Analysis

Enigma? You Betcha

My hope is that you’ve stopped trying to figure out this Phillies team. It’s impossible to do, so refrain from wasting what precious time we have on this earth wondering why the Phils can downright suck against a bottom-feeding Houston team, then, travel 3,000 miles to the Southern California coast, and beat up on a playoff team. It doesn’t make sense now and it hasn’t throughout this entire 2010 season.

What does make sense, and what we have figured out, is that this Phillies club wants to take us on some kind of journey. It’s a trip through the unknown.

In 2007, the writing was on the wall for the Phillies to be a playoff caliber team. Remember how exciting it was to watch Brett Myers flip his glove into the air on the final day to win the NL East, capping an amazing run to overtake the Mets from seven games down with 17 to go? That comeback was improbable, yet, explainable. New York fell apart while the Phillies got hot at the right time.

In 2008, it was time to take a step forward, so they went ahead and won the whole thing. Building on the ’07 campaign was easy as this town rallied behind the club for their first title since 1980.

In 2009, we understood this team was still special, still the cream of the NL crop. Many knew they were good enough to win the National League once again, and again they did. The season itself was pretty much a breeze – everyone stayed relatively healthy and the Phillies won the east by six games. It was easy to comprehend.

This year, not so much. How can one team look nearly unbeatable for the first two weeks, lead the division by a healthy five games on May 17, then fall flat on it’s face for nearly two whole months without explanation? How could it happen that the Phillies then follow a seven-game stretch in mid-July when they appeared to be sinking by winning 13 out of 15 to sit one back in the division behind the steady Braves?

After their pitiful showing against the Astros at home, Jimmy Rollins hinted that (and I’m paraphrasing) maybe it was a good idea to get away from Philly and kick start things on the road. Who knew he wasn’t kidding.  The latest series in San Diego was anything but inspired baseball, however, they did enough to sweep a postseason-bound team that hadn’t lost three straight all year. Until now, of course.

There is no rhyme or reason. Injuries have taken their toll, but not ravaged the team enough to shut down the year entirely. The bullpen has been relatively average throughout, yet, has shown flashed of brilliance within their darkest days. A lineup that mashed home runs for years (651 the previous three seasons, to be exact) now places in the middle of the pack on the National League. Instead, they’ve used some small ball and brilliant starting pitching to hide their power deficiencies. Still, where’d all the long-balls go?

It may not be the team you’re used too, but if you enjoy opening a new door everyday, not knowing what you’ll find when you open it, this is the team for you. It may also be frustrating to try and understand what this Phillies team has given all season, but it’s impossible to do. If you prefer a healthy lifestyle, I’d suggest leaving well enough alone. Because in the end, this team may surprise you once more. That, or give you a heart attack.

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