Philadelphia Phillies: 25 Most Disappointing Seasons in Franchise History
Fans of the Philadelphia Phillies are no stranger to the meaning of the word "disappointment." While this current string of division titles may ease the pain just a bit, you don't lose 10,000 games as a franchise without having more than a fair share of disappointing seasons.
As with any disappointment, some hurt worse than others.
Combine that previous statement with the fact that baseball can be a funny sport and it's the perfect storm for a tidal wave of disappointment from time to time. Teams can look great on paper and not make the postseason. That's disappointing.
Some teams make it all the way to the World Series, and win or lose, miss the postseason all together just a year later. That's disappointing as well.
The Phillies are a franchise who have disappointed in more ways than a single man could ever distinguish, and the 2012 season is shaping up to be no different. This is a roster studded with talent and experience. If they missed the postseason, it would be one of the most disappointing seasons ever. In fact, it would rank ninth on this list.
So while the 2012 version of the Phillies attempt to turn things around, let's take a look at what they're trying to avoid: Joining the 25 most disappointing teams in franchise history.
25. 1888 Quakers
In 1888, the "Quakers" franchise, which would become the Phillies in just a few seasons, was just a few years old and looking to build off of their most successful season since their conception in 1883 just a year prior.
On paper, they sure looked like a team that could compete. With a starting rotation that featured Charlie Buffinton, Dan Casey, Kid Gleason, and Ben Sanders, any lineup that could put some runs together would give them a chance to win.
Ultimately, that never happened. The lineup struggled and Buffinton's stellar season (11.5 WAR), among others, went to waste.
That may be the biggest disappointment in baseball: Knowing that a team has enough talent to compete and then watching them flop.
24. 1890 Phillies
A couple of years later, the newly dubbed "Phillies" looked like a surefire contender. Kid Gleason had emerged as a front-line starter and he was every bit as good as advertised in 1890, winning 38 games.
On the other side of the ball, Jack Clements and Sam Thompson finally gave the club some offensive firepower.
Yet the Phillies couldn't manage a finish better than third place, a certain disappointment for a club that finally started looking like a winner.
23. 1908 Phillies
In 1907, the Phillies had one of their best finished in recent memory by finishing in third place, so as they moved into the 1908 season, it was a team considered to be on the up and up.
With guys like Kitty Bransfield, John Titus, and Sherry Magee, they had some offense. With guys like George McQuillan, Tully Sparks, and Frank Corridon, they certainly had the pitching.
The problem was that the team just never played well together. The Phillies struggled with some of the game's fundamentals and never turned their talent into results, finishing in fourth place.
22. 1934 Phillies
The Phillies were a lot better than their seventh place finish indicated in 1934.
Their best player that season was Curt Davis, who's 19 wins and 2.95 ERA helped him to a WAR of 8.2. He was joined in the rotation by Phil Collins, who didn't have the best season of his career, but certainly contributed.
The offense was a similar story. The Phillies had a lot of talented guys—Dolph Camilli, Dick Bartell, Ethan Allen, Johnny Moore—who just didn't have good years. They were a team of high expectations and poor results.
21. 1926 Phillies
Every last place finish is a disappointment, but the Phillies' season in 1926 was especially disappointing.
At the front of the starting rotation, Hal Carlson gave the club a legitimate ace. He won 17 games for them and posted an ERA of 3.23. The rest of the pitching staff, which looked good on paper before Opening Day, was absolutely dreadful once things got under way.
The lineup wasn't much different. Cy Williams had a great year but few others were able to contribute.
The lack of offense and poor pitching led to a surprising last place finish.
20. 1972 Phillies
During the off-season, the Phillies made a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, sending Rick Wise to the Cards in exchange for Steve Carlton. From today's perspective, the rest is history, but at the time, Carlton had something to prove.
By the time 1972 rolled around, you would think that any time your ace won 27 games in a single season, your team was in pretty good shape. But not the Phillies.
Carlton won 27 games and posted a 1.92 ERA, but as it turns out, he was a one man wrecking crew. Roger Freed's .740 OPS was the highest of any regular and the next best ERA in the starting rotation was Ken Reynolds' 4.26. He also won just two games.
