Arguably the best team the Philadelphia Phillies have ever assembled will begin post-season play this Wednesday when they host Central Division champion Cincinnati. You can bet the ranch, however, most of the talk around this town in the next several days, obsessive hand-wringing really, will continue to be about the Eagles' debacle Sunday afternoon when a less-than impressive Donovan McNabb returned and departed victorious.
Most years the Phillies couldn't buy a headline once football season got underway though their championship run in 2008 was hard even for Eagles fans to ignore. This summer the Phillies withstood the worst series of injuries and trips to the Disabled List they had ever endured to post the most wins by any major league team, but the talk around these parts has been all Kolb-Vick-Kolb all the time ever since early September. The ironies of Sunday's Eagles' quarterbacking controversy insured they would be the lead on Daily News Live and WIP at the very least. Fine, leave the Eagles to them!
The Phils have set up their rotation for the entire post-season as perfectly as could have been managed. Any time Cole Hamels is your game three starter you are well positioned. Although the Phils scored a lot of runs in their final weekend of the season, the offense only contributed a portion of them; Atlanta's shoddy defense helped out. So, going into the playoffs one has to wonder which offense will show up for the Phils. To make matters a little more worrisome, leading hitter Carlos Ruiz was plunked on the elbow by Tim Hudson and second leading hitter Placido Polanco is still nursing elbow woes thanks to the same hurler. One hopes Phillies' pitchers have a long memory, one that reaches into next season.
Ryan Howard may have started September like a house of fire, but he cooled off significantly. Chase Utley returned from his long stint on the DL batting in the .270's and was never able to raise his average, finishing at a career low for a full season at .275. Jayson Werth hovered around the mid .290's all year and Raul Ibanez rose from the dead following the All-Star break.
The Reds will be tough. Much has been made of their overall lack of players with post-season experience, a factor that is highly overrated and normally ceases to matter by the second AB for each player. The Reds can hit and have a decent pitching staff, anchored on the front end by Bronson Arroyo and toward the back end by phenom Aroldis Chapman. The Phils swept the Reds in Philadelphia just prior to the AS break, winning three games in extra innings. All of them could have gone either way.
So will this series.