|Photo: Ron Cortes — Philadelphia Inquirer|
Alright, that title would have been even more catchy and smooth had we been discussing the Pittsburgh Pirates, but for the extent of this article on the Philadelphia Phillies — it will do.
It didn't take long to realize that what was once thought of as another possible World Series or Bust season in Philadelphia was more realistically a .500 year.
If the Phillies were lucky.
Instead of embracing this new level of disappointment, Philadelphia basically lived in denial. The sing-song tone of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard returning from injury was the source of hope in a down year.
But while waiting for that dynamic duo to reunite with the starting lineup, the Phillies slowly unraveled.
Even the pitching, the strongest point of the team by leaps and bounds, was weak-stuff. Roy Halladay was inconsistent until he was injured, Cliff Lee was just awarded his first win last week and the entire bullpen has been garbage.
The only pitchers on this entire roster that deserve a nod of respect are Cole Hamels (who Philly is looking to deal away for a plethora of reasons) and Jonathan Papelbon. That's it. The rest of the bullpen and starting staff have blown this season.
Then it only takes one word to describe Philly's offense this season — ouch.
Inconsistency on offense has been painful and difficult to watch. The amount of runners left in scoring postion has been nauseating. The pop that should be powering this lineup has been flat and ineffective.
The elite group of Jimmy-Hunter-Placido-Shane has been only moderately successful this season.
Again, the only player that deserves a nod of respect on offense is Carlos Ruiz — who is heading to the All-Star game. He's been a monster this season. Plain and simple. Chooooooooooochhhh!
And because of the issues listed above (admittedly this is only a small write-up of the problem), Philly has stumbled to a sub .500 record. The chances of making the playoffs have totally evaporated, and the chances of breaking even appear unlikely.
Right when Philly fans were starting to accept this season as a tank, the organization tosses Utley and Howard back into the lineup — almost as a tease. It's like the Phillies' front-office suddenly looked at the calendar and realized that the team needed to start winning games soon, or this season really was a lost cause.
That's the only explanation that makes any sense.
Seeing Rollins-Utley-Howard all suited up together is fantastic, but as predicted by the powers that be, it didn't translate to immediate success. In the first game with all three playing, Philadelphia was shut-out at home 5-0 against the Atlanta Braves.
This Phillies team had the pieces and the experience — injuries didn't help to be fair — but failed to execute in key games and down the stretch. That's why Philadelphia, for the first time since 2008, will be watching the playoffs from home.
Is it the end of an era? It's too early to tell, but it certainly has that feeling.
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