But ... Philadelphia? Wasn’t
this the place where, according
to ex-Phillie and famed baseball wit Bob Uecker, they booed
kids who didn’t find anything
at the Easter egg hunt?
Lidge wound up saving 48
games in 48 chances through
In his final act of ’08, Lidge
struck out the Tampa Bay
Rays’ Eric Hinske, with the tying run on second base, to end
the World Series—clinching
Game 5 at Citizens Bank Park,
a 4-3 win that took three days
to complete because of rain
But long delays are just
part of being a Phillies fan.
Twenty-eight years after Tug
McGraw—another gift from
the Mets—jumped up and down on the Veterans Stadium
mound to celebrate the final out of the 1980 World Series,
the Phillies were world champs for just the second time
in their 125-year history. And for the title-starved fans of
Philadelphia, it was their first professional world title
since the 76ers won the 1983 NBA finals.
Yes, 1983. That’s the year the Phillies lost to Baltimore
in the World Series (they made it back in ’93 and lost to
Toronto). It’s also the same
year that Hamels was born,
two days after Christmas. In
’08, Hamels went 4-0 in the
postseason, and at age 25 he
helps shape the argument
that the Phillies are bound for
“A lot of people might not
be aware, but our ’ 81 team
could have won it,” says
Dallas Green, manager of the
1980 world champion Phillies,
and currently a special adviser
to the team.
The 1981 players strike
halted the Phils’ momentum
(they were in first place when
the strike occurred).
“We had everything going
our way,” Green says. But
this current group of Phillies
“are younger than our guys [from the 1980 champs] so,
for that reason, I think they have an even greater chance
But the magic of that 1980 club was “very, very similar” to the ’08 team, according to Green.
“Particularly the way they battled into September
and then October to become world champions,”
Contributors large and small:
Ryan Howard and Shane Victorino
EASTERN FRONT RUNNERS
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 39
able to use valuable Justin Masterson
either as a starter or in relief.
The Orioles and Nationals also had
hopes of bringing home Teixeira, the
28-year-old from Severna Park, Md. Instead,
the Baltimore-Washington area is braced for
another rough summer at the ballpark.
“I think it’s a great time if you’re a
young up-and-coming prospect in our organization,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley
said before spring training. He’s got a solid
catching prospect in Matt Wieters and
a burgeoning top-flight center fielder in
But Baltimore’s young arms won’t put
them in a position to make the type of
dramatic turnaround that the defending
American League champion Rays did under manager Joe Maddon. The Rays have
built the type of club that can compete
with the Sox and Yanks.
“It’s a darned tough division [but] we
have to take care of our own, and we have
to get better,” Trembley said. “And for us to
get better, it starts with pitching and team
In a deal with Florida, the Nationals
obtained a lefty starter with some promise
in Scott Olsen, along with outfielder Josh
Willingham. That trade was important, said
manager Manny Acta, “because we need to
send a message not only that we’re trying
to develop our farm system and our young
talent, but hey, fans already saw the brand-new stadium, and now we have to put a
better product on the field. [We need] to start
winning and developing at the same time.”
Rest Is Optional
Both New York clubs moved into new
ballparks in 2009, which served as another
motivator to improve the on-field product.
But there’s plenty of other motivating
forces. The Red Sox have won two world
championships since the Yankees’ last
World Series appearance in 2003. And the
Phillies have one world title to the Mets’
pair of epic collapses.
So, which is the team to beat? Before
the 2007 season, Jimmy Rollins told the
New York Daily News that the Phillies were
that team, and he backed it up with an
MVP trophy and a Phillies division title.
“We’re a playo team now. Our next goal
is to win the World Series,” Rollins told Men’s
Journal before the 2008 season began.
“Of course we’re going to try to win
the division. Of course we’re going to be
the front-runner. Of course we’re going to
be the team to beat,” K-Rod told reporters
upon his o cial Mets introduction.
And so it goes ...
“I don’t want there to be a controversy,
or the other ball clubs in that division to
take it personally or take it in a bad way,”
Rodriguez said. “If they ask me, ‘Oh, which
ball club is going to win the National
League East?,’ it’s going to be the Mets.