The Season That Never Was for the Phillies

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Sun, October 09, 2011 07:13 PM | Comments: 35
Analysis, Opinion, Posts

That Feeling.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. It wasn’t supposed to end. Not like this. The Phillies were supposed to end their season in the World Series, eventually hoisting the trophy and parading down Broad Street. Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee were supposed to get their first World Series Rings. We were supposed to be World F***ing Champions again. Supposed to.

When Ryan Howard grounded out to end the season on Friday night, the entire City of Philadelphia felt that all too familiar feeling. That pit deep in your stomach, the agony of defeat. But this wasn’t just any defeat. This one hurt.

Ever since the 2008 World Series Parade, Phillies fans have not only hoped for another World Series trophy, but have expected it.

In 2009, the dream of another trophy was crushed by the Evil Empire–the Yankees. We got the first taste of that feeling. The pit in our stomach.

Before the next season started, they went out and got the best pitcher in baseball in Halladay, and traded for another Ace at the trade deadline in Roy Oswalt. They played amazing baseball down the stretch, eventually securing the best record in baseball.

Halladay threw a freakin’ no-hitter in his first ever playoff start and the Phillies went on to sweep the Cincinnatti Reds. They were set to face the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS after the Giants defeated the Atlanta Braves.

There was no question that they would reach the World Series. The Giants had a terrible offense and good pitching–but not as good as the Phillies. The series began, and the very first game shocked everyone. The Phillies lost.

They won Game 2 before heading out to San Francisco for Games 3, 4, and 5. The Phils lost again in Game 3 to Matt Cain. They faced a must-win situation in Game 4. No problem, right? This is the same team that won the NLCS against the Dodgers in back-to-back years when the Phillies won games that were must-wins for the Dodgers.

But they lost. They freakin’ lost. All of a sudden the aspirations of reaching the World Series for a third straight year were gone. They had to win three straight games just to get there.

Halladay willed them to victory in Game 5 to bring the series back to Philadelphia. There was hope. But Juan Uribe put that hope to rest. His home run off Ryan Madson gave us that pit in our stomach again. The Phillies weren’t supposed to lose. Not to the Giants.

The pain was relieved when Ruben Amaro Jr signed Cliff Lee. He had assembled the best starting rotation in baseball, and possibly of all time.

The excitement for the 2011 season was tangible. There was a buzz in Philadelphia, a feeling of extreme excitement. The Phillies were going to the World Series. It wasn’t even a question. No team could match up with them.

We all felt it.

And that held true throughout the regular season. They proved time and time again that they were the best and that theywould represent the National League in the World Series.

They drew the Cardinals in the NLDS, a team that barely even made it into the playoffs. One of their best hitters was injured, and their rotation was not set up ideally for the series.

There was no doubt that the Phillies would advance. They were the best team. They were going to the World Series.

The Phils won Game 1. All was well. In Game 2, they jumped out to a commanding 4-0 lead. Cliff Lee was on the mound–surely the game was over.

Wrong. Lee blew the lead and the Phillies lost the game. All of a sudden there was a slight panic in Philadelphia. The Phillies weren’t supposed to lose Game 2. Not with Cliff Lee pitching with a 4-run lead.

They went into Game 3 against a pitcher that has had their number–Jaime Garcia. They were staring at a 1-2 deficit. But Ben Francisco changed that. He hit a late-inning three-run home run that broke the 0-0 tie and won the game.

All was well again. The Phillies had a 2-1 lead and were ready to celebrate. They were set Edwin Jackson in Game 4, a guy who they were ready to feast on. The champagne was on ice.

Season's over.

But they lost. They weren’t supposed to lose. Not to Edwin Jackson.

That forced a Game 5. The Phillies magical season-to-be was in jeopardy. They were one game away from going home. It wasn’t supposed to get to this point. Not in the NLDS.

It was Roy Halladay vs Chris Carpenter for a trip to the NLCS. The game was everything it was hyped up to be. Halladay gave up one run in the first before throwing up a bunch of zeros. Carpenter didn’t give up any runs.

In the ninth, with the game still 1-0, it was up to Chase Utley, Hunter Pence–a guy they aqcuired precisely for situations like this–and Ryan Howard to save the Phillies season.

They were going to do it. One of them would hit a home run or hit an RBI double to tie the game.

But they didn’t. The Phillies lost. They weren’t supposed to lose. Not to the Cardinals. Not in the NLDS. Not after having a 2-1 lead in the series.

