March 14, 2015
Wins equal fans, and that works the other way too. As the team's performance has fallen off in recent years, fewer and fewer people have made their way out to Citizen's Bank Park for the games. The Phillies went from leading the league in attendance in 2011 to 16th in the league, filling only about 70 percent of the ballpark per game in 2014.
While the on field product may not be great this year, baseball games can usually be fun for the casual fan with what goes on besides the action (aka t-shirt tosses, kiss cams). However fans have seen the same recycled SEPTA bus race and "guess which tub of turkey hill ice cream the baseball is under" promotions game after game the past few seasons. It's easy to get complacent when you have the best mascot in sports, but it would help if the in-game experience was spiced up a bit this year. Can you imagine the Phanatic fighting a live bear on top of the visitor's dugout?
The Phillies are old. There are, however, a couple of nice prospects down on the farm to keep an eye on this year. J.P. Crawford could very well be the heir to Jimmy Rollins. Last year's top draft pick Aaron Nola could be a part of the rotation faster than expected, and Maikel Franco showed some promise at the end of last season after a rough start.
While the few players that have a bright future in the organization probably won't be on the opening day roster, there's always September call-ups, and it will give fans some hope tracking the progress of the few potential stars. Hopefully, they'll start growing up before our very eyes, making big league adjustments and essentially interviewing for their spot on the team. Approach your optimism with caution, however, as interviews don't always go as planned.
Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley have been turning double plays together for almost 10 years. Rollins was traded to the Dodgers back in December, and now it looks as though Freddy Galvis, who has only played 41 games at the position in the majors, will take over. Galvis, as noted by Ethan Witte over at Fansided, has actually been pretty good with the glove while playing shortstop.
But that's a small sample size, and luckily Utley has been in the game long enough that he can be a source of experience as Galvis assumes the starting role. Can the mild-mannered old guy reign in the fiery newcomer for the Phillies infield? With Galvis taking on a larger workload than he ever has before in his career, it'll be Chase's job to guide the young shortstop and help him put his big boy pants on.
There's been plenty of talk about moving former NL MVP Ryan Howard, but his bloated contract has made that difficult. His production has tapered off significantly in recent years, and in many ways the first baseman is a shell of his former self.
However Howard reportedly showed up to spring training thinner, quicker, and equipped with a new approach at the plate. While it's hard to imagine him having another 50 home run season again, it would be nice to see him become a productive player again. Howard has impressed early on in spring training games, and it looks like he may be tackling the proverbial cougar for a positive 2015.