Forty bombs from Ryan Howard would go a long way to improving the Phillies' fortunes in 2013.
Eighty-one and a half.
With the Phillies in Clearwater, and Opening Day more than a month away, optimism for a bounce-back season from the Phillies after an 81-81 disappointment in 2012 is rampant.
Over here is Ryan Howard admonishing the media and the fans to stop dwelling on the imminently-shutting window of opportunity for his team.
"For us, the window closes when the window closes, but right now the window is still open, so we have to go out and take advantage of this nice breeze while we can," breezed Howard last week, per csnphilly.com.
Next we hear Chase Utley doing his "expletives for emphasis" thing (recalling his f-bomb-laden address to the assembled fans at the 2008 World Series parade.)
"I feel pretty damn good right now," Utley said last week, as though simply saying that his knees are OK would not convince you (per nbcsports.com).
Then we have Roy Halladay, whose 11-8 record in 2012 masked an earned run average that was just shy of 4.5 runs per nine innings.
Halladay is so bullish on his health and his team's fortunes that he wants to pitch 320 innings if that is what it takes to get the Phillies back to the top of the mountain, per the Philadelphia Daily News.
Much was made last season of how any team would struggle without healthy, effective play from its three- and four-hole hitters in the lineup and without its ace. Without Utley, Howard and Halladay, that is essentially what the Phillies were.
All three of them are back and if you listen to them talk, they are all healthy. Further, the Phillies' 13 blown eighth-inning leads (per the New York Times) should be a problem left behind following the acquisitions of Mike Adams and Chad Durbin. Those two figure to do a better job of getting the ball to Jonathan Papelbon than did, say, Joe Savery.
And yet, despite all of the foregoing, at least one sports book has set the Phillies' over/under win total at 81.5.
One-half game better than they had in an injury-plagued, severely-underachieving 2012 season.
Apparently, the sharps think Father Time is going to have yet another undefeated season, and that the Phillies will suffer as a result.
Only the aging core of the Phillies can say (and do) otherwise.