Phillies feel they have `unfinished business'
Ryan Howard said it first. Cole Hamels and Jayson Werth followed. Other players agreed.
The Philadelphia Phillies feel they have some ``unfinished business'' to take care of this year after falling two wins shy of repeating as World Series champions.
``Last year didn't go the way we wanted it to,'' Howard said. ``Hopefully everyone comes in here with the mindset of unfinished business, everyone gets locked in and we have a good spring training and carry it out to the season.''
The two-time defending NL champions are still a week away from their first exhibition game against Florida State.
``We're going for the jugular,'' manager Charlie Manuel joked Wednesday when asked if regulars will play against the Seminoles.
The Phillies are hoping for another long season that carries into late October and possibly early November. But they've got a long way to go before they get there. On Thursday, live batting practice starts. Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez are among the hitters scheduled to face new ace Roy Halladay.
Several position players, including Howard, Utley and new third baseman Placido Polanco reported to camp early. This team isn't content with past accomplishments. It wants to win more championships.
``We want to be considered one of the best teams ever in the National League,'' closer Brad Lidge said.
The Phillies are trying to become the first NL team to win three consecutive pennants since the St. Louis Cardinals did it from 1942-44. The Cardinals won two titles in that span.
It won't be easy for Philadelphia to three-peat in the NL. Winning a fourth straight division title will be difficult, too. The Atlanta Braves might have the best starting rotation in the East. The pesky Florida Marlins are always competitive. The New York Mets should improve after injuries derailed them last season.
``I've heard some things about unfinished business and I think that holds true,'' Werth said. ``We've got a job to do, a long way to go.''
Are these Phillies better than the group that lost to the New York Yankees in the World Series?
They added Halladay to the top of the rotation, but traded away Cliff Lee. They signed Polanco to replace Pedro Feliz.
The bullpen could be improved with the additions of Danys Baez and Jose Contreras and J.C. Romero's return from injury. The bench was upgraded with the acquisitions of catcher Brian Schneider, infielder Juan Castro and outfielder Ross Gload.
``You pick up a guy like Roy Halladay, it's tough to say you're not better,'' shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. ``But we had Cliff Lee at the time and what he did for us, you can't get better than that. Bullpen-wise, we made some additions. J.C. is going to be healthy. If J.C. was healthy last year at that point, he would've made a big difference. He's a guy we would've counted on. I'm going to say it's pretty close. Can't say we're much better, but we get a guy like Roy Halladay, that seems like at least another five wins.''
The difference could be Hamels and Lidge. Hamels, the NLCS and World Series MVP in '08, was inconsistent last year and struggled in the postseason. Lidge, a perfect 48 for 48 in save chances in '08, led the majors with 11 blown saves last season.
Hamels worked hard in the offseason to make sure he's in top shape. He arrived in camp ready to go.
``He's a long way beyond where he's ever been coming to spring training,'' pitching coach Rich Dubee said.
If Hamels returns to his old form, he can make people forget about losing Lee. That would also give the Phillies a formidable 1-2 punch atop the rotation.
``I'm really excited about this team,'' Hamels said. ``What we were able to do last year was pretty phenomenal in itself. We weren't able to repeat as much as we wanted to, but the way this team has come back and with the new acquisitions we have, I'm really excited just to get back out there because I know we are going to score a lot of runs. I think this is going to be a really good year. With the teammates we have, the acquisition of Roy, it's pretty set up for high success.''
Anything less than another World Series championship wouldn't be considered a success, however.
``If I finish second in something, I didn't accomplish nothing,'' Manuel said. ``I shouldn't get an award. We didn't get it done. If I'm going to teach somebody something, I'm going to teach them how to be No. 1. That's where I want to be.''