After five consecutive National League East division titles, three trips to the National League Championship Series, two National League pennants, and a World Series title, at the very least, it is hard not to consider the fact that the Philadelphia Phillies are on the precipice of a "dynasty."
For baseball in Philadelphia, those are uncharted waters.
Throughout the history of sports, this city has sat back and watched teams like the New York Yankees and Chicago Bulls build dynasties around them. So, after losing more than 10,000 games in its history, is it fair to say that the Phillies are becoming the greatest franchise the city of Philadelphia has ever seen?
At the very least, it is fair to say that the Phillies are well on their way. The real question is whether or not they can build a long-term dynasty—something that few franchises in the history of sports have been able to accomplish.
This slide show will cover various topics, but at the end of the day, it aims to answer one question: Are the Phillies an organization that has the ability to become and remain a dynasty in the MLB?
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This may not be a key to long-term success so much as a word of advice: In order to succeed long-term, it's important to look to the past.
It may not seem like much compared to some of the other topics in this slide show, but give your history a bit of consideration when building a dynasty. Keep the traditions strong. From a Phillies' perspective, don't forget about the long struggle it took to get to this position.
Keep in mind all of the successes, from the club's first World Series appearance in 1915 to Brett Myers' final pitch of the 2007 regular season, which clinched the Phillies' first postseason birth in more than a decade.
After all, history has a tendency to repeat itself. Make sure you're on the right side of it.
I'm not sure whether this is a necessity or not, but when you think about some of the all-time great dynasties, each and every one of them had a heated rival.
When the Phillies captured their first of five consecutive NL East division titles in 2007, that rival was the New York Mets, and though that rivalry may have cooled, others have formed.
In recent seasons, the Atlanta Braves have stepped up to the plate to rival the Phillies, with each series becoming more and more important. After ending their season in 2011, you can bet that the Braves will be looking for some revenge in 2012.
But the Braves aren't alone. With the Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals both built like legitimate contenders, several rivalries could form in the coming years, adding to the competitive nature that a long-term dynasty is certainly to encompass.
Seeing more Phillies fans than hometown fans on the road has become somewhat of a common sight over the last couple of seasons, and as far as this slide show is concerned, that's a good thing. It means that the Phillies are building a national fan base.
Building a long-term dynasty is a step by step process. Like any slow process, you get better with each day. As you get better, the rest of the league watches and there will be people who can't help but feel a bit jealous of the success you're experiencing.
Just look at the New York Yankees.
When you build a dynasty, you're guaranteed to become a team that others will envy, and like the Yankees, you have to learn have to feed off of that jealousy. Turn it into wins and as will be mentioned countless times in this slide show, find that killer instinct.
You want teams to envious of your success. It means you're doing something right.
Baseball's free agent market tends to be a double-edged sword.
Long gone are the days when teams pay players based on their success. Today's game is based on advanced analytic methods and scouting, and teams are more willing to pay players based on their potential for future performance.
Of course, this new method totally ignores the infamous "human factor," and teams often find that the free agent market is hit and miss.
Teams that are considered dynasties are always going to build their core through the draft, but a willingness to spend money on complementary players in the free agent market could make the difference between World Series and bust.
That's why a team has to be savvy in the free agent market, always trying to get the best deal and shying away from those questionable decisions.
From a Phillies' perspective, Raul Ibanez may be the perfect example. Following the 2008 season, the Phillies inked the outfielder to a three-year, $31.5 million deal.
Through the first half of the season in 2009, Ibanez looked like a fantastic addition for the Phillies, but his gradual decline quickly changed the minds of pundits, and by the end of his contract, a third year that many thought to be unnecessary weighed heavily against the Phillies.
Finding the perfect balance in the free agent market is a must.
Baseball is the ultimate team sport, so having role players dedicated to doing seemingly small parts of the game well could make a world of difference for a team trying to win the World Series. The St. Louis Cardinals helped prove that in 2011.
So after watching the World Series from home last season, the Phillies beefed up on their role players, addressing several areas of concern on the club.
First and foremost, the bench was completely re-tooled. Jim Thome gives the Phillies a left-handed power threat against pitchers of both handedness, and Laynce Nix represents left-handed power as well. In Ty Wigginton, the Phillies added a versatile right-handed bat with power, and Michael Martinez gives the club a solid defensive option at a number of positions.
