The 2020 Philadelphia Phillies were met with high expectations and were favorites to win the National League East and make the playoffs for the first time in nine years. Prior to the season, the team hired veteran manager Joe Girardi and added key free agents such as shortstop Didi Gregorious and pitcher Zack Wheeler. Expectations were high, thanks in large part to these signings, as well as the team’s powerful lineup that included superstars Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins. As it turned out, the team did not meet their expectations and failed to reach the postseason, finishing with a disappointing 28–32 record in the shortened campaign.
The coronavirus pandemic took the world by storm starting in early March and delayed the 2020 season by three months. The Phillies were set to open the 162 game season in March. However, weeks prior to the season opener, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred suspended the season with no timetable for a return in sight.
Teams finally reported to spring training on July 1, and action did not get underway until July 24. Teams were tasked with playing 60 games in 66 days. Some teams such as the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals had players contract the virus during season play, which led to increased doubleheaders and less off-days in an already hectic two and a half months of play.
The offense was a bright spot and kept the team in games, thanks in large part to promising campaigns from Harper, who finished the season with 13 home runs, and rookie Alec Bohm, who led the team with a .338 batting average.
The factor that ultimately led to the Phillies’ demise was the ineffectiveness of the bullpen. The bullpen had the worst earned run average in baseball at 7.20, and more often than not, they were unsuccessful in closing out ball games.
General manager Matt Klentak recently stepped down, and the ownership group is currently looking for a new general manager to lead the team in the right direction. The new general manager will have his hands full this winter, as Realmuto and Gregorious are set to hit free agency. Realmuto is arguably the best catcher in baseball, and he has put together two excellent seasons since being acquired in a trade from the Miami Marlins. Gregarious was lured away from the New York Yankees and had a bounceback 2020 campaign after struggling and missing time due to injuries in 2019. Losing both of these players would be major blows to the core of the Phillies’ roster.
Looking ahead to the 2021 campaign, the Phillies have a lot of work to do. Keeping the core pieces together and adding pitching depth are both important priorities and will have a major impact on the outlook of the 2021 season. As long as they execute and play to their full potential, there should be optimism that the Phillies can turn the tables and advance to postseason play for the first time since 2011.
Erick Klambara is a second-year student majoring in media and cultures. EK924666@wcupa.edu