Heading into last night's game in Washington, the Phillies still had a slim chance to prevent being on the other end of another team's celebration. Who ever said that would have been a positive?
By now you know the Nationals lost, but experienced their moment of glory anyway because the Braves couldn't take care of business against the Pirates. Know what? That's okay, and not just because it was bound to happen anyway.
For once, it was good the shoe was on the other foot this time, because now the Phillies are mad. Charlie Manuel said as much as after the game, and in this instance, it's safe to say he was speaking for a number of guys in the clubhouse. Via John Gonzalez:
While the Nationals – clad in division championship hats and T-shirts – stood on the field and addressed their fans following the game, Charlie Manuel sat in the visiting manager’s office. He didn’t look or sound happy. The Phillies won the game, but Manuel said, “we got beat” as reporters filed into the room and stood around his desk.
“It made me mad, yeah, yes it did,” Manuel said about the Nationals claiming what the Phillies had owned for the last five years. “I’m a bad loser. Nobody should be a good loser. I’m a bad loser and I always will be.
“I’ve been mad for three or four weeks. It just hadn’t been coming out.”
Sure, the Phillies have watched opponents celebrate during their unprecedented run of success, but I'm not convinced anger was ever quite the emotion it elicited.
When they lost the World Series to the Yankees in '09, there was still a sense of accomplishment in that. When the Giants beat them in the NLCS the following year, it was more a feeling of crushing disappointment. When the Cardinals upended the Phillies in the Divisional Series last season, they were stunned.
This is something else entirely. After a group as talented and as decorated as this roster has played 160 games, already knowing they won't even get a sniff of the playoffs, seeing their rivals jump for joy could only incite rage.
It's a picture they will carry all offseason.
Not that motivation was the problem for the Phillies in 2012, or that they needed any more of it to get back on track. The single biggest factor that led to their being on the outside looking in was injuries, a problem that we can only hope will remedy itself next year. I don't buy this notion they ever became complacent, either -- not with the personalities in that dugout, not when they set a franchise record with 102 wins only a season ago.
I also don't think the added slight of being completely powerless to stop the Nats from winning the NL East can hurt, either. The Phillies may have had better teams since winning the World Series, but they were at their absolute best back in '08 when they still had everything to prove.
That sense of having something to prove will be alive and well when pitchers and catchers report in February. Good, because it suits them well.