By Sam Bush

The Phillies got this town off to a great start by smoking the Braves in Thursday’s opener.

But not everyone has Phillies Fever.

Such as ESPN:

2019 projected record: 84-78 (fourth in NL East)
World Series odds: 12-1

Best case:

It’s all on the table for a team that hasn’t posted a winning record since 2011. The offense should be one of the league’s best, especially if a certain high-profile free-agent acquisition pays off.

The defense? Well, it can’t be worse, right?

The bullpen looks strong, whether or not the Phils add to the back end. That puts the onus on a top-heavy starting rotation.

Aaron Nola must approximate his great 2018 season; Jake Arrieta needs to remain a legit No. 2; and Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez need to nail down their spots. If the Phillies get strong starting pitching from stem to stern, they will win the NL East.

Worst case:

What if, in Year 1 of 13, Bryce Harper hits .230? The Phils could find that their window of contention, which seems to just be opening, is stuck. Those Phillies fans standing outside looking through it? You don’t want to hear what they are saying.

Make-or-break player:

Clearly, this season will be all Harper, all the time. His defenders see his 2015 season as more representative of his true talent level than what has occurred since then. Vegas sees him as the odds-on favorite to win this season’s NL MVP. His detractors say we’ve already seen the best of Harper and that he’s too inconsistent to be considered an upper-level star. For better or worse, Harper and the city of Philadelphia are in it together.

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