The Phillies. Founded in 1884, the team is over a hundred years old, making it the fifth oldest team in the MLB. The Phillies also has the distinction of having more losses than any other Major League Sports team. While there have been a number of triumphant rises from the standings cellar over their history, these have served only to make the returns to mediocrity all the more bitter for the fans, and have certainly not aided the Phillies' long term reputation in any meaningful way
When the team was established, it began under the name of the "Quakers". This was an odd choice, as the religious society is all about peace and consensus, whereas the team is supposed to be playing to win. Perhaps the initial name and subsequent change to the "Phillies" are what established the team as a bottom-of-the-standings team, plagued by various management problems. The most consistent of these problems is trading away star players in order either to survive or to profit. For instance, in 1921 the team's management traded away Eppa Rixey, a hall of fame pitcher and veteran of the team, to the Cincinnati Reds, just as he was becoming an answer to the Phillies' chronic pitching problems.
Management has always been the Phillie's biggest problem. The few bright areas on the Phillie's record have always been caused by the introduction of a better manager (few and far between), rather than simply having good players, as the Phillie's have had quite a few. The first instance where this happened is the glorious 1950 season, when the Phillies seized the national pennant, for only the second time in their history and thirty years. This is attributed mainly to Bob Carpenter Jr., the owner of the team. He began a farm system with minor league teams which gained him such gems as Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts and Dick Sisler, whose 10th inning 3-run home run brought the Phillies their second, and most memorable, national Pennant. Together, they formed the "whiz kids", who, in true Phillies form, were traded away the next season.
The next and greatest of Phillie's achievements was winning the 1980 World Series against Kansas City, their first World Series title in nearly a hundred years of existence, behind a well-balanced team, including batter Mike Schmidt, who was league MVP that year. After this, they fell back down the rankings, remaining there for the next two decades with the exception of 1993. That year, They experienced a brief moment of success before returning to the bottom of the barrel.
Once again, it was new management that saved the Phillies. Under managers Manuel and Gillick, the team was once again rebuilt from younger players. Accepting continued losses as the price, the managers gradually allowed the team's players to improve and the team itself to strengthen. This strategy paid off, as the team finally burst forth in 2007 to win its division title, and then in 2008, the Phillies won their second World Series title. This victory proved, for anyone who really doubted it, that the best management strategy for victory is to foster one's players into effective athletes.
Originally published: Thursday, August 07, 2008; most-recently modified: Friday, May 31, 2019