By Justin Adkins:
Yeah, the thrill still hasn’t worn off. Just saying the name brings back that incredible feeling from the night of December 13, 2010, when “no way they’re signing Cliff Lee” morphed into “HOLY SHIT THEY’RE SIGNING CLIFF LEE”, and an entire fanbase went out of their collective minds.
It’s really true. The Phillies signed Cliff Lee.
Oh yeah, they also still have a guy named Halladay. And Oswalt. And Hamels. Not too shabby.
The Four Horsemen. R2C2. The Phab Phour. Phour Loko. Fantastic Phour. Fearsome Foursome. Call them what you want, but there’s one thing they’re definitely being referred to by upcoming Phillies opponents — scary. That four-headed monster has Mets fans feeling even worse about their team’s prospects for this season, which is remarkable in itself considering it can’t get much worse for them. And 180 degrees away from that giggle-inducing misery are Phillies fans, who are more excited for the 2011 baseball season than when your prom date said it’s a sure thing.
Sunday night, pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater to begin Spring Training, with workouts starting the next day. It will be our first glimpse of the Horsemen in action, an event that will do what seems impossible — charge fans with even more unbridled enthusiasm for a season that could be historic. Strange ground to tread indeed for previously long-suffering Phillies fans.
The crowning achievement for this era of Phillies baseball has already been made reality with the 2008 club winning the franchise’s second World Series title. While that specific team will forever don the cloak of immortality due to their accomplishment, winning a championship has only whet the appetite of the diehards who know the team needs to take advantage of this ever-shrinking window of greatness. We want more. And it’s certainly a possibility to happen thanks to the unheard of rotation assembled by Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr.
But the love affair with the formidable foursome goes beyond pure talent. Cliff Lee took less money to come back to Philly because he and his family loved it here, even after Amaro blindsided him with an ill-conceived trade to Seattle that netted pretty much nothing. Roy Halladay took far less money and years than what he would have received in the open market after being traded from Toronto. Roy Oswalt, the country boy everyone said would never come to the big bad East Coast embraced his trade from the Astros. Cole Hamels is the homegrown hero who already has a World Series MVP under his belt and who bounced back tremendously from a down 2009 to become one of the best left-handers in baseball.
Another one of the many things that sets these guys apart is the fact that they’re all team-first types, endearing them not only to the fans but teammates as well. They have the talent to practically say and do anything they please, act any way they want, and still people would sing their praises. In the crush of scrutiny created simply by their assembled existence, it would be understandable for them to stick closely together as they face the onslaught of interest in their collective exploits. But that’s not how they operate. And now it seems these four men took it upon themselves to remind everyone that the rotation is five deep.
This week, stories emerged via Facebook and Twitter indicating that the four aces won’t be considered anything other than a complete hand. It’s being said that Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, and Hamels will not do group interviews or even have their picture taken together if it doesn’t involve fellow starter Joe Blanton. And what may seem at first as social media riding the rumor express, Comcast Sportsnet’s upcoming Spring Training coverage schedule includes programming featuring all five starters. While not an actual confirmation, the fact that CSN is only talking to the five as a group when all people really care about is the Horsemen, it seems reasonable that this will be the official stance. If true, and it likely is, it’s a fantastic gesture of teamwork and camaraderie. And it’s not a surprise when considering the character these guys have already demonstrated. Phillies fans, we truly live in amazing times.
And now, after counting down each day after grueling day, after shoveling more snow than should be allowed by law, spring is in the air. Well, at least it is at Bright House Networks Field down in Clearwater. While the rest of us patiently wait for the warm winds to blow north, the current version of the Phillies will begin the process of becoming legends.
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