Philadelphia Phillies: Renewed MLB Spirit May Overcome Flawed Strategy

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Amaro might be able to reverse his team's decline this season

Amaro might be able to reverse his team's decline this season
Howard Smith – USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Phillies once stood atop the baseball world. They made five consecutive playoff appearances (2007-2011) and won a trophy along the way because a variety of fluid factors collectively broke in their direction. But, Charlie Manuel's squad is facing many serious questions as they begin the 2013 season.

General manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. committed an enormous sum of money to buy a number of big-name players since he took over for Pat Gillick after the indelible 2008 World Series Championship Season ended.

The Phillies' return to the “Fall Classic” in 2009 was overseen by Philadelphia's fresh general manager. However, he knows as well as anyone that his team's rebound trek was fostered by his predecessor.

Betting mostly on starting pitching during the past four seasons, Amaro opened the money machine at Citizens Bank Park so that he could fund the acquisitions of: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee (twice), Raul Ibanez, Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence, Jonathan Papelbon and others.

It doesn't take a sabermetric genius to conclude that strategy was flawed. Amaro highlighted pitching within his payroll, while ignoring the cracks within his offensive core.

A measured postseason decline unfolded as the rust on his aging crew formed. In 2009, the Phillies lost the World Series. In 2010, they lost the National League Championship Series. In 2011, they lost the National League Division Series. Last season, the Phillies weren't worthy of either National League Wild Card berth.

The Phillies' 2013 roster isn't terrible; in fact, the 25 players on this team have the potential to be better than 81-81.

Amaro has approximately $10 million to play with if he needs to patch holes in his red-pinstriped bubble. He should have enough resources available to keep his ship sailing, as long as every key player avoids season-ending injury. Assuming that happens, Manuel will also need his dugout men to channel the ghosts of 2008.

Carlos Ruiz needs to stay fit, without the benefit of Adderall. In the meantime, Erik Kratz and Humberto Quintero will hold down the plate until “Chooch” returns from his suspension.

Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins must front a lineup that needs to score more than four-plus runs per game, which is what the Phillies averaged last season.

Michael Young must reverse his 2012 offensive decline and hit like like he did during many of his strong Texas Rangers' seasons.

The outfield contingent of Ben Revere, Domonic Brown, Laynce Nix, John Mayberry, Jr., Ezequiel Carrera, Delmon Young and even Freddy Galvis must combine to produce more offense by August than Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence and Juan Pierre did during their four month run last season.

Manuel's hitters and the gloves they carry are tied to interconnected questions that are unlikely to be answered on the upside every time. But, the 2013 edition of Philadelphia's baseball team is positioned to reverse last season's decline if good fortune is their friend.

Follow Sean on Twitter @SeanyOB, Facebook, Google+ and read his blog Insight.

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Manuel must avoid misfortune this season so that he can make a true playoff push

Manuel must avoid misfortune this season so that he can make a true playoff push
Derick Hingle - USA TODAY Sports

Charlie Manuel seems unlikely to earn another contract extension now that Ryne Sandberg is in town.

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Papelbon's expensive addition hasn't proven to be worth the money yet

Papelbon's expensive addition hasn't proven to be worth the money yet
Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Papelbon was mostly effective last season. However, the payroll space allocated to his large contract has prevented other areas of the team from being addressed.

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Ruiz' steady presence will secure the pitching staff

Ruiz' steady presence will secure the pitching staff
Howard Smith - USA TODAY Sports

Carlos Ruiz' health is fully tied to the potential success of this season's pitching staff.

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The offense could hum again if Rollins, Utley and Howard remain healthy

The offense could hum again if Rollins, Utley and Howard remain healthy
Howard Smith - USA TODAY Sports

Three of the greatest players in team history have retained the combined potential to make at least one more full-season run.

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Brown's offensive emergence would rebalance the lineup

Brown's offensive emergence would rebalance the lineup
Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports

Domonic Brown has long been touted as a future star. He simply needs to offer a balanced offensive and defensive effort in order to help his team this year.

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