Philadelphia Phillies: (93-69, 1st place – NL East)
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back. But before we get into the year that will be, let’s remember another fine year that was.
Maybe it wasn’t always pretty throughout 2009, but whatever they did, it got the job done. Sure, Jimmy Rollins struggled for a good part of the season. Yes, Cole Hamels was a shell of his former-self
the entire year. We know, Ryan Howard strikes out too much. Brad Lidge? Let’s not even go there. Through it all, the ups and downs, the Philadelphia Phillies reached yet another World Series, solidifying this cast and crew as the makers of the new Golden Era in Phillies History.
The good far outweighed the bad. All-stars? We got ’em (try five of ’em). The entire Phillies outfield made the trip to St. Louis for the festivities last July, and with them went the regulars, Howard and Chase Utley. Charlie Manuel went too, he was the skipper. All was good by mid-season with all of those All-Stars.
Offensively speaking, you can’t ask for much more out of this lineup. The Phillies paced the National League in runs with 820, home runs with 224, and OPS with a .781 mark. Davy Lopes, the astute forefather of running helped the Phils to an 81 percent stolen base rate, by far the best in the senior circuit. Top to bottom, it’s just as feared as an American League lineup.
In the arms race, there were many ups and downs, but if you’re a student of the game, you understand that’s just the way it is. Injuries always seem to take their toll over the course of 162 games. In ’09, Jamie Moyer was shut down later in the season, the now-departed Brett Myers shuffled back to the bullpen after another failed stint in the rotation, and then, there was Cole.
Our 2008 savior fell flat on his face in 2009, admittedly coming in out of shape and out of focus. His ERA ballooned, his confidence sunk like a brick, and his work ethic became a joke. He was unable to emulate the very thing that won him the World Series MVP. Confidence. It was lacking from the first pitch and never seemed to reappear.
Then came Cliff Lee. He energized this town mid-year and ripped through the NL, become a folk hero of sorts. His stay was short, but the memories he provided will linger on forever. And then? NLDS, check. NLCS, easy. World Series? Not so much.
The Phillies ran into the buzzsaw that was the New York Yankees in the Fall Classic. It was a hell of a year, there’s no denying that. However, there will always be a sour taste after a defeat at the hands of the evil empire. But that’s what “next season” is all about.
And, here we are. The calendar has turned to April – spring is upon us. That means all 32 teams have a chance at achieving immortality on the diamond. Some have a better chance than others. Right now, the Phillies are one of those teams that stand above the rest.
In the offseason, two moves signified a new way of thinking in Philadelphia. It’s something never before seen in these parts. In December, Ruben and the Boys figured, let’s go get the best arm in the American League and plop him down in the NL East. Roy Halladay, you’re now a Phillie. On the other hand, there’s no more Cliff Lee, but I think we can get past that.
Halladay WILL be a beast. His work ethic is legendary, his performance on the mound speaks for itself. After years of stymying the likes of the Yanks and Sawks, it’s now on to a league where the pitcher bats for himself. The results could be, and should be, mindblowing.
On the offensive side, the Phillies sent Pedro Feliz packing and brought in a familiar face; Placido Polanco. Polly brings a stabilizing force to the top of the order, making an all-world offense even more efficient. He won’t burn the bases with his speed, but he has a high baseball IQ and rarely strikes out. Perfect.
The rest of the names you know. Raul Ibanez will need a bounce-back after a lousy second half and a throwaway spring. Does he have it in him? Jayson Werth is in a contract-year situation, so many eyes are on where he will head after the year. For now, let’s cherish what we still have: a 30-homer, 90-RBI, balls-out type player. Shane Victorino might be sliding down to 7th in the lineup, but he’ll still have his smile on. He’ll now be called upon more as a run-producer than at any time in his career, as he’s sure to see a lot of Howard, Werth, and Ibanez on the basepaths ahead of him.
Ryan, Chase, and Jimmy – you know what you’re getting every single game, every single inning. The pitching staff is lacking without the arm of Joe Blanton, however, Kyle Kendrick can now prove he’s a new man after emulating Doc all spring. J.A. Happ will need to continue his maturation, and the bullpen is a liquid that quickly needs to become a solid, even with the question marks that are Brad Lidge, JC Romero, and Antonio Bastardo.
The main focus will be on Cole Hamels and whether or not he can prove ’08 wasn’t a fluke. He has the stuff, now he needs to put it all together once again.
In conclusion, this team is great. Can greatness be achieved one again? The NL East is improved from a year ago, meaning the competition is stiff. Everyone on this club knows what to do with the opportunity presented to them. They can become one of the greatest teams ever to reside in the National League. They can turn this into a dynasty.
Enjoy the next 162 games. It should be a hell of a ride.