Commentary: Phillies Have The Makeup Of A Big-Time Program

Turnover is a major part of the game in college sports. For the established, big-time schools (in basketball, let’s say, there’s Duke, UNC, UConn, UCLA) it’s simple to keep in contention, as they recycle big-name, blue-chip players every year. For some other major-conference schools, however, it’s a little more of a challenge. These schools – such as Villanova, Wake Forest, Maryland and USC – might suffer a year or two of downturn because they’re waiting for the right class to revitalize the program.

One of the terms most used in college sports is “departing senior.” Teams that have a lot of departing seniors might be very good, but won’t be so good the next season. The Phillies? They had a few departing seniors – Pat Burrell, Tom Gordon, Rudy Seanez; they patched one hole with Raul Ibanez, another “senior” who will be on board for a few years. So those losses won’t affect the Phillies much; in fact, they might even help.

Like a good college team, the Phillies have a wealth of experienced players entering their “junior” years. Jimmy Rollins, the floor general, has the talent and leadership; now he has the experience that puts him ahead of the pack. Look around the league – would you rather have the untested Hanley Ramirez, the short Jose Reyes, the elder Derek Jeter or the perfectly primed and experienced Rollins? To lead my team, I’m taking Young James.

Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are also readying for their junior years, and though Utley won’t be starting his on time, he’ll jump right in and invigorate the team upon arrival. There’s Brad Lidge, Carlos Ruiz, Brett Myers, Joe Blanton, Ryan Madson, JC Romero, Chad Durbin – all these players are secured, entrenched in their primes and carry big-game experience.

Two key younger players finishing up their sophomore seasons are Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino. They’ve just found their niches, and are starting to understand what it takes to contribute to a winning program.

There are other seniors – such as the wily Jamie Moyer and well-established Geoff Jenkins – who won’t be asked to do too much, just stay on the ball and provide the teaching to the younger guys. And some red-shirt players will make some rumbles during the season; hopefully Carlos Carrasco, JA Happ, Kyle Kendrick and Lou Marson can help the cause.

But then there’s the hotshot freshman who’s now ready to take the mantle and lead the team. Cole Hamels had the skills, and now he has the ring, accolades and big talk. He’s the guy everyone will be looking to, the guy who’ll be making the big plays. It’s key to keep him hidden just enough – to not overexpose him; he’ll be big down the stretch.

Yes, this team is primed for another run in 2009. They have the makeup of a champion once again. Clearly the window is open for another season, and remains open until probably 2012, just at first glance. They’ve built the makings of a big-time program; hopefully these next few years will solidify that cause.

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