MLB Playoffs: Philadelphia Phillies and 10 Favorites That Failed to Win It All
The Philadelphia Phillies are the favorites to win the World Series after dominating the regular season. Charlie Manuel's squad set a franchise record with a 102 wins on their way to a fifth consecutive National League East crown.
Lee's addition gave the Phillies one of the best starting pitching staffs in recent memory. He joined a pitching staff that included the reigning NL CY Young Winner Roy Halladay and three-time All-Star Roy Oswalt.
Cole Hamels was the World Series MVP only three years ago and was considered by some to be the fourth best starter in a rotation of aces going in to the season.
Philadelphia found even more talent along the way in yet another successful regular season. The midseason addition of Hunter Pence has been more than an adequate replacement for Jayson Werth.
Vance Worley's 11-3 record has put him in contention for the National League Rookie of the Year, but he may find himself as the odd man out in the rotation once the playoffs begin.
The Phillies aren't just simply the favorite to win it all. They have dominated Major League Baseball's headlines throughout the year and have been the "it" team. After such hype and attention, their season will only be defined as a success if they win the World Series.
The 2011 Philadelphia Phillies will be remembered, but will it be for their triumph or letdown similar to other hyped favorites who were seen as too good to fail.
1995 Cleveland Indians
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
1995 was the best and worst of times for sports fans in Northeastern Ohio. Art Modell and the original Browns were packing their bags for Baltimore, when their co-tenants at Lakefront Stadium won their first pennant in 41 years.
The Indians posted a record of 100-44 in a season that was shortened by 18 games because of the strike. That would translate to at least 112 wins in a 162 game season.
Mike Hargrove's lineup was a combination of up-and-comers (Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome), established All-Stars (Kenny Lofton, Sandy Alomar, Carlos Baerga, and Albert Belle) and veteran role players (Eddie Murray, Tony Pena, and Dave Winfield). Not to mention perennial Gold Glove winner Omar Vizquel and Paul Sorrento.
The pitching staff, though not nearly as dominant, had a similar mix with Dennis Martinez, Orel Hershiser, and Charles Nagy leading the way.
Cleveland won the Central Division by an astonishing 30 games. The Indians swept the Boston Red Sox in the Division Series and took the ALCS against the Seattle Mariners in six games, before meeting the Atlanta Braves in the World Series.
They dropped the first two games in Atlanta by a single run (all but Game 4 was decided by one run). The Indians needed an 11th inning win in Game 3 to avoid a 0-3 hole. The Indians sent the series back to the Peach State after winning Game 5, 5-4. The Braves took Game 6 and the championship after David Justice (a future Cleveland Indian) hit a solo shot in the bottom of the 6th.
This season marked the beginning of a great run by the Indians, who would make the postseason five of the next six seasons. However those playoff runs never ended with a championship.
Cleveland lost the 1997 World Series in seven games to the Florida Marlins and didn't even make the ALCS in 1999 after scoring more than a thousand runs in the regular season.
The 1995 edition remains the best of Mike Hargove's Indian teams.
1995-1996 Detroit Red Wings
Joe Patronite/Getty Images
After winning the President's Trophy and getting swept in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Detroit Red Wings came back even stronger the next season.
They set an NHL-record with 62 wins during the regular season and their 131 points was the second most of all-time after the 1976-1977 Montreal Canadians (who were also coached by Scotty Bowman). Detroit scored nearly four goals per game and the duo Chris Osgood and Mike Vernon allowed the fewest goals in the league.
The Red Wings had star power all over the roster with captain Steve Yzerman, Dino Ciccarelli, the Russian Five, and a defense led by future Hall of Famer Paul Coffey and rising superstar Nicklas Lidstrom.
Two time All-Star Keith Primeau was the fourth best center on the team.
While they once again dominated the regular season, the playoffs were a different story. Detroit beat the Winnipeg Jets in six games in the first round and needed overtime in Game 7 to get by Wayne Gretzky and the St. Louis Blues in the conference semifinals.