Do you feel that? Its that pit in your stomach again. It won’t go away. Not for a long time. 2011 was the year. The Phillies assembled the best team in baseball only to be ousted in the NLDS.

It hurts. Maybe 2012 will be the year. Until then, all we can do is look back.

Because 2011 was the season that never was.

Avatar of Jonathan Nisula

About Jonathan Nisula

Jonathan Nisula has written 240 articles on Phillies Nation.

Just a regular guy writing his thoughts for Phillies Nation. Grew up in Yardley, PA and current student.

  • Posts: 2993 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    The “season that never was”…except that it happened. It was real.

    I think the problem here is that we as fans have to stop EXPECTING that we will win. It’s true of any team, any city, any fanbase. To have that sense of entitlement or expecting to win…just because that team acquired this or that player or players is naive and reckless.

    I’ve always said…anything can happen. Especially in the playoffs. Maybe I’m in the minority but this loss really doesn’t surprise me at all. Am I upset, disappointed?? Yes, sure am. BIG TIME. But not surprised.

    • Posts: 2069 Brooks

      Avatar of Brooks

      then call me a dumb ass Chuck, I certainly expected them to win. Best staff in all of baseball, 2 former MVP’s in the lineup filled with perennial all stars and they just stunk.

      Its hard, its terrible. Now that we can start to catch our breathes and look ahead, we see the mist clearing and probably a new look coming. Forced new look from the start. The Big Man wont be at first base to start the season. Good chance that our SS for forever will be gone, new third baseman (plleeeease), new left fielder, Chase could be moved – the face will be different and truth be told, this opportunity may not come our way again, ever.

      Yes, I fully expected it – why not?

      • Posts: 0 debs

        Of course we expected it. They told us it would happen. We didn’t dream it up. The Phils hired the best pitchers in baseball and EVERYONE knows pitching trumps everything else. Funny, while reading the post, I started thinking to myself that I will never allow my expectations to get so high again. I don’t care what they do next season– I will watch one game at a time and not start planning my post-season celebration party in March. I think I am over being hurt by the loss. Now I am getting really mad that they let us down. How do you not score one stinkin’ run in a do-or-go-home game????

    • Posts: 5223 Lefty

      Avatar of Lefty

      Good comment Chuck, I agree 100%

    • Posts: 5 chokedagain

      Avatar of chokedagain

      Love the photo – no really –
      Is that Brian Wilson? And Posey???
      Didn’t they make it to the World Series?
      Oh and they won it too -
      Good pitching huh?
      Classic – must be because of the playoffs. stupid best of 5…
      Or was it another “hot” team that did it…
      What other excuses can we come up with?
      We clearly are not the best team. On paper maybe… On the field NO -
      Philly stinks – maybe we should just admit it…
      Oh the pain…

  • Posts: 0 kenstee

    When my son came in breathless with the unexpected news that Lee had surprisingly signed with the Phillies he asked me what I thought I told him “I have just one question….who is going to hit the ball?” And I stand by that.

    Pitching was NOT the issue in ’09 or ’10 that kept us out of the WS. HITTING (or the lack of it) was the issue! And that still isn’t solved. Now we are faced with an aging base of players who’s best hitting years are way behind them. The decline of this team has started albeit a bit earlier than expected. In the final analysis, despite all the hype all we really did was dominate the NL East for a few years. That’s it. The drought has started. We had a nice run that I won’t ever forget it. But, the world doesn’t stay still. Other teams have improved. That’s the way in ball.pro ball.

    • Posts: 0 Mike

      Are you kidding? The window has NOT closed. This team will still compete, and next year’s ultimate lineup will most likely end up being better than it was this year.

    • Posts: 0 Jackie

      I agree, hitting was the problem for the past 2 years – they are getting older and just don’t have it anymore.

  • Posts: 62 LCMRSalazar85

    Avatar of LCMRSalazar85

    It’s not often that any Philly fan gets to have that ‘special’ season where it all clicks, and we are able to celebrate the title World Champions. You have to earn the World Champion title. I felt that way anytime we were fortunate to make it that far. I thought this team would do better than this. I never thought the WS was a lock with this team as with any of the others, but I thought we were much better than getting bumped out in the first round. Again, you have to earn your way in. After game 4 of this series, I like everyone else, felt that we were on our way. It would be the pitchers’ duel that it was, but with a much different outcome. This is one of THOSE losses that’s going stick in the minds of any Phils Phan for quite sometime. We were better than this. Injuries or not, we were better than this.

