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 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.

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 22 points in a triumphant Chicago debut, Jimmy Butler had 24 and the Bulls won their season opener, beating the Boston Celtics 105-99 on Thursday night.

Wade nailed a 3 from the corner in the final minute to make it a five-point game. Taj Gibson added 18 points and 10 rebounds, and the new-look Bulls got off to a winning start after missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008.

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 25 points. Avery Bradley had 16, and Jae Crowder 14 points, but the Celtics came up short after opening with a win over Brooklyn the previous night.

The Bulls remade their roster in the offseason, jettisoning one hometown superstar and welcoming another when they traded Derrick Rose to New York and signed Wade to a two-year deal worth about $47 million in a move that stunned Miami.

The three-time NBA champion and 12-time All-Star is off to a good start with the Bulls after 13 seasons with the Heat.

Wade hit 4 of 6 3-pointers in this game after making just seven all of last season (see full recap).

New-look Hawks roll past Wizards
ATLANTA -- Dwight Howard dominated the boards in his Atlanta debut, Paul Millsap scored 28 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. ignited the new-look Hawks to a 114-99 victory over the Washington Wizards in their season opener Thursday night.

Howard grabbed 19 rebounds to go along with 11 points, just what the Hawks expected from their new center, and it certainly wasn't unusual for three-time All-Star Millsap to lead the way in scoring.

But Hardaway's performance was totally unexpected given the way he struggled in his first season with the Hawks, when he was largely confined to the bench and even forced to spend time in the D-League.

He scored 21 points, matching his high in an Atlanta uniform, and broke open a close game with back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth. The Hawks, who led only 81-80 heading to the final period, outscored the Wizards 33-19 over the final 12 minutes (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty scored the tiebreaking goal in Montreal's three-goal third period as the Canadiens beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 Thursday night for their sixth straight win.

Alex Galchenyuk and Torrey Mitchell also scored to help Montreal improve to 7-0-1. Carey Price made 29 saves to win for the fourth time in four starts this season.

Alex Killorn scored the lone goal for the Lightning, who lost against an Eastern-Conference opponent for the first time this season. Ben Bishop stopped 23 shots.

With the scored tied 1-1, Pacioretty got the go-ahead goal at 10:23 by beating Bishop glove-side. Blown coverage by the Lightning left the Canadiens' captain all alone on the edge of the face-off circle, and Bishop couldn't see the shot with Andrew Shaw posted firmly in front of goal.

Montreal remains the only NHL team still undefeated in regulation (see full recap).

Crosby's late goal gives Penguins win over Islanders
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

Patric Hornqvist, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel also scored -- each getting his third of the season -- to help the Penguins win for the third time in four games and improve to 5-0-1 at home.

Crosby, playing for the second straight game after missing the first six with a concussion, scored with 2:25 left as he caught a pass from Scott Wilson at the top of the crease and quickly turned to his forehand to put the puck behind Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak.

Kessel added a power-play goal to cap the scoring 32 seconds later.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 35 shots while starting for the eighth straight game.

Travis Hamonic and Shane Prince scored for the Islanders, and Halak finished with 31 saves (see full recap).

Streaking Red Wings win marathon shootout vs. Blues
ST. LOUIS -- Henrik Zetterberg scored in the eighth round of a shootout to give the Detroit Red Wings a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Zetterberg's goal gave the Red Wings a six-game winning streak.

In the shootout, St. Louis' first shooter, Alexander Steen, scored but then Vladimir Tarasenko, Kevin Shattenkirk, David Perron, Nail Yakupoc, Robby Fabbri, Patrick Burgland and Dmitrjij Jaskin all came up short.

Gustav Nyquist scored on Detroit's second attempt but Frans Nielsen, Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheehan and Darren Helm all missed.

St. Louis had the better chances in overtime. Center Jaden Schwartz missed a wide-open net early in the extra session. Jori Lehtera was stopped on a breakaway midway through the period by Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek (see full recap).