Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Playoffs? You Kiddin' Me?

"Playoffs?...You kiddin' me?"
Following a loss in the 10th game of the 2001 NFL season that dropped his Indianapolis Colts squad to a 4-6 record, head coach Jim Mora went off on one of the most memorable post-game press conference tirades in sports history. 

In the midst of lambasting his team's turnover-prone performance against the San Francisco 49ers, a reporter unwisely brought up the topic of what effect this might have on the Colts playoff chances. 

"Playoffs?" Mora asked incredulously, "Don't talk about...playoffs? You kiddin' me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game."

Coach Mora's immortal rant was ringing in my ears the last couple of days when, to me just as incredulously, I noticed a number of Phillies fans on social media announcing that the team was just 9 1/2 games out of the Wildcard, and might still have a chance at the playoffs. Playoffs? You kiddin' me? Playoffs?

I personally stopped checking the MLB standings, at least as far as the hometown Philadelphia Phillies are concerned, more than a month ago. 


But following a five-game winning streak that included a four-game sweep of the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers, the Fightins had closed to within nine games of the .500 mark. They sat just eight games out of first place. It was the closest they had been in two weeks, and the optimist in me still held out a sliver of hope as we approached the All-Star break.

The team then proceeded to lose 7 of the next 8 games to fall 15 under .500, 13 games back, and I was done. There would be no miracle in 2014. These Phillies were what they were, a losing team, and it had been coming. The team fell from their lofty 2011 franchise record-setting perch to a .500 finish in 2012, then to their first losing season in a decade, a 2013 that saw them finish 13 games below the .500 mark. There would be no getting back up.

That 1-7 stretch began a 13-20 mark of futility over more than a month of play leading into mid-August and a homestand that began last Monday night. So what has happened suddenly to make some segment of the fan base believe that the post-season, the "playoffs", is even a remote possibility?

First of all, it began with a basic: the team started to win a bit. With last night's victory over Washington, the Phils have clinched winning their 3rd straight series. They took 2 of 3 vs. the Mariners and Cardinals each last week, and now have won the first two in the series with the Nationals. It's been a nice little stretch of play, winning 6 of 8 on the homestand thus far. But all it has accomplished is this: nothing that matters.

The Phils are still a full dozen games below the .500 mark. They are still 15 1/2 behind the first place Nats. They still have the worst record in the National League East, the 4th-worst in the entire league. At those 9 1/2 game out in the Wildcard race, they have 9 teams standing between them and the 2nd Wildcard playoff berth. Despite their recent winning play, they have gained no ground in that race over the last 10 games. 

Folks, I have said it before and I'll say it again: I am not only Mr. Glass Half Full, I am Mr. Glass 3/4 Full. But there comes a time when even the most optimistic have to be realistic. If the Phils somehow reach the playoffs, I will walk the 23 miles from my home to Citizens Bank Park wearing a sign saying "I Didn't Believe" - but I won't have to take that walk. The Phillies have no, zero, shot at a 2014 playoff berth. There will be no post-season play, no October baseball at all in the City of Brotherly Love.

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