Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox Share Alarming Similarities, Shortcomings
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The Red Sox won the World Series in 2007; the Phillies did so in 2008. In those years, the two franchises were widely admired for their organizational savvy and the game toughness of their star players.
But Pat Gillick and Theo Epstein are long gone. So are Manny Ramirez, Kevin Youkilis, Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino, among others.
Now, in 2013, both franchises are cautionary tales for what happens when you spend too much money in the wrong places, as well as how quickly the franchises competing with you can flip the script.
For the Phillies, the outsized contracts given to Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay have all become unsound investments with the passage of time.
The Red Sox know the feeling, carrying John Lackey at $16 million for 2013 and only by a huge stroke of luck having rid themselves of the albatross contracts they gave Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett toward the end of the 2012 season.
But dumping those three players did not solve all of the Red Sox's problems, and the issues the Red Sox carry into the season mirror those of the Phillies in a number of areas.
Both teams currently have premium power positions manned by major question marks.
The Phillies recently signed Delmon Young to alleviate their power shortfall in the outfield, but they still project to start the season with Darin Ruf (37 major league at-bats) or John Mayberry Jr. (.254 career batting average) starting in left field.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox as presently constituted do not have a major league first baseman on the roster. They did recently sign Mike Napoli to a one-year contract, but he has never played more than 70 games at first base and was recently diagnosed with avascular necrosis in his hips, per boston.com.
Elsewhere on the diamond, the Red Sox are looking for a resurgence from former All-Star Jacoby Ellsbury (74 games played in 2012) the way the Phillies are hoping against hope that Howard (71 games played in 2012) and Utley (83 games played in 2012) can resemble their formerly dominant selves.
Both starting rotations come back with comparable concerns. In Jon Lester and Cliff Lee, the Red Sox and Phillies respectively have healthy aces returning from subpar and sub-.500 seasons. In Lackey and Halladay, the Red Sox and Phillies respectively have wounded aces returning with much to prove but perhaps too few bullets left.
Above all, the Phillies and the Red Sox share the ultimate discomforting similarity: a view from beneath the best teams in their division.
The Red Sox finished dead last in the American League East in 2012; they were the proverbial "sucker at the table." And it does not project to get much easier as the New York Yankees, Tampa Rays and Baltimore Orioles are coming off 90+ win seasons and the division's fourth-place team (the Toronto Blue Jays) just added Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and R.A. Dickey.
The Phillies were marginally better at third place in the National League East in 2012, but their incredible climb back to the top might actually be harder than the one the Red Sox face.
At least the Red Sox can count on the division's best teams serially beating up on one another and perhaps deflating the number of wins they will need to contend for a playoff spot.
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The Phillies, meanwhile, are the middle team of a five-team division with two great teams (Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves) and two bad teams (New York Mets, the about-to-be-historically-bad Miami Marlins.) The Nationals will have a full season of Stephen Strasburg to go with the addition of Dan Haren; the Braves will have full seasons of B.J. and Justin Upton, per the New York Times.
With the Nationals and the Braves liberally feeding on the bottom of the division and taking their shares of their series with the Phillies, it will be all the Phillies can do to find enough wins to pull either Washington or Atlanta back.
So the Red Sox and Phillies, second and third in 2012 payroll respectively, enter 2013 with more debits than credits both in the books and on the diamond.
Both teams will need handfuls of things to break right for them to have any realistic chance of contending in 2013.
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