We are the world f***ing champions. It has a nice ring to it. But, 2009 is a whole new season. Here are 10 questions for the Phillies going into 2009 season.
It will be hard to capture all the story lines in 10 questions. It will be a no-holds-barred look at the most pressing issues for the 2009 Philadelphia Phillies.
How will the Phillies adjust to a new left fielder? The biggest difference between the 2008 and 2009 Phillies will be in left field, where the powerful, but inconsistent, Pat Burrell has been replaced by Raul Ibanez.
The Phillies decided against offering Burrell a contract. Instead, they signed Ibanez to a three-year contract for over $30 million.
Ibanez brings his superb history of run production to Philadelphia, but he turns 37 in June and bats left-handed. Burrell is 32, right-handed, and signed with the Tampa Bay Rays for considerably less than Ibanez. This switch will be the story if the 2009 Phillies stumble out of the gate.
Quietly, the Phillies ended the 2008 season with no viable fifth starter. Kyle Kendrick had a horrendous second half, Adam Eaton was demoted, and J.A. Happ did not quite step into the role.
Thankfully, the playoffs only require four starters.
For 2009, who starts at No. 5?
Kendrick and Happ are both in the conversation, but the Phillies will also look to pitchers not on their 2008 roster.
Chan Ho Park signed with the Phillies after a spectacular season in long relief and is ready for a chance to win a starting job.
Carlos Carrasco will come up from the farm, and the Phillies will also give him a look as the fifth starter.
There was some speculation that Adam Eaton might be in the competition. But, at first, the Phillies denied this, and later, they gave him an outright release. While none of these pitchers will pitch in the Midsummer Classic any time soon, the Phillies certainly have some options at the back end of their rotation.
How does Ryan Howard's contract affect his performance? This offseason the Phillies avoided Ryan Howard setting another record in salary arbitration by signing him to a three-year/$54 million contract to tie up his arbitration-eligible years.
Howard said thank you by showing up to spring training twenty pounds lighter and having spent much of the offseason improving his defense. Scouts believe that the pressure of earning a new contract affected Howard's performance the last two years. Perhaps with that pressure off, free-swinging Howard can have another MVP-type season.
Is Chase rushing things? He denied it, denied it, and denied it. Then came the truth this offseason, as Chase Utley went under the knife to repair an injured hip.
His second-half power outage did not go unnoticed by the fans, but Utley stayed tough as nails and made no excuses.
Recovery was estimated at four to six months, but Chase says he will be ready before Opening Day. The Phillies are apparently comfortable with this recovery time table, and here is hoping that he is completely healed and ready for the beginning of the season.
Is this the breakout year for Jayson Werth? Charlie Manuel thinks so. With Burrell in Florida year-round now, the Phillies hope so.
Seeing as he is the lone right-handed power bat on the team, the Phillies could certainly use Werth's 2008 production. Last year, he lead the NL in home runs against left-handers (read that again and digest it). He began platooning with Geoff Jenkins before winning the job outright. This year, the job is his from Day One. The Phillies need him to deliver.
Whenever a team gives the oldest player in the MLB a multi-year contract, concerns about the age of the team are bound to come up. While the nucleus of this Phillies team is just in its prime, there are some spots of concern. Jamie Moyer's 46-year-old arm is chief among them.
But that sort of longevity brings experience. The Phillies will appreciate Moyer sharing his wisdom on delaying the effects of aging with their younger pitchers.
Less noticed but more concerning, Jimmy Rollins turned 30 shortly after the World Series. While still in his physical peak, injuries limited him to 137 games last year. His ability to stay young and healthy will be a key to the Phillies' continued success.
When it catches up to you, it can derail October plans in an instant. Aside from a few DL trips, the Phillies stayed remarkably healthy in 2008.
Can they continue with that luck? Cole Hamels pitched more innings than ever before in 2008, as the Phillies rode his arm to the title. Rollins spent some time on the DL, and Chase Utley had offseason surgery. Unrelated to injuries, J.C. Romero will miss the first 50 games of the season (suspension). With injuries, anything can happen.
Named opening day starter in 2008, Brett Myers was demoted to the minors mid-season after a painful start. He rebounded spectacularly, having an All-Star caliber second half and pitching quality starts throughout the playoffs. He is in the final year of his contract and showed up to camp 30 pounds lighter. How Myers responds to the pressure will be interesting to watch.
Brad Lidge was perfect last season. He was perfect! He was 46-for-46 in save opportunities during the regular season and 7-for-7 in the playoffs, including closing out each of the Phillies' playoff series.
Will Lidge put too much pressure on himself? Mental problems sent him to the Phillies for a song before the season began, and last season could not have gone better for the man. Only a new season will show if this is indeed a new Brad.
How do you top this? According to Jayson Stark, Jimmy Rollins believes that there will be no "defending" of the title. The only way to repeat is to go out and take it again. There will be no favors and no breaks. The 2009 Philadelphia Phillies will be something to behold.