What a week that was in Philly.
A tickertape parade for the Phillies reaching the 85-win range (or thereabouts) for the sixth year in a row since Francona was axed ... Brett Favre coming to town for MNF and stretching The Pack's in-Philly nightmare (dating back to G.B.'s 49-0 win in Philly in 1962) to 0-8 ... the mid-week "dropping of the charges" (for spousal abuse/punching) against Brett Myers by Mrs. Brett Myers (raise yer hand if you DIDN'T see that coming) ... and the weeklong buildup for the big anti-T.O. pep rally over at The Link, highlighted by the Anti-T.O. Eve festivities at The Cove wherein the Flyers and Rangers tangled for 13 rounds of a shootout.
The recap of "Lundqvist vs. Niitymaki" battle royale was: "Save, save, miss, miss, save, save, save, save, save, save, save, save, save, save, save, miss, save, save, save, save, miss, miss, GOAL!"
Damn you for failing to convert in Round 12, R.J. Umberger!
Once again, it was, "Two saves, two misses, 11 saves, a miss, four saves, two misses and a goal."
Maybe it was for the best that across the street from The Link and The Cove, all was quiet at The Cit ... as another year of wild-card baseball (what the natives call "The MLB's LDS") was not to be for the lads who wear the red pinstripes.
Timing-wise, the first week of Oct. '06 simply wasn't the time for the Phillies to clutter up everyone's day-planners with playoff complications.
This was a time for anti-Farvites and anti-Terrellistas to get their hate schwerves on before unleashing the mild-manneredness which Philly is famous for following days n' days of anticipation.
In reality, there was probably a lot more hostility that went into the burning of the 16 or 17 remaining "ABREU #53" replica Phillie shirts which remained in eastern PA.
And, actually, those 16 or 17 shirts were not actually burned.
Someone said they were.
They were, in fact, given to Goodwill.
A lot of us still can't figure out why energy cannot be harnessed and synergy cannot be channeled into booing Pat Burrell out of the ballyard.
Sure ... Pat The Bat (Burrell The Pearl) will begin the 2007 season with a streak of 301 consecutive games w/o a stolen-base attempt (honest ... lookit it up), but here's who else hasn't attempted a steal in 301 consecutive games:
The late Ty Cobb; those 700-lb. guys who guest on Maury Povich's show; your dog; your grandpa; your pet turtle; Daisy Fuentes; John Elway and his artificial hip ...
During the '06 season, it was easy to be sarcastic and quip that Burrell was "saving his best at-bats for the NLDS and the NLCS ... the World Series ... and maybe even the next World Baseball Classic."
Then again, a better visual might be the one wherein Officer Wendell "Bud" White is roughing up Burrell in the bathroom stall and, as Officer White is ramming Burrell's head into the toilet, Burrell blurts, "Get him off me, Exley!"
Lt. Exley (grim-faced and dispassionate): "I don't know how."
Which is when an enraged Officer White -- with eyes wild with fury and a vein bulging from his forehead -- yanks Burrell's sopping-wet head out of the toilet long enough to tell him, "Now, I know you think you're the A-number-one hot shot, but HERE'S THE JUICE!!!"
And, the juice is: Despite his 29-homer, 95-ribbie numbers, it should be pointed out that every homer Burrell hit ... every run he drove in ... occurred either when the Phillies were winning 7-1 or losing 8-1.
Whether or not there's data to support this theory -- or whether it's merely a hunch or a gut feeling, well ... it sure seemed that way.
Those knowledgeable Phillie phanatics should have picked up on this and, rather than boo Rolen outta The Vet and Abreu outta The Cit, maybe they shoulda realized that their beloved LF is a Dave Kingman/Ron Kittle reincarnate.
Apologies to you, apologists for the former Miami Hurricane 3B and Bellarmine College Preparatory QB.
Kid's got no wheels (which means a "Wheel Burrell" nickname won't stick) and no knack for hittin' in the clutch (which means a cheer of "Drat your luck, Patrick! You'll get 'em next time!" won't fly, either).
