Thursday, October 1, 2009

Three-peat!

After a long season full of ups, downs, heartaches, and triumphs...the Philadelphia Phillies are officially the 2009 National League Eastern Division Champions, marking the third straight year the team has finished the season in first place!

The 2009 season began by commemorating our World Championship season from last year, followed by a typical Opening Day loss to the Atlanta Braves. After a few initial bumps to begin the season, the team settled into a relatively decent groove right before shockwaves were sent through the core of the team, the entire Philadelphia region, and many parts of the country. On April 13th, Harry Kalas, the Phillies' longtime Hall of Fame broadcaster, number one fan, and symbolic grandfather to Phillies fans everywhere died of a heart attack in the broadcast booth in Washington D.C., just hours before the Phillies were to take on the Nationals. Immediately after Harry's death, Phillies President, David Montgomery summed up the sentiments of a grieving city when he said, "We lost our voice today."

After a fitting tribute and memorial to the man who nurtured the baseball souls of so many, the team moved on in Harry's honor, and soon took over first place in the NL East for good in May. The month of May also involved the final recognition of the 2008 World Champions when the team was honored by President Obama at the White House. Throughout the course of the summer, the team was plagued by inconsistencies and injuries to key players. From the start of the season, closer Brad Lidge, who was absolutely perfect in 2008, couldn't find a groove and eventually lost his job as the 9th inning man. Starting pitcher Brett Myers went down early in the season with a hip injury that required surgery, yet was able to return in the middle of September. Cole Hamels, the team's ace and 2008 World Series MVP, struggled for most of the season, but showed several flashes of brilliance when September rolled around, leading many to believe he'll be as dominant in this year's postseason as he was in last year's. And of course, the bullpen, as a whole, suffered enough injuries in 2009 to fill up a triage unit!

However, as we all know, there's no crying in baseball. Great teams overcome obstacles and rise to the occasion when it matters most. Really "good" Phillies teams in the past have had their seasons ruined and completely undone by little issues and one or two injuries. The 2009 Phillies have faced it all and come through on top. This is the definition of a championship team! New additions, Raul Ibanez, Cliff Lee, and Pedro Martinez all stepped up when needed, along with steady contributions from the rest of this dynamic cast. When the dust had settled on September 30th, only one team was hoisting the NL East Championship flag!

Truth be told, yesterday's division-clinching game was much less dramatic than the clinchers of 2007 and 2008, as there was clearly no better team in the NL East this year. Finishing in first place had more or less been expected by everyone since the team started running away with the division by June.

The highlight of the night, in my opinion, was when Phillies manager Charlie Manuel brought in struggling closer Brad Lidge with two outs in the 9th inning, with the Phillies holding a comfortable 10-3 lead over the Houston Astros. Hearing a sellout crowd stand up and cheer for the guy who blew eleven saves this year -- rightfully earning the ire of many fans -- was extremely heartwarming. I have to admit that after all the anger and frustration I felt toward Lidge this season, I wanted nothing more than to see him close out the division title. And with one pitch, he did just that. A bouncer to first base. Scooped up by Ryan Howard, who tagged the bag himself. Game over. NL East title in the bag.

In the midst of the celebration that followed, the entire team ran out to the left field wall and sprayed champagne on the sign commemorating Harry Kalas. A fitting tribute to the greatest Phillie that never played. Without a doubt, one of the most beautiful moments in Phillies history!

And now, after a momentary breather, there's much more work to be done. It's time for the kings to defend their crowns.

Postseason adversaries be warned......the WFCs are coming through!

2 comments:

  1. Nice season summary, but the NL East title means nothing. Cliff Lee has had several poor outings since starting his Phillies career 5-0 with a sub 1 ERA. Cole has looked a little better but his last two starts have been shaky, you have no real lefty's out of the Pen and our Offense has struggled to manufacture runs which is a must in the post season. Not to mention we are facing the hottest team in baseball in a short series with no named closer. We can't afford to blow even 1 save in this first series, and I think Larry Anderson was dead on when he said Cliff Lee looks tired and his arm looks dead. I am a season ticket holder and I love the Phils but for me if this team doesn't make it to the World Series, it was a waste of some of the most talent in the National League. I can't hate on Lidge because he is one of the major reasons we won last year, but without the lock down pen this team is in trouble.

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  2. I can't agree that an NL East title means nothing. Did all those consecutive Braves' NL East titles mean nothing even though they only won one World Series? True, there were a lot of postseason failures, but that's an unprecedented run and may never be challenged. Despite what we faced this season, we ended up with a better record than in 2008. I will be unbelievably disappointed and devastated if we don't win the World Series again, but repeating is the hardest thing to do, so there's no way I can call this season a failure if we're unable to do so. That being said, I think we have a great shot at repeating and I'm looking forward to another run to City Hall, followed by another massive parade!

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