Never in my life did I believe that the Phillies would be the sort of dominant team fans link to the Yankees and Red Sox. The sort of team that “buys” championships. The sort of team that players want to join, even if it means taking a pay cut to do it. The kind of team that can win 100+ games and dominate the competition.
Want to know a secret? I really thought 2011 might be a letdown year for the Phillies.
Acquiring pitching is great, but there’s only so much pitchers can do to help win games. I feared that our aging core players, notably Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, would make us vulnerable to the sort of power outages we’ve faced in the past and that the replacement parts wouldn’t be up to the task. I was wrong.
It was amazing to watch this team cut through the opposition no matter who they put on the field. I saw Michael Martinez hit a three-run homer. I feel like that encapsulated what a rarefied season this was for a team whose expectation is success. On the eve of the playoffs, I think I’m one of those who thinks that anything less than a World Series championship will be a disappointment.
The last two seasons have been heart-wrenching for Phillies fans. 2009 ended just short of repeat title. 2010 was cut short by a Giants team that caught fire. Where will 2011 leave us? Will we fall short again, or will we run roughshod over a field that is probably the strongest we’ve faced since 2009? Needless to say I’m excited to see what unfolds.
Dream match-ups? Phillies versus Brewers in the NLCS. Would love a rematch of the ’08 NLDS, which probably featured the most exciting game I’ve ever seen in the postseason firsthand, with the ’09 NLCS clincher against the Dodgers a close second. (Saw the 10–2 laugher against the Rays in the ’08 World Series. It was satisfying, but not exactly thrilling.) Want to see Phillies-Tigers in the World Series. I’m a chauvinist for clubs that have history to complement a dazzling rotation topped by one of my favorite AL players, Justin Verlander. (A little secret: I fell in love with the Tigers early in ’06 and have followed them since.)
I’ll be at the ballpark Saturday with my family, excited for another round of postseason baseball. Wish me luck as I run on no sleep for a month!