Know Your Enemy: Philadelphia Phillies

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Let's get one thing out of the way first, before we talk about this team.




All right. That's enough, I hope. Ryne Sandberg enters his first full season as Phillies manager having posted a 20-22 record after he replaced Charlie Manuel late last year. That record means virtually nothing, as the Phillies were decimated by injuries and poor performance in 2013.

What do they have that could make things better for them in 2014? Well, the Phillies have a couple of players who are just about old enough to have been one of Ryno's teammates in his last playing season, 17 years ago. (Seriously. New Phillies righthander A.J. Burnett only missed that cutoff by two years -- Sandberg retired after 1997, Burnett's major-league debut was in 1999.)

Of their eight expected regular players, four of them (Byrd, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz) are either 35 or older, or will turn 35 this year. That goes for two of their five starters (Burnett and Cliff Lee), and their closer, Jonathan Papelbon, is getting up there, too (32, turns 33 in December).

This would all be fine if the Phillies were in win-now mode, which they appear to be in, only it's not that easy to get from 102 wins to 81 to 73 to "win now," which is the progression of Phillies wins over the last three seasons. Their only significant additions this offseason were Burnett and Byrd, both over 35. Hey, maybe it'll work and maybe those two guys still have some youth in them -- Byrd had his best-ever major-league season in 2013, but he'll be 37 in August, and players getting to that age can go south real, real fast.

They're bringing Bobby Abreu into camp, too, on a NRI -- he didn't play at all last year and will turn 40 in about two weeks. The Phillies' non-roster list also includes a large number of former Cubs -- Shawn Camp, Andres Blanco, Ronny Cedeno and Dave Sappelt.

Hey, along with Byrd, Ryno's bench coach Larry Bowa and hitting coach Steve Henderson, they can all swap stories of what it was like to play in Wrigley Field. Or something like that, because I don't expect the Phillies to be very good this year.

The Phillies will be in Wrigley Field for the Cubs' home-opening weekend, April 4-5-6, and the Cubs visit Philadelphia June 13, 14 and 15.

For more on the Phillies, please visit The Good Phight.

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