It's never fun losing or watching your favorite team lose for that matter.
And Wednesday night was definitely no exception.
Words couldn't express how I felt at this time last year. The Phillies has just won their first World Series since 1980 and the first of my lifetime. After seeing how good they were in the early-to-mid 90s and then how bad they were from then up until a few years ago I didn't think I would ever get to see a parade come down Broad St. Thanks to last year's team I did.
Two nights ago I got to see the Series from the other side again. And to be honest, it feels worse than it did back in '93. It might have been because I was younger and I didn't know how hard it actually was to make it to the Series. But now I do… and it sucks.
What is driving the knife further into my chest is the fact that we lost to the Yankees the team, along with the Duke Blue Devils, that I despise the most … with despise being an understatement. If the Yankees, for whatever reason, were no longer a baseball franchise I would throw a party and rejoice in all the upcoming World Series that won't be bought by a ridiculous payroll ($201,449,289 in '09 which was $65,675,301 ahead of the Mets, who had the second highest payroll). I mean their infield alone with C.C. on the mound made more than 20+ teams.
But I am not going to ruin my article by talking about that. While I do believe the lack of a salary cap is what makes baseball unfair and in turn my least favorite sport to pay attention to, that's how the game is set up and that's what they can do. Apparently paying a luxury tax somehow makes the purchasing of the best three free agents fair all of a sudden. Can you sense my bitterness?
Either way, the Yankees were the better team this series. I can admit that. The Phillies had so many flaws show up this Classic it wasn't even funny.
Ask any baseball coach, high school to the pros, and they will tell you that great pitching wins championships. While I don't think the Yankees' pitching was great, it was light years ahead of ours. The Phils won two games both times with Cliff Lee on the mound. And he had to throw one of the greatest World Series games of all-time to win one of them.
After that we had a slightly over-the-hill Pedro Martinez, an apparent head-case in Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton (seriously?) in the most important game of the year to that point. We were never going to win with that… and I haven't even gotten to the bullpen.
It was no secret that Brad Lidge wasn't the closer he was last year and Game 4 was no exception. I am not going to count the game as a win if he gets that third strike on Johnny Damon, but it sure isn't going to be a demoralizing loss.
Ryan Madson is no better either. He blew his fair share of saves when Lidge was 'getting right.' Personally, I don't think Madson is that great. He has two pitches and throws both of them directly over the plate. Velocity doesn't necessarily make you're a good pitcher in the majors. It's location that counts and he doesn't have it. Yeah he has a good K-per-9, but check the numbers if you don't believe me.
As for the line-ups, I thought the Phils had a better one coming in. I thought we had more speed and power, but even the bats underachieved. Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz were the only two that hit for a decent average. Meanwhile, Ryan Howard was setting an all-time record for strikeouts in one World Series. Our clean-up hitter. Great.
Things were awesome after Game 1. Lee was un-hittable and we were able to gain home field advantage.
Then the wheels fell off.
I point to Game 3. The Phils had an early 3-0 lead and let it slip away. Or should I say, let it get hit away. Hamels hadn't been himself all year, but that was the one night where he could man up and put everything behind him. Did he? No.
After how inconsistent he was all season - along with what he said after the Game 3 loss - he is going to be a big question-mark next year. Can we trust him? Will he fold once something goes wrong? Can he be the big-game pitcher he was in '08? I don't know.
Things are going to have to change this off-season. The end of our bullpen needs to be fixed up. I'm not saying we need to get rid of Lidge or Madson, but we need to find a younger, more 'lock down' closer.
As for the starting pitching, I think we could use one more hurler (and who couldn't?). Lee will be our No. 1 hands down. But then what? Hamels at No. 2? Happ at No. 3 (which I am cool with)? Between Blanton, Martinez, Moyer, Kendrick, Myers and Bastardo we have 3.5 pitchers. We need one more guy to go in the No. 4 spot and have an ERA under four.
Now this may seem like a Phillies-bashing article, but it isn't. I bled red and white this year. I know it is hard for NL teams to go back-to-back, but there is no reason this team couldn't have done so. If the Phils can keep this team together and add a few more pieces - my column should be a little but more pleasant come November of 2010.