Phils primed to take on green Rays
Splash of veterans offer contrast to Tampa Bay's inexperience
At some point during this World Series between the Rays and Phillies, a 45-year-old starting pitcher will toe the rubber at Citizens Bank Park. Some years ago, he might have been identified only by what he was: the notable end of an otherwise minor waiver deal, the one that brought him to Philadelphia in the first place.
And so it is that Jamie Moyer has come to represent the primary difference between his Phillies and the Rays. It is a relatively easy one to see. Aside from Cliff Floyd -- their clubhouse leader both by merit and by default -- and aside from a few odd bolts of their bullpen, the Rays are led by players who have not yet reached the primes of their careers. A few haven't even come close.
And the Phillies, despite their propensity to build from within, are led by veterans, most of them squarely in the primes of their careers.
"We have a lot of different personalities," Phillies closer Brad Lidge said. "We have salty veterans who have played for a long time. We've got younger guys with a ton of energy and we have everyone in between. We have high expectations."
So do the Rays, of course. And the Rays, identified by everything that comes along with youth -- namely speed and energy -- have most of their roster under control on the cheap, and for quite some time to come.
Their top starter, Scott Kazmir, is under contract through 2011, after signing a new deal earlier this year. Their top power threat, Carlos Pena, has two more years left on the contract he inked last offseason. And their top hope for continued success, Evan Longoria, is under their control through 2013 after signing an unprecedented six-year guaranteed contract just six games into his Major League career.
It's a strategy that the Phillies also followed -- if not entirely as aggressively -- without as much immediate success. They locked up Pat Burrell, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley to long-term deals, despite an inability to do the same with Ryan Howard or Cole Hamels. It's clear that those five men, all products of the farm system, are what make the Phillies tick. And in that regard, the Rays and Phillies are quite similar.
But in most other aspects, there are gulfs between them. Consider the fact that Burrell has already hit his 30s, that Rollins is now just months away, and that even Howard -- a symbol of their youth -- will hit that dreaded baseball age next autumn.
Consider that their bench consists of one man, Geoff Jenkins, who played a decade in Milwaukee with no postseason accolades to show for it, and another, Matt Stairs, who seems reenergized with the Phillies at the age of 40. Consider that their closer, Lidge, was drafted the same year the Rays came into existence. And consider Moyer, who has become one of the game's most improbable success stories at an age when success seems hard to find.
"This is a big part of why I'm still playing," Moyer said. "To get to the World Series, and to win the World Series."
Differences in age run deeper than even Moyer's contrast with the Rays. Founded in 1883 as the Quakers, the Phillies are among the oldest teams in professional baseball. They have lost more than six times as many games as the Rays have played. And they've won their fair share, as well.
The Rays, by contrast, are the American League's newest team at 11 years young. And given their roster makeup, that much seems fitting.
Their acting general manager, executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, is a former Wall Street analyst with designs on making his team even better in the future. Compare that with 71-year-old Phillies general manager Pat Gillick, a lifer if ever there was one -- a man who has worked in professional baseball for the better part of his life, and who plans on finally leaving the Phillies at the end of this season.
They are a generation apart, and they will be in the same stadium this week, watching the same game, watching Moyer pitch to hitters half his age. They will be considering their divergent rosters, trying to figure which of them has an edge.
But perhaps, as the World Series begins, none of that will matter. Perhaps instead, it will be the similarities that take preference.
"Bring it on," Floyd said. "Good team against good team, it's going to be a battle."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.