Philadelphia Phillies MLB Playoffs 2011: What If They Don't Win?

Manny Randhawa@@MannyBal9Correspondent IIIOctober 3, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 01: Leftfielder John Mayberry Jr. #15 of the Philadelphia Phillies misses a two RBI double hit by Skip Schumaker #55 of the St. Louis Cardinals during the ninth inning of Game One of the National League Division Series at Citizens Bank Park on October 1, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies defeated the Cardinals 11-6. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Phillies are the dream team of MLB. They have the most famous starting pitching staff in the game and position players well-trained in the ways of championship-caliber baseball.

In much the same way as their professional football brethren in Eagles uniforms, they were touted before the regular season began as being the team to beat, destined to bring a championship to the City of Brotherly Love.

But the Phillies are in danger of going the way of the Eagles, as the NFL's version of a "dream team" has started out 1-3 on the young season, prompting doubts around the football world about whether they can truly live up to their awesome potential.

The Phillies certainly didn't start out in a way that would give us reason to think they wouldn't be a postseason lock. To the contrary, Philadelphia cruised through the regular season, finishing with an MLB-best 102-60 record, winning the NL East by 13 games over the Atlanta Braves.

Nevertheless, a hard-charging St. Louis Cardinals team and a shaky outing by left-hander Cliff Lee on Sunday has to be of some concern for the Phillie-faithful.

Recent history shows that teams who play well down the stretch and have to work hard just to get into the playoffs generally do well there, as baseball, with its 162-game marathon of a season, lends itself to lavishing favor on those clubs that are hottest at the right time, at the expense of the team that is "better on paper."

Just last year, the mighty Phillies, heavily-favored to be the National League's representative in the World Series, were defeated by the perennial under-dog San Francisco Giants, a team that as late as August 25 was 6.5 games behind the division-leading San Diego Padres.

The scene at Citizens Bank Park a year ago this month.
The scene at Citizens Bank Park a year ago this month.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Giants reeled off an 18-win September and defeated the Padres on the final day of the regular season to squeak into the playoffs.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Now enter the Cardinals. St. Louis had an 18-win September. They qualified for the postseason on the final day of the regular season after beating the Astros and watching the Braves lose to the Phillies.

Sound familiar?

Over the last four weeks, the Cardinals are hitting .293 as a team. And in the past seven days, they're hitting .304.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia pitching has accumulated a 5.50 ERA thus far in the ALDS. The starters in the first two games for the Phils? Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.


What More Can They Do?

Just six weeks after losing to San Francisco in the NLCS in 2010, the Phillies signed Cliff Lee. If the Giants had pitching, the thought went, the Phillies would get more pitching.

With the "Fab-Four" of Halladay, Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, as well as offensive contributions from Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez and later Hunter Pence, everyone loved Philadelphia's chances at not only getting back to, but also winning the World Series in 2011.

So if the Phightin's fall short yet again, the question becomes, what now?

What more can this team do to compete? Is it back to the drawing board for Ruben Amaro?

Perhaps all of this conjecture is putting the cart before the horse. Perhaps all will end well for Philadelphia, with the Phillies winning the Fall Classic and the Eagles rebounding to win the Super Bowl.

But all too often, reality is much more cruel than the dream of a "dream team."