One week ago the Phillies clinched their fifth straight National League East Divisional title. Bragging rights remain in Philadelphia for the “phive-time” NL East champs who have amassed 89, 92, 93, 97 and 98 wins over the past five seasons (469 total, 93.8 AVG) – featuring a 2008 World Championship, 2 National League championship pennants, one NLCS exit and one NLDS exit from 2007-2011. Best record in the majors at 98-52 and the champagne was flowing. The players celebrated at home, showed the fans their appreciation and looked to close out the year commemorating their 200th consecutive Citizen’s Bank Park sellout with Fan Appreciation Night right around the team’s expected 100th win on the season.
While the hope was to approach and eclipse the 1976 Phillies team that won 101 games, the result has been about as accurate as your local weather forecast. Speaking of which, Friday’s rainout at Citi Field provided a welcome break even if not an official day off. Seven straight games have been lost since that clinching game. Granted, the regulars have not been in the lineup as guys like Howard, Pence, Utley, Rollins, Polanco and Ruiz have been nursing injuries and trying to heal up for their postseason run. The minor leaguers are up with the parent club and trying to squeeze in some playing time while management, players and fans alike all try to keep everything in perspective. No need to panic. We’ve clinched our division with 12 games to go and the postseason is yet to come. Twelve meaningless games with patchwork lineups (Gload, Martinez, Orr and Bowker) and pasted-together bullpens (Schwimmer, DeFratus and Blanton) really are not indicative of the potential of this team.
Look at the 98 wins over a 6-month season to define the Phillies rather than a week of losses. Agreed. Wholeheartedly. Then again… baseball is a game of momentum… then again, these are professionals wrapping up a 162-game season and have played a spate of 33 games in 31 days over the past month… then again… sometimes it is difficult to “flip the proverbial switch” and suddenly decide that Sunday’s game doesn’t count but Monday’s is for all the marbles… or is it? These are well-paid professional ballplayers. There are no more rookies as this group has been one installment of arguably the best team in baseball for the fifth season running. Some of these players like Howard and Utley and Rollins and Hamels (6 in total) have been with this team for the entire run since 2007 (and longer). Nine are returning from the 2008 championship team which raised the second trophy in Phillies history and the first since 1980. All of these players are veterans of countless collective seasons filled with spring training, daily workouts, endless batting practice and skills drills, conditioning and making the game of baseball the center of their lives. Maybe they can flip the switch when the games count?
Human nature indicates that adrenaline, competitiveness, determination and emotion all play a part in any endeavor but especially in sports. On 9/17/2011 the Phillies clinched, ensuring their playoff position, home field advantage and most likely the best record in baseball (fingers still crossed on that one). With all the celebration and the culmination of the first of several year-long goals, it would be inhuman for the team not to breathe a collective sigh of relief. To relax much as any of us do at the end of a long day or a difficult week. Now there have been seven games played – all losses to the New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals (who completed a four game sweep in Philadelphia). If we the fans and media were blind to the cause, blind to the conditions and blind to the underlying circumstances, a seven-game losing streak would seem troublesome on the surface. We are not blind. We are better than that.
Is this the first Phillies 7-Game losing streak since June 20-28, 2006? OK. It happens. The 1987 Minnesota Twins held the previous record for worst losing skid (5 games) after clinching their division. That stat is qualified by the fact that a team has to clinch their division early enough to play 5 games (or 7 in the Phillies case) let alone to lose them. Also it is limited to the sample size of 1969-2011 as there were no divisions prior to the 1969 realignment. That same 1987 Minnesota Twins went on to win the World Series (with their Homer Hankies, their Glad Bag in Right Field and the Karma of Kirby, Hrbie and Bruno (not to mention Bert Blyleven, Frank Viola, Jeff Reardon and then-unknown Billy Beane) so that stat tells you exactly what you already know – it means nothing at all in the grand scheme.
We all want to see the 2011 Phillies win 100 games (actually 102 would be nice) but the way this team begins the 2011 postseason matters far more than the way they end the meaningless final week of the regular season.
The 2001 Seattle Mariners tied the all-time record for wins in a season with 116 and were bounced from the postseason in the ALCS. Ask the fans of Seattle which they would rather have – a regular season record or a World Series trophy? The 1976 Phillies won 101 games and watched the Cincinnati Reds play the Yankees in the World Series (also the 1977 and 1978 Phillies won their division but lost in the NLCS). Give me another week of Joe Blanton/John Bowker Specials against the New York Mets or a meaningless series against Atlanta (since the Braves should clinch their wildcard playoff spot before the Phillies series) to end the season. 98 wins, 103 wins, who cares?
Of the 14 teams in MLB history with the best regular season records (see below) only 5 won the World Series (another 5 including the 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates posted those records before the first World Series in 1903). Get through the week Phillies and we’ll be there to cheer you on in the NLDS, NLCS and hopefully another World Series parade down Broad Street.
|1906||Chicago Cubs||NL||116||36||0.763||Lost 1906 World Series|
|1902||Pittsburgh Pirates||NL||103||36||0.741||National League Champions|
|1886||Chicago White Stockings||NL||90||34||0.726||Lost 1886 World Series|
|1909||Pittsburgh Pirates||NL||110||42||0.724||Won 1909 World Series|
|1954||Cleveland Indians||AL||111||43||0.721||Lost 1954 World Series|
|2001||Seattle Mariners||AL||116||46||0.716||Lost 2001 ALCS|
|1927||New York Yankees||AL||110||44||0.714||Won 1927 World Series|
|1886||Detroit Wolverines||NL||87||36||0.707||2nd place in National League|
|1897||Boston Beaneaters||NL||93||39||0.705||Lost 1897 Temple Cup|
|1907||Chicago Cubs||NL||107||45||0.704||Won 1907 World Series|
|1931||Philadelphia Athletics||AL||107||45||0.704||Lost 1931 World Series|
|1887||St. Louis Browns||AA||95||40||0.704||Lost 1887 World Series|
|1998||New York Yankees||AL||114||48||0.704||Won 1998 World Series|
|1939||New York Yankees||AL||106||45||0.702||Won 1939 World Series|
MLB Wildcard Podcast Forum
Brenda Sepanek (Boston Red Sox), John Morgo (Atlanta Braves) and Matthew Hesse (Arizona Diamondbacks) join Adrian Fedkiw (Philadelphia Phillies) to discuss the AL & NL Wild Card.
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org