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The Beginning of the End for the Phillies

Was it over before it began because of a missing Howard? (PHOTO: AP)

…Or maybe the beginning of the end was really nine days ago when the Phillies lost three-of-four to the worst team in the NL, the Houston Astros. Maybe it was the beginning of the end when Carlos Ruiz went down with a foot injury and missed the dog days of summer. Maybe it was the beginning of the end when Roy Halladay tried to fight through shoulder trouble (as Corey Seidman mentions here) and ended up on the DL for nearly two months.

That occurred in late May, so perhaps the beginning of the end was before that even; you could pinpoint the abhorrent bullpen as a main culprit to a lost season, a good, but not great, Jonathan Papelbon as a squeaky wheel, or from the beginning, the lack of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the middle of the lineup killing their chances.

It all comes into play, but just ahead for the Phillies; the final nine games of a Wild Card chase that has no positive ending. They stand five games behind the St. Louis Cardinals to be the second team for a one-game elimination challenge. They’ll fight to the finish, however, no good will come from it.

Instead of basking in the fact that the Phillies are inching closer to making a valiant second-half comeback just before the final buzzer, we’re left with so many questions heading into 2013. Just nine games separate us from the fact that the good times are over, that an era of baseball not seen in Philadelphia is coming to an abrupt close. And that so much uncertainty lay just ahead.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. How could a team that set a franchise record with 102 wins last season be any worse than a 92-win team? The Aces are still in place, Chase Utley will be ready for opening day, and Ryan Howard could be back in May. The bullpen is still a strength, the offense is a little shaky, but the bench is stronger. This is still a playoff team.

All thoughts from late February-early March. Not many believed a rapid fall from grace was imminent, but here we are. Mere days away from the final nail being driven into the coffin of a season that turned out to be dead long ago.

Then again, there’s always next year.

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