The 2013 Phillies are going to be in an unfamiliar postion when they open the season. Once the 2008 team marched down Broad Street on that glorious October day, this team has been expected not only to win the division but to win another World Championship. Those days have come and now gone. Unless something pretty significant happens between now and April 1st, they won't be the favorites to win the NL East and will assume the role as underdog.
I consider myself a lot more optimistic than your typical Philadelphia phan but even I can see that this team has a lot of hurdles to get back to Otocober baseball in 2013. I'm not saying that I don't think they will or that they can't but there are a lot of things that have to go right (Utley and Halladay health, Howard resurgance, Brown and Ruf devoloping). The Phillies will more than likely be behind a talented (slightly overrated) Washington Nationals team in most pre-season predictions. I'm not a betting man (but I think Pete Rose should be in the hall), but as of November, the odds for the Phillies winning the 2013 World Series where 17-1, where as our neighbor to the south where 17-2.
But being an underdog isn't a bad thing and I think it is something that Philly loves. Most Philadelphians see themselves as hard working underdogs and love that from their teams. There is a reason why Rocky is such a legend in this city. Look how popular the 1993 Phillies still are here, they may have not been the most talented, but you always knew they were giving everything they had and a little more.
Its crazy that the a Phillies as the underdog is a weird thing. It wasn't until Jimmy famoulsy claimed that the 2007 Phillies were "the team to beat," that we started to relize the amazing potetnial this group of Philies had. Its not a stretch to say that the 2007 team thrivied trying to prove people that they not only belonged with the Mets, but they could beat them any day of the week.
They carried that cockiness into the 2008 season as many still believed the Mets were the better team. People said they didn't have the pitching to match the Rays in the World Series, but they used the doubt and used that as fuel. After the 2008 World Championship, I think they started to believe in the hype. The aquistion's of great pitchers like Halladay, Lee and Oswalt forced the Phillies into a World Series or bust attitude.
They were a team that was expected to win by everyone. Everytime the team was struggling late in the season. All I heard was talk of "flipping the switch" when the post season came. There is a fine line between expecting to win every time you step on the field and believing things will be given to you because of your "talent."
The Phillies early struggles last season were pushed off by most players saying "once we get Chase and Ryan back", they came back and the team still didn't string a lot of wins together. The team didn't start playing well until popular and talented players like Victorino and Pence were sent packing as the team had decieded to "sell." You add that with the increased playing time to blue collar and career AAA players like Frandsen and Kratz, that gave the team a new attitude, and wins started to come.
This team still has a lot of talented players and a healthy Halladay gives them arguably the best roation in the game. They may just be in the perfect position to suceed as they are flying under the radar just enough for people to doubt them, but they have enough talent to compete on the field. The Phillies seem to play better when they are doubted. And there is not doubt that the city loves an underdog! Its time that Jimmy and the rest of the Phillies prove that they are still the team to beat!