Citizens Bank Park has been quiet for awhile now. Growing up, I remember the night the Philadelphia Phillies locked in their 2008 World Series Championship. Sitting in my parents room watching the game on our tiny little grey CRTV. The excitement of my neighborhood, everyone coming out to celebrate for a little while; slamming together pans in celebration before heading inside to prepare for the next day surely spent chatting with coworkers and friends about the series. However, since Charlie Manuel left as manager, the team has struggled. It has been almost a decade since the Phillies lost in the 2011 NL Divisional Series; their last postseason appearance. Still, things may be quietly brewing in Citizens Bank Park.
Philadelphia has been rebuilding, trying to put together all the pieces for a few years now. Thanks to moves like bringing in Bryce Harper and trading for J.T. Realmuto, they have developed a formidable batting lineup. Even better for that lineup is an influx of high upside youth. Alec Bohm looks to build on an extremely positive start in his second year in the majors. Mickey Moniak, rhw 2016 first overall pick, is finally showing promising. Fighting in Spring Training for a roster spot, Moniak is batting .286 with an on-base percentage of .400 along with two home runs and a .762 slugging percentage. Firmly in the fight for an open centerfield position, Moniak battles with Odubel Herrera and Scott Kingery.
In 2020, the Phillies sought to improve their rotation. They got Zack Wheeler in free agency and pulled Spencer Howard up from the minors. Wheeler pitched a 2.92 ERA last season; a notable improvement over most of the Phillies 2019 rotation. Howard recorded a 5.92 ERA, far from ideal, but showed flashes.
The issue that has plagued the Phillies hasn’t been the hitting or the starting rotation. Instead, it has been their historically poor bullpen. In 2020, they averaged roughly 2.08 home runs per nine innings. That was far and away the worst in MLB history. This is with a number of in-season trades for bullpen pitching. With Matt Klentak out as General Manager, there is a renewed focus on the issue. This starts with Archie Bradley coming in for the season. Through six spring games, this already looks like the right move. Bradley sits at a 1.50 ERA. No longer is it on Hector Neris to hold together the backend of the bullpen. It needs more work, but Bradley indicates a start in the right direction.
I don’t expect the Phillies to be in World Series contention, but that’s not what is needed. They are in position to push for a postseason spot. It might be rough, and could very well be filled with blown leads and ugly games. Still, Philadelphia has always been a city to not just embrace that, but thrive in it. All the Phillies need to do is show that drive that gets fans celebrating.
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