Who would have thought, as we watched this team fade away in 2012, that four years later, we’d be seeing Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Joe Blanton, Jayson Werth, Cole Hamels, and Jimmy Rollins together again at the playoffs? Only this time, they’re playing for three different teams. And also, one of them isn’t actually playing.
Yes, the 2016 MLB playoffs will be a lot like a Phillies Alumni Weekend in a couple of years, if instead of honoring them on the field, the Phillies forced the alumni to play against each other in a high stakes multi-night tournament that actually counts while they presumably weep and ask to see their families.
Or perhaps more accurately, watching the playoffs this season will be a lot like watching them eight years ago, only you’re almost a full decade older and a little more of you is dead.
We’ll get to reminisce about the likes of:
Last playoff game: Game 5 of the 2015 NLDS vs. the Mets; went 0-for-1 as a PH
Last Phillies game: August 18, 2015 vs. Blue Jays; went 2-for-5
A constant reminder of what the human body can accomplish, Utley hasn’t stopped non-verbally communicating his greatness as the starting second baseman and lead-off hitter of the post season-bound Dodgers at the age of 37.
UNREAL. pic.twitter.com/xWfFbaYz4L— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) September 23, 2016
You expect a guy to come out of a play like that with a big old grin, cheekily pointing at the dugout as if to say, "You knew I was gonna do that." But anybody expecting that level of shenanigans from Utley at this point is simply disconnected from reality. His chief fan demographic is West Virginia coal miners and extremely serious children. Utley doesn’t make plays like that because baseball is fun. He does it because it was the only way his brain could compute how to get the out and continue the baseball.
Utley will play in his 50th career playoff game this October. He’s not throwing his glove in the air or twirling in a circle because he made the playoffs; he’s just trying not to get a foot fungus.
Actually, the best part was a bone-dry Chase Utley searching for his shower shoes as the rest of his teammates went nuts.— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) September 26, 2016
As our first president Benjamin Franklin famously said, "Chase Utley, you are The Man."
Last playoff game: Game 4 of the 2014 NLDS vs. Giants; went 0-for-3 with a BB
Last Phillies game: Game 6 of the 2010 NLCS vs. Giants; went 0-for-2 with a BB and SF
I guess we do one of these every year, don’t we? We know the actual Phillies aren’t going to the playoffs, so we comb all of the other rosters to try and find some connections to the Phillies, and lo and behold, every time, there’s a handful of painfully familiar or comically forgettable names that used to wear red pinstripes.
It feels like Werth, who has been gone the longest, has been making the post season every year since he left Philadelphia after 2010, but he’s only been back twice, in 2012 and 2014, never making it past the NLDS. What the results don’t show - and I know that’s the phrase people use prior to drawing a conclusion that disregards all facts - is Werth’s revving motorcycle engine of a personality and how handy of a character trait that is in the frantic MLB post season.
Watch him square off with a dorkus trying to conduct a post game interview after beating the Cubs.
That dude’s running on pure adrenaline and caffeinated beard balm. That’s the dude that bitched out a father in front of his kid for disrupting a play. That’s a dude who needs nothing but a meaty fastball and maybe a full moon to get you to shriek likea lunatic.
I think for me personally, my eyes glaze over and my brain shuts down when the Nationals are succeeding, but if you’re able to push through the reflexive disgust of such a moment, I’ll bet Werth can still be a fun guy to watch play baseball. Even if he was only hitting .237 since June. Which he was.
Last playoff game: Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS vs. Cardinals; went 0-for-3
Last Phillies game: August 23, 2016 vs. White Sox; went 0-for-3 with a BB
Chooch, the most lovable player in Phillies history, was heartbreakingly traded to Los Angeles this summer. Let’s check in on how much he has endeared himself to his new fans!
Carlos Ruiz has not done anything for the Dodgers since he came over. Was the AJ Ellis trade a good idea?— LA Dodgers (@DodgersFanPage1) September 20, 2016
Oh my god, who are these mindless sociopaths inhabiting our country’s southwest region? Did they tell them about the ice cream? That his nickname is Chooch? That it doesn’t matter if he hits or not, because he’s so good at handling pitching staffs? Here, let me find that list of all the great pitchers he’s caught over the years... it’s just... no, no, don’t tell me not to... I think I left it over... ah yes, here we go... Roy Halladay, Pedro Marti [Concerned family members enter, physically restrain me from once more reading a list of pitchers Carlos Ruiz has been a catcher for].
I... I’m sorry everyone. We’re all very worried about Carlos. Los Angeles isn’t as accommodating a place as Philadelphia. Instead of screaming helpful advice from the stands, the fans just don’t come to the baseball games. How is an aging backstop supposed to succeed in a stadium that I assume is full of suntanned Hollywood celebrities divorcing each other? Can we ever be sure that the intricacies of Carlos Ruiz’s skills will be appreciated again?
