Wednesday, May 24, 2006

10,000 Bobbleheads

When most Americans consider the concepts of "Sylvester Stallone" and "Philadelphia," the first association which springs to mind, naturally, are the “Rocky” movies.
Well ... not for everybody. There are those who remember that scene in “Cobra” when Lt. Cobretti (Sly) and Sgt. Gonzales (Reni Santori) are escorting their witness, Ingrid (Brigitte Nielsen), up the coast to safety. When the trio stops at a roadside stand, “Marion” (Stallone) picks up a knick-knack – a Phillies bobblhead doll, of all things -- and upon activating the bobblin' of the bobblehead with a slight tap, muses sarcastically to the peddler of said knick-knacks, “Big seller, huh?”

Very funny, Marion ... "big seller"? Y'mean like crappy movies like "Cobra"?

Why did Sly find it necessary to mock the Phillies?
It was at that time in our lives 20 years ago (the Stallone throwaway, "Cobra" fulfilling us in the gap between “Rocky IV” and “Rambo III”) when our paranoia reached the point where were scared to death that we might one day see a movie called “Stop! Or My Phillies Bobblehead Will Shoot.”

My inner-rage subsided through the years (through some intense Phillie paraphenalia de-paranoiaziation) and I eventually re-programmed my thinking to accept preceived threats in stride.
Which is why Tuesday night’s milestone defeat at the hands of the Mutts, surprisingly enough, pleased me.
It took 16 long innings, but the life-sized Phillie bobbleheads did it.
Loss No. 9,900 for the history books.

What this means is that Loss No. 10,000 is on the horizon.
It’s now something tangible … an event worth planning for.
And just look it the symmetry of this momentous occasion. Entering tonight’s contest at Shea, the Phillies have an all-time, won-loss record of 8,700-9,900. That dates back to the Phillies’ first season in 1883 … back when pitcher John Coleman had a 12-48 record for a team which finished 17-81. Back in the days when the Philly boobirds jeered second baseman Bob Ferguson for the 88 errors he committed at that position in ’83.

Anyone who saw Bobblehead Ferguson bobble n’ boot his way to those 88 errors surely died long before the advent of the Phillie bobblehead and the release date of movies which mock the Phillie bobblehead.
Even so, the modern-day Phillie fanatic is likely to take one look at Ferguson’s 88 errors 123 seasons ago and relate it to the present … and then say something like, “I’d still take Bob Ferguson over Juan Samuel.”
That’s a Phillie fan for ya. Although Samuel committed 116 errors in five full seasons (1984-88) at that position, EVERY ONE OF THOSE E-4’s cost the Phillies the game.
Look it up.

Now, with some basic math skills (and knowing such terms as “coefficient” and “exponential”), we can project the due-date of the historic 10,00th loss with some degree of certainty. Figuring that the 25-21 Phils are good for 60 more losses this season will put them at 9,960 to begin the ’07 season – which protracts out to the 40th loss occuring sometime during The Great June Swoon of ’07.

And, you’re goddamn right that me n’ the Mrs. will be there at The Cit when the odometer rolls over from 9,999 to 10,000.
My Phillie feminita got on board with the project sometime between Loss No. 8,674 and Loss No. 9,000 – so, I have confirmation that I’ve been keeping my eye on Loss No. 10,000 for more than a decade.
It’s that type of attention to detail to L’s which the public demanded from the Director of Phillie West Coast Special Ops (Shadow Company), circa ’74-’97.

The only bummer aspect of Loss No. 9,000 was that my little sugar plum wasn’t there to share it (she was away for two weeks in Colorado). Nevertheless, I documented the event … the transcript (honest to God) of what transpired on Saturday, July 22, 1995 is what follows:

9,000! Yahoo! Another fabulous, er … “phabulous” milestone for the losingest franchise in the history of the universe. I still love ‘em, though – even if they have betrayed me more than 1,500 times during this march toward 9,000.
Think about it, though: No fireworks spectacular after the 5-3, 11-inning loss tonight? What gives?
Say, you don’t ‘spose that I’m the only person alive who is aware of this phantastic milestone, do you? Don’t look for it on ESPN. I am the sports department, dammit.
Omar Olivares took the loss … but, Danny Jackson pitched well against his ol’ team for the second time in 9 days.
Pardon me – Mighty Paul Quantrill did NOT start tonight. Bobby Munoz made his 1995 debut. The results were mixed.

It’s confusing, isn’t it? Dare not you dismay. Afterall, remember how many folks made a big deal outta the Phils posting a 24-9 record without losing consecutive games? Well, who’s the sucker now? Edward The Bear wants to know.
The Phils On Pills haven’t won consecutive games during this 5-19 tailspin (or is it a nosedive?). There’s more snakes than ladders …

Well, that verbatim recapitulation was pretty vague. However, I think the Mrs. was attracted to me for the very fact that my letters were not cluttered with bogus, sugary, romantic tripe as the text remained cogent and on-point with “How Do We Phix The Phloppin’, Phadin’ Phils?”
The ’95 season, though, probably left me a little jaded – and it probably begins with the sad story of the always-injured Bobby Munoz.
Poor kid. He was one of the primary prospects acquired from the Yankees in the Terry Mulholland deal, yet, after showing plenty of promise in ’94 (7-5 / 2.67), he was never the same.
Historic Loss No. 9,000 (a no-decision for Munoz) was one of three games that Young Bob pitched in ’95. After that game, Munoz made 15 more starts in the next three seasons … and he went 1-10 with an 8.18 ERA.
He seemed like a nice, polite kid.

