Is Philadelphia cursed? Robert Steven Williams thinks so.
I am forever ruined. Never again will I be seduced by the promise of a new season.
None could have looked brighter than the Philadelphia Phillies back in spring training. The signing of Cliff Lee inspired such hope because it was so unexpected, and it trumped the Evil Empire for less money because Philadelphia was the place to play.
We had four aces. Pinch me, please, I thought I was dreaming. And of course, I was.
Perhaps it was fitting, then, for Ryan Howard to be on the ground on the final pitch, wincing in agony as the Cardinals celebrated on our turf. Was it comeuppance for getting too big for our britches?
“Philadelphia” and “dynasty” are words that clearly don’t belong in the same sentence. One should have been enough. We got greedy. And now we will suffer through the winter. What does it matter who stays and who goes? No hot-stove activity can entice me to believe that 2012 will be different.
The 2008 team was perfection. Not because it was obvious at the start of the year, but because we didn’t expect it. The big hits came at the right time. Lidge was untouchable, Howard unstoppable. Not even a freezing rain could slow that team.
I was fully cognizant that this season would most likely fall short. Favorites rarely win it all. And there were lots of signs along the way: the injuries, the struggle to score runs. Those September losses didn’t feel right either, even if they didn’t count.
But there were pleasant surprises too. Who would have expected Vance Worley, a rookie, to go 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA on this squad? Hamels returned to form. Ryan Madson stepped up. Mayberry Jr. showed potential. The addition of Hunter Pence was yet another great mid-season move, but in the playoffs, despite 4 RBIs, he hit a paltry .211. But he wasn’t the only hitting disappointment.
Hats off to the Cardinals, who, like the Giants last year, got hot at the right time. But more important: they got lucky. They played well in September, but not lights out. It was an Atlanta collapse that got them into the playoffs, as did another Mets September swoon for us in ’08.
I can’t complain about the pitching. They were solid all year, and Halladay pitched well in game five, but it takes greatness to move on. Carpenter pitched better. Cliff Lee lost a four-run lead in game two. Roy Oswalt lost his lead, too.
I’ve been disappointed in the post-season so many times by Philadelphia teams, teased by great regular season performances. I should know better, but when you’re a fan, you have to believe anything is possible. That’s why Charlie Brown believes Lucy will one day take pity and let him kick that damn football—but we know better.
Let no one think otherwise, Philadelphia is still cursed. Andy Reid has one of the best regular season winning percentages in the NFL, but he’s never won a Super Bowl. Last year, the Flyers had a tremendous regular season, but they flamed out in the first round. Look at this year’s dream team. No squad had a better off-season, and well, look how well that’s turning out.
This Phillies team had its run: five consecutive division championships, two World Series appearances, one title. They’ve still got pitching, but they are showing their age. Rollins did his job in the divisional series, but he may have played his last game as Phillie. Utley, Polanco, and Ruiz all showed signs of age. God knows how this Achilles injury will affect Howard. Charlie’s only got a year left on his contract—maybe his time has also come.
No doubt the Phillies have at least one more shot, but right now the pain is too great, the aggravation too fresh. I’m in no hurry for next year.