CLEARWATER, Fla. -- It took Jayson Werth a World Series setback to truly appreciate a World Series triumph.
He is using defeat as motivation in 2010.
The Phillies open their season on April 5 in Washington as two-time defending National League champions, but winning three consecutive pennants will be remarkably difficult. The record book indicates that much. Last year, Philadelphia tried to become the first NL team since the 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds to win consecutive World Series, but fell short when the Yankees won in six games. No NL team has won three consecutive pennants since the 1942-44 St. Louis Cardinals.
If the Phils make that happen, they could be in the discussion of the best teams in NL history.
"We're aware of what that means," Werth said. "We're very aware of where we fit in historically if we do. But it's not something we think about. But last year made me appreciate '08. After you win the World Series in 2008, it's like, 'Let's go win it again.' You didn't take it for granted, but you were still hungry. But after we lost, it hit home how special it was. It made me twice as hungry. The biggest challenge is to get in any way you can. Win the division. Win the Wild Card. Just be one of those four teams. Just give yourself a chance."
Once you are in, anything is possible.
"[We just have to] make sure we're playing in October," Werth said. "Once we're there, I like our chances."
The 2010 Phillies arguably are better than the team that lost to the Yankees. As much as fans loved Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay is one of the best pitchers in baseball. Placido Polanco is an offensive upgrade over Pedro Feliz at third base, although it remains to be seen how Polanco will handle the hot corner for an entire season. Cole Hamels has impressed teammates, coaches and scouts this spring, and he could give Philadelphia a stellar 1-2 punch atop its rotation. The Phils also appear to have upgraded their bench with the additions of Brian Schneider, Ross Gload and Juan Castro.
If Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero recover from offseason surgeries the way the Phillies think they will, the bullpen could be fine. If not, well, there are problems. Philadelphia won 93 games last season, but it probably could have won 100, as Lidge blew a Major League-leading 11 saves and Ryan Madson blew six. Those blown saves did not cost them in 2009, but the Phils don't want to take that chance in 2010.
"I don't necessarily expect myself to have '08, but I expect myself to be a lot closer to '08 than '09, that's for sure," said Lidge, who went 48-for-48 in save opportunities in 2008. "I feel really optimistic that will be the case."
The Phillies think that with their bullpen on track, they can hit, pitch and play defense with anybody in baseball.
"We were a pretty good team," Jimmy Rollins said of last year's club. "We didn't play good for six games, but we were a pretty good team. You pick up a guy like Roy Halladay, it's tough to say you're not better automatically. I would say it's pretty close. I couldn't say we're much better, but when you get a guy like Roy Halladay it seems like at least another five wins on his own."
But a good team needs to stay motivated, and these Phillies seem to be. Werth becomes a free agent after the season. Rollins, Lidge, Ryan Howard and others become free agents after 2011.
Players get older.
Players get hurt.
The window to win is closing.
All those things motivate them.
And, of course, the opportunity to make history and be remembered forever. That's pretty good motivation, too.
"Last year didn't go the way we wanted it to," Howard said. "Hopefully, everybody comes in here with the mind-set of unfinished business. We all get locked in, have a good Spring Training and carry it out through the season."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.