Current Phils A Close Copy of 1980 World Champions

A lot has changed since the 1980 Phillies started their run toward a World Championship. While there is no replacing the 1980 team in the hearts of Phillies fans, the 2004 version draws many comparisons to that group of heroes that paraded down Broad Street almost 24 years ago. Will all of the pieces fit together to make the Phillies of 2004 as strong as the Phillies of 1980?

I'm mixing the Kool-Aid as I speak; I'm buying in to whatever is going on with Philadelphia sports these days, and it brings to mind the magical year of 1980. You remember, don't you? The Flyers & Sixers both went to the league finals, the Eagles made their Super Bowl run, and, of course, the Phillies won the World Series. This year feels like 1980 all over again; the Flyers are doing extremely well, and St. Joe's, the number 1 team in the NCAA basketball poll, has replaced the Sixers. The Eagles are gearing up for another run at the Lombardi trophy, and the Phillies are as well-stocked as in any recent year. Since this is a Phillies column, I'm going to compare the 1980 team with this year's edition.

Let's begin in the dugout; in 1980, the Phils were led by a fiery former player in Dallas Green. He went through the 142-game dream of 1964, only to have it fall apart in the last 2 weeks. The 2004 bunch is also led by a fiery former player in Larry Bowa, who went through the 162 game heart-stopper in 1980, but it ended much better.

Both teams had a slugger from Ohio bolstering the middle of the order; Mike Schmidt, of course, for the 1980 squad in an MVP year. Jim Thome fills that slot nicely in 2004; do we dare think of an MVP season from him?

The pitching staff in 1980 went 5 deep: Steve Carlton, Dick Ruthven, Larry Christenson, Bob Walk, and Marty Bystrom. The 2004 club also goes 5 deep, but (in my opinion) much more talented overall, with Kevin Millwood, Randy Wolf, Vincente Padilla, Eric Milton, and Brett Myers. Bystrom was the uber-rookie in September 1980; do we see Ryan Madson or Cole Hamels performing that same feat again this year?

The bullpen 24 years ago was bolstered by a lefty, the late, great (how odd to write that), Tug McGraw. He was set up by 38 year-old right-hander Ron Reed. This year, the bullpen is also anchored by a lefty, Billy Wagner, who will be set up by a 36 year-old righty, Tim Worrell. Coincidence?

The rock behind the plate in 1980 was Bob Boone, who turned out to be one of the greatest defensive catchers ever. Mike Lieberthal mans the plate this year, and although defensively he falls in line behind Boone, his bat more than makes up for that. Also, Boone is back in the organization this year, as a special assignment scout.

The bench back then included such steady performers as Del Unser, Greg Gross, and Keith Moreland, all of whom could come up with the clutch hit when necessary. This year's Phillies have in reserve guys like Tomas Perez (always better off the bench than in the lineup), Jason Michaels, and Shawn Wooten, who have all shown a propensity for timely hitting.

There was a fast shortstop with a great glove on the '80 team, Bowa; Larry as the manager now has a speedy shortstop with a good glove in Jimmy Rollins. Manny Trillo, a solid performer, was Bowa's double-play partner; Rollins has the always-reliable Placido Polanco on his left.

Dallas Green had an outfield with a power-hitting left fielder (Greg Luzinski), a galloping centerfielder with great range (Garry Maddox), and a smooth, fast right fielder with some pop (Bake McBride). Larry Bowa has a power-hitting left fielder (Pat Burrell), a quick centerfielder with good range (Marlon Byrd), and a smooth, fast right fielder with lots of pop (Bobby Abreu).

The only thing lacking on this year's squad compared to the one in 1980 is the veteran leader, one who has been through the pennant chase and has picked up a few rings; one who can show the others the way to the promised land. That spot was held in 1980 by Pete Rose. The only one on the 2004 team who comes close to that is Millwood, who went through the many playoff runs with Atlanta, but never picked up the hardware. David Bell and Worrell went to the Series in 2002 with the Giants, and Wooten rode the bench the same year with the Angels when they won it, but Rose actually took home 2 rings, and went to 3 World Series in 6 years. Thome also played in the 1995 and 1997 Fall Classics, but to no avail. This group will need to channel these experiences to the guys who haven't been there, to try and put that last piece into the championship puzzle.

OK, the Kool-Aid is mixed; the pieces are in place for a year to rival 1980. Take a sip, why don't you? What's the worst that could happen, 1979?

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