|Point-Counterpoint: World Series Repeat||| Print ||
Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on February 25, 2009
Since 2001 when the Yankees won their last championship, no team has made it back to the falls classic the following season. Daniel Paulling and Zach Greenberg discuss which team is more likely to return to the World Series in 2009, Rays or Phillies?
Rays Repeat More Likely
The championship hangover effect has beco
That’s why the Tampa Bay Rays have a better chance of winning their pennant than the Philadelphia Phillies. The Rays improved this offseason, Philadelphia, not so much.
The former picked up Pat Burrell to replace the gaping black hole in their lineup at the designated hitter spot. They brought in heralded prospect Matt Joyce, who could provide a little bit of pop in right field. Their younger players, like Evan Longoria or Bossman Junior (BJ) Upton, have another year of Major League seasoning and are healthy.
The Phillies, with the loss of Burrell, are worse. They added Raul Ibanez at an above-market price and receive a weaker bat and do not upgrade defensively. Chase Utley could make up the difference in offense, but he could miss a bit of the season due to offseason hip surgery. (Reports are positive on Utley’s return toward the beginning of the season.)
Tampa Bay has the tougher road to travel in 2009, playing in what could be the best division in the history of baseball, while the Phillies only have the Mets to surpass. The American League’s other contenders -- the Indians, Tigers, Twins, Angels -- provide a larger challenge should the Rays advance to the postseason.
The Rays are, however, a fundamentally better team. Their pitching staff, deep with co-aces Scott Kazmir, James Shields and Matt Garza in front of a deep bullpen featuring Jason Isringhausen (reports have him looking good in spring training), JP Howell and Grant Balfour. Defensively, the team features several quality guys, and the Rays are working heavily on cutting down on mental mistakes.
In eight months, we’ll learn the answer.
Everything Lined up for Philadelphia
With their miniscule $43,422,997 payroll (estimation), the Rays managed to oust their division rivals, whose salaries (when combined) are roughly $296,905,604 more than the “amateur” Rays. It is evident that money and big free agent signings guarantee nothing more than excitement and anticipation for the upcoming season. The Phillies ranked 13th in payroll, behind the likes of the 74-win Tigers and the 61-win Mariners. They won with some breakout seasons from their youngins, remarkable pitching and a clubhouse full of leaders who actually led the team to victory. That being said, who is more likely to repeat? A Rays team that added former Phillie Pat Burrell or a Phillies team who has already begun the annual trash talking with their division rivals, the “choke artists” Mets.
After close examination of the Phillies spring training roster, it is evident that this team is more polished, experienced and straight out improved over the team that won the WS last year. Subtract Pat Burrell; add in Raul Ibanez. Some skeptics believe the Phillies overpaid for Raul Ibanez. Their 3-year, $31.5 million contract with Raul is the richest deal awarded to a corner outfielder thus far. Either they overpaid or it was just a case of pouncing on their target before having to negotiate with other outfielders.
Whichever scenario proves correct, this is an upgrade for the Phillies. Ibanez is a lot less streaky than Burrell while producing more. The only foreseeable negative part is that this move makes the Phillies very left handed -- a reality that allows their opponent to bring out a lefty to pitch to three straight lefties in Utley, Howard and Ibanez. And although this was the only major move the Phillies made, they tinkered in-house by awarding Victorino and Werth’s breakout seasons with multi-million contracts and inking slugger Ryan Howard and ace Cole Hamels to multi-year deals.
Last year, the Phillies rotation was a big question mark: could Jamie Moyer, at 46, provide adequate starts? How about Brett Myers and his move back to the rotation? It all worked out for the Phils. Joe Blanton was a solid mid-season acquisition, as they stayed away from making the fancy moves like acquiring Manny Ramirez or CC Sabathia. Indeed, the Phillies will benefit from starting the season with a set rotation. Hamels, Myers, Moyer, Blanton and Kyle Kendrick (or JA Happ) are clearly more concrete than Hamels, Myers, Moyer, Kendrick and Adam Eaton. This 2009 rotation expects to perform at a top level; after all, pitching wins championships and if the Phillies are due for a repeat, they will need top-flight production
In all, the Phillies are a much improved team this season, chemistry and talent-wise. New faces like Ibanez and Chan Ho Park will merge with the familiar faces of Jimmy Rollins and Myers to succeed. Starting from spring training will benefit Joe Blanton and Jayson Werth. If the Phillies stay healthy, there’s no reason why they can not repeat in 2009. Statistics and history prove they have a better shot than the Rays.
Who is more likely to repeat: the Phillies or the Rays? Let us hear your opinions below.