It’s easy to see how improved the Phillies are. After the first three games of the season in which they bludgeoned the Atlanta Braves by a combined score of 23-11, it’s clear this lineup is loaded with talent. It is deep, takes a ton of pitches and hits a bunch of dingers.
There is no bottom of the lineup. From 1-8, there is not a single easy out anywhere. This group could go down as the best offense in team history, however, this Phillies team has just three games under its belt, and it would be unfair and unwise to make any bold declarations like that just yet.
But it’s clear there is a different vibe around the 2019 Phils. They know they’re good and they know they’re talented. They also appear to have something that is difficult to quantify.
This baseball team appears to have a ton of chemistry.
Of course, chemistry is a nebulous thing. Had the Phils offense not gotten off to a hot start, had much of the lineup stumbled and struggled this weekend, we likely wouldn’t be talking about team chemistry. Instead of talking about how the front office spent a ton of money to bring in talented and experienced ballplayers, we’d be talking about how the front office spent a ton of money on a bunch of players who had a really bad weekend.
It’s uncertain whether chemistry is a byproduct of winning or if teams get off to fast starts in part because of chemistry. Either way, you know it when you see it.
The 1993 team got off to a hot start and much of the credit was given to their team chemistry, and the same thing appears to be happening here in the very early stages of 2019. And there’s another example, outside of baseball, in which another Philadelphia sports team, displayed incredible team chemistry early in their season, a season that ultimately ended up with them winning a title.
The 2017 Philadelphia Eagles.
After each of his home runs this weekend, Harper celebrated in animated and hilarious fashion, conducting coordinated celebrations with many of his teammates outside the dugout.
He’s got special handshakes for every teammate — Rhys Hoskins, Maikel Franco, Andrew McCutchen — it looks like these guys have played together for years. After his grand slam on Opening Day, Hoskins did the same thing.
Rhys Hoskins with another grand slam opportunity after Bryce Harper is walked pic.twitter.com/8kZBzFAWRg— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) April 1, 2019
After each of their three wins this season, the outfielders conducted a choreographed skit, of sorts.
Remind you of anything?
But celebrations and enjoying successes are not the only ways team chemistry can manifest itself. After Hoskins’ was hit by a pitch on Sunday night following Harper’s second homer (and the subsequent celebrations), Hoskins was clearly miffed.
And when asked about it after the game, he didn’t mince words.
Rhys Hoskins was asked about the pitches to his chin, possibly in retaliation for team celebrating home runs:” Don’t give up the homer then.”— Jon Johnson (@jonjohnsonwip) April 1, 2019
I severely underestimated the culture change with the additions this offseason with the combo of Harper and McCutchen being more than the individual parts. But more than the additions you can see in quotes from the returning guys, the team spending money improved morale https://t.co/v5FDYMbOku— Matt Winkelman (@Matt_Winkelman) April 1, 2019
General manager Matt Klentak went out of his way to bring good people into the clubhouse in the hopes of reversing the types of things that happened at the end of last season, a.k.a., the “Carlos Santana TV-smashing incident.” They spent lots of money to do it. They spent a little extra on McCutchen then they probably needed to, they traded for an established vet in Segura and a team leader in J.T. Realmuto and in Harper, inked a generational star who has taken much of the pressure off everybody.
As a result, the entire team seems like they’re playing looser. That isn’t a coincidence.
Before the ‘17 season, the Eagles added important veterans like LeGarrette Blount, Torrey Smith, and Chris Long, among others, to further enhance what was already a terrific locker room full of leaders and good people.
Folks, this is a different Phillies team than any we have seen in a long time. While the 2007-2011 run was lots of fun (winning a championship is, after all, a blast!), the last two years of that run felt like a serious business. There were fun moments, but it felt like a slog at times as the team tried to get back to the Fall Classic, but failed.
One major takeaway from this weekend was that this is going to be a fun baseball team. The celebrations are a blast, and the intensity level has upped itself considerably. Whether these things ultimately leads to a championship like the one the 2017 Eagles experienced is, of course, far too premature to predict.
But the similarities are real.
On Episode 273 of “Hittin’ Season,” Justin Klugh, Liz Roscher and I discussed this and a whole lot more concerning the Phillies’ opening weekend destruction of the defending NL East champs. Check it out, and be sure to subscribe, rate and review on Apple Podcasts or on Spotify!