"The city of Philadelphia has accepted a new generation of players who are in love with the club -- they are winners now," said Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt.
Schmidt was the World Series and NL MVP in 1980, when the Phillies won their only championship, making them the last of the 16 original franchises to win the Fall Classic. Schmidt played his entire 18-year career in Philadelphia, competing in 12 All-Star games, winning 10 Gold Gloves and two more MVP awards.
"The Phillies may not be the best team in baseball on paper," Schmidt said. "There are a lot of good clubs this year -- the Angels, Rays and Cubs. But the Phillies have a fantastic shot at it and are riding high."
He believes the key to winning a World Series is pitching.
"You need to have three or even four good starters and a solid bullpen to win," said Schmidt, who will watch Thursday night as Philadelphia's Cole Hamels takes the mound against the Dodgers' Derek Lowe in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series. "It is important to have experience as well -- guys that can go out there and play like it is an everyday occurrence."
Von Hayes, a Phillies teammate of Schmidt for nine seasons, agrees.
"The strength of starting pitchers and closers are very important in the postseason," said Hayes, who participated with Schmidt at the Hall of Fame's recent Fantasy Camp. "If your team's closer is on fire, you have a big advantage."
Hayes played mostly right field and first base for the Indians, Phillies and Angels during his career. He believes the Phillies have an outstanding chance at winning it all this year -- largely due to the play of second baseman Chase Utley.
"I like the way he goes about the game," Hayes said. "He does a lot for the team from the defensive standpoint, which is often overlooked because of his offensive numbers."
Hayes got a taste of postseason success when he saw action in the 1983 World Series, but the Phillies lost in five games to the Orioles. He now lives in Florida, so he has another postseason team to root for, the Tampa Bay Rays.
Hall of Famer Robin Roberts is also looking for a Phillies-Rays World Series. He, too, lives near Tampa.
"I follow both teams closely," Roberts said. "The Phillies haven't had a whole lot of success since they made it to the World Series in 1993. I would like to see the Rays do well, but when it comes down to it, I will root for the Phillies."
Roberts was an All-Star pitcher for the 1950 team that won the pennant for the first time in 35 years. He played the majority of his 19-year career with the Phillies, appearing in seven All-Star games.
All three former Phillies will be watching closely as the team inches toward the Fall Classic -- especially Schmidt, who believes that another World Series would become the biggest moment in Philadelphia sports history.
"It's an exciting time in Philadelphia baseball."