If you’re looking for a column that will tell you that the Phillies are going to compete this year, then look elsewhere. So, how long until the Phillies compete? In this column, I’m going to argue that the Phillies may not be good for a decade.
As the old saying goes, history repeats itself. You can look back at other teams in the past few decades that are similar to the Phillies, but why not simply look at a past Phillies team? After all, old habits are hard to break.
The 1983 Phillies went 90-72, won the National League East, and beat the Dodgers in the NLCS. Those “Wheeze Kids” Phillies went on to lose to the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.
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Compare that club to the most recent Phillies team to contend, the 2011 version. Those 2011 Phillies went 102-60, won the National League East, but lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS.
It’s a pretty similar track that these two teams followed. Both of the teams had an aging core. The average age of the 1983 team was 30.8. Compare this to the average age of the 2011 Phillies of 31.4. The 1983 team even had three of their stars over the age of 38, compared to just one on the 2011 version of the Phillies.
Mike Schmidt was baseball’s highest-paid player in 1983.
Combine the aging squads with the amount of money the Phillies spend on the old players, and you find another similarity. In 1983, Philadelphia had the third highest payroll in the majors. (Mike Schmidt was the highest paid player in the majors!) In 2011, the Phillies had the second highest payroll.
Alright so we have established a connection between the two teams. So what does this mean for the future? Well, if we extrapolate…nothing good.
After 1983, those Phillies had only one winning season until 1993, when they finally contended. During that span of time, the Phillies dropped towards the bottom of the pack in team payroll. They released their aging stars, but they were unable to foster young talent and jumpstart their squad.
In short, the situation after 1983 is the nightmare situation for current Phillies fans.
“I wouldn’t think ’15 or ’16…I think somewhere around 2017 or 2018.” ~ Pat Gillick, on when the Phillies can next contend
Is it possible? Yes. Ruben Amaro Jr. already has begun the process of unloading aging stars, albeit a little later than some thought necessary. Roy Halladay retired. Raul Ibanez signed with the Yankees. Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, and Jimmy Rollins were all traded.
Unfortunately for the Phillies, the process isn’t over yet. It has been made public that the Phillies are still looking to unload the monstrosity that is Ryan Howard’s contract. Chase Utley, Cliff Lee, Carlos Ruiz, and Cole Hamels all may be headed out the door at some point.
During an interview with John Clark of CSN, acting club president Pat Gillick stated: “I think where we are right now, it’s probably a couple years. I wouldn’t think ’15 or ’16. I don’t think is in the cards. I think somewhere around 2017 or 2018.”
In a recent poll conducted by NJ.com, Phillies fans were asked “When do you believe the Phillies will compete again?” More than 52% responded with the choice “2018 or later“, with more than a quarter choosing “2017” for contention. This shows that even the fans believe we’re in for at least a couple of long seasons.
So what’s the verdict? I’m not trying to cause a panic. I am not assuming that the Phillies absolutely will not contend again until 2021. I’m just saying maybe we should turn an eye towards the past and consider that this has happened before.
As they say…history has a way of repeating itself. How long until the Phillies contend again? If the past is prologue, it could be quite some time.