Wednesday, October 29, 2008

28 Years



As I sit here, drinking a celebratory scotch out of my 1980 World Champion Phillies commemorative tumbler, I have but one thing to say:

WHY CAN'T US





Logical, coherent thought will return anon.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Disgraceful

Look, I know it's not Yankees-Dodgers or Red Sox-Cubs, but the way in which this World Series has been treated has been disgraceful. From the lack of promotion to the shoddy umpiring to what felt like a desperate attempt by Fox to cram Game 5 in despite monsoon conditions in order to protect House's time slot, the whole thing has been given the poor relative treatment.

But regardless of what you think about the marketing angle, to have players out there in those conditions - 39 degrees and rain coming down so hard it was bouncing off Ryan Howard's shoulders - was idiotic. It risked injury to the players, it made the game look bad, and it made for lousy baseball.

It's the World Series, for God's sake. Treat it with some respect.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What This World Series Needs...

...is less cowbell. Way, way less cowbell. Either that, or more Tampa fans who can count to four on the beat.

W00t! for the Phillies, winning a game that was a real nail-biter. This one had pretty much everything that the Series was promised to include: dominant pitching by Cole Hamels, homers, stolen bases, bad defense by Ryan Howard, lots of bullpen tactical matchups from Joe Maddon, and so forth. The one element that was called out we didn't see was a Brad Lidge flameout, and for that, I'm just as grateful, rally.

Ryan Howard looks really, really lost out there right now. A lot of his strikes came on awkward checked swings, a sure sign he's second-guessing at the plate. Or, to put it another way, the Rays walked Chase Utley to get to the reigning HR and RBI champ. That says a lot about how Howard's going right now.

Ryan Madson does indeed seem to have found some extra giddyup on his fastball, which is good, because fastball-changeup is all he's got. The fact that Madson put it together this year after several...erratic ones is a fairly significant part of the Phillies' success story. Having someone who could step into the Flash Gordon shutdown setup role was crucial for a team that scores runs in streaks. Suddenly, I feel much better about the autographed Ryan Madson baseball I bought at a charity auction at a Bulls game a few years back. Much better.

Was it just me, or was Brad Lidge taking a long, long time between pitches?

Kudos to the Rays' pen, which absolutely manhandled the Phillies. Grant Balfour has clearly found the "On" switch again, and he made a lot of guys look silly.

0-for-the-night with runners in scoring position? If the Phillies don't fix that, they're toast. Small sample size applies, hitting with runners in scoring position is not a quantifiable skill, blah blah blah, but 0 for twelve (or some such) is just not the sort of stat you want to see attached to your guys.

Classy, great crowd in the Trop. Even with the damn cowbells.

I will give the Rays credit for using an Alan Parsons Project song that is not "Sirius" for the visiting team introductions, at least.

Top of the first. Utley hits a two run homer. McCarver: "That's a good start for the Phillies". Bottom of the first. Howard and Hamels have crossed signals and Iwamura beats both of them to the bag. "That's a bad start for the Phillies." Seriously, is he part goldfish? Does his memory actually reset every three seconds, or does it just seem that way?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The National Media's Guide to Philadelphia Sports Fans, Presented as a Public Service (Part 2)

4-The first, last, and only piece of music recorded about Philadelphia was the theme from Rocky
First of all, that's not true. Second of all, it's called "Gonna Fly Now". Third of all, the version they generally play is the Maynard Ferguson one, not the Bill Conti recording from the movie.

All that being said, the Rocky-related thing most Philadelphians like to do is watch tourists try to run up the art museum steps and get winded halfway. And, it should be noted, very few of them (tourists or observers) ever actually enter the museum.

5-It's called a Philly Cheese Steak
No, it isn't. It's a cheesesteak. Period. If the person you are buying it from feels the need to append the word "Philly" to it, it isn't one. As for those who put mayo on the bun, well, the less said about them, the better.

World Series Prediction

Because I am a Phillies fan, and thus by nature am incapable of being an optimist...

Because the Rays have the left-handed pitching to handcuff Utley and Howard, and because the Feliz-Ruiz-pitcher sequence is the soft underbelly of the Phillies' lineup...

And because the Phillies don't have anything in their bullpen equivalent to David Price...

Rays in six.

Not that it isn't going to break my heart anyway.

Ratings

Blah, blah, blah.

The games haven't even started yet and they've already decided that it's going to be the lowest-rated World Series ever. Way to devalue your own product, kids.

