Why Not Wait and See?

Roy HalladayDuring our meet-and-greet Tuesday with Chad Durbin, a reporter asked him what it’s like entering the season with the Nationals and Braves considered the top two teams in the National League East.

“That’s the sentiment right now, but that can change in a month as soon as the games are played,” Durbin replied.

Wait for some games to be played. That sounds pretty reasonable. But why be reasonable when it’s more fun to speak in absolutes?

On paper I can’t argue the Phillies are the third-best team in the division. The Nationals won 98 games last season. The Braves won 94. The Phillies won just 81. And while I know the Phillies have been telling everybody they played .600 baseball from July 31 through the end of the regular season, those two teams are in a better position to win (especially the Nationals) while the Phillies have a ton of questions entering camp in a couple weeks:

  • Can Roy Halladay bounce back?
  • Can Chase Utley stay healthy and produce like a true No. 3 hitter?
  • Can Ryan Howard hit left-handed pitching and produce like a $20 million cleanup hitter?
  • Can Carlos Ruiz replicate his offensive numbers without the benefits of PEDs?
  • Can Michael Young return to form and play third base regularly?
  • Can Delmon Young play right field?
  • Who in the world is going to play left field?

Those seven questions constitute six of the team’s eight positions in the field, plus its ace. Oof. That’s ugly. And based on e-mails and tweets this offseason, most of you agree. There are a lot of angry, upset, depressed and pessimistic Phillies fans. But relax for a moment. Follow Durbin’s lead and give them until June 1. That’s just two months of baseball. I really don’t see any need to get bent out of shape on Jan. 31. What’s the point? A colleague recalled earlier this week how experts gushed over the Marlins and Angels last winter, annointing them the clear-cut winners of the offseason. Both teams missed the postseason — the Marlins in spectacular fashion — while nearly nobody had the Nationals coming together so quickly, the A’s winning the AL West or the Orioles winning an AL Wild Card.

Another colleague posed an interesting question last week: Do the Braves’ additions of the Upton brothers and Chris Johnson make up for the losses of Chipper Jones, Martin Prado and Michael Bourn? The Braves might lead baseball in five-tool outfielders, but are they so much improved they’re completely uncatchable?

The Phillies need quite a few things to go right this season if they expect to win the division. The odds of that happening are not good. But I don’t think it’s a stretch to see them make the postseason. Their chances might not be as strong as the past few years, but this team is not doomed before camp opens. But that school of thought is not popular. It’s much better to declare clear-cut winners and losers and speak in grand absolutes. Delmong Young? Disaster waiting to happen. Michael Young? He won’t be able to play third base effectively every day. Utley? Can’t stay healthy. Halladay? Too many innings on that right arm.

Those things might end up being completely true. The Phillies might flat-out stink. They were on pace to lose 91 games on July 29. And with a few injuries and their worst fears coming true at a couple other positions, this team could lose 90 games this year. But is it more likely they lose 90 or win 88 and win the second Wild Card? I’d say 88, but I’m going to wait and see. I’m heading to Clearwater in a couple weeks. I’m going to grab some breakfast at Lenny’s, enjoy the sun and watch everything unfold.

It’s not the worst idea in the world. It’s much less stressful, too.

11 Comments

I agree. It will be an interesting Spring. The one thing to remember about this year is that there can be a lot of money coming off the books and this team can look a lot different and younger in 2014. So of all your questions above, Howard is the only one the Phillies are committed to long term. While Amaro didn’t make a big splash this off season I think he sees the writing on the wall and was smart not to get into any bad long term contracts that will hurt this year down the road.

Might as well ride out these guys and *HOPE* they strike it one more time. I have no issue with that. I too am happy they didn’t spend like drunken sailors this off season. Get this out of the way and retool for the next 5-6 years.

Well, if waiting for the games to be played were the only thing to do then Todd would not have a job for half the year.
No, the fact is that the Phils are NOT in a position to dominate in 2013. As for the second half stats, the Phils always did better in the second half after they would lose to the AL in interleague games.
I am guessing 80-83 wins this year. And by the way, Halladay is not the ace – Hamels is.
We all need to move on. The window has closed.
I will still watch them but playoffs are not likely.

I am neither depressed nor pessimistic over the moves, or lack of them, thus far. I agree, Todd, let’s ride it out and give them a chance.

Personally, I tend to think the Nats are highly over-rated. Yes, they have great young pitching, but offensively they aren’t that great, and the only reason they did so well last year is that they had consistant timely hitting throughout the season, and we all know what an insane rarity that is and with more one guy slumping at a time no less. And if the Phils can be as fortunate and get that kind of hitting, it could just as easily be them instead of the Nats.

And remind me the upton brothers are really that good at the end of the season, cause they are more than a bit over-rated too. I’d have much rather had Kubal or Kyddir, and at a lot less money.

Braves better than Phils? Not so fast. I think the Braves are headed for a meltdown. There a big problem brewing B.J. Upton is a problem on the field and a cancer in the clubhouse. He “takes off” while playing the field. Doesn’t run out ground balls. And, has “lapses” while running the bases. He created some bad blood in the Rays clubhouse. And, cost them games. What’s gonna happen in the Braves clubhouse when his brother sticks up for him and the clubhouse becomes divided?

I realize it is splitting hairs, since Chooch most likely took an illegal stimulant to “enhance” his “performance,” but seeing as how the term PED is most often used to refer to those taking steroids or their more modern cousins, I really think the statement about Carlos should indicate he took an illegal stimulant.

Todd, it is interesting how you claim the Phillies cite their having played .600 ball after July 31, 2012 as a good sign. You have done your part in carrying their water in this regard if this is the case.

On another note here is an interesting read on Phillies recent history of the cost of games lost to injury http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/phillies/Measuring-the-cost-of-injuries-over-the-last-five-seasons.html. Another part of Ruin Tomorrow’s legacy?

If the team stays relatively healthy, meaning no one misses six weeks straight, 86-88 wins is not out of the question. The bullpen, which lost a bunch of games last year, looks better, and just having Howard and Utley to start the season should be a plus. True, Vance Worley is gone, but injuries left him generally ineffective last year. One intangible to consider: after last year’s debacle and the ascendancy of the Braves and Nationals, the Phils may be playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulder, playing with something to prove. That’s not a bad thing.

The Phillies still have veteran leadership, but they need to stay healthy. The Nats are good and young with very good pitching both in the rotation and bullpen. The Braves on the other hand are a different team than they were last season. McCann is beat up and falling apart, they are missing Chipper, Bourn and Prado, replacing them with some question marks in the clubhouse (Uptons). They are stuck having to play Uggla, with that onerous contract. They have a stellar bullpen, but nobody is scared of their starting pitching. The Nats will be tough to catch but, if things fall right, the Philies are definitely in the mix.
Staying optimistic until they “Play Ball”!

As usual Todd is the voice of reason and sanity. But this being sports, many don’t want that. I have to say, being a Philadelphia sports fan is so much better when you don’t live in the Philly area, as it lets you avoid being caught up in the hype and see things from a less emotional standpoint. The fact is, even as beat up as the Phillies were last year, it was the bullpen that really killed us. That does look alot better. So we’ll see.

DAinGA, I know what you mean about living away from Philly. I love my hometown, but when it comes to sports, especially talk radio, you can easily get caught up in hype and doomsday scenarios. I live in LA and get none of that. And as for Todd, he’s the reason I’m NOT a Charlie Manuel hater. He’s about as objective as anyone can be doing his job.

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