Sunday, October 07, 2007

Book Ends

And so the Phillies season ended much as it began, with a string of losses. Let's not despair, however, for much of the second half of the season was exciting around these parts as nearly the entire twenty-five man roster took turns playing hero. These Phillies led the major leagues in come-from-behind victories, a high-wire act to be sure, but one that had the faithful on the edges of their collective seats more often than not. The fans, more than three million of them, flocked to Citizens Bank Park, waving their rally towels and rocking the joint for the first time in its short history.

Leading up to and immediately following their capture of the NL East championship, nearly every lead to every story about this club made note of the injuries it overcame. True, many clubs overcome similar adversities, but this team endured an unusual number of them to key players and still managed to keep on keepin' on. In the end, they ran into a buzz-saw from the Rocky Mountains. Colorado is a fine team with an even more explosive offense than the Phils, one which is frankly far more consistent. Their defense is considered the best in the league if not the majors. The pitching staff is loaded with young, strong arms. Their sweep of the Phillies was no accident though unexpected in most quarters.

Next the Rockies face Arizona as the balance of power in the NL swings momentarily to the West. Two clubs, one of whom wasn't in existence when the Phillies made their last appearance in the post-season and the other of whom debuted that same season, will square off for the right to go to the World Series. For what it's worth, my pick is Colorado. They are 17 - 1 after last night's victory and look like they may never lose.

Meanwhile, back East, Phillies' fans, among the longest-suffering in all of major league sport not just baseball, must console themselves with having broken the long post-season drought and look forward to next year. They have probably watched Aaron Rowand play his last game here, but the rest of the core of gamers remains. The off-season will be spent trying to shore up the weak starting rotation and bullpen. For the first time in memory players around the league will take a second look at the Phillies, correctly surmising this club has a chance to go further into the post-season next year.

It was an exhausting season for this fan. The Phillies flirted with sea level for weeks before finally breaking through the surface and making their run at the NL East title. At this juncture a break from the constant ebb and flow is welcome. I'll watch snatches of the rest of the post-season, but with the home team on the sidelines I look forward to some time off. Beyond that, the Hot Stove League looms some months hence as well as the announcement that Jimmy Rollins, who had one of the most magical and memorable seasons I've ever seen, has won the NL MVP.


David said...

We're left to look forward to Rollins' promise for "party no. 2 & party no. 3". Just because he didn't say when those parties would be doesn't mean I can't believe they'll still happen!

Here's at least hoping from a better off-season from Pat Gillick, who gets one last crack at a championship next year.

Ultimately, though, this was a good year. The Phillies postponed the disappointment by a week, and I am grateful for that much.

Greg said...

I was disappointed by the series but not too surprised. I was rooting hard for the Padres last weekend because I knew how formidable the Rockies are (I live in Arizona). The Phillies had a nice run, and they're young enough to make a few more runs, but nothing is guaranteed (unless you're the Yankees and can buy your way into the postseason).

Rowand can go, I think. Yes, he had a great year, but it was a contract year, and I saw too much of those swings he had last night on two strike pitches. He's like a slightly less powerful Pat Burrell, and we don't need two of them. Victorino should be able to pick up the slack for him - he's only going to get better. Of course, they need pitching. I'm glad they went after pitching last offseason, even though it didn't work out. How long can Moyer last? Beats me. If Kendrick can pitch like he did for most of this season, they have two good young starting pitchers in Hamels and Kendrick. It's something to build on, at least. I just hate watching their pitchers (with the exception of Hamels), because I always get the feeling they're one batter away from a grease fire on the mound. It's not a good feeling.

Now I have to go root for the Diamondbacks since the Phillies are out of it.

David said...

I think the Diamondbacks will go to the World Series. I was extremely impressed by their play against the Cubs, even moreso than what the Rockies did to the Phillies.

The Phils and Cubs have no real shame in exiting the playoffs early; no one would have argued that they really should have been there in the first place. But for the Angels, it must be a bitter pill to get swept in the first round after they led their division all season.

Tom Goodman said...

I know so little about the Diamondbacks I cannot offer any informed comments. That said, one would think the Rockies will have to cool off some time if for no other reason than the law of averages. THAT said, they have one potent offense and it is going to take some mighty stellar pitching to keep it in check...the kind of pitching Boston is capable of sending out there. I am rooting for the Indians in the AL for two reasons: it's time for that franchise and its faithful to be rewarded (yeah, right, as if that sort of thinking carries any weight with the baseball gods) and I cannot stand the thought of Curt Schilling being on another WS winner.

David said...

I totally agree with you about the Indians. It seems a lot of people feel this way, and rightly so. We've seen the White Sox and Red Sox finally get their turns, and now, hopefully, it's the Indians. Even if I really wish they'd get rid of that heinous Chief Wahoo logo for once and for all.

The Diamonnbacks...great young team, playing in a largely indifferent metropolis. They haven't even come close to selling out their LCS games. That's disgraceful.

Anyhow, I think both championship series should be excellent. You can always tell by the way TV execs are jumping out of windows that we've got a good post-season going on.