Last year after the Nationals beat the Phillies to capture the N.L. East division crown, Jimmy Rollins did a very Jimmy Rollins thing. He predicted the next season would be different because the Phillies’ decline in 2013 was only due to injury.
Here is what he said on Oct. 4, 2012:
"With us healthy, they’re a second-place team," Rollins said. "But we weren’t."
At first glance his claims seemed legitimate, the Phillies had seen many of their best players go down throughout the year. And despite being shorthanded, they still won 81 games and looked good down the stretch.
But the Nationals also dealt with injuries, arguably even more if you consider the total time lost by starters. Add in missing Stephen Strasburg for the final month of the season and the Nats could have been even better than their 98-win finish.
That aspect of the team’s 2012 season is not lost on the players, many of them believe they could have hit the century mark if they themselves were healthy. Just ask Jayson Werth.
Werth was asked about Rollins’ comments by Philly.com on Wednesday:
"I would never find Jimmy Rollins disrespectful," he said. "I respect him too much. But if we were healthy all year, we might have won 120 games. But we'll have a chance to find out this year."
Rollins and Werth are of course former teammates and won a World Series together in Philadelphia in 2008. They know each other well and likely take no offense from each other’s comments. Whatever their intentions, getting these comments out there through the media will only make the 2013 season more interesting.
The Nationals are quite wary of the Braves and what they are capable of this season after winning 94 in 2012 and adding the Upton brothers. The Phillies, however, may have a legitimate shot at playing spoiler.
The Phillies’ core of Rollins (34), Chase Utley (34), and Ryan Howard (33) may have something left if they get healthy and everyone knows their pitching is capable. Can they keep pace with the young and well-rounded Nationals? Given their roster and payroll, this could be their last shot as the team stands. Whatever happens, it will be fun to watch.