A trip down memory lane

from the Bleacher Report

by Alex Young

Gather ’round kids, I’m going to tell you a tale. A tale of the last time the Philadelphia Phillies finished last in the National League East.

The year was 2000. We had all just survived Y2K and were excited to live on the frontier of the future, the New Millenium. Surely we would have flying cars and robot butlers within a few years. The Flyers were yearly contenders, the Sixers were just a year away from the NBA Finals and the Eagles had an exciting new head coach named Andy and a young, athletic quarterback named Donovan McNabb (How times have changed.)

Sadly, Philadelphia was still stuck with the same crummy baseball  team that we had the sad fortune of rooting for in the previous century. The Phillies could not have been farther removed from their last good season. By the time I started watching baseball in the late 90s, people talked about Lenny Dykstra, Dutch Daulton and the ’93 Phillies like they were ghosts. It only took them a few years to go from the World Series to perennial cellar dwellers. They finished no better than third in the division from 1996 to 1999. The only times Veteran’s Stadium had more than 6,000 people in it for a baseball game was when Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa came to town. It was a far cry from five straight division crowns and 200 consecutive sell-outs.

Their manager was Terry Francona. You know, the guy who broke the Curse of the Bambino and won two World Series for the Red Sox. But that wasn’t the Francona that the Phillies got. He never lead the team to a winning record and lost more than 90 games twice in four years.

The Phillies’ big name players were Scott Rolen and Curt Schilling. Two guys who couldn’t get out of town fast enough. Schilling was traded midseason to the Arizona Diamondbacks where he went on to win the World Series a year later. The best player they got in return was Vicente Padilla who’s main contribution to the team was a second-rate fan group called the “Padilla Floatilla.”

Their only other relevant players were Randy Wolf, who led the team with 11 wins, Bobby Abreu, who hit .316, and Mike Leiberthal who made the NL All-Star team. They filled the rest of the team out with names like Ron Gant (Who—I can’t lie— I loved at the time), Desi Relaford and Rico Brogna.

The team slogged its way to a 65-97 record, the franchise’s worst since they lost 97 games in 1972. Terry Francona was quickly fired after the season and once they hired Larry Bowa to replace him, they ushered in the beginning of the end of one of the worst eras in Phillies baseball. Bowa led the team to some good but not great records from 2001 to 2004 but by the time he was finished they had moved into their new stadium. Before we knew it, they were winning. And winning a lot.

It’s easy to forget how bad this team was just a short twelve years ago. There are kids in middle school who have never seen the Phillies have a losing record. They might currently be in last place but the Phillies still have a good shot at making the playoffs. No matter how bad you think they are now, there’s no way they’ll be as bad as the last time they finished in last place.

 

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