New Phillies season brings high hopes for Philadelphia phandom

By CHRIS DiFRANCESCO
Columnist — cdifrancesco@highhopesblog.com
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Ironically enough, with just hours before the Philadelphia Phillies take the field with what looks to be yet another high expectation filled season, the Philadelphia Eagles traded Donovan McNabb.

Shockingly, number five was dealt within the division to the Washington Redskins for the 37th overall pick in this years draft. However, the story here is the fact that the Eagles made this deal less than 24 hours before the Phillies Opening Day matchup against the Washington Nationals. Weird, eh?

Furthermore, the beginning of a new season means new excitement, predictions, late-inning comebacks, dollar dog games, and Ryan Howard bombs over the fence. Tomorrow marks the beginning of new opportunity for redemption.

Redemption from the shattered dreams of back-to-back World Series titles at the hands of the New York Yankees last November. A season of what would’ve been.

With an offseason that saw the departure of postseason hero Cliff Lee and the arrival of arguably the games’ best pitcher Roy ‘Doc’ Halladay, the Phillies are primed for another serious run at the World Series.

But the core returns: Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Howard, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez, Carlos Ruiz, and newcomer Placido Polanco. The bench finally improved with the likes of Ben Francisco and Ross Gload.

Scary good. So much build-up, so much anticipation. What can happen this season? Can ‘08 repeat itself? Can they be better than they’ve been the past two seasons?

History is against the Phils. Not since the 1942-43-44 St. Louis Cardinals has a NL team made the World Series three years in a row. Although my pick this season remains the same as it has the past two, I believe the Phillies should end up back in the World Series representing the National League.

The rest of the national media are also on the Phils bandwagon. Many outlets including the likes of Sports Illustrated and ESPN have the Phils either making the fall classic or winning the darn thing. So, is there too much on this 2010 squad?

“That’s something professionals ought to be able to handle,” said skipper Charlie Manuel. ”Pressure is only what you think it is. Hopefully, the way this team likes to play baseball, it will go out there and play its game and won’t get caught up in that stuff.”

Now, don’t sit there and think I’m totally drinking the red kool-aid, although cherry kool-aid is pretty good. Notwithstanding, this team has its issues.

The bullpen is still a major question mark. Its an even wider question since the injury to Joe Blanton. The injury forces Kyle Kendrick to leave the bullpen and enter the rotation. With closer Brad Lidge and middle reliever JC Romero starting the season on the DL, the Phillies are hurting in the ‘pen.’

Staying with pitching, how does the rotation stack up? The top two guys shouldn’t be a problem. Both Halladay and Cole Hamels should be fine atop the staff. However, guys like JA Happ, Kendrick, Jamie Moyer, and Joe Blanton have to step up. Time will tell who comes through this season other than Halladay and Hamels Inc.

How will Polanco pan out at third base? Will he be that important piece at the two-hole for this lineup? I personally think so. This was a great move by GM Ruben Amaro Jr. He’s a complete hitter who gets on base and doesn’t strikeout often whatsoever. Can he adapt to the hot corner? We shall see, but I can bet that Polanco will bring more success than failure in 2010.

All of these new pieces will try to fit into this winning puzzle. Whether or not they improve this possible dynasty has yet to be determined. However, Philadelphia fans should have no issue living and dying with this squad day in and day out for 162 games and then some. Good teams stay motivated, great teams just WIN.

Losing in the World Series last season was a bitter pill to swallow for this club. They know how good they and how much better they can be. Hopefully, with the success the Phils earned in 2008 helped them fuel a new fire after losing the championship in 2009.

“We’re aware of what that means,” Werth said regarding if they return to the World Series for a third straight season.

“We’re very aware of where we fit in historically if we do. But it’s not something we think about. But last year made me appreciate ‘08. After you win the World Series in 2008, it’s like, ‘Let’s go win it again.’ You didn’t take it for granted, but you were still hungry. But after we lost, it hit home how special it was. It made me twice as hungry. The biggest challenge is to get in any way you can. Win the division. Win the Wild Card. Just be one of those four teams. Just give yourself a chance.”

Jayson Werth quote: Todd Zolecki-MLB.com

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One response to “New Phillies season brings high hopes for Philadelphia phandom

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