Memo to Philly: You can’t buy titles
Between the Phillies and Eagles, Philadelphia fans had reason to believe a championship celebration would be in order very soon. Surely one of them would come through, right?
Despite securing the ‘best players money could buy’, it doesn’t look likely.
Both the Yankees and Phillies, the top two spending teams in baseball, were eliminated in the divisional round of the 2011 playoffs. Several of their highest paid players fell flat in the postseason once again (we’ll cover Ryan Howard below but how about that Alex Rodriguez? Or Mark Teixeira? Good job guys. Way to fill up the stat sheets when it mattered most…NOT!)
The Phillies lost in the NL Championship Series last season to the San Francisco Giants, in large part because the Giants’ pitching shut down the vaunted Phillies lineup. So it’s hard to explain why the Phillies went out and made their biggest off-season splash by signing pitcher Cliff Lee to a five-year, $120 million deal. Really? Was starting pitching the issue here? Clearly, no. The extra big name arm helped Philadelphia pick up a few more wins in the regular season (102 in 2011 vs. 97 in 2010) but they lost a round earlier in the playoffs and the much ballyhooed Lee lost in his one start.
When the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, the team won 92 games. They’ve won more games in the regular season each year since but have lost earlier in the playoffs each time: losing the World Series in 2009, the NLCS in 2010 and now the NLDS in 2011.
Ryan Howard, already signed to a five-year, $125 million deal starting in 2012, has been largely a bust in the last two playoff seasons. In 2010 vs. San Francisco, Howard hit a respectable .318. But anyone watching the series knows he failed in every situation when the game was on the line. He struck out 12 times in 22 ABs and collected zero RBI. In 2011 he delivered six RBI in the first two games, on just two hits, then proceeded to go 0-fer the rest of the way, including the final out of game five. That turned out to be brutal as not only did the Phillies lose the game, 1-0, and the series, but Howard stumbled out of the box and suffered a torn ACL in the process. So while the Cards celebrated, Howard was slumped over in the grass 20 feet up the first base line. Ouch! A painful finish for sure.
In football, the Eagles made a splash with big money free agent signings like Jason Babin and Nnamdi Asomugha, and committed to QB Michael Vick with a big contract as well. The NFC East title seemed to be a mere formality.
Not so fast as we have discovered with the Eagles dismal 1-4 start. They have looked nothing like a ‘dream team’ while dropping four straight. Quite the contrary, they have put on one nightmarish performance after another. You want turnovers in the red zone? How about four of them (of 14 total) during their four-game skid . Turnovers have been a problem all season, yet nothing seems to be changing with each successive week. Case in point, Sunday’s loss at Buffalo saw the team turn the ball over five times. This came after a critical turnover in week four killed a late drive that could have salvaged a win against San Francisco that instead became a demoralizing defeat.
Coach Andy Reid is taking a lot of the heat, and deservedly so. He is the architect of the team and calling the shots on the field. The coaching staff that he leads has failed to get the team – on defense or offense – to play as a cohesive unit. While few think he is likely to be fired during the season, there is certainly talk of an exit at the season’s end.
Philly fans have reason to boo – and, as they’ve proven in the past - they are more than happy to do so.
Here are some worthwhile reads covering the Philadelphia sports teams’ drama:
Turnover and penalties are devastating the Eagles – Jonathan Tamari (Philadelphia Inquirer)
Phillies look a lot like the Braves of the 1990s - Sam Donnellon (Philadelphia Daily News)