Barring an epic catastrophe, the 2009 season has already been defined and we can begin to cull meaning from the Phillies’ follow-up campaign.
Question: Was it what you expected? To this observer, it was. One can never hit the nail squarely on its head when making sweeping predictions, but an 87-61 mark with 14 to play hardly qualifies as a stretch for a team as stacked as this one. The difference: The Phils find themselves in control of their own destiny, rather than scratching and clawing through a rat race.
Individually, disappointing seasons by Brad Lidge and Cole Hamels, after reaching new heights last season, hardly qualify as surprises. Neither do the injuries to the bullpen. Brett Myers represented the Phillies’ token big injury; incidentally, the Phils will receive word on the extent of his shoulder strain today. Conversely, J.A. Happ represented their annual breakout performance. The Phillies landed Cliff Lee in a blockbuster, which is what elite teams do. Pedro Martinez added some extra star power and intrigue. Good teams are magnets for magnanimous players. Offensively, it was the same old, same old, with heavy hitters alternating hot and cold streaks. They sent five hitters to the All-Star game, a nice surprise, I guess. Jimmy Rollins replaced Ryan Howard in 2008 as the hitter who would ice up for months and months. Meantime, J-Roll proved to be the game’s best defensive shortstop yet again. Pitching-wise, back-end relief is the biggest discrepancy, but even the team’s GM warned not to expect a repeat. That leaves the starting rotation, and I think we can all agree that’s where the quest for back-to-back titles would start and end, and the Phils are lining themselves up very well in that department indeed.
So there it is in a nice, neat nutshell. No more chapters necessary until the postseason, unless the Phils rewrite their work into the worst story ever.