2021 is wrapping up today, and what a year it’s been! We had a riot at the Capitol building, a few new COVID-19 variants - some of which were pretty serious - and the deaths of some beloved celebrities. We also had a full season of baseball, and while that sounds good in theory, the problem was that the Phillies (once again) missed the playoffs, while the Braves won the World Series.
So maybe 2021 wasn’t the best year ever. At least it was better than 2020, right?
What’s that? You’re saying that for a lot of people, the first two months of 2020 were actually pretty good, while 2021 has kind of sucked from the start? Well...let’s just hope that 2022 goes a little better for everybody.
Anyway, before that big ball drops in Times Square this evening, why not take a quick look back at the year that was for the Phillies, and then we can watch footage of a baseball brawl in which the players were actually trying to hurt each other.
The year in Phillies
2021 certainly wasn’t the best season in Phillies’ history, seeing how they didn’t win the World Series or even make the playoffs. But it wasn’t the worst season either! They had a winning record and one of their players won the National League MVP. Considering the dismal history of the franchise, that probably puts 2021 somewhere in the top third.
Let’s take a month by month look at the not-awful year that was:
January - They signed J.T.! After months of hashtags and badgering on social media, the Phillies finally agreed on a contract with the star catcher. Fans were actually happy! (It wouldn’t last.)
February - The Phillies made some moves to round out their roster, signing Matt Moore, Chase Anderson, Brandon Kintzler, and Didi Gregorius. In hindsight, this wasn’t a great month.
March - The Phillies finish their Grapefruit League schedule with a 12-15 record. Despite that unspectacular Spring performance, there was a sense of optimism among Phillies fans. Sure, the Phillies had fallen short the past nine seasons, but that was no reason to think that THIS year wouldn’t be different.
Screw it, let’s be optimistic https://t.co/uuvFbZuU7y— The Good Phight (@TheGoodPhight) March 25, 2021
April - The Phillies opened the season with four straight wins, including a sweep of the Braves. In what would become a recurring theme of the season, they were unable to hold on to that momentum and finished April with a 13-13 record.
May - This month doesn’t go so well for the Phillies. Thanks to the fastball he took to the face and wrist, Bryce Harper goes into a slump, and the Phillies follow suit. They finish the month 25-29, and end things with an 11-1 shellacking at the hands of the Reds.
Phillies baseball at this juncture pic.twitter.com/Ue2RkoWT1m— Pat Gallen (@PatGallenCBS3) May 31, 2021
June - Another .500 month as the bullpen once again turns into a disaster. Hector Neris (re-)proved that he’s not best suited as a closer, while Joe Girardi continued to show no awareness of which pitchers should be used in medium to high-leverage situations. As evidence of this, David Hale and Neftali Perez are both used in games that were not blowouts (or at least weren’t blowouts prior to their appearance)
"And it looks like Joe Girardi is going to go to David Hale in this situation..." https://t.co/DrPHPhaeEe— Bill Zeiders (@Wzeiders) September 23, 2021
July - A not-so-bad month as J.T. Realmuto hits a home run in the All-Star Game and the team has its first winning month of the season. And thanks to the ineptitude of the other teams in the division, that was enough to keep the Phillies in the thick of contention.
August - The Phillies opened the month with eight straight wins and ended it with five straight wins. For a brief moment, it looked like the team was putting it all together, and it was actually fun to be a Phillies fan again.
Unfortunately, there also some exceedingly not-fun times, like the inexplicable sweep at the hands of the lowly Diamondbacks.
September - Despite their inconsistency (or maybe it should be despite their consistency considering they were constantly hovering around the .500 mark all season), the Phillies had a fair shot at winning the division heading into the final week of the season. They went to Atlanta with first place basically on the line...and got swept, allowing the Braves to clinch the division at their expense.
October - With a win over the Marlins on the first of the month, the Phillies clinched their first winning record since 2011! They were so motivated by the accomplishment that they went on to drop the next two games, finishing the season at 82-80.
November - Bryce Harper becomes the first Phillie since Jimmy Rollins in 2007 to win the National League MVP award. It was well deserved, no matter what the RBI truthers would have you believe. Zack Wheeler just misses the Cy Young Award, finishing in second place in that voting.
You forgot the rbi category on purpose, right?— Mike Missanelli (@MikeMiss25) July 28, 2021
The fact that the Phillies had two of the best players in the league and still missed the playoffs shows just how bad the bottom of the Phillies’ roster was, and how poorly management fared at working around it.
December - A labor stoppage begins as the owners initiate a lockout. And from all reports, this situation isn’t going to be resolved any time soon.
What Phillie appeared in the most games in 2021?
Clips from days of yore
Do you want to watch a brawl between the Phillies and the Mets in 1990? Of course you do!
Holy crap, this was insane. In most baseball “brawls,” you might get a little bit of pushing and shoving between a couple of guys, while the rest of their teammates stand around trying to look intimidating. But these guys were legitimately trying to hurt each other.
The conflict was set up by Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden hitting two Phillies batters earlier in the game. While the Phillies announcers believe that those HBPs were unintentional, the unwritten rules say that if you hit two batters, you’d better be ready to bail out when you come to the plate.
Gooden was ready but bailing out wasn’t what he had in mind. He was practically charging the mound before Pat Combs even threw a pitch. Most baseball brawls are exercises in posturing, but Gooden wasn’t posturing, he was looking to kick some ass.
To his credit, Combs didn’t back down. He may have taken a good shot to the face, but he bought just enough time for Darren Daulton to come to the rescue. Daulton does a good job of taking Gooden down with a headlock, and then proceeding to pummel his head with punches.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a baseball brawl restart once, let alone twice. Darryl Strawberry was not enamored by Daulton’s earlier treatment of Gooden and wanted a piece of the Phillies’ catcher. After that was broken up, Strawberry tried to start things up again, only to be brutally slammed to the ground by Von Hayes.
A few comments:
- The Phillies’ road gray uniforms are underrated. The powder blue throwbacks get a lot of love these days, but I find the burgundy on gray to be aesthetically pleasing.
- Gooden’s high-top fade is an A+ look.
- To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Joe West decided to get proactive in breaking up the brawl, and body slammed pitcher Dennis Cook to the ground.
- I got a kick out of John Kruk walking around with a “I don’t have time for this crap” expression on his face the entire time.
- Von Hayes might be one of the most maligned Phillies of all time, so maybe he missed his calling as a professional wrestler. He essentially delivers a Rock Bottom to Strawberry.
Featured Phillies baseball card
Speaking of Hayes, here’s his 1986 Donruss card:
I spent a lot of time writing about opposing players with punchable faces, but Hayes ranks right up there. It’s no wonder fans and teammates were never that enamored with the guy.
I wondered if modern analytics would be kind to Hayes, but they paint a similar picture to his reputation: A good, but not great player.
The data is clear: The vaccine is safe and effective, so get yourself vaxxed and boosted if necessary. Because while the past ten seasons haven’t gone the Phillies way, if they do finally return to the postseason in 2022, you won’t get to enjoy watching them in the playoffs if you’re dead.