Well folks, this is it. For the past 2 or 3 weeks that queasy sensation of mixed emotions has crept up on us Phillies fans. As the summer winds down and the kids go back to school, the Phillies once again have stabilized to make a run for the playoffs. It’s a scene we have experienced the past 6 years, but ultimately falls short and makes the disappointing season all the more distasteful. In the bigger picture, for what its worth, the Phillies have started this century on a good note. They have finished the season above .500 in all but one (2002) when they went 80-81. Assuming the Phils finish the season with a winning record (a tenuous assumption) it will be only the third time in their history in which they garnered winning seasons in five out of six years. The other two times this feat was matched or bettered occured between 1975 and 1986, which was punctuated by a World Series victory, and between 1962 and 1967, which was punctuated by the collapse of 1964.
Yet at this point in time, history is in the past and 2006 Phillies are the present. To narrow the focus a bit more read the recent history as told by Todd Zolecki. "The bullpen is 3-5 with one save, four blown saves, and a 5.94 ERA in its last 11 games, having allowed 24 earned runs in 36 1/3 innings. The Phillies are 5-6 in that stretch, and five of the losses…came in the ninth inning or later." This certainly does not bode well for the future. The Phils bullpen which was taxed heavily early in the season is falling apart now. Aaron Fultz and Geoff Geary will finish the season with career highs in innings pitched. Ryan Madson, whom we have witnessed breakdown towards the end of each of the past two seasons, has pitched 37 more innings than his previous career high thanks to his now defunct spot in the starting rotation. The honeymoon that existed soon after the trading deadline has now faded to memory as the Phils will now need to scrape out each win: no lead is safe and no runner on third with less than 2 outs is guaranteed to score. Charlie Manuel keeps saying he doesn’t think the current squad realizes how close they are to the playoffs or how much like the 2005 Astros they could be; but that doesn’t matter. The Phils are in a tough spot. With Uncle Mo on the side of the Padres and Marlins, and history not in their favor either, the 2006 Phillies do not seem fit for a happy ending.