The Philadelphia Phillies' five-year playoff run will end in 2012. But, there are at least five reasons why this team will bounce back into the postseason in 2013.
Five Reasons #5: The Darrin Ruf's and Tyler Cloyd's of the world
With understandable focus placed upon the continuing adventures of Domonic Brown, something interesting has been taking place within the Phillies' farm system. There are actually some prospects who might become Phillies in the relatively near future.
Ruf has received the most digital ink recently, as a result of his historic home run chase. The 26-year-old might be emerging as potential outfield option if he can continue to progress through next season.
The volume of players who are currently in Double-A and Triple-A lead me to believe that a few will put on major league red pinstripes next season. A continuing infusion of youth into the current roster will be helpful and save payroll space.
Five Reasons #4: Lee won't stay in the Twilight Zone
Those who have done extensive comparison research, regarding Cliff Lee's career, know that this left-hander is far from washed up. Despite what some 'new-agers' think, wins and losses do matter in a way that their numbers-only analysis doesn't consider.
Most pitchers are psychologically affected when their won-loss temperatures move to extremes in either direction during any single season. That sign of success, or failure, then subsequently affects performance.
Everyone knows that Lee's talent doesn't translate into three-win seasons. The fact that he only had that many victories as of late August resulted from a variety of factors including: run support, skewed numbers when pitching with runners on base, gigantic ERA's in the seventh and eighth innings, and his understandably frustrated mental outlook.
Lee's determination, combined with mathematical odds evening out this season's results, should put him back on track next season.
Five Reasons #3: Howard and Utley should be ready to start
Ryan Howard has continued to progress nicely from his Achilles surgery and should be fully healthy by next spring. Not having his power bat in the lineup from the start of the season allowed opposing pitchers to approach this Phillies' team in a more aggressive manner. Even considering his lack of full strength, that outlook ended when he returned this season and will remain in effect through the indefinite future.
Chase Utley's issue is obviously different, as he isn't recovering from an injury.
I've been deeply impressed by the manner in which he has strengthened his lower core. As a result, he's driving more balls over the fence than I ever thought he could.
It's now more realistic, than optimistic, to believe that he could play a full season next year. While he isn't who he once was, Utley is still a solid player.
Five Reasons #2: Halladay's house is in order
Losing Roy Halladay from late May through mid-July was sobering. With all due respect to Cole Hamels' excellent efforts this year, Halladay remains the leader of this staff.
Because of Lee's off-year, Hamels' has led the rotation and saved the Phillies from having a horrid season. But, Halladay is the horse who often wants to ride into the ninth inning.
Now that Halladay's arm is healthy and he has been looking like his old self lately, it's reasonable to project that he will be number 1 again next year.
Five Reasons #1: Amaro understands next season's possibilities
Regardless of what information was released through the press, or directly stated to the fans, I believe that the Phillies' top brass knew all along that this was likely to be a very troubled year.
In consideration of the team's massive marketing machine, I don't know if the front office wanted to reveal every dark scenario. Nor do I think that it should have been expected to do so. We're talking about baseball here folks, not national security.
Other than signing Jonathan Papelbon, were all of the unusually modest moves that general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. made indicative of a person who thought that this would be a cross-your-fingers-and-see type of year?
Now that mid-summer trades have been made, the team's health outlook has improved, and optimism has generally returned to town, it's fair to believe that next season will be different. Amaro will move forward with playoff hopes driving his offseason's agenda.
Extra innings: Obviously, this list is optimistic. Why choose to be pessimistic and then pretend that choice represents realism?
We know that more personnel changes are coming and that potential managerial and coaching decisions could also play a significant role in this winter's story.
Baseball is a sport to be enjoyed. Seasoned fans know that it can also be filled with challenging drama, but often choose to balance their diamond dreams with hope as well.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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