It may have taken just under two weeks, but I think I finally got over the fact that the New York Yankees are the current world champions of baseball, as the late Harry Kalas would say.
Before I view it as just water under the bridge, first, a moment of clarity.
As hard as it is to say, the Yankees deserved it. They were the best team in baseball, something that they paid a lot of money to ensure. Nonetheless, they didn’t let the names on the roster define their play, but their performance on the proved it, and A-Rod, Tex, Jeter and company will be sporting some new jewelry come opening day 2010.
Now, onto the Phillies. Tremendous run this year, and that’s not something I would have said moments after Shane Victorino grounded out weakly to first after he was jammed by a historic Mariano Rivera cut-fastball. Plagued by injuries, bullpen issues, and inconsistent play, there were times throughout the season that I truly believed that the Phillies would be watching the playoffs from the bar on the golf course. That obviously wasn’t the case. The credit to get the Phillies two game shy of back-to-back championships goes all around the organization. However, there are two people (besides of course the players) that are mainly responsible for making this past postseason run back to the fall classic possible.
1. Ruben Amaro: Pulling the trigger on a trade that gave the Phillies an ace (Cliff Lee) and a solid utility outfielder (Ben Francisco) for essentially four minor leagues backed up Amaro’s creditability as a general manager. He didn’t let the Blue Jays J.P Richardi bully him into giving up too much for Roy Halladay, and instead “settled” for Lee, who not only was the ace of the Phillies staff down the stretch, but also pitched worlds better than Halladay in the second half of the season. Also, signing Pedro Martinez midway through the season when so many people, even within the organization, questioned the decision, was a good move. Martinez surpassed all his individual expectations, and also bolstered the teams’ pitching staff and overall intimidation level.
2. Charlie Manuel: He will never be the most well-spoken manager in baseball, but based on success and overall approval by his team, Manuel has to be considered among the best skippers in all of baseball after this season. While he may over-manage at times (something that all managers are guilty of), a majority of the major decisions Manuel made over the course of the season were correct. Some of those decisions included benching Jimmy Rollins for a three-game stretch in June, sending both Raul Ibanez and Brad Lidge to the D.L against their will, and sticking with Lidge as a closer in the playoffs (yes, this was the right decision). He’s a tremendous presence in the clubhouse, and should be with this team for a long time.
As I said before, a great run it was. We got to see Ryan Howard and Chase Utley have tremendous seasons and historic postseasons, solidifying their status as perennial stars in the world of baseball. We got to see the birth of one of arguably the best outfield tandems in all of baseball, as Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, and Jayson Werth all had career years, with Victorino and Werth seeming to be just entering their prime. With pitching, we got to see Cliff Lee prove he wasn’t a fluke Cy Young award winner, Pedro Martinez resurrect his career, and a rookie in J.A Happ flourish into one the organizations bright young stars.
Needless to say, the future is bright for the Philadelphia Phillies organization.
Now, the show must go on, as the first step to repeating as NL champs is already about to begin.
In the next post, we will talk about those who may join the Phillies through free agency, along with those who will surely leave the club because of the process.