Can You Believe It? A Championship in Philly!
The storylines that surrounded the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies going into and advancing further in the playoffs were numerous and unique. If you had no allegiances to any of the other teams or to a Phillies rival, I would think it’d be hard not to pull for the Phillies. Unlike a lot of other teams, all of the players are extremely likable — I’ll pause to let you struggle to come up with an unlikable Phillies player — and there are no bad eggs in the bunch. When you look back and realize that the biggest offender was Jimmy Rollins for getting stuck in traffic, you know you were watching a team and not a group of individuals, as cliche as that sounds.
Going into the season, there was the specter that it was GM Pat Gillick’s last season, and left fielder Pat Burrell would be a free agent after the season. Furthermore, there was plenty of irrational doubt surrounding Brad Lidge as a result of his post-season failures with the Houston Astros. And you had New York Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran mouthing off:
To Jimmy Rollins: We are the team to beat.
Rollins, unrelated to Beltran’s words, had another prediction one season after correctly branding the Phillies “the team to beat.”
We’ll win probably 100 games[...]
Granted, he was talking about the regular season, but with their World Series clincher last night, that brought their overall total (regular season + playoffs) to 103.
During the season, you had Utley’s candidacy for NL MVP in the first half — an attempt to make it an MVP trifecta after Ryan Howard won it in 2006 and Rollins won it in ’07. Cole Hamels pitched worthy of Cy Young consideration but because of some bad luck and some amazing pitching from Tim Lincecum and Johan Santana, he got overshadowed. Jamie Moyer, 46 years old, theoretically had the biological clock ticking, counting down to the end of his baseball career. Brett Myers struggled as a starter after being used as a closer in ’07, was sent down to the Minor Leagues voluntarily, and came up and gave the Phillies additional firepower to blast into the playoffs. The rival New York Mets once again required the Heimlich maneuver in September to the glee of the Phillies and their fans.
During the playoffs, Shane Victorino and Charlie Manuel experienced some unfortunate circumstances involving deaths in their respective families, yet never lost sight of the goal nor lost their focus. Victorino did nothing but get important, timely hits (the grand slam off of C.C. Sabathia, the two-run home run in the Phillies’ comeback against the Dodgers’ bullpen in Game 4 of the NLCS, and the two-run single in Game 5 of the World Series). Manuel continued to correctly pull all the right levers and press all the right buttons and rarely had a decision backfire.
That the Phillies sealed the deal at home means so much. All season long, their celebrations were somewhat muted whether it was clinching a playoff berth, winning the division, the NLDS, or the NLCS. As soon as they won the World Series, they deserved to completely pop the cork on their bottled-up emotions. It would have been somewhat sour if they had clinched in front of a Tampa Bay crowd that only recently decided to come out and watch baseball.
The Phillies were one of the best teams when they played at home: 48-33. That record was only beaten by two other teams: the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers, and tied with the New York Mets. Furthermore, the Phillies never lost a home game in the playoffs: they took seven out of seven at Citizens Bank Park.
Leading up to the World Series, Comcast Sportsnet ran a lot of retrospectives on the 1980 World Series-winning Phillies team, and I continue to wonder what the 2008 retrospective video will look and sound like (narrated by Harry Kalas, of course — make it happen!).
Personally, the Phillies’ World Series championship didn’t completely sink in until I just now looked at their franchise encyclopedia on Baseball Reference. I’m always on BBRef, and I know that something is for real when it shows up on that website. For instance, Ryan Howard didn’t really hit a home run until I see the updates on his player page (Irrational? Absolutely!). Similarly, the Phillies didn’t really win the World Series until I saw the “WS” as you can see here:
It’s true — they won. They really did it. And you have to feel absolutely thrilled for everyone involved, especially Harry Kalas, who never had the privelege of broadcasting a Phillies World Series clincher in his life (he was not allowed in 1980 because of some awful policies that were very quickly changed thereafter) until last night. If you want to see and hear the Kalas call (as well as see fellow broadcaster Chris Wheeler go nuts), click here for a YouTube video.
Now we have the off-season to look forward to, but it’s going to be a while before the euphoria of the Phillies’ World Series championship wears off. The economy can continue to tank and I know I’ll still be feeling good as long as I can watch World Series clips on a never-ending loop — kind of like this, but only good.