Get ready for a showdown between Phillies' World Champs from 1980 and 2008

Get ready for a showdown between Phillies' World Champs from 1980 and 2008

These fingers have typed more than a few World Series previews over the years, but never one quite like this.

Are you ready for Phillies 1980 vs. Phillies 2008?

The local nine has been at this thing called baseball for 137 seasons and in that time has stood atop the sport twice. 

Now, we know that's not exactly a stellar percentage, but for practical purposes during these unprecedented times, the Phils are perfect for a one-time showdown to crown the champion of champions. 

And, thanks to our friends at Strat-O-Matic, this is exactly what we'll have for you over the next week or so as we continue to look for ways to feed our sports cravings during the shutdown caused by the coronavirus health crisis.

Starting Wednesday, which seems right because it's the day baseball tips its cap to the great Jackie Robinson, we will begin a series between the Phillies' 1980 World Series championship team and the Phillies' 2008 World Series championship team. John Garcia of Strat-O-Matic has graciously agreed to run a computer simulation of the series, using exact statistics from the two seasons, and we can't wait to chronicle the daily results and see how it unfolds. Either way, there will be a parade in Philadelphia. Just make sure it's in your living room, six feet away from others.

Use your imagination and think about how cool this series will be.

It will feature two of the most popular and colorful managers in team history, Dallas Green and Charlie Manuel.

It will feature the best first baseman (Ryan Howard), second baseman (Chase Utley), third baseman (Mike Schmidt) and shortstop (Jimmy Rollins) in franchise history.

It will feature four league MVPs in Schmidt, Rollins, Howard and Pete Rose. Schmidt won the first of his three NL MVP awards in 1980. He led the NL in homers (48) and RBIs (121) that year. Howard, the NL MVP in 2006, finished second in the voting in 2008 while leading the league in homers (48) and RBIs (146).

The series will feature the two greatest left-handed pitchers in franchise history in four-time Cy Young winner Steve Carlton and 2008 postseason hero Cole Hamels. 

It will feature switch-hitters with big personalities and great defensive skills (Larry Bowa and Shane Victorino), another switch-hitter whose bat produced more knocks that anyone in the history of the game (Rose), bullpen aces (Tug McGraw and Brad Lidge), pinch-hitting stars (Del Unser and Matt Stairs), a couple of role players who emerged as studs (Bake McBride and Jayson Werth) and it will be played at two venues, Veterans Stadium and Citizens Bank Park.

Though the teams shared the ultimate similarity — a World Series title — there were differences. The 1980 team was on its last legs. The core of that team had stumbled in the playoffs in 1976, 1977 and 1978 and management was primed to break it up if it didn't get over the hump in 1980. Conversely, the 2008 team was still early in a run that saw the franchise win five NL East titles from 2007 to 2011. 

Both teams won the NL East in close races with charges down the stretch, the 1980 Phillies by a game over Montreal, the 2008 Phillies by three over the New York Mets.

The 2008 Phillies went 92-70 so they get home-field advantage in this Spring Classic against the 1980 Phillies, who went 91-71.

So, who you got?

"That depends on who's pitching," Bowa, a key man on the 1980 team, said in real time. "I've got no idea. There's a lot of good players there."

He paused.

"I'm definitely not picking them," he added with a laugh. "I think it will be a really good series."

And how 'bout you, Charlie Manuel?

"I've actually had this conversation with Bowa, who would win a series between the two teams," the 2008 skipper said in real time. "The '80 team had some great players, established players, and we had some young stars who were coming into their own. That was a hell of team in 1980, but at the same time, I've got to give my guys the edge. 

"I'll be interested to see how it turns out. And you better not put any losses on me, man."

Strat-O-Matic has been a favorite of baseball fans since it was born in 1961. It uses real-life statistics and probabilities to project outcomes and it's a heck of a lot of fun.

So without further ado, let's play this thing. We'll post the results daily.

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Zack Wheeler is all in to play in 2020 ... for now

Zack Wheeler is all in to play in 2020 ... for now

Zack Wheeler is all in.

For now.

The Phillies' big off-season acquisition on Sunday said he was committed to pitching this season, but he left the door open wide enough to back out.

"Yeah, definitely," Wheeler said when asked if he had considered opting out of the season like several other prominent big leaguers have done.

"We just have to see how things are here at the field and at the stadium. I'm happy with what I see so far. But things could change, especially once our baby's born. I always think about what's going on around me. Is it safe? Is it OK? Literally every single day. I have to just ask myself that. I'm going to continue to keep asking myself that every day."

Wheeler's wife, Dominique, is due to give birth to the couple's first child in about three weeks.

That's an anxious time to begin with.

Now, add in a pandemic.


