Maybe they can compete for a postseason berth.
"I hope so," Hamels said following Friday's 6-4 loss to the Mets at Citizens Bank Park, which clinched the Phillies' first losing season since 2002. "I know we have a lot to work on. If it doesn't fire you up and motivate you for the offseason, then I don't know what does. That's kind of what I'll take into the offseason: trying to win and trying to do my job even better. I think that's what we all have to do, have that pride and knowing the fans want to see a winning team and the organization wants to see a winning team. I want to be a part of it."
The Phillies lost their 82nd game of the season, snapping a streak of 10 consecutive seasons without a losing record. They finished 80-81 in 2002, which followed nine consecutive winning seasons. That run included five consecutive National League East championships from 2007-11, which included the '08 World Series championship and the '09 National League pennant.
The team finished 81-81 last season.
Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg, who is almost a certainty to get the full-time job, said he sees reasons to think next season can be better.
"The core players," he said. "We'll see what happens with Chooch [Carlos Ruiz], but with Chase [Utley] and Jimmy Rollins, if Ben Revere is in center field, [Ryan] Howard at first base, there is potential there from the veteran players, along with the showings of the young players here the last few weeks. I think athleticism and youth was needed. There are some guys making some good showings, along with the young arms in the bullpen that have gotten experience. It's all part of going through this. Sometimes it takes a losing season to build and start the process.
"I think there's been a lot of good things that have gone on the last four weeks, heading in that direction."
Hamels can help lead the turnaround. He went 1-9 with a 4.86 ERA in 12 starts through the end of May. But despite allowing six runs in seven innings Friday, he is 7-5 with a 2.96 ERA in 20 starts since. He will not finish with a winning record for the first time since he struggled to a 10-11 mark in 2009, but the Phillies feel pretty good with Hamels and Cliff Lee atop the rotation next season.
"You've got a lot of young guys that are really trying to play, and I think you can see the older guys are definitely starting to understand that guys are going to come in and push you, so just try to keep your game going," Hamels said. "At the same time, something that does benefit everybody is to give the knowledge to the young guys. And I think a lot of the older guys are doing that, really trying to help out and getting them the type of baseball knowledge and passing it down, because that's what baseball is about."
The Mets took a 3-0 lead in the first inning when Daniel Murphy singled to score Eric Young Jr. and David Wright hit a two-run home run to right field. They built a 4-0 lead in the third and a 5-0 lead in the fourth, with Hamels surrendering more than his share of bloop hits throughout the night.
The Phillies chipped away at their deficit in the fourth. Utley started the inning with a single. Ruiz and Domonic Brown both walked to load the bases. Darin Ruf then ripped a ball down the left-field line to score Utley and Ruiz. Young's throw from left to second got away from Murphy, which allowed Brown to score to make it 5-3.
Things got interesting from there. John Mayberry Jr. hit a ball back to the mound. Daisuke Matsuzaka stopped the ball with his foot and threw to third to Wright, who then tossed the ball to Mets shortstop Omar Quintanilla as they had Ruf in a rundown. But somehow Quintanilla missed Ruf as he chased him to third. Mayberry scampered to second to put runners on second and third with one out.
Hamels' fielder's choice then scored Ruf to make it 5-4.
The Phillies got no closer as Hamels allowed another run in the seventh. He allowed 10 hits, six runs and struck out eight. Mayberry popped out to end the game, dropping the team to 71-82.
"The biggest goal is to go to the postseason and win the World Series, and that obviously isn't there," Hamels said. "It's something to work toward and understand you have to do a lot to provide for and motivate your team."