The Red Wings met their match against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche in the next round. Colorado won the series in six after going up 2-0. They went on to sweep the Florida Panthers and win the Stanley Cup during their inaugural season in Denver.
Detroit won the Stanley Cup in the next two seasons and would have more encounters in the playoffs with Colorado.
1996-1998 Kansas Jayhawks
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
During the Roy William era, the Jayhawks were always in contention for a National Title but were never able to cut down the nets. Williams was behind the bench for Kansas for three Final Four trips and plenty of heartbreaks.
The best of his teams from Lawrence came during the 1997 and 1998 seasons. Kansas went 69-6 during those two campaigns with a roster that included future NBA first round picks; Paul Pierce, Raef LaFrentz, Jacque Vaughn, and Scot Pollard.
The Jayhawks were a No. 1 seed in both seasons, but failed to advance to the Final Four in either case.
In 1997 they were beaten the eventual champion Arizona Wildcats, 85-82, in the Sweet 16.
The next season without Vaughn and Pollard, the Jayhawks didn't even make it to the second weekend of the tournament after 8th seed Rhode Island beat them 80-75 in the second round.
Roy Williams left for North Carolina and led them to Final Four titles in 2005 and 2009.
His replacement Bill Self won the National Championship with Kansas in 2008, but the Jayhawks faced similar letdowns in 2010 and 2011 against Northern Iowa and VCU respectively.
1998 Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings set an NFL scoring record during the 1998 season.
Although the Vikings were coming off a playoff appearance, they were far from being the media darlings heading in to the 1998 NFL season.
Two unexpected performances helped make their historical season possible.
Starting quarterback Brad Johnson broke his leg in Week 2 and was replaced by Randall Cunningham. Cunningham had a career resurgence when he threw for 3,704 yards and 34 touchdown passes.
Randy Moss caught a rookie-record of 17 touchdown passes after being selected 21st overall in the NFL Draft. He and veteran Pro Bowler Cris Carter were arguably the best wide receiver duo in the league during their four seasons together as teammates.
Minnesota started the year on a 7-0 run and lost their only regular season game, 27-24 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Vikings were heavy favorites to meet the defending champion Denver Broncos in Miami for Super Bowl 33.
Minnesota routed the Arizona Cardinals 41-21 in the Divisional Round before their matchup with the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game.
The Vikings were up 27-20 in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter when Gary Anderson missed his first field goal attempt of the year. Atlanta scored on the next drive to send the game to overtime. Minnesota won the coin toss, but failed to score on their two offensive drives in extra time.
A different Anderson (Morten) kicked the game winner to send the Dirty Birds to their first Super Bowl in franchise history.
The NFL did not get their dream matchup in the Big Game. The Denver Broncos beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-19 in John Elway's finale.
Of all the letdowns Viking fans have suffered, the 1999 NFC Championship Game still sits at the top of the list for many.
2001 Seattle Mariners
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Lou Piniella brought unprecedented success to the Pacific Northwest when he arrived in 1993. Prior to his arrival, the Seattle Mariners had never made the postseason.
The Mariners made playoff appearances in 1995 and 1997 with a lineup that featured the likes of Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Jay Buhner, and Edgar Martinez, in addition to their pitching staff led by Randy Johnson.
Even after losing Johnson, Griffey, and Rodriguez in consecutive years the Mariners were still a playoff contender.
Seattle won a 116 games, which tied an MLB regular season record and was the most all-time for an American League team.
While some their established stars left for big money elsewhere, Edgar Martinez was still around and Seattle found a new one from Japan.
Ichiro Suzuki became a household name, winning both Rookie of the Year and the MVP award, after leading the league in hits, batting average, and stolen bases.
John Olerud, Bret Boone, and Mike Cameron each made the All-Star Game (which was held at Safeco Field) after having career years.
