Thursday, April 02, 2009

Defending Champs

This town is in love with its boys of summer and why not? Championships were extremely hard to come by in this sports-crazed metropolis until the Phillies reigned [sic] all over the drought. They didn't exactly walk away with the division title in 2008, but they nearly ran the table in the post-season, clinched the big prize in an historic rain-delayed-resumed game on a cool autumn evening and capped off the celebration on a sun-splashed day with a parade down Broad Street that was notable for its huge crowd of well-behaved, cheerful faithful.

This year's edition should contend for another post-season berth because much of the cast from that winning team returns. Have their division rivals improved at the same time? Yes, especially the Mets. The Braves don't appear ready to resume their dominant ways of the past fifteen years or so but the Marlins will be trouble as usual and the Nationals will be tough if they can get some pitching.

Over on Beerleaguer I predicted the Phils would capture the Wild Card berth but be out of the playoffs by the second round. Here I will qualify that prediction by stating simply that their entire season will depend far more on pitching than hitting. Cole Hamels' health, Jamie Moyer's age-defying act, Brett Myers' on-again, off-again noggin, and a bullpen that more or less approaches last season's astonishing overall performance hold the keys. If any of those pitchers falters badly, or, worse, if a few do, it will be a long season.

But for now our boys can do no wrong. They are the reigning champs and no one can take that away from them...or us!

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