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This October will feel like the waning moments of the 2008 Phillies

Chase Utley will have one more shot to secure a second World Series ring (Arturo Pardavila III)

There is a clear “what have you done for me lately” culture in sports. Because of this, sometimes it’s difficult to remember that just 10 years ago, the Philadelphia Phillies battled the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series. The Phillies emerged victorious, and many players cemented themselves in Philadelphia baseball lore. 

The Phillies have been absent from the past six postseasons, which has led many in Philadelphia to turn their attention to 2008 Phillies in the postseason. The Los Angeles Dodgers, most notably, have employed Jimmy Rollins, Joe Blanton and Carlos Ruiz during some of their recent postseason runs. Chase Utley is set to play in his fourth consecutive postseason with the Dodgers, this year joined by Ryan Madson.

For a variety of reasons, 2018 may be the final time that Philadelphia is left to primarily observe 2008 Phillies playing in the postseason.

As of 2018, there are three active players left from the championship roster. Utley and Madson are on the Dodgers. Cole Hamels has found a second-life to his career with the Chicago Cubs. Utley has taken on a utility role for Los Angeles. Utley has hit .216 in 84 games, his worst average since 2015 and in the fewest games he’s played since 2012. The second baseman announced in July that he will retire at the conclusion of the season. While Madson hasn’t talked about his future, his 7.38 ERA in eight games since joining the Dodgers puts his future in doubt as well. He’s 38 years old and has worked to a 5.57 ERA between the Dodgers and Washington Nationals this season. 

Hamels, the 2008 World Series MVP, is a different story. Hamels opened the season with the Texas Rangers, struggling mightily by his standards with a 5-9 record and 4.72 ERA. However, a weak starting pitching market made Hamels one of the big names available this July, and he’s benefited greatly from a change of scenery. In 11 starts since being acquired by the Chicago Cubs, Hamels has a 2.47 ERA. It’s not clear whether the Cubs plan to exercise Hamels’ $20 million option for 2019, though it seems more likely than not at this juncture. That’s a stark contrast from a couple months ago, when the $6 million buyout on Hamels’ option for 2019 was cited as a reason not to trade for him. 

One way or another, this probably won’t be the final time Hamels plays in the postseason. But within the last few months, both Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard officially announced their retirements from baseball. Brad Lidge and Jimmy Rollins were with the Phillies for individual stretches of 2018, but in mentor type roles. Utley, perhaps the most beloved 2008 Phillie, finished a game away from his second World Series title in 2017. Assuming he doesn’t change his mind on retirement, this will be his final chance to win the second World Series title that he was never able to capture with the Phillies. The same may be true for Madson.

While seeing fan favorites play in the postseason for the last time is tough, the saying, “when one door closes, another opens” fits well here. This season’s Phillies team took major steps from 2017, when they went 66-96. While Philadelphia’s struggles down the stretch have dampened the outlook on the season, it’s important to remember that this is a youthful squad with a rookie manager at the helm. Considering that at the beginning of the season the Phillies were the youngest team in the league with an average age of 26.92, there should only be room for improvement for players such as Jorge Alfaro and Scott Kingery, both of whom figure to play a large role in Philadelphia’s future.

The Phillies also figure to make some external upgrades this offseason. The free agent class will have stars like Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Dallas Keuchel and Patrick Corbin. Adding one or possibly two of the players mentioned could greatly strengthen the Phillies, who will have plenty of money to throw around even after signing Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta to sizable contracts last offseason. Sixto Sanchez, Adonis Medina and Adam Haseley are prospects that could help the club within the next two seasons. Even after a disconcerting finish to the season, at least some of the pieces are there for another sustained run. It’s how Phillies management plays their cards that will determine whether those pieces come together.

No matter how the Phillies do over the next few years, former players in the playoffs will always have a place in the hearts of Philadelphia faithful, especially those that helped bring home the commissioner’s trophy to the city. Madson will always be seen as the key member of the “bridge to Lidge.”  Utley is, at least, one of the 10 best Phillies of all-time, a legacy he helped cement in the 2008 World Series. Likewise, seeing Hamels throw will remind fans of all the times he took the mound in so many crucial games during the Phillies’ playoff runs. This October may close the book on the 2008 Phillies in many senses, but it’s perhaps coming at a fitting time.

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