Attitude isn’t everything, but it helps. The Philadelphia Phillies knew that they were among the best teams in Major League Baseball from 2007-2011. Last season they also knew that a postseason berth wasn’t realistic before September had arrived.
After a decent off-season, there is a palpable feeling in this spring’s training camp. The emotions that have been seen on a multitude of faces indicate that confidence has been restored. With that, this team does have a chance to contend this baseball year.
It’s not the year after the 2009 World Series’ loss, the 2010 National League Championship Series’ defeat or the 2011 National League Division Series’ shock. It’s the spring after a 2012 year that was filled with explanations, not excuses.
Reflecting upon what I’ll call a “gap” season, I don’t recall excuses being exclusively offered by management, players or the fans. Everyone recognized that the team Ed Wade, Pat Gillick and Ruben Amaro, Jr. built simply faced an off-year.
Moving from right to left, the outfield should be better this time around. Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino weren’t positive contributors for the first half of the season and then they were dealt on the same trade deadline day.
I’m cautiously optimistic about Domonic Brown’s early performance and Delmon Young’s offensive potential. Ben Revere is a solid, cheaper version of Michael Bourn. Darin Ruf should win the left field job by default and offers a completely different punch than Juan Pierre ever could.
The veteran infield of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Michael Young is healthy. Yes, we are a month away from the start of the regular season. But, this foursome should fare better than what last year’s contingent was able to provide.
There’s no getting around the fact that Carlos Ruiz is a major question mark. “Chooch” needs to prove himself before any further judgments can be made about the Phillies’ catching situation.
The bench has yet to be finalized, but appears to offer more flexibility this season.
If Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay start a combined 90+ games, the starting rotation will remain a strength.
The free agent additions of Mike Adams and Chad Durbin, along with the 2012 experience of many young arms, should allow Jonathan Papelbon to front a solid relief corps.
Finally, (and possibly in his final year) Charlie Manuel has a more refined coaching staff. Ryne Sandberg and his colleagues will make the 2013 roster accountable. That element should make this year’s 25-man squad more consistently productive, which needs to translate into at least 10 more regular season wins.