It can be hard to judge a team that's out of the pennant race. But, Philadelphia Phillies' fans are hopeful that some of the positive sounds that have been heard late this season resound again next spring.
Ryne Sandberg's departure from the organization was infamous. His return three autumns ago was unexpected.
'Ryno' has demonstrated a crafty National League in-game style, is clearly open to experimentation with multiple moving roster parts and wants his interim tag removed. Unless a surprise is in the offing, he'll be in the dugout for awhile.
It's hard not to be encouraged by the on-field and at-the-plate antics of Cody Asche. This gamer has that retro Phillies' rookie look, meaning early 1970s, or early- to mid- 2000s. The organization can find room for this hot corner man and scorching prospect Maikel Franco if it wants to.
Darin Ruf hit home runs like he was Babe Ruth last season, thus the apt nickname 'Babe Ruf' was applied to him by his Double-A teammates. This season he's been hitting major league home runs at a steady pace and has been on base (.352 OBP) more than any of his teammates since his Lehigh Valley recall.
Among other areas of encouragement: Chase Utley's knees made it through the summer season. Carlos Ruiz seems to be doing well without Adderall. Cole Hamels found his grove and some of the young bullpen arms that support him are showing signs of maturity.
Every baseball person knows this team can't be projected as a 2014 playoff contender just yet. But, the Phillies might not be years away from feeling October's air once more.