Mar. 04, 2018
Greatest Teams Never to Win a World Series in the Past 30 Years-11 Phillies
Since the realignment took over in 1994, we know the NL East as a dynasty-driven division. The Braves from 95-05 ran the division. And now we somewhat see the Nationals doing that for majority of the last 5-6 years. But while it seems like an afterthought outside of Philadelphia, the Phillies from 07-11 probably had one of the strongest runs in this time period.
Philadelphia had a great mix of products out of their own farm of Pat Burrell, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Cole Hamels while adding key pieces over time of Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Brad Lidge, and Jayson Werth. With Atlanta falling off in a big way and the Mets having some gaping holes to their roster and the Nationals still in full rebuild, the Phillies ruled the roost with relative ease in this time period.
And in 2008, they were the kings of the baseball world, beating the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series.
The Phillies continued their run, getting back to the 2009 World Series but falling short to a revamped New York Yankees team. In 2010, Philadelphia re-tooled, acquiring Blue Jays ace and a Cy Young frontrunner Roy Halladay to improve the rotation. The Phillies again dominated the NL East but fell short to San Francisco in the NLCS. Editorial: I actually considered putting the 2010 Phillies on here as the offense was great, but the pitching had some holes outside of Halladay and Hamels.
After the 2010 season ended, however, the Phillies let Jayson Werth walk just a few miles down the road to Washington, leaving a hole in right field as they hoped the group of Ben Francisco, John Mayberry, Jr. and Domonic Brown would off-set Werth's production. And, not really.
However, the Phillies re-acquired one of their top pitchers from their run in 2009 in Cliff Lee. Lee was traded for Halladay and went to Seattle and then pitched for Texas down the stretch in 2010 for their World Series run. With Lee back in the fold and Halladay on top of his game with Hamels being on top of his, and their addition from the previous year in getting Astros ace Roy Oswalt, Philadelphia was primed for another run, even without Werth.
And the pitching staff delivered. Halladay, Hamels, and Lee all had ERA's under 2.80 (Halladay-2.35, Lee-2.40, Hamels-2.79) and a WHIP under 1.05 (Halladay at 1.04, Lee at 1.02 and Hamels at 0.99). Oswalt was the "slacker" on the team with a 3.69 ERA and a WHIP of a 1.34. So in other words, the worst pitcher was still a decent pitcher for that time period. Adding on, the 5th starter was Vance Worley, who went 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. I don't care who you are and in what period you are in, that is awesome for what those five could do.
As you could probably guess with the NL East, the Phillies practically led the division wire-to-wire because of their pitching even though in mid-July they were still fending off the pesky Braves (Philadelphia was 59-36 but only 2.5 ahead of Atlanta on July 18). However, the offense had some issues. Howard's production remained as did Victorino who had a great year. But Utley was injured and wasn't as efficient as we had come to known. Raul Ibanez, who was one of the more professional hitters in that time, despite adding more HR (20 in '11 from 16 in '10), his averaged dropped 30 points and was not drawing walks. And of course, you had a gap in right field.
So the Phillies acquired Hunter Pence from Houston. And it was a welcomed sight. Pence hit over .300 after he arrived with 11 HR and 35 RBI and a .954 OPS filling the void left by Werth. With that move, the Phillies pulled away from Atlanta and fast after July, which included a 9-1 West Coast swing, beating the Rockies, Giants, and Dodgers.
The Phils wrapped up the division by mid-September thanks in part to their run and the Braves collapse. For them it was time to prep for the post-season and get their 2nd World Championship in 4 years.
WHAT MADE THEM SO GOOD: Well, as I said, the pitching. The starters rocked it but the bullpen was pretty good. Brad Lidge missed most of the season but came back as more of a set-up guy to Ryan Madson, who was a good one for them. But the Phillies also had Antonio Bastardo, with a 2.64 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP and Michael Stutes, who was serviceable.
And while the offense languished, Philadelphia still had 7 guys in double digits for HR (granted Philly is a nice hitter's park), and it was still a mix of speed (Rollins, Victorino) and power (Howard, Ibanez, and later on Pence). And John Mayberry Jr. came into his own as well near the end of the season. Were they mistaken for murderer's row? No, but it was good enough to win with the pitching they had.
