Now that we are getting into the full swing of Spring Training, there are some interesting storylines of interest in the Phillies camp.
Of course there is the question of whether the Phils can repeat the World Series. The last team to repeat (actually three-peat) a World Series Championship was 1998-2000 New York Yankees. The last National League World Series Champions was the 1975-1976 Cincinnati Reds. The team believes they can do something special and so does the city.
In order to repeat, Brad Lidge will have to have another stellar year. An interesting part of this story is Lights Out’s consecutive save streak. He currently stands at number 3 on the list (51). If he can start out with 4 saves in 4 save oppurtunies he will pass the number 2 and former Phillie Tom Gordon (54). If Brad has another year like last he would pass Eric Gagne’s record of 84 (a tall task).
A month ago, Chase Utley’s health would’ve been the biggest question for this team. Utley have surgery on his right hip in November and was slated to be on the bench at least through the opening series against the Braves. However, as of late, Utley has been making great progress. He has been practicing with the team at Spring Training on the field and has even taken a few batting practices throughout the month. From the looks of it, he will be very close to ready on April 5<sup>th</sup> (the season opener).
It will be interesting to see how the addition of Raul Ibanez and the subtraction of Pat Burrell will play out. Ibanez adds another left-handed bat to an already lefty-heavy lineup. However, Raul over his career is stronger against lefties then righties. Lets compare both players’ 2008 season:
Ibanez 186 Hits, 23 HRs, 110 RBIs, .358 OBP, .293 BA
Burrell 134 Hits, 33 HRs, 86 RBIs, .367 OBP, .250 BA
On paper, Ibanez looks like an upgrade in all area besides power (OBP is slightly lower). He played for a dismal Seattle and was still able to get 110 RBIs in a league that has arguably better pitching. It is also a definite upgrade in the field. The real question is whether he can duplicate the leadership and clutch moments Pat displayed last year?
The other Phillies addition is RHP Chan Ho Park. He had a decent 2008 with 79 Ks in 95.1 IP and a .340 ERA as a Dodger and held the Phillies in 1.2 innings pitched in the NLCS. He wants to compete for a starting role and I don’t mind seeing the competition between himself Eaton, Kendrick, Happ and Carrasco for the 5<sup>th</sup> starter. They must’ve seen something they liked in the four games he appeared in.
Will the new contacts pay off? The Phillies front office was not stingy this year. Over the past couple offseasons the Phils big contract question was Ryan Howard’s arbitration. This year they finally avoided arbitration, giving Howard a welll deserved 3 year, $54 million contract. They also wrapped up Cole “Hollywood” Hamels with a 3 year, $20.5 million contract. Two other starters received new deals when they signed “Average” Joe Blanton (1yr. $5.475 million) and gave “Gentleman” Jamie Moyer a 2 year deal ($13 million with incentives up to $7 million). The contracts rolled out to the bullpen and the batter’s box, wrapping up five other components of the World Series team: Jayson Werth “Every Penny” (2yr $10 million), Chad “Don’t Call me J.D.” Durbin (1yr $1.635 million), Ryan “The Bridge to Lidge” Madson (3yr $12 million), Shane “The Flying Hawaiian” Victorino (1yr $3.125 million), “Mr. Utility” Gregg Dobbs (2yr $2.5 million) and most recently Chris “The 33 year Old Rookie” Coste to a one year deal. The Phillies are keeping their players happy and frankly saving money that would have been lost in arbitration.
The previous section has made me realize how much Philadelphia LOVES nicknames.
To me there are a few other points of interest in the upcoming months:
Will there be a Defense vs. Offense battle for third base (Feliz vs. Dobbs)?
How many games will the 43,647 (CBP capacity) seats be completely filled this year?
How many fans will be selling their Red Sox and Mets tickets to out of towners?
Phillies Mets rivalry … bigger then Yankees Red Sox?
What is the over/under for legendary Phillies announcer Harry Kalis spouting the phrase, “Chase Utley, You are the Man!” I’d say 22.5.
Above all it should be an interesting 2009 Season!