Once again here I am for another October writing another blog for Camelclutchblog.com where I state the following: “the Philadelphia Phillies are the best team in Baseball.”
For the 2nd year in a row I have dedicated a blog before the MLB Postseason to show my respect to the best team currently playing in any ballpark in the United States. All this praise that I am giving to the Phillies (for a 2nd year in a row) is coming from a source you’d most likely not expect, a New York Yankees fan.
You can not disregard anything the Philadelphia Phillies have accomplished in the year 2011 whether it is during the off-season, during the regular season, on the field or even off of it. The Phillies are right now, potentially “the best franchise in sports without the crown to place atop their heads.” A title I believe will be removed once October passes and the Baseball season comes to a close.
The San Francisco Giants may have won the World Series last year but up until the Giants defeated the Phillies in the National League Championship Series it was all but a foregone conclusion that Philadelphia would be hosting a World Series party.
[adinserter block=”2″]And why shouldn’t we think that? When you open up your Playoff run with a perfect game from the best pitcher in Baseball who also happens to be on your team, then you follow that up with a rotation of two starters (Hamels & Oswalt) who would be considered aces on just about most staff’s in Baseball. It was all but written in stone that the Phillies would be World Champions, while their pitching was amazing, their lineup wasn’t something to sniff at either with Rollins, Utley, Howard & a cast of other amazing talents.
But the Philadelphia Phillies did not win the World Series last year; in fact they didn’t even make it to the World Series. And when you have team like Philadelphia did in 2010 there are no exceptions to any type of failure. They needed to enter 2011 with cemented reasoning on why they would be, once again, the best team in Baseball and the favorite to win the World Championship.
They made that statement in a move that no one saw coming until hours before it was completed as the Phillies signed the best free agent pitcher in Baseball last year as Cliff Lee returned to the Phils. Philadelphia signed Cliff Lee right from underneath both the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees. They gave him less money then both teams but gave him the best chance at winning a World Series ring, something Lee had failed at doing the last two years (’09 with the Phillies, ’10 with the Texas Rangers).
Who had the best rotation in Baseball before a single pitch was thrown this season? The Philadelphia Phillies did. They had the “four aces,” Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and now the returning Cliff Lee. Typically in Baseball people talk about 1-2-3 punches but never have we talked about a 1-2-3-4 knockout like the Phillies had. National League hitters felt their hearts since into their stomachs when Cliff Lee returned to Philadelphia.
As the season wore on in 2011 it appeared that for the first time in the five years Philadelphia owned the National League East it appeared that of all things, their hitting had becoming their weakness on a very strong team. Their hitters were getting hurt and getting older. Rollins missed time on the DL, Chase Utley was on the DL and they didn’t have a right fielder they felt they could count on since Jayson Werth left for Washington. The Phillies were almost there but needed a move that put them officially over the top.
Enter Hunter Pence.
One of the best young outfielders in Baseball was traded from the Houston Astros, which in the 2nd straight year appeared to be the Phillies farm system, to the Philadelphia Phillies to fill the void in the outfield. The Phillies went out and grabbed a talent that nobody truly thought was going to be traded since he was the Astros best player & were able to implement him into a lineup that was already stacked. Philadelphia rejoiced in knowing what they could accomplish this October.
The Phillies won over 100 games, won their fifth straight National League East Division Championship, have home field advantage in the National League side of the playoffs and have home field advantage in the World Series should they make it that far. Good times are rising in Philadelphia as October Baseball awaits us. Like the title of this blog states “all roads lead through Philadelphia this postseason.”
Now while all I said was true about Philadelphia and while I still believe the Phillies are the favorite to win the World Series. We must look at this double edged sword and remember that despite all that they have accomplished last season, they did not finish the season as World Champions. A complete failure when you look at the grand scheme of things and something I believe all Phillie fans would agree with. But what everyone knew was that there was something major to build off of, which the Phillies did.
But what if Philadelphia suffers the same fate as they did last postseason?
As any Baseball fan knows, anything can happen in postseason Baseball. Just ask the ’86 New York Mets, ’97 Florida Marlins, the ’04 Boston Red Sox and the ’10 San Francisco Giants. The Postseason is a whole different animal.
The most surprising of teams can streak through the playoffs and win the entire thing. That very thing happened to the Phillies last season when the San Francisco Giants came to town for the National League Championship Series. Most people thought the Phillies would knock the Giants off in 4 games because who would hit against this amazing rotation?
You know who did? Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff did. Two journeymen Baseball players became San Francisco Giant icons for their contributions in the 2010 Postseason & the 2010 NLCS.
The same thing can easily happen again to this Philadelphia Phillies ballclub if they aren’t consistent in playoff Baseball. The Atlanta Braves of the 1990s were a team that had an amazing rotation and only saw once World Series trophy during their run. The Phillies currently have the same number of trophies during their run as well, could they see similar fate to the Braves of the 90’s?
Philadelphia’s weaknesses lie in their bullpen and even their lineup still. The bullpen in Philadelphia has been historically rocky throughout this entire run and it appears that the 2011 bullpen maybe the best bullpen the Phils have formed in that 5 year span. But until they are battle tested they will live with the bullpen horror aura that they have inherited from the past 4 seasons.
There is one underlying storyline regarding the Phillies that we really haven’t heard much about this season on a national level. This could be the last hurrah for one of the best lineups in Baseball to be formed.
Jimmy Rollins could be entering his final season with the Philadelphia Phillies after a great ten year run. Through it all Rollins has been this teams anchor and MVP. He was the centerpiece of the current Phillies run that we currently see on the field everyday. To take a line from Reggie Jackson, Rollins was the “straw that stirred the drink” for the Phillies the last 10 years, 5 of which were in the playoffs.
Chase Utley is getting older and is becoming more prone to injuries. After nationally breaking out during the 2008 & 2009 postseasons Utley had become one of, if not the best 2nd baseman in the game. He’s dealt with numerous injuries the last two seasons and has seen his numbers decline during that span. Even as the Phillies enter the 2011 postseason he enters hurt from a recent concussion and struggling, despite all that, the postseason can still be a different beast for any player.
[adinserter block=”1″]Then there is Ryan Howard who like the other “big 3 of Philadelphia” is another year older but is still putting up consistent numbers. Howard may be the last of the “big 3 of Philly” making it happen for the Phils and he will need to do the same this postseason. I believe that Howard needs to be big this postseason and lead the Phillies offense during October. He needs to become this team’s leader as it typically has been either Rollins or Utley. The Phils need him the most right now.
Despite some of these weaknesses you cannot suppress the fact that the Phillies are the best team in Baseball entering this Postseason. They are equipped with an overall great team that just doesn’t rest on their rotation. If this team clicks on all cylinders then they will be an unstoppable force this October as they head to their 2nd World Series Championship in 5 years.
If any of the other seven teams in the postseason want to celebrate in their respected city at the end of this year then they need to do so by stopping the Phillies. This team is stacked, they are motivated and they are ready to go for October Baseball.
The road to the World Series trophy goes through Philadelphia this October.
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Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday at www.wheelhouseradio.com.
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