When the 2014 Major League Baseball season opens, the Philadelphia Phillies will attempt to change a disturbing trajectory: After five straight years (2007-2011) of ascending win totals, the Phillies have gone from 102 to 81 to 73 wins in the last three seasons.
Now, with an aging, veteran-laden roster and a general manager unwilling to invoke a complete and total rebuild, the Phillies will attempt to shock the baseball world by contending for a postseason berth this summer.
For the first time in years, fan sentiment and expectations are low, leaving the front office and the 25-man roster on an island alone in steadfast belief. Despite the accolades and past success, the idea of championship baseball in Philadelphia isn't permeating the city.
Although the franchise is reluctant to change and move past former days of glory, one notable difference will accompany the 2014 Phillies: manager Ryne Sandberg.
Technically, the Hall of Fame second baseman took over the job last August. In 42 games, Sandberg posted a 20-22 record at the helm. But with a full offseason and spring training as the head man, Sandberg now can begin to put his stamp on a roster that likely needed to hear a new voice.
The National League postseason race could be wide open, giving the seemingly uninspiring Phillies one last chance at a meaningful run.
Can they stay healthy, productive and cohesive enough to surprise?
Here's how the 2014 season will play out at Citizens Bank Park.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted. All contract figures courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts. Arbitration numbers and projections courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors. Roster projections courtesy of MLB Depth Charts.