In Praise of the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies

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!

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