We should have seen it coming. And maybe that’s the worst part about the Phillies’ late stumbles and the Eagles’ early fumbles — we should have seen it coming. We should have seen the weaknesses instead of going ga-ga over the strengths. Instead of talking about Four Aces and Dream Teams, we should have seen that one team was getting too old and the other was way too young.
But we didn’t. Instead, we were dazzled by all those marquee names and we were thrilled they were on our side, because they could have chosen black pinstripes instead of red ones and they could have chosen stars on their helmets instead of wings. They could have chosen anyone, but they chose us.
Yep, it seemed like our time had finally arrived. And that’s what makes the fans’ disappointment with the Phillies and their disgust with the Eagles so much worse. Love is blind, but sometimes it’s also stupid.
That’s why we overlooked the fact that the heart of the Phillies’ lineup has been fading for the last few years and they’ve taken a step back every season since they won the World Series in 2007. The next year they lost in the World Series, the year after that they lost in the National League Championship Series and this year they lost in the first round to a wild-card team.
That is called a trend.
More than anything, last year’s loss to the Giants in the NLCS should have tipped us off that this team wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. The Phillies pitched great, or at least good enough to win even without Cliff Lee. But they didn’t hit and they didn’t score. Worse, they looked bad while they didn’t hit and they didn’t score, as they impatiently flailed at the first pitch or, in some cases, the last pitch.
So why was it a surprise that it happened again? Actually, it happened frequently during the season, but the pitching was so good it didn’t matter and the Phillies won 102 games. That wasn’t enough in the playoffs and it took just one bad outing – ironically, by Lee, the man who was supposed to push the Phillies over the top – to end their season. And now the Phillies have to decide whether to stay the course or shake things up.
As for the Eagles, it should have been even more evident that this was a seriously flawed team. Once again, we were blinded by the light, especially when cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, the most coveted free agent out there, chose the Eagles over every other team, just like Lee, the most coveted free agent in baseball, had chosen the Phillies.
But think about all the changes on the Eagles’ defense this year, especially for a team that won their division last season. The defense has a new coordinator and a new line coach, who brought an entirely new system with him, and they opened the season with five new starters – Asomugha, defensive end Jason Babin, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, free safety Jarrad Page and linebacker Moise Fokou. And even the players who have been here for a while have been lost because the new “Wide 9’’ defensive scheme is completely different from the system the Eagles have played since 1999, when their former coordinator, the late, great Jim Johnson, arrived on the scene.
It’s a similar story on the offensive side of the ball. The Eagles have a new line coach, Howard Mudd, who brought a completely different style of play with him and everybody has had to adapt to it. Plus, once again, the offensive line was turned upside down as the Eagles started this season with only one player in the same position that he played when they ended last season – left tackle Jason Peters. The Eagles have filled other positions with a couple of rookies (center Jason Kelce and right guard Danny Watkins) and a couple of journeymen veterans (guards Evan Mathis and Kyle DeVan). As you know, the results have not been pretty.
Plus they had to put this all together without the benefit of a normal off-season with its mini-camps and other practice sessions and the coaches couldn’t even communicate with all of those new players because of the lockout.
And still we didn’t see this coming. We were so caught up in all the good things about this team that we were blind to the bad things. It was the same with the Phillies.
So now what? Well, the Flyers are off to a great start. I mean, they got a great new goalie and Claude Giroux looks like he’s going to have a monster season and, hey, Jaromir Jagr, a future a Hall-of-Famer, could have signed anywhere, but he chose us and …