The back cover of this morning’s New York Post makes it clear that the Yankees will have to do some serious re-thinking about their lineup. They won 97 ballgames, and it was their pitching that was supposed to be suspect, but in the end it was the bats that came up short, earning the heart of their lineup the indignity of Moe-Larry-Curly comparisons. But are the Phillies any better off? Having won 102 games this year, five more than the Yankees, the Phils were supposedly well positioned for a run deep into the post-season. They had the pitching, and we all know that good pitching beats good hitting. Except when it doesn’t. On the one hand you could say this Phillies team is an enigma, being the winning-ist team in the club’s history, and bowing out early in the playoffs to a team that got into the post-season on the mercy of the Phils sweeping the Braves to end the season.
On the other hand there is no enigma, because in this five game series St. Louis was simply the better team. Score another victory for Billy Beane’s Moneyball theme. The Cards are a group of ballplayers patient enough to get on base, a contrast to both the Phils and the Yankees collection of happy hackers. It was agonizing watching the Phils swing at pitches out of the zone, and watching pitches sneak over the heart of the plate that were begging for a swing. If the heart of the Yankees lineup was The Three Stooges in this playoff, the heart of the the Phillies lineup was …. well, I don’t know who they were.
So this is how our season ended, with our wilting star down on the ground. Sorry to see him hurt, but in a way it’s easier to take than the confused look in Howard’s eyes when he strikes out to end the game. For a change, the post-game interview centered on his physical health instead of where his head was. Check online, and you’ll notice something interesting. None of the post-game video interviews, not from Halladay or Utley or Madson or Pence or Cholly – not one mentioned what they could have, which is “we just hope Ryan’s okay”. It isn’t for lack of caring about him, I’m sure. It’s because we’ve come to expect nothing of Ryan in the post-season. He’s become the NL’s post-season’s A-Rod.
This Phillies team represents a heap of work for Amaro Jr. over the winter. It’s a lineup that’s a shell of its former self. They all seemed to get old and broken at the same time. Rollins is likely gone, looking for a big pay day the Phils would be foolish to give him. Being saddled with the Howard contract, when we could have potentially gotten Pujols as a free agent, stings enough. Utley, Polanco, and Howard now officially have their best years firmly behind them.
Senor Octubre played more like a Senior Citizen, though Chooch is sure to be around for awhile since our starters, the core of the team, love him. Speaking of Senior Citizens, Rauuuul played very old at the plate in the post-season. Sad to see him go, as he’s such a class act, but even sadder to think that Dominic Brown won’t necessarily be an upgrade over the Ancient Mariner either offensively or defensively.
With it all, I’m still looking forward to spending time on Clearwater Beach this coming March, visiting Bright House to see what the Phillies will do to fix the holes in their lineup. If Brown steps up to the plate, Mayberry Jr. will no doubt see more time at first base as insurance against Howard’s continued fragility. If there’s one thing the Iggles have already reminded us this season, though, it is that re-making a team with high-priced talent doesn’t necessarily guarantee a quality performance.