|Hey baseball experts, we're watching you!|
Much has been made over the last week or so of how many in the baseball world of national media are suffering form a case of "Phillies fatigue." It is really somewhat clear why.
There are no timelines for the returns of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, and the offense is predicted to struggle without them. Truth be told, the National League East is getting better and the Phillies are getting older, which would leave many to reason that the Phillies' time at the top of the division without competition is coming to an end.
But don't the other teams in the division have some flaws and concerns as well? Of course they do.
With Opening Day now just a day away for the Phillies (in Pittsburgh), now is a good time to review which experts in the baseball media are either trying to go against the grain of common sense or come up with such an outlandish prediction that if it goes wrong nobody will notice and if it goes right they get to pump their chests a little more.
Let's start with CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman, who picks the Phillies to finish second in the National League East...
Every other CBSSports.com baseball writer has the Phillies winning the NL East, but Heyman does have Philadelphia winning one of the two up-for-grabs wild card spots in the National League, along with the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, only one writer from CBSSports.com predicts the Phillies to win the National League pennant. The staff has such a varied opinion on this one...
We should also take note that two Phillies pitchers were tabbed as NL Cy Young favorites by the CBSSports.com staff, and neither of those pitchers were named Roy Halladay. Fantasy baseball analyst Al Melchior picks Cole Hamels and Eye on Baseball blogger Dayn Perry picks Cliff Lee.
Let's move over to ESPN, where fantasy experts Eric Karabell, Matthew Berry, Tony Jackson from ESPN Los Angeles, Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York, and former Phillie Curt Schilling all have the Phillies winning the World Series (Schilling has them as a wild card champion). A number of others have the Phillies reaching the World Series but losing to various American League opponents such as the Texas Rangers, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim).
Here are the folks we are going to hold to their word when the season is over the most, whether they are right or wrong.
Rick Sutcliffe has the Washington Nationals in the World Series as the NL Wild Card (Phillies win NL East).
Jim Bowden and Stephania Bell each have the Florida Miami Marlins winning the NL East, and the Nationals and San Francisco Giants in the wild card. That means the Phillies are no better than the third best team in the division. Pedro Gomez has the Atlanta Braves on top of the NL East and the Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers in the wild card. Javier Maymi of ESPN Desportes has the Marlins in the division and Braves and Giants in the wild card. Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles has the Marlins as well in the NL East, with the Giants and Nationals in the wild card.
Former Phillie and Wall of Fame first baseman John Kruk has the Marlins winning the NL East, with the Phillies in the wild card against the Brewers. Kruk also has the Brewers winning the National League to face the Detroit Tigers.
Time will ultimately tell if these writers and analysts really do know what they are talking about, but how many of them have a solid case for picking the Phillies in second or third place? Is it impossible to imagine the Phillies will not win the division for a sixth straight season? Of course it is not, but are there still some good strengths on the team heading in to the 2012 season, some of which will be stronger than their division rivals? Absolutely.
The Washington Nationals have a great future ahead of them, if they can stay healthy. This could be a year in which the Nationals start to make a run late in to the season by playing some meaningful baseball. They have been a thorn to the Phillies in recent years, and with Stephen Strasburg back on the mound they have a legitimate stud ace to go with one of the better infielders in the game, Ryan Zimmerman. Jayson Werth, I believe, will bounce back from a disappointing 2011 season. They are a team on the rise, but other than Strasburg, Zimmerman and an improved Werth what do they have to offer that is better than what the Phillies have?
The Miami Marlins put together a quality team with free agents and offseason acquisitions to complement some of their rising stars. Jose Reyes can be real trouble and the Marlins now have a number one pitcher in Mark Buehrle to go with their returning number one pitcher, Josh Johnson. They also have a real closer now in Heath Bell. Between those three pitchers, the Marlins should be able to put together some short games for the opposition. If they stay healthy.
The Braves were close last year and should be another tea
The reality is that baseball people are concerned about the Phillies largely because of their injury woes to start the season. But each team has key players who have been prone to injury in recent years. So what else is there that put those teams above the Phillies?
We will find out, starting tonight.
If these experts see their predictions come true, we will be fair enough to give credit where credit is due at the end of the season. So bookmark this page, and be sure to check it out at the end of the year.