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The Bleacher Bums: October 2, 2007 Archive

The fightin' Phils

Posted at 1:31 PM on October 2, 2007 by Tom Scheck

Well, here we are. The team of my youth has made it into the playoffs for the first time since 1993. They did the improbable by winning the NL East with the help from the chokin' New York Mets.

I dropped the Phils a while back for a couple of reasons (mostly because I moved to Minnesota) but I found myself logging on to read the box scores at 11 pm or cursing ESPN News for spending too much time on the NFL when all I wanted was Phillies score.

I'm now infected with Phillies fever. Maybe it's because I was in Pennsylvania over the weekend and got caught up in all of the excitement. I think it has more to do with my 88 year old grandmother. She's been a Phillies fan all her life. She rarely misses a game and there has to be a pretty good reason if she does. The wedding of her granddaughter was one of those times. That didn't prevent her from demanding updates over the weekend. Every few minutes one member of the family would quietly saunter off during the first dance, the cutting of the cake or the toast by the best man (I totally missed that) to get grandma the score.

We would walk up to her and whisper in her ear "Phils are down two in the eighth. The good news is Ryan Howard just jacked one." Grandma would quietly smile when she found out the Phillies won. She would frown on Saturday when she found out that they were losing (and lost).

In fact, I'm not the only one to attend a wedding where most of the concern was over the ballgame and not the first dance. Famous Philadelphia Inquirer Columnist Bill Lyon (the best that ever was) witnessed the same thing. I just found this column but won't read it until I'm finished writing. To continue reading would force me to scrap this whole entry knowing I couldn't capture it as well as Lyon did.

It seems like my entire family grew up reading Lyon, loving their sports and hoping for victories. I know I'm not the only one.

Families talk about the games, the plays, the collapses and the world championships (there haven't been any in the City of Brotherly Love since 1983). It would have been a quiet few years in my house if my father and I didn't have the 'iggles, the phils and the 76ers to talk about. In fact, Philadelphia's trophy case has been quiet over the years.

The city is starved for a victory. We watched the beloved 'Iggles lose in the Super Bowl a few years ago. The Sixers (otherwise known as Allen Iverson's one man band) couldn't get a win over those pesky Lakers a few years back. The Phils lost in 1993 on a Joe Carter homer. The last Philadelphia pro sports team to win was in 1983.

That doesn't mean there weren't highlights. Philadelphia has Villanova's 1985 NCAA basketball championship and Smarty Jones won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2004. But the city groaned as the horse lost the lead to Birdsong in the Belmont and ruined any hopes for a Triple Crown "Smarty Party" as Lyon put it. Another horse, named Barbaro, also brought joy to the city after it won the Kentucky Derby in 2006. The horse came up lame in the Preakness and was put down after fighting to stay alive for a year.

Those two horses may be the perfect metaphor for the City of Philadelphia. Early on, Smarty Jones was near death after getting spooked and cracking its skull in the starting gate. The injury was so bad that the vet thought the horse would lose its eyes. But it persevered, got up and kept on running.

Barbaro broke a few bones but defied the conventional wisdom that the horse had to be put down and fought for life. For a year and a half, Barbaro's medical updates captured the city's hearts. Many hoped that the horse would defy the odds and live on. "Never say die" is the city's motto even when the priest shows up to read you the last rights.

That may be the embodiment of this Phillies team.

Philly fans also had to watch as the Phils approached and passed the 10,000 loss mark this summer. The Phils are the first team to do it. Were these fans bitter? Heck no. Many celebrated the event hoping that the team would get up after the knockdown, dust itself off and start swinging.

And swing they did.

Jimmy Rollins caught fire and proved that he should be the MVP (last night's botched outfield play by Matt Holliday is reason enough he shouldn't get it), Ryan Howard went deep 47 times and Cole Hamels has shown the guts of a gritty veteran.

The Phils caught the Mets. They also caught the heart of this 33 year old hoping to recapture the pride and joy he felt when the Phils won the 1980 World Series. He hopes he can whisper into his grandmother's ear just once more "The Phils did it Grandma. They did it."

