Braves crash. Falcons sag. But misery has company – in Philly

The Phillies after eliminating the Braves. Now they're gone, too. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

The Phillies after eliminating the Braves. Now they're gone, too. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

The Braves fashioned a collapse of epic proportions. Through five games, the Falcons have been a damp squib. Yet again, we in Atlanta have cause to wring our hands. This time, however, we have company.

We have Philadelphia.

With a string of division titles but only one World Series coronation, the Phillies have become the Braves of not-so-distant vintage. The Eagles are learning what it is to be dazzled by the potential inherent in Michael Vick only to be disappointed in the results.

I mean this not in a gloating way — can’t really gloat if your teams aren’t winning anything themselves — but as a form of sympathy. Philly, we Atlantans have been there, done that and have the replica jerseys to prove it.

The Phillies swept the Braves to begin the historic skid and again to conclude it, and over those final three nights the thought occurred: Did the Phils really want to play St. Louis in Round 1? Had the Braves taken the wild card, Philly would have been paired against Arizona, the least imposing of the National League qualifiers. By beating the Braves so often, the Phillies chose the instrument of their demise.

They got Pujols and Carpenter and Berkman and, yeah, La Russa. They were eliminated in an excruciating Game 5, in which Rafael Furcal, former Brave, led off with a triple against Roy Halladay and scored the only run. It marked the third time in postseason history that a winner-take-all game finished 1-0. Not surprisingly, the Braves lost one of those: In Minneapolis in 1991.

The Phillies have won five consecutive NL East titles. Since taking the 2008 World Series, they’ve been eliminated a round sooner every year. The past two seasons they’ve been ousted at home. They  have a ways to go to match the Braves’ 14-division-titles-with-only-one-championship and that deflating span from 1997 through 2004 that saw the Braves eliminated at Turner Field every year but one, but still … this is cut from that tattered cloth.

The Phillies would seem to have it all, same as the Braves of the ’90s did: Great pitching, stellar everyday players, a top-class manager and the resources to buy what’s needed. But playoff baseball, as we here learned too well, defies prediction. The best team doesn’t always win. The Phillies were the best team over 162 games last season and this, and they wound up the same way as the 1993 Braves, who won 104 games only to be ousted by the Phillies, and the ‘98 team, which won 106.

As for the Eagles: They loved what Vick did for them last season and handed him a new contract worth $100 million over six seasons. If this sounds familiar, there’s a reason. As Vick was leading the Falcons to the 2004 NFC title game — where they would lose, don’t you know, to Philly — Arthur Blank re-signed him for 10 seasons at $130 million.

Students of local history will note that Vick was never so good again after signing that new contract. Some of it had to do with him being coached poorly, and some with the Falcons’ inability to put comparable talent around him. (And some, to be sure, had to do with Vick’s personal excesses, which would land him in a federal prison.) But Andy Reid has been the ideal coach for Vick, and the Eagles spent so lavishly to flesh out their roster that they were labeled the Dream Team.

Yet they’re 1-4, having won the opener and not since. They lost to the Falcons here on a night Vick made three turnovers and left with a concussion. He bruised his right wrist and had to exit the next week, too. On Sunday he threw four interceptions in a loss to Buffalo, bringing his season turnover total to 10.

It would be incorrect to lay the Eagles’ fumbling start solely at Vick’s fleet feet. (He hasn’t been very good, but he still has a higher passing rating than, say, Matt Ryan.) But the promise inherent in Vick is so vast — again, we speak from experience — that it’s tempting to believe he can win games by himself. Lost in the blather over the Dream Team was that Philly had assembled a roster of more flash than smash.

Having spent no small amount of time around the Phillies and the Eagles, I can attest that these are strong organizations who are serious about winning big. But wanting to win guarantees nothing. Those Braves who kept losing in Round 1 wanted to win. Michael Vick wanted to win when he worked in Flowery Branch. Everybody wants to win. But sometimes you lose 1-0.

We’ve been there, Philly folks. We feel your pain. Heck, we’re feeling it still.

151 comments Add your comment

Bryan G.

October 12th, 2011
3:37 pm

Great column, Mark

Mark Bradley

October 12th, 2011
3:38 pm

Thanks, BG. And kudos.

Brian

October 12th, 2011
3:39 pm

Way to make me feel empathy for Philadelphia fans. Nobody should have to experience what we have in Atlanta.

Ocilla Dawg

October 12th, 2011
3:39 pm

Matt from MN

October 12th, 2011
3:41 pm

Oh, the agony of the “Filthadelphia” fans is just music to my ears. Most…obnoxious…fanbase…EVER.

PMC

October 12th, 2011
3:43 pm

whatever, I just wish our guys weren’t essentially Boston Red Sox like in thier complacency with losing.