Getting a season like that out of your ace and finishing in last place is disappointing.
19. 1901 Phillies
To sum up the state of the Quakers / Phillies' franchise in the early stages of its existence, the organization had just one second place finish, in 1887, through its first 15 seasons in the MLB. The kicker, of course, is that the organization also had zero first place finishes.
Could 1901 be the year that the club finally finished in first place? They certainly had the talent.
The starting rotation was led by Al Orth, who won 20 games and had one of the best years of his career. He was joined by Red Donahue and Bill Duggleby in the starting rotation, and they both won 20 games as well.
The offense had its share of threats, led by Ed Delahanty. Elmer Flick and Roy Thomas both had above average seasons at the dish as well.
So with the way that most of the club was playing, a second place finish was certainly disappointing. Most thought that this would be the season they finished at the top. That honor, however, belonged to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
18. 1917 Phillies
After making their first World Series appearance just two seasons earlier, the Phillies were heading the wrong way as 1917 rolled around, but each spring, fans remained optimistic that a roster largely similar to the successful 1915 club would be able to get back to the promised land.
That never happened.
Pete Alexander was certainly trying though. He won 30 games in 1917 and posted an ERA of 1.83. The rest of the starting rotation was good as well, but the team never mustered enough offense to be a legitimate contender.
Outside of Gavvy Cravath's monster season, the only player to post an OPS of at least .700 was Fred Luderus, and his OPS was .700.
Though they finished in second place, they were 10 games behind the New York Giants.
17. 1994 Phillies
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In 1993, the Phillies were able to captivate the city of Philadelphia like few teams have in the city's illustrious sports history, and given the way it ended, there was a little unfinished business for that club, most of which returned for 1994.
After appearing in the World Series the year before, the Phillies finished in fourth place in the National League East in 1994, posting an embarrassing record of 54-61.
The problem was simple. Outside of Danny Jackson, the club just didn't do much pitching that year and the offense couldn't bail them out.
16. 2007 Phillies
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The 2007 was a bit of a roller-coaster season for the Phillies. They spent the majority of the season looking up at the New York Mets in the standings, but the end of the season was a classic. The Mets slumped their way into second place while the Phillies turned on the afterburners and claimed the top spot on the final day of the season.
The city of Philadelphia went into a baseball high. It was the first time since the 1993 World Series that they had reached the postseason.
The Colorado Rockies, however, were ready to serve up a dose of reality. They swept the Phillies in three games during the NLCS and an exciting season ended in incredible disappointment.
15. 1916 Phillies
Despite a less than impressive showing in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox, the Phillies' stellar regular season in 1915 made them an easy choice for a favorite heading into the 1916 season, especially since most of the roster was returning.
They were as advertised.
The Phillies won 91 games and was one of the best teams in the National League, thanks in no small part to guys like Gavvy Cravath, Dode Paskert, Fred Luderus, Pete Alexander, and Eppa Rixxey.
What's more disappointing than knowing the team played so well and watching them finish in second place though? That was exactly the case, as the Phillies found themselves looking up at the Brooklyn Robins on the final day of the regular season.
14. 1976 Phillies
By 1976, the Phillies' build-up towards a postseason run was becoming apparent. After finishing in last place a few seasons prior, they had made steady strides towards the top of the division in each season leading up to '76, including a second place finish in 1975.
There was a lot of anticipation heading into the '76 season. They had a tremendous lineup, filled with names like Dick Allen, Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, and Garry Maddox.
They had the pitching, led of course by Steve Carlton. But they also received contributions from guys like Jim Kaat, Jim Lonborg, Ron Reed, and Tug McGraw.
In any other season, they'd be World Series favorites after winning 101 games during the regular season, but not this one. They were set to square off with the 102-win Cincinnati Reds, nicknamed the "Big Red Machine" for the way they steam rolled the National League.
After a largely entertaining season, the Phillies were swept by the Reds in three games, and a season that had so much potential ended the year in disappointment.
