The Philadelphia Phillies are world champions.
Say it again. World champions.
It's been 25 years since the city of Philadelphia has had a champion of its own. 25 long and painful years. 98 seasons. The Curse of William Penn. And now the Phillies are champions.
This is what a championship feels like. Unreal.
What a season it was.
So many memories.
J-Roll saying, “We're the team to beat in the N.L. East.” The Mets' second consecutive collapse in September. The amazing bullpen. Let's look back at the top 10 reasons the Phillies were able to win it all this season.
1. Keeping the nucleus of the team intact.That would be Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels, and Shane Victorino. The big bats and the ace of the team. These guys are vital to the success of the Phillies. You won't find a better 1B-2B-SS combo than these guys.
2. Cole Hamels. Simply the best left-handed pitcher in baseball down the stretch—better than Sabathia. Hamels was simply phenomenal in all five of his postseason starts for the Phillies, taking home both the NLCS and World Series MVP awards.
In his final 16 starts of the regular and postseason, Hamels gave up two or fewer runs in every start but one. With his unhittable changeup, Hamels looks to be the ace of the staff for many years to come.
3. The little things. Matt Stairs. Greg Dobbs. J.C. Romero. Jayson Werth. The guys that no one wanted. Stairs, who was traded for after the trade deadline,and hit one of the biggest home runs in the history of the franchise. Dobbs, the best pinch-hitter in baseball, whom Seattle let go after the '06 season.
Romero, who has been dynamic as a left-handed specialist in both '07 and '08. And Werth, the top home-run hitter against lefties this season and a speed demon on the basepaths.
4. Lights Out & The Bullpen. 89-0 when leading after eight innings. No blown saves in 48 regular season and postseason opportunities for Brad Lidge, who, along with his absolutely devastating slider, has become the best closer in baseball.
He may make things interesting, such as loading the bases in the division clincher, but the bottom line is, he's perfect, and no one deserved to get the final out more than Lidge.
And as spectacular as Lidge has been, his contemporaries in the bullpen—Romero, Madson, Durbin, Condrey, etc.—have been magnificent as well, giving the Phillies the lowest relief ERA in the majors this year.
5. The front office. Give all the credit in the world to Pat Gillick and Charlie Manuel. Gillick, the GM for the Blue Jays in the early '90s when they won back-to-back world championship titles, has been superb for the Phillies since we fired Ed Wade and brought him in. He has done so many things for this club—trading for Brad Lidge, signing Jamie Moyer to pitch in Philly, etc.
And say what you want about Manuel and his postgame press conferences, but he is one of the best managers in baseball. He knows how to get through to his players and how to get the most out of them.
6. Being patient with Brett Myers. Myers has had an up-and-down career with the Phillies, to say the least. He began as a promising, hot-headed starter with all the potential in the world. Then he served a brief role as the team's closer last season, helping the Phillies capture their first N.L. East title in 14 years.
Early this year, he struggled to the point that he was actually sent down to the minors to regain his form. And he responded by becoming one of the best starting pitchers in baseball down the stretch (and a hitting machine in October).
7. Home field. In a city absolutely starved for its first world championship in 25 years, the Phillies responded by winning all seven home playoff games, the first team to do so since the '99 Yankees. Backed by an incredible fan base, the Phillies became just the fifth team in history to win three straight home World Series games after entering their home stretch tied 1 to 1 in games.
8. Surviving the wackiest World Series ever. What a series this was. The weather, the umpiring, the low TV ratings. The Phillies hung tough. The weather didn't faze them, as they ended up winning the 50-hour Game Five anyway, and they were able to win despite some questionable calls by the umpires against both teams.
9. The long ball. These Phillies relied on the long ball more than any other team in the National League, hitting 215 home runs this season. They have power threats in Ryan Howard, the major-league leader in homers, as well as Chase Utley, Pat Burrell, and Jayson Werth.
They also have guys like Victorino, whose grand slam off of CC Sabathia in the NLDS, Matt Stairs, who hit the game-winning homer in Game Four of the NLCS, and even Joe Blanton, the home-run-hitting pitcher, who can hit the long ball if necessary.
10. Ending strong. 25 wins in their final 30 games and just one loss in each postseason series for the Phillies made them the best team in baseball. They knocked off the team with the hottest pitcher (Sabathia) and hottest hitter (Manny) in the playoffs, and concluded their season by winning in a commanding five games against a team to which they were expected to lose.
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