The oldest question in sports-talk radio – at least in this town – is, “Which team wins the next title?” Indeed, there have been times when I’ve believed in each of our four pro franchises.
In case you lost count, Denver’s win in Super Bowl 50 last night marks 29 Philadelphia sports seasons since the Phillies won the 2008 World Series. And that glorious championship stands alone among the last 128 seasons of the Phils, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers. You can be 40 years old in this city and remember only one champagne-soaked locker room.
But enough basking in the misery. Let’s move forward. Who pulls us out of this slog through hell? Which team ends the Kafkaesque nightmare?
The toughest franchise to make the case for now is the Eagles. Yes, the Panthers showed how a team can start a season at 3-8-1 and reach the Super Bowl the very next year, but Carolina has Cam Newton at QB and the Eagles have . . . who knows? I’m also wary of the current front office consisting of Howie Roseman, rookie head coach Doug Pederson and lots of vacant offices. So the Eagles are out.
Sixers die-hards continue to believe in “The Process.” But a team now in its fifth straight year of declining victories isn’t going to turn the corner at 90 mph. The Flyers? GM Ron Hextall is pushing them in a new, exciting direction. Goalie Steve Mason, however, has never won a playoff round in his eight-year career. How can I predict him to win four in one spring?
Which leaves us with the team that lost more games last season (99) than any team in the Majors. Yes, it says here that the Phils stand the best chance to host our next parade. It just won’t roll down Broad Street anytime soon.
Last week, MLB.com placed seven Phillies among baseball’s top 100 prospects – more than any other team. Shortstop J.P. Crawford – the can’t-miss 21-year-old – ranked fifth. He could be up later this season. Three prospects obtained for Cole Hamels also landed on the list.
That doesn’t include Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff, who could both earn their way to the top of the rotation. It doesn’t include Maikel Franco, who’s got 30-HR, 100-RBI and Gold Glove potential. And it doesn’t include Odubel Herrera, who hit .297 as a Rule 5 rookie last season, while learning centerfield on the fly.
When these kids are ready, ownership will have the money and impetus to supplement the core with free-agent signings.
Hey, I know that prospect failure rates in baseball approach 50 percent. Any of these guys could turn into the next Domonic Brown.
But in a city where no team made the playoffs last year and none will likely do so this year, the next generation of Phillies represents hope. And hope is all that we have right now.
Pitchers and catchers report Feb. 17. It’s the beginning – and not just for this year.