MLB Philadelphia Phillies

5 Reasons Why Philadelphia Phillies Fans Should Be Excited About 2014

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5 Reasons Why Phillies Fans Should be Excited for 2014

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

A past presidential candidate used this question in one of his political campaigns: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

That’s a pretty good question to ask fans of the Philadelphia Phillies these days, subbing just one word: “Are you better off than you were four months ago?” The answer to that question has to be yes for a number of reasons. The Phillies were a floundering team four months ago under a manager a few months shy of 70 years old, who played without a contract for next season. The players knew Charlie Manuel was not going to come back and did not give maximum effort for him.

The team had some key injuries four months ago, losing their power-hitting first baseman, Ryan Howard, and one of their best two pitchers -- one for the balance of the season, the other for the final month of the season. They had a rent-a-third baseman in Michael Young, a consummate professional, but someone that not many people expected to be around in 2014.

Now, there is at least a glimmer of hope for next season with the team trading in an old manager for a younger version who has proven to be a winner in his one-plus month on the job. Howard has dropped 20 pounds and has been shut down in the hopes of coming back 100 percent for next season.

Here are at least five other reasons why Phillies fans can get excited for 2014:

Mike Gibson is a Phillies writer for Follow him on Twitter @papreps , “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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5. Cole Hamels' Second Half

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Hamels started out 4-12, but he is now 8-13, so that’s saying something for his second half. He’s pitched much better than the overall record showed, as evidenced by his 3.48 ERA.

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4. Chase Utley's Fountain of Youth

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Utley, 34, has had the season of a 27-year-old. His numbers have been outstanding: 18 home runs, 68 RBIs and a .279 batting average in only 122 games. In his only similar year in games played, 2010, Utley hit .275 with 16 home runs and 65 RBIs in 115 games.

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3. Cody Asche's Emergence at Third

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The Phillies seem to have found their third baseman of the future in Cody Asche, who has been outstanding defensively even though he got off to a slow start at the plate. Right now, he is hitting .263 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in 40 games. Prior to that in Triple-A this year, Asche hit 15 homers with 97 RBIs and a .297 batting average.

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2. Cesar Hernandez's Versatility

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Hernandez, who can play outfield, was ticketed to be the starting second baseman if the team did not sign Utley. That said, Hernandez will get plenty of playing time next season according to GM Ruben Amaro Jr. because Utley cannot be expected to play 160 games anymore. Hernandez was a Triple-A All-Star second baseman at Lehigh Valley, and the team won’t have a defensive or offensive drop-off when he’s inserted into the lineup next season. In 24 games with the Phillies, he’s hit .329.

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1. Ryne Sandberg's Leadership

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While departed manager Charlie Manuel had some head-scratching decisions on the way to a losing record, Sandberg has been able to light a fire under the team and make mostly solid decisions on the way to a winning record. He’s the kind of manager fans and players can trust.