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Good Phortune

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As the calendar flips past Halloween and marches on toward Thanksgiving, it's worth taking a moment to realize that, like all champions--and I'm still adding a mental !!! every time I type that word--the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies were quite lucky as well as very, very good. 

It starts, as poster char6587 wrote the other day, with health. The Phils had fewer players on the Disabled List than any other team but the Brewers, whom they tied with nine. The only regular who missed significant time was Jimmy Rollins, out for the better part of a month early in the season; otherwise, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth and Pedro Feliz were all out for the minimum 15 days or barely more. Perhaps most staggering, NO PHILLIES STARTING PITCHER WENT ON THE DISABLED LIST THIS YEAR--despite the rotation including a 45 year-old, Jamie Moyer, and two players with extensive previous injury histories in Cole Hamels and Adam Eaton. (Eaton eventually pitched himself out of the rotation anyway, of course.) For that matter, the only reliever who missed extensive time was Tom Gordon, whose injury was widely foreseen and whose absence in the 8th inning only stung until Ryan Madson asserted himself as the team's setup man. 

But the Phils were favored by timing as well as health. Pedro Feliz didn't have a great year at the plate, but his contributions always seemed to come at the right time: the single that plated the Game Five game-winner was only the last of a series of huge hits the third baseman delivered. In 80 "close and late" at-bats, Feliz hit .313/.368/.575, including five home runs. Feliz's full-season numbers were .249/.302/.402. Without getting into the larger debate about whether "clutch hitting" exists, suffice it to say that Feliz's close and late numbers in 2007 were .238/.284/.396; for 2006, they were .228/.282/.376. 

Finally, from the last weekend of September through the clincher, things set up perfectly in terms of the starting rotation. If the Phils hadn't managed to hold on for that division-clinching 4-3 win over the Nationals on the last Saturday of the regular season, Cole Hamels would have had to start the regular season finale on Sunday--probably rendering him unavailable to pitch in the Division Series until Game Three in Milwaukee. If you don't think this is important, consider how much more formidable the Brewers might have been with CC Sabathia set to pitch twice in that series, on full rest. Then by closing out the Brewers in four games, the Phils were able to keep Hamels on track to begin the NLCS against the Dodgers--and, given the long lag between the end of that round and the start of the World Series, to work back-to-back games a week apart when he won Game One of the Series to seize home-field advantage for the Phils. 

None of this is to take anything away from the performance of the guys in uniform. Hamels' excellence is independent of his availability, of course. And his good work might have gone for naught if it weren't for the great performances of non-superstars like Shane Victorino and Ryan Madson. But no team wins it all without a smile from the baseball gods; as you're sitting down to turkey in a few weeks' time, that's probably worth a silent thank-you.