At the end of the 1992 season, the Phillies had just finished a 70 win season. In the offseason, they brought in a bunch of journeymen players like Jim Eisenreich, Pete Incaviglia and Danny Jackson but most importantly, a new attitude. They decided to play an unconventional platoon at multiple positions. On day one of the 1993 season, the Phils won their opener and never looked back, winning 97 games, the NL East and going on to the World Series. Ultimately, the season ended in tears (Thanks Joe Carter) but it was one of the biggest surprises in Philly sports history.
Here we are 22 years later on Opening Day Eve and coming off a 73 win season. What are the chances of history repeating itself? Pretty damn slim!
The Phils made some moves in the offseason. There were no “wow” moves this year as we’ve come to expect the last 10 years. There was no Jim Thome. No Roy Halladay. No Cliff Lee (actually, he appears to have disappeared again). This year, it’s names like Aaron Harang and Rule 5-er, Odubel Herrera that we’ve heard. The names we have heard all winter are those who have been on the team but the Phillies are looking to offload in order to begin the (insert ominous voice) “REBUILD”. Cole Hamels…trade bait. Ryan Howard…The Big Piece reduced to a tiny minnow on a hook. Jonathan Papelbon…a crotch-grabbing carrot on a stick that no one is chasing after. All the names we’ve admired for so long, now just pieces in a larger plan.
As the 2015 season opens tomorrow, the annual pride and expectations of the past decade have been replaced with indifference and long term hopes. Our focus more on the minor league prospects and trade rumors than the daily lineup. Can the Phillies brass fix this? Can they make it right in the next year…2 years…3? No one really knows.
What we know is that the Phils will play 162 games this year. They will try. They will battle. They will probably lose more than they win (ok, a lot more). They lost their leader in Jimmy Rollins. The starting pitching is suspect and will only get worse if Hamels is eventually dealt. The bullpen may be able to protect a lead if the offense can find a way to get one. And finally, we know that we’ll (I hope I can speak for the majority of the fan base) will cheer them on in each of those games anyway.
The Nationals are the likely division winners. The Mets and Marlins may hang around for a while. The Braves are in a bit of a rebuild themselves and even made a move to clear some salary taday with the trade of their closer, Craig Kimbrel and a horrible contract in Melvin (Don’t Call Me B.J.) Upton to the Padres for prospects. This will likely cost them some wins this year but it will get them back up to speed quicker.
So, I’ll be watching tomorrow at work (don’t tell my boss). I’ll be watching most nights through September (and October??? Come on…I have to put some positive spin in here, right?). I’ll root, root, root for the Phillies all the while with an eye toward the future. Mostly, I’ll know they are not a good team. They are the Phillies though and I am a fan. As Harry said it best, “I’ve got High Hopes!”.