Thursday, October 30, 2008

Phillies Win!: Twice in a Lifetime

When the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series last night it felt great to see my favorite baseball team become champions again. It’s nice to see your favorite team become champions once in your lifetime but when it happens twice, it becomes doubly sweet. The Phillies did not win the Series by fluke. This is a finely tuned, well-balanced young team that has not yet reached its peak in terms of what it can when operating on all cylinders.

The Phillies made quantum strides since early last season when they seemed to be floundering and manager Charlie Manuel’s job was literally on the line. They coalesced into a contender, made the playoffs (only to be immediately eliminated) and renewed themselves to improving themselves this season. One has to give credit to out-going general manager Pat Gillick for making several shrewd trades and free agent signings. He put the pieces together all season long and it paid off in World Series rings.

Charlie Manuel deserves credit too. He was and is the right manager for this type of team. He kept his young players loose but focused; making the proper moves with the right personnel. The Phillies only had to do their jobs and they did.

When they won I couldn’t help but compare them with the 1980 Phillies and, interestingly, I find myself considering the 2008 Phillies to be the superior ball club. The 2008 Phillies were, by far, the more efficient team in terms of execution of the basics of baseball. Seldom, if ever, did this team ever beat itself. The 1980 Phillies weren’t called the Cardiac kids for nothing. Time and again they would dig holes for themselves only to work their way out of them until, finally, against all odds, they won the World Series. In many ways the worst enemy of the 1980 Phillies were themselves which explains why Dallas Green was able to wring a World Series title out of them. Again and again Dallas Green had to cajole, admonish, and whip the Phillies into overcoming their own self-destructive play. When the 1980 Phillies won against the Royals it was in spite of themselves.

The 2008 Phillies were the cooler team—which is more amazing considering the youth of the club. When the Phillies won they did so with the quiet grace of the old New York Yankees teams during their dynasty years. They dispatched all three opponents with the modicum of fuss and bother--their only significant foe being Mother Nature.

The 1980 Team had Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton, two Hall-of-Famers and Pete Rose who would be in the Hall were it not for his gambling. Bob Boone and Garry Maddox were supreme in their own right as catcher and centerfielder respectively but the 2008 Phillies have Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Cole Hamels—all of whom have Hall-of-Fame potential. The 2008 Phillies bull-pen was infinitely superior to the 1980 club and the 2008 Phillies were much better in executing the baseball basics such as moving runners, stealing bases, and making the defensive stops that needed to be made.

Dallas Green could never have managed the 2008 Phillies to victory and Charlie Manuel could never have led the 1980 Phillies to victory. Each manager was perfect for their respective teams.
Can the 2008 Phillies repeat as champions next year? The odds are against them. Only four times in World Series history has an NL team repeated as champions: the 1976 Reds, the 1944 Cardinals, the 1922 Giants, and the 1908 Cubs. The Phillies may not repeat next year but rest assuredly they will appear in a few more Fall Classics if they keep their noses clean and their inner core of stars together.

The best years of the 2008 Phillies are still ahead of them.

Way to go Phillies! Thank you very much!

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