The logic apparently goes that it's going to be a ratings stinker because A) it's two East Coast teams (you know, like those Yankees-Red Sox games they're so fond of showing), B)it's two "small" market teams, and C)it's not some combo of Red Sox/Yankees/White Sox/Angels vs Dodgers/Mets/Cubs. Oh, and nobody's ever heard of the Rays, despite their drawing record ratings on TBS for their ALCS, and having been the story of the summer.

Funny, though. Last time I checked, Philadelphia was the #4 television market in the country. That's got to be worth some eyeballs, right? And then there's this tidbit, ganked from The Hollywood Reporter:

In the past 10 years, the highest-rated Fall Classic was the seven-game Florida Marlins-Cleveland Indians matchup, which averaged a 16.7 rating/29 share.

Let's try that again. The highest-ranked World Series of the last decade was Florida, which can't draw flies to its stadium, versus Cleveland, whose baseball tradition is best known to non-Clevelanders as the launching point for the movie career of Wesley "Wille Mays Hayes" Snipes. Notice there's no Boston there? No Yankees, no Dodgers, no Cubs, no team in the top 5 media markets (Cleveland's 8, Miami is 21).

Instead, you had compelling teams playing great baseball. So maybe, just maybe, what's needed for good ratings is good baseball.

And if they're feeling really crazy, they might even try promoting that instead.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Today's Bwahahahah Moment

One of the talking heads on ESPN radio discussing how Terrell Owens sat down at dinner with new teammate (and highly paid, ball-demanding wide receiver) Roy Williams, and that everything was going to be cool because of that.

It's a good thing the Eagles had a bye this week. Otherwise, half the team would have rendered themselves unfit to perform by laughing too hard.

One Shall Stand and One Shall Fall

Manny's being Manny being a golfer.
The ghosts of Fenway, and with them Bill Simmons' interest in anything that isn't shaped like the Celtics of Vince Vaughn, has evaporated.
Joe Torre's fall magic has evaporated under an artillery barrage of Philadelphia longballs.
And it's Phillies and Rays - much to the chagrin of Fox Sports execs, and sportswriters deprived of their pre-cooked "Red Sox vs Dodgers" stories - in the World Series.

Buckle up. This is going to be a good one.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The National Media's Guide to Philadelphia Sports Fans, Presented as a Public Service (Part 1)

1-Dressing Like Santa Claus is a bad idea
All Philadelphia fans are born with an instinctive hatred of Santa, and will pelt anyone even vaguely dressed like him - this includes late-period John Kruk in his road uni, Rerun from What's Happening, and wall-mounted animation cels from the Fat Albert cartoon series - with snowballs on sight. Little-known fact: Phillies fans actually pay to import snow-making machines from the Poconos and keep them running all summer in the basement of Citizens' Bank Park so taht they can have ammunition in case Modell's Sports tries to run a "Christmas in July" sale.

2-On the throwing of batteries
Contrary to popular belief, Philadelphia sports fans do not in fact rain down nine-volts willy-nilly on members of the opposition outfield. In fact, it is only under one particular circumstance that a visitor to the outfield at CBP might be in peril of getting a battery upside the head, and that would be if they were playing right field and wearing an authentic, game-used J.D. Drew jersey.
And even in that instance, no one would through a nine volt.
They'd throw a car battery instead.

3-The only food that anyone in Philadelphia eats is cheesesteaks
Simply not true. They also eat Tastykakes. And scrapple. Usually, not together.
Usually.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

This is Just Awesome...

...in a goofy, Philly kind of way.

(ganked from The 700 Level)

Also, I have ritually ordered a box of Tastykakes for World Series viewing. Now if I could only get me some Frank's Black Cherry Wishniak....

Suddenly, I'm Jonesing for Some Hoy Hing...


No word on whether having Ryan Howard land on him caused 434-year-old Jamie Moyer to break his hip, but hey, it's a party!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Because It's Just Not the Postseason Without Talking About the Yankees

And specifically, Cap'n Jetes.

Seriously.

Has anyone else noticed the really odd thing about the Jeter "G2" commercial? You know, the one where he strolls through New York while the world comes up baseball around him?

The one where he gets out of a cab and then starts walking?

*sigh* Logic, we have forsaken thee.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Also...




Go, go, Wonder Hamster!

Phillies-Dodgers, Game 4

Because Game 3, like The Godfather 3, never actually happened.

