Remember 2007? It’s the season we all now recall as the year the Phillies finally broke through and won the division with an improbable late season surge to pass the Mets. 2007 is the start of what’s come to be known as the start of the years of “Continued Success” — five straight division titles, two NL pennants, and a World Series championship. It’s one of the two greatest eras in franchise history, along with the 1976-83 team of Schmidt, Carlton, Rose, et al.
However as we were going through that season, none of that was known yet. The Phillies had a good, young core, but they had fallen short in even reaching the postseason, let alone making any kind of playoff run. It had now been 14 years since the 1993 team surprised everyone to go from last place the year before, to winning the division and making it to the World Series.
On the afternoon of Sunday, July 15th that year they lost 10-2 to the Cardinals and were sitting at 46-45, mired in third place in the NL East and five games out of first place. It’s a spot in the standings we’ve come to know all too well these past few years.
What’s more, this loss wasn’t just the 45th loss of the season. It also happened to be the 10,000th loss of the Phillies franchise, making them the first pro team (in any sport) to record that very large, very round, number of losses. It was the final game of a homestand, and as the AP put it...
The Phillies blew their chance to push back No. 10,000 until their seven-game West Coast road trip when even the die-hards would have trouble staying awake to watch it.
They had already been known as “the losingest franchise in sports”, and this momentous milestone highlighted and cemented that label. The Phillies franchise had seen a few highlights, but only one championship, and many more lowlights:
The long periods of management that was incompetent, cheap, or both. The 1964 collapse, the long periods of acting like a small market team for most of the period after the ‘83 Wheeze Kids. Even when they did make it to the postseason, their fans endured the heartbreaking losses of 1977-78, and the ‘93 World Series.
As bad as the Phillies’ history had been, there was a three-decade period when it was particularly horrendous: over the 30 years from 1919 through 1948:
- they were a combined 1,176 games below .500
- compiled a .371 winning percentage
- that’s the equivalent, in 162-game terms, of going 60-102, every year, for 30 straight years
Any team can set aside its worst periods, but that era for the Phillies is when they did the heavy lifting that eventually got them first to the 10,000 loss milestone.
Below is how the franchise has progressed since its inception, in terms of cumulative games above or below .500 (also viewable here):
Over the rest of their history, both as of 2007, and even through 2021, they’ve been essentially a .500 team:
1919 through 1948: 1,176 games below .500 (1,697-2,873)
other 109 years through ‘21: 1 game below .500 (8,238-8,239)
Breaking this down by decade, they’ve meandered around the .500 line most of the time, with the stark exception of three decades:
Coming into play to start their season yesterday, they were sitting at a franchise record of 9,935-11,112. Barring some calamity, they will finally reach 10,000 wins, most likely sometime in August. That will make them the 9th franchise to reach that total:
The Phillies franchise may never dig out of the hole they dug back before most of us were born, and it will always be part of the team’s legacy.
What we can hope for going forward is that they can give us the good memories that will make that period increasingly irrelevant over time.