The Philadelphia Union, Eagles and Phillies all made it to the championship this past season in each respective sport. To accomplish a feat such as this is truly a rarity, and it inspires fans from across the city and surrounding area to look forward to years of greatness to come. Yet, in our case, things are on much shakier ground in terms of confidence in our championship-caliber teams. This, of course, stems from the fact that none of these three teams were able to finish climbing the mountain and hoist the trophy, signifying the indisputable dominance of the sport.
Instead, Eagles, Phillies and Union fans are left with an uncertainty and an emptiness that lingers within our hearts of what could have been.
With the Phillies, the feeling seems deeper than that of the Union and Eagles. Those two, by midseason, were destined to be in the big game. Even prior to the season, the expectations were championship-level for the Eagles and the Union. The Phillies had started the season with high expectations but stumbled mightily throughout the season to the point where their mere appearance in the playoffs was somewhat shocking.
Injuries, inconsistency with stars and the firing of their manager mid-season were just a few of the factors that played into the deflation of Phillies fans’ expectations. Things got so low for the red faithful that attendance was falling through the floor and attention turned almost fully to the hopeful Super Bowl champions playing football.
Yet, newly minted manager Rob Thomson, who was considered an interim bridge for next season’s more permanent option, declined to wave the white flag and steered his ship into calmer waters, clinching a playoff berth for the first time since 2011.
The course was set but would the ship be able to stay above the waters or get blown to bits by a far superior ship?
What ensued might have been the greatest underdog story ever told this side of Rocky Balboa.
The Phillies would go on to come back from a deep deficit to the Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs. From there, a vintage postseason got into full swing and Phillies fever set a ravenous fanbase ablaze.
“Red October,” as it was affectionately referred to, doused the entire city in an ecstatic passion for a shot at the World Series. Every bit of optimism from prior to the season came to fruition in what felt like a month-long home run derby for the Phils. The iconic moments were numerous and new household names were forever forged into Philadelphia sports lore.
When the dust settled, Philadelphia came up just short of winning it all as they fell to the consensus best team in baseball, the Houston Astros, in a classic World Series. It was a spirited battle but one that they ultimately could not end with a parade of red marching on Broad Street.
There is something to be said for defying the expectations and playing with “house money” to make an appearance in the World Series. Yet many believe that the loss was a massive missed opportunity. The addition of star shortstop Trea Turner will only add to a very strong roster but, a very similar roster to that of this season’s struggled for much of the year until lightning was captured in a bottle for about a month. The fact that no trophy came out of it means that that lightning is going to have to be captured again, unless the team can become a greater, more consistent force this season.
The experience of a postseason run can only have a good effect on a team as they now know how to win on the biggest stage and against the odds. With several players looking to perfect their craft in the offseason, such as Alec Bohm, who looks to become a more consistent slugger, the potential of the team only rises.
However, the team will miss the man who led them through the postseason in awe-inspiring fashion, Bryce Harper, for a few months as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. The others will have to fill the void for the time being and get the team in position to succeed.
Even with some doubt, expectations are sky high given the recency bias from being on top of the world in October. No longer underdogs, the Phillies will have to carry a heavier burden of expectations with them throughout the 2023 season.
Joseph Gill is a fourth year English major with a minor in Journalism. JG923276@wcupa.edu