Opening Day at Veterans Stadium, 1971. Photo credit: Phillies.com
It is here. It is finally here. Today is baseball's Opening Day.
All but two teams will begin their long, hopefully journey through October today, meaning the slate is now officially clean for everybody. The Phillies begin this season looking to return to the postseason after seeing their five-year postseason streak snapped in 2012. The five-time defending NL East champions were dethroned by the Washington Nationals and the wild card entrant Atlanta Braves. This season the Phillies are widely expected to be the third team in the running again as the Nationals continue to build around a promising nucleus and the Braves made some nice off-season roster moves.
Will 2013 be a year that sees the Phillies continue to fall back as key players grow another year older, or is there enough in the tank to make a run back to the top of the division to play some October baseball?
As the season opens up today I have a sense the Phillies will be good enough, if healthy, to at least stay in the running from start to finish but I am far from convinced this is a team that should be a favorite for a playoff spot. That said, on Opening Day I tend to be as optimistic as anyone and can spend a few moments envisioning all of the positives that could happen this season.
Ryan Howard could hit 40 home runs.
Domonic Brown could add 25.
Cole Hamels could win 19 games. Cliff Lee could add another 18 and Roy Halladay could shrug off his down-trending velocity and master his opponents 18 times.
Heck, Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan could each chip in with a dozen wins. Why not?
Jimmy Rollins could swipe 40 bases and Ben Revere could spark the top of the line-up, while Michael Young plays solid enough third base and adds 90 RBIs behind Howard.
The combo of Mike Adams and Jonathan Papelbon will prove to be a difference from a year ago and finish off 50 wins.
It is Opening Day, so of course we are going to think positively. That is what this day is all about. That is what makes this day such a joy to watch unfold, whether from inside the stadium or through the magic of television.
I think the Phillies are capable of pulling out 90 wins this season, but my official prediction will sit on 87 wins. Will that be enough for one of the wild card spots? It will be tough, but not impossible. The St. Louis Cardinals snuck in with 88 wins last season and they won the National League Wild Card game in Atlanta, where the Phillies season will begin tonight. Of course the Cardinals then took down the Nationals and then took the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants to Game Seven in the National League Championship Series.
As the Phillies should now be well aware based off of the last few years, all that matters is getting in to the postseason. From there, who knows what can happen.
Let's play some ball!