Philadelphia Phillies are in their prime, yet the window is closing on their chance to be a dynasty

The Phillies are trying to become the first team since the 1942-44 Cardinals to win three consecutive National League pennants.
The Phillies are trying to become the first team since the 1942-44 Cardinals to win three consecutive National League pennants. (David J. Phillip/associated Press)
By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 30, 2010

CLEARWATER, FLA. -- Jimmy Rollins is at an age, 31, and a point in his career, almost a decade in, where he has begun to think of such things as legacies and dynasties and the day when it all comes to an end. Because there will be such a day.

Back when the Philadelphia Phillies started this run, with a division title and a first-round playoff loss in 2007, their core was in its prime, and it was hungry, and the future seemed boundless. Two World Series appearances and one championship later, the greatest sort of legacy -- being known as a dynasty, or at least what qualifies as one in today's game -- is within the Phillies' grasp.

But the core is no longer so young, the future is no longer boundless and the window that keeps The End at bay is closing fast.

"If we could be considered a dynasty? It'd be nice to be remembered that way when you're done," Rollins said. "But I think if you focus on winning, and you win, that's how you become a dynasty.

"Today's game is different. Back in the day, you had to win for a long time. But there weren't all the trades and free agency -- so when you had group of guys, you had them until they played their careers out. Nowadays, it's hard to establish that because of the economics."

This season, the Phillies will attempt to become the first team since the 1942-44 St. Louis Cardinals to win three consecutive National League pennants. There is no hard-and-fast rule as to what defines a dynasty in the modern game -- though surely it would require at least another World Series title, perhaps two, to go along with the one the Phillies earned in 2008 -- but it is something the Phillies acknowledge is on their minds.

"Sure, that's something we'd love to be considered," said center fielder Shane Victorino. "But it's going to take winning some more world championships, not just division titles and NLCS's. You get that label by winning World Series. Win a couple more World Series, and yeah, people may consider us that."

The Phillies are built on an extraordinary foundation -- with a homegrown core of players, including Rollins, first baseman Ryan Howard, second baseman Chase Utley and left-hander Cole Hamels, and another wave of in-their-prime imports, including Victorino, right fielder Jayson Werth and closer Brad Lidge, who made mighty contributions to the 2008-09 pennant winners.

Equally impressively, almost every significant Phillies player -- including new ace Roy Halladay, who came via trade this winter and signed a deal through 2013 -- is locked into a long-term contract.

But it is when you examine the end dates of those contracts that you begin to understand how quickly the Phillies' window is closing. Werth's contract ends after this season. Rollins, Howard, Lidge, Hamels and left fielder Raúl Ibáñez all come up after 2011.

So there's your window, Jimmy.

"Yup, that's it -- this year and next, '10 and '11," Rollins said. "That's all we can be guaranteed, that these guys will be here for two more years. That's the game today. I think all of us would like to stay here. But it's all about economics now."

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