The final week of Sept. served as a perfect example why the Phillies (mostly Burrell) didn't spend the first week of Oct. filling up The Cit with wild-card love as The Link and The Cove across the street remains dens of hate and hate-mongering.
That Tues. nite loss to the Nats ... Burrell made it his personal mission to F-up every rally.
First inning vs. the shaky Ramon Ortiz, crisp singles by Victorino, Utley, Howard and Conine made it 2-0 -- and, for a pitcher who was BEGGING for the shotgun to be pressed against his forehead and for Burrell to be the guest trigger-puller, well, Patty Cakes ... whiffed.
A few innings later, Utley and Howard singled to start an inning and Flat Pat ... whiffed.
Burrell's exaggerated follow-through of a swing through a postage-stamp-sized hitting zone is annoying and only moderately effective. While "knowledgeable" Phillie fans were pre-occupied with booing Rolen outta town because he was "too expensive" and booing Abreu outta town because he was "too expensive," it was baffling why someone with Bad At-Bat Pat's obvious limitations has been spared the wrath of the boobirds.
Maybe it's his lack of speed or his less-than-capable LF defensive skills which have won the fans' hearts.
In the end, though, he's little more than a taller, skinnier, (allegedly) handsomer Pete Incaviglia.
At least Burrell has always fashioned his .258 talent while offering a stiff upper lip, so it appeared as though he cared.
And Philly seemed to care that Burrell seemed to care.
But, Burrell cashed his paycheck -- and Philly showed up at The Cit to help provide Burrell with that paycheck.
A paycheck which had no playoff shares.
Upon further review, the Phillies are too irritating to be heartbreakers. They anger more than they disappoint.
So, posting a 9-10 record vs. the Nats (which had the worst team ERA in the N.L. at 5.03) was a telling stat.
The capper on that failure was the 3-1 loss on that rain-delayed Thurs. when the game began at 11:35 P.M. and ended at 2:10 A.M. on Fri.
For those of us to stayed with it to watch every pitch (on TV), there must've been 100 Phillies diehards in RFK that night ... and maybe 63 Nats fans.
No lie ... 163.
Okay, maybe 212.
But, that's it
It looked like a lot of fun. Ballgames in a big empty ballpark are top notch because it's every fan's chance to heckle -- and be heard.
"Hey, Burrell! You couldn't hit water if you fell out of a boat!."
And then you discover that you're actually heckling Lieberthal.
Oddly enough, earlier that day, Gammons was on ESPN Radio and he told Patrick and Olberman that the Phillies had underachieved.
Any time we hear Pete say something like that, we have to realize that it's not really Gammons speaking.
That's the "Gamm-eurysm" talking.
The Phillies went into '06 with a starting rotation of: 1) Lieber 2) Myers 3) Lidle 4) Floyd 5) Madson.
Let's examine that:
Leebs is always a roll of the dice, not withstanding his 20-6 season in '01 w/ the Cubs and his 14-8 record w/ the '04 Yanks and 17-13 for the '05 Phils ... Myers is the king of the no-decision (in '05 and '06 -- 65 starts, 25 wins, 15 losses, 25 "no-decisions" ... Lidle is a quality junior-college pitcher ... the Gavin Floyd Project is now filed in the black filing cabinet next to the gals in Accounts Payable ... and Mad Dog, a set-up man as a starter, ohhhhh-kayyyyy ...
If not for Cole Hamels making great strides in his first taste of pitching in The Show and Jamie Moyer making several quality starts after the 6-12 mess he made of himself in Seattle, the Phillie pitching staff would've been a disaster.
Kudos too to Flash Gordon for maximizing the most out of his 38-year-old arm for a 34-save effort.
So, Gamms is off the hook because we all know that if he'd been in his right mind, he'd've tore the shrink-wrap off his pet expression for why every pitcher struggles in Sept.
So-and-so "is tired" is how Gamms describes any pitcher who either lacks the ability or the huevos to get the job done during crunch time.
One would think that Gamms -- with his street-cred for jammin' on the guitar w/ Bronson Arroyo -- would re-shape his remarks to something like, "That dude is tiyyy-yudd."
