Phillies somehow make the impossible happen
Originally Published: September 30, 2007By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Every once in a while in sports, stuff happens that just can't happen. Can't. Shouldn't. Doesn't feel like it happened even after it happened.We think we've just witnessed another insane, improbable example of that phenomenon -- the tale of the 2007 Phillies.
|Top NL pennant race stories from Sunday:|
• Stark: Phillies do the impossible|
• Arangure: Mets have no explanation
• Nelson: Padres' lost weekend
• Knisley: Rockies next up for Peavy
|For more on the pennant races, see Hunt for October.|
Those things couldn't have happened without a whole lot of self-destruction from those star-crossed front-runners, the Mets, of course. Those things couldn't have happened if the Mets hadn't become the first team in history to make a seven-game lead vaporize in the final 17 games of a season. But if you go through the great collapses in sports, you'll find one thing in common: There has always been more than one actor in every one of those shows. You can't collapse unless there's someone there to catch you. You can't finish second unless someone else roars out of your rearview mirror to finish first. So while much of the hemisphere will choose to remember what transpired here as a monumental el foldo by the Mets, there will always be another side to this story. There will always be this Phillies team, a team that went 13-4 down the stretch as those Mets were going 5-12. A team that glued itself closer together as those Mets fell apart. A team that couldn't possibly win -- not logically, not even mathematically -- but did. Remember, this team led in the standings for precisely one day all season until the moment it started shooting that champagne around the room. The only other National League team in history to do that, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, was the 1951 Bobby Thomson Giants -- another team that had people asking: What just happened?
AP Photo/Tom MihalekPhillies closer Brett Myers celebrates after recording the final out Sunday to secure the NL East title.
I've been around a lot of teams. And this team here, as far as chemistry goes, is definitely the best [of any] team I've ever been around. ... I think some of the teams I've had before were divided at times. But this team right here is a team that stayed together.
--Phillies manager Charlie Manuel
"And I think that allowed everybody to relax just a little bit," Rollins said, "and just play baseball the rest of the game." That wasn't the end of Rollins' MVP highlight reel, though. There was a walk and another run scored (No. 139) in the third inning. And there was the dramatic pinnacle of his day -- an RBI triple in his 716th and final at-bat of the season, a triple that propelled him into the fabled 20-double, 20-triple, 20-homer, 20-steal club, alongside Willie Mays, Curtis Granderson and good old Wildfire Schulte. It looked and felt like one of those "This Is What MVPs Do" video clips. But Rollins plans to leave the MVP arguments to someone else. "I don't vote," he said the other day. "I just play. And I play to win." But what he has always needed most, what all the thumpers in his lineup have always needed most to make that winning possible, wasn't more runs on the scoreboard. It was finding a few pitchers who could keep the other guys' runs off that scoreboard. And as you may have heard, that's been kind of a problem. The Phillies' 4.73 team ERA is the highest of any NL playoff team in history that didn't play in scenic, altitudinous Denver, Colo. Those 821 runs they allowed are the most by any NL playoff team ever. But the 820 they gave up over the first 161 games didn't matter a whole lot Sunday. All that mattered was that the guy they handed the ball to in Game 162 was just as determined not to let them lose. That was 44-year-old Jamie Moyer, a man whose trip to that mound Sunday was poetically perfect for all kinds of reasons. For one thing, Moyer was the only player in uniform who could actually remember the last (and only time) the Phillies won a World Series. He was a 17-year-old kid from nearby Souderton, Pa., back in 1980 -- and blew off school to watch the parade. "You know, we had a team meeting last year when we were going down the stretch, and I got to speak and share some things," Moyer said. "And I told these guys the last time I was involved with a parade, I was in high school and I skipped school to go watch it. And I said I'd like to go down Broad Street for a parade again some day -- except this time I'd like to be riding in one of those floats."
Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIREJimmy Rollins is in his eighth full season with the Phillies.
I've pitched the last games of a season before. But I've never pitched a game at the end of a season that meant more than this.
--Phillies starter Jamie Moyer