Last summer, I asked Jimmy Rollins if ever gets tired of being thanked for helping to bring the 2008 World Series title to Philadelphia. Rollins, as only he could, responded by jokingly asking me if I was crazy. But as much as Rollins appreciates being reminded of 2008, the Phillies all-time hits leader wouldn’t have minded being thanked for bringing multiple World Series titles to Philadelphia.
Saturday evening, Rollins formally retired as a Phillie ahead of the Phillies-Washington Nationals matchup. But even in the happiest of moments, Rollins admitted that he thinks the Phillies should have won multiple World Series titles between 2007 and 2011.
“Shoulda, coulda, woulda. But I’d say [we should have won] three [World Series titles],” Rollins told the collective media, including Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “Three rings out of those five years where we were really on top. I would say give us a good three. Sometimes, the best team doesn’t always win. You come against a team that’s hot, a team that you’re basically equal to regardless of what your record is, or how the matchup goes.”
In fairness to that era’s Phillies, each year that the Phillies didn’t win the World Series from 2007-2011, they were eliminated by a team that would ultimately play in the World Series. Three of those four years – 2009, 2010 and 2011 – the Phillies were eliminated by the eventual World Series Champion.
In 2009, the New York Yankees beat the Phillies in six games in the World Series. Despite a complete game from Cliff Lee in Game 1 of the World Series and Chase Utley tying a World Series record with five home runs, it’s hard to make an argument that the Phillies were a better team than the Yankees in 2009. Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge, two postseason heroes in 2008, became liabilities for Charlie Manuel in the World Series. 37-year-old Pedro Martinez, who didn’t join the Phillies organization until July of 2009, started Game 2 and Game 6 of the World Series. Rollins and Ryan Howard combined to hit just .196 in the World Series. Frankly, there wasn’t much shame in losing to the 2009 Yankees, a team that employed Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte, among others.
The Phillies lost the 2010 NLCS to the San Francisco Giants, a team with a lineup full of castoffs – Pat Burrell, Cody Ross, Aubrey Huff and Edgar Renteria- save for Buster Posey. But while then-Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. assembled a dominant starting rotation led by Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, the Giants had a strong starting trio of their own, with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. They also had a dominant bullpen, which included Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt. Future Hall of Fame manager Bruce Bochy helped guide the Giants over the Phillies and to a World Series title over Lee and the Texas Rangers.
The season that burns to most in Philadelphia, of course, is 2011. The aforementioned Lee returned to Philadelphia prior to the season, and the Phillies rode a historically dominant starting rotation to a franchise-record 102 regular season wins. They defeated the eventual World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 and Game 3 of the NLDS. However, Lee wasn’t able to hold the four-run lead that he was spotted in Game 2 of the series. The Cardinals won Game 4 of the series 5-3 in St. Louis. The Phillies ultimately lost a heartbreaking Game 5, 1-0 at Citizens Bank Park. It was a classic game, but the one run that the late Roy Halladay gave up in his first of eight innings proved to be the difference, as Chris Carpenter pitched a complete-game shutout for the Cardinals. Ryan Howard tore his Achilles, an injury that would forever alter his career, grounding out to end the series.
“That’s how baseball is played. Especially in that first series, five-game series.”
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