So it ended where it began. Almost. The Phillies’ lineup of April 5, 2010 was almost exactly the same as the Phillies’ lineup of October 23, 2010, with the exception of the 9th spot (Oswalt as opposed to Halladay) and the 6th and 7th spots (Ibañez and Victorino as opposed to Victorino and Ibañez) and the fact that it took place two hours to the north (Philadelphia as opposed to Washington) and the fact that the Phillies went 5 for 14 with runners in scoring position as opposed to 2 for 11, and won 11-1 as opposed to losing 3-2. But otherwise, it was exactly the way it began—unlike, for example, the 2010 San Francisco Giants, who opened the season the same night with a 5-2 win at Houston with this lineup:

Rowand cf
Renteria ss
Sandoval 3b
Huff 1b
DeRosa lf
Molina c
Bowker rf
Uribe 2b
Lincecum p

and beat the Phillies on October 23 with this lineup:

Torres cf
F. Sanchez 2b
Huff 1b
Posey c
Burrell lf
Ross rf
Uribe 3b
Renteria ss
J. Sanchez p

Posey was in the minors on April 5 (where he arguably never should have been). Burrell was a Tampa Bay Ray. Ross was a Florida Marlin. Torres and Freddy Sanchez were benchwarmers. GM Brian Sabean, who resembles Kenny Rogers if he were one of the Sopranos, had only just begun to exploit the market downturn for lame veterans.

Still, it was six games. Six out of 171 total games for the Phillies, 172 for the Giants. Somewhere, sabermetrics is unimpressed. “Small sample size.” “Rolls of the die.” A butterfly flapping its wings over McCovey Cove and Ashburn Alley.

Drove downtown in the rain
Nine-thirty on a Tuesday night
Just to check out the late-night record shop.
Call it impulsive, call it compulsive, call it insane
But when I’m surrounded I just can’t stop

A few numbers:

2007: 89-73
2008: 92-70
2009: 93-69
2010: 97-65

The 2010 Phils—with the most wins in baseball for the first time ever—won 97 games. The last Phillies team to win 97 games went to the World Series in 1993. We all remember how that ended.

What we also probably remember, without remembering exactly, is a few other numbers:

1994: 54-61
1995: 69-75
1996: 67-95
1997: 68-94

And a few other names: Paul Quantrill. Shawn Boskie. Ricky Otero (or as some referred to him, Ricky Oterrible). David Doster. Way too many Kevins (Elster, Flora, Jordan and the remains of Kevin Stocker). Phillies you would never remember were Phillies, like Fernando Valenzuela and Norm Charlton and Andy Van Slyke and Jim Deshaies. (We had Jim Deshaies? Seriously?) The returns of Randy Ready and Jeff Parrett. Hearing the Counting Crows’ “Mr. Jones” whenever Doug Jones took the mound (27 saves, a 2.17 ERA, and a 38-to-6 K/BB ratio in 1994). Billy Brewer, who I thought was a mascot. Scott Ruffcorn, whom Mayor Rendell encouraged the Phillies to acquire and who would walk 36 in 39.2 innings for a 7.71 ERA (56 ERA+), never to pitch a single inning in the majors again.

The 2011 Phillies won’t be 1994-1997 bad. Nor will the 2012 Phillies. Halladay will be back, presumably as the defending Cy Young winner, as will Oswalt, Hamels, Madson, Lidge, and every starting position player except (huge except) for Jayson Werth. But how do you top the most wins in baseball and two wins from the World Series for the third consecutive year when the butterfly flapping its wings over Ashburn Alley may end up in Chavez Ravine, or Blake Street, or Yawkey Way?

It’s a matter of instinct
It’s a matter of conditioning
It’s a matter of fact
You can call me Pavlov’s dog.
Ring a bell and I’ll salivate
How’d you like that?
Dr. Landy tell me you’re not just a pedagogue

More numbers:

2010 team age (batters): Texas 28.3, San Francisco 29.4, Yankees 30.3, Phillies 31.8

2010 team age (pitchers): Texas 27.6, San Francisco 27.9, Yankees 30.4, Phillies 31.1

Texas and San Francisco, sure. But the Yankees? The Phillies are older than a team with Mariano Rivera (40), Derek Jeter (36—how is Derek Jeter only 36?), Jorge Posada (38), Andy Pettitte (38)?