13. 1981 Phillies
Heading into the 1981 season, the city of Philadelphia was still on an emotional, baseball high from the previous season. For the first time in franchise history, the Phillies were World Champions, and most of that roster was back for 1981.
However, the '81 season was a disappointment in its entirety.
First and foremost, it was shortened by a labor strike that divided the standings into two parts. The Phillies, who were the best team in the NL East during the first half, cooled off during the second half and would meet the Montreal Expos in the first ever divisional play in the postseason.
The Phillies, led by Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, and Gary Matthews, among others, were the favorites heading into the series against the Expos, but Montreal took the series to a full five games and ousted the defending champs.
12. 1883 Quakers
When your city is getting a professional sports franchise for the first time, its exciting. So I imagine that 1883 was an exciting time to be a baseball fan in the city of Philadelphia, as baseball expanded in the east and the Philadelphia Quakers were born.
That was an emotional high that probably didn't last very long.
The Quakers just didn't have much talent on their team and won just 17 games during their inaugural season, losing 81 in the process.
The club's ace, John Coleman, had a year that I would not wish on my most hated enemy, posting a record of 12-48 with a 4.87 ERA.
Yes, I'm serious.
11. 1951 Phillies
Prior to 1950, the Phillies had been a bad baseball team for quite a long time, so when the "Whiz Kids" were assembled and captivated the fans during an electric World Series in '50, they were able to accomplish something few other clubs could—revive a dormant fan base.
Needless to say, most of that club, now with another year of experience under their belts, returned for the 1951 season, and fans were happy to have them back.
But that didn't last long.
The 1951 version of the squad struggled at various points during the season and finished in fifth place with a losing record. Richie Ashburn and Willie Jones were the only offensive players to get something going and Robin Roberts' 21-win campaign was spoiled.
More significantly, the Phillies fell into their losing ways for an extended period of time yet again following this season.
10. 1977 Phillies
The 1976 season ended in disappointing fashion—a three game sweep against the Cincinnati Reds in the postseason—but there was certainly hope heading into the 1977 season.
Fans were able to look on the bright side. Most of the roster that won 101 games the previous season was set to return and the belief was that the Phillies' early postseason exit the previous year would make them even more wanting of a title in 1977.
Things were looking good. For the second straight season, they collected 101 wins. They received outstanding performances from their big boppers, Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski. They received excellent pitching from Steve Carlton and one of the best bullpens in the National League.
The team went into postseason play flying high as the favorite against the talented Los Angeles Dodgers, but like the Reds, the Dodgers would make quick work of the Phillies.
It was one of the most disappointing postseasons in Phillies' history, highlighted by the botched game that would become known as "Black Friday."
9. 1978 Phillies
The end of the 1976 season? Disappointing.
The end of the 1977 season? More disappointing.
The Phillies entered the 1978 season in a disturbing trend, and that made the energy among the fan base a little erratic. There was still plenty to be excited about. On paper, the Phillies had one of the best teams in baseball. They were coming off of two straight 101-win seasons and brought most of those rosters back.
They certainly didn't disappoint during the regular season. The core of Bob Boone, Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, Steve Carlton, Ron Reed, and Tug McGraw, among others, led the Phillies to a 90-win season, giving them a third straight first place finish.
So why were the fans uneasy? The answer was simple. They'd meet the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series again and the fans weren't sure they could get the job done.
Another fantastic season ended in incredible disappointment as the Phillies dropped yet another series to the Dodgers, three games to one.
Following the season, they would bring in a proven winner—Pete Rose.
8. 2009 Phillies
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As the Phillies made their way to Clearwater, Florida for Spring Training in 2009, they were coming off one of the greatest seasons in franchise history. Their 2008 campaign ended in a World Series title, and most of the guys that paraded down Broad Street were back for '09.
The Phillies had a core of offensive players that made them a threat to win any ball game. When all was said and done, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth, and Pat Burrell's replacement, Raul Ibanez, all had at least 30 home runs.
The biggest concern was the pitching staff, with Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge struggling mightily, but mid-season acquisition Cliff Lee was putting some of those worries to rest.
