The Philadelphia Phillies have faded from playoff contention during the month of September in each of the past three seasons.
After surrendering a division lead in mid-August, the 2018 Phillies went 8-20 over the final month of the season. The collapse included a nine-game losing streak from Sept. 20-29. They also limped to a 3-9 record in their final 12 games in 2019.
Former manager Gabe Kapler was let go in October 2019 after only two seasons in Philadelphia. Phillies managing partner John Middleton cited the club’s 20-36 record during the month of September as the main reason for the decision.
However, his replacement Joe Girardi didn’t fare any better in 2020. In the 60-game season, the Phillies lost seven of their final eight games and missed the eight-team National League expanded playoffs by one game.
Philadelphia Phillies Take a Backseat to the Eagles
The Phillies have failed to inspire hope for a playoff run for the past decade, and their poor efforts down the stretch have pushed fans’ attention to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The NFL season begins three days after Labor Day each year, and the Eagles are the most popular of the four major professional sports teams in the city. Local sports talk radio stations stir up excitement for Eagles season every September. The end of summer gets Philadelphians in the mood for football long before the MLB regular season ends.
The 2021 Phillies could’ve furiously reversed this trend after seizing first place from the New York Mets with a three-game sweep at Citizens Bank Park from August 6-8. The Eagles are set to enter a season with arguably their lowest expectations of any season during the 21st century, and the 76ers and Flyers both had disappointing finishes to their most recent seasons.
Instead, the Phils’ struggles in late August, highlighted by a sweep at the hands of the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks, dampened the spirits of their fans before the month of September even arrived.
Phillies fans thought 2021 could be different.
The Phillies are still in the pennant race, but they blew a golden opportunity to captivate their fans in a way that hasn’t been done since 2011. Their early August hot streak drew legitimate optimism and hopes for stars like Bryce Harper and Zack Wheeler to usher in a new era of playoff baseball.
Rhys Hoskins spoke about the desire for that new era three seasons ago.
"“I said something in spring training, that there’s a picture in one of the halls of the dogpile in ’08 [when the Phillies won the World Series] and you can see the whole stadium and I told everybody that I was tired of hearing about what that was like and I was ready to feel it,” Hoskins said."
The Phillies finally looked like they had turned a corner in early August, but even the energy their home crowd can provide at its peak couldn’t spark the team. They immediately reverted to their old ways and squandered the NL East lead to the Atlanta Braves by losing seven of their next nine games.
They should expect to hear loud Eagles chants from their home crowds throughout the month of September.
The remainder of the division race will still draw the attention of diehard fans in Philadelphia. However, barring a drastically dominant September, the Phillies organization should not realistically expect to be in the true Philadelphia sports spotlight. They only have themselves to blame for the missed opportunity.