Sunny times in Philadelphia

In quest for titles, Phils, Eagles go all-in

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The Phillies and Eagles have acquired Hunter Pence and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, respectively. (Staff Photos)

Through the haze of firework plumes that gradually were dissipating above Citizens Bank Park on Friday night, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. appeared on the scoreboard video screen like an apparition from Oz, bidding the customers good night and good news.

Amaro announced to the crowd that the Phillies had traded for outfielder Hunter Pence, a deal the team hopes is the last piece to the 2011 championship puzzle. The fans roared their approval, and why not? Their team is going for it all, and no one is going to complain about that.

The next morning, through a different haze, the shimmering heat waves on the practice field at Lehigh University, the fans looked away from the field and toward the locker room and saw the slow approach of another apparition. It was a 6-foot-5 veteran quarterback signed for the singular purpose of giving the Eagles insurance in their own search for a championship.

Already, the fans had seen new all-pro cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the field. They had heard of the signing of Nnamdi Asomugha, another all-pro at that position, and the most sought-after free agent in the NFL. Trades had been completed, signings were coming one after another. And now, here was Vince Young, another flesh-and-blood indication that their team was also leaving no pebble in its path.

"This," Young said a few minutes later on Saturday morning, "is a dream team."

At the moment in which July bends into August, the dreams of baseball and football teams can still turn into nothing more than apparitions of greatness that are proven to be mere mirages before the year is out. The truth usually comes sooner in baseball, but it can catch up to football by the end of October as well.

Whatever the outcomes with the Phillies and Eagles in the 2011 season, both teams have fully dismissed their previous reputations as spare spenders and careful cutters of corners. They have carried big sticks through the player-acquisition process and haven't even bothered to walk softly.

The Phillies targeted Pence and landed him from among a clutch of other suitors, for the price of two well-regarded single-A prospects and a couple of lesser players. The prospects could turn into something someday, but there are also very important somedays just ahead of the Phillies right now.

"I think the front office knows that we're in a special time here in Philadelphia," second baseman Chase Utley said.

It is special because the Phillies were able to put together a starting rotation for the ages, and because their offensive core - now augmented by Pence - is aging rapidly. If not this year, when? Maybe not for a while, and the front office knows that, too. So Amaro made sure that a World Series wouldn't be missed for want of one more piece. It might not be the ultimate answer, but it is the team's best effort to find it.

"We'll keep our minds open," Amaro said, regarding further additions to the roster. "But right now I'm very comfortable with our ball club."

The Eagles have some work left to do, but that front office is getting more comfortable, too. Team president Joe Banner and general manager Howie Roseman need to get a new contract done for receiver DeSean Jackson, and they need to get first-round draft pick Danny Watkins - their starting right guard - in camp as well.

There are tweaks still to go, and the issue of whether Asante Samuel will remain part of a three-cornered crown at his position or be traded away. But the moves that have been made so far, a rapid-fire burst as the league reopened for business, have been impressive.

The Eagles were able to trade backup quarterback Kevin Kolb - a deal every team in the league knew they had to make - and still managed enough leverage to get a quality player like Rodgers-Cromartie and a draft pick. They signed defensive end Jason Babin, coming off a great year in Tennessee. They brought in Young to stay ready behind Michael Vick. And they pulled off the coup of landing Asomugha in a stealth operation that even defied the gnat swarm of Twitter.

"I'm glad the players are excited about what they see being put together and . . . they really, really want to be here and really, really want to win. They're not afraid of a goal as high as, 'We must win the Super Bowl to feel satisfied with the season,' " Banner said Saturday. "There's a big focus [on] relieving the stress and pain of having been so close so many times and not winning it all. We've very focused on getting that knot out of our stomachs."

There are no guarantees, other than the guarantee that it could never happen - for either the Eagles or the Phillies - if they didn't throw long or swing big, whichever sport's analogy you prefer.

They are going for it, and that is all you can ask. It is the thing to remember if one or both of them actually gets to that special place. And it is also the thing to remember if they don't.

 


Contact columnist Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com and read his blog at http://www.philly.com/postpatterns.