The club finished with 93 wins. The Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers put up little fight in the NLDS and NLCS, respectively. The feeling among the fans was that the Phillies were destined to win their second straight World Series title.
The New York Yankees had other plans.
At the end of the day, Lee was the only guy who came ready to play, and fans hung their heads in shame as the Phillies played some of the worst baseball of the season during that Fall Classic.
7. 1983 Phillies
1983 was a disappointing season for the Phillies for a number of reason.
Obviously, it is disappointing any time a team loses the World Series. The Phillies and their core of aging veterans had put on quite the show during the regular season, overcoming some adversity en route to a 90-win season.
Heading into postseason play, they'd finally get some revenge on those pesky Los Angeles Dodgers before meeting the talented Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.
Needless to say, it didn't take the O's much effort to beat the old, tired Phillies. That was disappointing.
Perhaps more disappointing, however, was knowing that this was the last hurrah for a lot of the Phillies' core players. Pete Rose and Joe Morgan were 42 and 39, respectively. Mike Schmidt and Garry Maddox were both 33-years-old, and the youngest everyday player, Von Hayes, would never live up to his potential.
The pitching was aging even faster. Steve Carlton was 38-years-old. Ron Reed and Tug McGraw were 40 and 38, respectively.
The Phillies were about to go into an era of change.
6. 2010 Phillies
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The Phillies cruised through the regular season in 2010.
Off-season acquisition and new ace Roy Halladay had one of the best seasons of his career, as did lefty Cole Hamels. The Phillies made a splash at the trade deadline to acquire Roy Oswalt, and the three of them gave the Phillies one of the best starting rotations in baseball.
The offense was on the decline, but they were veteran hitters. Guys like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins, among others, had just appeared in back to back World Series.
After winning 97 games during the regular seasons, the Phillies walked past the Cincinnati Reds, who certainly didn't help themselves, and would face the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS.
A lot of people had the Phillies as the favorite, and for good reason. The Giants were built a lot like the Phillies. Stellar pitching, not-so-stellar offense.
The Giants got timely hits from a couple of players and their pitchers, combined with some poor hitting from the Phillies, shut down the Phils' offense.
It is easily one of the most disappointing ends to a season in Phillies' history.
5. 1915 Phillies
The Phillies had been in existence since 1883, and yet, they had not appeared in a World Series yet heading into the 1915 season. That's 32 years as an MLB franchise and a grand total of zero World Series appearances.
That was all about to change.
The Phillies came into the 1915 season with a lot of good players on their roster. They had offense, with guys like Fred Luderus and Gavvy Cravath around. They had pitching, with a staff led by Pete Alexander, but also featuring Erskine Mayer, Al Demaree, and Eppa Rixey.
They scored runs and kept the opposition out of the run column, and that's a good combination for any baseball team, as it helped this Phillies club to 90 wins and a first place finish.
They would take on the Boston Red Sox in the World Series and all of that good mojo following the season was flushed down the proverbial toilet, as the Red Sox walked right over the Phillies and celebrated a World Series title.
Talk about disappointing. Imagine waiting 32 years for a World Series title and then coming up short.
And that was just the first time it would happen to Phillies fans.
4. 1993 Phillies
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One swing from Toronto Blue Jays' slugger Joe Carter gave one of the most memorable seasons in the history of the Phillies one of the most disappointing endings.
The Phillies weren't supposed to win anything in 1993. They didn't even look like athletes, with their mullets, beer guts, and lackadaisical attitudes off the field. The Atlanta Braves were the consensus favorites, but that didn't bother the Phillies any, because once game time rolled around, they meant business.
The Phillies, dubbed "Macho Row" for their looks and lifestyle, featured bats like Darren Daulton, Lenny Dykstra, and John Kruk. They had solid pitching, led by the likes of Curt Schilling and Mitch Williams.
They stunned the baseball world in the regular season, winning 97 games before meeting the rival Braves in the NLCS. They weren't supposed to win that series, but they did.
