Part 6 of 7 Phillies Championship Advantages
Professional sports teams have been known to win championships without it.
Sometimes sheer talent and fortuitous circumstance converge together to achieve a successful outcome.
Sometimes a team simply catches fire and makes an unlikely championship run.
But, oftentimes, it is the presence of certain intangible qualities that melds a collection of players into winners. And, for an organization to achieve sustained success, the presence of these intangible qualities is almost essential.
Team chemistry can be an elusive concept with imprecise definition, but it becomes readily apparent to all when it does in fact exist. Such is the case with the current era Philadelphia Phillies.
The organization deserves a great deal of credit for assembling the best collection of talent in its 127-year history. It deserves even greater kudos for the aggregate personality and make-up of that group.
The origin of the Phillies' winning chemistry traces to the nucleus that the organization chose to build around. Specifically, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard have been the foundation and clear leaders of the ball club through the current period of prosperity.
Utley is intense, driven, and stoically focused. Many players and pundits have viewed him as the consummate gamer.
Rollins and Howard are more free-spirited and complement similar determination with a little levity. "J Roll" also brings a touch of swagger that tends to instill confidence in the players around him.
As Jim Sheridan so aptly detailed in his article last week, Howard demonstrated one of the special qualities that makes him such an admired role model amongst his teammates. After the Phillies clinched their fourth consecutive NL East title, Howard paused the victory celebration to allow three veterans who had never reached the postseason to pop the first champagne corks.
Despite possessing different personalities, all three also share many traits that have been fundamental to the team's winning chemistry. The trio leads by example, demonstrating such qualities as resiliency, tenacity, mental toughness, and professionalism.
And, importantly, despite their substantial talents and accomplishments, all remain personable, team oriented, and humble. The focus always remains on winning and the team as a whole.
The organization proceeded to build out the team with a collection of veteran players possessing similar qualities such as Roy Halladay, Raul Ibanez, Brad Lidge, Roy Oswalt, Jamie Moyer, and Placido Polanco. Or, they mixed in ready
to mold young talent such as Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz, Cole Hamels, and Ryan Madson that flourished under this tutelage.
On top of this, the organization chose perhaps an unconventional, yet ideal manager to lead the group. Charlie Manuel may not be the most eloquent speaker amongst his peers, but his understated style and instinctual finesse enable this group to thrive.
The net result is a team with a superior culture and a winning attitude. Players want to be a part of it—and stay a part of it.
Veterans such as Halladay, Oswalt, Ibanez, Mike Sweeney, Brian Schneider, Cliff Lee, Matt Stairs, and Pedro Martinez immediately recognized the obvious chemistry and highly appealing environment in Philly.
After a seeming lifetime of characterization as one of the least desirable destinations for players, Philadelphia is now arguably the "it" city of Major League Baseball.
The tremendous fan support and electric atmosphere at "The Bank" surely contribute heavily, but the team chemistry and overall culture are central to this reputation. The club's professionalism, work ethic, selfless approach, upbeat collegiality, and overall winning attitude are both infectious and inviting.
Despite the Phillies' obvious talent, four straight division titles, two consecutive National League Pennants, and one World Series Championship over the past four years almost certainly would not have been possible without these undeniable intangibles.
They are also a key reason that the Phillies are the favorite to be the last team standing this postseason.