Don’t Give Up On The Phillies Just YetBREAKING NEWS, News, Phillies Monday, July 9th, 2012
There is no other way to put this, the Phillies have underachieved so far this year. Getting off to their worst start since the late 90′s and occupying the cellar of the division they have owned for the past 5 years, the Phillies’ chances for making the playoffs appear bleak and slim. The offense has struggled, the manager has done an atrocious job and the bullpen has sank faster than the Titanic. Granted the Phillies have suffered their share of injuries to their leader Utley, their under-appreciated super slugger Howard and one of the best pitchers in the game in Halladay. Remove these ingredients from any team and they would surely struggle. They should not be this bad however. Naturally, the calm, cool, collected fans of this area have called for heads to roll, rebuilding to be done and for the Phillies to clean house.
With Utley and Howard already returned and Doc Halladay appearing to be on track to soon, the Phillies can have a vastly different look in the second half as compared to the underachieving, struggling squad taking the field today. With the odds stacked against them and their play inspiring not much of anyone, it still would be unwise to definitely count the Phillies out. Will it be a struggle? Yes. Damn near improbable? Absolutely. Never been done before? That would be false.
In Major League Baseball history, there have been teams that have overcome large first half deficits to make the playoffs. Call, them the “firm 14″ but these teams by the end of June fell 10 to 15 games behind a front-runner, yet overcame remarkable odds to snatch a postseason berth away from a rival seemingly assured of finishing on top.
If one includes the “wild card” berth, a case might be made for increasing the total to 15 or more teams that have shaken off early and mid-campaign staggers to enter postseason competition with a blistering stretch run.
With the newest wild card arrangement having vastly increased the number of teams that might make the most of a closing dash to salvage an otherwise disappointing season, one should not count the Phillies completely out. It could happen this time around, with four, five or six also-rans in each league clutching at the last straw in the second half of the season.
Last year, for instance, the St. Louis Cardinals spent two-thirds of the season scuffling around .500. They were 10 games out of a playoff berth on the first of September and then, well, Phillies fans know the rest. The Tampa Bay Rays also overcame a similar deficit just last year and, while not having quite the same Hollywood ending as the Cardinals. they still made the postseason.
In 2004, the Houston Astros, their record on August 14, was 56-60, and they were in third place 19 and one-half games behind the National League Central leading St. Louis Cardinals, as well as seemingly out of even wild card contention. Revived by new manager Phil Garner, outfielder Carlos Beltran and pitchers Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt, the Astros went 36-10 in their final 46 games of 2004 to gain the N.L. wild card berth.
Still not convinced? But wait, there’s more! Here’s a rundown on The Lucky 14, the list of teams that trailed by 10 or more games going into the month of July since 1900, facing similar odds to that of Leonidas and his 300 Spartans but captured a league pennant or division title:
* 1914 Boston Braves were 15 games out on July 6 with a 26-40 won-lost record. They went 68-19 in the final 87 games of the season to win the N.L. pennant by 10 games over the New York Giants.
* 1930 St. Louis Cardinals endured a 12-game shortfall on August 9 with a 53-52 record only to win 39 of their final 49 games to win the N.L. pennant by two games over the Cubs.
* 1935 Chicago Cubs were buried 10 and a half games behind the Giants on July 5 with a 38-32 record, but won 62 of their final 84 games, including a 21-game winning streak from September 4 through September 27, to win the N.L. pennant by four games over St. Louis and eight and a half ahead of the Giants.
* 1936 New York Giants were grounded in fifth-place in the N.L. with a 42-41 won-lost record, 10 and a half games behind the Cubs. In their final 71 games, New York went 50-21 to capture the NL. pennant by five games over the Cubs who went 36-38 in their remaining 74 contests.
* 1942 St. Louis Cardinals were burdened with a 10-game deficit on August 5 with a 62-39 mark, but won 44 of their last 53 games to overtake the Dodgers by two games to win the N.L. pennant.
* 1951 New York Giants lagged behind the Dodgers by 13 games on August 12 with a 59-51 record In the remaining 45 games of the season, the Giants went 37-8 while Brooklyn went 27-24 during that span and lost the pennant on Bobby Thomson’s home run.