The Phillies also revamped the bullpen. Aside from adding Jonathan Papelbon as the club's closer, the Phillies added Chad Qualls to provide veteran experience and Dontrelle Willis to face tough, situational left-handed pitchers.
"Dedicated role players" may be more of a year to year strategy, but the Phillies are certainly better equipped in 2012 than they were in 2011.
This is easily the most complex issue on this list, and whether or not having a lucrative television deal is imperative to building a long-term dynasty is certainly a topic that is up for debate. With that being said, however, it seems like most teams that have the potential to become "dynasties" have their own network.
So, what about the possibility of the Phillies having their own network?
Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer recently broke down the roadblocks that face the Phillies and the possibility of their own network, or any TV deal for that matter. The Phillies are locked into a contract with Comcast Sportsnet until 2015, but have been a successful franchise in recent years despite that.
It's hard to ignore the benefits of landing that massive TV deal, however. Just look at the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels, who recently agreed to new TV deals and went on to spend massive amounts of money on Yu Darvish and Albert Pujols, CJ Wilson, and Jered Weaver, respectively.
Thought it's not a front-burner issue, this is something that the Phillies will have to explore down the road, especially if they aspire to be a dynasty.
This may be a sticking point to some, but the more I think about it, the more this becomes a necessity. Does a team have to consistently win the World Series (or any team win its major championship) to be considered a dynasty?
I think we can all agree that a dynasty is a team that appears in the postseason with great frequency, but does a team have to win it all to be considered one? That may be a point of contention.
The Phillies may be the perfect example. In each of the last five seasons, the Phillies have taken the National League by storm. They've won 473 games in total, captured five straight NL East division titles, won two National League pennants, appearing in a third NLCS, and won a World Series title.
All things considered, those are facts worthy of consideration for the beginning of something akin to a dynasty. Does the fact that the Phillies only won one World Series title in that span mean that the aren't one?
At the end of the day, showing complete dominance in the sport is a must for a dynasty, and the Phillies are going to have to capture multiple titles if they wish to be considered one long-term.
Love him or hate him, it's hard to argue with the success that the Phillies have had under manager Charlie Manuel, but is he the right man for the job moving forward?
Is Manuel the greatest manager in Phillies' history? Well, it's easy to make a case for him. He has the most wins by a manager in the history of the franchise and will probably never pay for another meal in the city of Philadelphia thanks to that World Series victory back in 2008.
Simply put, the team wins under his command, but where does he fit into the plan for a long-term dynasty? Having helped to build the team into a winner, will Manuel have the opportunity to hand pick his successor?
Maybe Ryne Sandberg is the next Phillies' manager?
The point is simple: If you want to build a long-term dynasty, you need to have a successful manager that is ready for the long haul.
The farm system is, no doubt, one of the most valuable assets of a long-term dynasty. Being able to fully utilize that farm system to build upon a roster through the trade market is something that the best franchises in the game do often.
In the last couple of seasons, the Phillies have shown that they aren't afraid to make a big deal. They've acquired All-Star talents like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Hunter Pence, as well as a number of much smaller deals.
The goal is not to get shafted by the other team.
As with most things in the game of baseball, the trade market is something that has to be approached by trying to achieve a perfect balance. In order to get the player you want, you'll have to give something up.
However, teams looking to build a "dynasty" must avoid lopsided trades. Teams can't get greedy and must avoid leaving the farm system barren—something that the Phillies are dangerously close to doing.
Over the course of the season, you will hear a number of people ramble on and on about the strength of a team's farm system. What is their tendency for developing starting pitching? Are the hitters coming along? Is it just a terrible system?
One of the most overlooked aspects of the players in a team's farm system is just how those players got there.
The MLB's rule four (or amateur) draft has become one of the sport's greatest spectacles in recent seasons. Teams invest tons of money into the event in hopes of building a future contender at the MLB, but what people fail to realize is that the first couple of rounds of the draft are relatively easy. There's a pretty good chances you're going to find talented players there.
In order to build a long-term dynasty, a team must have constant success on draft day. That means drafting promising players well into the later rounds, taking chances, and hitting on more players than you miss.
The Phillies' 2008 draft may have been the perfect example.
