October 16, 2011

The Phillies' Achilles Heel

It's been over a week since the Philadelphia Phillies, a seeming team of destiny, was eliminated from playoff contention by losing Game 5 of the first round to St. Louis. And adding insult to injury Ryan Howard, after repeatedly struggling throughout the series' last four games, tore his Achilles on the game's final play, likely knocking him out for a large chunk of the 2012 season.

What does this loss tell us? That the Phils didn't have enough "grit" or "killer instinct," that they didn't want it it enough, that a major housecleaning is needed in the organization? No. What it tells us is that they didn't peak at the right time, and happened to not be hot the week it mattered. It seemed before the year that the Phils had acquired enough pitching that it made losing a five-game series all but impossible; the NLDS shows, once again, that there's no such thing as guaranteeing a championship.

In the years that they've been good, the Phillies' greatest weakness- their Achillles heel, pardon the pun- has been a tendency for weeks-long, team-long batting slumps. When the team was eliminated in the 2007 NLDS, 2010 NLCS and now this year, such a slump in the playoffs has been the reason why? What can done about this? The same thing that can be done about avoiding bubbles in the economy- probably nothing.

The Phillies still have a window of several years in which they can win another title. They have Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee signed for years to come and neither of them is yet 35, their offensive nucleaus isn't completely dead, and the team has enough financial resources to fill other holes. But the team really needs to get younger, especially on the offensive side. And that means it's probably a bad idea to bring back Jimmy Rollins for another five years.

Posted by Stephen Silver at October 16, 2011 09:27 PM
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