Less than 48 hours since elimination Saturday and we’ve already read a dozen articles on how the Phillies need to scrap the old plan. Not necessarily.
The Big Three guided the Phillies to 97 wins, the most since 1993. Seems like a good plan, right? If the Phills had only performed better against the Giants, capitalized on some of the missed opportunities or even had slightly better luck, nobody would question this blueprint. Moreover, the series was quite even statistically. But in the key moments, the Giants simply outplayed, outpitched and outmaneuvered the Phillies. Role players like Cody Ross, Javier Lopez and Juan Uribe loomed larger than most of the Phillies notable stars. The Giants were aggressive. The Phillies looked passive and timid, down to the final strike.
Sometimes the bear gets you. The cream doesn’t always rise to the top. And so on. And that's it; except for one thing. The Phillies will be even older in 2011, and there’s nothing they can do about it. Youth is baseball’s chief commodity. If you think the Phillies’ lineup lacked freshness in 2010, it will be even worse in 2011. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez have experienced either significant or severe power decline. Rollins has clearly lost a step and is prone to frequent blowouts. I wonder if the perception that the Phillies “didn’t get after it” against San Francisco was actually their physical inability to do so. Meanwhile, any chance of negotiating with Jayson Werth died when they traded for Roy Oswalt. Fortunately (or unforunately), right field is the only place where youth can be served. Domonic Brown appears to be promising talent, but it would be an unrealistic expectation to count on comparable production to Werth in his first full season.
Ruben Amaro heads into winter negotiations in a broom closet of financial wiggle room. Besides Werth, Chad Durbin and Jose Contreras hit the open market and I would expect the Phils to consider resigning both. They'll probably look to add a lower-cost right-handed bat, but it probably wouldn't be much of an upgrade over Ben Francisco. Jamie Moyer, Greg Dobbs and Mike Sweeney would be worth minor league fliers. But with all the money tied into the core, I wonder if they have enough to offer arbitration to Kyle Kendrick.
Minor issues, frankly. All of this will play out over the next few months, plenty of time to reflect on another good season, and a heartbreaking missed opportunity in October.