Philadelphia Phillies: History says club can contend in 2021
By Colin Newby
Jim Thome helped transition the Phillies into a new ballpark and era of success.
The Phillies signed first baseman Jim Thome entering the 2003 season, an acquisition that was supposed to bring the team back into contention and end the Atlanta Braves’ division domination.
The additional acquisitions of pitcher Kevin Millwood, third baseman David Bell, and closer Billy Wagner during the following offseason stocked the Phillies roster entering the inaugural season of Citizens Bank Park in 2004.
Fans sported T-shirts with “Now is the time!” written across their chests as optimism swirled in Philadelphia in anticipation of a new era.
The team, however, did not initially live up to the hype. The Phillies finished in second place in the NL East in 2004, 2005, and 2006 — narrowly missing out on Wild Card berths in each of the three seasons.
Former manager Charlie Manuel withstood harsh criticism during the 2005 and 2006 seasons, while the postseason drought stretched to 14 years. The fanbase was wholly unsatisfied.
While the 2007 Phillies are now heralded as a part of the golden era of Phillies baseball, the regular season was not a smooth ride. The Phillies were considered a middling team once again for most of the season, before a memorable September earned them the division crown at a record of 89-73.
The imperfect trajectory eventually resulted in the Phillies’ second-ever World Series championship in 2008.
It’s not as bad as it seemed.
The Phillies finished 28-32 in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, their first under manager Joe Girardi. They were marred by the worst bullpen in baseball and a 1-7 record in their final eight games with a postseason berth on the line.
The outlook appeared even worse given the financial uncertainty surrounding Realmuto’s impending free-agency and the success of Marlins rookie Sixto Sanchez, the centerpiece of the trade to land Realmuto.