Phillies Future Shows Reasons To Be Thankful

It's the middle of November, and that means Thanksgiving Day is fast approaching. Thanksgiving brings together family, football, and turkey dinner. So with another Phillies season behind us, let's go over what Phillies fans have to be thankful for in the 2003 season.

Thanks to Jim Thome for a spectacular season; that is why he was brought to Philadelphia. 47 homers, great team leadership, and a professional attitude bodes well for seasons to come. He may strike out a lot, but we haven't seen a player of his magnitude since the days of Schmidt, Carlton, and Rose. Thome seems to be adapting well to Philadelphia, too.

Thanks to Marlon Byrd, for a solid rookie season. His season got off slowly, and by May he was days away from being shipped back to Scranton, but he kept plugging away. After being inserted in the leadoff spot, Marlon displayed the talent that had the experts raving this past off-season. Now, if he can stay away from the "sophomore jinx", he can add his name to the list of great Phillies centerfielders like Ashburn, Maddox, and Dykstra.

Thanks to Mike Lieberthal, for his stalwart play both at the plate and behind it. It was only a few years ago that we were in doubt as to whether or not Mike would be able to recover from the serious knee injury he suffered in 2000. He worked hard, and showed everyone that yes, he was recovered, and no, there were no lingering effects. 2004 could be the year that Lieby puts himself with the cream of the Major League's catching crop.

Thanks to Rheal Cormier, for resurrecting an almost-dead career, and stabilizing an unstable bullpen. No one would have guessed, before 2003 began, that he would end up as the Phils best relief pitcher. Some even thought he wouldn't go north with the club at the end of March. But he was steady and effective the whole season, and eventually inherited the role of closer by default, after Jose Mesa and Mike Williams both melted down in August and September. He'll be back next year to set up Billy Wagner; Mesa and Williams won't.

Thanks to Ed Wade, for getting 2004 off to a rousing start by dealing for Astros closer Wagner. Wade saw the error of his ways by not getting a closer last winter, instead relying on the erratic Mesa. The five games the Phils ended up behind the eventual champion Marlins in the wild-card race can be directly attributed to the failures of Mesa and Mike Williams. Wagner should see to it that the blown saves are reduced drastically in 2004.

Thanks to the Phillies marketing staff, for making the final season at Veterans Stadium one to remember. We had our share of great, nostalgic promotional dates, fond memories, and a final tribute that "Tugged" at the heart strings of all in attendance that day. The place may have been a pit, but the Phillies treated the Vet with a reverence reserved for such hallowed parks as Ebbets Field and Tiger Stadium.

And thanks to the Phillies team as a whole, for staying in the division race, and later, the wild card race all season until the final week. Sure, we were disappointed in their play in September. You can't let non-contenders like Pittsburgh and Cincinnati take 2-of-3 from you in the midst of a playoff run, and you especially can't let it happen at home. But for 25 weeks of the season, we were enthralled, and we haven't felt like that too much since 1993. Everyone is hoping for great things in 2004, with the excitement of a new stadium, a second year from Thome, and the addition of Wagner.

Next month, Christmas will be close, and I'll have the shopping list that all Phillies fans should be sending to "Wade-a Claus".

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