Friday, September 26, 2003

Officially done

Well, that's it. Last night's loss to the Marlins officially eliminated the Phillies from playoff contention, although I stand behind my statement that they were done following Conine's home run Tuesday night. The Astros won to stay alive, but Florida's magic number is now one, and with the Mets coming to town, they need just one win in three games to clinch the spot. It's all but theirs.

The loss puts an unofficial end to the Phillies season -- a season that was exciting, no doubt, but also a bit disappointing. Not as disappointing as a 90-loss season, but more heartbreaking. This is a team that did a lot right this year (signing Thome, sticking with Byrd in center, keeping Cormier, hiring Kerrigan), but also failed in a lot of key areas. Does the blame fall on Ed Wade? Does it fall on Larry Bowa? Does it fall on the players? You could probably answer yes to all three, but I am not ready to look back on the season and figure it all out yet.

Players say the long season, and more specifically a good pennant race, can take a lot out of them; the same can be true for the fans that follow them faithfully. A baseball season can be a grind. 162 games. Three to four hours of tension and turmoil night after night. It can wear at you...

In the coming days and weeks, I will look back on this season. I'll try to figure out what went right for the Phillies, as well as what went wrong. We'll see if they answered the questions they had back in Spring Training, and we'll figure out what questions they face for next season. I'll look into my crystal ball (okay, it's a Magic 8 ball) and figure out what moves the Phillies will make in the offseason, and maybe we'll critique the moves they didn't make this season. But we have five months to take care of all of that.

For now, we can sit back, stress-free, and watch The Final Innings play out at the Vet. The Braves come to town for three, and neither team has anything on the line. It will be a weekend to celebrate and remember the history of the Vet -- both good and bad. The final Vet Fireworks spectacular is tonight after the game. Tomorrow, the All-Vet Phillies team is announced before the game; and Sunday's post-game festivities will celebrate the best moments that the Vet has had to offer. It should be a wonderful weekend to sit back and enjoy.

As for the present...well, you know what, you are out of the race Larry Bowa. For the hell of it, I would love to see an infield tonight that consists of Chase Utley, Anderson Machado, and Travis Chapman. Put Michaels out in the outfield and let him play a full nine. Let Thome go after one or two more, and let Marlon Byrd -- who started the season with a disasterous .193 average through May -- fight it out to finish over .300.

Let the kids play and have some fun. And while we embrace the past, let's look to the future.

In the meantime, I want to hear from all of you. What went right this year? What went wrong? What was the best move the team made? What was the worst? What could they have done differently? And most importantly, do you leave the 2003 season disappointed, or excited for the future? E-mail me, and let me know what you think.

Thank you for hanging in there with me this season, and I hope you all stick around for what is sure to be an interesting offseason, and hopefully a better 2004.