The Rise And Fall Of The Philadelphia Phillies

August 23rd, 2014 by Ryan Waterman | Filed under Baseball, General, Phillies.

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September 14, 2007…..a day that changed Philadelphia Phillies history. Entering that fateful day, the NL East leading Mets were seven games up on the Phillies, who were heavily favored to win the NL East and were dubbed as “the team to beat in the NL East” by shortstop Jimmy Rollins. On this day, the Mets began an epic collapse,( that eventually gave the Phils the East) with a 3-2 loss to the Phils. Over the next 16 games the Phillies went 12-4, while the Mets blew a major division lead behind a horrible 5-11 record. That was the start of the most exciting period of Phillies baseball in franchise history.

With their newly won NL East crown, the Phillies rode major momentum into Coors Field to face the Colorado Rockies. That’s where we met a buzzsaw, losing 3 games to 1 to the eventual National League champs. Despite the lack of playoff success that year, the Phillies fan base knew bigger things were on the horizon. Just not sure of how big though. Entering the 2008 season, the Phillies-Mets rivalry was at another all-time high. Mets Outfielder Carlos Beltran had declared the Mets “the team to beat in the entire NL” that season. The Mets were in a similar position entering the final 17 games of the 08′ season, up 3 1/2 games on the Phillies. Yet, they neglected to hold that lead, once again giving their enemies down I-95 a division title to celebrate. Little did Met fans know what that was going to do.

With the Phillies riding a 13-3 record in their final 16 to back to back NL East titles, they once again entered the playoffs with red-hot momentum. This time, things would turn out differently, as the Phillies went on to bring home the first World Series championship this city had seen since 1980. They made quick work, going 11-3 in the postseason, breezing their way to the world title. As one can imagine, this just added fuel to the fire of the Phillies-Mets rivalry.

Following a surprising World Title victory, the Phillies coasted to 3 years of regular season dominance, yet 3 years of postseason decline. The trade deadline of 2009 saw the Phillies take a major step forward and acquire ace Cliff Lee from the Cleveland Indians for prospects. Behind Lee’s arm, the Phils once again reached the Fall Classic, this time losing to the Yankees in 6 games. That following offseason, the Phils swapped one ace for another by dealing Cliff Lee in a three-team trade that netted them longtime Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay.

The following season, the Phils netted the best record in all of baseball behind the arms of Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and mid-season acquisition Roy Oswalt. During the offseason, the Phils brought back Cliff Lee, after emerging as a late mystery team. This gave them arguably the best rotation in baseball, entering the 2011 season. Going into the 2011 season, the Phils expectations were high. Those same expectations grew even higher due to the acquisition of Hunter Pence. Once again, the Phillies had the fans buying into the hype, only to come up short in the NLDS to eventual champions; the St.Louis Cardinals. Entering the offseason, the Phillies faced a large amount of problems, including the losses of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley to injury, and the uncertainty of Ryan Madson’s skill as closer. The latter of the two was solved with the pinstripes signing of Jonathan Papelbon, the highly coveted closer from the Boston Red Sox.

Entering 2012, the writing was on the wall for the Phillies decline. In 4 years they had gone from champions to runners-up, and progressively took a step back every year. Some fans saw it, but most were in denial and didn’t want to see it. But, they definitely saw it in 2012. Entering the second half of the season, the Phillies sat at 37-50. At the trade deadline, Ruben Amaro Jr dealt outfielders Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino to the Bay Area (Giants and Dodgers respectively.). The returns netted the Phillies 3 pitching prospects, Nate Schierholtz, and a once highly touted catching prospect in Tommy Joseph. Following a strong finish, the Phillies came up short of the wild card and finished 81-81.

In the offseason to follow, the Phillies made some noise by acquiring the likes of outfielder Ben Revere, infielder Michael Young,  and reliever Mike Adams. However, those acquisitions made not much difference, as the Phillies finished the season and 73-89. The frustration that Phillies fans showed with GM Ruben Amaro Jr fell on deaf ears, as on August 16th, the team parted ways with longtime manager Charlie Manuel. There was much backlash surrounding this move from the fans suggesting that RAJ and Co. were looking for a “scapegoat” to blame for the horrific seasons that Phillies had the past two years. The 2014 season was the dawn of the Ryne Sandberg era in Philadelphia. Following an offseason with the only acquisitions of note being signing of Marlon Byrd, whom many thought had a “fluke” 2013 with Pittsburgh, the signing of 37-year-old AJ Burnett and the re-signing of Carlos Ruiz. These moves garnered plenty of criticism from analysts, with Byrd being labeled a “fluke”, and Ruiz “entering the twilight of his career.”  Burnett actually garnered more praise than criticism from analysts.

The Phillies fought their way to a 13-13 record in the first month of the season, but slowly started to slip. As July rolled around, the Phillies sat at 36-46 in the basement of the NL East. Many expected the Phils to embark on a fire sale, leading to a rebuild at the trade deadline. However, everyone was surprised when July 31st came and went with the Phillies making not one single move. With still roughly 3 weeks remaining until the waiver trade deadline, there is still some hope that RAJ comes to his senses and begins a rebuild.

Behind an aging and deteriorating team, the Phillies have progressively gone from top of the heap, to bottom of the mountain in 5 years. Ruben’s blind loyalty has taken a team of prominence, and turned them into the laughing-stock of baseball. While Amaro brought this city 5 years of prominence, including 5 NL East titles, 2 NL pennants, and 1 World Series Title, his lack of evaluating talent, and his disappearing common sense while executing transactions, has put this team in the position it sits in now.  His moves have dug the Phillies a hole that is so deep, they may not make it out for another 5 years or so. I hope the 5 years of prominence were worth it, because the next 5 years will be a painful, dreadful, rebuilding process.

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