By Joseph Santoliquito
When it comes down to it, what will you remember most about the 2010 Phillies’ season? Sure, there are enough giddy memories that you should hold and keep, like Roy Halladay’s perfect game, his historic playoff no-hitter and the Phillies finishing with the best regular-season record for the first time in franchise history.
The season had its share of improbable comebacks, too. And winning the National League East Division for the fourth-straight time, another franchise first, goes into that pile.
But when it comes down to it, what you will, regrettably, remember most is that the Phillies failed to make the World Series for the third-straight time. When you weigh that heavy fact against the rest of everything else this all-time team accomplished this season, you will look at the 2010 Phillies differently.
Face it, the 2010 Phillies were built to win—and win everything, not settle for door prizes like the NL East and winning a division playoff series. No, they were molded, and then re-formed (with the addition of Roy Oswalt) with one intention—winning the World Series. Anything less this season labels the 2010 Phillies as abject failure. Winning allows you to have a sizable leash. But this team was supposed to be better than the 2008 world champions.
It’s why the 2010 Phillies have to go on the shelf with the 2002 and 2003 Eagles—teams that underachieved. Perhaps more so than those Eagles teams, because of the overwhelming talent the 2010 Phillies had. The Phillies have the greatest starting pitching in franchise history, and in Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, arguably the greatest players the Phillies have ever had at those respective positions—Phillies Hall of Famers.
Weren’t the 2010 Phillies going to shatter all types of franchise records and win well over—according to some media that follow the team—100 games in 2010? Wasn’t this team supposed to be better than the 2008 World Series champs and 2009 National League pennant winners? Sense a backwards trend here? Is this championship window shut?
What you had in 2010 was a team tinted by hubris, with an attitude that it could win at anytime by flicking a switch and resorting back to 2008 and ’09. But even Phillies’ manager Charlie Manuel knew that was impossible, frequently repeating that this version of the Phillies was not those teams.
It was a team filled with players sometimes locked into cruise control, and when pressed, were hesitant to swing—the Howard ninth-inning at-bat against Brian Wilson in Game 6 says it all. In 2008 or ’09, Howard swings at anything close to the plate. In 2010, the Phillies were more afraid not to lose than swinging to win. Hence, you have a weak-kneed slugger placed in a position to be a hero, and reluctant to lift the bat off his shoulder.
Who I genuinely feel sorry for are the fans of this disappointing team that filled up Citizens Bank Park every night. It looks like in the end, they believed more in the Phillies than the Phillies may have believed in themselves. What’s going to be hard to swallow is the window on this aging, cracks-in-the-wall regular lineup is rapidly closing, if it hasn’t closed already. What we’re going to see in 2011 is more of Utley, Rollins, Ruiz, and Raul Ibanez on the disabled list because their 30-year-old plus bodies can’t take the grind of playing a 162-game schedule.
When it comes down to it, what will you remember most about the 2010 Phillies’ season? You’ll remember a San Francisco Giants team that played with urgency and verve that the Phillies used to play with. What, regrettably, you’ll remember is Howard’s fear to swing the bat and 2010 being one of the most disappointing seasons in Philadelphia sports history. This team was built to win everything, and they didn’t.
That’s what you’ll remember about 2010.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area. He’s the Managing Editor of Ring Magazine, there since October 1997. He also covers high school and college sports for the Philadelphia Daily News, and has written notable front-page stories on disgraced NBA ref Tim Donaghy, and on the winning battle Boston College’s Mark Herzlich waged against cancer. Santoliquito is best known nationally for his stunning portrayal of a high school wrestler overcoming the tragic killing of his parents in an award-winning ESPN.com piece in 2006 that also appeared on SportsCenter and later on HBO’s Real Sports. He has been producing the popular blog on 610WIP.com since 2006. He can be reached at SantoliquitoCBSPhilly@yahoo.com.