Ryan Howard and the Philadelphia Phillies came crashing to earth simultaneously. What do Phillies' fans worry about more? Is it Howard's health, or the fact that one of the most talented teams assembled in 20 years, just got eliminated by a Cardinals team that qualified on the last day of the season?
This is a dark day in the city of brotherly love, I hope the Eagles win for the sake of Philadelphians. Right now, the Howard injury is being classified as an Achilles, but no detailed information will be available until the MRI results have returned.
If Howard is lost or hampered moving into next season, it will cast a dark cloud over 2012. It will serve as a constant reminder to this year's monumental failure.
Phillies' brass and fans have to be asking themselves how this happened. The starting rotation didn't fall apart in the NLDS, it was just matched pitch for pitch and the Phillies hitters blinked first.
The Phillies scored only 21 runs in the five game series and 11 of those came in Game 1. If you take that offensive outburst out of the equation, the mighty Phillies bats were held to just under three runs per game for Games 2 thru 5. It is asking a lot of any pitching staff to win in those circumstances.
The Phillies must proceed with caution. The last thing they want to do here is to allow this to become the beginning of an era for the team.
Compound events like these can lead to a downward spiral of underachievement and just plain bad luck. Fortunately, the Phillies have a cash surplus and a owner that has shown he isn't afraid to use it.
Adding high character, drama and slump deflecting players would be an excellent strategy. Lets face it, this is an ultra talented team that fell short in 2011. On paper, they should be back for the next two or three years.
Then again, on paper, they should have faced the Yankees or even the Redsox in the World Series. But none of the three have a pastime pulse right now. Baseball contention is so fragile and uncertain, much like the status of Howard's Achilles.