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Major Leagues: Next year starts now for Phillies

Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA ó The Philadelphia Phillies are built to be more than a one-year wonder.
Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge aren’t going anywhere. Neither are Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. With the team’s nucleus expected back next year, the Phillies have a chance to be the first repeat World Series champions since the New York Yankees won three in a row from 1998-2000.
“Thanks for your support! And let’s do it again!” general manager Pat Gillick screamed out to the delirious fans Wednesday night, moments after the Phillies beat the Tampa Bays Rays to capture the second championship in the franchise’s 126-year history.
The 71-year-old Gillick probably got caught up in the euphoria of the wild celebration when he said ‘again.’ After all, he plans to retire when his three-year contract expires Friday. That doesn’t mean the Phillies can’t do it without him.
Surely, repeating won’t be easy. Only the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays (1992-93) have won consecutive titles in the last 30 years.
But these Phillies are young, talented in many areas and possess the intangibles ó team chemistry and resilience ó needed to maintain success.
Left fielder Pat Burrell and soon-to-be 46-year-old pitcher Jamie Moyer are the only significant players that will become free agents. Burrell, who hit .250 with 33 homers and 86 RBIs in the regular season, wants to return. So does Moyer, who had a team-best 16 wins.
Burrell, 32, made $14 million this season, and he’ll probably get a more lucrative offer from another team. He started well, tailed off in the second half and struggled in the World Series after a strong NLCS.
If Burrell played his last game with the Phillies, his last at-bat was a memorable one. He broke an 0-for-13 skid in the Series with a leadoff double in the eighth inning of Game 5. Pinch runner Eric Bruntlett scored the go-ahead run on Pedro Feliz’s single, and Lidge preserved the 4-3 victory for his 48th save in 48 tries this year.
“It’s not really in my hands,” Burrell said of his future with the team he’s spent his entire nine-year career. “It’s up to them.”
Moyer had a remarkable season and came back with a solid outing in Game 3 of the Series following two subpar performances in the first two rounds. He walked off the field amid the chaos Wednesday night with the pitching rubber after digging it up with a shovel.
That looked like a guy who may be ready to call it quits. “Heck, no,” Moyer said afterward.
Moyer, who made $5.5 million this season, could get a better offer somewhere else. But he’d rather close out his career with his hometown team. Moyer grew up in the area, skipped school to attend the Phillies’ 1980 championship parade and will be part of it Friday.
“It’s not easy in Philadelphia,” he said. “But when you win, it makes it that much sweeter.”

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