I don’t think there is a player in this town that has any pride whatsoever.

blazerdawg

October 12th, 2011
3:44 pm

Excellent comparison, particularly regarding the Eagles and Vick. Eagles fans were so boastful and condescending about Vick over the past two years – now I almost feel sorry for them. Hope Vick comes around, but not at the expense of the Falcons.

Wild Bill

October 12th, 2011
3:45 pm

Charlie Manual got what he deserves, I not saying to not play hard but that last series against the Braves he managed like his job depended on the series, bringing Cole Hamels in relief

Hankie Aron

October 12th, 2011
3:46 pm

Nice column Mark, very well written

Herschel Talker

October 12th, 2011
3:47 pm

MB:

As you point out, the Phillies chose the instrument of their demise. Shall we at least applaud them for the nobility in doing it the right way and not laying down, albeit with hindsight showing perhaps that was moronic?

HT

grandpapeckinpah

October 12th, 2011
3:47 pm

we dont have a decent team here in the ATL, but at least we have our schadenfreude

Tom

October 12th, 2011
3:48 pm

Dont give those loosers in Philly no simpathy. I hope the whole town never wins a game in anything ever. And if you are down here and from there and want to say anything you can take your butt back to Philly, delta is ready when you are!!

WIll

October 12th, 2011
3:51 pm

I was shocked that the Phils didn’t le the Braves win a game or two. St Louis was red hot. Poor managing for sure.

DT

October 12th, 2011
3:53 pm

Mark you really should be worried about the Falcon who ain’t doing nothing, and stop worrying about Michael Vick he’s done his time now move the hell on and found something else to talk about he’s in Philadephia now.

Bravissimo

October 12th, 2011
3:54 pm

Maybe now some of the Philly fans who boast of their attendance figures will start to understand why fans dont turn out in droves here?

Great read MB.

DT

October 12th, 2011
3:54 pm

Enter your comments here

Aziz

October 12th, 2011
3:54 pm

Its better not to make it to playoffs then to have your hopes high like phillies did and then loose

Najeh Davenpoop

October 12th, 2011
3:59 pm

“The Eagles are learning what it is to be dazzled by the potential inherent in Michael Vick only to be disappointed in the results.”

You should try watching their games. Vick is the only reason they are even competitive.

PMC

October 12th, 2011
4:05 pm

2 words. Wide 9.

Sonny Clusters

October 12th, 2011
4:10 pm

All the Phillies organization has to do is paint a little division champion sign and hang it in the outfield and tell the fans they won the championship! What an idea!

Loyal Dawg

October 12th, 2011
4:10 pm

My thoughts exactly M.B. Right after the Phillies were bounced out of the playoffs, the first thing I thought of was the Braves past teams with the outstanding/HOF pitching that didn’t seem to matter in the playoffs. The Phillies just did the same thing. Best record, best starting pitching and poof!- out with a wimper. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of people!!!!!!!!

Ghostrider

October 12th, 2011
4:13 pm

I was so excited to see Philly lose to the Cards, I think I was as excited to see them lose as I was when the Braves won the World Series. I cant stand the Phillies…The look on the fans face when they lost Games 5 was priceless.

dawg4u

October 12th, 2011
4:13 pm

I do think that if the Phillies had had the September collapse that we did then the manager would have been fired. A lot of the fan base wants not only Charlie Manuel fired but also are wanting some of their starting eight replaced or traded. This after they set a franchise record for wins although the starting pitching is their strength. The media in Philly is probably the toughest anywhere as I’m sure Andy Reid, Michael Vick and Charlie Manuel will attest. The Eagles also made one dumb move this past off season in promoting an offensive coach Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator and their defense looks terrible this year. Good column Mark. I feel better already about being an Atlanta sports fan.

Fish Bisch

October 12th, 2011
4:13 pm

I say the same about my 1-4 fantasy football team that has outscored the entire fantasy league I’m in Mark. Luck has a lot to do with sports; Atlanta does not have it.

JSS

October 12th, 2011
4:13 pm

They (the Eagles) have the same problem the Falcons have, line play… Those O-linemen and the middle of their D are eating them alive…

I respect the Phillies for their rotation and risk taking style, but they are like the 93 Braves, sitting at home!

1eyedJack

October 12th, 2011
4:15 pm

The worst injury would have to be being eliminated by a team from your own division that you had outplayed for 162 games.

joe

October 12th, 2011
4:15 pm

if i were ryan howard i would demand a trade. he’s been their stud for years, yet as he is carted off the field after game 5 with a ruptured achilles, the fans boo him.
Philly fans, you suck! you never deserve another championship of any kind.

Stinger2

October 12th, 2011
4:16 pm

Mark: The previous blog about Lowe: Everyone agrees how he failed so badly. However, even though it was hopefully only written in jest, is it not a little too much to put someone that far under the bus?

