The Philadelphia Phillies were arguably the best team in baseball during the latter part of the last decade. The start of this decade has been a different online story.
The Washington Nationals were hardly a one-year wonder and the Atlanta Braves are as consistent as the New York Mets being in disarray and the Miami Marlins channeling Charles O. Finley. Because of the continuing stiff competition within the division, Charlie Manuel won’t have an easy year. However, his roster and the momentum of many healthy stars should allow another sharp pennant chase.
Ryan Howard’s return to full force this season should enable approximately 40 home runs and 110 RBI’s to be added to his digital baseball card. Chase Utley isn’t who he used to be, but this man can still win. Jimmy Rollins isn’t likely to win a second Most Valuable Player award, but “J-Roll” still has a quick swing and remains a fine fielder. Michael Young looks to be a terrific addition because of his on-field attitude. Young’s bat might also be the busiest on the team, as he had more hits (169) last season than any Phillies’ player. Carlos Ruiz should provide a steady, if not a dynamic, effort this season.
The outfield has gotten noticeably younger with the addition of Ben Revere in center field and the potential addition of Darin Ruf on (at least) a platoon basis in left field. Domonic Brown will be given one last chance to turn things around in right field. But, that spot is the most tenuous on the team.
Having Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay in the starting rotation doesn’t guarantee anything, as last year proved. But, the possibility of having a solid staff is increased exponentially through their continued healthy presence on the mound.
Jonathan Papelbon gained a competent, experienced colleague since last season ended in setup man Mike Adams. As long as this eighth inning specialist performs as expected, many games will be “shortened” from April through September.
Finally, a strong directional change within the coaching staff fully winks at the future. Rod Nichols will bring focus to the bullpen, while Steve Henderson and Wally Joyner attempt to institute a smarter plate approach among all hitters.
Unless something totally unexpected happens, Ryne Sandberg will satisfy every hardcore Phillies’ fans dream when he becomes the next manager at some point during the 2013 calendar year. Manuel, who is comfortable in his baseball-lifer skin, will handle this potentially awkward situation with ease.
The latest version of the Phillies aren’t the best in the business, but they are good. Depth, renewed desire and payroll flexibility will all combine to allow a rebound into fall ball this October.