Valentine’s Day has come and gone. While love was in the air for one beautiful day, now something else is in the air…
Baseball, my friends.
When you see Bracketology and PGA Golf in full swing it makes it a little more real, but this is the most wonderful time of the year (Sorry, Santa). While some take this time to reflect with doom and gloom on an off-season of botched free agent negotiations and GM Failures that will doom the Phillies to another .500 season and a bitter October, I see the opportunity for a veteran, winning team, to show people they are still, as J-Roll once said, “The Team To Beat.”
That’s the great thing about spring: Hope springs eternal.
The old guys have “spring” in their step, and most importantly this year, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are in Clearwater working out and presumably healthy.
So why are we so focused on what we all perceive to be a lost offseason? Let’s take a look at what we have to be excited for in this time of new baseball beginnings.
For the first time in three or so years, the Phillies enter Spring Training relatively healthy.
Ryan Howard seems loose in his press conferences and seems to be moving well. If he can remain healthy through spring and into the regular season, he still has the ability to hit 35 – 40 home runs and drive in 115+, which would make him one of the most productive clean up guys in the league once again.
Chase Utley is fielding grounders, taking BP, and will most likely play in his first Grapefruit League competition since 2010. Utley, most importantly is taking grounders at 2nd base, Not 3rd like some crazy people wanted, keeping together one of the most consistent double play combos in the game with he and J-Roll at short.
Roy Halladay is saying all of the right things; that he is stronger, he feels good, he can get back to the strike throwing machine he was born to be.
I believe him. One thing we know about Roy is that he is one of the hardest working players in the game, with an entire offseason to rehab. I believe he will come back stronger than ever. Remember, he didn’t start having the issues until spring last year, which didn’t leave much time to work on getting better. He had a long, bitter, playoff-less, offseason to do that this year.
Exhibit A: The San Francisco Giants.
Two out of the last three World Series championships, all with no super stars (Buster Posey will be if not already) Just stud starting pitching and a deep and very solid bullpen.
The Phillies passed on Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn and B.J. Upton, but added a Guy like Ben Revere. Revere is a guy who will never take a play off in center, and is going to be a terror on the base paths. He may not hit home runs, but he has the ability to blossom into the kind of guy you need to win championships in today’s MLB.
Michael Young is young only in his last name. But let’s not be confused, this guy can hit. Remember when Shane Victorino was in the two-hole behind Rollins and in front of Utley and the offense looked great? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Michael Young batting 2nd. This guy WILL hit for average, WILL score and drive in runs and WILL hit around 20 home runs in the small NL ball parks. Most importantly as I said earlier, Chase Utley doesn’t have to play 3rd base.
This is all without mention of the addition of Mike Adams to the pen to set up Paps, the re-addition of Chad Durbin, the development of guys like Dominic Brown, Freddy Galvis, Darrin Ruf and John Mayberry. You can focus on Delmon Young’s waist size or Carlos Ruiz’s suspension, but the Phillies still have well above average pitching.
Where you see old guys, I see experience. But most importantly these guys will (when healthy) win. All of the panic, the doom and gloom; it has to stop (at least until the All-Star break, or maybe the trade deadline).
It is spring – nature, along with World Series Dreams, are coming to life all across the country, and Toronto, so why spend this time worrying? Look at the positive things the team has done, and get excited for a healthy and successful season in South Philly. Where you see old guys behind a closed window, I see experienced veterans who want to prove they are still the team to beat.
Maybe it’s just irrational Spring Fever.
But maybe it’s not.