A Familiar Ring

It's like going to see a "new" movie with a Christmas theme. It's a remake, but it's not. The plot is the same, only the actors have been changed. I look at the 2004 Phillies and I can't help but thinking, "Haven't I seen this team somewhere before?" To borrow from that wise sage Lawrence Peter Berra—it's Déjà vu all over again.

The pending arbitration with Kevin Millwood means that the 2004 Philadelphia Phillies will boast a starting rotation that goes five deep, a left-handed closer that throws high heat, and a solid (if unspectacular) starting eight. That starting eight just happens to be led by a first baseman that represents the working-class values of the citizenry and a centerfielder that isn't afraid to sacrifice his body to make the play. Is any of this sounding familiar? If I didn't know any better, I'd swear it was 1993.

C'mon people—I'm not the only one am I? Can't you see it too? In 2004, the part of the affable country bumpkin will be played by Millwood, not Tommy Greene. The hard-throwing, outspoken, right-hander formerly played by that diva Curt Schilling, will now be played by understudy Brett Myers. (I know that most of you were hoping Curt would reprise his role, but alas he has taken his shtick to off-off-off-off Broadway.)

The steady, veteran left-handed role once played by Terry Mulholland will instead be played by Randy Wolf. The coveted role of left-handed wildcard, returning from obscurity, will be played by Eric Milton instead of Danny Jackson. The big, bullish, Latin-American role now anchored by Vicente Padilla was once briefly held by Ben Rivera.

The veteran right-handed set-up man? No, not Larry Anderson, but Tim Worrell. Wild Thing? Okay, so Billy Wagner is no Mitch Williams, I'll grant you that; but if you squint hard enough from Ashburn Alley in the ninth inning you will likely see a lefthander bringing the ball so hard that you will swear the catcher has no chance of catching it. Of course, in Mitchy-poo's case the ball may have been uncatchable because it was sailing to the backstop. Still the point is the same: you don't have to try very hard to make comparisons between this team and the beloved 1993 version of the Fightin's.

Sure, Jim Thome hits the ball twice as far as the Krukker did and he probably won't bail quite as much on a Randy Johnson delivery. But the two men share the love of the Philadelphia faithful for their down-to-earth, "everyman" mentality. Maybe, just maybe, we'll even hear Jim utter those infamous words "I ain't no athlete, I'm a ballplayer." Wouldn't that be great!

Marlon Byrd lays out to catch drives in center just like Lenny Dykstra used to, and our right-fielder certainly handles the bat like Jim Eisenreich, but maybe that's where the comparisons end. And I know what you're thinking: Mike Lieberthal doesn't compare to Dutch Daulton in terms of leadership. That may be true, but listen--we do have some guy named Todd Pratt to play the roll of…well…Todd Pratt.

This version even has a leftfielder who swings for the fences on every pitch just like Incaviglia did. Chase Utley and Placido Polanco will perhaps reprise the productive platoon of Morandini and Duncan. Our third bagger is still named David (and while I'm at it has anyone bothered to measure Bell's cranial size?) Let's just hope and pray that Jimmy Rollins 2004 season is more along the lines of Kevin Stocker and nowhere near that of Juan Bell.

I couldn't be more excited about this season if God himself granted special permission for Richie Ashburn to throw out the first pitch. As the old saying goes, "Hope springs eternal." For Phillies long-suffering fans, it could just as easily be rewritten to say "Spring brings eternal hope." We've got a new season and a new ballpark, but a throwback team with a familiar ring. Make your reservations for October now because, unlike 1993, I think that ring has "World Champions" engraved on it.

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