Monday, March 26, 2007
The Phillies open the season at home on April 2 with the Atlanta Braves, then get an off day before going again on April 4th and 5th. The Braves series gives the Phillies a nice chance to serve notice on the Bland Empire that they won’t be able to resurrect their 1991-2005 success. Add in the fact that the Phillies were 11-7 against the Braves last season and have had real success over the last several years with them, there is a real possibility for the Phillies to get off to a 2-1 or a 3-0 start to the season. The Opening series will also be an opportunity for Phillies fans to see how dominating the new rotation is: assuming that Cole Hamels, Brett Myers and Freddy Garcia will go 1, 2, 3 in the rotation, then we can see if the Phillies starting pitching is going to dominate the division this year, as we hope it will. (We'll also have to see if Garcia is healthy...)
After the Braves the Phillies go on the road to square off with more N.L. East foes, traveling to South Florida to play the Marlins over the weekend and then going to Queens to play the Mets starting April 9th. After an off-day on the 10th, the Mets and Phillies go again April 11th and 12th, before the Phillies head home and start a home-stand.
Again, as with the Braves, the Phillies have an opportunity to gain separation from their N.L. East rivals. The fact that they play N.L. East teams in their first nine games is a real opportunity. The Mets series in New York in particular is important for the Phillies to win, given that the Mets are expected to be the Phillies main rival for the division title.
Heading home the Phillies play the Astros for three games, which ought to be two or three wins, then play a two-set set with the Mets before heading on the road to Washington D.C. to play the Nats and then traveling to Cincinnati to play the Reds. The Phillies close the month with home games against the Nationals and Marlins. Of the Phillies 26 games in April, 20 are against N.L. East teams. This is a unique opportunity for the Phillies to move ahead and capture a lead in the division by defeating rivals.
So the opportunity exists for the Phillies to get out to a quick start.
Let’s talk worst-case scenario: what if the Phillies struggle out of the gate?
Simply put, there is tremendous pressure on this team to succeed. If they don’t I predict that Pat Gillick and the Phillies High Command will fire Charlie Manuel in May and replace him with Davey Lopes in an effort to fire the team up, then if the team doesn’t show immediate improvement, watch Gillick attempt to move Pat Burrell and Aaron Rowand to anyone who will take them. Such a shakeup would probably end the Phillies season and leave the team thinking about 2008. So, yes, a quick start is vital for the Phillies.
You are right, another slow April will make it extremely difficult to play October baseball. Hopefully, Charlie Manuel (aka Elmer Fudd), can light a fire under the team's ass. Otherwise, it is going to be a long season.