Sorry to all of you for missing last week (especially since it was only the second week), but I can assure you that will not happen again the rest of the season. Speaking of the season, yeah that’s right it is only three days away! I love this time of year. The anticipation is like a kid waiting for Christmas morning to come. For some reason this year feels different too. I feel a little more of a spring in my step. I am feeling down right giddy and I think I know why. Something tells me (and Jonah Keri of Baseball Prospectus) that
THE PHILLIES ARE GOING TO WIN THE NL EAST
I am sure some of you are thinking that it is easy for me to make this prediction considering I write a weekly column for a Phillies blog and therefore I am obviously a Philles fan, but I am no homer. If I thought the Phillies were going to be bad I would write that and support my statement, just like I plan on supporting the claim of a division championship.
I am not going cover all the topics that have been beaten to a pulp as to why the Phillies can be better than last year, although I agree with statements such as Utley and Howard seem destine to be perennial All Stars, Rowand makes us stronger up the middle, etc, etc. I will focus on three reasons as to why I am willing to make such an audacious prediction.
First, I think Jimmy Rollins finally "gets it." Jayson Stark’s article on ESPN.com illustrated that to me. He has also become the national face of the Phillies with features in USA Today, Sports Illustrated and many others. It is easy to forget that Jimmy is only 27 years old. He held his current hitting streak together, not in garbage time, but in the heat of a wild card race. That proves to me he will not melt in the spotlight. With him confidently, but not cockily, setting the table for the meat of the Phillies lineup the Phils will score runs. Also, let’s not forget that Jimmy may be the best defensive SS in the NL.
Second I believe that Spring Training did mean something to these Phillies. They have been playing winning baseball throughout the Spring and I believe that will carry over to April and the beginning of the season. If you think back to last year, and even the Phils under Larry Bowa, it was horrid Aprils that sunk this teams chances. A solid effort in April last year and we are the Wild Card team. I realize the Astros last year dug themselves out of a huge April hole, but that is surely the exception and not the rule my friends.
Finally, is it just me, or do these not seem like the same Phillies as last year. They all seem to have something to prove. Burrell wants to prove that he is not mad that his buddy J-Mike was traded away and that his .209 season was an anomaly to what he can really do. Abreu wants to prove that the Phils made a good move in not trading him, the entire pitching staff feels they have been disrespected, Manuel wants to prove he is no country bumpkin, et al. Ultimately I decided I would make this prediction today when the rotation was announced and Franklin was put in the pen to handle 7th inning duties while Floyd was awarded that 5th spot in the starting rotation. It was said that Gillick brought in Franklin because he was one of his guys. Franklin had a good spring, but Floyd had a better spring and more importantly Gillick (and Manuel) did not force his guy down the fans throats a la Ed Wade and the Paul Abbott show.
It just feels like a breath of fresh air has been injected into this team for the upcoming 2006 season. These facts along with both the Mets and Braves having glaring weaknesses (not that the Phillies do not have weakness) give the Phils as good a shot as any team to win the NL East. Hopefully, not for me because I can handle the criticism, for us my prediction won’t look bad at the end of April, will look good in July at the All Star break, and will come to be in September.
And that’s the story from the City Line for this week.