October 4 Philadelphia Daily News:
“Sitting in the visitors’ dugout at Turner Field, Scott Proefrock gazed across the sun-soaked field and focused his eyes high above the leftfield wall. With a nod of the head, he pointed to the 16 pennants plastered above the lower seating bowl, each of them bearing the year of a Braves division title.
“The most difficult thing in sports is not to get good,” the Phillies assistant general manager said. “It’s to stay good.”
At four in a row, the Phillies have a long way to go before they can equal the Braves’ run of 14 consecutive division titles (1991-2005), but 2 days from now they will begin their pursuit of something the Braves’ dynasty failed to accomplish: winning a second World Series.
Late yesterday evening, the final piece of a convoluted playoff picture fell into place. A couple hours after the team bus left Turner Field in the wake of a wild, 8-7 loss to the Braves, the Phillies learned they would host the Reds in the National League Division Series.
In Game 1, scheduled for Wednesday at 5:07 p.m., veteran righthander Roy Halladay will square off against 27-year-old righty Edinson Volquez. Halladay has 320 big-league starts under his belt. Volquez has 70. Both men have the same amount of playoff experience – zero – but Halladay’s teammates are more than accustomed to the rigors of October baseball.
So, too, is the Phillies‘ organization, which yesterday saw one of its more hectic late-season weeks come to a close. The Phils, who trailed Atlanta by seven games on July 21, finished six games ahead of the Braves at a major league-best 97-65, their best record since the 1993 team won the same number.
A week and a half ago, during their season-ending homestand, team personnel gathered at Citizens Bank Park for their annual year-end debriefing. On hand was a Who’s Who of organizational decision-makers: general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and his three assistants; manager Charlie Manuel and his coaching staff; advisers Pat Gillick and Dallas Green; scouts Gordon Lakey and Charley Kerfeld; and a host of others.
One by one, they dissected and evaluated each aspect of the organization, focusing both on the short-term goal of positioning the team to win its third straight National League title and the longer-term goal of sustaining this unprecedented run of success. In addition to potential postseason roster questions, they addressed the plethora of issues that will face the team this offseason from potential minor league free agents to non-tender candidates around the game.
“A lot of teams get a lot more time, and we can’t lose focus on that,” Proefrock said. “There are still things we have to focus on during the postseason besides the postseason.”
Right through the end of yesterday’s game, the postseason might have been the haziest part of the overall picture. The Phillies entered the day with the possibility of facing three different teams in the first round. Most years, potential opponents are gradually eliminated, which allows the team’s scouting department to redeploy resources and narrow its focus. But on the last day of the regular season, Phillies director of pro scouting Mike Ondo still had two-man advance scouting teams on the Padres and Giants, who played yesterday afternoon, and the Reds, who earlier in the week seemed to be the obvious opponent. The two scouts on the Reds were on their way to Philadelphia shortly after Cincinnati finished its season with a 3-2 win over the Brewers. The four scouts at the Padres-Giants game had red-eye flights scheduled in case those two teams remained in play.”
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