Ricky

October 12th, 2011
4:19 pm

Cole Hamels in relief actually helped the Braves, Wild Bill. Braves just couldn’t hit all the mediocre pitchers the Phillies used in that game.

doodoobailey

October 12th, 2011
4:20 pm

Awesome column….and Philly has it coming to them, some of the most digusting people on Earth call it home. Throwing batteries at the opposing teams during games?

Stay Classy Philly.

Ghostrider

October 12th, 2011
4:22 pm

@joe

I agree with you 100% … They suck big time.

1eyedJack

October 12th, 2011
4:25 pm

They booed Santa Claus for Christ’s sake!

warfalcon

October 12th, 2011
4:25 pm

bravedawg

October 12th, 2011
4:30 pm

I smile. I smile a lot. F-in Philly fans talk so much crap. I smile a little more.

Larry

October 12th, 2011
4:30 pm

And I was hoping while the Phillies were pulling out all stops to win the last three games of the regular season that this would happen.

Awwwww!!!!!!!!

Alex

October 12th, 2011
4:31 pm

A very good read. Well done, Mr. Bradley.

Larry

October 12th, 2011
4:32 pm

And is it me, or does Hunter Pence run like a dorky dweeb?

dean

October 12th, 2011
4:37 pm

I’m no Philly fan, but when Howard went down, tried to get up, then went down again, that was one of the saddest scenes…

Crap

October 12th, 2011
4:39 pm

Running out of things to write about?

JTH

October 12th, 2011
4:44 pm

“damn squib”. You seem as pissed off as the rest of us. And screw Philly.

Dr Henry

October 12th, 2011
4:46 pm

Dead on Mark !!! I had already thought the things you talked about here – - – And I Gloat!!! I don’t care how the Braves or Falcons finish their seasons, and I’m a fan of both – - – My hatred for Northeastern teams ( Philly, NY, Boston) has never been greater. I love it that the Jets, Red Sox, Eagles etc. struggle. Isn’t it wonderful that the Yankees and Phillies both got ousted in the 1st round, and by seemingly less talented teams… Keep writing columns like this

Michael

October 12th, 2011
4:47 pm

You think we got it bad? Minnesota is much worse.

Twins – 63-99, 32 GB, last place
Vikings – 1-4, last place, lost to the Chiefs
Timberwolves (last year) – 17-65, 44 GB, last place, worst record in the NBA
Wild (last year) – 39-35-8, 11th in the West, no playoffs
Gophers football – 1-5, outscored 210-108 so far
Gophers basketball (last year) – 17-14, 6-12 in conference, not even an NIT bid

Ouch.

Mark

October 12th, 2011
4:48 pm

Someone is assuming that if the Phillies had laid down, the Braves might have won some of those final games. Not likely.

Fed Up

October 12th, 2011
4:51 pm

Had the unfortunate opportunity to sit between a bunch of Eagles fans at the game a few weeks ago.I had to listen to all their garbage about Vick. My comment to them was he would break their hearts. Didn’t take long.

blazerdawg

October 12th, 2011
4:51 pm

MN is worse because nobody gives a hoot.

Bradley "Stendek" Right On

October 12th, 2011
4:57 pm

Hi Mark. As hurt as I was by the Brave meltdown and the Falcon grounding I still have a smile on my face and a joyful song in my heart. The Philly Eaglettes literally banked the future of their franchise on a lying convicted dog killer thug. How is that looking so far? The team that would crush all opponents en route to a World Series title engaged in a choke of Brave like proportions. Maybe they should have allowed the Braves to advance to a single game playoff. The Fillies know they can defeat the Braves! In an unrelated matter I am also stress free of hockey. Glad to see ThrasherJets just as worthless in Winnipeg as they were in Atlanta. Thanks for a feel good column. One was needed! :)

Happy When Philly Fans Aren't

October 12th, 2011
5:00 pm

They’re the worst. Utter boors. Hoping this trend continues for a good long time!

Happy When Philly Fans Aren't

October 12th, 2011
5:02 pm

@dean Yes it was sad when Ryan went down on the final play, and you know what?? I could hear booing! They were at home!!!

“Thanks for your all-star play and all the runs you scored this year! Hope ya broke your leg!! Booooo…”

What a bunch of low-lifes!

Brother John

October 12th, 2011
5:13 pm

Baseball is crazy, folks! Play 162 games and it all comes down to September. Braves cooled off. Cardinals heated up big time! I predict Cards win the World Series because they got hot at “EXACTLY” the right time. And on top of that, they may have the best manager in the history of baseball. Hall Of Famer. Fruiti Freddie wouldn’t stand a chance against this guy. Ever….

Joey

October 12th, 2011
5:27 pm

Eagles didn’t bank their future on vick. You’re an idiot if you think there aren;t clauses in there that void the contract if he screws up on or off the field. They had the upper hand.