  • Posts: 0 phil

    You hit the nail on the head Chuck

    • Posts: 45 artemis

      Avatar of artemis

      I’m one of the thousands of female Phillies fans since the 70s. And I know I am not alone in affirming that it truly hurt that our team lost. In fact, Game 5 was the only game I really cried. Whenever I think about it I still feel like crying, and for God’s sake I’m fifty years old! This happens when we love a team so much, it feels like family. And yeah, call us fools, but it hurt not so much for the disappointment in our team, but because of great belief in Phillies in our hearts all these years. But we must move on… faith in our team is still 101% for next year will make Phillies greater for the painful lessons learned in 2011. Go Phillies!

  • Posts: 0 Andrew from Waldorf

    The line up was old and stale from day 1. The Giants used a dominant pitching staff to neutralize it last year. Which I guess you could expect.
    But this year a shitty pitching staff did the same thing. I dont thnk the Cardinals pitching or even Carpenter were that good. But an old banged up line up and a manager who refuses to change in any way did it.
    I mean if Benny Fran doesnt homer the Phils win 1 game?

    People here want Jimmy Rollins re-signed? People here call me a moron for wanting to offer Utley around and see what you can get for him?

    Guys this is not 2008. Its not close. Yes you won 102 games with this line up. But it was despite not because of it. Its a lineup built for the regular season. In a series its so easy to defend. Howard should be pinch hit for in late innings vs a leftie with a runner on second and down a run. He just should be. If you want to try to win a world series.
    But I guess its not about that. Its about sticking with your guys.

    Id offer up ANYONE on the team. I said after last year I wanted at least 3 new young guys in the line up. It didnt happen. The old man and the fan base are attached to their old sacred cows. It really needs to end. Need a new LF SS and 3B minimum. Id look to shuffle up another position too ( cf or 2b or C). And I want YOUNG players in there.

    @ Chuck
    The Eagles are so pathetic I just sit back and laugh at them. The tackling is worse than the pee wee games I watch at the local elementry school.

  • Posts: 0 sportsphan

    I feel so sorry for Doc. I have no pity for Lee not getting his ring–he blew the game that could have given us a sweep and he stunk in the World Series last year. I want Halladay to stick around, but I’m afraid that after we blow things again next year, he’ll leave for Boston or Texas or (God forbid) St. Louis or San Francisco to try to get his ring. I’m placing the blame on Lee, as it’s beginning to look like there were more injuries in that lineup than anyone knew about. I feel for Hamels, too, but at least he got his parade and ring in 2008. Maybe Halladay can chuck Carpenter out of the boat when they go fishing together in the off-season and that will make him feel better.

    • Posts: 0 NYCphan

      If Doc needs to leave to get his ring, I won’t begrudge him that and in fact would cheer him on. If anyone “deserves” a ring, he does, for his work ethic, talent, and character. For being the greatest pitcher of his generation. Having him lose another chance this year, through no fault of his own, is what kills me the most about how the season ended. The look on his face as he tried to answer questions after Game 5 broke my heart.

  • Posts: 0 Andrew from Waldorf

    I guess my point is that I am not that upset this year. I was last year.
    I expected this.

    When you have a hitter who swings away 3-0 count leading off the 7th inning down by a run. You CANNOT win a world series.

    I didnt thnk they were going to win the WS or the last game.
    I tried to only post positive here but peoiple who know me know how I feel its.

    Its tough but maybe they will shuffle the line up now.
    Or it will be the same result.
    Believe me whoever hits 4th will have 100 RBI so do not worry about that.

    You werent that good to have expected a WS. And things need to change in regards to the hitting. Too many heros in the line up to win.
    Need more Utleys who will try to get hit to get on base in the 7th inning down a run leading off. Try to get on base anyway possible. Not try to be a hero and hit the ball 900 feet.

  • Posts: 0 Donna

    My heart broke for Doc who pitched the most amazing game I ever witnessed. Annoyed with Charlie going with the same impotent lineup when a shakeup was needed. His managing ended after he completed lineup card.
    pitchers while some not at their best still kept team in the game. Pitching did not do this team in. For the 3rd year in a row lack of Hitting, no plate discipline, bad baserunning and fielding did this team in- team needs a change in attitude. Don’t need the don’t worry we’ll turn it on when it counts. How did that work out?

