John Smallwood: 2012 Phillies look like pre-World Series team of 1982

Posted: July 13, 2012

I WONDER IF this is what Philadelphia was like in 1982.

Were disgruntled Phillie fans storming Veteran Stadium with pitchforks and torches in hand demanding the head of new manager Pat Corrales?

Did they want to trade superstars like Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Pete Rose and Gary Matthews for prospects to protect the future?

After all, just two seasons before, in 1980, the Phillies won the first World Series championship in franchise history.

But in 1981, they lost to the Montreal Expos in the National League Divisional Series during a strike year.

Now, in '82, management was clearly guilty of trying to stretch out a great run instead of building for the future.

From World Series champs to 81-81 in two short seasons — convincing evidence that this franchise stunk once again and was heading down the toilet.

Then 1983 came along.

Instead of a youth movement, the Phillies added 39-year-oldsecond baseman Joe Morgan and 40-year-old utility man Tony Perez to go with the 41-year-old Rose, 40-year-old Ron Reed, 39-year-old Bill Robinson, 38-year-old Carlton and 38-year-old Tug McGraw.

Philadelphia Daily News columnist Stan Hochman dubbed them the "Wheeze Kids," and instead of being insulted, they embraced it.

That team went to the World Series before losing to the Baltimore Orioles in five games.

It's never easy to decide when it's time to move on from a successful core of players or give them one more shot at glory.

The Phillies did the latter in 1983 and played for a World Series.

It would now seem that the 2012 Phillies have reached a similar junction.

After winning the World Series in 2008, these Phillies, with a core unit of Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz and Cole Hamels, have seen a step-by-step decrease in success.

In 2009, they lost the World Series to the New York Yankees.

In 2010, they lost in the NLCS to the San Francisco Giants.

In 2011, they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Divisional Series.

Along the way, the Phillies gambled their future by trading prospects for additions like Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence.

They paid big free-agent money to pitchers Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon and gave big extensions to Howard and Rollins.

But the Phillies haven't gotten that elusive second World Series ring, and now they look like they will end their streak of five consecutive playoff appearances.

So now, the pitch forks and torches are marching on Citizens Bank Park.

It's ironic that I never fully understood the deep psychic scars Philadelphia sports fans have about losing until the Phillies actually won the World Series.

I honestly figured that after winning the franchise's second World Series title in its 125-year history, plus ending the city's 25-year championship drought, the Phillies would get a grace period.

Instead, the pressure to repeat simply increased because they were viewed as the only legitimate shot at another parade.

Making it back to the World Series in 2009 wasn't good enough because they lost to a better New York Yankees team.

Setting a club record with 102 victories last season became a meaningless feat because they lost to the Cardinals in the NLDS.

And today, general manager Rubem Amaro, Jr. and manager Charlie Manuel are idiotic stooges and the players are heartless bastards who don't give a damn about winning.

Some Phillie fans don't want to just throw the baby out with the bathwater, but they want to get rid of the bath, too.

I disagree.

I don't I don't think the Phillies should blow up this roster and start over from scratch.

Perahps I am fooling myself, but I look at this season and see a lot of extenuating circumstances — primarily the long-term injuries of Howard, Utley and Halladay — as to why things have gone down the drain.

I might be the only one, but I still think this team is closer to the one that won 102 games in 2011 than the one that might finish under .500 in 2012.

I think the Phillies team going into 2013 is lot like the one that went into 1983.

There's a chance for a surprising rebound.

Clearly, upgrades have to be made in several key spots during the offseason, but I think it is within this franchise's ability to do that.

I don't know for sure, but I bet that Phillies fans were less than excited when they looked at their team for the start of the 1983 season.

By the end, however, they were sitting in The Vet cheering during a World Series.

Obviously, you can't guarantee that kind of comeback for these Phillies in 2013, but it's possible.

Contact John Smallwood at smallwj@phillynews.com

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