Monday, October 01, 2007
I look at a lot of numbers on A Citizen’s Blog and I wonder if they mean anything to people. They mean something to me. I was the kid in High School Algebra doodling baseball statistics when my teacher was explaining what in the heck (X-2) (X – 1X – 4) meant. The numbers tell the whole story of a game. You can look back and extrapolate from box scores about hits and runs and what happened in a game. You can look at stats and extrapolate how a team works (or doesn’t) and how it wins (or doesn’t). Who is contributing and who isn’t.
I work with a lot of numbers and they just don’t seem to be adequate to sum up or even really explain the Phillies stunning late September surge from 7 games back just two and a half weeks ago to where they are now: first place in the N.L. East and a berth in the playoffs. The Phillies 125-years of futility, their 10,000 losses, none of it really matters right now, because the Phillies won the division and sit in the playoff jumble, one of four teams with a chance to go to the playoffs and one of eight who will win it. This team had heart, it believed and it played better than anyone thought it could. The passion of the Phillies fans as they waved towels and wildly cheered the team as it made its run to the playoffs, the passion of the individual Phillies themselves, it simply cannot be replicated and cannot be explained by numbers. This is really stunning stuff, and I am happy that I was here to talk about it.
In the end, the Phillies won their 89th game of the year, which gave them one more than the Mets or anyone else in the N.L. East. Their 89-73 record means that this is the Phillies seventh consecutive season with 80 or more wins. This is also the first time under manager Charlie Manuel that the team has made the playoffs after several near-misses. The ’05 team was eliminated on the final day of the season and the ’06 team was eliminated on the second-to-last day of the season.
The Phillies were as much fighting history as they were fighting the Mets. This season they became the first professional sports franchise to lose 10,000 games, an event that the media made far too big a deal over. The team has just one championship, in 1980. They’ve come close and blown it many times: in 1950 they nearly blew a massive lead in the N.L. pennant race to the Dodgers, then got swept in the World Series. 1964? Well, until the ’07 Mets came along, the ’64 Phillies had the biggest choke job in MLB history, blowing a 6-game lead with just twelve to go. The great Phillies teams of the 1970’s lost three consecutive NLCS. The magical ’93 team lost the World Series on a walk-off home run. History was a real obstacle here, more than people realize. This is new ground that the Phillies are exploring: success.
Poor Charlie Manuel, much maligned for not being fiery enough, has his playoff berth. Perhaps now people will stop complaining about him and arguing to replace him with a much more aggressive manager. This is a veteran team that knows what needs to be done, Manuel was the right man to manage it, without screaming and yelling and acting like a crazy man. If the ’07 Phillies had been led by Larry Bowa, I shudder to think how this season would have ended.
Now let us turn our attention to the rest of the MLB playoffs. Here in the N.L., the Phillies are joined by the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs, as well as the winner of tonight’s Rockies – Padres playoff game. The Padres have a big edge in terms of pitching, but the Rockies are the better team on offense, they are playing with momentum and they are at home. I don’t see Jake Peavy as the silver bullet that the Padres are hoping and praying that he will be. I say that tonight’s game will be a 5-2 Rockies victory.
Alright, tomorrow I will preview the Phillies – Rockies / Padres series and give an overview on the 2007 playoffs. Stay right here for all of your Phillies baseball needs!
My Dad died a year ago June, and it just hit me very hard at that moment how much he would have enjoyed all this. So there I was with craziness all around and I'm standing there crying. A guy two seats away, who I've never seen before, high-fives me and says "I can see it in your eyes." Then a big hug and pat on the back.
This was really magic in many ways. Go Phils, and thank you for making this a season to remember!