|ESPN.com: Spring 2009||[Print without images]|
|The Phillies are world champs. Just don't tell Jimmy Rollins they are "defending" world champs.|
|Everywhere Brad Lidge looks -- pocket schedules, programs, his own house -- this is the image he sees.|
|Charlie Manuel believes the Phillies learned a great lesson in winning the World Series a year ago. They learned how to win.|
"Their challenge now isn't merely to do it again. Their challenge is not losing their grip on the magic carpet they finally learned to fly. "There IS a magic there," said their wise old manager, Charlie Manuel. "And that's the part you've gotta keep." History would tell you, though, that keeping it is just about impossible. Well, non-Yankees history would tell you that, anyway. Other than the Yankees, only one team in the entire free-agent era (the 1992-'93 Blue Jays) has repeated. Just two other teams besides the Yankees (the 1975-'76 Reds and 1972-'73-'74 A's) have repeated in the past 79 years. And over the past half-century, even if you include the Yankees, only one team (the '73 A's) repeated AND won more games than it did the year before. So no matter how tough any of these Phillies think repeating may look, it's obviously even harder than that. But don't try to convince Charlie Manuel. The manager is a big believer that, once you've conquered a hurdle, your brainwaves never look at it as a hurdle again. "My second year in Japan, I hit 42 home runs," Manuel said. "And I heard Clyde Wright make a statement. He said, 'Charlie will never hit 42 home runs again.' But you know what? I could hit 42 in my sleep after that -- because I did it, and now I've experienced what it's like, and I learned from how I had to go about doing it." But can a whole team be able to make that same transformation? "Excellence rules success when you work to master the game," Manuel said. "You see great teams and great athletes strive for that moment -- that moment on that day. And they learn to live in that moment." But reality says it's easy to lose your hold. The moment fades. Things change. Not one of this team's top four starters missed a start last year because of injury. Will that happen again? And how about those miracle games the 2008 Phillies won, from the down-seven-runs-to-Pedro-Martinez shocker in August to The Matt Stairs Game in October. Are they going to win them again? And have we mentioned the closer never blew a save? Want to bet on that again? Vegas would love to take your money. Utley (hip) may not be ready for Opening Day. J.C. Romero (suspension) is out of the bullpen mix until June 1. Their winningest pitcher last year, Jamie Moyer, is now 46 years old. Stuff happens. It always happens. It's already happened. But the core of this team says that if it happens to these 2009 Phillies, it will be only because that's life, not because this team is still holding onto last year. "Personally, I don't feel like we're holding onto anything," said Moyer, now in his 24th year of observing big league clubhouses. "We realize where we are and what we've accomplished. But I think we've kind of let that go." And if some of these men haven't let it go, if some of them are prone to act a little too comfortable? "There are people here who won't let that happen," Moyer promised. One of those people is Rollins. Oh, he may get too stylish for the old-schoolers at times. And he can, from time to time, ensconce himself in his own world. But there's nothing this man cares about more than winning. And he's already finding ways to drive the people around him to win again. You'll never hear him talking about "defending" this title, for instance -- because "if you're defending it, you're always on defense. And that's not us. We're trying to WIN." What you WILL hear him talking about is trying to do something special. And winning once? That doesn't qualify.
" -- Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer
Personally, I don't feel like we're holding onto anything. We realize where we are and what we've accomplished. But I think we've kind of let that go.
|Jimmy Rollins doesn't want the Phillies to be one-year wonders.|