me over two hundred years later: when things seem bleak there is always hope. Here are a few reasons why I think that the Phillies could make the playoffs.
-The unbalanced schedule. About half of all of the games the Phillies will play in 2006 are against NL East teams – the Braves, Mets, Fishstripes and Nats. Aside from the Mets, not one of those teams has a winning record entering the All-Star break. Thus far, the Phillies are 14-14 (.500) against the NL East and 25-34 (.424) against the rest of the MLB. So the fact that the Phillies play 63% of their remaining games (47 of 75) against the NL East is very, very good news. In fact, after the Phillies wrap a three-game set with the Padres on July 19 the Phillies play 68% of their games against NL East foes.
The crucial month for the Philles may not be September, but August. The Phillies get the doormat Cubs for four games, and play three against the Reds, a team that seems like a likely challenger for the wildcard. Importantly, the Phillies play ten of their twenty-nine games that month against the Mets. If the Phillies want to have any shot whatsoever on closing the gap with the Mets, they’ll basically have to sweep them. Of particular importance to Phillies fans is the fact that from August 11 to August 20 the Phillies play a ten game homestand against the Reds, Mets and Nats. The season could be decided that week.
-Other teams play the unbalanced schedule too. There is a real log-jam for the wildcard right now in the NL. Aside from the Cubs and Pirates, no team is any more than eight games out of the wildcard. Teams will have to play each other and unless one team clearly emerges from the smoke as the winner, the Phillies won’t see anyone run away with the wildcard. The best thing the Phillies can hope for is for these teams to keep splitting games against one another while the Phillies make up ground on the NL East.
-Psychologically, the Braves strangle-hold on the NL East is broken. This may not seem to be much solace to Phillies fans given how well the Mets are playing, but I think it does convey to people a sense that nothing is impossible anymore in this division. The Braves are not going to win the NL East in 2006 and I think that knowledge is important for Phillies fans and players to keep in mind. Remember, we are chasing the Mets, the over-hyped, over-blown, playing-under-a-microscope Mets. The old Braves won’t collapse. They were too stout and boring to do that. These Mets could.
-Jon Lieber is back. Lieber pitched a great game against the Pirates last Friday and could be the stabilizing force that the rotation needs to pull things together. Remember that after a rough start in 2005, Lieber turned in a sterling finish to the ’05 campaign, with a 3.28 ERA after the break (5.07 before). Lieber cut-down on the number of home runs and walks allowed by half, as well as the batting average allowed from .287 to .236, and increased his strikeouts.
-They played well in the second half of the last two seasons. More specifically, the Phillies September record in 2004 and 2005 was 38-21, or .644 … Maybe it is a function of the idea that a deadline concentrates the mind like nothing else can, but the prospect of missing out on the playoffs concentrates the Phillies minds and makes them play good ball.
So the bottom-line is that the Phillies can make the playoffs. I am firmly convinced of that. If they actually will, I do not know, but I think that we’ll know by the time that the Eagles kickoff their season-opener on September 10th against the Texans in Houston, whether or not the Phillies will have a chance to play October baseball, or whether the Eagles are our only hope for victory.
Any one watch the All-Star game last night? Figures that the AL won at the end after all, the NL hasn't won an All-Star game since '96. Remember?
The Phillies in last night's game didn't do badly: Chase Utley was 1-for-2, Ryan Howard was 0-for-1, and Tom Gordon pitched an inning, gave up a hit and got a strikeout. Not bad at all. I think the All-Star game showcased some of the talent that the team has.
Friday the Phillies are back at it against the Giants from sunny San Francisco. Talk to you tomorow!
Who is Ann Boleyn? lol... TO in a snowball fight in Kensington had better odds. They do have enough talent to shake through a weak NL wild card race to make it interesting, but I wish they were 44-43 instead...
I'm finally making my first trip to the Bank at the end of the month. Whenever I've been home to visit my parents (who still live in NJ) the last couple of years, the Phillies have been on the road. It's not easy being a Philly sports fan in Chicago (though I'm looking forward to seeing two Phillies vs. Cubs games at Wrigley next month).
Stranger things have happened than the 2006 Phillies making the playoffs. I can't think of any right now, but I'll keep the dream alive.
Lots of ifs - if Lieber can be effective, if Burrell can return to form, if Hamels matures, if Myers comes back, if Wolfie makes a good comeback...
You are absolutely right.
If some real focus and changes occur like bringing Mathesen up and moving Madson to the BP, Moving Abreu to lead off, trading Rowand back to the White Sox for their 3B prospect. I see Gillick doing some great moves now with pieces like Lidle and Delucci and Cormier.
Gullick has untangled the financial straight jacket, next year we save Bell 4 Mil, Lieberthal 7.5 Mil, Lidle, 4 Mil, etc etc etc.
Throw the net out Pat and get some prospects, and get someone steering, and we will have a run and be healthier next year as well.