Phillies Thinking "World Series or Bust" in 2011

Written By Bob Cunningham On Monday, February 14, 2011
Signing Cliff Lee to a record-making contract definitely shows a commitment to winning the whole thing once again in 2011, but it's the move of keeping Joe Blanton that really tells the story of the team's mindset heading into the upcoming season.

With Lee in the rotation along with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, there is no need to keep a fifth starter who is making $17 million over the next two seasons -- especially when the Phils have guys like Kyle Kendrick and Vance Worley making a fraction of that.

Granted, both guys aren't quite on the level of Blanton, but how much would it really matter with those four pitchers ahead of them?

It apparently matters enough to the Phillies management that they're not willing to risk Kendrick or Worley potentially costing them a much-needed win down the stretch just to save some money.

They're telling the fans and the rest of the league that they're going for the whole thing in 2011 and will be looking for their second World Series title in four years.

Keeping Blanton as the fifth-day starter gives the Phils the league's best rotation without dispute. It also allows them to bolster their bullpen by tossing Kendrick in there as a long-relief guy and someone who can make a few starts should the situation call for it.

In addition, it gives them great flexibility in what they want to do with Worley. It's unlikely they'd want to keep him in the bullpen, so they can send him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, let him get some starts, and bring him up to take Kendrick's place in the bullpen should he be called upon to make a start or two.

Then there's the situation with Charlie Manuel's contract.

The Phillies skipper is entering the final year of his deal in 2011, and management has yet to offer an extension as of the start of Spring Training. There are few who really believe the team will allow Manuel to walk at the end of this year, but perhaps it's just another way of telling the team that the only acceptable outcome of this year is another World Series title.

Being in a contract year will force Manuel to make the tough decisions when they need to be made, will force him to take risks, and will have the players on their toes all year long -- not just in late July or early August when they realize someone in the NL East is actually closing in on them.

Barring injury, the only weakness on this team is the lack of a right-handed power hitter. But the team is so strong in every other area that it won't qualify as an excuse for falling short once again.

It might not be fair to expect a World Series title every season, but should the Phils end this season without the hardware, I would not be surprised to see sweeping changes made across the board. The guys at the top have made their goals very apparent, and failure to achieve them could mean the disappearance of some very familiar faces before 2012.

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