Originally posted on Philly Sports World  |  Last updated 4/3/12

If you ask around the Delaware Valley about the Phillies’ chances in 2012, you’ll probably get a mixed bag of responses. There are plenty of people who have faith that the team will be able to contend this season even without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. But there are also a number of people who are very concerned about the Phillies as the season opener moves closer. There are others who are proclaiming the Phillies done altogether.

I remember back to last season and the huge expectations placed on this team. With a pitching staff that boasted Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, and the newly signed Cliff Lee, a lot of people had the Phillies winning the World Series before a Grapefruit League game was even played. While the 2011 Phillies won a franchise record 102 games, their offense let them down when it mattered most and all of those expectations came crashing down on the team and the city.

This year, even those that are still optimistic about the Phillies’ chances sound a bit more tempered than they have been in the past.

The Phillies are no longer the sexy pick. That distinction now belongs to teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants. In fact, it has been more sexy to pick the Phillies to collapse this year than win their 6th straight NL East title, but is it possible that the lessened expectations on this team could help them? Without the the national media and fans’ unanimous predictions, (remember the SI cover shoots and the Aces’ press conference) this Spring has certainly seemed a lot more about the team going about its business than the celebrity that went along with being everyone’s favorite to win.

There are plenty of things to be concerned about with this team, but you can’t forget that the Phillies do still have an amazing pitching staff. While Roy Oswalt may be sitting home for the time being, Lee, Hamels and Halladay are all back. The 9th inning that has spawned more questions than answers ever since 2008 is now locked down by the best closer in the business in Jonathan Papelbon. The pitching side of the equation seems almost as strong as it was last year.

The Phillies are definitely missing two huge pieces of their offense, but there are positives too. A full season of Hunter Pence should be a lot of fun to watch and with Juan Pierre leading off for the team (for the time being) and Jimmy Rollins batting third, I feel strangely good about this team being able to play small ball and manufacture some runs. If Placido Polanco can stay healthy in the 2 hole and Shane Victorino can be productive hitting behind Hunter Pence, maybe the offense won’t be as bad as everyone fears.

Make no mistakes, the days of the long ball and overpowering opponents are gone for the Phillies. Not only are they gone, but they’re not coming back. That ship has sailed. However, with all of the concerns about run production and who will hit where, is it possible that the Phillies can squeak by playing small ball until Utley and Howard return?

I’m not saying that everything in Phillies land will be hunky dory this season, I’m one of the people who is concerned about this team, but the Phillies have proven themselves winners over the past 5 years. They have battled odds and fought hard to shed the stigma that once made everyone think “losers” every time they heard the team’s name. They have shown us they are not the Phillies of yesteryear, and maybe… just maybe, there is still fight left in the dog.Similar Posts:

  • Can the Phillies Ride Their Pitching to Success in 2012?
  • 2012 Phillies are Not Necessarily a Sure Thing
  • VIDEO – Something to Make Phillies’ Fans Feel Good About
  • Will Cole Hamels Stay or Go?
  • Could Cole Hamels Bolt to the Dodgers at the End of the Year?

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