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In every successful baseball playoff run, there are always those little things that don’t show up in the box score, those unexpected momentum swings that can be the difference in a game or a series. Some might call it luck or karma or the baseball gods smiling on the more deserving team. In 2008 the Phillies had several intangibles going for them.
After finally making it into the postseason the year before for the first time in 14 years, they were swept in the first round by the upstart Wild Card Colorado Rockies. The Phillies were determined to go further in 2008.
There was the spark plug named Jimmy Rollins who started this whole Phillies surge the year before with his now-famous “team to beat” mantra. There was the sad news of the deaths of both Charlie Manuel’s mother and Shane Victorino’s grandmother within days of each other which served to bring this tight-knit group even closer.
And there was the story of Brad Lidge’s redemption. When Lidge was with the Astros he famously gave up a three-run homer to Albert Pujols, costing the Astros a chance to clinch the series. Although Houston did go on to the World Series, Lidge's troubles continued as he gave up game-winning runs in Game 2 and Game 4. After that he was never quite the same.
That is, until 2008 when Lidge, now a Phillie, entered the World Series after a perfect season where he didn't blow a single save. With all that Lidge had gone through in 2005, the baseball gods owed him one this time, don’t you think?
So all that was in the Phillies' favor in 2008. How does 2011 compare?
For starters, the way the Phillies lost in 2010 is certainly driving them this year. They lost in Round 2 to the Giants, a series in which they were favored to win. They lost because their fading high-powered offense faded to black. The lingering image of Ryan Howard taking a called third strike, his bat on his shoulder, is one the Phillies certainly want to erase. Especially the Big Piece.
And though several members of this squad already wear a ring, there are many notables who do not. How can karma not be in Roy Halladay’s favor, the consummate pro who gives it everything he’s got every time he’s on the mound? And, of course, there is the return of the prodigal pitcher Clifton Phifer Lee, despite all odds. Not only did he choose to come to Philadelphia, once the laughingstock of baseball most known for reaching 10,000 losses, but he said no to the big bad Yankees leaving $30 million on the table to come back to The City of Brotherly Love. If that’s not good karma, what is?
And the final intangible is the Phillies fans. They root for this team like it's their job. They fill Citizen's Bank Park night after night and they even follow their team on the road. In 2008, the crowd was electric not even letting pouring rain dampen their enthusiasm and they stand ready (and I mean stand!) to do the same for the 2011 Phillies.
So though the last Phillies World Series team and this season’s hopeful may look different at first glance, a deeper look tells another story. But the question left unanswered is whether these two stories will have the same happy ending.