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October 26, 2023

Eytan Shander: The Phillies' journey matters little after NLCS choke

The Phillies were built to win, and they didn't.

Sometimes it’s not about the journey.

Despite the slogans, overalls, T-shirts, countdowns with Topper, fighting mascots on Twitter, or sheer overpowering noise at the home ballpark, the Philadelphia Phillies fell flat on their face. It was a massive disaster of epic proportions, one that has the baseball world invoking similar runs like the ’69 Mets!

You don’t have to be Chris Russo to appreciate how long it’s been in baseball to see a storyline as ridiculous and improbable as what the Arizona Diamondbacks just did. But what about the other side? In a world where we strive for balance, how can something be one of the most amazing comebacks in MLB history – from a team that slid into the 6th spot – and NOT be one of the worst failures across the entire sport?

At the end of the day, it was always concerns about Aaron Nola, Craig Kimbrel, and the team’s inability to generate non-home run offense. Bang. Maybe you feel a little better throwing Rob Thomson in there, or how the Phillies sided too much with defense – Johan Rojas – instead of offense. Whatever sweetens the pot, it’s all bad.

Don’t let anyone take away from the actual moment by telling you it was worth the journey. That's bull. This team was created and improved upon to do one thing: win, baby. The same people pushing some absurd straw man theory that it was worth the journey despite the results spent the NLDS fighting on Twitter/X with the Braves' mascot.

It’s over. Take off that stupid "Atta Boy, Harper" T-shirt.

Apologize to the Gallen family – even Pat Gallen, hell. Anyone named Gallen in the Delaware Valley.

Stop singing that stupid song.

The Phillies handed over the NLCS in front of what was supposed to be the best home-field advantage in all of sports, at least in baseball. Instead, the element of hope vanished. Guys like Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber didn’t do enough, Trea Turner and Bryce Harper disappeared.

107 exit velo, 44 launch angle? My ass.

It doesn’t matter why the ball popped into the air, it did. The Phillies, everyone down at Citizens Bank Park, the entire Delaware Valley, and anyone else who cares about a World Series worth watching all got what they wanted. Bryce Harper had a shot to win the game. He didn’t.

There’s no joy in Mudville and rightfully so. This team celebrated everything to the point where it now seems like an entire season represented by the Nick Young GIF. Looking back, it’s like the team drastically changed following the defeat of Atlanta. Like it was either good enough or they stopped focusing on what’s made them so dangerous in the past. The Phillies swapped seats with the Diamondbacks and allowed Arizona to ride similar magic as the Phils last year. I don’t get much right but slammed the desk on multiple preview shows on FOX 29, warning that any little edge for Arizona will turn them into last year’s Phillies team.

Welcome to last year’s alternate reality.

Oh oh oh, don’t worry, the team will be right back in it!

Baseball is a long season with a ridiculously unnecessary schedule. Less is guaranteed over the course of 162 games than in any other sport. On top of that, high-paid underachievers aren’t going anywhere unless the team takes pennies on the dollar.

Goodbye, Aaron Nola. Thank you for your service. Nola should be remembered as one of the team’s better pitchers, but his Game 6 performance is inexcusable. There is no way he can be paid what he (feels he) is owed and be anything more than a long reliever in the playoffs. Ranger Suárez gave this team more when it mattered and that’s unfair to both Suárez and the fanbase.

Craig Kimbrel is gone. No way this man can continue to do anything valuable for the club with so many people in this city against him. It’s player malpractice to bring back a villain of the people in a role that doesn’t mandate his return.

Castellanos said he was “disgusted” following their Game 7 loss. So are we. So are we. Who knows what next year brings, but for this week it’s nothing but disappointment. Having the best player in the sport doesn’t guarantee anything like the NFL or the NBA. Teams still need a lot of components to work. This is now two straight years where the Phillies caught some late-season magic, only to be exposed by the end.

It's not a sustainable strategy. It never was.

There’s no way in hell that I’m going to watch a single out of this year’s World Series and neither should you. The Rangers and Diamondbacks aren’t teaching us as fans what a better or more successful club is doing to make it that far. Instead, it’s just a stark reminder of how bad things had to get for the Phillies to be in this spot.

Outside of something in the World Series itself – Joe Carter or Hideki Matsui – this is the worst two-game stretch arguably in the history of Philadelphia sports..and it happened at home.