The 2000 Phillies had again stumbled under Terry Francona and GM Ed Wade decided to make a change. Under Francona's four year reign, the Phillies had won no more than 77 games and finished no higher than third in the division. Of course, who knew that just three years later, Francona would be celebrating a World Series championship with the Boston Red Sox?
Wade's search for a new GM featured a variety of names. Slowly, names like Darren Daulton and Hal McRae fell by the wayside. Eventually, Wade narrowed the field to Lloyd McClendon and former Phillie Larry Bowa. Initially, the question with Bowa was whether he and the team could patch up their previous misunderstandings and let bygones be by bygones. Wade felt confident that the past wouldn't interfere with how Bowa would run the team and would in fact be an asset. The job went to Bowa, who was a complete turnaround from the easy going, player-friendly ways of Terry Francona.
As for player moves, Wade brought in Jose Mesa to serve as the team's closer. Rheal Cormier jumped at the chance to work with former Montreal pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, who Bowa had hired for his staff. Cormier's best seasons had come under the tutelage of Kerrigan with the Expos and the two were eager to work together again. Paul Byrd re-signed with the Phillies and seemingly set their starting rotation. The Phillies off-season consisted only of free agent signings and hiring Bowa, without Wade making any deals. It wouldn't be until March 31st when Wade would make a trade, and that was a non-issue as the Phillies sent Bobby Sismondo to Milwaukee for Mickey Lopez.
The Phillies started the season with a three-game sweep of the Marlins. Euphoria was sweeping through Philadelphia as fans thought that Bowa and his staff were the right move that would finally return the Phillies to the post-season. The Phillies went into a four-game slide at the end of April and finished the month at 14-10. Slowly, Bowa's comments to the press and his reactions in the dugout were grating on the players and the media was making a bigger and bigger issue of his managerial style. The honeymoon was ending, but just that quickly, the Phillies responded. The team went 20-8 in May and all seemed right. Where Bowa's reactions were seen as distracting early on, they were now seen as just the medicine that an underachieving team needed. On July 1st, the Phillies beat Florida and were at the half-way mark of their season with a 47-34 mark.
By early June, Paul Byrd had pitched just 10 innings for the Phillies and was shipped to Kansas City for Jose Santiago. Santiago would become a key part of the Phillies bullpen, appearing in 53 games and posting a 3.61 ERA. June would also see the Phillies draft Gavin Floyd in the first round of the draft and Ryan Howard in round five.
Starting in early July, the Phillies spent a two-week period literally winning one and losing one. The .500 stretch was followed up with a four-game losing skid and a short return to .500 ball. Ed Wade went looking for ways to improve the club and found some willing trade partners. Backup catcher Gary Bennett went to the Mets for veteran Todd Pratt. Pratt was a necessary addition because of an injury to Mike Lieberthal and the fact that a young Johnny Estrada was struggling behind the plate for the Phillies. Four days later, the Phillies and Mets pulled off another deal with the Mets getting Bruce Chen and minor leaguer Adam Walker and sending relievers Dennis Cook and Turk Wendell to the Phillies. In the end, neither Cook nor Wendell would prove to be much help, but Chen was no major loss either. On the same day that the Phillies brought Cook and Wendell to town, they added reserve infielder/outfielder Felipe Crespo from the Giants for reliever Wayne Gomes. Crespo was a bust and the Phillies would have likely been better off keeping Gomes, who was 4-3 with a 4.31 ERA in 42 games with the Phillies. Those moves would be all that Wade could manage and the Phillies would see the trade deadline pass without making a major deal to help the club. The Phillies closed out the month of July with a 57-49 mark and were two games behind Atlanta in the National League East and two games behind Arizona for the NL Wild-Card.
For the most part, the Phillies spent August trading wins and losses. A five-game winning streak gave hope for a turn around, but the streak ended and the team immediately went into a five-game losing skid with a loss to Milwaukee to start the skid, a sweep in St. Louis to continue the skid and then another loss to Houston before the Phillies would beat the Astros on August 22nd to snap the streak. Another loss to the Astros followed and the Phillies returned to their .500 level of play. The Phillies finished August with a 14-14 record, but much to their surprise, the Braves also stumbled and the two teams started the final month of play tied atop the division. Arizona got hot and took over the lead in the West, but the Cubs, Cardinals, Giants and Dodgers were all ahead of the Phillies in the wild-card standings, making it look like the best shot the Phillies had would be to beat out the Braves for the division title.
