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Stark: Phils Carry New Mindset In 2008

Interesting read from old Inquirer scribe Jayson Stark, who plays the Peter Gammons game for ESPN (a national writer who still writes considerably about his old beat). He says this year’s Phillies have a confidence that hasn’t been seen in the clubhouse … well … at least since Jimmy Rollins has been there.

“There’s a feeling. But the feeling can’t really be expressed in words. It’s just, you know. You know you’re in a group that’s going to win. You know what everybody’s focus is. It’s on winning.”

Interesting quotes all around in this piece. Rollins said during the Bobby Abreu era, the goal was to get on base for Abreu, because he was the only way the Phillies would win.

That’s a very intriguing quote, and yet, completely believable. Say all you want about how the Phillies got robbed in the Bobby Abreu deal (they did, at least from a value standpoint), but the real mission of that deal was to rid the Phils of a culture. Nothing against Abreu, but he was the star, and everything revolved around him. And not because he wanted it that way — the numbers dictated the role. And Abreu never fit the star template; he’s a good secondary player who doesn’t lead a clubhouse.

When Gillick rid the team of Abreu, it changed the entire structure of the clubhouse within moments. Suddenly, the focus switched to the younger guys — Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Rollins. They all lead, but in different ways (Howard by personality; Utley by example; Rollins by words).  That’s why the 2006 Phillies made such a valiant push — leadership spilled from one person to three, and the clubhouse became loose.

Rollins also had some interesting things to say about former Phillies manager Larry Bowa:

“I was always cool with Bo, but Charlie came in with a different atmosphere, which made it easier. It took the militant ways out. You know what I’m saying? And it was like, ‘Baseball’s a game. Let’s go have fun.'”

More:

“Before, it was like, ‘If you didn’t get four hits, I don’t want to talk to you today. Don’t say hi to me if I don’t say hi to you.’ That’s just the way it was. And those aren’t winning ways. … It was more about conduct than it was about winning.”

Bowa is his own kind of manager, and he never fit the Phillies. He’d make a hell of a football coach, probably, but the Phils — who are a fun bunch in their own right — need a fun ringleader who’s going to smooth over the rough spots. Manuel is perfect in that respect, no matter what you can say about his in-game skills.

Jamie Moyer — acquired after Abreu left in 2006 — cited Utley and Rollins as the team leaders, guys with no egos. Manuel, meanwhile, looked ahead:

“I see a more confident group of guys this spring. The expectations of these guys are huge. We definitely expect to win. It’s not even a question. We’re gonna win.”

And the most comforting quote is from Rollins:

“Now, we’re past getting off to a good start. We’re thinking win, win, win, win, win. It’s, ‘Let’s go out and win the division. Let’s go out and try to be a world championship team.’ Those are the things that are in our head now.”

I’d love nothing more than the Phillies at 11-5 when the Mets head into Citizens Bank Park April 18.

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