Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Thanks To Carlos Ruiz ...

... there was no Milestone Loss No. 9,977 last night at The Cit.

The Phillies' catcher -- whose uniform #51 makes him one of the few catchers in the history of The MLB to wear a uniform number greater than 50 (except for those Grapefruit League and Cactus League rookie backstops who we see wearing #63 or #74 every spring) -- put his stamp on this eventual 82-80 season with that walk-off HR against former folk legend Derrick Turnbow (Mr. Baggy Uniform & Bad Haircut ... Phillies' 7th-round draft pick in '97 ... mild sniff with Anaheim in '00-'04 ... 7-1 / 1.74 w/ 39 saves / 4 blown saves for Brew Crew in '05 ... 5-11 / 6.59 ERA, 25 saves / 9 blown saves in the 1.25 seasons since that "breakout" season).

Of course, it was ex-Phillie Johnny Estrada (.220 in 99 games for the '01/'02 Phils ... .314 for ATL in '04; .302 for ARIZ last year; .301 for MILW this year) who necessitated the heroics when he hit that solo HR off of the new closer, Brett Myers, in the top of the 9th -- which was OK for a lot of us because it cost Adam Eaton a W -- appropriate punishment for a pitcher who's picked up some trashy W's this season (evidenced by that STILL hovering above 6.00 ERA).

So, tonight ... the Phils go for the sweep against the team which they trailed by eight full games in the wild-card standings (25-12 vs. 17-20) when the series began. And, with Ruiz's heroics, the 19-20 Phils inched to within one-half game of the teams tied for seventh place (SF and HOU at 19-19) and remained percentage points ahead of the Cubs (18-19).

Moving into a three-way tie for seventh place might not seem like a big deal -- but, they taught us at the Academy that you can't get to sixth place until you reach seventh place.
And, so on and so forth ...

It was reported that, of the 41,000-plus at The Cit last night, 11,000-plus were "walk-up" ticket sales ... the largest in Cit history.
So, what's with Phillie Fans Who Actually Live In/Near Philly?

Are they gettin' all geeked because the Magic Number is 24 for Landmark Loss No. 10,000 -- and now the buzz is gettin' intense?
Or, was last night's turnout the best chance Philly pholks had to see "The Ryan Replacement" ... Greg Dobbs?
In the span of a week (since the N.L. MVP went on the DL), Dobbsie has raised his average from .188 to .313.

There's no way that those fans were out there to see N.L. home run leader ... J.J. Hardy.

"J.J. Whooo-dee?"

There may be one other explanation:
Although he's batting .243 (15 points below his stellar .258 career average), Pat The Bat extended his consecutive-games-without-an-official-stolen-base-attempt streak to 339 games.
Not a hit-and-run which the catcher couldn't handle, but the official scorer gave him the swiped bag anyway ...
Not a moment when he was leaning the wrong way, got himself technically picked off and then slid in under the tag of a weak throw to the wrong side of the bag by the first baseman ...
Not the tail end of a double steal when Rollins/Utley/Victorino stole third ...

"Mr. Excitement" is bringin' Philly fans back -- which is a pleasant surprise, given that, after that sparkling '04 season of The Cit's debut (when the Phils' attendance was 2nd in the NL), Phillie fanatics spent '05 and '06 NOT showing up during wild-card-playoff near-misses, finishing 9th and 7th in attendance.

Those drop-offs were shameful ... the easy explanation being that Phillie fans came to visit the new shrine in '04 ... and maybe to say goodbye to Larry Bowa.
And, Phillie fickleheads (apparently) weren't into the Manuel Labor policy which was implemented by that big ol' yokel who wears the "MGR" cap when he took over for the '05 season.

Either way, we could either spend the rest of this day theorizing all hypotheticals -- or we could ponder those catchers who have worn uniform numbers greater than #50 (Fisk = #72 w/ the Chisox ... Bob Geren = #53 for those crummy Yankees teams of the early '90s ... any others?).

Or we can salute the other great Phillies who wore #51.
Such as ... Heathcliff Slocumb.

Any others?

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