Before I get started on my October/MLB Recap, I wanted to congratulate the Tampa Bay Rays on a great season. I feel for the younger guys who might be taking this loss hard, but they accomplished a lot this year and that shouldn't be forgotten.
But onto the main reason for this entry:
The city of Philadelphia is celebrating their first pro-championship in 25 years.
Philadelphia was in one of the longest droughts of any city with four-professional sports teams, that is to say, any city that has an NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL team. And that's not surprising. Everyone focused on the Cubs and Dodgers before the NL Playoffs (including yours truly), and left the Phillies as a darkhorse, or an afterthought. But almost everyone assumed that the Phillies would make the NLCS by beating Milwaukee, and then lose to the Cubs-Dodgers winner. And then I had a revelation. I could not tell you where, or when or how I came to this conclusion, but I just knew.
Philadelphia was going to the World Series. Maybe it was after watching the Phils close out the Brewers in three games, or maybe I just knew the Dodgers-Red Sox World Series just wasn't going to happen. But somewhere along the way, I forgot what a great team the Phillies had, an oversight for a Braves fan who follows the division shouldn't have, but I somehow thought of the Phillies as the 2004 Red Sox.
Both teams had a great rotation, solid offense and legitimate bullpen. Both had been successful in the regular season for a few years before winning the title. And both gave off a vibe that just screamed destiny. And if your going to break long championship droughts, why not look to the team who went 86 years with out a title and now have 2 in 5 years.
Once the 2004 Red Sox won back-to-back games in the ALCS on David Ortiz walk-offs, you just knew that they were going all the way. After Matt Stairs clinched Game 4 on the NLCS with a pinch hit homer, I knew. The Phillies had a bad Game 3, rebounded, and handed the ball to Cole Hamels to close the door in Game 5.
After winning Game 3 on a walk-off infield single and Joe Blanton's performance in Game 4, my conclusions were more or less assumed, I just had to wait out a lot of rain to make sure of it
And Cole Hamels had the ball for Game 5 as well. With the weather rearing its ugly head, his Game 5 performance is slightly removed, but his MVP trophy is not. You don't go 4-0 in the postseason with a 1.80 ERA and not get credit for it. That MVP award could also have easily gone to close Brad Lidge, who saved 7 games in the postseason and didn't blow a save in 2008. The whole year. He closed for what might be one of the best bullpen's in my recent memory. The Phillies starting rotation of Hamels-Myers-Moyer-Blanton is also not too shabby.
But everyone has read or heard most of this by now. You've seen the recaps, listened to your sports radio station and read all the newspapers.
But I think we're starting to develop a trend to winning World Series and breaking curses. It's called player development, scouting and using younger players to accent a good team with a solid bullpen. See the Boston Red Sox in 2007. Jacoby Ellsbury, Papelbon, Pedroia, etc., were on half of a dangerous veteran hitting lineup. The Phillies featured young guns in Hamels, Victorino and Howard, who are all under-30 and may not be considered young, but young enough.
Most of these players have been drafted and developed in the minors by these teams. Other examples I can give would be the '95 Braves and the '96 Yankees, those two played for the World Series in '96.
But what about the '08 Rays? They have what appears to be a seemingly endless supply of young talent, especially pitching, and it finally came together for them this year. They went from league laughing stock and contraction talk team to the best team in the American League. They're fun to watch and Joe Maddon, who should be manager of the year if he isn't already, and the Rays front office are primed for big things in the next few years.
But back the Phillies. There are two other things that I'd like to mention quickly. Charlie Manuel's mother, June said that her son's Phillies would win the World Series. Sadly, June passed away during the NLCS and didn't get to see the Phillies win in person, but somehow I think a bottle of bubbly made it her way.
And finally, to the people and fans of Philadelphia. They've waited a long time to see a title happen, and while I sadly am only an Eagles fan, I do know some of what that city has gone through recently. That and having a dad who's a Red Sox fan. But there was one moment where I knew the city of Philadelphia still hadn't changed. Commissioner Bud Selig came out onto the field for the trophy presentation, and was giving a rounding chorus of boos. Same for when Manuel thanked the Rays and congratulated Tampa on a great season, although that was rather subdued in my opinion.
But seriously Philadelphia...
One championship in 25 years and I can't see any cars flipped over? No visible rioting? I'm kind of disappointed...