And...wow. It seriously looked like the Phillies were coming unglued when they botched covering the bunt, but...wow.

Hell of a game. Hell of a series.

And now, it's Cole Hamels on full rest for Game 5. Color me crazy, but it looks like Uncle Cholly knows what he's doing after all.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Rays-Sox, Game 2

Wow.

Definitely a game of inches - if Dioner Navarro gets his glove an inch higher on Wheeler's wild pitch or throws to the plate an inch to the left, the game never hits extra innings. If the Rays land any of those screamers down the line on the fair side of things, the game doesn't make it to the 11th. And in the end, Fernando Perez does exactly what they have him on the roster to do, which is run like hell at every opportunity, and zip home just ahead of a slightly off-target JD Drew throw.

Of course, being a Phillies fan, I'll take every opportunity to say the words "JD Drew" and "off-target" I can, but that's neither here nor there. A perfect throw might have nailed Perez, but damn, he can fly. I watched him all summer in Durham (Note: Mandatory mention of the fact that he's a Columbia grad here*) and while he's got the Juan Pierre slappy thing down cold, he's also got a bit of pop, and a better sense of when to run. I don't think he'll ever be a star, but he's certainly fun to watch.

Other thoughts:

Timlin? Done. Yeah, he got jobbed on one call, but that wasn't the only call that was missed all night, not by a long shot. Conversely, the first base umpiring was pretty damn good on some very tough plays.

Cowbells? Annoying. Hilda Chester did it better sixty years ago.

I'm mildly surprised that they don't play "Baby Got Back" when JP Howell goes into his windup. Pitchers generally don't display their badonkadonk quite so...prominently

I'd like to thank whoever stopped running the Frank Caliendo commercials. I have to confess, I don't even know who the guy is supposed to be impersonating half the time. I remember Rich Little, and you, Frank Caliendo, are no Rich Little.

The announcers came *this* close to calling out BJ Upton for jaking it on Coco Crisp's second double of the night, probably reserving the full-blown pronouncement for post-game analysis if the gaffe had cost Tampa Bay the game. It looked like Upton, who plays a very shallow center field, misjudged the ball's carry off the bat, and wound up a couple of steps short of catching it on the edge of the warning track. Now, I've seen Upton turn it off and on for years, but he was definitely "on" tonight. Chalk that one up to a bad read, not a lack of effort.

3 innings plus for Dan Wheeler? Wow. This says that either Wheeler's a lot more rubber-armed than most of us think, or that Joe Maddon is willing to use someone else to close in Game 3. Even with extra time off, that's a lot more than Wheeler's used to throwing at one shot, and I wouldn't bank on him being terribly effective for Game 3.

David Price looked sharp once he got over his first-batter jitters. This series may be his Joba-like introduction to the national stage.

And for the record, damn, that was a long game. 13 stranded runners for the Red Sox, 13 walks...you know, the Phillies and Dodgers didn't take nearly this long to have their slugfest.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Memories of '93

In October of 1993, I was a graduate student, living in Jamaica Plain and studying (if that's the right word for it) at Boston College. The house I was living in belonged to my cousin, who was out of town doing a PhD in Nursing, but Jamaica Plain was on the far side of the city where the liberal arts majors dursn't go, and so I was pretty well isolated from the on-campus social life. This wasn't really a surprise; after all, I was the guy who brought a 900 page paperback with a skeleton on the cover to our initial MA meeting, and since then I'd been branded the weirdo, the heretic, the geek. It didn't help that I'd actually gotten academic publication accepted in an accredited, albeit weirdo-targeted journal, namely, Lovecraft Studies. But mostly, it was just me.

Besides, a lot of my friends from the undergraduate days at Wesleyan had moved up to Boston, chief among them a pair of fellow baseball fanatics who were as different as could be. James lived down in Brighton, much closer to my classmates than I did, and inhabited a basement-floor apartment that looked out on the tires and broken beer bottles of his neighbors. Well over six feet tall, bearded, and congenial in a "I'll buy you a beer until you fuck with me, and then I'll beat you to death with your own feet" sort of way, James looked like the result of Ian Anderson-Reggie White slash fic, and I mean that in the best and most manfully affectionate way. The dude was just big, but he had to be; while waiting on law school, he was working in a home for emotionally disturbed children, and on occasion they'd get a little...rambunctious. He was also ferociously intelligent, extremely well-read, and really, really good at handling a giant foam broadsword (don't ask).