At this point, there was a certain feeling around the city of Philadelphia. Some teams, through some inexplicable baseball sorcery, are just meant to win the World Series. A lot of people thought that this Phillies team was one of those so called "teams of destiny."
They would meet the Blue Jays in the World Series and it was certainly disappointing. The series in general was a sloppy mess for the Phillies, but watching Carter celebrate that walk-off home run is a memory that no fan will soon forget.
3. 1950 Phillies
The 1950 Phillies were a team that you would have liked to have seen win the World Series.
After years of struggling as a franchise, the Phillies were finally able to put something together with their 1950 club. They assembled a bunch of young players, earning the club the simple nickname of the "Whiz Kids."
As young as they were, this was a team with plenty of talent. They didn't have the experience, and were probably somewhat of an underdog for that reason, but this is a team that could flat out play the game of baseball.
Behind names like Willie Jones, Richie Ashburn, Del Ennis, Robin Roberts, Curt Simmons, and eventual MVP, Jim Konstanty, the Phillies won 91 regular season games and secured first place with a three-run home run by Dick Sisler on the final day of the regular season.
This was an exciting team that a lot of people thought had the drive and the energy to win the World Series, but they would have to go right through the New York Yankees to do so.
As it turns out, this team wasn't quite ready to compete for a World Series title, and that was surely disappointing. They were swept right out of the Fall Classic by the Yanks and wouldn't be heard from again.
2. 2011 Phillies
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The 2011 Phillies were the complete opposite of the 1993 Phillies. The 2011 Phillies were supposed to win it all. They were a group of professional athletes. They had the experience. They had all of the talent in the world and splurged on their starting rotation even further by reuniting with Cliff Lee in the off-season.
On paper, it was one of the greatest pitching staffs ever. When all was said and done, it was still one of the greatest pitching staffs ever.
But this wasn't a club without its weaknesses. Chase Utley missed a lot of time with a chronic knee issue and the rest of the offense as slumping right along through the season.
That wasn't something that their elite starting pitching couldn't overcome, however, and the Phillies still won 102 regular season games—the most in franchise history.
They were the favorites to win the World Series after capturing their fifth straight National League East title, looking to avenge their NLCS loss against the San Francisco Giants the year prior. To do so, they'd have to square off with the red hot St. Louis Cardinals, who made the postseason on the final day of the season, thanks in no small part to the Phillies downing the Atlanta Braves.
After winning the first game of the series, the anticipation only grew. Many thought it would be a cake walk for the Phillies, and it was anything but. Cliff Lee blew a big lead in Game 2. Cole Hamels won Game 3. Roy Oswalt lost Game 4.
The odds were still in the Phillies' favor, with Roy Halladay taking the mound at home, against his good friend Chris Carpenter, with everything on the line.
Both pitchers lived up to the hype.
Halladay allowed one run. Carpenter allowed zero. The rest is history.
And thus, the Phillies were defeated on their own field for the second straight season, but this one was easily the most disappointing postseason exit ever.
1. 1964 Phillies
Any season with a nickname like "The Phold" is easily one of the most disappointing ever, and it is certainly the most disappointing in the history of the Phillies' franchise.
Heading into 1964, the Phillies hadn't even sniffed the postseason since the "Whiz Kids" were swept out of the World Series by the New York Yankees back in 1950. The fan base had fallen back into its slumber and there wasn't much going on to awaken them.
Then 1964 rolled around. The Phillies had built a solid team, led by great pitchers like Jim Bunning and Chris Short. They had a very solid lineup that featured names like Dick Allen, Johnny Callison, and Wes Covington.
It was a surprise to a lot of people, but for most of the season, the Phillies were one of the best teams in all of baseball. Then the month of September happened.
It all started with that play pictured to your left. In a game against the Cincinnati Reds, Chico Ruiz's steal of home would take the wind right out of the Phillies' sails. Though they were still in first place with just 12 games to play, there was a certain air of uncertainty around the club.
They would lose 10 of those games.
They would finish in second place.
It was one of the most embarrassing collapses in franchise history, becoming known as "The Phold" in the city of Philadelphia and elsewhere.
Talk about disappointing.