Four of the Mariners starting pitchers won at least 15 games and Kazuhiro Sasaki put up 45 saves.
While they dominated the regular season, they lost to the New York Yankees for a second consecutive year in the ALCS.
The Seattle Mariners have not made the playoffs since their successful season a decade ago.
2002 Miami Hurricanes
The 2003 Fiesta Bowl is still a disputed result amongst Hurricane fans.
After a crushing win against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Rose Bowl, the Miami Hurricanes entered the season as the National Title favorite, even after six of their players were drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Miami went 12-0 during regular season play with an offense led by Heisman candidates Ken Dorsey and Willis McGahee, as well as Andre Johnson and Kellen Winslow II.
The defense featured future NFL players such as Vince Wilfork, D.J. Williams, Jonathan Vilma, Antrel Rolle, and the late Sean Taylor.
After winning the Big East for a third consecutive season, the Hurricanes met Maurice Clarrett and the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl for the BCS National Championship.
Miami lost in controversial fashion in double overtime 31-24 as the Buckeyes took home their first National Title in 32 years.
2002-2006 New York Yankees
From left to right, Gary Sheffield, Joe Torre, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Jason Giambi
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
The 2001 World Series concluded the end of an era for the New York Yankees. George Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman had built a dynasty made from homegrown talent, veteran role players, and the occasional free agent splash.
After the season Scott Brosius and Paul O'Neill retired, Chuck Knoblauch and Tino Martinez left as free agents, and a era of opulent free agent signings began in the Bronx.
The Yankees continued to win the AL East from 2002-2006, but they came up short of their high championship expectations every season despite having lineups that could have been mistaken for an All-Star team.
They lost the World Series in 2003, blew a 3-0 series lead in the 2004 ALCS, were beaten by the Angels in the LDS in 2002 and 2005, with an additional LDS loss against the Detroit Tigers in 2006.
Every year a high profile free agent or two was signed or a trade was completed that once again made the Yankees seem like the World Series favorite heading into next season.
Payroll soared from about $95 million in 2001 to around $173 million only five years later.
It began with Jason Giambi and continued with likes of David Wells (second stint with the Yankees), Raul Mondesi, Jose Contreras, Hideki Matsui, Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Brown, Javier Vazquez, Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano, Johnny Damon, and Bobby Abreu.
The 2006 New York Yankees batting order heading in to the postseason dubbed "Murderer's Row and Cano" was one of the best of all-time on paper.
1. CF: Johnny Damon
2. SS: Derek Jeter
3. RF: Bobby Abreu
4. 1B: Gary Sheffield
5. DH: Jason Giambi
6. 3B: Alex Rodriguez
7. LF: Hideki Matsui
8. C: Jorge Posada
9. 2B: Robinson Cano
(Bernie Williams sat on the bench for that team in what was his final season)
Homegrown players emerged such as Chien-Ming Wang and Robinson Cano, but the emphasis on big free agent signings overshadowed their homegrown talent.
While the strategy may have worked from an offensive standpoint, the lack of productive starting pitchers in the playoffs was a setback for Joe Torre and his staff. Not to mention the struggles of Alex Rodriguez in the postseason prior to 2009.
For all their talent and AL East dominance, the New York Yankees underachieved greatly during those years.
2005 USC Trojans
Some still consider the 2005 USC Trojans as one of the most talented teams in college football history.
Harry How/Getty Images
After earning a share of the National Title in 2003 and winning the BCS National Championship in 2004, the USC Trojans were looking win it all for the third consecutive season. No college football team had accomplished a three-peat since the Minnesota Gophers did so from 1934-1936.
Expectations soared to even higher levels when reigning Heisman winner Matt Leinart announced he was coming back for his senior year.
Many were already calling the 2005 Trojans the best of all-time before they even stepped on the field.
They may have been from a talent standpoint. Forty-nine players eventually made an NFL roster.
