It was another year, another losing season for the Phillies. That’s five-straight losing seasons for the rebuilding Fightins’ and six years since Philadelphia has hosted postseason baseball. Since the record-setting 2011 season the Phils have won just 427 games in six seasons, an average of 71.2 wins per year.
The five division-championship seasons prior to that, the Phils won 473 games in all — 46 more wins in a full season less — which averaged out to 94.6 wins per year. Eighty-seven wins was enough to make the NL playoffs this year, so in some ways, the young, upstart Phillies aren’t that far off the postseason pace. The team was 37-38 in the second half of the season and in September and October they went 16-13, which works out to a .552 winning percentage. Extrapolate that out for a full season and the Phillies — the young and exciting late-season Phillies — would have been on an 89.4-win pace.
And yet, that will have to wait for next year. The 2017 playoffs are set, and while the Phillies are obviously not in the World Series running, there are some former Phils who still have a chance to win it all. Here’s a team-by-team look at who Phillies fans should root for this postseason.
Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees
This is a one-game Wild Card situation and it feels like a total no-brainer for any Phillies fan. There are no former Phils on the Twins and the Yankees have just one on their latest roster in backstop Erik Kratz, though if he suits up in the postseason something has gone horribly wrong in the Bronx.
There is no way under any circumstance a Phillies fan should root for the Yankees. Not after 2009. Not ever. Advantage, Twins.
UPDATE: The Yankees won. Of course.
Wild Card Winner vs. Cleveland Indians
There was a time when the Indians had a number of former Phillies, but this year’s roster has none. The closest the Indians have to a Philly athlete is Brandon Guyer, who played in 70 games for the Tribe this season and hails from West Chester. And still, it’s impossible to root for the Yankees, so if they win the one-game Wild Card, grab a copy of “Major League,” throw it in the VCR and start pulling for Cleveland. If the Twins win, it’s pretty much a toss up, so just plan to root for the Indians because that city hasn’t won a title since 1948. In baseball, or any sport other than basketball. Ooh, maybe LeBron will come and play for the Sixers if we’re nice to Cleveland this year. Do it just for that.
Boston Red Sox vs. Houston Astros
Rooting for the Red Sox in Philly is almost as bad as rooting for the Yankees. No, there’s no storied rivalry and, sure, the Phillies actually do have a playoff history with Houston. But Red Sox fans always invade Citizens Bank Park (it’s not pronounced Paaaaaaak, Beantowners, now don’t forget to buy a hoagie for the way home) and they are the same people who root for the Patriots, mostly, so it’s hard not to pull for anyone they’re playing in the first round.
The recent history between the Astros and the Phillies has been far more amicable, too. From trading for Billy Wagner, Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence and —more recently — Pat Neshek, to dealing closer Ken Giles for a package including Vince Velasquez, the two teams have hooked up on some major trades over the last 15 years. Major.
Giles isn’t the only former Phillie on the current Astros roster. Right-handed pitcher and Flemington, NJ, native Charlie Morton went 14-7 this season with a 3.62 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 25 starts. Morton pitched four times for the Phillies last year after they picked him up in a trade with the Pirates, spending most of 2016 on the disabled list before leaving and signing a free agent deal with the Astros.
So, sure, we’re probably not rooting for him, but in the American League, it’s pretty clear the Phillies owe a lot to the Astros over the years. The least we could do, as fans, is pull for them in the American League playoffs.
Colorado Rockies vs. Arizona Diamondbacks
At this point it feels worth noting the absolute dearth of former Phillies in the playoffs this season. Across the five national league teams in the postseason, there are just six former Phillies. Now, one thought is that with such a young lineup, it’s good the Phillies don’t have to watch too many old players fight for a World Series this year. But with the incredible amount of turnover on the Fightins’ roster the last four years, it also speaks to how bad those teams were, and how long the franchise chose to hold onto its aging stars.
Alas, there are just two aging stars — using “stars” liberally here — in the Rockies and Diamondbacks Wild Card match-up. The Phils traded Neshek, their lone All-Star, to Colorado earlier this season. There’s no question he was the Phillies’ best player while still on the team, which speaks to the kind of year he had in Philly (40.1 IP with a 1.12 ERA) and how low the overall talent level was before the September call-ups. The D’Backs, meanwhile, have David Hernandez, who rejoined Arizona after being let go by the Phillies last year, the Giants during spring training, getting traded by the Braves and traded by the Angels during the season.
Advantage: Neshek. He only appeared in 43 games for the Phillies and none of them were meaningful, but he had a nice beard and his delivery to the plate was fun to watch.
Chicago Cubs vs. Washington Nationals
The boos never bothered me anyway. pic.twitter.com/vKN3gi6XzS
— MLB (@MLB) May 7, 2017
Number of former Phillies on the Cubs roster: Zero. Number of former Phillies on the Nationals roster: Four. That means Phillies fans should root for the Nationals, right?
Casual baseball fans may disagree but there’s no question the Nationals have overtaken the Braves and the Mets as the most hated baseball team in Philadelphia. A lot of that has to do with Jayson Werth. As soon as he left town for more money the Nats started to get good and a few years later the Phillies went in the tank. But just the attitude — sorry, sorry, Nattitude — the team and fans have after winning a whole pile of nothing outside of the NL East division is, well, a lot like the Phillies and their fans in 2007. And so it’s annoying.
Werth is joined by Joe Blanton, Ryan Madson and Phillies half-year rental player Howie Kendrick on the Nats. Enjoy booing all of them, even if that means rooting for the Cubs.
Wild Card Winner vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers had more former Phillies in recent years, but there’s really only one that matters to local fans and that’s Chase Cameron Utley. He played in 127 games this season for LA and hit just .236 with little pop, so at 38 years old it’s hard to imagine he’ll be on the field for much longer, especially if the Dodgers become the World (F’ing) Champions.
Still, for many Phillies fans, Chase Utley is still the man, and so it makes it a lot easier to root for him, and therefore the Dodgers, over any other National League contender.
World Series: Astros vs. Dodgers
Had to cleanse the “root for the Dodgers” palate for a minute with that old Matt Stairs homer.
It seems the best possible World Series scenario for Phillies fans would be the Astros and Dodgers facing off, with the Dodgers winning, if only to see if Utley curses again during their parade. But really, if you’re watching the MLB postseason this year, it almost doesn’t matter who wins, so long as the Nationals get knocked out early.