No, the Philadelphia Phillies had not unlocked something about the MLB Playoffs. They did not thread the needle on how to tread water throughout most of the regular season and then whisper a password at the door of October and sneak on through the back. If they did, would they have lost to one of the worst playoff teams in recent memory?
That’s what the Diamondbacks are, statistically. They were outscored in the regular season. They won 84 games. They barely outlasted the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, and some other suckfests to claim the last playoff spot. They’re not all that good. But the Phillies aren’t so good that they can’t lose four out of seven to them. Or blow 2-0 and 3-2 series leads to them, with the last two games at the supposedly impenetrable Thunderdome of Citizens Bank Park. Which it was. Until it wasn’t.
The Phillies bunched a bunch of homers together at the start of the playoffs, a bunch of good starts, too, and then they didn’t get them. Not because they’re bad or unlucky, they’re just not that good and that’s how baseball works. Aaron Nola has been spotty all season. Ranger Suarez was hurt for most of it. Nick Castellanos hasn’t been all that productive for a whole season in a couple years. Kyle Schwarber hit under .200 for a reason. It doesn’t mean they all suck now, they’re just who they are. Extend out the sample size, they’ll return to what they are.
The Phillies didn’t get the hits in Games 3, 4, 6, and 7 that would have won them those games, not because they’re choking chokers or losing losers, but hitting a baseball is hard and it’s an occupation designed to make you fail a majority of the time. Sometimes, most times, you don’t get that hit. There are just brighter lights on it in October.
For the postseason, the Phillies hit .226 with runners in scoring position. They hit .259 in the regular season, which is a drop, but a drop that could be easily explained by facing every team’s best pitchers all the time in the playoffs. That’s just how these things go.
The idea that the Phillies had unlocked something because they beat an Atlanta team twice that had two starters hurt each time was kind of laughable. They went to two straight NLCS and hence have come up with the potion? The Dodgers went to a million NLCSs in a row and everyone thinks they suck. And that was after they consistently won 100 games, not the 85 to 90 that the Fightin’s have collected.
They hit a lot of homers until they didn’t. They struck a lot of guys out until they didn’t. And because they’re not a juggernaut team, those were always going to run out.
Really, the Phillies lost this series because they thought they could get away with using Craig Kimbrel in the playoffs. Which everyone but them knew they couldn’t. He blew Games 3 and 4 because he couldn’t find the plate, which he hasn’t been able to do in a big game situation in five years, at least. That’s the margins these are decided on.
It makes for an easy-to-reach narrative, when anyone sees Schwarber or Harper hitting bombs and the stadium bouncing and there must be something special about it, because the noise suggests that it is, and that a better Atlanta team has gone 0-for-4 there in consecutive Octobers. But it was just sequencing. The Phillies were hot at one point, and then they weren’t, and now they go home.
Which does the world a favor, because Chris Russo has to retire now. Of course, he won’t, and he’ll make another loud volumed deal about it, because that’s all he’s ever done.
We only know the name of Chris Russo because he just happened to live and work in New York and New York thought that’s how everyone else talks and thinks about sports. Neither Russo nor his longtime running maw, Mike Francesa, have ever had anything interesting to say. [Ed. note: Back afta dis.] Nor have they ever laughed, and yet somehow they rose to the top of the sports-talk world in New York, where things have to be more serious because they’re in New York.
Russo yelled a lot, Francesa fell asleep on air, and somehow this was the zenith of sports discussion because it took place on the island of Manhattan. They’re the sports-talk version of bands like The Strokes or The Walkmen, mediocre horsesh*t the rest of us wouldn’t have had to put up with if it came from any other part of the world.
They didn’t know anything, they still don’t, but everyone has to talk to them because they’re in New York so they get to camouflage themselves in a cloak of unearned importance.
Mike and the Mad Dog, a curse upon society if there ever was one, begot the whole Skip Bayless thing where sports have to be shouted about at top volume and there has to be an argument and we all have to be miserable because this is very serious instead of just being drunk and laughing about how dumb it all is, which is how most of the rest of the world enjoys sports.
We can only dream about Arizona’s win on Tuesday sending Russo into the abyss. What a world it could have been.
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