Where’s that list of legendary pitchers who love Carlos Ruiz. Just let me read a couple of the... of the names... [Weeping family members hold me down while putting list of pitchers in a shredder].
Last playoff game: Game 5 of the 2015 NLDS vs. Blue Jays; 5 R (2 ER) in 6.1 IP with 8 SO
Last Phillies game: July 25, 2015 vs Cubs; No-hit the best the team in the league
Cole will undoubtedly have the most memorable sign-off of any Phillies player in history after throwing a no-hitter as a farewell gift to Phillies fans last season. "But what about when a cat ran on the field during Ed Sixsmith’s final game and he chased it down and ate it and screamed ‘Mets suck!!’ with a mouthful of raw cat meat?!" Well, that infamous folk legend has been disproved numerous times, so Hamels’ no-hitter it is.
At one point in late September, Hamels and teammate Yu Darvish combine to pitch 14 innings, allowing no runs and logging 16 K’s. Hamels seems like he might be the most primed for playoff baseball this season. Which is good, because fans are not holding back with the pressure.
Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish have to be perfect in the playoffs. That's all there is to it. There is no one else.— Brandon Land (@onestrikeaway) September 27, 2016
Fortunately for you, Brandon, Cole knows a little something about being perfect.
Last playoff game: Game 4 of the 2011 NLDS vs. Cardinals; threw scoreless inning of relief
Last Phillies game: July 28, 2012 vs. Braves; 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO in 7 IP
In a testament to how long it’s been, Blanton is the only of the ex-Phillie listed here to have his last post season appearance be with the Phillies. And he knows a little something about "last appearances," having recently been a part of one that put him in the same tweet as Sandy Koufax.
First Dodger Vin Scully called to win at dodger stadium: Sandy Koufax. Last Dodger he called to win a game at dodger stadium: Joe Blanton.— Tyler Oehmen (@Fastball360) September 26, 2016
Blanton has appeared in five different post season series, and will begin number six with the Dodgers, having exited from baseball entirely after 2013. He did not play in 2014 and it was not until a fateful game of catch with his neighbor, Zach Duke, that he realized he still had the itch. And that’s all it takes, folks. The next time your kid, or the mid-range major league pitcher who lives next door, asks to play catch, you go do it, because you might just find out that you’re fit to be a big leaguer on a playoff roster.
"Dad, do you think I could be play pro ball when I grow up?" your child asks, doe-eyes blinking expectantly.
"Not before me, you won’t," you can reply.
"That’s a messed up thing to say to your kid," your neighbor says from over the fence.
"Shut up, Zach Duke," you reply. "I’m going to build that fence higher."
Last playoff game: Game 5 of the 2015 NLDS vs. Mets; 0-for-1 as a PH
Last Phillies game: September 8, 2014 vs. Pirates; 1-for-2 with a 3B
That glistening smile. That smirking charm. That wit, smooth as the top of his head. Jimmy is a perfect choice to join the TBS broadcast team for the playoffs, undoubtedly beginning a media career that will be charming and engaging us for generations. This isn’t a gig that requires frantic reflexes or bodily harm; just a working voice box and situational awareness. And sometimes not even that.
Jimmy’s role will, of course, be different than his other former colleagues, as instead of doing his best to pretend we’re not watching like somebody actually playing in a game might do, he will be talking to us directly, though with the safety of a television screen between him and his rabid fans.
Who knows what Jimmy’s been up to since the White Sox cut him? I like to picture him in a fun shirt with a colorful drink in his hand, pointing at people instead of waving. What a cool guy. That’s exactly the sort of vibe a post season playoff broadcast needs.
People have referred to Ryan Howard as the "last link" to the 2008 team, but the truth is, there are endless links; so many of us were there, or at least in Philadelphia, at the time, and have our own gallery of
shameful memories to tap into while reminiscing.
But there will, of course, be comparisons forever, as already this team’s newest faces begin to resemble the legendary heroes of the past.
Roman Quinn strikes out 5 times, most by Phillie since 2010 (Ryan Howard, 16 innings). First 5 K's in nine-inning game since Burrell in '08.— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) September 25, 2016
The current Phillies roster doesn’t determine how well the first major sports championship in this city in 25 years - and the only one since - is remembered. We do. So don’t be afraid to relate every anecdote from that magical season to your kids as they’re going to sleep, and don’t take "Dad, please; I have to get up early and am an adult," for an answer.
"You should really let your kids have some independence," suggests your neighbor through the window.
"Shut UP, Zach Duke," you calmly scream.