Folks, we’ve officially entered into “collapse” territory.
After yet another heart-breaking loss last night, coupled with an Atlanta Braves comeback victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, the Phillies are 4 1⁄2 games out in the NL East, 5 in the loss column. In terms of the NL wild card, they are 2 1⁄2 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers for that final spot, with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers all ahead of them.
Since sweeping a four-game series at home against the Miami Marlins on August 5, after which they held a 1 1⁄2 game lead in the division, the Phillies have lost 14 out of their last 21 and dropped 6 games to the Braves in the standings. At 70-62, the Phils have fallen to 8 games over .500 for the first time since July 1.
And it’s not just the losing, but also how they’ve lost. They’ve gotten blown out and lost late leads. They’ve lost by not hitting. They’ve lost thanks to some erratic starting pitching. They’ve lost due to blown leads by their very best relief pitchers and, most notably, they’ve lost thanks to horrendous defense and some pretty awful baserunning.
They’ve suffered at least a dozen gut-punching losses this season, and it feels like half of them have come within the last month. And yet, they have spent most of this season in contention. Even if many Phillies fans haven’t “bought in” to the team, it’s undeniable that, for most of the 2018 season, the Phils have played well enough to be considered a favorite to make the postseason.
Now, the naysayers are out in full force. The team is in free-fall, and the “I told you so’s,” have come rolling in. For them, this season was never fun. They never believed, never found it enjoyable, and at least for now, they get to say they were right.
But for everyone else, for those of you who have been enjoying the ride, how will this season feel if the collapse continues into September? How will you feel about this season if those seven games against the Braves in the final two weeks don’t mean anything? How will you feel if this turns into another 1999?
During my appearance on the WIP Morning Show on Monday, I was asked if I would consider this season a success if the Phillies collapsed down the stretch. I responded, while it would be disappointing, the 2018 season would, for me, still be a success.
Despite some moves that have not worked out in recent days, Gabe Kapler has managed this team well. They won in spite of those many heart-breaking losses, inconsistency on offense, three-fifths of the rotation playing Jekyll and Hyde, a bullpen with no closer and the worst defense in baseball. We’ve learned Rhys Hoskins is the real deal (if a bit streaky), we’ve seen Maikel Franco take that next step forward we were hoping for, seen real improvement from Nick Williams, and watched Aaron Nola develop into one of the three best starting pitchers in the National League.
Ahead of what should be an exciting off-season, the Phils have shown everyone the rebuild is over, that they are an up-and-coming team, and they gave us what we all asked for at the beginning of the season — games that matter in August and September.
But a collapse muddies the waters.
Is this a 1964-like collapse? Of course not. That team was in first place for most of the season and blew a 6 1⁄2 game lead with 12 to play by losing 10 in a row. This Phillies team was never more than 2 1⁄2 games up at any point this season, and its hold on first was always tenuous. The holes and shortcomings of the 2018 Phils were always evident, they just played through them thanks to outstanding starting pitching and a nice run by the very same bullpen that is imploding on a nearly nightly basis.
Of course, expectations changed at the trade deadline when general manager Matt Klentak went out and acquired Asdrubal Cabrera and Wilson Ramos and, a couple weeks later, when they got Justin Bour. The team recognized they had a real opportunity to go to the playoffs. They were on a 90-win pace.
Now, it feels almost impossible to imagine them getting to 90 wins.
So let’s just say the Phillies finish something like 82-80. That is a record that, at the beginning of the season, most would have been happy with. They won 66 games last year, the fifth year of a long, grueling rebuild. But winning 82 games would mean the team would go just 12-18 over their last 30.
Were that to happen, how would you remember the 2018 Phillies? Would you remember the time spent in first, the official end of the rebuild and their return to national prominence? Or would you remember the opportunity lost and the struggles that derailed a once-promising season?
Hey, it ain’t over. There is still a full month of baseball left. The Braves’ schedule does get tougher, and they are young, too. It’s just hard to see a Phillies team that is doing so many things wrong suddenly start to do them correctly.
Time will tell how fans judge the 2018 season. Luckily for the Phils, there’s still time to change some minds.
If the Phillies finish the season 82-80, how will you judge the season?
This poll is closed
Success! It’s what we said we wanted at the start of the season!
Failure! It’s a blown opportunity, plain and simple.
Neither. I never believed this team could do it.