The other member of our little cabal was Aaron, who was diametrically opposed to James in most ways. Like me, a Phillies fan, Aaron had graduated from our shared alma mater with a degree in economics, and he was working at a research firm before his eventual plunge into Princeton. He played centerfield in our pickup softball games, dug The Who like nobody's business, and was the analytical, cautious counterweight to James' relentless enthusiasm and my "What the hell?" curiosity. Aaron also had an apartment in the Brighton area, albeit a newer, nicer, more modern one on a higher floor. It was airy and roomy and well-laid-out, so naturally whenever we got together to watch a game, we'd do it at James'.

There were a couple of reasons for this. One, James got the best TV reception. Two, his place simply reeked of ineffable guy-ness. His vintage fridge was made for a door full of beer bottles and a stacked shelf of pizza boxes; his couch sagged appropriately, and he did indeed have an aging La-Z-Boy from which he could survey the room magisterially.

Also, he was right across the street from a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant called Hoy Hing. Now, I have no idea if Hoy Hing is still in existence, and if it is whether it's still under the same management, but in 1993 it was the single greatest Chinese restaurant on the planet. Was it good? God only knows, but it was right, absolutely perfect for a bunch of guys pooling their meager cash to get a pile o' munchies to go with the beer and the game. The boneless ribs, in particular, were a heart attack in a carton, but they were good beyond compare, particularly when washed down with a Cider Jack or a Sam Adams.

And so that was our ritual. We'd get together, stroll across the street for Hoy Hing, then sit back and watch the game. Sometimes it was football, sometimes it was baseball. In the fall of 1993, it was the Phillies and the Braves in the NLCS. Screw grad school and coursework; before each game, we'd meet up, load up, and settle in.

Well, they would. I'd get banished to the next room, because I was, and I quote, "a jinx." Oh, they were very kind about it. I'd be set up with a beer, some Chinese food (though not the boneless ribs), and a comfy chair, and they'd turn up the volume on the television loud enough that I could hear it through the wall. And, after each pitch, either Aaron or James would stick his head in to let me know what happened. It ran something like this:

*whoosh*
*sound of cheering*
*Aaron leans into the doorway* "Aw, man, you should have seen that! Roger Mason just blew a 93 mph fastball right by Mark Lemke!"
*pause*
"Whoops, next pitch is coming. Gotta go."
*slam*

Repeat that for every pitch of the LCS, give or take. And so my memories of the last time the Phillies went to the LCS, of their epic struggle against the relentless Braves machine that overtook the desperately struggling Giants, of their last postseason series victory, consist of sitting in the next room and waiting for the updates on every pitch.

Willingly, of course, because I was a jinx, and if sitting in the next room was what it took for the Phillies to win, then, by God and Bake McBride's 'fro, then I was going to do it. For honor, for friendship, for the Phillies, and for the crazy idea that the three of us had that it would somehow help.

I wouldn't trade the memories for the world.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Phillies 3, Dodgers 2

It has been noted in numerous quarters that when the Phillies don't hit home runs, they don't score. And when they don't score, they don't win. The key, then, as demonstrated in both the last game against Milwaukee and tonight, is to hit a lot of homers, preferably in demoralizing bunches.

In other news, the use of Greg Maddux as a reliever would seem to indicate that it's going to be Kershaw in Game 4. Without getting too far ahead of myself, I think that's probably the best call for the Dodgers, and for Maddux as well. The way to beat this Phillies team is with heat, and that's not something Maddux has going for him these days. I'd hate for his last appearance to be the sort of merciless drubbing the Phils can inflict when they get cranking on all cylinders.

(Like I said, I'm getting ahead of myself here, but hey, it's an optimistic Phillies fan. Isn't the novelty value alone worth it?)

Of course, it all depends on which Brett Myers shows up for game 2. If he's got his mojo working and Uncle Cholly's plan for neutralizing Manny (fasbtalls up and in, lather rinse repeat) works, then LA could be in a deep hole, very quickly. At the very least, it'll be interesting...

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Phillies-Dodgers

If the Phillies' lefthanded bats wake up - and the Dodgers have only two lefties on staff, both of them in the pen - then they stand a good shot of winning.

If those bats wake up and they keep Furcal off the bases, they stand a really good shot of winning.

If Joe Blanton remembers he's Joe Blanton, then all bets are off.

Gravity Check?

Still working.

