Last spring, during their long and unexpected run in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Flyers had t-shirts made up that recounted a conversation general manager Paul Holmgren had with the team in the middle of the season.
The gist of the talk was three words:
Why not us?
That is what it said on the shirts. That is what Phillies fans now have a legitimate reason to ask. Because after they beat the Milwaukee Brewers in thunder-stick crazed Miller Park to take the National League Division Series in four games, the final demon has been slayed. The hurdle that was the NLDS has now been surmounted. The persistent silence of their bats through all of last year's playoffs, and the first three games in this year's, was forgotten on a day when they hit four home runs, including two by Pat Burrell (who had been 0-for-8 in the series going into Game 4).
And now, you wonder:
Their starting pitching, really excellent -- all the way down to and including Game 4 starter Joe Blanton -- will be rested and arranged in any way that Phils manager Charlie Manuel wants to arrange it. The same thing is true for the bullpen, which might actually be too rested at this point, if that is possible. You get pitching like the Phillies have gotten and anything is possible in October. You look around at what the Dodgers will be throwing at them in the next round and you have to give the Phillies the overall advantage.
Watching them celebrate this one, alone in a red and gray clump in the middle of the diamond -- surrounded by a full house of Brewers fans doing their best to acknowledge their own team's playoff season -- it really did kind of hit you. Watching Brad Lidge get the final out and then all of the leaping and hugging, and you do have to think.
I mean, why not?