It won't take long for the good feelings about the Phillies' season to give way to a harsher reality.
Forget late-night rain delays and the residual fatigue. Forget questionable calls by umpires. The bottom line is that, in a weakened National League, the Phillies could have, should have won the wild-card berth. In their hearts they have to know that. They had everything, including an easier schedule in terms of opponents' winning percentage, the final two weeks of the season, compared to the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Thing is, Ryan Howard could not pull the train alone in the end. Nor could Jimmy Rollins, nor Chase Utley, who revived his bat in the final week, but will be left to wonder what if after a slump ruined most of his September stretch drive.
In the end, the Phillies won't escape their own self-examination or those always willing to critique. Like former Phils manager Larry Bowa.
"The season is 162 games and you have to have an attitude - from Day 1 of spring training 'til the end - an attitude that never goes away," Bowa said in dissecting the Phillies on Saturday, the day the team was elminated from wild-card contention. "You don't just wait until August and say it's time to click it in. And it happened to me, too, but there's no way that team should have been under .500 earlier in the year."