Phillies refuse to concede anything
Philadelphia still owns title of defending NL East champs
PHILADELPHIA -- In the amount of time it takes to say "Johan Santana traded to the Mets," a majority of so-called experts have projected New York as the team to beat in the National League East. The division, apparently, is theirs.Someone forgot to tell the defending division champions. "Is the deal done?" Phillies right fielder Shane Victorino said by phone from his Las Vegas home. "He's definitely a significant guy. He's a No. 1 for them and someone that they needed, but he's one guy. I look at it that you still have to play a team sport. They're not guaranteed to win every game he pitches." Make no mistake. Victorino isn't trash talking, and his words shouldn't be interpreted that way. He acknowledges that landing arguably the best pitcher in baseball makes the Mets a significantly better team than they were on Jan. 28. But like Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, he's just not ready to concede a lead. "I'm game on," Victorino said. "Did they become the team to beat because they got one pitcher? I'm not going to say that. It's one significant move, but we made four moves to make our team better. We added in a third baseman [Pedro Feliz, although it's still unofficial], a right fielder [Geoff Jenkins], moved me to center, got Brad Lidge. We made our team better. They acquired a great pitcher, but we're a lot better team, too." In acquiring the two-time Cy Young Award winner -- assuming the Mets negotiate a contract extension -- New York transformed its rotation from potentially suspect to possibly the deepest in the National League. After Santana, the Mets can throw a Pedro Martinez, John Maine, Oliver Perez and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez. With an already stacked offense, the Mets addressed their one glaring need in a huge way. Just don't forget the Phillies, who sport the last two NL MVPs in shortstop Jimmy Rollins and first baseman Ryan Howard, and a perennial All-Star in second baseman Chase Utley. They also have a potent outfield and a 1-2 pitching punch in Cole Hamels and Brett Myers.
"I think it's very reasonable for us to win 100 games," Rollins said, on Monday, an opinion that isn't likely to change based on Tuesday's news. "We won 89 games last year, and we can pick up 11 more wins, and we can do that with those new arms. We want to go deeper in the playoffs. Last year, at first, we had a hunger to reach the playoffs and get there. Now, we want to go further."The road to the playoffs, admittedly, got tougher, but not unreachable. "Look at what we did, too," Victorino said. "It's a great move for them and I'm sure it will bring the focus back onto them as the positive that they're the best team in the East. We're still here, though."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.