The Best Phillies Team Ever? How About the 2010 Squad

The Best Phillies Team Ever? How About the 2010 Squad

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.

NBA Finals: Warriors coach Steve Kerr not well yet, but hasn't ruled himself out for Game 1

NBA Finals: Warriors coach Steve Kerr not well yet, but hasn't ruled himself out for Game 1

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Golden State's Steve Kerr expects to decide soon whether he will coach in the NBA Finals, saying Monday he's not yet ready but hasn't ruled himself out for Game 1.

Kerr said: "As of right now I would not coach Thursday night. It's still up in the air." He said that by Game 1, he might make a decision on his status.

The reigning NBA Coach of the Year, still not feeling well after a May 5 procedure to repair a spinal fluid leak, addressed the media Monday when acting coach Mike Brown was out with the flu.

He joked: "I told the team the good news is the team is really healthy, the bad news is the coaching staff is dropping like flies."

Brown has been coaching the team since Game 3 of the first round at Portland, with Kerr assisting at practice and from the locker room before and during games.

Inside Doop: How a record win streak came to an end

Inside Doop: How a record win streak came to an end

Over the course of a long season, there are forgettable games where few things — or players — stand out.

Saturday night’s Union game out in Salt Lake City seemed like one of those — but will still be remembered for the fact that it ended a record winning streak.

Here’s a closer look at the 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake that snapped Philly’s four-game winning and six-game unbeaten streaks, as well as a look ahead for a team that will now look to start another one.

Three thoughts about Saturday’s game
1. There was one play early in the game that could have been exceptional as Haris Medunjanin lofted a pinpoint over-the-top pass from midfield to Fafa Picault, who got behind the defense and controlled it perfectly. But Picault’s first attempt and his follow-up were both saved — the second on a goal-line clearance from defender Aaron Maund — and the Union had few other good chances as their offense dried up. That was perhaps, bound to happen, after the team, led in part by the strong play of newcomers Medunjanin and Picault, scored multiple goals in every other game this month.

2. While Nick Rimando showed why he’s the most accomplished MLS goalie ever by earning the shutout, Andre Blake showed why he’s the reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year with even better saves, including a few spectacular diving and leaping ones. Blake certainly wasn’t to blame for the Union’s eight-game winless streak to start the season but he also wasn’t making the kind of game-changing saves Philly fans grew accustomed to last year. Now that he is, it’s one of the big reasons why the Union are back in the playoff race, despite Saturday’s loss. 

3. Although it didn’t really show earlier in the season, one of the Union’s biggest strengths is depth at the winger position as they have four players — Picault, Chris Pontius, Ilsinho and Fabian Herbers — who are capable MLS starters. But with Herbers injured and Ilsinho sliding over to the central midfield, head coach Jim Curtin needed to call upon rookie Marcus Epps as his first winger off the bench. It was a difficult MLS debut playing on the road, across the country, with the team pushing for a late goal. But Curtin likes throwing guys into the fire to see what they’re made of, and will likely use Epps’ minutes in Utah as a springboard moving forward.

Three questions for the week ahead
1. The Union had a busy end of the month, flying out to Salt Lake City a few days after a three-games-in-eight-day stretch. But they also have 15 days between MLS games following Saturday’s contest vs. New York City FC at Yankee Stadium (1:00, 6ABC). So does Curtin opt to give guys some rest because of the former or trot out the same lineup because of the latter? There are also other things to consider, including the fact that the Union will open U.S. Open Cup play on June 14 — often an ideal time to give minutes to younger guys and backups.

2. One particular position to watch is the No. 10 attacking midfield spot. Ilsinho had filled in beautifully there in place of the injured Roland Alberg, particularly during a 2-0 win over Houston on May 17. But he was mostly invisible vs. RSL, a game in which Alberg returned from a three-game absence. Considering both have never really been 90-minute players and have similar playmaking abilities, could Curtin consider a platoon with Alberg and Ilsinho? Or will Ilsinho return to the wing, at least until Herbers returns from his injury?

3. Another spot to watch is the backline, which had been mostly kept intact during the team’s six-game unbeaten run. But now that the team lost, will Curtin go back to starters Keegan Rosenberry and/or Richie Marquez? What about Josh Yaro, who’s on the mend from shoulder surgery? The makeshift group that included Jack Elliott, Oguchi Onyewu, and Ray Gaddis should be commended for changing the course of the season, but it seems unlikely that Rosenberry and Marquez will remain on the bench must longer considering they were two of the team’s most promising players last year.

Stat of the week
Fabinho played his 100th MLS game Saturday. The only other players to surpass 100 games for the Union have been Sebastien Le Toux, Brian Carroll, Sheanon Williams, Gaddis and Amobi Okugo.  

Quote of the week
“A good run of six games comes to an end for us now. We’ll have to look forward to starting a new streak as we go away to New York City next week.”

— Union manager Jim Curtin 

Player of the week
Andre Blake got the loss but still had one of his best games of the season, wowing the crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium on more than one occasion.