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Saturday, October 15th 2011

3:41 PM

Sports Rap

It's a Saturday afternoon in mid-October and, right about now, I should be getting ready to watch the Phillies continue their post-season run. Except that they're not in the playoffs anymore, so I'm not watching anymore.

The Phils were unceremoniously bounced from the playoffs in Round 1 by the St. Louis Cardinals. Yes, the same Cardinals that only got into the playoffs because the Phillies ended the regular season by sweeping the Atlanta Braves. If the Braves had managed to win just one of those final games against the Phillies, the Braves would have been in, the Cardinals would have been out, and maybe the Phillies' playoff fate would have turned out differently. I guess we'll never know.

As it stands now, the Cardinals have a good shot at winning the NLCS against the Milwaukee Brewers and moving on to the World Series. Since neither of those teams is the Phillies, I don't really care.

The Phils had an outstanding regular season. You may recall THIS post from back in April. I predicted that the Phillies would win 104 games during the regular season. They ended up winning 102, the most of any Phillies team in history. They could easily have had more than 102 wins - more than 104, in fact - if they hadn't gone on an eight-game losing streak in the final couple of weeks. No matter. The record-setting season did not end with a World Series championship, so how many games the 2011 Phillies won doesn't really matter because they didn't win when it counted.

Why didn't they win? For one thing, they didn't hit when it counted. The bottom third of the lineup managed just a few (and by "few" I mean two or three) collective hits during the five-game series with the Cardinals. Placido Polanco, the #7 hitter, left several runners stranded during the series. I know he was hurt, but he wasn't even making productive outs. Neither was the #8 hitter, Carlos Ruiz. Hunter Pence, who was hailed as the "missing piece" when he was brought over in a trade in late July, managed only a few hits during the series. He also missed opportunities to drive in runs. And, lest we forget Ryan Howard. He had a big home run in the first game, then struck out almost every at bat after that. So, no, the Phillies didn't hit when it counted.

They also didn't pitch well enough when it counted. Cliff Lee blew a 4-0 lead in Game 2, and Roy Oswalt couldn't hold up his end of the deal in Game 4. Roy Halladay won Game 1 and limited the Cardinals to just one run in Game 5, but the Phillies couldn't score any runs for him. The Doc was in, but even he couldn't cure the Phillies' hitting woes.

Normally, now that (my) baseball season is over, I would turn my attention to football and the Philadelphia Eagles. Over the summer, a series of high-profile free-agent signings led to the Eagles being dubbed a "dream team." But, five games into the season, the Eagles are 1-4 and the dream has turned into a nightmare. The offense is generally OK, but the defense can't tackle anyone and they can barely stop anyone from scoring, especially in the fourth quarter.

So, since the Phillies are finished and the Eagles aren't worth watching right now, I am moving on to hockey. The Philadelphia Flyers made some controversial moves during the off-season, namely, trading away their captain and another top offensive player. But, they also made some key signings, including a top goalie and veteran Jaromir Jagr. Three games in, the Flyboys are 3-0 and looking good. I think the Flyers may turn out to be Philadelphia's REAL dream team.
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