Their first two picks, Anthony Hewitt and Zach Collier, are considered busts. However, the Phillies succeeded well into the draft, picking players that the team would eventually trade for top talent, like Anthony Gose and Jason Knapp, top prospects like Trevor May, Jon Pettibone, and Julio Rodriguez, and players to have already have had an impact on the MLB, like Vance Worley, Mike Schwimer, and Mike Stutes.
To simplify the situation, you need to have a draft like that just about every year.
Baseball runs much deeper than the players that are on the field. One of the most important aspects of building a team that is going to be successful over the long-term is great leadership from the men in suits that put those players on the field.
Having a strong front office is is one of the most important parts of today's game, so much so that the Chicago Cubs thought it appropriate to compensate the Boston Red Sox to bring Theo Epstein aboard. Teams will do just about anything to put the right men in the right position.
But we know that a front office must work in unity, just as the players on the field must. Take for example the Tampa Bay Rays. Andrew Friedman has become known as one of the best general managers in baseball, but imagine what he could do with the budget of a large market team.
That's where the team's ownership becomes so important. As I'll say on various slides in this slide show, money talks. When a franchise has an owner that is willing to spend money and a great general manager, the potential for a long-term dynasty exists.
The Phillies, with general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and team president David Montgomery, in place, certainly have the potential for long-term success. The question is whether or not they can stay the course and overcome the other, numerous obstacles in their way.
Every great team has its leader.
Every great dynasty has several of them.
Because they've been an organization that prides themselves on employing "clubhouse guys," the Phillies have a number of players you could dub as a "leader."
From a vocal perspective, Jimmy Rollins has been the leader of the Phillies for more than a decade. If you're more of a "lead by example" kind of person, well, the Phillies have plenty of those too. From the conditioning of Roy Halladay to the hustle of Chase Utley, the Phillies are a team with no shortage of leadership.
Clubhouse chemistry is something that the Phillies have preached and exemplified over the last decade or so, and it is certainly hard to argue with the results.
The trend seemed to begin in earnest (as we know it today) back in 2003, when the Phillies signed Jim Thome to a massive free agent contract and tasked him with changing the culture of the clubhouse.
Since then, the Phillies have not only developed strong clubhouse characters like Chase Utley, but made moves to bring in reputable characters like Brad Lidge, Roy Halladay, and Hunter Pence, amongst a plethora of other names.
The Phillies preach clubhouse chemistry because they are a strong believer of the corny cliche, "There's no 'I' in 'team.'" They believe that clubhouse unity fosters success, and to date, it's certainly hard to say they're wrong.
Most franchises that have come to be known as "dynasties" have operated in this way. Because these teams are successful, there isn't often a desperation to bring aboard talent at the expense of character, and as long as the Phillies continue to operate in this manner, one of the most challenging obstacles to becoming a long-term success will have been hurdled.
One of the most crucial keys to a long-term dynasty, for any major sports team, is a strong "farm system."
That system may look different throughout the sports realm, but developing young prospects into strong professional players is a goal that all teams share, especially in baseball, where developing prospects has become more of a science than anything.
If the Phillies want to build a long-term dynasty, they'll have to continue to develop a strong farm system and reap its rewards.
The Phillies built their current core through players that have come through the system, like Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, and Ryan Howard, for example, but have also traded away top talents for players like Roy Halladay and Hunter Pence.
Think of the farm system like a currency: Sometimes you spend money on yourself, but the richer you are, the more expensive the item you're able to buy.
Winning five straight division titles is certainly a nice accomplishment, but as far as building a long-term dynasty is concerned, that's only a stepping stone en route to what the Phillies need to do to become one: Dominate baseball for years at a time.
Some of sports greatest dynasties are remembered for their dominance. That's not much of a surprise. When you think about teams like the New York Yankees and Chicago Bulls, teams that were at one point or another some of the most well-known dynasties in the world, they didn't just win.
They were ruthless.
Dynasties don't just win games. A lot of teams are very good at that. A dynasty has that murderous instinct; the ability to finish off their opponent at a moment's notice.
The Phillies have have shown a bit of that killer instinct in 2011. In the final series of the season, they swept the Atlanta Braves and by proxy, chose their postseason fate by allowing the St. Louis Cardinals into the postseason.
