PHILADELPHIA (CBS)- The 2020 MLB season gets underway Friday and for the Philadelphia Phillies, the hope is to end a postseason drought that has now stretched to eight seasons. The team has a new manager, Joe Girardi, a new starter in Zack Wheeler and a veteran infield addition in Didi Gregorius.
But, with only 60 games to make their playoff push, how does that affect their chances? CBS3 sports anchor Don Bell believes it may actually be beneficial considering the team’s trend over the past couple of seasons.READ MORE: Hundreds Gather In Haddonfield For First Major Rollout Of Fourth Of July Fireworks Since Pandemic
“A lot of time people say the greatest indicator of the future is looking at the past right? Over the last couple of seasons, the Phillies have faltered in September under Gabe Kapler. They have collapsed and they have missed the postseason,” said Bell in an interview with CBS Local’s Katie Johnston. “Last year, they were fourth in the N.L. East and finished 81-81. But, they have started fast in both seasons. So, logic tells you, at least you hope as a Philadelphia fan if they can start fast in a 60 game sprint, that will very much help you in moving forward.”
Bell also points out that the delay to the season also helped the Phils in a way in that outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who was the linchpin for the offense at the top of the lineup last season before his injury, is now fully recovered. The 33-year-old batted leadoff in 59 of the 60 games that he played for the team last season hitting .256 with 10 homers and 29 RBI. After he went down, no player could really solidify that spot in the lineup and the offense faltered.
However, while the return of McCutchen is great, the 60-game slate for the Phillies will not be easy. They have 40 games against their own division which is arguably the most difficult in all of baseball. On top of that, there are another 20 coming against the A.L. East featuring a World Series favorite (Yankees), and tough Rays and Red Sox squads.
“I don’t think it does work in their favor, to be honest with you. That is a hard matchup saying that you’re now going to have to play the New York Yankees, who are title contenders,” said Bell. “Also, sticking with the N.L. they have the Braves who won the division last year. They have the Nationals who won the World Series. They have the Mets who have one of the best rotations in baseball. This is a tough schedule for them. Yes, they do get Toronto and teams like Baltimore in there but this is a tough draw for the Phils.”READ MORE: Wheeler, Hoskins, Realmuto Lift Phillies Over Cardinals 4-0
The draw is certainly difficult, but Bell points to the acquisitions of Wheeler and Gregorius as positives for the team’s hopes. And the most important factor in Bell’s mind is the addition of manager Joe Girardi.
“The biggest thing they added this offseason is a manager that has been there and done that before. Joe Girardi comes in here after 10 years with the Yankees and winning it all in 2009 against the Phils. I think he is a big addition to this club and he is going to help them elevate in the standings,” said Bell. “How high is the question because you have the World Series champs and the division champions in the Atlanta Braves. I like the Phils to get better this season. Will they make the postseason? I think it will come down to the final week of the season.”
The final week of the season sees the team head out on a six-game road swing in Washington and Tampa. How the team fares, particularly in that Washington series, could determine their postseason hopes.
While the on-field results will be focused on the most, there is one other big storyline to watch this season. Fans will not be in attendance at games. Citizens Bank Park, at its rowdiest, is one of the more difficult environs for an opposing team to enter. So, with no Philly faithful or any other fans able to attend, will this really feel like baseball?
“I think it’s going to be very odd. It’s going to be like a boring Spring Training environment. Maybe for the fans watching it at home, it will feel that way. But for the players, knowing that you only have 60 games to get this thing right, I think the intensity will be there from the get-go,” said Bell. “Because in this season guess what? You can’t have a seven-game losing streak. You can’t get swept in back-to-back series because if you do, your season will be over. The intensity will be there but I feel for the teams like the Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Phils who have tremendous home-field advantages with their fans, particularly here in Philadelphia, you know what we’re like here in Philly, you know what fans bring to the table. I think that is a big miss for the Phils who can use some of that energy as they have in years past.”MORE NEWS: Woman Had Several Valuable Items Stolen While Helping Stranger In West Deptford, Police Say
The Phillies open their season Friday, July 24 against the Miami Marlins with first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. EDT.