All of the Phillies starting fielders (minus pitchers) will have turned at least 30 years old at the start of next season. Jimmy Rollins has been on a steady decline both statistically and physically in the past three years, Chase Utley has done the same.
Raul Ibanez has had plummeting second numbers the past two years and Jayson Werth will more than likely be sporting a new jersey next season.
So, is the Phillies magical run at greatness over?
My answer to this question, unfortunately, seems to be yes, for right now.
Now this doesn't mean I don't think they won't win the NL East, because with their starting rotation, they should be the favorite to win the NL East if they put high school hitters in at 1-8. But as far as asking, will they be great? I see this year as being the final season of the greatest run in sports the city of Philadelphia has ever seen.
Let's look at the steady decline. Two years ago the Phillies finished 1st. Last year second. This year 3rd or 4th. Steady decline. Look at 2007 NL MVP Jimmy Rollins and perennial all-star Chase Utley's numbers and DL stints. Werth will be gone. Ibanez is now an average platoon outfielder and Dominic Brown, the teams prized young outfielder, is still another left-handed hitter in an already heavy left-handed lineup that hasn't developed much in the past few years.
Look at the farm system. Drabek is gone. Carrasco is gone. Marsen is gone. Taylor is gone But...that shouldn't cause too much panic. With the Phillies success the past few years, they have generated enough revenue to make big trades and signings and develop farm players at a slower rate than say the Royals or Pirates who need a diamond in the rough yesterday.
At the end of the day, the Phillies will be ok. Ruiz is turning into, if he isn't already, a tier 1 catcher and hitter. Howard, although sitting on his fat contract, will still hit 30 HR and 100 RBI. Utley, Polanco, Rollins will all contribute greatly in their own ways. I still think the verdict is out on Victorino. (is it me or does he misjudge a lot of flyballs and make up for it with his speed?)
But the bottom line is this...these will not be the 2008 or 2009 Phillies. With an increase in age comes a decrease in numbers and at the end of the day, no matter how good your pitching is, you need to score runs. Just look at the Phillies this year. And without Werth's right handed bat in the middle of the lineup the team will struggle. Please tell me Amaro doesn't plan on Francisco being Werth's replacement. But on the same hand, please tell me Amaro will do everything in his power to keep Werth. But free agency usually rears its ugly head upon the most honorable of men. And Werth will succumb to more money elsewhere.
Maybe this off-season will produce a big name right-handed hitter. But let's hope Greg Dobbs doesn't even get to sit in a Phillie dugout this year. And let's hope Francisco and Brown don't platoon in right field. And let's hope the Phillies have some magic left in them while H2O is still intact. There might be room for 1 more run at a World Series. But if the off-season produces more Gloads and Contreras', don't count on it.