1981 Philadelphia Phillies
Managed by Dallas Green
1981 was a lost season for most clubs in the majors, with the first extended players' strike wiping out the middle third of the campaign and a goofy split-season format producing arbitrary results. The season was particularly bitter for the defending World Champion 1981 Philadelphia Phillies, who played lackluster ball after the strike and fell just short of a comeback in their first-round playoff series.
Like many defending champions, the 1981 Phillies took no chances in the off-season. Their 1981 roster was almost identical to their 1980 club. Every starter in 1981, and all their key pitchers, were 30 or older. The only significant off-season trade sent young pitcher Bob Walk to the Atlanta Braves for veteran outfielder Gary Matthews.
Through early May, however, the Phillies were playing .667 ball. Steve Carlton went 9-1 before the strike, and Mike Schmidt had his best major-league season. When play was suspended on June 10th, the Phillies led the St. Louis Cardinals by two games - and in the event, that clinched them a playoff spot, when the first-half leaders were given automatic entry to the postseason.
The Phillies, exempt from the second-half race, played indifferently in August and September. They were swept in a hard-fought four-game series in the Astrodome by the Houston Astros in late August. Laden with aging veterans, the club tried to work young pitchers Dickie Noles and Mark Davis into its rotation in the late going. But inertia was the order of the day.
In the expanded playoffs, the Phillies had to play the second-half champion Montreal Expos in the Division Series. After dropping the first two games in Montreal, the Phillies came back to win Game 3 and then took Game 4 in extra innings. However, Steve Rogers shut out Carlton and the Phillies 3-0 in the deciding game in Philadelphia to end the team,s season.
Mike Schmidt was an overwhelming choice for MVP, leading the National League in on-base percentage, slugging, runs, RBI, walks, and home runs. Gary Matthews chipped in a .398 OBP, third in the league. Carlton finished 13-4 but was edged in the Cy Young Award voting by Fernando Valenzuela and Tom Seaver. First baseman Pete Rose hit .325 and led the league with 140 hits - at the age of 40. Carlton, Schmidt, Manny Trillo and Garry Maddox won Gold Gloves.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Steve Carlton, Pete Rose, Dick Ruthven, Mike Schmidt and Manny Trillo
- NL MVP: Mike Schmidt
- NL Gold Glove: Steve Carlton (P), Garry Maddox (OF), Mike Schmidt (3B) and Manny Trillo (2B)
- NL Silver Slugger Award: Pete Rose (1B), Mike Schmidt (3B) and Manny Trillo (2B)
- Norm King: "This Game Had It All; September 21, 1981: Montreal Expos 1, Philadelphia Phillies 0 At Olympic Stadium", in Norm King, ed.: Au jeu/Play Ball: The 50 Greatest Games in the History of the Montreal Expos, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2016, pp. 61-62. ISBN 978-1-943816-15-6