If I were to tell you ten years ago that the Phillies were going to be the best team in baseball starting in 2008, you would think I was joking while wearing your Scott Rolen t-shirt and pissed-off Curt Schilling was a Diamondback. Oh how the times have changed.
The Phillies won the division in 2007, their first playoff berth in 14 years. Proving it wasn’t a fluke, they won the World Series in 2008 and went back to the fall classic in 2009, losing to the Yankees. Now it’s 2010 and the team is much improved – infact this team would sweep the 2008 club in a seven-game series – and are primed and ready to go to a third straight World Series and win it.
Sports Illustrated, who I’m still mad at for their ranking of Ruben Amaro, Jr., has Roy Halladay gracing their cover this week with the titles “This Might Hurt: Roy (Doc) Halladay operates in Philadelphia (sorry, National League).” Sports Illustrated picked the Phillies to beat the Cardinals in the Divisional round, the Rockies in the NLCS, and the Rays in the World Series.
Halladay is prepared for Opening Day. As the most highly anticipated player heading into April 5, Doc will look to impress the Phillies, the entire NL, and even their counterparts in the AL, the New York Yankees. Halladay has had career success in the AL, especially against the Yankees.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said last week. “I feel prepared. I think that it’s something you look forward to for a long time. I’m extremely anxious. … I feel good. Obviously, physically is most important at this point, and I feel great. I’m pretty excited about a couple of things that we’ve accomplished this spring. I feel like we’ve covered quite a bit. I feel good moving forward. The stuff was there. There are a few things that I’ve been working on for a few years that I felt like came together pretty well this spring.”
Like what, Roy?
“They’re secrets,” he said with a smile.
Like all good pitchers making the move to the NL from the AL like Johan Santana and for a short time, Cliff Lee, Halladay’s expectations are high. And by high I mean he can easily win 20-23 games and have close to 10 complete games. Heck I even think a no-hitter on Monday is very possible.
But it’s not just Halladay that has high expectations. The addition of Placido Polanco, Danys Baez, and a revamped bench are what’s giving the fans in Philadelphia a sense of belief that this team is the best in baseball. Fans around the league are starting to respect that. Though the loyalists from South Jersey, Philly, and South PA call them “bandwagon fans,” the buzz for Phillies baseball has reached a national level. The Phillies have already sold out almost all 81 home games and many other big teams that host the Phillies this season have sold out their series’.
The Phillies are respected. It took them 14 years to get back into the playoff picture and they are set for a long run of being a top team. In fact, if things go the way they should, this may be the greatest era of Phillies baseball, surpassing the 1977-83 era which boasted five division titles, two pennants, and a championship.
The 2010 season is only days away. Time to make history and some serious noise. Go Phillies.