Can the Philadelphia Phillies Get Back to the Playoffs?
The playoffs have started without the Phillies for the first time in half a decade. Can the team regain its winning ways in 2013?
The Philadelphia Phillies' 2012 season ended with a thud.
They watched first-hand as the Washington Nationals celebrated their first NL East crown, a crown that the Phillies wore for the past half-dozen years.
Those were the days, my friends...
This year, the Phils floundered, crippled by injuries and inconsistency. It wasn't until after the All-Star break that the team got a shot in the arm, a shot of youth that helped the club make a playoff Wild Card run that eventually fell far too short.
So where do the Phillies go from here? And can the team bounce back to its winning ways in 2013?
For starters, a few coaching positions have been turned over after the season ended, with Sam Perlozzo, Pete Mackanin, and Greg Gross all departing. Ryne Sandberg will bump Juan Samuel at the third-base position, with Sammy moving to first to take over for Perlozzo. Steve Henderson will take over for Gross, and Rod Nichols will become the bullpen coach.
On the field, the Phightin's also have several holes to fill: third base, bullpen, center field and maybe another power-hitting outfield position.
Let's take a look at 10 players (and the manager) and their outlook for 2013:
Charlie Manuel: Cholly certainly did a solid job of getting the team to play well after the All-Star break. He deserves another year, but could get a quick hook out of the gate for Ryne Sandberg if the Phils don't start well, although G.M. Ruben Amaro, Jr. has said no guarantees have been made to the Hall of Famer.
Chase Utley: The veteran needs to get to spring training healthy. If his knees are intact, Utley could regain that power stroke. He's the heart and soul of the team, and could be its third-base replacement.
Jimmy Rollins: The Phils usually roll as J-Roll rolls. He put up solid numbers this year, but there were bumps in the road. You can't see J-Roll in another uniform, but it would be hard to write his name in the leadoff spot again next year.
Ryan Howard: The Big Fella needs to get healthy, cut back on his strikeouts and become the home-run monster of years past. His bat is the team's biggest weapon, and Howard needs to become an MVP threat again.
Dominic Brown: Brown deserves a nod to start in right field next year. He's proven that he can play at a Major League level. Dom was also showing signs of life with some power and some great outfield play toward the end of the season. Maybe 2013 is his year?
Roy Halladay: The former Cy Young winner had a rough season riddled with injuries. 2013 is a big test for Halladay. Is he done, heading toward the end of his career or can he return to domination again? The Phils need him to anchor the starting rotation.
Cole Hamels: Hamels put up a Steve Carlton-esque year. Can he do it again? He's taking the torch from Halladay as the anchor of the starting rotation. Is he among the elite? Another year would prove it, and also prove that paying him a big contract was worth it.
Cliff Lee: It's like The Clash song "Should I Stay or Should I Go?": Lee had some decent games, and then some awful ones. He's better than that. Maybe 2012 was just a cursed year; sometimes a pitcher has one. If Lee stays, he could be the key for the Phils' playoff hopes.
Darrin Ruf: Could this be a gem? Is "Babe Ruf" for real. Ruf was a Minor League sensation this past year, putting up home run numbers not seen before Ryan Howard's best years. Ruf came up late and showed a power stroke. If he can play left field decently and show that muscle, he could be a big bat in the Phillies' lineup.
Carlos Ruiz: He's one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. This past year, Ruiz emerged as a top hitter and showed power figures as well. Was that a mirage? Is Chooch a true hitter, and can he be counted on next year to carry the team if needed?