First off, I’d like to apologize for my absence over the past week. The loss to the Yuckees ended the season, and I just needed a break. I’m back now, and will be all over anything Phillies related up until Spring Training starts back up again.
There have been season recaps of the 2009 Phillies all over the place. I didn’t want to interrupt my break for one of those, so I decided to come back with a post looking forward towards 2010.
There are many things to like about where this team will be next season, but I’m just going to take a look at 10 for right now.
1. The Phillies are the 3 time defending NL East champions. This is the second time that has happened, the first being from 1976-1978. Now, I’m not saying that the Phillies are going to go on an Atlanta Braves-style run of 14 straight, but it looks pretty good that they’ll be in contention for a 4th straight. The Braves and Marlins are going to compete again, but the Phillies’ experience will give them the edge. The Mets and Nationals are just plain bad. NY lost a lot of games because of injury, but they were still a bad team. Washington has no hope.
2. In case you forgot, the Phillies are also the 2 time defending National League Champions. The Phils have to be the NL favorite for 2010 at this point as well. With the moves that they’re expected to make, which I’ll get to, they could easily become the first team since the 1942-1944 St. Louis Cardinals to win three straight NL pennants.
3. Cliff Lee will be back. In a move that took nobody by surprise, the Phillies exercised Lee’s option for 2010. There have been discussions about a multiyear deal, but for a player who’s never tested free agency, it’s going to take a lot. Either way, the Phillies will have Clifton Phifer for a full season next year. I’m putting the over/under on wins at 20 and taking the over.
4. Jim Thome, Geoff Jenkins, Brett Myers and Adam Eaton finally come off the books. The Phillies have been paying Thome ever since he left and Eation since they dumped him last season. Jenkins was released so the team was on the hook for his $8 million this year. Myers was told by Amaro that he wasn’t coming back next season. All of their salaries come off the books this season, so that frees up some money to throw at an incoming free agent….
5. A great replacement for Pedro Feliz. The Phillies bought out the option year on Pete Happy’s contract, so he’s a free agent. This is pretty much the only chance to upgrade the Phillies offense because they’re locked in everywhere else. The top 3rd baseman out there is Chone “my friends call me Shawn” Figgins. The Phils have been mentioned every time Figgins is, so expect at least discussions with him. Figgins is one of the fastest players in the majors, so to add yet another speed threat to this team would be incredible.
6. Cole Hamels not being distracted. I believe that Hamels really was distracted this whole season, as a result of his wife being pregnant. Having his kid born will hopefully allow him to concentrate fully on baseball, and nothing else. Just a tip Cole, in the future, plan these things out so the kid is born in the winter.
7. Charlie Manuel will be back. I know he has a contract through 2011, but I’m still excited that he’s the manager. He is the perfect fit for this team. Yes, there were a few moves he should have made in the World Series, but he lets his players play. None of these 17 trips to the mound a game that Girardi does. Cholly has faith in his players, and they believe in him. I never thought a Southern boy would make it in Philly, but Manuel has done a hell of a job.
8. The Phillies’ bench will be upgraded. You can’t get much worse production than the bench provided this year. Matt Stairs went over a month without a hit. Greg Dobbs just never got into a rhythm and the backup catcher spot was terrible. Paul Bako and Paul Hoover were a terrible backup combination. Hell, even my boy Chris Coste was better. Having Ben Francisco on the bench for a full year will help. Getting Dobbs some more playing time won’t hurt either. Raul Ibanez seemed to wear down the stretch after his mid-season injury, so maybe rotate Dobber in there every once in a while to keep his bat fresh. The Phillies need more production out of their bench. Look for Ruben Amaro to make some upgrades here.
9. Some young guns may finally get a chance to contribute. John Mayberry, Jr was give a few chances this year and Kyle Drabek looks like a strong possibility to make a run at the Opening Day roster out of Spring Training. The current team is very veteran heavy, so it is going to be tough for either of them, or anybody for that matter, to break through and make the team. Hell, even Domonic Brown could push for a spot, but he needs at least another year in the minors. Who knows though? All three of these players could be valuable contributors next season.
10. Saved this one for a reason. The Phillies set the franchise record for attendance this season, having 3,600,693 fans stream through the turnstiles at Citizens Bank Park. Obviously, winning a World Series and then getting back there the next season will help that, but it’s still a hell of an accomplishment. The Phillies led all of MLB in selling out CBP to 2.2% over capacity on the season. There’s a strong possibility that every home game could sell out next season. This year, 73 of the 81 games sold out, with the last non-sellout being in April.
It’s hard to argue that the team is in the best run in franchise history right now. 7 straight winning seasons. 3 straight NL East titles. 2 straight National League pennants. With no major changes to the current club, it’s entirely possible that the franchise’s 128th season could be it’s greatest.
It’s a great time to be a Phillies fan right now.