  • Posts: 0 JB

    I think Charlie is to blame for this collapse: (1) overuse of slumping, now overaged hitters (Howard when he went 125 AB w/o a HR, Rollins who should have been rested the day he was injured, Utley after hitting nearly .290); (2) keeping starting pitchers in to get out of jams LATE in the game (such as Halladay against Arizona – first career loss after leading the game entering the 9th – OR Hamels against Florida – left with back tightness (99 pitches)); (3) mismanagement of the bullpen at times (don’t have an example). There needs to be rules regarding slumping players: if you don’t produce to a reasonable level this week, you will be taken out, especially the starting hitters who are above 30. Charlie needs to be less of a players manager and rest these guys regularly.

  • Posts: 0 TheDipsy

    I am not surprised the Phils lost. Unhappy, but not surprised. Query: If Howard can’t play next year and Galvis comes in (might as well), and thus the Phillies are not blessed with a team ANYONE can kid themselves into believing is a good hitting team, should Manuel manage. I say no. Charlie’s strengths are getting along with his players, creating a comfortable clubhouse, and providing consistency. His weakness is in game managing – x’s and o’s as they call them. He sucks at it. Charlie is a good manager for a specific type of team, i.e. Phillies 2008 where no moves are required. That may not be the case for the 2012 Phils. But Manuel will stay. With a different team.

    Lets just get more speed and more defense and more OBP. We’ll be fine. Speed and defense never slump (Lou Brock).

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 2993 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    Dipsy, I think the grooming process has begun for Ryne Sandberg. Don’t be surprised to see him on the coaching staff next year. Two more years for Charlie and Ryno takes over. Will he be a better in-game manager? I have no idea. But he will be different and maybe that is what will be needed. There’s your answer

  • Posts: 5223 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    Am I reading this correctly? The repetitive theme of this posting is they weren’t supposed to lose? No one is supposed to lose. Seriously, how many teams go into spring training and set out to lose? But guess what, every single season 29 teams do. Sometimes the losers are good teams, others not so much. But sure enough, in the end, only one wins and the rest lose.

    Give us a break please with the “weren’t supposed to lose” crap. Who the hell promised anyone that? In Spring training Charlie said the goal is the same as every year, to win the World Series- – “the goal”. The Phillies play a sport, there are no guarantees.

    Get over it. There’s no crying in baseball.

    • Posts: 2069 Brooks

      Avatar of Brooks

      Lefty, I’m cryin’
      I fully expected a trip to the WS with this pitching and the amount of talent on the field.
      Are you saying you did not expect this team to go further than it did?

      • Posts: 5223 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        I am saying this is baseball, a game I’ve committed my life to. Its a round bat and a round ball. No guarantees, period. I’d have love to have seen them go farther, but come on Brooks surely you remember 1972 when we only own 59 games. And people are going to cry about this year? Sorry. I just say get over it and go after it again next year, that’s baseball.

      • Posts: 0 Andrew from Waldorf

        Are the players on the field really that talented or were they all stars and MVPs years ago? Yea the SP is as good as people think. Otherwise the team is way over rated.

        At the begining of the cardinals series I thought the phillies would win.
        The game when their crappy bullpen pitched like 6 perfect innings showed me the vulberabilty. I did not think they were going to win game 5. And when they were at 0 ib the 5th I figured it would be a 1-0 loss.

        The imagine of carpenter and Punto laughing at Howard swinging 3-0 is more etched in my brain then the third strike to wilson in 2010.

        Glad you are back lefty
        And have a drink on me Brooks.

    • Posts: 1 sandy

      Avatar of sandy

      I could not agree more. i have been a Phillies fan since 1965. I remember the lean years.. In my opinion this was not a lean year. I love my Phillies win or lose. Obviously I wanted them to win it all, but I will take this season over some I remember. Counting down to spring training!!!!

  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    No Lefty they where suppose to “Win”. Moving on the turning point was the Lee game after game i had doubts. However blame goes around to whole team except Rollins, Cole and Roy. Cholly has to learn to adapt he simply cannot that is his main fault.

    • Posts: 5223 Lefty

      Avatar of Lefty

      I don’t buy it, the baseball gods have rarely let the best regular season team win. In the last 40 years only three teams with over 100 wins have won it all. You have a much better chance if you play mediocre ball all year and get hot in September. Thats what we did in 08.

      • Posts: 2069 Brooks

        Avatar of Brooks

        Lefty, I really dont remember too much about 72 except for Steve Carlton.
        And its not the season that has me crying, its the shutdown in the Post Season. As we speak, the Cardinals fell to the Brewers due to 3 two run homers.
        Ah, you know I will be back, I’m just hot, dissappointed and hurt right now. I’ve seen this team perform with both cylinders firing (offensively and pitching), we know how good this team can be.

