Opening Day is almost here, and yes, even Phillies fans should be excited.
After a long, dreary, snowy, icy cold winter, baseball has returned. The fake games are over, the battles for roster spots are done, and the team gets ready to face the Boston Red Sox on Monday at 3:05pm ET to start their 2015 season for real.
On Sunday, the team released their official 25-man roster, and while on the surface it may be a bit depressing, keep in mind that these are baseball players who will be playing baseball on a baseball diamond at a baseball park, where there is green grass and brown dirt and fences and everything.
I'm trying to keep you guys motivated here.
Here's the #Phillies 2015 #OpeningDay roster: pic.twitter.com/mZuX5snjsa— Phillies (@Phillies) April 5, 2015
The 2011 roster, this is not. Just four seasons after winning 102 games, the most in baseball, the Phils enter the 2015 season with perhaps the worst Opening Day roster in Major League Baseball.
Sure, the Arizona Diamondbacks may bristle at being left out of this conversation, but as you can see, the lack of star power above is glaringly evident.
Chad Billingsley, Mario Hollands, Jonathan Pettibone and Domonic Brown start the season on the 15-day disabled list. Reliever Dustin McGowan, who just signed with the team on Saturday night, joins a bullpen that still features closer Jonathan Papelbon (for how much longer no one knows), a might-be-injured Ken Giles (not thrilled with the fastball velocity being down 2-3 ticks), Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus, Luis Garcia, Cesar Jimenez and Jeanmar Gomez.
That is the strength of the roster. As for the weakest area, there are multiple contenders.
First, the rotation. Cole Hamels is an ace and gives the Phillies a chance to win every single time out. But he may not be long for this place. After him is a veritable who's who of either declining veterans trying to patch it together for one more season, or less-than-exciting arms who, at the very best, could eat some innings.
Aaron Harang slides in as the No. 2 starter, with David Buchanan the No. 3 and Jerome Williams the No. 4. The team doesn't need a No. 5 starter for a while, so that extra arm will be relegated to the bullpen for now.
The outfield is also a problem. Ben Revere, who is suddenly on the trading block, opens as the team's left fielder. Rule 5 pick Odubel Herrera is a Revere-clone tapped to start in center. Grady Sizemore will likely open the season in right, with veteran Jeff Francoeur, who has made it back to the Majors after a bout with depression, likely platooning with Sizemore.
That is a group that might struggle to approach 20 home runs collectively this year.
As for the infield, there are a bunch of familiar names. Ryan Howard is still here, still slugging under .400 (at least this spring he did), along with 10-5 man Chase Utley, still the team's best player. Freddy Galvis had a good spring and will be the replacement for Jimmy Rollins at shortstop, with Cody Asche starting his second full season as the team's third baseman.
Andres Blanco and Cesar Hernandez open as the reserve middle infielders, and Darin Ruf made the team, listed by the club as an infielder, but could also play some outfield as well. Carlos Ruiz once again opens the season as the team's primary catcher, with newcomer Cameron Rupp the back-up this year.
Guys, I'm not going to lie to you. It could be very ugly this year.
But you know this. You know this is a team in transition, and you know that Hamels and Papelbon could both be gone sooner rather than later. You know the team is itching to trade Howard, and you know it's possible Utley could, at some point, decide he'll waive his 10-5 rights in order to play for a winner one more time.
But even if you are a bit depressed by this roster, just remember... it's baseball.
Baseball is back. And "bad" baseball is better than almost anything else that might be considered "good."