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Is The Window Closing On The Phillies’ Championship Chances?

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(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

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Philadelphia (CBS)—The Phillies season didn’t end the way anyone in this area expected. A team that won a single-season franchise record 102 games, a team everyone assumed would reach the World Series—and win it—saw everything come crashing down in the 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals last Friday in the National League Divisional Series.

Each year since the Phillies won the 2008 World Series, the team has regressed in the postseason (losing the 2009 World Series to the New York Yankees, losing the 2010 National League Championship Series to the San Francisco Giants, and now this, the 2011 NLDS setback to St. Louis).

There are glowing signs that this team, without argument the greatest in franchise history, is rapidly deteriorating. Age, injuries, a stubbornness to adjust, eroding skills and pending free agency are a handful of looming issues this team will need to address this off-season.

Aside from those queries, the possibility of the window shutting on this incredible run the Phillies have had over the last five years is nearing.

One thing is certain, All-Star first baseman Ryan Howard could miss a large chunk of the 2012 campaign with the torn left Achilles tendon he suffered on the last at-bat of the 2011 season. The Phillies are optimistically looking at an April or May return.

“By my understanding, Howard suffered a grade-three tear, and if someone wants to compete in high-level athletics, as far as surgical recovery, there have been people back in as short a time as six months and some people who have not been back in a year,” Dr. John Neidecker of the Cooper Bone and Joint Institute. “For professional athletes, it usually takes six to eight months to recover, but Howard is an extremely big guy and closer to six months would be out of questions. Other things can happen, and there is a difference in time line

“You can absolutely come from this injury. Dan Marino did and had a successful career. Gabe Kapler suffered the same exact injury and he came back to have the best season of his career. Then again, there are some people who have not come back to play the way they did prior to the injury. It’s tough to say.”

Dr. Neidecker did point out that Howard’s game is not based on his legs or speed. If this injury occurred to someone like Jimmy Rollins, the recovery process would be much different.

“It’s a difficult rehab and in post-surgery, typically, most surgeons like their patients in a boot three months post-op,” Dr. Neidecker said. “There’s a lift in the boot to point the toe and they’re usually on about three months. There is a long immobilization period with a lot of muscle atrophy. It takes time to build those muscles back up. Plus, with the surgery, the Achilles is a tricky area because of poor blood supply in that area. It is possible Howard can come back in July, and I saw some reports that said he could return by May or June. It’s possibly later, it’s possible for April, but that would be very optimistic.”

Rollins is asking for five years, the Phillies see something different.

“He wants to stay here and we want him to stay,” Chairman of the Phillies Bill Giles said about the Rollins’ situation prior to the playoffs. “The problem is he thinks he’s worth more than what we think he’s worth. Rollins came up in our system and has been a great player, but he’s also been hurt the last few years. We would love to see him back, though.”

“We some other things to look at, like trying to lower the luxury tax. Because of that, you won’t see some of our players next year, [Raul] Ibanez, [Brad] Lidge, [Roy] Oswalt, you probably won’t see next year. We can’t afford it. I love John Mayberry, he’ll be our left fielder next year.”

The Phillies, with Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee back, should be competitive again in 2012. But has the window on another World Series championship shut on Philadelphia’s version of the boys of summer?

Reported by Joseph Santoliquito

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