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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Phillies' Bid to Repeat Ends

In the end, the Yankees had just a little more as they ended the Phillies' bid to repeat as World Champions last night.

The Phillies best hitters, except for Chase Utley to some degree, simply didn't get the job done. Ryan Howard set a record for strikeouts in the World Series. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino did next to nothing. The sensation that was Raul Ibanez was cut short after his stint on the injury list.

Don't get me wrong, the Yanks were the better team over the last 6 games. Neither team hit all that well, but the Yankees did it just enough to win. Unless, of course, you live in the world of Fox and ESPN in which case you believe this was simply pre-ordained.

Didn't you enjoy ESPN's "Bummer in the Bronx" tease for SportsCenter after the Phillies won Game 1? I wasn't a bit bummed. It was almost as enjoyable as the multiple times Joe Buck and Tim McCarver uttered sentences like, "You just hope Alex Rodriguez gets going." Really? I wasn't hoping that. (Psst, fellas, you're supposed to be neutral. Start sentences like that with, "If you're a Yankees fan . . ." to at least act like you're hiding your network's bias.)

Yet, another cliché about "wait til next year" actually offers some sliver of comfort on a day when it's usually something true fans really don't want to hear. The core of this team isn't going anywhere for at least a couple of years, and going to a second straight World Series with a chance to repeat leaves no doubt that this is an elite team.

That said, the same pitchers that carried the Phillies in 2008 are now a major concern. Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge earned plenty of leeway after their performances last season, and Hamels certainly earned the MVP of the World Series last year. Unfortunately, both used up all of that good will in just one season.

And no, not just because this is Philadelphia.

After the Phillies became winners fans adjusted to Hamels' California laid-back attitude that lets him say things that often infuriates Philadelphians without him becoming a marked man. That won't continue with another season like this one, though. I'll give Hamels the benefit of the doubt that he will bounce back next season. Talent doesn't disappear often, and going into next season the hope just has to be that he will be the second half of a 1-2 pitching punch with Cliff Lee.

I don't have the same confidence in Brad Lidge. He gets a place in Philadelphia sports lore for what he did in 2008, but following up a perfect season with the most blown saves in the majors is an indication that there's something going on in his head. The Phils have to use him somehow next year due to his large contract, but they absolutely need to seek out a Plan B at closer. Brett Myers is a possibility in my mind.

Unfortunately, repeating as champions is no longer a possibility for the Phils.

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