I didn't really do a preseason expectation post about the Phils because this season has an expectation I haven't harbored about the Phillies since I was a kid: on paper, the Phillies are the team to beat in their division. I didn't think that in 1993 -- hell, no one thought that in 1993 -- but I have proof via the Rutgers-Camden student newspaper that I thought that the Phillies that year could exceed everyone's expectations, including my own. I didn't think it last year after the Millwood, Thome and Bell pickups because I wasn't convinced the Braves were down and out just yet.
The only time I really got my hopes up since the 1993 season was at the end of May, 2001, when they 34-18 and 8 games above the Braves in the standings. (Although, I think I hid my enthusiasm rather well in a comment I made on Baseball Primer on May 21 of that year.) Of course, I was given a rude reminder about what happens when you start expecting a lot from this team.
But this year has to be the year.
The Braves continued to hemorrhage talent and the Marlins, who only made the playoffs last year thanks to the fact that the Phils bullpen lost 14 games where they were tied or leading going into the ninth, experienced a downgrade as well. In contrast, the Phillies shored up their bullpen and improved their rotation by subtracting Duckworth and adding Milton.
There's no doubt the Phillies by all rights should win the division this year. Easily. I didn't really need additional proof, but the projection systems used by Baseball Prospectus and Diamond Mind show that the Phillies are the team to beat in the National League. The whole National League, not just the East.
I don't know if I can handle these expectations. I've never had them before.
We'll see what happens. Deep down, I still have this nagging feeling that Mt. Bowa will eventually be the ruin of this team. Hopefully, either he will remain at a low simmer or the Phillies have enough talent to overcome the damage he will inevitably do to this team.