10/30/08 12:02 AM ET
Phillies reigned supreme
Weather or not, champs were tops come fall
The outcome was about the Philadelphia Phillies being much, much better than the opposition throughout October. This was about the Fightin' Phils winning the World Series for the first time in 28 years, because, playing the way they played, they weren't supposed to do anything but win.
The Phillies closed out their championship run on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park with a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Phils won the Series, 4-1. They won the Division Series in four games. They won the NLCS in five games. The Phillies won all seven home games this postseason, becoming just the second team to win all its home games since the advent of the three-tiered playoffs. The 1999 Yankees won all six of their postseason home games.
Add it up: The Phillies went 11-3 in October. That's not only victory, that's domination. Yes, many of the contests were close. But they kept having this one thing in common -- the Phillies won them.
To the question "Why?" the Phillies' performance basically replied: "Why not?" In the first place, they had the two most dominant pitchers of the 2008 postseason, Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge. When that happens in October, you're supposed to win.
Hamels encored from winning the NLCS Most Valuable Player Award, by winning the World Series MVP. He was 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in the postseason. In a better, or a least drier world, Game 5 wouldn't have been suspended in the middle of the sixth inning, Hamels would have pitched two more scoreless innings, picked up the victory, and become the only pitcher ever to go 5-0 in the era of the extended playoffs.
But it wasn't too bad this way, with his club winning the World Series and Hamels picking up the individual hardware. Hamels appears to be every bit as intelligent as he is talented. He said on Wednesday night that winning the Series was "a far greater accomplishment" than any individual honor could be. And he gave all due credit to his teammates, saying: "Without them, I would be nothing."
A PERFECT HOME RUN
|Since the LCS began in 1969, nine teams have gone undefeated at home in the postseason.|
That's good stuff, from the biggest individual star of the postseason. This was an effort that spanned the roster. Check out little-used Geoff Jenkins coming off the bench cold in the bottom of the sixth and setting a tone for the Game 5 resumption with a double and a run scored.
And coming in cold was the only way to come in because it was genuinely frigid here. The place was warmed initially by the best wishes of 45,940 fans, and later by the championship itself. People entered Citizens Bank Park wearing winter gear. They left wearing winter gear and smiles.
Lidge, fittingly striking out Eric Hinske for the final Game 5 out, continued to be perfection itself, going 7-for-7 in save opportunities in the postseason. For the year, that made him 48-for-48. Lidge pitched himself to a level that did not allow any room for improvement.
The efforts of the rest of Philadelphia's staff should not be overlooked. A Tampa Bay team that had been hitting, running and setting a postseason record for home runs, was largely silenced in this Series. The Rays hit .212 as a team and scored just 15 runs.
At the one point when it appeared that this Series could go either way, when it was tied, 1-1, another Phillies pitcher came up large. His contribution should not be overlooked. That would be Jamie Moyer -- on another rainy night -- who held the Rays in check until his teammates could take over this Series for keeps. Moyer didn't get the victory in Game 3, but the 45-year-old lefty, provided the performance that set the table for a Philadelphia triumph.
TWICE AS VALUABLE
|Five players have been named MVP of a League Championship Series and World Series in the same season.|
When the Phillies' offense arrived in full for Game 4, you knew for sure which direction this Fall Classic was taking. With Hamels starting in Game 5, this all became a question of when, not if, although when became later because it kept raining. The Phillies' largest problem in the postseason may have been the Philadelphia climate. Citizens Bank Park is a wonderful facility, hitter-friendly, but also baseball-friendly. At this latitude and longitude, though, a retractable roof could have been of some considerable use.
Splitting the games in climate-controlled Tropicana Field, sweeping the games at wet-and-cold, but character-filled, Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies left no doubt about which team deserved the championship. What does it all mean?
"It means everything to me," said manager Charlie Manuel. "You know what? You see people in baseball, if they've got a [World Series] ring on, everybody always wants to see the ring, but that's only the symbol that you're a winner. Once you win a World Series, you become a winner."
Good for Charlie Manuel, a Blue Ridge Mountain baseball lifer, who suffered some slings and arrows earlier in his tenure as Phillies manager, but who stayed the course and was having several last laughs on Wednesday night.
And that designation, World Series champion, can never be cheapened, diminished or removed. The 2008 Philadelphia Phillies are winners, baseball's ultimate winners. They had no glaring area of weakness, they pulled together, and their pitching peaked at precisely the right time of autumn. The rain slowed them down a bit, but it delayed only their celebration. This was a team in this October that could not be stopped.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.