The Phillies have the oldest batters and the oldest pitchers in baseball. The only regular hitter under 30 is Victorino, who turns 30 in November. The only bench player under 30 other than Domonic Brown is Ben Francisco, and he’s 28.

Phils pitching isn’t as bad in terms of age—Moyer is 47, but Hamels is only 26, Kendrick and Blanton despite ERAs+ of 85 and 84 are only 25 and 29, Madson (who led all Phils relievers with 10.9 K/9 and a K/BB ratio of 4.92) is also 29, Bastardo is 24, Worley (who deserves to start ahead of Kendrick) is only 22—but still, no team in either league is as old overall. The only other teams in the majors with pitching staffs older than 30 are the Braves, Cardinals, and Yankees.

We may not be witnessing the Wheeze Kids, Part Two, but even the Wheeze Kids, Part One didn’t have the oldest pitching staff in baseball (the 1983 Phillies were fifth at 30.3, behind the Angels, Royals, Brewers, and Astros and a full eight months younger than the 2010 Phillies). And the 1983 Phillies’ batters? The oldest in the majors—at 31.8, the same exact age as the 2010 Phillies.

‘Cause right now I’m
Lying in bed just like Brian Wilson did
Well I’m
Lying in bed just like Brian Wilson did

Unlike the 2010 Phillies, the 1983 Phillies made it to the World Series, where Baltimore beat them in five games. The wheels didn’t fall off immediately. The 1984 Phillies were a .500 team, 81-81 (Pythagorean W/L of 84-78), before dropping to 75-87 (Pythagorean W/L of 80-82) in 1985 and then somehow winning 86 games in a second-place finish in 1986 behind a .290/.390/.547 (152 OPS+) MVP season from Mike Schmidt, though they were still 21.5 games behind the 108-54 World Champion Mets. The 1987 Phillies were 80-82. The 1988 Phillies were 65-96. Von Hayes led the team with an OPS+ of 119 in only 104 games. Chris James led the team with 19 homers despite an OPS of .671 (OPS+ of 91). Kevin Gross led the staff with an ERA+ of 97. The 1983 World Series was barely a memory.

So I’m lying here
Just staring at the ceiling tiles
And I’m thinking about what to think about
Just listening and relistening
To “Smiley Smile”
And I’m wondering if this is some kind of creative drought

Even more numbers:

2007 Phillies: 3 shutouts against, 5 shutouts for
2008 Phillies: 8 shutouts against, 11 shutouts for
2009 Phillies: 7 shutouts against, 9 shutouts for
2010 Phillies: 11 shutouts against, 21 shutouts for

Scoring one run:
2007 Phillies: 8 against, 11 for
2008 Phillies: 8 against, 12 for
2009 Phillies: 14 against, 19 for
2010 Phillies: 23 against, 20 for

The 2010 Phillies scored one or zero runs 34 times—up from 21 times in 2009, 16 in 2008, and 11 in 2007. True, the Phillies allowed one or zero runs 41 times versus only 16 in 2007. And a team with Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels as its top three doesn’t exactly need to be the 1927 Yankees. Or the 1961 Yankees. Or even the 2008 Phillies. But 11 times to 34 times scoring fewer than two runs within four seasons? Or, more bleakly put, 34 times with Jayson Werth in the lineup? Not a good omen for 2011.

(Oddly enough, the Phillies have been much more consistent when it comes to scoring 10 or more runs—18 times in both 2010 and 2009, 17 times in 2007. Ironically, the one year they won the World Series, they only scored 10 or more runs 10 times.)

Because I am
Lying in bed just like Brian Wilson did
Well I’m
Lying in bed just like Brian Wilson did

True, the 2010 Phillies weren’t the 2010 Phillies that often. Sixteen Phillies were on the disabled list, including six of eight starters (only Ibañez and Werth weren’t). When they were in the lineup, they often weren’t at full strength. Polanco will need offseason surgery for a bone spur in his elbow. Howard lost his home run power after a left ankle sprain and ended the season with 31, the fewest since his rookie year when he had only 312 AB. Rollins’s 17 steals were his lowest ever (only once before, in 2003, had he not topped 30). Utley slugged below .450 for the first time ever, OPSed below .900 for the first time since 2004 and was brutal at second in the LCS (despite zero official errors). Victorino’s career-high 18 homers were offset by a career low .327 OBP.