The Phillies were looking ahead to a showdown with Atlanta at Veterans Stadium in mid-September, but they weren't playing well. The Phillies wrapped up a four-game series in Montreal with wins in the final two games to take three out of four against the Expos. The Phillies were 3 1/2 games off the pace of the Braves, but were headed home to square off against Atlanta when something bigger than baseball would derail all thoughts of the game.
As the two teams prepared to open the series, news came of terrorist attacks in New York. The attacks delayed the rest of the season as the country scrambled to deal with the aftermath of the tragedy. There was no way that baseball could be played after what had happened. At first, nobody knew how long baseball would be stalled, but as the country started to try to find its way to our collective feet, the decision was eventually made to continue the season. Life had to go on and many eyes turned to baseball to help heal the wounds of September 11, 2001.
Six days after they were supposed to square off, the Phillies and Braves opened their series. The Phillies responded by winning the first three games of the series and pulling to within 1/2 game of the division lead. The final game of the series saw the Braves flex their muscles and shake off the charge that the Phillies had mounted, keeping the Phils 1 1/2 games behind. The Phillies had three more games scheduled with Atlanta later in the month and looked to recapture the momentum that their five-game win streak had started. The momentum was lost though and the Phillies again showed themselves to be a .500 team.
The Phillies opened October two games behind Atlanta with a three-game series between the two teams scheduled in Atlanta.
The series opener saw Randy Wolf out-duel Greg Maddux as the Phillies won 3-1 with Jose Mesa wrapping up his 40th save of the season. Bobby Abreu launched his 31st homerun of the season and Scott Rolen added number 25 in the win. The next night, the Phillies sent Robert Person to the mound to battle Tom Glavine. The Braves quickly jumped on Person and took a 4-0 lead. When all was said and done, Atlanta would walk away with an 8-3 win. Young Brandon Duckworth got the ball in the series finale. The Phillies put up a first inning run, but the Braves again scored four runs over the first two innings and took a 4-1 lead. The Phillies could get no closer than 4-2 and eventually lost 6-2. They limped out of Atlanta three games behind the Braves with just three games remaining.
The Phillies went into Cincinnati while the Braves stayed at home to close out the season against Atlanta. The Phillies did their part and won their series opener against the Reds, and in fact, swept the three games against Cincinnati, but Kevin Millwood and the Braves coasted to a 20-3 romp over the Marlins and tucked away the division title. The Phillies had already been shut out of the wild-card race, so as the Braves celebrated their division title, the Phillies knew there would be no post-season for them.
Estrada hit just .228 taking over for Lieberthal and Pratt struggled after arriving from New York, hitting just .204 in 35 games. Estrada would spend most of the 2002 season at AAA before being dealt to Atlanta for Kevin Millwood after the 2002 season. Travis Lee, Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa and Vicente Padilla, who had all come over from Arizona in the Curt Schilling deal the year before all saw a decent amount of time with the Phillies with mixed results. Lee handled first base duties and hit 20 homeruns, but hit just .258 for the Phillies. Daal started 32 games, going 13-7 with a 4.46 ERA. Figueroa (4-5, 3.94) started 13 games and Padilla (3-1, 4.24) pitched 23 games in relief for the Phillies. The bullpen was strong, but a weak starting rotation often put the Phillies in early holes that they couldn't get out of.
Offensively, Bobby Abreu hit 31 homeruns to lead the team and swiped 36 bases while hitting .289. In his first full season, Pat Burrell hit 27 homeruns and would follow that up with a 37 homerun season in 2002, before falling into a season-long slump in 2003. Scott Rolen played his last full season in Philadelphia and would wind up with the Cardinals mid-way through the 2002 season. Rolen finished with a .289 average and 25 homeruns in 2001.