Welcome to “The Big Three-Oh!” I’m turning 30 at the end of July and to celebrate, I am counting down my best/favorite sports moments in my lifetime. If you missed the kickoff post, check it out for the background for the series. After finally catching up from the weekend over the past few days, I’m incredibly happy to bring this next topic to the list. (Mets fans may as well stop now, we’ll see you tomorrow)
#8 — The 2007 Phillies NL East Title
Ryan Howard and the 2006 Phillies were the first bite of success, the 2007 Phillies turned out to be the appetizer, in retrospect, thanks to 2008. At the time, however, the 2007 Phillies gave us all something we’d been craving in Philadelphia that we’re once again craving today: playoff baseball. It had been 14 years since the Phillies made the MLB Playoffs. You may remember it from Joe Carter’s walk-off home run to end the World Series. There were some dark years throughout those 14 years but there were some glimmers of hope. Scott Rolen won NL Rookie of the Year in 1997. Curt Schilling tossed for 300 strikeouts a few times.
Eventually, the stars of the 2007 team started to mix into the fold. Pat Burrel and Jimmy Rollins each finding their way onto the Phillies in 2000 and the starting lineup in 2001. I wrote about the 2005 and 2006 seasons with Ryan Howard winning NL Rookie of the Year and MVP in each and the Phillies would’ve played in the NL Wild Card Game if that had existed at the time. Enter January 23, 2007:
Declaring the Phils “the team to beat in the NL East,” Jimmy Rollins declared to the world that 2005 and 2006 seasons were no fluke. Cole Hamels was poised to break out. Rollins was ready to charge the clubhouse back to glory.
Despite starting slow, the Phillies found themselves sitting at 42-40 on July 1st, five games behind the Mets, who had just taken three of four games from the Phils. On July 15th (13 years ago today!), the Phillies became the first professional sports franchise to lose their 10,000th game. I remember some of my friends from Berkshire chirping me for this milestone the Phillies reached but it didn’t matter, the team was trying to live up to J-Roll’s bold claim. On July 19th, Cole Hamels recorded his 5th loss of the season, his final loss of the regular season. The Phillies went from 48-48 on July 20th to 72-62 on September 1st, two and a half games behind the Mets.
The start of September was poor for the Phils and great for the Mets as New York found themselves seven games up on September 12th with 17 games to go and a series in Flushing that weekend. The Phils swept the Mets vaulting themselves back into the race. Including the sweep in New York, the Phillies went 8-2 on their final road trip of the season and after winning a series over the Braves, the Phillies and Mets were tied going into the final weekend of the regular season. Phils win/Mets lose on Friday, Phils lose/Met win on Saturday–all tied up going in game 162. The doubts quickly faded away as the Phils won 6-1 with Jimmy Rollins becoming the 7th Major League player to collect at least 20 doubles, 20 triples, and 20 home runs in a single season. The Mets? Lost 8-1 to the Marlins.
I remember being in the Albany mall with one of my closest friends, a Mets, and Giants fan and going bananas when I found out the Phillies won the NL East. You have to remember that I’d seen the Flyers make the playoffs nearly every season, including deep playoff runs, the Sixers made the 2001 Finals, and the Eagles had their string of NFC Championship Game appearances with the 2004 Super Bowl loss. The Phillies in the playoffs were completely foreign to me and it helped solidify the Mets as the Phillies “main rival.” Jimmy Rollins put it perfectly in that Baseball Stories video that once the aura of the Braves went away, there was a void to scoop up supremacy in the NL East. In 2007, and subsequently in 2008 as well, the Phillies had to claw the crown out of the Mets’ hands.
You remember me keeping Roy Halladay’s 2010 playoff no-hitter low on the list because of the Phillies falling flat in the 2010 NLCS against the Giants. The 2007 Phillies similarly fell flat on their faces against the white-hot Colorado Rockies. So why the difference of ranking? The 2007 Phillies find themselves in the Top 10 because of it being the first time I saw them make the playoffs. On September 12th, hell, even on September 16th after sweeping the Mets, I wasn’t expecting the comeback to complete itself. I’d seen the Phillies try to dig themselves out of a hole in September only to fall short the past two years. So for it to complete itself with Rollins, Hamels, Howard, Utley, Victorino, and crew cranking the effort to 11 was incredible. 2010 was fun to watch, but the expectations were higher and therefore, the playoff dud left so much more to be desired. 2007 will always be my second-favorite Phillies season from my first 30 years of life.
Today’s Instagram Athlete
Shane Victorino flies in as the athlete for #8. Victorino joined the Phillies as a part of the Rule 5 Draft. In learning that in high school, I learned what the Rule 5 Draft is. The Flyin’ Hawaiian left his mark in Philadelphia with several incredible moments both in the field and at the bat. I remember being absolutely crushed when the Phillies traded him during the 2012 season. He officially retired as a Phillie two years ago and Victorino night was amazing. Shane’s retirement speech to the crowd at CBP was heart-felt and reminded us all why he will always be one of our favorites from the 2000s glory years.Follow @geordo9