I got a lot off my chest yesterday [MLB never punished a bunch of cheaters] but, even though it still stings and will for a bit, it's time to turn the page.
After a rough start, the 2022 Phillies ended up having a tremendous season. This team was written off by Memorial Day. Then they fired their manager and went on a run that made this city remember how fun baseball can be. There were some bumps along the way - Bryce Harper's injuries, bullpen struggles, Odubel Herrera continuing to start in center - but the team never quit.
The managerial change, while being seen as a sign of desperation that would yield little success, seemed to really work. The team rallied around Rob Thomson and came together. I know that stats nerds will dismiss this because it can't be quantified, but I'm a believer in clubhouse culture. Whether you think the role of the manager matters much anymore or not, the shift in how the team played after Joe Girardi was let go was undeniable. Maybe the team would've put it together regardless, but June 3 was a pivotal date for this team and the numbers support that.
When Harper broke his thumb, the team was written off again. "It was a nice run with Thomson, but they can't keep this up without [Harper]." But then they did. Jose Alvarado got sent to AAA, and then became a top reliever in the game when he returned. Seranthony Dominguez showed he had come all the way back from his injury. Trades for Edmundo Sosa, Brandon Marsh, Noah Syndergaard and David Robertson (at times) bolstered the roster. Releasing Herrera, Didi Gregorious, and Jeruys Familia made room - and made sure they couldn't ruin more games for me.
The skipper putting faith in Bryson Stott, Nick Maton, Connor Brogdon, and Ranger Suarez was handsomely rewarded. Alec Bohm appeared to figure it out and learn to love this place. Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola carried the rotation through the summer as they should have. Darick Hall provided some pop in Harper's absence. Zach Eflin became an important piece of the bullpen. It looked like the drought would finally end.
And then came September.
There were times when we all got that familiar feeling. The pitchers were hit hard. The bats started to miss. "It can't be happening again, can it?" In the last week of the month, they were blown out by the last place Nationals. It looked like the last thread would snap. The Brewers had one last series in Miami while the Phillies traveled to Houston. It did not look good.
Then the Marlins decided to play spoiler. They took care of the Brewers and the Phillies leaned on Nola in Houston on October 3. He delivered and Eflin was on the mound to seal it: the Phillies were finally back at the dance. What followed was a month of wonderful bonus baseball the city had been waiting 11 years to see.
Bryce Harper was a man possessed at the plate. Kyle Schwarber hit a bunch of balls to the moon (and stole us free tacos). The much-maligned bullpen morphed into a machine. Nick Castellanos of all people saved games with his glove. Rhys Hoskins owned the NLCS. The city was dancing on its own. No one gave them a chance. They swept the Cardinals on the road. They throttled the Braves in four, then took care of the Padres in five to clinch the pennant. A team that wasn't supposed to make the playoffs hammered their way to the World Series. It was magical.
As fun as it all was, the ride didn't end with the Phillies in front, which is of course disappointing. But the talent on this squad - plus a few additions which I may speculate on at another time - should set them up for some more baseball in October and November. And that means I would get to watch more great baseball moments with my son. Being able to hold him while watching my favorite team win in the playoffs was so special and I sincerely hope this "Phillies Daycare" provides me with more memories like it before the kid becomes too cool for me.
So there we have it. The Phillies, for all of their faults, were fun to watch this year. As much as the loss stings, I'm confident that there can be a parade down Broad Street before too long. After my diatribe last night I feel much better getting this out. I'll try to cover some HOT STOVE news but until then, come back on Saturday for Episode 400! Yeah!
Crap open a cold one!