NEW YORK - Standing in the shadows, behind the $1.3 billion palace it spawned, the home of baseball's original dynasty sits, its concrete faded from a century of elements, its insides filled only with memories. The Phillies passed by the old Yankee Stadium yesterday on their way to the gleaming, new building that the Bronx Bombers call home. And while they say their focus is trained solely on the present, they acknowledge the opportunity that sits in their midst.
"We're definitely well aware of what it means if we accomplish our goal here, for sure," said rightfielder Jayson Werth, whose stepfather, Dennis Werth, played parts of four seasons at the old Yankee Stadium. "It's very well documented how many teams have done that and who they were and what they were."
The Phillies aren't trying only to win a best-of-seven series. They are trying to repeat as world champions, something no team in franchise history has done.
The last major league team to repeat were the Yankees, who, from 1996 to 2001, appeared in five World Series and won four of them. The last National League team to repeat were the 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds, whose exploits earned them one of the game's great nicknames and a concrete place in the sport's long history.
And while it takes more than back-to-back titles to stake claim to a dynasty, these Phillies are convinced they have the potential for more.
"I grew up watching these guys," said Phillies lefthander Cole Hamels, who will start Game 3 on Saturday at Citizens Bank Park. "I was emulating the Derek Jeter big hits and Mariano Rivera's big save opportunities, and Andy Pettitte, of course, being lefthanded. But you know what? I think we're kind of the younger version of these guys. We're kind of in the same situation. A lot of us are homegrown. We're finally coming into our own. We were able to win that World Series last year, which really boosted us, kind of like the Yankees did when they were young. It's just kind of going out there and really appreciating what we are able to do.
"Past that, I think that we've got the club that can continue to get to this level, to get to this spot every year. Without getting too far ahead, but we've got a good young club, a lot of great chemistry, we really don't have any guys coming up for free agency that we are going to lose, at least not until next year. So potentially, we could have a chance to do this every year for a long time."
They are aware.
Aware of the fact that four of the five starters who composed the rotation during the stretch run are under club control through next season. Aware that the entire starting lineup has the potential to return. Aware that such homegrown players as Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Madson are under club control through at least 2011. Aware that such veterans as Raul Ibanez and Brad Lidge also should be around for at least 2 more years.
"I think that we've got the club that can continue to get to this level, to get to this spot every year," Werth said. "Without getting too far ahead, but we've got a good young club, a lot of great chemistry, we really don't have any guys coming up for free agency that we are going to lose, at least not until next year. So potentially, we could have a chance to do this every year for a long time."
As much attention as the Yankees have received for looting the sport's free-agent pool, they would not be where they are today without the ability to replenish talent from within. The team's four most prominent fixtures from those late-'90s teams - Jeter at shortstop, Rivera at closer, Jorge Posada at catcher, Andy Pettitte at starter - were all at one point Yankees minor leaguers. But the rebirth of the organization has as much to do with such homegrown players as Robinson Cano and Joba Chamberlain as with the addition of such free agents as Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez.
The Phillies see similar potential in themselves.
"The core of our team has some very good players," centerfielder Shane Victorino said. "One is, we've got good coaching, and that's where it all begins with Charlie [Manuel], and he'll be back for a few more years, and keeping everyone together like we've done. So I definitely see ourselves to reckon with for a while and for many years to come. But hey, right now we are focusing on what that task is, and that's winning the World Series."
And not just winning the World Series. But winning at Yankee Stadium, against some of the greatest postseason players the game has ever seen.
"I think we need to play the Yankees," Manuel said. "That's what I think."
They will get that chance, starting tonight, with Cliff Lee on the mound, with CC Sabathia facing him, with all eyes in the nation's largest media market focused on the Bronx. And, of course, with that sad, old stadium looming in the background, a silent reminder of what greatness brings. *