As in "weak" -- not as in "lacking energy."
It wasn't the same without Pete to explain to us how baseball really works -- such as when everybody described the Flyin' Hawaiian, Shane Victorino, as speedy or blazing fast, how come that translated to FOUR stolen bases in SEVEN attempts.
"Shane's legs are tired."
"Pat's bat is tired."
Excuse you, Gamms ... but Pat's bat has gone sleepytime.
Now that ya mention it, Jimmy Rollins is a nice kid with some wheels and some pop in his bat. Those 25 HRs got him damn near close to being a 30/30 player.
Then again, when a player is successful on 36 of his 40 stolen-base attempts, what happens is that fans of that player wonder what might happen if that player tried to swipe 70 bases, maybe even 80 or 90.
Why not 70? The obvious answer is: Jimmy don't steal 'cuz Jimmy's body will get "beat up"
Well, what's he saving it for? Prom night with the dashing Pat The Bat pinning on the corsage during an uncomfortable interracial, same-sex tryst?
Sure ... we all know that ballplayers today stayed camped out at first base because it saves the wear n' tear for the next contract negotiation.
Which is why The Flyin' Hawaiian is going to arbitration with 10, maybe 11 stolen bases to his credit in '07. It's the proverbial "wait for the 3-run jimmy jack" scenario,
And go 4-16 during the final three weeks of a June Swoon.
4-16 ... while waiting for that 3-run jimmy jack.
One of the best examples of the psychosis of the Phillie '06 squad was offered by Gus Bell's grandkid/Buddy Bell's kid. David Bell was having a typical .248 season when he caught fire in July. In his first 17 games of the month, Bell batted .423 (30 for 71) with five doubles, two triples, two HRs and 9 RBI.
The hot spurt lifted his average from .249 to .288.
Then ... the Bell Boy went 0 for 12 in the next three games and was traded to Milwaukee.
In his first 9 games in Brew Town, Bell went 5 for 29.
Back in form!
Naturally, the Phillies traded Bell w/o any idea of how they'd handle the 3B situation.
Problem solved: Abraham O. Nunez to the rescue!
Without question, the Phils woulda stacked up nicely with the likes of the Mets, Cardinals and Padres in postseason tussles -- particularly given that St. Loo finished 2 games behind the Phils in the won-loss records.
In fact, the Philles' 45-30 record since the All-Star break was the best in the N.L. -- which provided no relief as they went 3-4 during the final week whilst L.A. went 7-0.
Maybe one the most-interesting footnotes of the season came during the Fri. nite broadcast on ESPN during the final series vs. the Marlins. Dave O'Brien and Rick Sutcliffe were discussing (with Eric Karros as a non-violent observer) how 2006 Home Run Champion Ryan Howard was adamant last year (when he was a rookie) about requesting a trade if the Phillies weren't going to play him as the regular 1B when Jim Thome went on the DL.
One can only imagine what transpired if Howard went to asst. GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. and the dialogue which might've taken place in a Ry-Rubes Summit.
Howard: "I've hit at every level. I'm ready to hit here."
Amaro: "We have a first baseman. His name is Jim Thome. He's injured now, but these backups, Tomas Perez and Jose Offerman, they're veterans. Did you know, for example, that Jose Offerman was a 1999 A.L. All-Star?"
Howard: "I can outhit either of those stiffs any day of the week."
Amaro: "Did you know that I have a biology degree from Stanford University? Did you hear me?That's Stanford, pal ... Stanford!"
In the end, it's another October-as-usual 'round The Cit (across the street ftom The Link and The Cove).
The only meaningful dates on the Phils' '07 refrigerator-magnet calendar are: 1) Historic Loss No. 10,000 scheduled for sometime in May (the Phils will begin '07 with 9,956 defeats).
Oh, and scheduled (TBD) for July 31, 2009: The trading-deadline deal in which the frequently-booed Ryan Howard is traded to Arizona or Boston for two minor-league pitchers who will be out of organized baseball by 2011.
So much for their past.
And their future.