Surely some people have clicked on this article in order to be seriously annoyed and then argue with it. The Philadelphia Phillies had a good season? The same Phillies who were 265-269 since Opening Day of 2018 on Sept. 20?
Those Phillies? The team that finished September 81-78, eliminated from the postseason, and poised to finish the season with a seven-game losing streak?
The very same.
How should the fading 2021 Phillies be evaluated by honest observers?
Yes, there were plenty of failures by the ’21 Phillies. First, they didn’t make the playoffs for a 10th straight year. Next, there were senior executive decisions that didn’t work out. See Moore, Matt, and Anderson, Chase. Also, Alec Bohm was kept in South Philly far past the obvious time to demote him.
Entering October, the Phillies had been shut out 10 times, including twice in September games against the Orioles and Pirates at the worst possible times, both reflections of so many off-nights offensively. There were another 14 losses involving only one Phillies baserunner touching home.
Those were 24 largely unwatchable games, at least for Phillies fans.
There were moves by manager Girardi that backfired, many in relief pitcher selection.
But still, 2021 was the year Bryce Harper made Phillies fans for life out of a legion of nine and ten-year-olds. Whether he gets it or not, he was the NL MVP.
There was, to pick just to one moment among a dozen, the inspiring win Aug. 12 in 100-degree heat over Los Angeles, when an often-maligned pitching staff stepped up together to stop the World Champions from sweeping the Fightin’s “in their own house.”
The ’21 Phillies also produced a season to remember for Zack Wheeler and his fans, and those fans were surely cautious about him fairly recently. Will Wheeler win the Cy Young award? Probably not because…Philadelphia. He’ll probably come in third, like his current teammate, Aaron Nola, in 2018.
Additionally, the fading season saw some correct moves by manager Girardi, including controversial ones like sticking with Didi Gregorius during the September stretch run (which was rewarded at least twice by my count, once with a dramatic three-run homer for a win against Pittsburgh).
There was the inspiring play by utilityman Ronald Torreyes nearly all season long, both offensively and defensively. In the last week of September, he was hitting over .300 with runners in scoring position. He had hit his career-first pinch-hit home run for the Phillies to beat the Pirates in that month.
On the minor league level – in the widely damned Phillies farm system – there was Bryson Stott. Stott dominated at three different MiLB levels, even slashing .476/.621/.619 in seven games at Triple-A. And there were those who should be called the half-graduates of that system, Nick Maton, Luke Williams, and Matt Vierling, who performed very well at the major league level behind injuries to others.
Finally, there was the mid-season trade with the Rangers that freed up Ranger Suarez to be a starting pitcher, filling a slot for next season’s rotation, barring a bad car accident over the winter.
Unfortunately, none of these positives is the point. Inarguably, the Phillies had a “good” season by their standards. The literal worst they can do is fall to 81-81, which would tie their efforts in 2012 and 2019 as the best seasons of the last decade.
But it won’t matter if they even sweep the Marlins in the last series of the year, establishing a clearly best season of the past ten. Only those kids Bryce Harper won over this summer for the first time will see 2021 as a wondrous Phillies season. So much more was hoped for.