This may very well be the last running of the bulls.
The Phillies have entered the past three season with enormous expectations. In my mind, they had enough heavy artillery to win the World Series entering 2010 and 2011. I was sure they were at least going to the World Series in 2010 after they steamrolled the Reds in an NLDS sweep. They lost in six games to the Giants, who were the eventual champion. Then in 2011 they lost in the NLDS three games to two to the St. Louis Cardinals after winning 102 games. The season ended with Ryan Howard blowing a tire and laying crumpled on the infield. Again, a Phillies team that should have competed to win it all had fallen short. Last year they finished .500 and missed the playoffs entirely. The Phillies of this generation began to show their age.
This season will be one of interesting story lines in the City of Brotherly Love one way or another. The Phillies will either make one final triumphant run towards the postseason as a surprise party guest or show the rest of the baseball world that they need a remodeling. The latter scenario could see some veterans shopped and traded, and is probably more likely.
Major Off-season Moves:
That’s a very solid, if not spectacular off-season of moves. The Phillies have put themselves in position to make one final run towards what should have been a window full of title teams, but they’re going to have their work cut out for them in the National League’s finest division.
Projected Starting Lineup:
The Phillies enter another season with Jimmy Rollins atop their lineup. This will be his 14th season in Philadelphia, coming off a .250 season and entering the year at 34 years old. If the Phillies have a rough first half of the season, I expect Rollins’ name to be among the first to be made available.
Look for a big rebound year from Chase Utley. It’s been a couple of injury-plagued seasons for the superstar second baseman, but he’s still the model of what an offensive force second baseman should be. If you want to say Utley’s best years are behind him, you’ll need to wait until after this year. If he goes out this year and has another partial season or hits .250, you’re free to say that 2005 to 2009 Utley is never coming back. Don’t be surprised if he gives us another magical season in the sun, because that’s what legendary players do. Utley is one of the finest offensive second baseman of his era.
Michael Young, Ryan Howard and Laynce Nix comprise the heart of the order. People are hot and cold on Howard’s 2013 season, but I had him as my NL Comeback Player of the Year pick. It’s one of the few predictions I don’t feel great about though. Young really showed his age last season hitting .276 with minimal power numbers and RBI. If the Phillies are going to do something this season, he’ll need to return to form and stay healthy. He’s 36 years old in his own right, so he won’t have too many great seasons left.
I really love Ben Revere. He’s got the best years of his career ahead of him, and I feel like I predicted he would be Ben Revere before he was Ben Revere. I knew he could be a .300 hitter that would steal bases at will. This is a very telling year for Domonic Brown. It’s sink or swim time for his career as a baseball player. Brown has had three bad seasons to start his career that all read the same way. We’ll learn in 2013 what his legacy will be in baseball.
The Phillies don’t quite have a mix of youth and veterans, just aging former superstars that have to answer the question whether or not they can find it for one more season while all staying healthy in unison. If everything goes perfectly, Charlie Manuel could have a team that scores a lot of runs. With a group this old, how often do things go perfectly?
Projected Pitching Staff:
The Phillies rotation is a real question mark for me beyond Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Roy Halladay had a nightmare of a spring, and while I think things will return to normalcy for him at some point; there’s no guarantee. He’s got some serious MPH on his stuff that are missing and need found.
While Hamels and Lee could be Cy Young candidates at any given moment, Kendrick and Lannan aren’t anything spectacular. The Nationals weren’t about to let Lannan have a regular crack at their rotation, so it’s unlikely that he finds success with their division foe.
Papelbon is one of the finest closers in the game still, but could become a nice trading chip pretty quickly like a number of other guys. Add Lee and even Hamels to the list of names who could be had if the shit hits the fan this season. It could be a real firesale for this club at some point if they decide the best route to go is to unload their proven talent for prospects. With the Nationals and Braves taking hold of the upper echelon of the division, it’s something that could make sense more than just being a simple possibility.
Mevs’ Predicted Record and Finish:
78-84, Third in the NL East
I’ve never really liked the Phillies much. I still feel sorry for them in a weird way that this great group of players are probably going to fall short of winning a title. Charlie Manuel will probably be a candidate to lose his job, the veterans will probably be sold off for ten cents on the dollar, and the Phillies will decide that 2014 is a year to build around youth.
It’s not being talked about much, but believe me; it’s on the back of Philly fan’s mind. If this group falls short this season, there’s no way they’re returning the same group of aging players next year. The moves they made did signal that the organization wanted to give things one more try before pulling the plug on the group, which is commendable.