Opening Day arrives, and it’s officially showtime for the 2011 Phillies
Although you wouldn’t know it lately, spring IS just around the corner (technically, it has arrived), and despite the recent backlash surrounding this Phillies team in regards to injuries and the (historically) less than spectacular conditions for the Phillies on Opening Day, there is always excitement in the air surrounding the start of another baseball season.
This especially rings true when a season of such high expectations for the Phillies is about to start in a matter of hours.
After all the off-season hype, the early Spring Training press conferences with the “Fab Five,” the Las Vegas oddsmakers drooling over the team’s World Series chances, it all starts Friday around 1pm.
The time to talk is over. It’s time to play ball.
Over the last few weeks, baseball insiders have softened their stance on the lofty expectations for the Fightin’ Phils. And to be honest, rightfully so.
The team won’t have the services of their closer and All-Star second baseman for an unspecified amount of time. But despite the gloomy forecast for Chase Utley and Brad Lidge, most ‘experts’ still pick the Phillies to return to the World Series, where they have them losing to the Red Sox.
Argh. Call me crazy, but I’d rather have the Phils lose again to the Giants in the NLCS than lose two out of the last three World Series to the evil empires in the American League. Not right. The town needs another parade. We're 0-2 in championships since October 2008. Let's not start this again!!
Truth be told, the Red Sox look fantastic. Chances are their injury bug quota was met last year, and things for the most part usually go right for them since that damn curse ended for them back in 2004. Sure, it angers you when your team is picked to go to the big dance and lose, but do you REALLY want the Phillies as the favorites anyway? That just screams disappointment. Look how well that turned out last year......
The fact the the team is not clear-cut favorites makes sense, and it’s not completely related to injuries. After all, look how good the Braves were in the 90’s with their staff, and they won one championship. The 1971 Orioles didn’t win anything, either. So much for the old adage that good pitching beats good hitting, right?
Sports Illustrated was nice enough to have the Phillies’ starters on the cover of this week’s issue. After an interesting article delivered in a comic book style format that missed its mark in some spots, SI was generous enough to predict the Giants beating the Phillies again in the NLCS, something I don’t see happening again. Believe it or not, some even have the upstart Braves making a deep playoff run because there are some serious,serious questions with this Phillies offense when you couple the loss of Utley and Jayson Werth. There is no timetable for Utley's return. Despite his setbacks however, Utley appeared to be in good spirits Thursday when he and his wife Jen appeared at Anne B. Pratt Elementary School to paint the “Kindness to Animals” mural.
Ruben Amaro says he is maxed out financially in regards to further improving his team, and this is very believable when you look at the Phillies’ current payroll. In saying that, the Phillies’ brass didn’t build this “once in a lifetime” pitching staff (which will most likely stay together for just one year) for an early playoff exit. If the Phillies have holes that need to be met on July 31st, something tells me John Middleton will be waving a cigar in Amaro’s face along with some cash, telling him “It’s on me, Rube. It’s on me!!” if the opportunity presents itself to acquire an impact player with some remaining salary left on his contract.
And speaking of Middleton, can you imagine how much fun we would have with this guy if the “Phantom Five” allowed him to be visible? He’d be like our George Steinbrenner. Granted, Mark Cuban has quite a bit of money himself and hasn’t won anything with the Dallas Mavericks (so that doesn’t always translate into championships), but Middleton would be a total rockstar in this town!
Anyway, I digress. In closing, I leave you with this: The most anticipated season in Phillies history starts Friday. Talk is cheap. It’s time to see what this squad (whether it’s by arm or by bat) is really capable of doing.
Contact Joe Vallee at firstname.lastname@example.org
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