WHAT WENT WRONG? I think there were two things that went wrong for the Phillies in 2011. And ironically, the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals had a part in both of them to me. The Braves nipped at Philadelphia's heels all year keeping Philly to put it in 5th gear all season. But when the Braves floundered in September, the Phillies put it back on cruise control, benching their stars like Howard and Utley for good reason of avoiding injury.
The second part of that, was the final series of the season was when the Braves and Phillies met in Atlanta and the Braves needed to fend off St. Louis for the Wild Card. Atlanta collapsed while St. Louis surged. The first two games were all Philly and on the other end, the Cardinals thumped the lifeless Astros, which put a tie with the Cardinals and Braves. The final game, the Phillies upended Atlanta as the Braves blew a 3-1 lead and lost in 13. The Phillies had won but throughout the series kept their everyday starters in, thus really dictating who they saw in the postseason, which would be the St. Louis Cardinals.
Ironically, the Phillies helped the Cardinals get in as St. Louis took 3 of 4 in mid-September in Philadelphia as it was the time the Phils rested their guys after solidifying the divisional title.
So when the series began, the Phillies were presumed the favorites for winning 102 and having a stout rotation. The offense looked vintage in Game 1, shelling the Cardinals Kyle Lohse and tagging the Cardinals bullpen, despite a slow start by Halladay. Game 2 looked to be the same way early on with the Phillies offense scoring 4 in the first two innings, which should have been more than enough for Lee, but he fell apart, giving up 5 in 6 innings. In Game 3, Hamels outdueled the Cardinals Jaime Garcia 3-2 as Ben Francisco was the lone offense with a pinch-hit 3-run HR. In Game 4, the Phillies got off to an early start thanks in part to a good series by Rollins and Utley (but by this time Howard and Ibanez imploded) while Oswalt struggled in 6 innings. And then came Game 5: Carpenter vs. Halladay. A lead-off triple by Rafael Furcal followed by a Skip Schumaker double got the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. And that was it. The Phillies had a few chances to tie the game but couldn't come through (only 3 hits and only went 0-3 with RISP). And the final at-bat, Howard hit a grounder to 2nd base and tore his Achilles tendon, thus ending the season.
AFTERMATH: What happened with Howard on the last play of the NLDS was a foreshadow of what was to come in the Phillies franchise for the next 5 years. The Phillies wouldn't contend again thanks in part to injuries piling up. Howard's career after the injury was never the same. He had one healthy year (2014) while the rest had been injury riddled. And even then, the numbers were a far cry of his MVP years from 2005-2011. Utley had one more season of being injury-free (2014), but was often dinged and he wasn't the same after all the injuries. Rollins was healthy, but the age started to creep up on him and lost some of that speed that garnered him an MVP selection. Polanco got hurt. Victorino got hurt. Halladay got hurt. And then with all the injuries piling on, the production fell off. Hamels and Lee pitched well, but nothing like 2011. And the numbers by the position players dropped tremendously (save Ruiz who had a good year) but he too found some DL time. With the Nationals rising up in the NL East and the Braves holding on the Wild Card this go-around, the Phillies were sellers, notably trading Pence to San Francisco and Jim Thome, who they brought pack to fill in for Howard. The Phillies finished 81-81. However, instead of folding up shop and moving key pieces, Philadelphia continued to hope that the injuries would end. But they continued to fall apart, losing 89 or more games for the next 5 years as the rebuild has been slow.
And it happened because instead of selling off after 2012, the Phillies tried to keep it together and failed.
Now we are seeing glimmers of hope in Philadelphia of a possible run in 2018 for maybe an outside shot at a Wild Card after improving the farm system with the likes of Rhys Hoskins, JP Crawford, Mickey Moniak, and Nick Williams. But time will tell on that. But it also shows sometimes holding these players too long dooms a franchise for years.
OTHER GREAT TEAMS WHO NEVER WON A WORLD SERIES IN THE PAST 30 YEARS
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat