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.

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

READING, Pa. — Perhaps the most important issue facing the Phillies as they get set to open spring training is the health of pitcher Aaron Nola.

It won’t be possible to fully gauge the right-hander’s condition until he starts firing pitches against hitters in a competitive situation in February and March.

But less than a month before camp opens, Nola is optimistic that the elbow problems that forced him to miss the final two months of the 2016 season are resolved.

“I feel like the injury is past me,” he said during a Phillies winter caravan stop sponsored by the Double A Reading Fightin Phils on Tuesday night. “I feel back to normal.

“My arm is all good. One-hundred percent.”

Nola, 23, did not pitch after July 28 last season after being diagnosed with a pair of injuries near his elbow — a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and a strained flexor tendon.

Nola and the team opted for a conservative treatment plan that included rest, rehab and a PRP injection. The pitcher spent much of the fall on a rehab program in Clearwater that included his throwing from a bullpen mound. He took a couple of months off and recently began throwing again near his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“All through the rehab, I had no pain,” Nola said. “Probably in the middle of the rehab, I started feeling really good. Towards the end, I started upping the intensity a little bit. I knew after I took two months off I was going to be good. I started back up, throwing after Christmas and it felt really good when I cranked up. I’ve been throwing for a few weeks now. No pain, no hesitation. Not any of it.”

The Phillies selected Nola with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft with the hopes that he would be a foundation piece in the rotation for many years. Nola ascended to the majors in the summer of 2015 and recorded a 3.12 ERA in his first 25 big-league starts before hitting severe turbulence last summer. He had a 9.82 ERA in his final eight starts of 2016 before injuring his elbow during his final start.

Nola said he would report to Clearwater on Feb. 1. He does not expect to have any limitations in camp.

Manager Pete Mackanin is eager to see what Nola looks like in Clearwater.

“There's a part of me that’s concerned,” Mackanin said. “When guys don't have surgery and they mend with just rest, that makes me a little nervous. I don't want that to crop up again because then you lose a couple years instead of one year. But I defer to the medical people and believe in what they say and how he feels.”

Mackanin said he expected Nola to be in the five-man rotation along with Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff, Clay Buchholz and Vince Velasquez to open the season. Mackanin also mentioned Zach Eflin and others as being in the mix. The Phillies have some starting pitching depth and that’s a plus because pitchers' arms are fragile. Nola was the latest example of that last season. He said he’s healthy now, but he'll still be a center of attention in spring training.

More seasoning for Quinn
Mackanin acknowledged that the addition of veteran outfielder Michael Saunders probably means that Roman Quinn will open the season in Triple A.

“I don’t think it’s in our best interest or [Quinn’s] to be a part-time player at the big-league level, so I would think if things stay the way they are and if Saunders is on the team, I think it would behoove Quinn to play a full year of Triple A,” Mackanin said. “We have to find out if he can play 120 or 140 games, which he hasn’t done up to this point. We hope he can because, to me, he’s a potential game changer.”

Morgan to the bullpen?
Mackanin suggested that lefty Adam Morgan could be used as a reliever in camp. The Phillies have just one lefty reliever (Joely Rodriguez) on their 40-man roster. If Morgan pitches well out of the bullpen, he could be a candidate to make the club. Non-roster lefties Sean Burnett and Cesar Ramos could also be in the mix.

Another chance for Gomez
Jeanmar Gomez saved 37 games in 2016 before struggling down the stretch and losing the closer’s job. Hector Neris finished up in the role.

So how will competition for the job shake out in Clearwater?

“I wouldn’t say it’s wide open,” Mackanin said. “I’m going to give Gomez every opportunity to show that he’s the guy that pitched the first five months and not the guy that pitched in September.”

PFF ranks Eagles' front seven as the second best in NFL

PFF ranks Eagles' front seven as the second best in NFL

At times during the 2016 season, the Eagles' defense looked like the best unit in the league. And at other times … it didn't. 

By the end of the season, the Eagles averaged out to be a middle-of-the-road defense. And the way ProFootballFocus ranked it makes sense.

PFF ranked the Eagles' secondary as the absolute worst in the league, but in it's list of front sevens, released on Tuesday, the Eagles came in at No. 2 behind just Seattle. 

Here's what PFF said about the Eagles' front seven: 

"It was a difficult decision between the Eagles and the Seahawks for the No. 1 spot, as this front-seven propped up a hodge-podge secondary to form one of the league’s most effective defenses for a good portion of the season. Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox finished with the third- and fourth-highest pass-rushing productivity marks at their respective positions. Philadelphia’s front-seven also features a budding star in second-year linebacker Jordan Hicks, who led all players at the position with five interceptions."

Graham received the highest grade among the Eagles' front seven with a 93.3, while Connor Barwin received the worst at 42.1. Graham was the only Eagles player to make the PFF All-Pro team this year. To prove that stats don't always tell the full story, Graham finished with a half sack more than Barwin (6 1/2 to 6). 

While the Eagles' cornerback trio of Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll and Jalen Mills ranked 79th, 107th and 120th out of 120, respectively, their players across the front seven were much, much better. 

Hicks was ranked as the seventh-best middle linebacker and Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks were both top-10 outside linebackers in 4-3 defenses. Graham was the top-ranked 4-3 defensive end and Cox was the fifth-best interior lineman.