I live for this cliche

Posted at 3:19 PM on October 2, 2007 by Bob Collins

I've been asked to lend my baseball experience to Bleacher Bums during the playoffs. I haven't been interested in the playoffs for a number of years, but now that the Cleveland Indians are back in the playoffs, so am I.

This is the time of the year when we hear the cliche, "good pitching beats good hitting." If so, the Yankees-Indians series is over. If only I could recite the mantra often enough to finally believe it.

The Yankees bullpen is a mess, thanks to a series a few weeks ago against the Toronto Blue Jays, from which the bullpen never recovered. The Indians finished 3rd in the A.L. in pitching. The Yankees finished 17th overall and 8th in the A.L. We've got Sabathia and Carmona, the Yankees have Wang and whoever shows up. I try to block out that I'm playing the part of Minnesota Twins fans in seasons past. Their team had better pitching too. Their team went home in a hurry.

By the way, the Sporting News just declared the Yankees will win the World Series because of their bullpen. The Sporting News management has obviously not bought out enough of its writers.

Of the top 10 teams in pitching this year, only Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, and Arizona made the playoffs The best pitching in baseball this year belonged to the San Diego Padres. Unable to hold an extra inning lead, the Padres are making tee times today. The Mets (12) had better pitching than the Phillies (23).

I have a nagging feeling, fertilized by 45 years of being a Cleveland Indian fan, that good pitching beats good hitting.

Except when it doesn't.

(Photo credit: Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

That sinking feeling, part II

Posted at 8:30 PM on October 2, 2007 by Chris Dall (1 Comments)

Well, now that I've had a day to digest "The Collapse" and all its repercussions, I feel like I'm ready to address it. There was a moment late Sunday where I thought that maybe people wouldn't make such a big deal out it, but clearly I was wrong. The Mets have become the punchline to a thousand different jokes.

Even after the dust settles and the laughter fades, what happened to the 2007 Mets will be debated for years to come, and everyone will have their theory. I'll stick by my earlier post and lay most of the blame on the bullpen, with a special acknowledgement to the starters, especially a certain Hall-of-Fame pitcher who failed to show up in two of his team's biggest games. Here's all you need to know about how bad Met pitching was over the last two weeks of the season. In 6 games against the Washington Nationals, the team that scored the fewest runs in the National League, Met pitchers gave up 57 runs.

Of course, a collapse like this one has to involve other factors, and here are some other numbers that tell part of the story: .214/.290/.348. Those are the numbers that Jose Reyes, "The Most Exciting Player in Baseball," put up in September, a month where he seemed to forget that putting the ball on the ground is the best way for him to get on base . His three popups in Sunday's loss to the Marlins pretty much summed it all up.

Then there's the issue of the manager, Willie Randolph. While Willie doesn't deserve all the blame, he does have to bear some responsibility. He used relievers like Guillermo Mota and Jorge Sosa way too much, even after it became clear they couldn't get anyone out. And fair or not, his inability to impart on his players a sense of urgency over the last two weeks has to count against him. They shouldn't have needed anyone to do that for them, but clearly that's what fans expect from managers, and Randolph didn't deliver.

And let's not forget GM Omar Minaya, who saddled his manager with a pitching staff of 6-inning starters and no middle relief and failed to bring in reinforcements at mid-season. He deserves a slice of blame pie, too.

I prefer to chalk up some of the debacle to more cosmic forces. Maybe it was some kind of Karmic payback for 1986. I mean, really, Mets fans had to know that would come back to haunt them eventually, didn't they? Or maybe it was the ghost of William Shea, angry that the team will moving into a fancy new corporate-named, luxury box-laden "ballpark" in 2009. Or perhaps it was the curse of Anna Benson, who was banished to Baltimore with husband Kris after appearing in this get-up at Mets Christmas party.

Whatever the cause, it's going to take me and other Met fans a long time to get over this one.

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