Health or History: Phillies Have to Decide

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There has never been a Phillies team that won more than 101 games in a season.

This year's team would easily blow past that mark if they continued winning games at a .658 clip for the rest of the season. If they were to continue playing as well as they have since the All-Star break, they would challenge for the most wins for any franchise in a single season.

Keeping up the pace that has brought them 20 wins in their last 26 games seems impossible, at least it does until you realize that the Phillies have clearly established themselves as being a few heads and shoulders above the rest of the National League. Their schedule isn't particularly difficult and they only have one more game on the road than at home so there's reason to believe, if not predict, that they would pull it off.

While everyone acknowledges that winning the World Series is the only thing that will make this season a success for the Phillies, it is tempting to say that they should make every attempt that they can to set the record. Chances like this don't come up too often and you've got to play the games no matter what, so you might as well win them.

The counterargument to a full-fledged assault on the record books is that finding a way to rest regulars down the stretch would help the team win the World Series for the second time in four years. The Phillies aren't a young team and they've dealt with a lot of bumps and bruises this year, making the potential benefits of days off here and there appealing for a team with its eye on the ultimate prize.

Since the Wild Card era began, there have been four teams that won 105 or more games in the regular season. Only one of them -- the 1998 Yankees -- went on to win the World Series, which would seem to be an argument against going for broke.

In truth, it's more of an illustration of the difficulty of winning three straight short series even when you have the superior team in terms of talent. Before that era began, teams that won big in the regular season wound up winning the World Series more often than not. In the current format, all it takes to dash a dream is a couple of bad breaks or good starts by the other guys to wind up on the golf course when the World Series gets underway. Just ask the 2010 Phillies if you need further evidence on this front.

That's why we'd go for the record as much as possible without putting the regulars under any undue risk in games that don't matter for anything but posterity. The playoffs will break the way the playoffs break whether or not Chase Utley gets more rest than usual the rest of the way.

There are worse problems to have in the middle of August than figuring out how hard to press the gas pedal, especially when it seems like there's not much reason to think the decision will wind up having significant impact on the ultimate result.

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