The Philadelphia Phillies were ranked among the best teams in Major League Baseball for a number of seasons. After last year's .500 finish they now stand in the middle of the diamond pack, which is why this spring training matters this season.
The Phillies' goal is to get back into the playoffs this year. Whether that happens via a Wild Card berth is beside the point.
The future can unfold in a variety of ways after a team has missed the postseason dance. Moving up would mean that tickets could be punched for this fall's action. Standing still would certainly create a variety of chain reactions by the trade deadline. However, if a backslide is seen in early spring, changes within the managerial ranks will be heard in many fans' screams.
Injuries were rightly cited as an explanation for 2012s' debacle. However, the age and rigidity of the roster were clearly tied to the limitations that collective squad endured.
Charlie Manuel and his staff are currently attempting to mix a new offensive potion. Hopefully the flexible lineup drink will be potent as the schedule plays out.
While the pitching staff appears to be deep, both on the starter's hill and in the bullpen, no team can win consistently by always playing from behind.