Can it be possible that a Phillies phan can relish in not being a Braves fan? For a decade and a half, the Braves have been the class of the National League. Since Bobby Cox's first full season at the helm in 1991, the Braves have been to every major-league post-season, winning whatever division Bud Selig placed them in. And they usually did it quite handily.
The Phillies, on the other hand, have been to the post-season exactly once in those fourteen years. And they lost, as we all know, in devastating fashion. Since then, they've been the . . . well, the Phillies of baseball. Their position as the team that has won the most games since 1993 to have not made the playoffs is so idiosyncratic that they should have this version of futility named after them.
So how can I, a Phillies phan, enjoy the fact that at least I'm not a Braves fan?
Quite easily. The fourteen years of playoff appearances for the Braves have yielded exactly one World Series championship. In the other thirteen years, they've made it to the World Series four times, lost in the NL Championship Series four times, and lost in the NL Division Series (usually to the NL wild card winner) five times. In other words, the pleasure, for Braves' fans, of watching the Braves win the marathon of baseball's regular season has been destroyed by watching them fail miserably in the post-season sprint. It's so bad for Braves' fans that they filled their stadium only 81% and 92% full for their two post-season games this year.
What makes it so bad for Braves' fans is that the team obviously is doing so much right to get to the post-season every year. They grow top-notch players from their farm system like Philadelphia parks grow weeds; they adeptly turn overly-hyped talent into useful plugins; they take castaway pitchers from other franchises and turn them into Cy Young (and then cast them away themselves, avoiding big contracts to soon-to-be-useless players). Bobby Cox, Leo Mazzone, and John Schuerholz clearly know what they're doing.
But, whatever works for them from April through September clearly isn't working in October. Their unparalleled success in the regular season prevents ownership from doing anything to change the situation though. So, year after year, the team does the same thing, hoping this year luck will fall their way. But, it doesn't. If I were a fan, I'd be miserable getting so close every year only to fail.
As a Phillies phan, this problem is completely foreign to me. (In five years, maybe I'll understand given what the Eagles are doing, but I hope not.) My team has terrible management; my team buys the overpriced and overhyped castaways the Braves jettison; my team trades its top-notch homegrown talent for Andy Ashby and yet another aging middle reliever; my team has had so many managers and pitching coaches over the past 15 years I can only name some of them with the help of google. Basically, my team is the anti-Braves.
Yet, each year, there's the hope that something will be different and that the team will make it to the post-season. Sadly, because of the futility of the past, I've set my goal as a fan much lower than the goal set each off-season by Braves fans, and as bad as the team has been, I start each April knowing that my team's chances are better than the Braves' chances are to make their goal. After all, 8 teams make the playoffs; only 1 team wins the World Series.
I also spend each off-season waiting for what happened today. I know that change will eventually occur for the Phillies. It takes way too long (today's events were about three years late in coming), but change must occur because abject failure can only be ignored for so long (even by the Phillies' owners). Braves' fans don't have this cathartic change to look forward to, because their management and ownership are great, just not great enough.
It's a position I'm sure most people will disagree with, but I really am grateful I'm not a Braves fan. At least I know that when the Phillies finally make the playoffs in the future, I'll be at a stadium that is 110% filled with Phillies phans like me.