Walking through the empty concourse, hearing the sounds of the machines working and the tractors tilling the field was a somber reminder that baseball in Philadelphia has ended prematurely. Gone were the workers setting up shop; rather, they were taking down signs from the NLCS and tearing down the memories of a season filled with unfulfilled promise.
It began in December 2009, actually. Roy Halladay was acquired, Cliff Lee was dealt to the northwest, and so began a new year with hopes, dreams, and aspirations as high as the sky would allow. Questions would linger well into the new year as to why Lee was traded – no one had an answer and on went life. Spring training came and passed – but not before heards of Phillies faithful made their annual pilgrimage to the Gulf Coast for sun, sand, and baseball – and the hype surrounding this team was palpable.
Two weeks into the season the hype was warranted. A 7-1 start, including 64 runs scored in those eight games to open up 2010. Little could go wrong…until it did.
The Phillies misplaced their hitting shoes and slumped into a near-death state. Their low point was 48-46, seven games behind the Atlanta Braves for the NL East lead. It was a depth previously witnessed during the days of Marlon Anderson and Travis Lee; how could seven all-stars, a former Cy Young winner, an NLCS and World Series MVP, and more, take such a plunge? Questions were followed without answers; it simply made no sense.
The tides turned just as they hit the lowest of lows and by the time you were done refreshing MLBTradeRumors.com constantly, Roy Oswalt was settling in, and this team was grabbing hold of the NL East before a stunned Braves club knew what hit them. A seven-game deficit became a seven-game advantage in under two months. Still, questions remained but times were good again. The playoffs were a lock and all were smitten with the notion that October baseball was just a formality.
They finished the season with the best record in baseball, winning the National League by a wide margin. A 49-19 run to the finish line had the prognosticators and pundits in awe. This was the Phillies team of old – one that could not be stopped. A force to be reckoned with boasting two Roy’s and a Cole, many were sure the best of the rest would be unable to handle the myriad of weapons this team threw at you. All the while, there was still a slight funk in the air.
You could tell this club was different from 2008 and 2009, but we brushed it aside. A playoff no-hitter from Roy Halladay makes that easier to do. A 2-0 complete-game shutout from Cole Hamels overshadowed the offensive struggles. Still, no one cared – this train would not be stopped until it had run over everything in its path; Braves, Giants, Reds, Yankees, it didn’t matter. Until it didn’t happen.
San Francisco came to town showing the Phillies an old fashioned way of thinking. Contact hitting and stellar pitching ruled the series, ending the year prematurely. Giants fans rejoiced, something the Phillies faithful had become accustomed to, taking the NL Pennant in six games.
Yesterday, in his State of the Phillies address (or so it seemed), Ruben Amaro Jr. was grilled about the age concerns of his team moving forward, his payroll flexibility moving into free agency, and of course, whether or not Jayson Werth was moving.
Roy Halladay was asked about the devastation of packing up to early, but he sounded like a man who understands that nothing is just given to you in this game. “To be playing your best baseball in a two, three week period at the end of the season, you know, it’s definitely hard to do,” said the Phillies ace. “I dont think any of us had any allusions about that.” Needless to say, the team played some of its most uninspired baseball when it counted most.
Jayson Werth was the last to speak. He was his normal monotone, dry self, tossing out decent one-liners while also ripping a fellow media member who talked too much. But overall, it felt like a eulogy was being given, not a presser for one of Philly’s most beloved athletes. Werth closed up shop by saying “I definitely had a good time playing here in Philadelphia.” Sounds like a man who understands what the offseason is about to bring.
In closing, everyone from the fans to the front office realizes this was an opportunity missed. A year that began with such promise ended far too soon with one of their most prized players telling the world in a press conference that his time here might be finished. The situation in Philadelphia is far more enviable than in many other baseball towns, but that doesn’t make this season sting any less. Anything less than a World Series was a bust – everyone understood that. Now that the season has come and gone in the blink of an eye, can we think anything differently?
On a personal level, it was the end of my first season covering the team as part of the mainstream media, something many are unable to accomplish. I’m lucky in that I get to do what so many others want to do on a daily basis; I get to cover the team I grew up admiring. I’ll continue to do so, even in the offseason, so thanks for the support and helping make this site great.