Pat Gillick said in the past off-season, that he wanted to get the Phillies five more wins. In 2005, the Phils went 88-74, and thus Pat’s goal for 2006 was 93-69 – an impressive number, no doubt, but certainly not far from the Phillies reach. However Pat would be the first to admit (and he has), he did not improve the Phillies enough for 93 wins. Recognizing this along with his own scouting report on the National League competition, Charlie Manuel revised these numbers later in the season and claimed many times that 85 wins would propel the Phillies to the playoffs. Charlie did two things with his pronouncement. First, he lowered the expectations of fans which were somewhat inflated by Pat Gillick’s straight-talking charm. Second, he underestimated the rest of the National League, specifically the Western participants. Making the NL playoffs this year required at least 89 wins. So while the Phillies, who finished 2006 with a 85-77 record, did achieve Manuel’s goal, they certainly fell short of the playoffs.
I must say I appreciate the manager setting a measurable goal for the team; it is good to know he is not afraid to be held to task. However, this season he set the bar too low – a trend that has plagued the Phillies in the past decade. Missing out on the playoffs has nothing to do with the fact that Los Angeles won 9 of their last 10 games. The Phillies must simply strive for dominance: dominance in the division, in the league, in interleague play, and from start to finish. The Mets and their fans went into the season assuming they would crush the division, and they did just that. Obviously determination can only take you so far, for a certain amount of skill is required to win a division in a 162-game season. But there is no reason the Phillies shouldn’t think this way heading into the off season. Down the stretch, they won games when it counted. After July 26, the club went an NL best 41-29. In order for the Phillies to reach the playoffs they must prepare for the 2007 season with lofty expectations. The last few years have proved that 85 to 88 wins in a season is achievable despite a starting slow. If the Phils begin the 2007 season with a stronger focus on the fact that every game counts and even 95 games can be won, I think they will have a much better chance of making the playoffs.