The Philadelphia Phillies must transform their roster and then hope that numerous National League opponents fall back next season. If both factors fall into place then they will be a 2014 playoff contender. Is that a realistic hope?
Philadelphia's baseball team (73-89) only finished ahead of the Chicago Cubs (66-96) and the Miami Marlins (62-100) Triple-A squad, which is also known as their major league team, this season. Who knows where the Houston Astros (51-111) Double-A squad, also known as their major league team, would have finished if it had remained in the NL. But, the American League happily embraced that transferred 'competition'.
Now the Phillies haven't lost a combined 324 games (yes, that's incredible) during the past three season like the Astros have. But, it's easy to blame Ruben Amaro, Jr. for the Phillies' five-year decline.
Clearly there have been a series of misguided moves and poor money choices. However, it surely appears that a collective corporate brain trust was imposed when Pat Gillick moved into his emeritus office in the fall of 2008.
The coaching staff began its metamorphosis last fall. It continued after the All-Star break when Ryne Sandberg replaced Charlie Manuel in the dugout.
However, the roster is thin at the major and upper minor league levels. The free agent market seems tight and trade possibilities are always unknown.
Even the most optimistic diamond mind could only reasonably project a .500 red pinstriped team next season, with 2015 as the potential 'comeback' playoff year. There are just too many good National League teams to catch, or surpass, in 2014.
Yes, everything and anything are both possible. But, hope and reality often diverge when pure emotion is countered by calm analysis.