The Defending Champions

Last night saw the 2009 baseball season begin as the Phillies took on the Braves. And much like the four previous opening days, the Phillies lost.

So will the Phillies repeat as champions? They should at least have a decent shot at it. The front office basically said, “We have a championship caliber team. We’re going to keep the core together for the next three years, add in some supporting parts, and try to win it again.” Not a bad strategy. Because as I mentioned, they know that this team can win a World Series. Their key players are in their primes, so barring unforseen injury, the team should at least be a contender.

Why they could repeat

The Phillies may have the best core talent of any team in baseball. With Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, and Brad Lidge, they have players who are among the best, if not the very best at their positions. You can’t win without talent, and they definitely have that.

The biggest cause for optimism comes from the fact that for most of 2008, the Phillies did not play like a great team. They were in and out of first place all season, but as late as mid September, they certainly didn’t look like a title contender, and it was questionable if they would even make the playoffs. But as the season entered its final weeks, everything came together. Ryan Howard went on an unbelievable run, Brett Myers started pitching like an ace, and Ryan Madson started shutting teams out in the 8th inning. Led by those performances, the team caught fire, and didn’t stop until they were holding the championship trophy.

But for much of the year, many of the Phillies’ players underacheived. While Howard, Rollins, and Utley had good years in 2008, none of them had their best seasons. With all three in their prime, its possible to expect top performances out of all of them. Its also possible expect better numbers from Pedro Feliz, Carlos Ruiz, and Joe Blanton. And speaking of Blanton, having him and Chan Ho Park in the starting rotation for the whole year should put them in better shape than in 2008 when Kyle Kendrick and Adam Eaton both performed inconsistently at best.

Why they may fall short

To win a World Series, a lot has to go right. There have been a lot of talented teams that have fallen short. Is it asking too much to expect everything to go their way down the stretch again? Possibly. Also, while many Phillies didn’t have their best seasons, there is reason to believe that some of them will not perform as well as they did in 2008. Brad Lidge will almost definitely blow a save at some point in the year. Jamie Moyer probably won’t have 16 wins with a sub-4.00 ERA. And Jayson Werth may not match his 24 home run performance again. This would be crucial since he is one of the few righthanded power threats in the Phillies lefty-dominated lineup.

There have also been some injury concerns. Cole Hamels has had some elbow problems in Spring Training, and that is never a good sign for a young pitcher. Chase Utley had a sore hip for much of last season, and while he’s supposedly 100%, you never know how a guy will react. Injuries can be a great equalizer for any team, so if the injury bug starts biting them, chances of a repeat could be greatly reduced.

So do I think they’ll repear as champions? No. I just think that winning a World Series is tough, and it is very tough to expect the team to play that well in October again. They should still win the division despite the supposed improvements by the Mets, but I think they’ll lose out to a more determined Cubs team.

Will that make it a bad season? Of course not. This team went 15 years between playoff spots, so that’s nothing to take for granted. And really, after letting me finally experience a championship last year, I’m not going to complain too much about anything with the Phillies this year.


About The Cutter

I am the Cutter. I write some stuff. You might like it, you might not. Please decide for yourself.
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