The Phils’ 4.77 runs per game were still, somehow, second in the NL (Cincinnati led the league at 4.88), slightly ahead of the Rockies at 4.75. And 75% of a team’s starters being injured, no matter how old they are, is just bad luck. But the oldest team in baseball won’t be much younger in 2011—and where they will be younger (Brown for Werth) will be the worst possible tradeoff for the Phillies, unless Brown is more Darryl Strawberry and less Daryl Boston, more Juan Samuel 1984 and less Juan Samuel 1988.

And if you want to find me I’ll be out in the sandbox
Wondering where the hell all the love has gone
Playing my guitar and building castles in the sun
And singing “Fun, Fun, Fun”

Again, like the 1983 Phillies, or the 1993 Phillies, the wheels won’t fall off immediately, and probably won’t fall as far. Other than an aging Steve Carlton, an injured John Denny, and an injury-prone Curt Schilling (before he became Bloody Sock Curt Schilling), no previously doomed Phillies team was even close to Halladay/Oswalt/Hamels at the top of the rotation. Al Holland was no Brad Lidge, never mind Ryan Madson. A declining Ryan Howard may be excruciating to watch strike out but will still hit 40+ homers and slug over .500, which John Kruk never did. (Of course John Kruk never made $25 million, but we won’t go there.) I would have preferred Beltre to Polanco last offseason, but Beltre will be a free agent who wants, and may be offered, a ridiculous contract and Polanco is only three years older.

More optimistically, the 1983 and 1993 Phillies never led the majors in attendance nor had a GM, love him (Halladay/Oswalt/trading for Cliff Lee) or hate him (trading Cliff Lee/Howard’s extension/the third year of Ibañez’s contract), willing to make major trades when needed. The Yankees suffered through the Tony Womack and Jaret Wright years before winning the World Series again in 2009 when GM Brian Cashman went for it (Sabathia/Burnett/Teixeira). True, the Yankees have a $206 million payroll, or not much more than the bottom five team payrolls combined, but other than them, only the Red Sox and Cubs outspend the Phillies. Top dollar acquisitions like Halladay and Oswalt won’t replace scouting (even the Yankees wouldn’t have won without Yankee draft picks—Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte, Posada and now Cano), but a $142 million payroll is more than not only the obvious suspects (Pirates, Royals, Marlins, A’s) but the Dodgers (now 12th in payroll), Cardinals (13th) and Braves (15th).

I’m lying in bed just like Brian Wilson did
Well I’m
Lying in bed just like Brian Wilson did

So who else can top the 2011 Phils in the NL? Won’t San Francisco be a powerhouse with Lincecum/Cain/Sanchez/Bumgarner pitching every night Barry Zito (a better Kyle Kendrick with a worse contract) isn’t? I doubt it. Even a Giants fan argues that Brian Sabean got seriously lucky at the roulette wheel; Huff, Burrell, and Uribe will all decline and Cody Ross will not slug .950 in the regular season.

Atlanta? Any team with Tommy Hanson and Jason Heyward will be a threat, and the loss of Melky Cabrera is no loss, but the Braves won’t win 100 games, or 95, and may not even win 90. Not yet; there’s too much deadwood and not enough defense (the Braves were tied for 3rd in the NL in errors, one behind the Pirates and Nationals and 43 more than the Phils).

The Mets will be better but still owe worse-than-Ibañez money to a declining Jason Bay and worse-than-Halladay money to a declining Johan Santana, and will desperately hope that R.A. Dickey and Angel Pagan are closer to the 2010 version than any previous versions.

The Dodgers will remove Vicente Padilla’s salary from the books after one year only to pay Ted Lilly double over three years, and preferred Scott Podsednik to Manny Ramirez—not the moves of a contender.

