It’s one of the annual traditions here at C70 At The Bat, our trip around the majors in blog form. Since 2009, I’ve been asking bloggers from other teams about what’s going to happen with their squad in the coming season. It’s always fun to see what the opposition is thinking and how optimistic some of their most devoted and intelligent fans are. This year, the Pepper series is brought to you by Out of the Park Baseball 16, coming soon for PC. Order this outstanding baseball simulation today!
73-89, fifth in the NL East
2011 is a long way back in the rear-view mirror.
Cardinal fans might not realize that because, even though that’s the year of the last World Series title for the Redbirds, they’ve been in postseason play every year since then. Not so the Phillies. Their last postseason image is Ryan Howard laying crumpled along the first-base line while players mobbed Chris Carpenter after an epic duel with Roy Halladay. They reached .500 the next year (even up 81-81) but the last two years have seen them crater, with only a terrible Marlins team in 2013 keeping them from back-to-back last-place finishes.
Optimism is likely hard to come by in The City of Brotherly Love, but we’ve got three bloggers here that will tell you what to expect for the Phils in 2015. First up is Matt from That Ball’s Outta Here, part of the Fansided network. Follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewVeasey. Secondly, we have Scott from Phils Baseball. Scott gets extra kudos for doing this while rehabbing a broken hip. (We’ll not ask which is more painful, the hip or the Phillies’ season.) You’ll find him on Twitter @PhilsBball. Finally, we have Rich from Fightin’ Phillies. Rich also runs BaseballPodcasts.net and has his own show, Phillies Talk. He’s on Twitter @FightinPhillies.
C70: What are your thoughts on the team’s offseason? Did they do what they needed to do?
TBOH: The Phillies off-season was a mixed bag. They deal JRoll, Byrd, Bastardo but are left with Papelbon, Howard and other high-salaried, aging veterans when it was the organization’s stated objective to move these players and get younger. With Gillick and Amaro publicly stating that they don’t plan on contending over the next couple of seasons, and with Sandberg publicly critical of the 2014 clubhouse atmosphere, moving Howard and Papelbon needed to be a priority. Could still happen, technically, the off-season isn’t yet over. I do like the pieces they got back in the Rollins/Byrd deals in Eflin, Windle & Lively. On a more sentimental note, will miss Jimmy. He’s a deserved icon here now, and will always be a part of this team in the future after his retirement.
PB: I would say the Phillies’ offseason has been successful. I think they could have done better with the return on the Marlon Byrd trade, but Joely Rodriguez was a good pickup for Antonio Bastardo and they received a nice package for Jimmy Rollins, who was in his walk year anyway.
National writers have been saying the Phillies demanding way too much for Hamels, but I just don’t agree at all. Cliff Lee is proof the risk involved in holding onto Hamels, but they cannot trade a pitcher in his prime out of fear of injury alone. The bigger danger is another Curt Schilling or Cliff Lee trade in which they ship away an ace starter for nothing. The Phillies absolutely must get a top, top, prospect plus at least two decent prospects.
The Red Sox aren’t willing to part with their top guys and if someone is going to blink, it better be Boston. The Padres didn’t have the quality the Phils wanted and no other teams seem to be all that serious. Until the Phillies find the package they like, they are not forced to make a trade.
It would have been nice to see a Papelbon trade, but if the Phils don’t get something decent in return, there is no reason to move him. Just wait until the deadline and hope he is still effective at that point.
FP: The Phillies talked about great changes coming to this team. The focus was to get younger, and move some of the overpriced older players, neither happened to a great degree. No, I think the offseason was a flop by the management of this team, and they haven’t done what they said they would do.
C70: Will Cole Hamels get traded sometime this year?
TBOH: This is the one deal that the Phillies cannot mess up, if they make it at all. They need a premium prospect or two, and something else, in any Hamels deal. Teams don’t want to pay the price? Don’t trade him. He’s a proven winner, a big game pitcher, has a healthy track record, is not old, has cost certainty at an acceptable level, is lefthanded. In short, he’s the perfect ace for any contender to add. Any team that thinks 1-2 prospects, even elite prospects, is not worth that simply doesn’t know what they are doing.
PB: Yes, I think Cole will go at the deadline, but he will pitch on Opening Day…against and not for the Red Sox.
FP: With the injury to Cliff Lee now, that leaves Hamels as the Phils only ace, if they trade him, they will have no one for that role, for this reason, I feel the Phils hold on to Hamels.
C70: Who will be the big offensive star of the club?
