Bucks students on Phillies spring training

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Craig Miller, Centurion Staff

In a few weeks, we’ll be trading in our winter coats and those bitterly cold nights for windbreakers, short sleeves and our favorite team’s baseball cap. 
For most of us, Clearwater, Florida marks the sight of our proverbial sports “rebirth.”
Last year’s early and disappointing playoff exit left a bitter taste in many fans’ mouths, including Joe Morrison, 18, a liberal arts major from Newtown: “It’s a little hard to get excited after last year’s early exit,” Morrison said.
The widely favored Phillies were defeated in a five-game series by the eventual World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals thanks to the complete game shutout by Chris Carpenter, the Cardinal’s de facto ace due to an Adam Wainwright injury.
 Patrick Hays, 20, a journalism major from Trevose, shared Morrison’s sentiments:  “It’ll be interesting to see how they rebound from their NLDS defeat for sure.  We definitely need rebounds from core guys like [Second Baseman] Chase Utley, [First Baseman] Ryan Howard and [Third Baseman] Placido Polanco.”
Certainly, the question of Ryan Howard’s health looms even larger considering his 5- year deal worth $125 million starts this year. Howard will be 37 when the contract ends. Unquestionably a period of decline is expected, leaving many executives and fans alike scratching their heads. 
While the Phillies are an aging team, that hasn’t stopped some of the optimism among fans: “I believe the National League has gotten a lot weaker with the departure of Fielder and Pujols,” stated Joe Morrison.  Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols signed with the Detroit Tigers for 9 years, $214 million and with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for 10 years, $240 million, respectively. 
This optimism isn’t met by all fans, however: “Look out for the Braves, Nationals and Marlins,” said Stephen Godwin Jr., 23, journalism major from Warminster.  “I’m worried about the future, there’s really no farm system and in a few years we could see a few down years in the franchise again.” 
One universal point of excitement among the fans, however, was the addition of free agent closer Jonathan Papelbon, previously the Boston Red Sox closer from 2005-2011 and 4x All-Star.  Signed to a 4 year, $50 million deal, Papelbon will provide Philadelphia with a lock-down closer. 
While Papelbon’s deal is seen by many as extravagant, many fans around Bucks County Community College disagree: “I’m really excited about Papelbon’s potential.  I truly believe it was a fair market deal,” conveyed Matthew Schuler, a business administration major from Yardley. 
Perhaps from a business standpoint, the most intriguing storyline is that of Cole Hamels and his impending free agency.  A homegrown Phillie, Hamels is in line for a large payday if he were to test the free agent market, something he and his agent have both hinted at since agreeing to a 1 year deal worth $15 million for the upcoming 2012 season. 
“Hamels is worth $20 million-plus, like his teammate Cliff Lee.  And since he is homegrown—he really deserves it,” suggested Schuler. 
Godwin heeded this word of caution regarding Hamels: “He needs to be resigned, if he hits free agency, he’s a goner.  He’ll most likely wind up on the New York Yankees, or the Los Angeles Dodgers, provided they [The Dodgers] sort out their ownership issues.”
With the Phillies regarded as one of the favorites for the National League pennant again in 2012, the fans at Bucks seem optimistic.