It's the end of the season, and the Phils end up exactly where every Phillies fan knew they would end up at the start of the season, eliminated in the last weekend of the season with something in the vicinity of 86 wins (actually, 85).
Last year, they were eliminated minutes after winning their final game of the season down in DC, and I was there to witness. I couldn't travel down to Miami to watch the carnage this year, but again the Phils win (4-3 yesterday) only to find out later that they were eliminated. Last year, the Astros beat the Cubs as the Phils hit the showers. This year the Padres and Dodgers both won, thereby making a postseason in Philadelphia mathematically impossible.
And again there are equal parts promise and foreboding in the team's makeup. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley had fantastic seasons. Other youngsters like Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino showed a lot of promise. Jimmie Rollins had some great moments and some real low points, but remains a number six hitter in the leadoff spot. Pat Burrell's as enigmatic as always. As was Brett Myers who showed promise again for a time but was also embroiled in huge scandal that was a black eye for the entire franchise. They again seem to have a set staff for next year, but it's a staff rife with mediocrity. What do you do with John Lieber and Randy Wolf? Tom Gordon looked tired, old, and like a non-closer down the stretchall of which is true but he has two years left on his contract. There are huge gaping holes at third and behind the plate.
And worst of all the Phils remaining in contention for so long because of a highly mediocre National League ensures that Charlie "I Need a Friggin'" Manuel keeps his job for next season. The Phils brass leaked rumors of his returning to work with the youngsters for 2007, but as the Phils resurfaced in the Wild card hunt and inconceivably, stories of Manuel being laughably considered for the NL Manager of the Year, they no longer needed to justify the fait accompli of his return.
So what's my prediction for 2007? More of the same: 86 wins, staying in the race for a time but no postseason appearance again.
Since 2001, the Phils have had three 86-win seasons, and have had just one season (2002) un which they were not within two wins of 86 (they had 80). Only a handful of teams have remaining that consistent over the course of six seasons, and only of them were successful (the 1947-57 Yankees):
New York Mets
Boston Red Sox
Boston Red Sox
San Francisco Giants
New York Yankees
New York Yankees
Note that there are five 86-win teams on that list.
Finally, with the Phils getting eliminated this year with one game left to play and last year after they had played their full slate, I wondered if that was some sort of record. Had any other team been eliminated with no meaningless games over the course of two seasons? Actually, two have. Here are the teams that failed to reach the postseason two straight years with the most games remaining at the time they were eliminated for both seasons combined: