For Philadelphia Phillies fans, February 12th cannot come soon enough; that's when pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, Florida.
Expectations have never been higher in the entire 121 year history of Philadelphia professional baseball. Behind four of the top pitchers in the game in Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels and a lineup that features two former MVPs and perennial and potential all-stars.
Quite simply, Philadelphia is in "Baseball Heaven."
The Phightin's have won four straight National League East titles. They have appeared in three straight National League Championship Series, (NLCS) winning two of them, had the best record in the entire Major Leagues last year at 97-65 and won the World Series in 2008.
The Phillies are loaded with some of the most talented, respected and highly-regarded names in all of sports.
Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley to name a few. Oh my!
Over the past five seasons, we have seen this team go from a solid, competitive team to a powerhouse that has been favored to come out of the National League the past three years by Vegas.
How have they become this powerhouse? Well, the fans have been a HUGE reason why the team has been able to go out and acquire top-name talent. Others may argue that they are so successful because the core group of homegrown players have turned into top players at their respective positions.
But here is why Ruben Amaro is the MVP of the Phillies since he has taken over as general manager in 2008.
After learning under hall of famer Pat Gillick for three years as assistant GM, Amaro took over as head honcho. Since taking over as GM for the Phillies, Amaro has brought in more talent in the span of three years than any other GM in MLB.
Not only has Amaro brought in top-flight talent, he has brought in players with top-flight character.
Phillies Nation can look to a lot of players for the success of the Phillies, but here is a look at some of the players Amaro has brought in either through trade or free agency since he took over in 2008, and you will see why Ruben is TEAM MVP.
Schneider was acquired via free agency on a two-year contract.
Schneider has provided depth for Chooch and is a player that the pitchers on the team feel comfortable with when Carlos Ruiz needs a blow.
Amaro signed Polanco (who had played second base for the Detroit Tigers) on a three-year contract. Polanco was switched to third base and proceeded to bat .298, have an OBP of .339 and a .726 OPS. He also added six HR and 52 RBI.
Polanco is the type of hitter that the Phillies' lineup had been lacking for years. He strikes out very rarely (evidenced by just 47 K in 554 AB) has a great eye (32 BB in '10) and is capable of moving the runner along either by bunting or hitting.
Polanco's defense has not been too shabby either. He has been named a Gold Glover twice with the Tigers and he committed just five errors last season while showing great range. A pretty seamless transition to say the least.
Amaro originally acquired Lee from the Cleveland Indians in August of 2009 at the trade deadline. While with the Phillies in 2009, Lee went 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA in 12 starts while racking up an impressive 79.2 IP. Oh yeah, he had 74 K to just 10 BB.
Lee was the extra help that the Phillies needed to get back to the World Series for the second consecutive year. In the playoffs, Lee posted a ridiculous 4-0 record in five starts and had two complete games. His ERA was an insane 1.56. In five games started, he pitched 40.1 innings, allowed just 27 hits and seven earned runs.
Amaro decided to trade Lee when the season was over to "replenish the farm system." Phillies fans were upset, but they got over it when Amaro acquired...
"Doc" Halladay was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in December of 2009.
Everyone knows how this worked out for us: Halladay compiled a 21-10 record with a mind-blowing 2.44 ERA and 219 K.
Halladay lived up to the hype and more during his first year with the team that he took less money to join. Halladay threw nine complete games for the third straight season!
Halladay was so ridiculously good that his amazing May 29th perfect game was arguably his second-best start of the season, outdone by an unforgettable Oct. 6th no-hitter that was only the second in postseason history.
Did I mention he won the Cy Young? And Lee is back! Enough said.
Oswalt was acquired from the Houston Astros at the July trade deadline of the 2010 season.
Not only did Amaro somehow manage to AGAIN get the best player available at the deadline, but our old friend Ed Wade decided to hand us $11 million to help pay the $23 million price tag of Oswalt.
Oswalt down the stretch may have been the best Phillie. He went 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA.
P.S.: We saw him play a pretty good left field, just in case Raul Ibanez goes down.
Other players brought in by Amaro: Ibanez, Ben Francisco, Jose Contreras, Mike Sweeney, Ross Gload, Wilson Valdez and Scott Eyre, to name a few.
Hopefully by now you get the point. Amaro has this team locked and loaded for the 2011 season and beyond.
Time and time again he has somehow snuck under the radar of ESPN, FOX and every other sports station's coverage of trades and free agency and has landed the top talent available. He has the Phillies' rotation LOADED with a rotation for the ages.
He has clearly built a top notch locker room atmosphere, evidenced by the fact that Lee and Halladay left millions of dollars in guaranteed money on the table just to be a part of it! Spring Training can not start soon enough.
Cheers to Philly Nation towards another World Series and cheers to Amaro, team MVP, to keep em' coming.