TBOH: There are no “big offensive stars” on the Phillies any longer. It is possible…possible, but not likely…that Ryan Howard could re-establish himself with a solid spring, and again become a 30-homer force in the middle of the lineup. If somehow Chase Utely can again stay healthy over 5-6 months, he probably puts up the best numbers. I simply do not believe in Domonic Brown, but the team has to be hoping that he is more 2013 than 2014. Dark horse possibilities? Darin Ruf, Maikel Franco, Cody Asche.
PB: Ben Revere. If that doesn’t show the sad shape of this offense, I don’t know what does. Utley or Ruiz would be an easy choice, but they won’t be anything more than solid. Revere is at the very least an entertaining player and I think we will discover that his foot injury last year hampered him more than any of us realized. Unfortunately, I don’t see any of their other young players reaching anything close to a star level, but my sleeper pick is Odubel Herrera. The Phillies are really high on this guy and he could possibly be an upgrade to Revere at some point.
FP: I think Ryan Howard will have a break out season. He’s in much better shape and needs to break out of this malaise he’s been in.
C70: What player do you expect to make the greatest strides this year?
TBOH: It seems inevitable that Papelbon will be dealt, maybe even before spring training begins, or before it ends. In that case, Ken Giles has a chance to become an elite closer. I also want to see the continued development of Jake Diekman and Justin De Fratus. This has a chance to be an elite bullpen. I don’t know about “expect”, but I would like to see Asche show that he can be a productive everyday big leaguer.
PB: Darin Ruf. I’m not the biggest Darin Ruf fan, but I think the Phillies are way too down on this guy. I think he can hit and this will be his chance to prove it. He will only fill a platoon role to start, but I think he can succeed in that role as long as he gets fairly regular at-bats. Who knows, maybe he becomes the next Jayson Werth who can parlay a platoon into an everyday role and a huge contract.
FP: Probably Ryan Howard if he remains healthy. Look for a great season from Grady Sizemore too, maybe not an All-Star caliber year, but he makes himself known.
C70: What’s your projection of the team’s record and where will they finish in the division?
TBOH: This looks right now like a 70-92, last place team to me. Let’s play devil’s advocate and say that a miracle occurs. A miracle would require Hamels, Lee, and Howard to be here all year, to be healthy all year, and for the latter two to drink from the fountain of youth. IF that happens, and Domonic Brown becomes May 2013 Dom Brown, and Chase Utley stays healthy and productive, and someone like Chad Billingsley becomes a solid 3rd starter. If every single thing goes right, stranger things than a 2015 Wildcard push have happened in MLB history. But my experience watching this game and team for 45 seasons says it’s last place.
PB: When I started my response a month ago, I thought the Phillies would perform way better than the 94 losses Vegas predicted. With Hamels, Lee, and Harang at the top of the rotation, the Phillies had a potentially dominant top three. And with a quality competition for the last two spots which includes David Buchanan, Jerome Williams, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, and perhaps eventually Jonathan Pettibone and Aaron Nola, the Phillies have decent depth. That group of hopefuls also includes Chad Billingsley, who has a strong resume as a starter with the Dodgers and is a potential piece to move at the trading deadline. But, now that Lee is probably done forever, Harang is already behind schedule, and Jerome Williams missed a start, 94 losses might be optimistic.
The Phillies will finish in last place.
FP: I think the Phils end up with 75 wins for 2015 – 4th place in the division
C70: What do you like best about being a Phillies fan?
TBOH: I love the game. I grew up with the team, was 9 years old when The Vet opened in my neighborhood. They were contenders by the time I was a teen, won a World Series when I was 18. I got to attend Game 2 of that 1980 World Series. Saw entire career of the great Mike Schmidt. Got to listen to entire Phillies broadcast career of Harry Kalas. The 1993 ‘Macho Row’ team remains my favorite to have ever followed over a full season. In mid-90’s, Fregosi playfully hit on my wife right in front of me post-game in the bowels of The Vet. We still joke about it today. The 2001-12 period was magical, especially 2008. Wife & I owned season tix for a few years, we got to see Doc’s 2010 playoff no-hitter in person. Have been down to Clearwater for spring training. That’s the long way of saying…it’s in my blood. I have no choice about being a fan. I will always be a fan.
PB: It starts with the history. The Phillies are the oldest continuous, one-name, one-city franchise in all of professional American sports. No other baseball franchise can claim that. Not the Yankees. Not the Red Sox. Not the Cardinals.
Philadelphia also has some of the most intelligent fans in all of baseball. We might be loud and obnoxious, but we know our baseball.
FP: It’s about the history in Philadelphia, they started up in 1888 so they have a lot of great baseball history. A lot of stories about negative fans that boo cloud a great fan base that really loves the game. I like to think that I’m a part of that great fan base.
My thanks to Matt, Scott and Rich for their participation in this. It looks like another long year in Philly, but the great thing about baseball is you can never be certain!