Charlie Manuel expressed concern Monday about the readiness of some Phillies players to defend their World Series title. Jimmy Rollins disagreed with the assessment.
But in the Phillies' clubhouse, all parties are merely guessing. Neither Manuel nor any of his players have attempted to repeat after winning a World Series. The deeper question underlying the Phils entire season - what does it take to repeat? - is therefore ineffable for the team.
Willie Randolph, visiting Citizens Bank Park this week as bench coach for the Milwaukee Brewers, has spent more seasons in defending-champion clubhouses than most people in baseball. He said that the keys to repeating are having players who avoid complacency by viewing the goal as a matter of personal pride and - perhaps unfortunately for the Phillies - experiencing disappointment in the year after victory.
"I think the common theme collectively is your understanding of how to really turn the page from last year," Randolph said. "You have to take repeating very personally."
Though his reputation was recently tarnished when he managed the New York Mets' historic 2007 collapse, Randolph was the second baseman on Yankees teams that repeated in 1977-78, and a coach during the Yanks' late-1990s dynasty when they won three straight titles.
"There is a pride to winning it in the first place, and you have to apply that to the next year," he said. "Some guys take it personally, some guys say, 'Hey, I've been there, I've got that.' That's where you have to worry about complacency."
Randolph said that the best way to shake complacency is disappointment. After winning the 1996 World Series, the Yankees lost to Cleveland in the playoffs in 1997. They were fueled by that disappointment for the rest of the decade, he said.
"We took it personally, so there was a turnaround after that," Randolph said. "Sometimes that is what it takes - to experience a disappointment."
Randolph also said that some roster turnover was important, ensuring that new players are still hungry for their first championship. This was never a problem for the well-funded Yankees. The Phillies brought in free-agent outfielder Raul Ibanez, who has drawn raves from teammates for his professionalism and clubhouse presence.
Randolph added that he never knew in April if a given team would repeat. "It's a long season," he said. "You have to give the Phillies time before you know what will happen."
Cole Hamels told The Inquirer on Monday that he blamed himself for his slow start this season, citing myriad post-championship distractions. Yesterday, his manager disagreed. "He might be saying what he feels of something like that, but I don't feel that," Manuel said. He attributed Hamels' difficulties to a dramatic increase in innings pitched from 2007 to 2008.
The Phillies have added infielder David Newhan to their triple-A Lehigh Valley team as a player-coach. Newhan, 35, batted .260 with two home runs in 64 games for the Houston Astros last season. He played for the Phillies in 2000-01.