Team chemistry could carry Phillies long way in 2021 season
By Matt Rappa
Consider the past two major Philadelphia sports championships — the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies and 2017 Philadelphia Eagles. A common attribute between the two teams, which will forever be in the hearts of fans, is that each player and coach had chemistry with each other.
There was talent on both, but it was the chemistry that ultimately led the Phillies past the New York Mets in the division, followed by the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Tampa Bay Rays in the postseason — and what helped lift the Eagles past the Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings, and New England Patriots on their way to their first-ever Super Bowl championship.
The 2020 Phillies faced adversity, but that could very well help them this season.
The 2020 Phillies season was unfortunate on many fronts, especially how it ended. The Phillies had perhaps the most talent on their roster since their 2007-11 postseason run. Manager Joe Girardi believes that if anything, a lot of chemistry was built across the 60-game season.
Don’t be surprised if that carries the team further than expected in 2021.
“I think a lot of times you create stronger chemistry when you go through difficult times,” Girardi recently told reporters. “You can also lose some people in a sense, but if you could get through to get to the other side, I think it creates stronger chemistry than if you’re just winning — because you do go through the ups and downs and have to support each other, sometimes pull each other out of slumps or a few bad outings in a row. You know the guy next to you has your back and I think that’s really powerful.”
Didi Gregorius compares the 2017 Yankees to the 2021 Phillies.
When recently asked if he had ever been on a team that because of failure, that it led to success down the line, re-signed Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius pointed out the 2017 New York Yankees — a team also managed by Girardi.
“They predicted us to be at the bottom of the standings. Talking to the guys, we said, ‘Look, we have a great group of guys and always compete. So, no matter what, we can always put our name on the map and fight as a team,'” Gregorius said. “That’s the same thing that happened last year, too. Nobody expected us to be even close, because they always talk about how, ‘This is not good.'”
In 2016, the Yankees finished six games over .500, but still was fourth in the American League East, nine games behind the division-winning Boston Red Sox. The following year, the Yankees improved to 20 games over .500 and second in the division behind their rival. They ended up advancing all the way to Game 7 of the ALCS, before losing to the infamous Houston Astros.
“At the end of the day, you’re still a team. We came short one game [in 2020], but showed that we didn’t go out and give the games up. We fought until the end,” Gregorius continued. “You feel in the team that the team has a heart — to fight 24/7. We came short, but that was last year. We turned the page on that and now move forward this year. I think we’re good.”
This chemistry is something to watch for in 2021.