And yet, Doug Gottlieb berated the Angels tonight for - wait for it - low OBP. And he called K-Rod *gasp* overrated.

Oh, Doug. Just when I think it's over between us, you do something sweet like this and remind me why I read that magazine profile of you - the one where you talk about trying prairie oysters - all those years ago.

The Magic Basketball Theory

And so, buried amidst the football news and the baseball playoffs, we get word that an intensive inquiry of the Donaghy crisis in the NBA reveals that he acted alone, and that he only fired one jump shot from the school book depository.

On a more serious note, investigator Lawrence Pedowitz' 133 page report concludes that Donaghy acted alone, and that the NBA did not fix games for TV rating, no matter what Ron Artest might say. Now, ordinarily one might greet this with just a wee bit of salt. An NBA investigation saying that the most damaging scandal of its history is contained to one rogue ref? No organized conspiracy? No league wrongdoing? Well, duh, what did you expect it to say? David Stern knows better than to ask any question he doesn't know the answer to. Of course the report commissioned by him on his league is going to say that everything's hunky-dory.

Except that it doesn't. It says that a large part of Donaghy's work was done through knowing refs' tendencies - which players they hated, which ones they liked, and so forth. That, while not as explosive as word of a Donaghy accomplice might have been, this doesn't make the NBA - or its refs - look particularly good, either. It's not the sort of thing you leave out there if you're doing a happy, shiny whitewash.

Of course, now that it's out there, it's not going to go away. The real test of this upcoming season is not whether they've cleaned up after Donaghy. It'll be whether they clean up what was already there when he got started.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Phillies Win, Advance to NLCS

They'll be facing the Los Angeles Red Sox, err. Dodgers. Somewhere, Gary Maddox is screaming* "Go get those SOBs!"

*in his usual classy, soft-spoken way.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Also...

...how long before the "C.C. Sabathia is a playoff choker" meme pops up?

Ridiculous. The guy pitches his guts out down the stretch to pretty much single-handedly haul the Brewers into the post-season, he wins every must-win they throw in front of him and does it on short rest, and now, because Brett Myers managed to channel Luke Appling for an at-bat, he'll be dismissed forever as a "choker".

Ratings

And now we come to the part of the baseball postseason where baseball writers opine about how certain matchups are less desirable because they'll theoretically bring bad ratings.

Call me crazy, but wouldn't it be nice if they focused on reporting the stories and drummed up interest in those cities that weren't directly involved?

Just checking.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Look Familiar?


Does this image remind you of anyone? I'm thinking Frank Gorshin as the Riddler, with henchman #1.

Memo to Brad Lidge

Brad Lidge? Not for you!


Nobody in Philadelphia actually likes Mitch Williams.

And only in Philly would the post-game focus after a thrilling game 1 win of a postseason series, the first since Darren Daulton was still married to a Hooters waitress, be how they nearly blew it.

Tastykake, anyone?

Congratulations, White Sox

If you ask me, a 1-0 game with the only run being scored on a homer and a future hall of famer saving the game with a bang-bang play at the plate is everything a one game playoff should be.

Fooey on ESPN radio's Mike Golic, incidentally, who suggested that head to head record "like in the NFL" should be the determining factor in ties, and that these playoff - or play-in - games are unnecessary. There was also some grumbling about how one game isn't a fair test for something this momentous...

...to which I say, well, yes, they've had a 162 game test. This stuff doesn't happen in a vaccum, folks. The game was necessary because neither the Twins nor the White Sox could get it done when it counted, the Sox when they had a lead on the Twins heading into the final series, and the Twins when they had a tasty meal of KC Royals in front of them for the season's final 3 games but still failed to seal the deal.

And so it gets settled where it should, on the field, with unlikely heroes (Nick Blackburn) and fading stars (Thome & Griffey, together for one more show!) playing their guts out for the chance to play some more.

And now the White Sox are off to the dome in Tampa Bay that they nearly inhabited, while the Twins are left to ponder "what if?" What if they'd brought up Francisco Lirano sooner? What if they'd dumped the nightmare that was Livan Hernandez before his disastrous last stretch of starts? What if they hadn't traded Johann Santana? What if they'd won just one more game against the Royals? What if, what if, what if. This is the stuff that Red Sox fans know well, and are happy to send Minny-wards with a nice big red ribbon on the box. But any way you slice it, there's going to be a lot of second-guessing over obvious moves and the timing thereof, and what they might have cost.

Flags, after all, fly forever.
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