Baseball is back!! In 3 days pitchers and catchers officially report to Clearwater Florida for their first workout, in 8 days all position players arrive and in 16 days the Phillies welcome the Toronto Blue Jays to Bright House Field for their first Spring Training game. Ceeeeelebrate good times, come on!
As we get ready for camp to open here are 5 things you NEED TO KNOW about your 2014 Philadelphia Phillies:
1. The "Old" Phillies Have 3 Top 100 Propsects
Keith Law, senior baseball writer for ESPN.com and ESPN Scouts released his Top 100 Propsects earlier this year and 3 Phillies made the list. Phillies 2013 1st round pick J.P. Crawford received Law's highest praise coming in at #47, Maikel Franco came in at #63, and Jessie Biddle at #77.
While most people look at the Phillies aging core (average age 28.4, 3rd oldest in baseball) and see no glimmer of hope in a "barren" farm system, these 3 players provide a ray of sunshine. Crawford set the Gulf Coast League on fire last season at 18-years of age. In 39 games he hit .345, with a .908 OPS, 19 RBI's, 24 runs scored, 8 doubles and 12 stolen bases. Crawford will begin the year in Lakewood with estimations at a 2016 MLB debut.
Likely to make a 2014 impact in South Philly Maikel Franco should pay quicker dividends for the aging Phillies, with lefty Jessie Biddle next in line. Both Franco and Biddle will join the big league club in Clearwater as non-roster invitees.
2. The Phillies (and phans) Have Not Suffered Through Back to Back Losing Seasons Since 2000
After an even 81-81 .500 season in 2012 the Phillies endured their first losing season in 13 years, last season, with a dismal 73 wins. From 1994-2000 they suffered through one of the worst stretches of Phillies baseball with 7 consecutive losing seasons. Their worst ever stretch? 1933-1948, 16 straight losing seasons! Thank goodness I wasn't alive to endure that one. Here's to 2014 being a winning season in Phillies baseball!
3. Ryan Howard Is STILL a Phillie, for 2014
Like it or not Ryan Howard will be a Phillie when camp opens in 3 days. Ryan Howard has become the thorn in every phans side. After missing 173 games in the last two seasons Howard is still owed $25 million a year for 2014, 2015, and 2016. As well as a club option in 2017 and a no trade clause to 21 teams.
The good news? Well for one Ryan Howard is 100% healthy, according to RAJ. Skipper Ryno made clear demands to the Big Fella last season after taking over the helm that he needs to see him in better shape heading into 2014. Here's hoping Big Smooth answers the call. A healthy and in shape Ryan Howard has proven that he can put up big numbers, although we haven't seen that in several years. His decline in power numbers is clearly alarming.
More good news?!? A solid 2014 season for Howard could result in a way out for the Phillies and the worst contract in baseball history. After 2014 Howard will "only" be owed 2 years 60 million. The Phillies could conceivably pay his $10 million dollar buyout and a 40-50% portion of his remaining deal to any potential suitor.
4. As Cole Hamels Goes, the Phillies Go!
The saying for the Philadelphia Phillies for some time has been "As Jimmy goes, the Phillies go." In 2014 for the Philadelphia Phillies to make any noise, the most important man on the team is NOT Jimmy Rollins, NOT Chase Utley, NOT Ryan Howard, but ace Cole Hamels. Hamels had a weird 2013 season losing a career worst 14 games, with only one win in his first 12 starts. Despite his early struggles King Cole regained his form in the second half of the season finishing 2013 with a 3.60 ERA and 202 strikeouts. In his final 21 starts of the season he had a respectable 2.96 ERA.
There are ALOT of question marks surrounding the Phillies 2014 rotation but Cole Hamels cannot be one of them. He must have a stellar, Cy Young type season for the Phillies to have a shot at contending for a playoff spot.
The Greatest Ever 2014 Stadium Giveaway for Kids!
This may be more of a common sense than a need to know. Being a kid is a thousand times better than being an adult as I'm sure most adults can attest to, especially during the heart of baseball season! Summers off, no bills, no jobs, no stress! Life overall is just carefree. The biggest to-do list is begging dad to take you to Citizens Bank Park for the greatest stadium giveaways known to man!
I have walked through the gates of CBP for hundreds of stadium giveaways, the coolest and greatest have always been for fans 14 and under. My most fondest SGA was on Mike Schmidt bat day at the Vet. From a Carlos Ruiz catchers vest backpack to every cool Phillie Phanatic item known to man, being a young Phillies phan has its perks!
So for all you parents who want to do something awesome for your kids this year and for all you kids here are ONE date you need to save!
Sunday May 18 (1:35) vs the Reds: The Phanatics Birthday! The Phillie Phanatic is loved by all and celebrating his birthday is always a fun time. This year's 14 and under giveaway is quite frankly the coolest thing I've ever seen! Phillie Phanatic Phun Glasses! Yes, I am incredibly jealous.
Not to mention 2014 celebrates the 10th Anniversary of Citizens Bank Park!