11/18/2008 12:39 PM ET
Diary of a winning season
Matthews chronicles Phillies' ride to '08 championship
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
The story of the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies was one of dramatic twists and turns that ended up with a championship parade in a wet, chilly City of Brotherly Love.
Former Phillies player and current broadcaster Gary Matthews was there for the whole ride and was committed to co-writing a book about the season even before the team went on its stirring October run. When closer Brad Lidge struck out Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Eric Hinske to win it all, Matthews had the perfect Hollywood ending.
The result is "Phillies Confidential" (Triumph, 192 pages), co-written with Scott Lauber, and it's a day-by-day account of the most magical baseball season in Philadelphia since the Phillies' last World Series title in 1980.
"What's so great about the book is that no one knew those guys were going to win it," Matthews says. "The Dodgers could have gone all the way, the Rays, Boston, the Cubs ... I say that because they were just as good as the Phillies.
"But something clicked, things came together, and they wouldn't be denied. They got hot when it counted, and one thing I'll say is that Lidge being 41-for-41 (in save opportunities in 2008), he was a big difference. You have to have a lights-out guy at the end of the game."
While compiling notes and observations for the book throughout the season, Matthews, known in his playing days as "The Sarge," says he had to be careful of not revealing too much inside-clubhouse material while still giving fans and readers an authentic look at what it's like to go through Spring Training, the grind of a 162-game schedule, and the postseason.
"You have to really be careful not betraying people," Matthews says. "Having played, when someone says they're writing a book, it's taboo. So this is more a diary of the things that went on in the course of the season than a tell-all about what happened behind closed doors.
"I said in the book that I really jumped on the bandwagon. I didn't know they were going to win the World Series, but after they beat Milwaukee, I could sense things were favorable for them. You really have to applaud a team that goes through the playoffs the way they did."
Strewn throughout the narrative are profiles of Lidge, second baseman Chase Utley shortstop Jimmy Rollins, slugger Ryan Howard, sparkplug center fielder Shane Victorino, brilliant lefty starter Cole Hamels and even-keel, down-home manager Charlie Manuel.
"Lidge got hurt early on, and I told him, Brad, let me tell you something. If you end up winning here, you'll think this is the best place of all time,'" Matthews says. "Fortunately he got off to such a great start that he never heard boos. It would have been interesting to see how he would have handled that."
Matthews also mentions how Rollins became a vocal and respected team leader.
"I liken him to Willie Mays quite a bit, not so much because of his stats, but because of the fact that every now and then in a player's career, people look at it as your team," Matthews says. "They counted on him quite a bit. Obviously, everybody has to do a job, but you're taking more of the heat from the losing than anything else, and I think J-Roll, he wanted the weight. He wanted that pressure."
And so did Howard, who had to feel plenty of it in the midst of a few slumps that left him with 199 strikeouts for the second straight year, although he did lead the Major Leagues with 48 homers and 146 RBIs.
"Who cares about Ryan Howard's 199 strikeouts?" Matthews says with a laugh. "They won the whole thing, and for me, being in broadcast booth and having played, it's good to see.
"I wouldn't want to ever strike out that much, but it doesn't matter when you win the World Series. And with Ryan, he single-handedly carried the team through September and had a great World Series. That's what people will remember."
Aside from the star power in the Phillies' lineup, Matthews did his best in showing how important some of the role players were. He mentions catcher Carlos Ruiz, relief pitcher Chad Durbin, third baseman Pedro Feliz and pinch-hitter extraordinaire Greg Dobbs without hesitation.
"You're talking about all the dominoes just falling into place this season," Matthews says.
"It was unbelievable how many people contributed."
Doug Miller is a Senior Writer for MLB.com/Entertainment. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.