      • Posts: 45 artemis

        Avatar of artemis

        I agree with you Lefty. Sometimes I think that they exerted so much effort to be the best in the regular series, that their wind has left them towards October. I saw it coming when they had the 8 games loss in succession prior to the playoffs…

  • Posts: 0 Andrew from Waldorf

    Are stat compilers like Howard and A Rod good players?

    Personaly I wouldnt want either starting a playoff game for me.

    I guess technicaly they are great hall of fame players.
    But you know they dont come up big in the playoffs.
    So whats the point of winning 102 games if you lose in round 1?

    Id rather win 59 and get the first pick in the draft. Then win 102 and lose in round 1. But thats just me.

  • Posts: 6 Billy M

    Avatar of Billy M

    As disappointing as this year was I don’t understand why people are so worried about next year. Yes teams in the division are improving and our hitting weaknesses have clearly been exposed but that doesn’t mean that the Phils shouldn’t be heavily favored to win the NL East again. They’re still going to have Halladay-Lee-Hamels-Worley at least in the pitching staff, Utley should be healthy to start the season, Ibanez will finally be gone and the bullpen has some great young arms that showed a lot of promise this year– particularly Stutes and Bastardo. The rotation alone should carry them to the playoffs and with how aggressive Ruben has shown he is in the past I full out expect him to go out and improve the offense. I’m actually excited about the offense for next year– its filled with a ton of opportunity. Dom Brown could step in and start hitting like everyone’s expected him to, we could get a full healthy season from Utley and John Mayberry Jr has an .854 career OPS and 21 home runs in 336 at bats and should finally get a starting role.

    I don’t know, I may be naive but I’m excited for next year. We won 102 games this year with a banged up roster and an aging lineup. Don’t get me wrong, I expected to win the World Series and am extremely disappointed in the early exit but if Ibanez’s fly out to the warning track goes a few feet further or if Ultey just gets on top of his fly ball in the 9th, or if Cliff Lee doesn’t uncharacteristically blow a 4 run lead (even though that strike zone was BS) then these conversations wouldn’t even be happening. There’s a reason why we were so heavily favored going into the series and that’s because the entire world knew that we had the best team out there. Just because the results didn’t go in our favor it doesn’t mean that that’s not true, its just why they play the game. I’m excited for next year and I know that there’s a long winter ahead and a lot can change but as of now I fully expect this team to be back in the playoffs and World Series contenders once more.

  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    Once thing for sure RAJ cant come with the same line as last year. That we had a down year a fluke and our players had a down season. Polly still has use but not as an everyday guy i dont think his body is up to it anymore. The question do we have a 6 Mill utility fielder pinch hitter. I I say especially since Utley is liable to go down at any time. Then again its not money to spend. I think with some minor alterations i think we can compete again next year. Give it another run before a complete rebuild and i think that’s exactly what they may do.

  • Posts: 0 TheDipsy

    At least we know that RAJ will come back with a suitable lineup that, when combined with the pitching, should put them in the playoffs. He has to or he has wasted all the pitching that he has signed. He’ll figure something out.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 davehist

    For someone who has been following the Phillies for about 68 years, this stretch since 2007 – including this year – has been great. Sure, it hurts to lose out early in the playoffs when you hope to go much further, but that’s the game of baseball. Little things, like the Ibanez fly ball that didn’t quite make it, Victorino’s bad throw in the first inning, Utley’s not-quite fly ball in the ninth, these things happen in a game with a round bat trying to hit a round ball. The Phillies should be in it next year – maybe go all the way, maybe not – but it’s still a great game. Everyone criticizing Utley for getting thrown out on the bases twice should realize that he was trying to make something happen, stir things up. Just didn’t quite make it. Like the 2011 Phillies.

  • Posts: 0 diego

    I hope you phaggots are noticing a trend here. ’08 Win world series. ’09 lose world series. ’10 lose nlcs. ’11 lose nlds. ’12 miss playoffs altogether. and finally the rest of the baseball world will no longer have to put up with the most obnoxious fanbase in baseball. i mean, missing the playoffs will finally shut you guys up right? you guys won once 4 years ago and haven’t stopped acting like defending champs since.

  • Posts: 45 JakeyJ

    Avatar of JakeyJ

    The only evidence I’ve seen of the “most obnoxious fanbase in baseball” on this thread was posted by diego. I’m not sure what happened to him to make him so bitter.

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