Over the last five seasons, the Phillies and their fans have had much to be thankful about. Ever since they broke their 13-year-long playoff drought in 2007, there hasn't been a season without October baseball. And despite the fact that only one of those playoff appearances ended with a parade through Philadelphia, it is nonetheless one of the greatest runs of success in the history of the city.
What is most interesting about this five-year span is that, in the last four years, the World Series Championship has, quite literally, run through the city of Philadelphia. Excepting 2007, when they were bounced out of the National League Division Series by the Colorado Rockies, the Phils either won the World Series, or were defeated by a team that did.
- In 2008, the Phillies won the thing, straight out, as they went undefeated at home in the playoffs behind a sizzling postseason from Cole Hamels and a knockout performance from the bullpen.
- In 2009, they made it back to the Fall Classic, only to lose to the Yankees in six games, thanks to a pitching staff that was nothing more than Cliff Lee's left arm, and a bullpen that, at times, could hardly string together a clean inning.
- In 2010, they stormed over the high-powered Cincinnati Reds in the National League Division Series, only to lose to the upstart San Francisco Giants, who went on to win the World Series in five games over the Texas Rangers.
- This season, they got bounced out of the NLDS by the St. Louis Cardinals, despite winning this first game and spotting Cliff Lee a four-run lead in Game 2. The Cardinals, as was their MO, rallied past the Phillies on their way to the NLCS, where they defeated the Milwaukee Brewers, before staging a dramatic comeback against the Texas Rangers to win the World Series in seven games.
There isn't a statistic that can aptly describe what that means, if it means anything at all. At worst, it's an interesting anecdote about the complete and utter failings of the Phillies since Charlie Manuel hoisted the Commissioner's Trophy over his head on that cold, October night in 2008. At best, it's the real-life facilitation of that adage “to be the best, you have to beat the best.”
And I suppose that there is a certain amount of pride to be had in that, even if it means that, come playoff time, they lost more than they've won. After all, the playoffs are nothing if not random, and if there is one thing that we've learned, it's that the five- and seven-game series are not at all indicative of regular season success. After all, how often has the best team actually won the World Series?
That doesn't really matter, because if you're going to lose in the World Series, it might as well be to the team that goes on and wins it all. It’s a silver lining on a dreary cloud, but it’s better than losing in the first round, only to see that team get wiped out in the League Championship Series.
However, it would be something to think that the teams that won it only did so because they were so emboldened by their win over the highly-favored Phillies that it propelled them past the rest of the competition and into the World Series. If that was the case, it would certainly make this long offseason -- the longest since 2007 -- a little bit shorter, knowing that the Phillies had the fortune of losing to the eventual World Champion.
But more than anything else, it gives us an excuse to accept their losing. Sometimes, that's all that you need.