* 1964 St. Louis Cardinals loitered 11 games out on August 24 with a 65-58 record, but the breakdown of the Phillies who went 16-23 in the final 39 games while the Cardinals went 28-11 helped St. Louis capture the N.L pennant.
* 1969 New York Mets were lagging by 10 games behind the Chicago Cubs on August 14 with a 62-51 won-lost mark before they closed out the season with a 38-11 run as the Cubs spun into a 18-27 nosedive. The Mets captured the N.L. East division by eight games.
* 1973 New York Mets were 11 and a half games in arrears of the Cardinals in the N.L. East division on August 5 with a 48-60 won-lost mark. The Mets finished the year with a 34-19 record in the final 53 games while the Cardinals suffered to a 20-31 mark during the same span.
* 1973 Cincinnati Reds grimaced at a 11-game handicap, trailing the Dodgers, on July 1 with a 39-37 record only to go 60-26 the rest of the year while Los Angeles struggled with a 44-39 mark during the same stretch and lost the N.L. West division to the Reds by three and a half games.
* 1978 New York Yankees trailed by 14 games in the A.L. East division on July 20 with a 48-42 record. The Yankees won 52 of their remaining 73 contests including a one-game playoff over the Red Sox to win the AL. East with a 100-63 mark.
* 1989 Toronto Blue Jays were struggling in sixth-place in a seven-team A.L. East division with a 38-45 won-lost record before going 51-28 in the final 12 weeks of the season to win the division crown by two games over the Orioles.
* 1993 Atlanta Braves suffered a 10-game deficit on July 23 with a 55-42 record before going 49-16 in the final 65 games to win the N.L. West division over the Giants by one game.
* 1995 Seatlle Mariners sagged 13 games behind the California Angels on August 3 with a 44-46 record before going 35-20 to win the A.L. West title, while the Angels struggled with a 22-33 mark during the final 55 games of the season.
Also, lets not forget the Phillies famed comeback in 2007 while being 7 games out at the beginning of Septemeber to rally and capture their first division title in 14 years.
The passage of time has darkened the fame of some of these improbable dashes to the postseason by teams whose season seemed to have turned hopeless.
Most likely not even the most knowledgeable of fans are likely to cite the Cardinals’ 1930 surge after a poor start as being among the memorable recoveries. Nor are there many others outside of the most die hard fans who would refer to the Reds’ revival of 1973 or the Blue Jays’ thrust of 1989 as the more celebrated examples of exciting second half comebacks in the game’s long history that personify the phrase “never give up”. Even a relatively recent occurence, that of the 1995 Mariners erasing a 13 game hole on August 3. 1995, to capture the American League West title, scarcely put a nick in the public consciousness, let alone became the stuff of legends. That’s probably because only a division title was involved, and the Mariners failed to go on and win the A.L. pennant.
Conversely, there’s no doubting that the accomplishments of five of the 14 teams have achieved virtually legendary status, and rightly entrenched among the climax of baseball’s history.
On two occasions, majestic home runs provided explosive exclamation points as the culmination of improbable drives to the top. They were the highly dramatic ones hit in championship playoff games by the Giants’ Bobby Thomson in 1951 (any casual sports fans recalls the clip of “the Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant”) and the Yankees’ Bucky Dent in 1978, in each instance proepelling a mediocre player a shot of glory that otherwise would have eluded him. The victorious surges of the remaining triumvirate of the Mets in 1969, the Cardinals in 1942, and the Boston Braves in 1914 are among the best ever. In each instance, the completion of the surge, took on epic proportions, even to the extent of what seems an incredible won-lost record during the finishing kick.
Comebacks from so far back don’t happen as often as fans might hope for from their teams. And they aren’t always rounded out by home runs, such as those of Thomson and Dent. However, the Phillies have proved they are a second half team. With the returning injured players, maybe a trade here and there, however bleak it may seem, stranger things have happened.
Plus, it is always darkest before the dawn…..
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