The Philadelphia Phillies’ 2007 NLDS appearance was my gateway drug of choice. From that moment, I craved the postseason high. During the 2008 season, the highs and lows appeared in step with the lineup’s performance. October rolled in and, as each series was won, I knew I was hooked.
The 2008 World Series between the Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays is the pinnacle of my current addiction.
On the eve of the Fall Classic, fans are ready. Work schedules have been altered. Meetings have been rescheduled. Workouts have been postponed. It’s World Series baseball, and there are two unfamiliar uniforms flooding the yard.
The greatest thing about the two teams is their passion. Both teams visibly hungered to be one of the last two teams standing. At the end, they accomplished their goal, and the best teams in each league are set to compete on Wednesday.
The road leading to this point hasn’t been perfectly paved, and the Phillies have been pulling an unsightly trailer of flaws along with them. While it’s fantastic seeing the Phillies' uniforms don the World Series patch for the first time since 1993, just being at the party is not good enough. There’s one more champagne shower in the mighty Phils.
In order to enter another tarp-covered clubhouse, the Philadelphia needs to address a few issues.
The Rays enter the series with youth and health. The Phils need to harness all that energy and slow the speedy team down. With Carlos Ruiz’ cannon and confidence, it is entirely possible. The defense needs to avoid the contagious error bug—yes, I’m looking straight at Ryan Howard. Howard can hurt his own team with his glove just as much as he can hurt the opposition with his bat.
With the low-key performances of the big three, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Howard, it’s comforting to know that the entire lineup contributes to the Phillies’ postseason success. As the big names failed to put up the big numbers, lesser-known players jumped into the headlines.
That was fine, but now they’re entering the World Series.
Is this lineup strong enough to put up some big numbers against the Rays' pitching? Each pitcher can throw a nasty pitch—especially ALCS MVP Matt Garza and his curveball. Will the Phils have an answer?
It’s time to stop pressing the snooze button. Fans will not excuse the big bats from not showing up to the World Series and rocking some of the Rays' pitches.
The Phillies' pitchers, on the other hand, have been generally superb. Last year, if someone were to say that the Phillies’ arms, aside from Cole Hamels, were going to steer the 2008 team straight to the World Series, many would have choked of the seemingly ridiculousness of the statement.
Jamie Moyer has been the major hiccup. There are some control and fatigue issues with some starters, but the bullpen was the consistent driving force.
The Phillies are ready to strike and their timing can't be more perfect.
In this case, not having home-field advantage may benefit the team. With the current format, the home-field-loving Phillies will play two away, then return home for two games (three if necessary).
In Game One, look for Cole Hamels to shake out those first-inning issues and Pat Burrell to rise from his extended slumber.
The Rays are a dangerous team but a perfect match for the Phillies. Although this is not the World Series that the financial beneficiaries were hoping for, baseball fans embrace the youthful enthusiasm, neophytes' awe, and hard-nosed baseball that awaits.
Homies, we’re in for a good one.
Seven wins down, four to go.
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