CLEARWATER, Fla. — For the first time in years, the Phillies are not favorites to win the National League East. No, not when the Washington Nationals, a team with an average age of 27.2 last year, are coming off a 98-win season.
In most circles, the Phillies are not even viewed as the second-best team in the division. That status belongs to the Atlanta Braves, who acquired both Upton brothers while losing Chipper Jones, Martin Prado and Michael Bourn.
Both Washington and Atlanta made the postseason in 2012. Earlier in the spring, Jayson Werth wondered aloud about his Nationals, "Has there ever been a team that's this complete on paper?"
Now Werth has another thought: The Phillies are Washington's most dangerous threat.
Which Phillies pitcher has the bigger upside?
Read this passage from Adam Kilgore's story in Wednesday's Washington Post:
Back in Viera, as he tied his shoes for a morning workout, Jayson Werth was asked if considered the Braves or Philadelphia Phillies a bigger threat. Werth, the former Phillie, did not hesitate.
"Phillies," he said. "I think everybody is writing them off. They played good in September, when they were healthy. They're not going to roll over, that’s for sure."
And about the Braves? "Yeah, the Braves got the Upton brothers," Werth said. "But they lost [Martin] Prado and Chipper."
It's not a crazy idea, of course. The Phillies, on paper, have a deeper pitching staff than Atlanta. But the Phillies, on paper, also have more question marks about their entire roster.
This is why seasons are not decided on paper because it is a silly way to decide athletic competitions. The current "on paper" predictions have Werth shaking his head.
"That shows me how much everybody knows that writes for a living," Werth told The Washington Post. "No offense."
None taken, Jayson.
The Phillies and Nationals do not play each other until May 24. That is the Phillies' 48th game of the season. By then, 29 percent of the season will be decided, and there should be a feel for how dangerous these Phillies truly are.
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