Leinart lead a high scoring offense that featured wide receivers Dwayne Jarret, Steve Smith, Fred Davis and tight end Dominique Byrd.
Heisman winner Reggie Bush and LenDale White each rushed for over 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season.
Shaun Cody and Lofa Tatupu graduated, but the defense was still loaded with playmakers like Lawrence Jackson, Sedrick Ellis, Darnell Bing, and Keith Rivers.
The Trojans won all of their regular season games by at least 10 points with the exception of the Notre Dame game and their eight point win over Fresno State, in which Reggie Bush had 513 total yards.
Their matchup with Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns in the Rose Bowl would go down as one of the greatest games in the history of college football.
It was a back and forth contest throughout the night. Young's rushing touchdown with 19 seconds left put the Longhorns on top, after USC failed to convert on 4th-and-2 at the Texas 45-yard line.
The Trojans had one more offensive possession, but failed to tie it up or make a comeback win.
They went down in history for their shortcomings like the 1983 Nebraska Cornhuskers and 1986 Miami Hurricanes, instead being remembered for their dominance like the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers or 2001 Miami Hurricanes.
Years later their legacy is tarnished for different reasons.
2007 New England Patriots
The 2007 New England Patriots scored an NFL-record 589 points.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
After winning three Super Bowls and coming close to another in the prior season, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots were already an established title contender.
They would hit new levels of dominance in 2007 as their offense shattered league scoring records.
The Patriots scored 589 points. Tom Brady threw for 50 touchdown passes and mover 4,800 passing yards.
The offseason additions of Randy Moss who caught 23 touchdown passes (another NFL record), Wes Welker, and Donte Stallworth contributed to Brady's MVP-winning season.
New England became the first team in NFL history to post a 16-0 record during the regular season. The Patriots looked unstoppable in the first half the season after they scored no fewer than 34 points in any of those games. They scored less than 30 points in only three of their regular season games.
While the Patriots routed many teams, close calls came against the Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles, Baltimore Ravens, and the New York Giants in the regular season finale.
After getting past the Jacksonville Jaguars and San Diego Chargers, New England was once again playing in the Super Bowl.
Instead of securing their place as the greatest team in NFL history, the Patriots lost to the Giants by three points, 17-14. Ironically their three Super Bowl wins each came by three points.
After the game the Giants popped champagne corks, as did the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
2010-2011 Miami Heat
Marc Serota/Getty Images
Perhaps no team in the history of North American sports received as much attention or scrutiny as the 2010-2011 Miami Heat.
LeBron James went from beloved to despised instantaneously, after he made his decision to join the Miami Heat on national television.
There was always speculation that James would leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for a team in a bigger city once he became a free agent, but few would have guessed that he would join up with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in South Florida.
After massive preseason hype that never died down, the Heat got off to a slow start and were barely above .500 after 18 regular season games with a record of 10-8.
Miami improved as the season went on. The Heat were the Eastern Conference second seed after posting a record of 58-24. They needed only five games in each of their series to advance past the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, and Chicago Bulls on their way to the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.
Miami won the fist game, 92-84, and nearly went up 2-0 in the series after blowing a 15 point lead in the fourth quarter. The Heat won Game 3 by two points and the Mavericks squeaked out a three point win in Game 4 to tie the series up again.
The Dallas Mavericks won the next two games by double-digits to win their first NBA title in franchise history.
Dirk Nowitzki now has a championship ring and LeBron James is still waiting for his.
2011 Philadelphia Phillies
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
The Phillies were also the World Series favorites last year and looked well on their way to a third consecutive Fall Classic after their sweep of the Cincinnati Reds.
Instead they were upset by the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS after trailing the series 3-1, heading in to Game 5.
Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Arizona will all pose challenges for the Philadelphia Phillies as they try to win their third National League pennant in four seasons.
The Phillies 2011 season will only be remembered as a success if they win their third World Series in franchise history.
If not they will go down as just another over-hyped team that failed to reach high expectations.