The time to say goodbye to the Phillies is upon us. While a sad occasion, for the first year since their last World Series appearance in '09 -- where win or lose, the season is over -- we can't say we didn't see it coming.
For all intents and purposes, baseball season was over one-to-two weeks ago, at whichever point you felt the Phillies had fallen hopelessly out of the Wild Card race. Then again, by that logic some might say baseball season was already over as far back as July, when the team was 14 games under .500. Or you could argue baseball season wasn't over until this past Friday, when they were eliminated from playoff contention.
Either way, with a Michael Martinez fly-out to tie up one final loss, baseball season is officially over for Philadelphia, and everybody knew it was going to end.
And if we were truly being honest with ourselves, we probably should've seen it coming before the season ever got underway. How does any Major League team weather the loss of their first and second basemen -- their three and four hitters no less -- for half of a season?
Through dominant starting pitching, we were told. The problem with that line of thinking was it wouldn't take much to go wrong for the entire house of cards to fall.
Much didn't go wrong. Seemingly everything went wrong instead.
On top of fighting through injuries to the entire right side of the infield, Cliff Lee, Vance Worley, and Roy Halladay all did stints on the disabled list, the latter sending the team into a tailspin from which they would never recover.
Now the Phillies enter an offseason full of questions. Is Halladay in decline? Will Howard get his stroke back? Will Utley be ready to play come April? Who will be at third base? Center field? Where is their right-handed power bat? Is there a better leadoff hitter? Can they get the bullpen fixed? Are Ruben Amaro and Charlie Manuel the right guys for the job? All fair, I suppose.
Here's the thing. At the All-Star break, when the Phillies' core was just coming back together, the club's record was 37-50; they finished 81-81. In order to get back to .500, they had to go 44-31 the rest of the way -- a winning percentage of .587. Take that number over a full 162-game season, and it equates to 95 wins.
That's a playoff team, folks. That's after trading away Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino. That's with Halladay's ballooning 4.49 ERA and Howard's .219 batting average. That's when the invaluable Carlos Ruiz doing his own stretch on the DL. That's with Kevin Frandsen playing everyday at third base, not to mention a mix-and-match outfield.
Baseball season may be over, may have been over weeks or months ago, or even before it began. The Phillies' window is not.
Some -- probably not all -- of the concerns on the roster should work themselves out, and the front office will go about addressing the areas that might not. They could even get some additional help from prospects, some of whom we saw over the last month or two of the season, and others continuing to develop.
We've endured a hellacious year, one in which expectations were set far too high, and still was never quite as disgraceful as it was often made out to be. In the end, perhaps the single biggest feeling we can take from 2012 is it should not take much this winter to get the Phillies right back in the hunt in 2013.
Everybody should be able to see that much coming, too.