The date is August 7th, 2018. The Phillies currently hold a 64-49 record, a whopping fifteen games above .500, and are 1.5 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves for first in the NL East. After making moves for Wilson Ramos, Justin Bour, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Jose Bautista at the trade deadline, the Phillies are starting to assert themselves one of the better National League teams that would be going to the Playoffs. Life as a Phillies fan is at it’s peak for the first time in years.
Now, the date is September 30th and today is game 162. The Phillies are sitting at 79-82, four games below .500, and are in third place in the division behind the NL East Champion Braves and the Washington Nationals. How did we get here?
This Phillies meltdown has been absolutely dreadful to watch since mid-August. You can easily make the argument that this team quit on one another leading to a complete nosedive in the NL East standings.
The bats have been silenced, starting pitching has been nowhere near the powerful group they had been all season, and the bullpen has been, well, what you’d expect from the Phillies bullpen this whole season: garbage.
According the Jayson Stark, this Phillies team became the first team to ever have a record at least fifteen games above .500 at any point in early August or about 113 games into the season and still manage to finish below .500. Not ideal for a team many thought were a top-5 unit at one point this season.
I looked at every team that was 15+ games over .500 after 113 games. Not one of them finished with a losing record.
So if the Phillies don't win 2 of their next 4, they'll be the first. Ever!
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) September 26, 2018
This plunge from heaven has not been entertaining to watch for anybody who’s not a Braves fan, but how does this meltdown rank amongst others in history? Here’s a look at teams in somewhat recent memory who fell off as bad or maybe even worse than the 2017-18 Phillies did. (Not in any particular order)
The 2007 New York Mets
Best Record: 83-62 (1st in NL East, 7 games ahead)
Final Record: 88-74 (2nd in NL East, missed Playoffs)
As much as us Phillies fans don’t like them, you can’t help but feel bad for the Mets. This season has been an absolute injury-riddled disaster for New York despite having a hot start over the first two weeks. However, the 2007 MLB season takes the cake as the most disappointing season for the Mets in recent memory.
The Phillies overthrew the Mets to steal the division crown and make the Playoffs despite New York having a seven game lead on them on September 12th.
While this freefall down to Earth wasn’t as drastic as the Phillies, the Mets chose the absolute worse time to choke. While September was not a fun month for either of these teams, the Mets still have it worse mainly in part that they were two weeks away from reaching the Playoffs, but blew it in the most Mets way possible.
The 2005 Cleveland Indians
Best Record: 92-63 (2nd in AL Central, 29 games above .500)
Final Record: 93-69 (2nd in AL Central, missed Playoffs)
Over a decade before they lost the 3-1 lead to the Cubs in the World Series, they were losing Wild Card spots to the other Chicago team.
Cleveland’s impressive second half of the season was enough to get them a 1.5 game lead. They pulled off a 9-1 run over the course of the last three weeks, but followed it up by losing three of the next four.
So their next series was for all the marbles with the White Sox to determine who would get clinch the division. The Indians went on to get swept in disappointing fashion to Chicago, silencing them out of the division run and the last Wild Card spot.
While the Indians were a good team who were just unlucky at the very end, the Phillies still seem like the bigger disappointment. For the Phillies not be able to contend until the very end made the whole season unbearable to watch for the closing games, while the Indians made it interesting to the point of elimination who were just unlucky against the eventual World Series.
But hey, thanks for Cliff Lee.
The 1995 California Angels
Best Record: 60-36 (1st in AL West, 11 games ahead)
Final Record: 78-67 (2nd in AL West, missed Playoffs)
Much like this year’s Phillies did, the 1995 Angels had a fair lead in their division. LA had their most prominent lead on their division on August 9 when they were eleven games ahead of the Mariners.
The last two months were a disaster from there. A nine game losing streak in late September managed to help keep a surging Mariners team in the run for the division. The Angels regular season ended with a win against Oakland, however the Angels and Mariners needed a tie breaker game to decipher who would win the AL West.
The Mariners went on to win the tie-breaker 9-1 and clinched the AL West. And just like that, after leading the division for most of the season, the 1995 Angels were sent into oblivion.
While both the Phillies and Angels chose the absolute worst times to suck, the Angels were able to hold in until the very end, which can’t be said about this year’s Phillies. You’d really have to pick your poison here as to what you’d rather have to live through as a fan.
The 1964 Philadelphia Phillies
Best Record: 90-60 (1st in NL, 6.5 games ahead)
Final Record: 92-70 (2nd in NL, missed Playoffs)
If you thought this year’s Phillies collapse was bad, you should probably cover your eyes for this.
The 1964 Phillies are considered as “The Phold” due to their historically ugly collapse. Because divisions were not around until 1969, the Playoff format was subjected to only allow the top National League and American League teams to make the postseason.
What made this collapse so drastically different from others that proceeded it was that it all took place over the last two weeks of the season. The Phils followed up a 3-2 win over the Dodgers on September 20 by losing ten straight games.
The losing streak ultimately soiled any chance of October baseball being played in Philly. The St. Louis Cardinals, who had swept the Phillies and took their spot in the Fall Classic, went on to beat the New York Yankees in the World Series in seven games.
A losing team in Philadelphia is not ideal for fans by any means. Seasons like this year’s where hopes were placed high only to skydive straight into the ground absolutely suck for fans.
However times like these make the future much more worth it. These Phillies still have a ridiculous amount of talent in Rhys Hoskins, Odubel Herrera, and co. that should be fun to watch in the future. And with big names like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper set to hit free agency and possibly land in Philly, this team won’t be seeing too many seasons like this year’s for a while.
Let’s hope to see more bell ringing in our futures rather than garbage collapses.
Special thanks to Baseball Reference for access to team’s schedules
[Photo Credit: Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY SPORTS
John Dunn/THE NEW YORK TIMES
Jonathan Daniel & Paul K. Buck/GETTY IMAGES]
17 years old and a fan of all things Philadelphia sports. Twitter: @cam_fitzpatrick #TrustTheProcess