2022 Phillies Regular Season
The Phillies didn’t win the World Series, but they went farther than most people expected last season. Perhaps most importantly, they invigorated a fan base that had been somewhat sleepy for most of the regular season.
Make no mistake: The Eagles are still No. 1 on the Philadelphia sports scene. The Phillies, however, owned the city during their riveting post-season run. They captivated the region as they made the playoffs for the first time since 2011, and then upset the St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres to reach the World Series.
“You could see us grow together,” said Dave Dombrowski, president of the team’s baseball operations. He said he had a feeling if the Phillies just got into the playoffs, “we’d have a chance to contend.”
The Phillies’ six-game World Series loss to the powerful Houston Astros was disappointing, but the fans are still enthused for 2023. Ticket sales are brisk. A worker at the team’s merchandise store said Phillies items have been flying off shelves, especially Bryce Harper jerseys and locker-room caps.
With a little off-season tinkering, the Phillies should again be in the hunt – provided they can again withstand the loss of Harper for an extended period.
At least that was the general opinion of most long-time fans who were randomly interviewed in South Jersey and Philadelphia.
“If they get some more pitching, get another bat, I’m pretty hopeful of them getting back there,” said Kevin Peeke, 41, a painter from Cherry Hill.
Peeke made that statement shortly BEFORE the Phillies added a strong hitter in shortstop Trea Turner, who brings speed to the lineup. He is someone who also gives the Phils a much-needed leadoff option. Besides Turner, the Phillies signed righthanded starter Taijuan Walker, who had a 3.49 ERA in 29 starts with the Mets last season. and lefthanded reliever Matt Strahm (3.81 ERA over seven seasons) in early December.
Turner, 29, is a two-time 20-homer/20-steal player.
“Trea’s unbelievable,” Harper told reporters late in the season. “Just the way he plays, the way he runs; he does a really good job on the bases.”
Turner leads the majors in stolen bases and is second in hits over the last five seasons. He batted .298 with 21 homers, 27 steals, and a .343 on-base percentage last season.
In his career, he has hit .302 with a .355 on-base percentage, 24 homers, 36 doubles, 83 RBIs, and 44 steals if his numbers are averaged over a 162-game season.
If he can duplicate those stats, 2023 could be a fun ride. Much like 2022.
“I loved the season,” said Shannon Davis, 35, a data analyst from Chester Springs. “We kind of dropped the ball when it was crunch time, but I think that will get them [motivated] to do it next season.”
Tom McDevitt, a Deptford resident, said he wasn’t expecting such a successful season, “so whatever bonus baseball we got was great. Toward the middle of the season, I didn’t think they’d go very far, and they really picked it up at the end and I think there will be some carryover into next season.”
Kevin Brown, 67, a construction worker from Blenheim, also thought the season was a pleasant surprise.
“The up-and-down play during the season was a little frustrating, but the end of the year was exciting,” he said. “I was content with them just making the playoffs. And when the Mets got bounced out, that’s all I asked for. Things went well for [the Phillies] with the Dodgers getting knocked out … and they took advantage. It was a fun year.”
But he believes it will be difficult for the Phillies to get back to the Series in 2023.
“I think they’ll have some success next year, but their division is so tough,” he said. “Atlanta is definitely the better team, long-term.”
Besides the Phillies’ talent, Peeke said something else became apparent throughout their post-season run.
“You can see the guys really like each other,” he said. “And even the guys who were in slumps or weren’t doing well, they didn’t get tighter. You can see they really got along well and it took [pressure off] each other. I think that helped them.”
Peeke was at Game 3 against Houston, the one in which the Phillies tied a World Series record by hitting five homers en route to a 7-0 win that gave them a 2-1 lead in the series.
He said it was the most exciting game he ever attended.
“When (Nick) Castellanos made that sliding catch on the very first batter in the first inning, I was never worried about the game at all,” Peeke said. “It didn’t feel like anything COULD go bad. It just didn’t.”
He was right. Harper, Alec Bohm, Brandon Marsh, Kyle Schwarber, and Rhys Hoskins ripped home runs as the Phillies romped.
“They just kept hitting homers and it was over,” Peeke added.
At that point, many thought the Phils were destined to bring home their third world championship in franchise history.
But Houston showed why it won 106 games during the regular season. The Astros held the Phils to just nine combined hits and three combined runs over the last three games.
The positives outweighed the negatives, said Charlene Devincentis, a concessions worker at the Wells Fargo Center and Citizens Bank Park
She thinks having Rob Thomson for the full year will help the Phillies in 2023. He replaced the fired Joe Girardi on June 3. The Phils were 22-29 under Girardi in 2022, and 5 ½ games from the second wild-card spot. They went 65-46 for Thomson, who was later given a two-year extension.
It was clear the Phils liked playing for Thomson, who had them playing more small ball than his predecessor. Prior to getting his extension, several of the team’s veterans said they wanted him as their future manager.
“And even though they didn’t go all the way, I think they did a pretty good job,” said Devincentis, 61, who resides in Northeast Philadelphia. “They made things exciting.”
Citizens Bank Park may never have been louder than it was in the postseason.
“Electric,” Devincentis said. “Simply electric.”
Will it be electric with Harper likely missing the first half of the 2023 season?
Harper’s recovery from Tommy John surgery in November will be key to the upcoming season.
The slugging Harper had a torn ulna collateral ligament in his right elbow repaired. The Phillies said he could be back as a designated hitter by the All-Star break.
“I think they’ll overcome it,” said McDevitt, 36, an accountant for Comcast. “They gained lots of momentum from where they left off.”
Brown isn’t convinced.
“It’s going to be hard to replace him,” Brown said. “I’d like to think last year was an aberration for Castellanos and he comes back to his regular form.”
Castellanos hit .263 with just 13 homers and 62 RBIs in his first season with the Phillies. The previous year, he batted .309, swatted 34 homers, and had 100 RBIs for Cincinnati.
Besides Castellanos, others will have to pick up the slack while Harper is out – like they did when Harper was sidelined for two months because of a broken thumb during the regular season. He returned for the stretch drive, then put the Phillies into the World Series with an epic homer against San Diego in Game 5 of the NLCS,
Turner, who received an 11-year, $300-million deal in December, should help the Phils bide time until Harper returns. His leadoff ability figures to move Schwarber from No. 1 to No. 2 in the lineup.
Without Harper, the Phillies went 32-20 and got help from unexpected sources, including Darick Hall, who hit nine homers after getting recalled from triple-A.
“You don’t ever want to lose Bryce,” Thomson said after Harper had surgery in November. “He’s one of the best hitters in baseball, if not the best. We spent a lot of time without him last year and it gave other guys the opportunity to step up and they did.”
Can they do it again?
Well, signing Turner was a great start.