No. 2. Charlie Manuel

Charlie Manuel hates finishing second, as he did in the Manager of the Year voting - to Lou Piniella, whose Cubs won five more games but spent $20 million more than Manuel's Phils.

He won't mind finishing second in this race. Especially not to Brad Lidge, the closer whose perfection meant validation for Manuel, so often ridiculed, so seldom appreciated, and now, forever, a Winner.

Manuel believes in roles for his bullpen, and he stuck to his formula. Manuel believes in winning with power, especialy in a park where even minimal power is magnified. Manuel believes in playing aggressively: in the batter's box, on the basepaths and on the mound.

More than anything, Manuel believes in expecting success and reveling in it. He believes that an atmosphere of inclusion and honesty promotes success. Guess what?

He was right.

- Marcus Hayes

No. 3. Cole Hamels

Cole Hamels didn't expect to win the Daily News Sportsperson of the Year, but that's only because he didn't know it existed. See, Hamels expects to win it all.

That is his secret.

He expects to retire every batter, preferably by strikeout, and he hates walks. He expects to win every game. He expects an ERA around 3.00.

This year, in his second full season, he finished in the top 10 in the NL in wins, strikeouts, strikeout-to-walk ratio, wins, ERA, innings pitched, shutouts and, the killer geek stat, walks and hits per innings pitched. He was first in that last one.

He won the NLCS MVP. He won the World Series MVP. As he expected.

He expects to win multiple Cy Young Awards. He expects to be the best lefty - heck, the best pitcher - ever.

He's 25 this week.

He's on his way.

- Marcus Hayes

No. 4 Ryan Howard

What? Ryan Howard, Mr. Phillies, finished fourth in a year when the Phillies won the World Series? Well, yes.

So much is made of what Howard does too much of that sometimes what he does do seems underappreciated. It is appreciated exactly the right amount.

In a two-horse race, Howard finished second in NL MVP voting, well behind Albert Pujols, mainly because Howard, the 2006 MVP, struck out 199 times and hit .251, lower than any MVP winner.

Howard, in his third full season, led the NL in home runs and RBI, but with all the whiffs and the laughable .215 average through June, finishing second was justice served.

So is finishing fourth in this race - behind two pitchers who pitched spectacularly in perhaps the worst pitchers' park in baseball history, and the manager who has mentored Howard to the success he has enjoyed.

- Marcus Hayes

No. 5. Bernard Hopkins

If 46-year-old lefthander Jamie Moyer can win 16 games for the World Series champion Phillies, maybe it shouldn't seem so amazing that Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins, who turns 44 on Jan. 15, is still widely regarded as one of the top five pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.

Hopkins, who has survived 20 years in the most brutal of sports without being seriously injured or cut, has never been knocked out. But a lot of so-called "experts" thought 26-year-old, undefeated middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik would become the first man to do so when he and B-Hop squared off on Oct. 18 in Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall.

The best fortysomething boxer ever demonstrated that he still is capable of defying the ravages of time when, as a 5-1 underdog, he took Pavlik to school and earned a onesided, unanimous-decision victory.

- Bernard Fernandez

Other notables

Brian Dawkins: The 35-year-old Eagles safety bounced back and had a Pro Bowl and playoff season.

Paul Holmgren: The Flyers general manager continued to build the team with deft drafting and excellent acquisitions.

Chase Utley: Despite a hip injury that required surgery after the season, the All-Star second baseman was in the middle of everything for the world champion Phillies.

John Stevens: The Flyers coach took a team that was the worst in franchise history the year before to the Eastern Conference finals where they lost to a better Pittsburgh team.

Jamie Moyer: The ageless one had the most wins on the Phillies' staff and bounced back from two shaky playoff outings with a gem in the World Series.

Pat Gillick: What a way to retire! The Phillies GM said last year would be his last and his retirement party was held at Citizens Bank Park after a raucous parade down Broad Street.

Mike Richards: Signed a big contract, led his team in the playoffs, was named Flyers captain at the tender age of 23 and continued to show the leadership qualities and grit of another Flyers captain, Bobby Clarke.

Curtis Drake: West Catholic High quarterback led the Burrs to the state championship game in Hershey. West broke city records for points in a season.

Brian Westbrook: Still the Eagles' heart and soul. When he's healthy, the Birds look like a playoff team. When he's not healthy, they can lose to or tie anyone.

Pat Burrell: One of the most popular Phillies hit a key double in Game 5 of the World Series that became the winning run. He's still a free agent.

Ed Stefanski: He's trying to make the Sixers an elite team. Signed Elton Brand in the offseason, but so far results are slow in coming.

Carli Lloyd: The Delran, N.J., native scored the winning goal as the U.S. women's soccer team won the gold medal in the Beijing Olympics.

Jeff Carter: Owner of the quickest wrist shot in hockey. The Flyers center has blossomed into both a legitimate star and solid, two-way player in the NHL.

- Chuck Bausman