The last time the winter was this long, it was 2007, and the Phillies were just swept out of the playoffs by the Colorado Rockies. At the time, no one really seemed to care that much. Sure, it would have been nice if the team's first October appearance since 1993 lasted longer than three games, but considering that the Phillies were lucky to be there, well, beggars shouldn't be choosers.
Since that early exit, the Phillies have been among the teams who had the luxury of having two or three fewer weeks of off-seasoning thanks to playing in back-to-back World Series in 2008 and 2009, as well as making it as far as the NLCS in 2010.
But this year, the team, and the fans, mind you, have an extra week to spare, thanks to their rather unceremonious exit from the NLDS at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals. The silver lining, if there is one to be had, is that they at least waited until the fifth and final game of the series to do so, thus giving us as much baseball as possible given a series loss, while simultaneously making the offseason just a wee bit shorter and allowing us one or two fewer days to cope with the tragedy that occured on the field.
And now, in the second week of October, the Phillies are on the golf course. Their lockers are cleaned out, and a tarp has been pulled over the infield at Citizens Bank Park, where the dirt and grass with slumber through the long winter.
It's a new feeling for the fans, who have been slowly weened off of a lengthly postseason over the last three seasons, thanks to a World Series loss in 2009, an NLCS loss in 2010 and the most recent NLDS loss. The progressively shorter runs in October served as a sort of Nicotine patch for the fans, who are having to cut back their two-pack-a-day Phillies addicition.
With no more Phillies baseball, all that's left to turn to is the current series in both leagues (unless the wound from last Friday's loss is still too fresh). Failing that, there is the MLB.TV archives, where you have free reign to watch all of Cliff Lee's masterpieces, or the 19-inning marathon against the Cincinnatti Reds, or the season finale when the Phillies trounced the playoff hopes of the Atlanta Braves.
The one thing that you shouldn't do, however, is mope. It's no small task, because this Phillies team was the one who would parade down Broad Street for the first time since 2008. They were the chosen 25, the players who an entire city pinned their hopes upon. It's a bitter pill to swallow, to be sure, but wallowing in the offseason isn't going to solve anything. We should celebrate this team for what they did (win 102 games, generally dominate everybody) and not throw a pity party for ourselves because of what they didn't do (win the World Series).
Sometimes in our baseball life, you have to play the hand that you were dealt. The Phillies had the Aces, but sometimes that's not enough, and all you can do is tip your hat to the team across the table and walk away with your head held high.
It's going to be a long offseason, rife with personnel changes. Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Madson, and Roy Oswalt might not be back. Brad Lidge and Raul Ibanez are almost certainly goners. Ryan Howard might not even be around next season, either.
The 2012 version of the Phillies is primed to have many a new face, and it isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes shaking things up is a good thing. And for a team that had it's playoff run end in a quite unceremonious fashion; with a shutout, at home, with their slugger in a heap on the field, that might not be a bad thing.