ATLANTA -- A few Phillies players and coaches approached Roy Halladay at his locker before Sunday's season finale at Turner Field.
They handed him baseballs to sign.
Many players collect signed memorabilia from teammates. And while Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins and others also signed before a 12-5 loss to the Braves, Halladay seemed to be the busiest. Sunday might have been his final day in a Phillies uniform. He is a free agent following the season, and his struggles the past two years, plus the fact he is recovering from right shoulder surgery and turns 37 in May, mean he might not be back.
Halladay is familiar with goodbyes. He recalled how he had numerous jerseys to sign in his locker when it seemed like the Blue Jays would trade him in 2009.
The Phillies finally said farewell to their first losing season since 2002, which they capped with an ugly loss. They lost nine of their final 11 games to finish 73-89, which is their worst record since a 65-97 mark in '00.
"There is no bounce back," Rollins said. "This is a new team. We have young players. They could be a couple years away. They could be [ready] next year. You never know what you're going to get with young guys. Sometimes they come along right away. Sometimes it takes a little while before they get excited and say, 'You know what? I actually do belong here.' I don't really know how long that's going to take, but it'll be fun."
Sunday's finale was not fun. It only served as a reminder of everything that went wrong this season and the many things that need to go right next year for this team to make the postseason. The Phillies entered the afternoon 27th in baseball averaging 3.76 runs per game. The rotation ranked 25th with a 4.37 ERA, while the bullpen ranked 26th with a 4.05 ERA.
Put those numbers together and it explains why the Phillies finished with a minus-139 run differential, which was the worst mark in the National League.
"I would say, generally speaking, we struggled to score runs and need to improve on that," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "Once again, some missing pieces throughout the season with [Ben] Revere and [Ryan] Howard. A right-handed bat would play. Chooch [Carlos Ruiz] was not here for an extended amount of time, and when he was here, the offense picked up. So when everything's pieced together and with some additions, I don't think it's that far off, with the guys we have."
Right-hander Zach Miner started Sunday because right-hander Kyle Kendrick is injured. He allowed seven hits, five runs, three walks and one home run in 2 1/3 innings, and it hardly got better from there, as the bullpen struggled throughout the afternoon. J.C. Ramirez allowed four hits, two runs and two walks in 2 1/3 innings. Cesar Jimenez allowed three hits, three runs and two walks in two-thirds of an inning to hand the Braves a 10-4 lead. Tyler Cloyd allowed two more runs on three hits as he completed the eighth.
"It was a tough go this last week with the bullpen games," Sandberg said. "Today, in a lot of ways, was a result of back-to-back bullpen games. As it turned out, three out of the [final] four games turned into bullpen days. That's a tough go. That stresses the importance in more pitching depth and stabilizing, and making decisions on the staff for next year with backups."
But at least the Phillies flew to Philadelphia putting one bad streak to bed. Erik Kratz hit a three-run home run to left field in the fourth inning to cut the Braves' lead to 5-4. It was the Phillies' first home run since Sept. 17, snapping a 10-game homerless streak.
It was the team's longest homerless drought since an 11-game streak in 1989.
More starting pitching, more relief pitching, more offense, a right-handed bat or two, improved outfield defense -- these are the things the Phillies need to find in the offseason.
"Obviously there is some work that needs to be done," Chase Utley said. "We need to improve on all aspects of the game. I think we have some guys in here who are willing to put the work in and the time in, and have an understanding of how important it is to win on a daily basis."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.