Unfortunately, in my letter to my missing loved one, I never told her how exactly the go-ahead runs were scored. Well, it all began in the 11th inning when St. Louis’ Roy Bunyan Cromer III (you Redbirds fans knew him as “Tripp”) beat out a grounder up the middle for a leadoff single.
Tripp eventually scored on a pinch-hit single by Gerald Perry before Jose Oquendo doubled home an insurance run.
After Munoz’s quality start and a combined four innings of shutout relief from two of my faves (1996 N.L. All-Star Ricky Bottalico and 1995 N.L. All-Star Heathcliff Slocumb), it all got away when a Phillie pitcher wearing #00 (Omar Olivares) was unable to retire a Card Named Tripp.
That’ll have ya chuckin’ yer Phillie bobblehead at the TV.
Even if the game’s only on radio.

For sure, a classic, 5-3 victory for Redbird skipper Mike Jorgensen, who’d had the job on an interim basis after Joe Torre was fired a little more than a month earlier.
Does anyone know what happened to Joe?
Maybe it was Joe’s fault that Danny Jackson, after posting a Cy Young Award-worthy record of 14-6 with the Phils in ’94, embraced his trade to the Cards (for Gregg Jefferies) by taking an 0-9 record, 7.83 ERA into the All-Star Break.
Looks as though summm-buddeee didn’t keep himself in shape during the strike.
Which was Torre’s fault.

#00 Omar Olivares pitched in only five games for the Phils, so he definitely wasn't the most-memorable member (though his uniform number was) of the Staff of ’95.
THE posterboy for that “in-shambles” pitching staff during this Phillies Phlashback is the guy who took the mound two days after Historic Loss No. 9,000 – a time when skipper Jim Fregosi (probably under odrers from somebody "upstairs") sent the recently-acquired Jim Deshaies to the mound for his Phillies debut.
Although he gave up 10 hits and six runs in that four-inning, no-decision stint against the Rockies, Deshaies REALLY hit his stride in his next outing five days later.
Against the Cubs, Deshaies didn’t make it out of the second inning, allowing six runs on five hits in an 8-0 loss at Wrigley.
DANG! I wonder if his ’94 stats with the Twins (6-12 / 7.39 … a league-leading 25 starts during the strike-shortened season and a league-leading 30 home runs allowed) could’ve been a foreshadowing of Jimmy’s precipitous fall-off from those late-‘80s golden years pitching in the Astrodome.
Deshaies was released by the Phils the day after the Wrigley nightmare.
Guess that ol’ “all-he-needs-is-a-change-of-scenery” trick didn’t work.

Two starts and a 20.25 ERA would've ruined a lesser man.

Maybe it’s a testament to the brilliant managerial mind of Fregosi that the team with a horrid-and-injured pitching staff (which had 26 different players take the mound that season) would finish with a 69-75 record … when 44-100 seemed more like what they were capable of.
Proof: Munoz, Tommy Greene (ace of the ’93 staff) and Dennis Springer compiled a total of 13 starts – and an 0-10 record.
Paul Quantrtill was “the ace” with his 11-12 record … Schilling started off 4-0, but ended up 7-5 after getting’ hisself all injured (again) … and Sid Fatnandez lost his first start as a Phillie (after going 0-4 with a 7.39 ERA in Baltimore), then went 6-0 during the final two months of the season.
Guess that ol’ “all-he-needs-is-a-change-of-scenery” philosophy was a stroke of genius.

Naturally, Fatnandez got hurt in ’96 (11 starts, a 3-6 record) and completely ruined the Phillies’ chances for the pennant, which ultimately got Fregosi fired.
Thanks a lot, El Sid.
And you, too, (injured) Curt Schilling (again).

Those ’95 Phils and Historic Loss No. 9,000 … ya gotta wonder if the ’07 Phillies will be as much fun on the way to Historic Loss No. 9,997, Historic Loss No. 9,998 and Historic Loss No. 9,999 as the warm-up for HISTORIC LOSS NO. 10,000.
Ya gotta wonder if 10,000 will have what 9,000 did – the rare 2-4-2-5-1 double play.
Indeed, when Slocumb struck out Bernard Gilkey with Allen Battle on third and Oquendo on first, catcher Lenny Webster threw down to second base as Oquendo was stealing … only Mickey Morandini made the quick return throw back to Webster as Battle was breaking from third … and the subsequent rundown had Webster chasing Battle back to third; Webster flipping the ball to Charlie Hayes, who ran Battle back toward the plate before tossing the ball to Slocumb who applied the tag for the putout.

That’s the type of magic we had in 1995. The organization which has, for years, battled the stigma of being “too white” achieved a rarity that night when three American-born black players – Webster, Hayes, Slocumb – teamed up for the 2-4-2-5-1 double play.
And, a fourth American-born black player, Tony Longmire, had the pinch-hit, RBI single which tied the game, 3-3, in the eighth.
Of course, it was the very-milky-skinned Andy Van Slump who scored that tying run.
Andy Van Slump gave Phillie fans 63 games of .243 excitement.
But, since another pale-face – Dave Hollins – was giving the Phillie Faithful only .229 worth of excitement, he was traded two days after Historic Loss No. 9,000 to the Red Sox for an extremely dark-skinned player -- the .185-Hittin’ Mark Whiten.

What great times.
What a fun Phillie Phlashback which will, inevitably, take us back to the future.
Just makes ya wonder how long the Phils will keep .272 career hitter Jimmy Rollins and his .242 average in the leadoff spot.

They can sort that out before No. 10,000.
Right, Cobretti?

No comments: