The Phillies flew home to Philadelphia on Sunday, but it is anybody’s guess where the organization goes from there.
There are no simple solutions following Sunday's 5-0 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field. The defeat ended another disappointing season. If the Phillies won Sunday, they would have made the postseason for the first time in nine years. A victory combined with Giants and Brewers losses would have sent them to Los Angeles to play the top-seeded Dodgers in the National League Wild Card Series on Wednesday. The Giants (29-31) and Brewers (29-31) cooperated. The Phillies did not.
The Phils finished 28-32, with no obvious path forward in 2021.
“I think we could have just as easily won 38 games, 35 games, I really do,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “Obviously, there are free agents on our team that meant a lot to our team, and I can’t tell you what is going to happen there. I don’t think we were that far from being a 35- to a 38-win total, and we would have felt a lot different with the same guys in the room.”
The Phillies have holes to fill besides free agents J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius. They have to rebuild their bullpen. It finished with a 7.06 ERA, which is the second-highest mark in baseball history, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Only the 1930 Phillies bullpen was worse, with an 8.16 ERA. The Phillies probably need to add at least one or two starters. They probably need to add at least another outfielder or two.
“I hope we don’t lose those guys,” Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola said. “I feel like we’re inching closer every year. That’s what you play for, to get in the postseason, and my time here so far we haven’t got there. It makes that much more ‘want’ for us to get there. You know, we’ll see what happens this offseason. I know the right decisions will be made, I’m sure in the end, and we’ll get back to work here soon.
“It sucks not to be in the postseason. We've got ballplayers on this team, and so it's frustrating. But I'm putting on myself a lot, too. My Septembers haven't been that great, this year's obviously wasn't that great. I felt like I could have done more, put the team better [in] position, and it's just frustrating.”
Nola allowed three runs in 3 2/3 innings to put the Phillies in a 3-0 hole. The Rays scored two more times in the sixth to build a five-run lead.
Meanwhile, the Phillies’ offense mustered just six hits -- five singles -- against the Rays.
The Phillies expected to be better than this. They entered the season with the highest payroll in franchise history and had the past five years to build the baseball operations department and farm system they wanted. The shortcomings at the Major and Minor League levels have put heat on Phillies general manager Matt Klentak, who has been on the job since October 2015.
“I have loved working with Matt Klentak,” Girardi said. “I think we have an outstanding relationship. We talk about situations all the time. I have loved working with him.”
So he is the guy moving forward?
“As I said, I love working with Matt,” Girardi said. “It has been a real pleasure working with him, so I look forward to working with him next year and this offseason trying to get this thing right. He’s working just as hard as the rest of us.”
But wins and losses matter. Klentak said that himself at the beginning of last offseason, when the Phillies dismissed former manager Gabe Kapler.
The Phillies did not win this year. They have not won since 2011.
They should have won by now.
“It’s tough sitting here, not thinking about going to L.A.,” Bryce Harper said. “The hard things that we needed to get done today, they got done. The easy thing of winning, we just didn’t get it done, especially the last couple days and the last week.
"We had opportunities to win games, and we simply didn’t get it done. I feel like that’s been all year long. We’ve had opportunities to win many games, and it just didn’t happen. As we go into the offseason, we’re going to need to understand what we need to do as an organization and as a team to hopefully get better in those situations and get better in any part of this team.”