Hey Phils Fans, Don’t Be Mets Fans

What to have high hopes for this season.

It’s hard to believe, but in some people’s eyes, the Phillies organization has slid below the Eagles in the minds and hearts of Philadelphia’s fans. Just a few short years ago, the team couldn’t do anything wrong. Riding high after the 2008 title and playing to packed houses every night, the Phillies were infallible.

We looked past the silly contract bestowed upon Ryan Howard, the incessant salesmanship of the TV broadcasting team, and the pillaging of the farm system. Going to the ballpark was fun, and there was an expectation of victory every time out. That’s a great combination.

Now, not so much.

It’s clear that we are seeing the final season for the ’08 core. At least we had better be. And, you know what, that’s all right. The Old Gang deserves a victory lap, even though it’s likely to be slower than past circuits. That may not be what you want to hear, especially with all the problem areas on this team, but if the Phillies are going to rebuild, let them do a total overhaul next year, rather than a halfway job in 2013. In the meantime, get behind this club. If recent baseball history has proven anything, it’s that unpredictability rules. In August 2011, MLB commissioner Bud Sellout told the Cardinals’ brass he hoped 2012 would be better for them. Two months later, the Cards were World Series champs.

Look, we probably know what’s going to happen here. Too many things have to go right for this team to win. Every big party produces a hangover, and this one is a doozy. But it’s Opening Day, and that means everybody has the same chance. Except the Marlins. They’re hopeless.

So, let’s see if Roy Halladay can compensate for his physical shortcomings. Can Chase Utley’s knees withstand a full season? Is Michael Young shot? Can Jimmy Rollins adjust to a different role if Charlie Manuel chooses Ben Revere as his leadoff hitter, or will he pout? Speaking of Manuel, how will he do with his successor—Ryne Sandberg—in the same dugout all year? Finally, will a refreshed/recharged/rejuvenated Ryan Howard put up big power numbers?

This isn’t a baseball team; it’s a reality show. And America loves reality shows. Imagine how someone would pitch this one to the network suits:

“A group of aging ballplayers, which once thrilled a city, rallies for one more go at the top, facing big odds and stiff competition in the pursuit of one last chance at glory.”

Fox would eat that right up. And so should Phillies fans. The Phils’ ownership cartel decided that it wasn’t going to pay a luxury tax this year, so the off-season was done on the relative cheap, with no big free-agent signings, no blockbuster trades and no real help for the team’s two biggest problem areas—starting pitching (John Lannan?!) and corner outfielders. (Delmon Young? Please!)

The Phillies enter 2013 hoping their old guys stay healthy and produce, and their young guys defy their pasts and deliver. And they are wishing for all of this against the backdrop of the Nationals’ ascension, which is almost as tough to stomach as the Mets’ success early last decade. Almost.

It’s a classic underdog story. And Phillies fans should embrace it, at least until things go bad. I mean, IF they go bad. Then, by all means, march with pitchforks and torches to the team offices and demand better in 2014. By then, the Phils should be able to trim some serious dough from the books. Maybe they can trade Cliff Lee for some prospects. Or dish Rollins to Oakland, so he can finish his career at home. The luxury tax threshold goes up. Some money will be available. And the Phils can go shopping.

It’s obvious this team has some serious problems. Halladay has to reinvent himself, and there is no guarantee he can do that. We’re relying on Kyle Kendrick for 30 starts. That’s never a good idea. The bullpen needs Mike Adams to be healthy enough to hold down the eighth inning and a bunch of kids to deliver consistently in the rest of the ‘pen. It’s no fluke the Phils had the Grapefruit League’s worst team ERA. This pitching staff needs help. But what are you going to do? Boo Doc? You can’t, not after everything he has done for the franchise.

And how about that infield? Don’t be surprised if the Phils get Metamucil to sponsor the warm-up grounders this bunch takes between innings. And let’s hope an enlarged prostate doesn’t lead to any embarrassing moments for the old guys when the Phils are in the field for a long time.

The outfield isn’t aged, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Of course, this will be Dom Brown’s breakout season! We hope. And this could be the year John Mayberry puts it all together! Just like last year? And we can’t wait until May, when Delmon Young is healthy and ready to tear it up—like he did in 2010, before he discovered the all-you-can-eat buffet circuit.

At least we have Chooch, uh, in 25 games. We’ll have to hope last year’s big numbers weren’t Adderall-infused.

It could very well be a train wreck. But it’s our train wreck. So, root, root, root for the home team. What’s your alternative? Six months of rooting against them? That would make you a Mets fan. Imagine how much fun it would be to see the Phils embark on a real last hurrah. To see them challenge the hated Braves and obnoxious Nationals. Think of it. A victory lap will be great.

Unless it comes in a hearse.

The Verdict: 85-77 record, third place NL East, two games out of second wild-card spot.


La Salle couldn’t get past Wichita State, but the Explorers deserve tremendous credit for their three NCAA tourney wins. Coach John Giannini did a great job building the team and leading it all year. He should receive a contract extension, and La Salle fans ought to walk around the city with their chests puffed out for the next several months.

Don’t do it, Sixers. Don’t stage another late-season rally, because this time, it will just result in a guaranteed first-round playoff loss (LeBron James and Dwyane Wade won’t get injured, like Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah did last year) and the forfeiture of their first-round draft pick. This isn’t a particularly strong draft, but the team needs all the help it can get. Tank, fellas, tank.

Here come the Flyers! Two wins in a row have them just two points out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. It sounds ridiculous, but hockey is a weird sport. Teams that get hot late often do very well in the post-season. Beating the Bruins and Caps in successive games is impressive. The question now is whether a team that has had trouble sustaining intensity for a period can do it for another four weeks. The victories have provided some optimism. Let’s see if the Flyers can turn that into something bigger.