Here we are, back to days that aren’t so cold, as the winter’s chill is kinder to us. The feeling of baseball is BACK, and with the crisp night air we are reminded of October baseball.
We are beginning to get excited about opening day, cheesesteaks, cold beers, and our fellow Phillies faithful selling out the Bank. There’s nothing like it.
Phillies spring training down in Clearwater Florida is upon is. All of a sudden, everything from the previous season becomes irrelevant and the slate is wiped clean. Every crack of the bat in spring training will be the sound of new opportunity.
I love the feeling of knowing that any season could be the one the Phillies win it all. This season is no different. With a first round bounce in the fall of 2011, I am hungrier than ever as I’m sure the players are.
After losing to the Cardinals in five games in the NLDS, the concerns about the team still hang in the back of my mind. Will the Phillies lineup learn to hit in clutch moments? Will key guys like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Placido Polanco be able to stay healthy while remaining productive?
There are also reasons to be excited.
Jonathan Papelbon ensures the Phillies have the ammunition to get it done in close games. Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes have another year of experience under their belts.
A beefed up bench featuring a versatile Ty Wigginton, and fan favorite Jim Thome prove to be much stronger than last season’s bench, with more hope for clutch hits and unforgettable moments.
Ryan Howard’s achilles injury may not keep him out as long as originally expected and in fact late-May could be a realistic timetable.
We look forward to the three aces; Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels, a rotation much capable of carrying the ballclub, not to mention Vance Worley’s development. Spark plugs like Shane Victorino, John Mayberry Jr, and Hunter Pence are capable of providing energy and life to this lineup.
2007 wasn’t so easy, but the following four seasons (2008-2011) allowed the Phillies to win the National League east quite easily. In this upcoming season that doesn’t look like the case, as the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, and Miami Marlins all have pitching staffs that can compete in games with the Phillies.
The Nationals and Marlins have lineups that can be absolutely bothersome to even the best pitchers in baseball. These teams are flawed as well, as the Braves lineup has had trouble hitting consistently.
The Marlins are no stranger to the injury bug, and the Nationals are young and inexperienced. I still believe this is the Phillies division to win, and being tested by better teams in their division will in fact make them stronger for the postseason, IF they get there.
The rest of the National League is questionable with the exception of a couple of teams.
The San Francisco Giants have a staff that rivals the Phillies as well. The Arizona Diamondbacks can rake with the best of them, as can the Cincinatti Reds. The St. Louis Cardinals will still have a very good lineup without Albert Pujols, and Adam Wainwright re-joining their pitching staff is a plus.
When it’s all said and done, I believe the Phillies can go to their third world series in five
seasons. A month or so of spring training, then an 162-game season begins. A brand new slate with opportunity lies ahead.
With all do respect to the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals, I believe the Phillies are STILL the team to beat.