Commentary

Don't hand Phillies the hardware yet

Adding Lee makes for a formidable rotation -- but the '90s Braves won just once

Updated: December 15, 2010, 4:14 PM ET
By Rob Parker | ESPNNewYork.com

Easy. Easy.

Before you hand the Philadelphia Phillies the next six World Series championships after the signing of free-agent lefty Cliff Lee, you need to take a baseball history lesson.

The most recent best-pitching-staff-ever-assembled -- before the Phillies put together Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt in their starting rotation -- was the 1993 Braves' starting staff of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery.

Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz went on to win a combined six Cy Young Awards as Braves.

But they didn't win the World Series that year. They did win a title in 1995. But that was it.

Heck, coming into this past postseason, everyone gave the nod to the Phillies to win their second championship in three years because of Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt. Normally, all you need is three starters in a best-of-seven series to be able to win it all.

It didn't happen.

For sure, you can expect the Phillies to dominate the National League East and the NL in general. The weak-hitting senior circuit will have trouble beating the Phillies on a regular basis because Philly's pitching will give it a chance to win almost every game.

The Mets have probably been set back at least three years. Any dreams of their quickly turning around their misfortunes with a new manager and front office staff were doused with reality after the signing of Lee to a five-year, $120 million deal.

[+] EnlargeAtlanta Braves
Ronald C. Modra/Getty ImagesTom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz (shown in 1993) won six Cy Young Awards as Braves -- but only one World Series.

The problem might not be the NL for the Phillies, although it's hard to pooh-pooh what the San Francisco Giants' pitching staff -- which includes Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner -- did in winning the World Series this year. Their staff was simply amazing and there's no reason to believe they can't be just as good this year.

Still, it will come down to being able to tame the talented American League lineups that will stand in the way of winning a championship.

Enter the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

Both lineups are loaded and filled with trouble in almost every spot. And the Red Sox, who didn't make the postseason this past year, have reloaded with Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Adding to that, they have a very capable starting staff that can be dangerous when it's on its game. There is so much room for improvement for Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka over last season.

And the same goes for the Yankees' staff. Led by CC Sabathia, this group won a title in 2009 and was impressive in doing so. This year, for whatever reason, the pitching wasn't there after the first round and they lost to the Texas Rangers in the ALCS.

And, be honest, A.J. Burnett can't be as bad as he was this year.

So while you have to believe the Phillies have a great shot to get to the World Series, it's not a layup that they'll win it.

The Braves' staff for the ages is proof positive.

The Braves with those stud starters were the Buffalo Bills of baseball. They won a ton of games in the regular season, but should have won more titles. To be fair, though, at least they did win it all once. The Bills lost four straight Super Bowls.

Still, with all the pitching the Braves had, it's hard to consider their run anything other than underachieving. After all, they made it to the World Series in 1996 and 1999 and lost to the Yankees both times.

The Braves won their division every year from 1991 to 2005, interrupted only by the 1994 strike.

The pressure is now on for the Phillies. Anything short of a trip to the World Series would be considered a failure. All the focus will be on them. Other teams won't have such pressure.

Remember, Halladay pitched a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds to set the tone in the Phillies' first playoff game this year. And they still were sent home early because they didn't hit in the NLCS.

One last nugget: For all the talent Lee has, and just about every team would want him on its roster, he has been on the losing team in the World Series the past two seasons.

Nothing is automatic. Not even four aces in baseball.

Rob Parker is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com.

More from ESPNNewYork.com »

SPONSORED HEADLINES

EDITORS' PICKS

  • Champs!
    We rank our top 10 most loved New York sports figures of 2014.
  • Scrooged!
    The Knicks fell to 5-26 on a not-so-merry Christmas at the Garden.
  • Ho Ho Horrible
    The year in New York sports was a lump of coal. Is there hope for the future?
  • Keep On Dancin'
    Victor Cruz gave his take on Odell Beckham Jr.'s TD celebrations.
  • Go The Distance
    Jets right guard Willie Colon said he plans to finish 2014 on his feet.

ALSO SEE

MORE MLB HEADLINES