CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — For all those people predicting the Philadelphia Phillies will win the World Series, the players quickly point out there’s a long way to go until October.
“Everybody in the National League would tell you the road to the World Series has to go through Philadelphia, with the quality of their staff,” Bruce Bochy, the manager of defending World Series champion San Francisco, told reporters earlier in the week.
The four-time NL East champions had their first full squad workout of Spring Training on Saturday. The Phillies have been prohibitive favorites since adding Cliff Lee to an already elite starting rotation, and anything less than a World Series title would be a failure.
“I’d agree with that,” Jimmy Rollins said after practice. “That’s what we wanted last year.
It didn’t happen. Nobody was satisfied with losing in the NLCS and winning 97 games.
You can never be satisfied with that once you’ve won the World Series. If you’ve never won, that’s progress. But we have been there, so it feels like we keep coming up short.”
Rollins, who famously called the Phillies the team to beat in the NL East in 2007 and then backed it up with an MVP season, is back in the prognostication business.
“Yeah, we’ll win 100 games,” he said. “I really plan on going after, who is it, Seattle won (116) or something recently. We’ll go get somewhere hopefully in that range, but that requires, after being lucky enough to stay healthy, having everybody doing their job on the mound, in the field and in the box.”
They still have to play the regular season and win two postseason rounds to reach the World Series for the third time in four years.
“There are a lot of things that we have to take care of between now and then to make sure that happens,” Lee said. “That’s what we’ve got to focus on. I know there’s a lot of hype.
Everyone expects this and expects that, but that’s in October. It’s February right now, so we’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then to give ourselves the best chance to do that. All we can do is focus on what can we do today to prepare for tomorrow and let it build up to the World Series. If we’re healthy and take care of business, focus on our routines, and what we need to do to prepare, we’re going to give ourselves a pretty good chance.”
After capturing the second World Series championship in franchise history in 2008, the Phillies fell two wins short of repeating in ’09. They had the best record in the majors, but came up short against the Giants in the NLCS.
Pitching carried the Phillies when a once-potent offense slumped collectively. The pitchers weren’t the problem when the bats were quiet against San Francisco. Still, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made a stunning move in the offseason, luring Lee away from the Yankees and Rangers.
“It was really about what team gave me the best chance to win world championships over the life of the contract,” said Lee, who took about $30 million less to come to Philadelphia.
He’ll be joining Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay, three-time All-Star Roy Oswalt and 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels, giving the Phillies — on paper — a rotation for the ages.
But they’re going to need to score some runs to win games. It got tougher with the loss of slugger Jayson Werth in free agency.
“This year, you’re going to see a little bit of a different swagger, a different understanding about us and knowing that people seem to have forgotten about how good this offense is,” center fielder Shane Victorino said. “Everybody keeps talking about our pitching staff and how great they are, and arguably so. I think they’re the best pitching staff in baseball, arguably the best ever assembled. But let’s not forget about our offense.”
“In ’08 and ’09, we carried our pitching, and last year our pitching carried our offense,” Victorino said. “But the same offense is here and we need to find our niche and if we swing the bat and pitch, we’ll be all right.”
Despite losing Werth, the Phillies still have former NL MVPs Rollins and Ryan Howard. There’s also five-time All-Star Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, Placido Polanco, Victorino and Carlos Ruiz. Each except Ruiz has been to an All-Star game. Rookie prospect Domonic Brown will compete for playing time with Ben Francisco to fill Werth’s spot in right field.
“We’ve been known for our offense for a while,” Howard said. “They both go hand in hand. You gotta go out and stop the opposition. I think a lot of people are talking about the offense from last year, but at the same time we won 97 games. So we must have been doing something.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)