Throughout the last week or so I used the phrase “regular season” in numerous posts and comments, always deliberately and always with considerable superstition, refusing even to admit the possibility, at least in print, that the Phillies’ season would come to an end the first day of October.
Regrettably, the baseball gods had other ideas. So, too, did the baseball mortals in Houston and Washington.
Inevitability and its companion hard-cold reality arrived late Saturday afternoon when we learned the Phillies’ closest competitors for the Wild Card, Los Angeles and San Diego, had won out West, thereby mathematically eliminating the Phils from the post-season for the thirteenth season in a row.
It was over. The Phillies fell short in the waning days of the regular season.
A week earlier they had taken the lead in the Wild Card chase when they swept the Florida Marlins at home. Though it was a slim lead, nonetheless the advantage was theirs to win or lose. The remaining schedule had been favorable and the team seemed poised to end the long drought. But it was not to be. Three losses in four games during the week knocked them out of the lead and, finally, out of contention. Meanwhile, the Padres and Dodgers were winning night after night, sometimes in dramatic fashion. One had the feeling these veteran western teams were more concerned with each other, not the upstart folks back east.
Earlier in September, the Phillies’ manager had predicted 85 wins would probably be sufficient to make the post-season. He further forecast that the team that got hot would win the Wild Card. The Phillies reached the first mark but went suddenly cold at the worst possible moment.
Once again there will be no baseball in October in Philadelphia. Phillies fans claim to be numb from years of frustration, but the disappointment is palpable. I feel it, too, particularly for the veterans on this team who won’t be back and for the youngsters who gave it their all. The latter should have more chances in the coming seasons.
I almost feel guilty on this final day of the regular season because, truth be told, I had a blast this year and anticipate even greater things going forward. I never thought the 2006 Phillies were a playoff team (I picked them to finish third in their division), but if they can plug a few holes during the off-season, they should be one in 2007. More on that in the coming days.