Dan Podheiser is a writer for NESN.com but a Phillies fan at heart. These are his words and opinions.
Following a loss to the Florida Marlins on August 9, 2009, the Philadelphia Phillies were 61-48, 13 games over .500. Flash forward one year later, and the Phillies sit at 62-49, once again 13 games over .500.
In that 12-3 loss to Josh Johnson and the Fish a year ago, the Phillies had all eight of their Opening Day position players in the lineup at one point (Jayson Werth and Carlos Ruiz came in as substitutions during the game). Five of those players -- Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez and Werth -- were in the midst of All-Star seasons.
Throughout the 2009 season, I considered the 2009 Phillies -- even though they didn’t win the World Series -- the greatest Phillies team ever assembled. But as it stands on August 10, 2010, I think I have to change my proclamation.
The 2010 Phillies are the greatest baseball team ever to take the field in Philadelphia.
This year’s team has depth like nothing this town has ever seen. The Phillies have gone 6-1 since Ryan Howard went on the DL. The team is currently missing its two best players, with a total of three All-Stars unavailable.
And yet, thanks to “bench players” like Ben Francisco and Ross Gload, the Phillies are right where they were in 2009. I add the quotes because, were they not playing in Philadelphia, these guys would be bona fide starters.
Imagine what kind of team this will be when Utley, Howard and Victorino come back, which should be right in time for Philly’s grueling, seven-game West Coast road trip at the end of August.
The starting lineup will have seven guys who have made an All-Star team. The only player who hasn’t, Carlos Ruiz, has a .389 on-base percentage.
The bench will feature guys like Francisco, Gload and Wilson Valdez, who have all made outstanding contributions at key moments. Then there’s Mike Sweeney, who has made five All-Star teams and, even though he’s at the end of his career, is still one of the smartest hitters in the game. Domonic Brown has shown that he can hit in the big leagues. And don’t forget Brian Schneider, whose veteran experience -- not to mention timely hitting -- makes him one of the most valuable backup catchers in the league.
Then there’s the rotation. At the beginning of the season, it was apparent that Roy Halladay would be an ace pitching in the National League for the first time, but the rest of the rotation was a big question mark.
Not anymore. Cole Hamels -- who is the victim of some of the worst run support Philadelphia has ever seen – has pitched lights-out ball for the past three months. And Roy Oswalt? Well, let’s just say that nobody wants to face Philly’s three-headed monster in a playoff series.
As for the bullpen, a lot of the team’s ninth inning success relies, unfortunately, on Brad Lidge’s right arm. However, 2010’s version of “The Bridge to Lidge” is outstanding. Ryan Madson has come back from his freak toe injury with great success, and looks like the shutdown setup man that he was in 2008 and 2009. Jose Contreras has been an elderly beast in the seventh and eighth innings all year, and J.C. Romero is still one of the best lefty specialists in the game.
The 2009 Phillies went on to win 93 games in the regular season, as they went a crisp 32-21 after August 9.
With 51 games left, the Phils would have to go 31-20 in order to match last year’s regular season win total. But when the hottest team in baseball is getting ready to add its two best players back to the mix, don’t be surprised if the 2010 Phillies cruise to another NL East title.