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Next year starts now for Phillies

Next year starts now for Phillies
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Philadelphia Phillies are built to be more than a one-year wonder.

Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge aren't going anywhere. Neither are Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. With the team's nucleus expected back next year, the Phillies have a chance to be the first repeat World Series champions since the New York Yankees won three in a row from 1998-2000.

"Thanks for your support! And let's do it again!" general manager Pat Gillick screamed out to the delirious fans Wednesday night, moments after the Phillies beat the Tampa Bays Rays to capture the second championship in the franchise's 126-year history.

The 71-year-old Gillick probably got caught up in the euphoria of the wild celebration when he said 'again.' After all, he plans to retire when his three-year contract expires Friday. That doesn't mean the Phillies can't do it without him.

Surely, repeating won't be easy. Only the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays (1992-93) have won consecutive titles in the last 30 years.

But these Phillies are young, talented in many areas and possess the intangibles - team chemistry and resilience - needed to maintain success.

Left fielder Pat Burrell and soon-to-be 46-year-old pitcher Jamie Moyer are the only significant players that will become free agents. Burrell, who hit .250 with 33 homers and 86 RBIs in the regular season, wants to return. So does Moyer, who had a team-best 16 wins.

Burrell, 32, made $14 million this season, and he'll probably get a more lucrative offer from another team. He started well, tailed off in the second half and struggled in the World Series after a strong NLCS.

If Burrell played his last game with the Phillies, his last at-bat was a memorable one. He broke an 0-for-13 skid in the Series with a leadoff double in the eighth inning of Game 5. Pinch runner Eric Bruntlett scored the go-ahead run on Pedro Feliz's single, and Lidge preserved the 4-3 victory for his 48th save in 48 tries this year.

"It's not really in my hands," Burrell said of his future with the team he's spent his entire nine-year career. "It's up to them."

Moyer had a remarkable season and came back with a solid outing in Game 3 of the Series following two subpar performances in the first two rounds. He walked off the field amid the chaos Wednesday night with the pitching rubber after digging it up with a shovel.

That looked like a guy who may be ready to call it quits.

"Heck, no," Moyer said afterward.

Moyer, who made $5.5 million this season, could get a better offer somewhere else. But he'd rather close out his career with his hometown team. Moyer grew up in the area, skipped school to attend the Phillies' 1980 championship parade and will be part of it Friday.

"It's not easy in Philadelphia," he said. "But when you win, it makes it that much sweeter."

The Phillies have five other players who will be free agents. Only two - lefty reliever Scott Eyre and reserve outfielder So Taguchi - made the postseason roster.

There are 10 players who will be eligible for arbitration, and many of them will get huge raises. Howard ($10 million), Hamels ($500,000), center fielder Shane Victorino ($480,000), right fielder Jayson Werth ($1.7 million), starter Joe Blanton ($3.7 million) and relievers Ryan Madson ($1.4 million) and Chad Durbin ($900,000) should make a lot more money next year.

The Phillies' payroll on opening day was a franchise-record $104.5 million. Keeping it close to that total for '09 will be a challenging task for the new GM. Current assistant Ruben Amaro Jr. is the leading candidate to replace Gillick.

It was fitting the Phillies finally won it all in a strange and wacky World Series. One game started after 10 p.m. and the clincher was delayed 46 hours by rain. And, those games were the ones in Philly. The first two were played in Tampa Bay's quirky, domed stadium with all the catwalks and goofy ground rules.

This soggy Series was a microcosm of the Phillies' season. Philadelphia got contributions from almost everyone to beat the Rays in five games. Utley had two big homers, but batted .167. Rollins hit just .227 and Burrell .071.

Catcher Carlos Ruiz (.375) and Feliz (.333) were among the unlikely heroes. Geoff Jenkins got his first hit of the postseason, a double that led to the go-ahead run in the sixth inning of Game 5. Werth offset some baserunning blunders by hitting .444. Even Blanton chipped in with a homer and a strong pitching effort in Game 4.

"We're losers no more," said Howard, who had three homers in the Series. "The organization, we're winners. Nobody can take that away from the city of Philadelphia, and nobody can take that away from us."

From the day pitchers and catchers reported to spring training on Feb. 14, everyone made it clear the goal was to win the World Series. Just making the playoffs wasn't going to cut it, not after getting a taste of it last season.

The Phillies overcame a seven-game deficit with 17 remaining and surpassed the New York Mets on the final day to capture their first NL East title in 14 years in 2007. Then, they promptly got swept by the Colorado Rockies in the first round.

Players set the tone early for '08. They walked around the clubhouse on the first day in Clearwater, Fla., wearing red T-shirts that said on the back, "Winning Starts Now."

It didn't come easy. It never does in this city.

The Phillies battled the Mets and Florida Marlins throughout the season, saving their best for when it mattered most.

They were 3 1/2 games behind the Mets with 16 to play, but won 12 of the next 15 to clinch their second straight division title on the next-to-last day of the regular season.

The celebration wasn't too crazy after the Phillies secured a playoff spot. Everyone emphasized the goal was to get a ring. They partied after beating Milwaukee in the first round and Los Angeles in the NLCS, but stayed focused on their mission.

Here they are now, champions at last.

Now, can they do it again?

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: October 30, 2008

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