In the Phillies’ 128-year history as a member of the National League, they have spent most of that time being either a cellar dweller or as a member of the second division. But, the team has spent some time in the first division, winning two World Series Championship, seven National League pennants, with two in consecutive seasons (2008-2009) and ten National League Eastern Division flags, including winning the last four (2007-2010). The team has also finished in second place in either the National League (1883-1968) or in the National League Eastern Division (1969 to the present) a grand total of thirteen time.
The first time they would end up in second place would be in 1887, the fifth year of the team’s existence, as they would finish the season behind the first place Detroit Wolverines with a record of 75-48 for a winning percentage of .610, finishing 3.5 games behind the Wolverines in a league of eight teams, before the expansion to twelve teams in 1892. For the Phils, who were also called the Quakers at the time, this would be their only second place finish in the 19th Century. The next time the Phils would finish in second place, and the first time in the 20th Century, would occur in 1901, as they fell behind the Pittsburgh Pirates, who were at the beginning of winning three straight NL pennants (1901-1903), as they finish the season with a record of 83-57, with a .593 winning percentage, finishing 7.5 games behind the Bucos. The next time that the Phils would end up in second place would occur in 1913, as they finished behind the New York Giants, who had won their third straight NL pennant (1911-1913), ending the year with a record of 88-63 for a winning percentage of .583, ending up 12.5 games behind the Giants. The Phils would then finished second for the two seasons after they had won their first NL pennant in 1915. The first time, for the fourth time overall, would occur in 1916, when they would finish behind the Brooklyn Robins, now Dodgers, with a 91-62 record, winning one game more than they did the year that they won the pennant, with a winning percentage of .595, finishing 2.5 games behind the Robins. The following season, 1917, they would finish in second place again, this time behind the Giants, with a record of 87-65, with a .572 winning percentage, trailing the Giants by 10 games. The Phils would then spend most of the next 47 years in the second division before once again finishing second. The Phils would then end up tied for second place with the Cincinnati Reds in 1964, after collapsing in September, finishing behind the St. Louis Cardinals with a record of 92-70, with a winning percentage of .568, a game out of first. This would be the sixth and final time that they would finish in second place in the National League before the two major leagues split into divisions in 1969, with the Phils becoming a member of the NL East. The first time the Phils would end up in second place in the NL East would occur in 1975, when they finished second to the Pirates, finishing the year with a record of 86-76, with a .531 winning percentage, finishing 6.5 games before the Pirates. The second time they would end up in second place in the NL East would happen in 1982, as they trail the Cardinals, ending up with a record of 89-73, with a winning percentage of .549, finishing 3 games behind the redbirds. The third time they would finish second in the NL East would be in 1986, as they finished behind the New York Mets with a record of 86-75, with a .534 winning percentage, trailing by 21.5 games. The fourth time they would finish the season in second place in the NL East would not occur until 2001, when they finished behind the Atlanta Braves with an 86-76 record, a winning percentage of .531, ending up 2 games out of first. The Phils will then end up in second place in the East, missing being the wild card winner each season, in 2004, 2005, and 2006, finishing behind the Braves in 2004 and 2005 and then behind the Mets in 2006. In 2004, they finished the season with an 86-76 record, a .531 winning percentage, as they finished 10 games behind the Braves. In 2005, they finished the year with a record of 88-74, with a winning percentage of .543, 2 games behind the Braves. In 2006, they would end the baseball season with a record of 85-77, a winning percentage of .525, 12 games in back of the Mets.
Of their thirteen finishes in second place, six occurred as a member of the NL, and the other seven as a member of the NL East. They would finish in second place once in the 19th Century, eight times in the 20th Century (5 (NL), 3 (NL East)), and four, so far, in the 21st Century as a member of the NL East. Their best record in second place was when they finished second in 1964, when they finished with a record of 91-70. Their worst second place finish was in 1887, the first time they would finish second, as they had a record of 75-48. Their highest winning percentage would be the .610 of 1887, while the worst would be the .525 of 2006. Their best game behind finish was when they ended a game behind (with the Reds) in 1964, while their worst was when they fell 21.5 games behind (the Mets in the East) in 1986.
With the way the Phils are presently structured, they could remain as either a first or a second place team in the NL East for several more seasons.