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Philly2Philly weighs in on Philadelphia Phillies 2012 Season

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Unlike Phillies teams from recent years, it seems the road to the playoffs in 2012 looks like it will be anything but a cakewalk. With the season starting Thursday against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, our Philly2Philly panel shares their thoughts on the upcoming season and why they think (or not) that a 6th straight NL East crown is in order.  You might share some of their sentiments, while other ones might surprise you. Enjoy!
 

Matt Babiarz: I feel strongly that Ryan Howard's injury will keep him from being much of a factor for the entire season, and that definitely hurts. The Chase Utley situation is not as big of a deal, as his numbers from a year ago were not a lot better than some of the utility guys that will replace him.  

Ultimately, the NL East race will go right down to the final week, with the Phils edging out the Braves for number six in a row with 93 wins. I just can't shake the feeling that we are seeing this team at a stage where they will make the playoffs based on a core of star players, but not be a strong bet to win it all.  I liken their situation to those of the San Antonio Spurs and Indianapolis Colts in recent years. That means a strong regular season, but a playoff exit prior to the World Series.  Chase Utley photo: gcobb.com

For this to change, Ruben Amaro Jr. may be looking to pull another rabbit out of his hat at the trade deadline.  Let's hope Philly fans can hang in there when things aren't perfect.

Dennis Bakay:  The 2012 Phillies are not as strong as their 2011 counterparts. They enter the season with an infield which is decimated. They do have the best 1-2-3 starting pitchers in baseball with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels, but will they provide enough overcome a poor offense? The answer is yes. Even with the questions on offense, this Phillies squad is head and shoulders above the Nationals and Marlins, who don't have the pitching to match up. The Marlins have closed the gap but are still a year or two away.

Ryan Downs:  The 2012 Phillies are knee deep in uncertainty. Heck, we're barely certain what knee we're deeply uncertain about. There are a few things we do know for certain, however. We know that we can't pencil in Ryan Howard for 110+ RBI, as we've been able to do for each of the last five years in which we've, not coincidentally, won the NL East. We know our starting infield looks remarkable on paper only. We know the fate of the team lies with the health of a few key pieces, most notably the top three starters and a closer getting paid more than $60K per out. We know Ruben Amaro inexplicably made an aging team older. We know Domonic Brown is much of the reason for most of the above.

Nothing is easy to predict about the 2012 Phillies. The divisional competition appears stronger, especially if you ask Brad Lidge. This team is another key injury away from struggling to make the playoffs, but they are talented enough to make it. Sorry Brad, maybe next year.


Matt Goldberg: The injury bug has hit the Phillies...or should I say all the Philly teams...quite hard this year, and other teams in the NL East were gaining on us anyway. I'm still not sure any of the other teams are ready to wrest the pennant from us, but here goes. 2012 is the year that the Phillies will win only 90 or so games and win one of the Wild Card slots. Despite the silliness of the one-game WC round, the Phightins will make it all the way to the World Series, and once there, take the Angels in 7 on a walkoff by, yes, Ryan Howard.

Reader Beware: Prediction was made for amusement purposes only.

Earl Myers: Charlie Manuel is the most successful manager in Phillies history, but his impact seems less tangible than his contemporaries. That’s probably because his style has always been more about relationships, trusting his guys…and the three-run homer.    

Uncle Charlie doesn’t exude intensity like Jim Leyland or Ozzie Guillen and he isn’t nearly as charismatic as Mike Scioscia. He also doesn’t manage in a fishbowl like Joe Girardi, even though Philly takes its sports as seriously as New Yorkers.  

In fact, the fans and media around here seem to find Manuel’s strategic deficiencies downright charming. But this season more than any of his previous seven, Manuel must become more hands on. Whether it’s more bunting, asking that more pitches be taken or situational substitutions, he must reinvent himself.  

Regrettably, age and injury will render the manager’s efforts moot.  Instead, this team needs access to a pharmacy major league baseball is trying to close.  And without the benefit of injections, creams and clears, they’ll still be good, just not playoff-worthy.

Steve Olenski:  In the song Jungleland, Bruce Springsteen tells of the streets that are on fire in death waltz between what's flesh and what's fantasy. In 2012, the Streets of Philadelphia will be in the very same death waltz between what's flesh and what's fantasy for Phillies fans, who will wonder if they will see Mssrs. Utley & Howard in the flesh... or will it just be a fantasy. How the season ultimately plays out will be dependent on the former or the latter coming to fruition.

Joe Vallee: The Phillies aren’t going to win 100-plus games this year. Like Matt Babiarz, I’m seeing something more in the range of 90-92 victories. There’s just too many question marks combined with too many injuries. Moreover, the Phillies don’t have a winning record with Ryan Howard out of the lineup, and it has been said that athletes are better the second year after coming back from an achillies injury (DeMeco Ryans?...). The Phillies are getting older all-around and talent in the NL East is definitely catching up with them, but I think they’ve got a year or two left with the current squad and things will turn over. After 2013, things are really going to change and they need to start infusing their young talent little by little.

The Phightins don’t play well when they are the favorites. They snuck up on a lot of people in 2008 and rode that momentum all the way down Broad Street. 2009 was a crapshoot as they came up short, and there’s no need to rehash 2010 and 2011. Who knows? Maybe they will sneek up on people again this year. That might be the kind of year 2012 is for them, which was similar to the Yankees in 2000. That team wasn’t spectacular by any means, but they turned it on at the end. This seems to be a pattern the last two years in baseball, as the Phils have found out first hand.

I really, really hope they can scrounge one more title out of this team. Not just for selfish reasons, but for them as well. Truth be told, they could have won the last four World Series with a few lucky breaks here and there, and another banner flying high at Citizens Bank Park would be the difference maker between this era of Phillies baseball and the glory years of 1975-1983.

Billy Vargus: When injuries start snowballing, as they have in spring training, you always have to wonder if it's just going to be one of those years where nothing goes right.  And the competition appears to be getting better in the NL East.  With a plethora of young pitchers, the Braves could be really good if they all mature at the right time.  But with the Phillies’ pitchers, we know they're good right now, so they should be able to ride out the ups and downs and make the playoffs.


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