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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Philadelphia Phillies -- Finally, A Cause for Optimism?

Great piece in today's Philadelphia Inquirer about the different look to the team's locker room.  No name plates for guys named Hamels, Lee and Utley.  How forbidding does that sound?  The only holdovers from the '08 champs are 37 year-olds named Howard and Ruiz.

That's bittersweet, that's nostalgic, and that's a rite of passage.  For too long the Phillies were on a see-saw between the past and present, forgetting about the future, and still clinging to drafting athletic types with limited knowledge of the strike zone (either how to hit from it or pitch into it).  The Ruben Amaro era at the end represented a stubborn holding onto an outdated baseball theology that compelled a look into a player's soul and not into his production.  And those who were doing the latter had bypassed the Phillies.

As in all 31 other MLB teams.

But with the advent of Lee MacPhail and Scott Klentak, the team offers some more hope.  The farm system, not even all that good after Howard, Hamels, Utley and Jimmy Rollins emerged, is now rated in the top 10 in all of the majors.  MacPhail and Klentak have adopted analytics methods, and majority owner John Middleton is committed to them.  Does that mean that the Phillies will play .500 ball this year?  No.  Does it mean that they could have a chance to do so in a couple of years?  Perhaps.  Could they contend for a division flag in four?  Why not?

The same way the Phillies had to part with Bobby Abreu in 2007 to make room for the next generation of leaders, the Phillies had to make way for their next generation, whoever they might be.  The Howards and Utleys were already approaching their late 20's when GM Ed Wade made his changes, so to speak.  There aren't many new leaders to be seen or heard right now, but most certainly some will emerge. 

There is no compelling reason to be optimistic if you are a Phillies' fan, but at least we're not dealing with the "same old, same old," of the past several years.

And it's Spring Training.

Every one is tied for first.


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