In a game that started Monday, October 27 and finally ended Wednesday, October 29, the Philadelphia Phillies became the champions of baseball for 2008. At times throughout the grueling 162-game season, it was uncertain whether the Phillies would even make the playoffs. The Phillies and their now-beloved manager Charlie Manuel silenced the doubters.
The question remains, however, will they be able to repeat. A few questions have to be plaguing the team this offseason. Will Chase Utley be ready to start the season? Will Ryan Howard sign, or go through arbitration? Will Cole Hamels be able to withstand the amount of innings he did in 2008? Will Brad Lidge continue his streak of no blown saves?
In less than two weeks, pitchers and catchers report to spring training, with the rest of the players reporting shortly thereafter. Spring training will give the fans their first glimpse of what to expect in 2009. Will the Phillies get off to a slow start or will they continue the momentum of last season and storm through their schedule?
Last season, the team was fortunate to have minimal injuries and will need to continue that this season. Teams overwhelmed by multiple or long-term injuries spend the playoffs watching in their living rooms. Of importance as well is the signing of Ryan Howard. The last thing this team needs is any distractions.
The Phillies built this championship team from within, bringing up prospects from its farm system. This trend needs to continue. Teams like the Mets have shown what happens when management attempts to buy a championship.
The fans of Philadelphia had been without a championship since the 1980's. The Phillies changed all that. The fans, however, will not be satisfied with only one championship season. This year's team has the pieces in place to repeat last year's magic. Will they?
Charlie Manuel must keep his team as hungry and focused as last year. He must ensure the players are not satisfied with one championship. Chase Utley must get - and stay - healthy. Ryan Howard must sign a contract - soon. Cole Hamels must condition his arm to handle another long season.
And the fans must hope for another parade!