"It's a very difficult decision," Wheeler said. "It's something that is still playing in my head. I have to be very careful here at the field, outside of the field, wherever I go. The baby's and Dominique's health is most important to me. So whatever I can do to make sure they are safe, that is the No. 1 goal for me. Baseball comes after that."

Wheeler has expressed his concerns to team officials, including manager Joe Girardi.

Frankly, every person affiliated with the club has the same concerns about the health and safety of their families.

"We've chit-chatted here and there," Wheeler said. "I think they know what position I'm in. I think we are going to sit down and talk about that. But we haven't done it yet. I've been happy with what's gone on so far here (with health and safety protocols). 

"But, yeah, I'm definitely going to sit down with Joe and whoever else just to reiterate that. I'll let them know how I am feeling. Joe's a family guy. Family comes first to him. That's the first thing he told me when I talked to him on the phone right after I signed. 'Family is first.' I know he recognizes that. He knows the situation I'm in. He loves his kids. He's a good guy. He is one of the reasons why I signed here."

There are a number of players in MLB whose wives are expecting. Mike Trout is one and he has expressed reservations about playing and compromising his family's safety.

Wheeler was asked if he believed MLB should step in and make a blanket decision for players whose wives are pregnant.

"Maybe they could have put that label on guys with pregnant wives. I do believe that," Wheeler said. "I think they did a nice job with everything else. But there are a lot of guys with pregnant wives right now, whether it's later on in the pregnancy, early on in the pregnancy, they are at risk. It's a very serious thing as we all know. Maybe they should have thought about that a little bit more. I don't know. Like I said, I can only worry about myself and do as much as I can personally to protect my wife."

Wheeler signed a five-year, $118 million contract in December.

Players who opt out of the season do not get paid their prorated salaries unless they have an underlying health condition that makes playing too risky.

Baseball-wise, Wheeler is on a good track. During the shutdown, he maintained his throwing program back home in Georgia. He got up to 80 pitches in his bullpen sessions at home and faced hitters in camp on Saturday. With the uncertainty surrounding Aaron Nola — he's throwing at a nearby facility but has not joined the team for official workouts — Wheeler could end up starting the season opener July 23 or 24.

That is, if the virus allows for a season opener. 

And all is well at home.

Wheeler expects to take the permitted three days paternity leave once the baby arrives. Then he will need to go through testing and health protocols before rejoining the team. He estimated that he would miss at least a start, maybe two.

The Phillies are prepared for sudden changes in their pitching rotations. Girardi said he'll have relievers piggybacked with each starter and a five-man starting staff with the backup club in Lehigh Valley.

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COVID-19 cases and player opt-outs mounting across MLB

COVID-19 cases and player opt-outs mounting across MLB

The Phillies have four players on the COVID-19 injured list (Hector Neris, Ranger Suarez, Scott Kingery and Tommy Hunter) and three more who have yet to arrive in camp because of coronavirus protocols (Aaron Nola, Adam Haseley and Christian Bethancourt).

We’re already seeing how unsteady and unpredictable this 60-game season will be. Nola is the Phillies’ best starting pitcher and Neris is their best reliever. Kingery is their starting second baseman. Haseley was set to start or split time in center field. Suarez was in the race for the fifth starter’s job.

So much for the Phillies would change without them, and it’s reasonable to expect at least a few of them will miss time early in the season. Phillies lefty Cole Irvin said Saturday he thinks it could take pitchers up to six weeks to return from coronavirus because it would require two weeks of quarantine, then the resumption of throwing, then a few bullpen sessions. The severity of cases varies, but it looks like it will generally cost pitchers more time than position players.

The best hitter in the NL East, Freddie Freeman, is also dealing with COVID-19 and is not feeling well at all right now, according to his wife Chelsea. Braves manager Brian Snitker told reporters Saturday "it will be a while 'til we can get him back." It totally changes the Braves’ equation and 2020 chances if their rock is missing for a third of the season.

Will Smith, Atlanta’s top-tier lefty reliever signed to a three-year, $39 million in the offseason, also tested positive. Then on Saturday, Braves starting pitcher Felix Hernandez opted out of the season, as did their first base coach Eric Young Sr. Four Marlins players tested positive as well.

Yankees All-Star infielder D.J. LeMahieu tested positive.  So did Royals catcher Salvador Perez, Twins slugger Miguel Sano, Padres outfielder Tommy Pham and Indians speedster Delino DeShields Jr. Last week, Charlie Blackmon tested positive. There are at least another dozen known or suspected cases around the league with more, surely, to come.

On Friday, Mike Trout said "Honestly, I still don’t feel comfortable" about the season ahead with a pregnant wife.

On Saturday, Dodgers left-hander David Price opted out of the season because of health and family concerns, joining King Felix, Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, Mike Leake and Joe Ross. Buster Posey is reportedly mulling the decision too.

Other than that ... decent first weekend of camp?

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