Had they let up a bit, rested some regulars, in one of those final three games of the season against their division rivals, the postseason would have been very different.
But they went for the kill.
If the Phillies want to become a long-term dynasty, winning games isn't enough. You have to dominate your opponent in every facet of the game for years at a time.
Money management is a pretty simple concept, and once again comes back to that perfect balance that exists throughout baseball. As far as players are concerned, you can't overspend on players, but you also have to make sure you get the right man for your club.
The Phillies are treading into dangerous waters here.
Over the last couple of seasons, the Phillies have spent exorbitant amounts of money on players like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, and so on and so forth.
Frankly, the Phillies haven't spent their money wisely. Now, with two of their most productive players—Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino—set to hit the open market, the ability to re-sign both is in serious doubt.
If the Phillies want to build a long-term dynasty, it should go without saying: They need to manage money more efficiently, especially as far as players go.
Any franchise that has ever been considered a "dynasty" had its core—a nucleus of the team's top players that drives them to success.
If you need convincing, just look at the core the Phillies built through the draft. Heading into the 2007 season, players like Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell, and Cole Hamels had grabbed the team by the reigns.
The Phillies built around that core leading up to their first division title in more than a decade, adding Shane Victorino through the rule five draft. They signed players like Jayson Werth and Pedro Feliz in free agency.
They built a winning team.
That's how long-term dynasties are built. A strong core of players is the energy that drives the team, and having that strong core is an absolute essential.
From a Phillies' perspective, the question isn't so much whether or not they have a strong core, but who will replace the aging core that captured the World Series title in 2008?
Will players like Domonic Brown and Trevor May step up and grab the reigns? In my personal opinion, this will be the most difficult challenge in the Phillies' establishment of a long-term dynasty. They aren't immune to that awkward rebuilding phase that a lot of large market teams go through.
The title for this slide is pretty self-explanatory, but it should go without saying that no team is going to build a long-term dynasty without a strong, passionate fan base, and luckily enough for the Phillies, they certainly have passionate fans.
Long-time Phillies' fans can remember a day when there were plenty of empty seats in the crummy Veterans Stadium, but those days are well in the past.
Now, with one of the best ballparks in the game and a re-energized fan base, the Phillies have no problem selling seats. The franchise is the owner of a "sold-out" streak rivaled only by the Boston Red Sox, and that's good for business.
Philly fans love a winner, and when the team wins, the ownership groups wins. Fans spend money and generate revenue and keep the on-the-field product in tip-top shape. That helps to answer the question of why ownership is willing to spend money as well: Because as long as ownership is spending money to win, the fans are spending money to watch a winner.
It's a happy marriage that bears the child of a long-term success.
As far as a steady stream of revenue is concerned, that's something the Phillies seem to have covered.
A lot of times, it is easy to forget that baseball is more than just a game. It's also a business. The players on the field are trying to win a World Series, but many of the guys in suits up in the offices are trying to make money.
That's not a bad thing. Money makes the baseball world go 'round. The more money a team makes, the better the product that they're able to put on the field. So it goes without saying: A constant stream of revenue, more often than not, means that a team can stay competitive for a long time.
How is that accomplished?
Well, a lot of that revenue comes from the fans. They buy tickets, concessions, merchandise, and so on and so forth.
However, a lot of the team's revenue comes from building a brand. The Phillies are able to sell advertisement space because they're immensely popular. The ballpark is a huge source of revenue.
The point is much shorter than all of that: Money talks.
If you feel the need to slap your forehead and let out a, "Duh!" here, by all means, go for it.
It doesn't necessarily need to be said, but you can't become a long-term dynasty without having a successful on-the-field product. This is something that the Phillies no better than anyone, and it's the reason that they try and improve on their previous season each year.
Heading into 2012, that's not a simple task. Replacing names like Roy Oswalt, Raul Ibanez, Brad Lidge, and Ryan Madson isn't simple, but then again, it's not about replacing names.
The Phillies did an excellent job this winter of trying to stay successful by improving areas of need, adding depth to their bench and experience to the bullpen, as well as situational players for each.
Players will always say that winning the World Series is the main goal, and it should be, but you can never become a long-term dynasty without winning a lot of games each season, and the Phillies are built to do just that.
Dynasties never remain the same. They learn, evolve, and win.