The Cardinals? The Rockies? The Reds? Even odds as division winners (well, the Cardinals and Rockies, at least; I suspect Pythagoras and overall regression to the mean will help the Cardinals at the expense of the Reds, though Cincinnati was better than I thought), but better than the Phillies? Probably not by much if at all. Even a declining Phils team would have to decline pretty far, unexpectedly and unaccountably far, to be irrelevant.

I had a dream that I was three hundred pounds
And though I was very heavy
I floated ‘til I couldn’t see the ground
I floated ‘til I couldn’t see the ground
Somebody help me, I couldn’t see the ground
Somebody help me, I couldn’t see the ground
Somebody help me

Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley, in his own eulogy for the 2010 Phillies, covers what went right:

Roy Halladay‘s perfect game against the Florida Marlins, and his no-hitter in the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds.

Roy Oswalt playing left field — and recording a put out — in the 14th inning was great theater.

Jayson Werth put up one of the best offensive seasons by any Phillies outfielder ever.

Carlos Ruiz‘s emergence as a legit offensive threat.

Cole Hamels‘ bounce-back season after a disappointing 2009. Brad Lidge, too.

Ryan Madson‘s continued dominance as the set-up guy for Lidge.

Ruben Amaro’s ability to fill in around the edges, with Wilson Valdez, Mike Sweeney, and Ross Gload playing big roles outside of being reliable bench players.

Whatever our outrageous expectations for the Phillies were, however many among those expectations weren’t met (no World Series, no 40+ homers for Howard, no Halladay/Lee/Hamels per our expectations for a few brief minutes), Werth, Ruiz, Hamels, Lidge, and Madson still exceeded expectations, as did the underwhelming-on-paper bench of Valdez and Gload (as opposed to Juan Castro, who actually did underwhelm), and the welcome acquisition of Oswalt when some of us thought he would be a Dodger if not a Yankee if not still an Astro.

Bottom line: whatever I think of the 2011 Phillies, or Braves, or Mets, or Rockies, or Cardinals, or Reds, or Dodgers is irrelevant. Our expectations now, not to mention the teams themselves as they exist now, will change by February, if not December. Ask any San Francisco Giants fan.

Because I’m
Lying in bed just like Brian Wilson did
Well I’m
Lying in bed just like Brian Wilson did

When I remember the 2010 Phillies, or at least the playoff version of the 2010 Phillies, the soundtrack will always be “Brian Wilson” by Barenaked Ladies, a somewhat obscure song by a somewhat less obscure Canadian band about the depressed tortured recluse ex-Beach Boy, as opposed to the black-bearded bondage lover flake San Francisco closer who saved 3 of the Giants’ 4 NLCS wins against the Phillies and won the other, allowing zero runs in five total innings. His fifteenth and final out was a called strikeout of Ryan Howard with Jayson Werth on deck, waiting for a probable last at-bat as a Phillie that would never come. No, the 2010 Phillies were the depressed tortured recluse ex-World Series winner, somewhere between flashes of brilliance and weeks of doubt or drought, three shutouts in a row by a pathetic Mets troika of Dickey, Takahashi and Pelfrey in May and 11 consecutive wins within the NL East in September. It wasn’t that we doubted that what we saw one night would happen again the next night. It was the opposite: when they were bad, we thought the season was over (e.g. Fenway Park in June); when they were good, we thought no one was better.

The truth was somewhere in between, or at least the truth we know now that it already happened. Small sample sizes. Rolls of the die. Butterflies over Ashburn Alley.

Drove downtown in the rain
Nine-thirty on a Tuesday night
Just to check out the late-night record shop.
You can call it impulsive, you can call it compulsive, you can call it insane
But when I’m surrounded I just can’t stop

So Brian Wilson—the black-bearded bondage lover flake pitcher Brian Wilson—won’t be lying in bed on Wednesday night when the World Series begins, and the Phils will. He probably won’t be back October 2011, nor will the rest of his team, but no one thought the 2008 Phillies would either, the same way no one probably thinks the 2010 Phillies will be. Someone’s always wrong, though. To quote the 2008 Phillies, why not us?


One Response to “Coda”

  1. […] Coda « de Jesus was a Capricorn […]

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