81-60. That is the best record in the National League to date and it is currently boasted by the 2008 and 2009 National League Champions and 2008 World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies.
What is it that led the Phillies to back-to-back NL championships and has now led them to the National League's best overall record with only 21 games left in the season? The answer is sheer toughness.
This Phillies baseball team is driven by a sense of toughness that crumbles your average team. The Phillies have had numerous players take trips to the disabled list this season and at this late point in the season, when they should have been out of the equation, they are currently on top.
That is toughness; having the mental and physical toughness to endure the myriad of injuries without allowing them to defeat the team. How many franchises could endure DL stints by three different starting pitchers, its starting catcher, starting first baseman, starting second baseman, starting shortstop, starting third basemen, starting center fielder, its setup man, its closer, several other bench players and bullpen arms, and still be in first place atop its division and league this late in the season?
I don't know exactly how many teams could, but I do know that the list is short and that the Phillies are certainly atop it, if not the sole name on it.
Not only are the Phillies tough enough to endure the rash of injuries that have befallen them. They are also tough enough to endure the pressure of being a target every night. They have represented the NL in the World Series two years in a row and they clearly have a bulls eye on their back because of it. Even with every NL team gunning for them, they stay right in the mix of things.
This is clearly a team that knows how to win in the face of adversity. That's why late in the year teams like Atlanta, San Diego, and St. Louis are falling apart. That is why teams like the Mets in 2009, who had high expectations but got bit by the injury bug, fall off the map. This Phillies team has a clear attitude that they are supposed to win no matter what. This attitude clearly makes them the best NL team and perhaps, the best team in baseball.
I think Charlie Manuel said it best, the night that the Phillies took sole position of first place this past Tuesday. "It's always good to be in first place. That's the only way to live."
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