Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Discontinuing The 10,000-Loss Deathwatch

That moonshot, 3-run HR by Ryan Howard (the man who puts the "HR" in "Howard") in the 6th inning tonight accomplished four things:

1) It broke open a scoreless pitching duel between Moyer and Harang
2) It traveled 505 feet, a record at The Cit
3) It made Howard the all-time leader in fewest games to reach 100 career HRs (only 325, which bettered Ralph Kiner's previous record of 385 by plenty)
4) It apparently awoke the Reds, who scored 9 runs in their final three turns at bat.

What Howard's HR didn't do was provide the impetus for the Phillies avoiding Milestone Loss No. 9,993, errrrr ... WAIT!!!
Recent documentation (read: the media jumping on the 10,000 bandwagon) seems to indicate that this Planet may have one more loss for the Phillies than everybody else does.

By our count, the '07 season began with 9,956 losses -- however, other reliable sources (most notably had the Phils beginning '07 with 9,955 defeats.

This news has caused considerable dismay and distress -- mostly because, before there was a, all that Phillie Phan had to chronicle the Phillie feats dating back to that first season of 1883 was the Baseball Encyclopedia (the '95 version -- the 10th edition -- was the final printing of that Bible) and the National League Green Book.

Those were the tools which we used in the summer of '95 to pinpoint the when/where for a far less-celebrated Phillies' Milestone Loss No. 9,000, which occurred on July 22, 1995.
But, apparently, we are now led to believe that the 5-3 loss to the Cardinals in 11 innings -- a game which began with St. Loo putting out a starting infield of 1B - John Mabry; 2B - Jose Oquendo; SS - Tripp Cromer; 3B - Darnell Coles -- was merely Loss #8,999.

It's bunk ... total B.S., really.
That -- right there, on the other side of the room -- is the letter which a Phillie Phan penned to his Phillie Phan girlfriend (who is now a Phillie Phan wife who tolerates the Phillie losses, thanks to things such as Hockeytown Stanley Cups in '97, '98 and '02; a Sooner Schooner national championship in '00; and a Terrible Towel Super Bowl title in '05/'06) which chronicled Loss No. 9,000.

Suddenly, now that 10,000 losses is a trendy InterWeb sensation, some people are re-checking and re-fudging numbers which SOME of us diehards computed 12 summers ago with our so-called "primitive" tools.
Apparently, the Baseball Encyclopedia and the Green Book are more obsolete than the Bic four-color pen which we first enjoyed right about the time that the Phillies were winning their only world championship in their 125-year existence.

That's not to say that we of the 9,000-Loss Club will back down against the onslaught of the 10,000-Loss Bandwagon.

That's because so-called authoritative big boys (with resources much greater than ours) make mistakes (with repercussions much more widespread).

Take, for example, the July 2-July 8 "summer double issue" of Sports Illustrated which landed in America's mailboxes today.
On pgs. 46/47, Phillie Phan was treated to the first two pages of S.I.'s ode to Phillie Phutility ("The Beautiful Losers").

The Phillie photo montage on pg. 46 was explained with caption at the bottom of pg. 47 ... and, there, we read that the "Phillies' mosaic of heartbreak has included ... a crushing defeat to the Dodgers in the '77 NLCS (bottom, center) ..."

There's one small glitch, though. The photo referenced (at bottom, center) depicts a helmetless Ron Cey waddling plateward as Bob Boone's body language seems to say, "Oh, fiddlesticks ... the season's over."
Either that or the wincing expression on Boonie's face can be translated to, "Frickin'-A, Gare ... catch the frickin' ball!"

As every Phillie Phan knows, the photo we saw in S.I. was actually from Game 4 of that 1978 heartbreaker, NOT the disaster which ended the 1977 season.
Ugh ...
And double-god-frickin'-dammit ...

We all remember '78's Game 4 in L.A. ... Danny Ozark had Schmidty batting in the leadoff spot and Jose Cardenal hittin' in the 5-spot (why? why? why?) ... Bake McBride's pinch-hit HR into the Phillie bullpen in the top of the 8th tied the score, 3-3 ... and when Russell hit that soft, two-out liner to Maddox, it was "thank goodness, let's move on to the 11th and hope for good things in Game 5 on Sunnnnnnn ..."

The liner was coming out of the shadows and into the sun ... and Mr. Gold Glove couldn't make the belt-high catch.
No F-ing way!!!
Not again ...

After what happened in Game 4 in the '77 NLCS (the most-painful of 9,900-something losses), most of us Phanatics said we'd never get over it .. and then Maddox dropped Russell's liner.
We all thought that nuthin' could top those nightmares -- until, of course, Game 4 (what else?) of the '93 World Series.
On a drizzly night at The Vet ...
And a 14-9 lead to protect against the Blue Jays ...
"This one's in the bag. We're going to Game 5 tied 2-2 and ..."

With these losses in mind ... Phillies' Milestone Loss No. 10,000 has become immaterial.
This Planet's interest in such a matter is extinct.
One reason is that too many people who weren't available for Loss No. 9,000 are now finding it fashionable to toss in their two cents worth for the 10K funfest.
Some of us were there for Losses #7,200-something 'til now.

On top of that, some of us have come to our senses that the Phillies' 35 postseason losses SHOULD be included (not excluded) in the ultimate tally -- mostly due the sweat-it-out quotient involved.

Even if we're too young to remember that Overrated Hall of Famer Eppa Rixey (who, as we've pointed out before, was too overrated and, hence, should be immediately de-enshrined from Cooperstown) couldn't protect a 4-2 lead in Game 5 of the 1915 World Series or if we're too innocent to recall how skipper Eddie Sawyer started NL MVP Jim Konstanty (real first name: "Casimir") in 1950's Game 1 vs. the Yankees -- when Konstanty hadn't started a game all season -- we remember gutting out those frustrating playoffs of '76/'77/'78.

And, for a collection of teams which won 101 games in '76 and '77 and was so dominant at The Vet (60-21 at home in '77), we were absolutely certain that the Big Red Machine and Dodger Blue was going down in Philly.
Not a problem.

The Phils went 0-6 at home during those three championship series.

Hence, none of the 9,900-plus regular-season losses could compare to the sting of those defeats -- particularly when you're a teenager growing up 45 minutes up the Ventura Freeway from Dodger Stadium and you're the only Phillie Phan within a 58-mile radius.

Every time that some of us diehards see current Phillies first-base coach Davey Lopes, we remember the sacrilege which was committed when the Phillies hired him this past offseason.
Lopes is a product of the evil Lasorda Legion -- and seeing him in Phillie pinstripes makes about as much sense as hiring Steve Yeager as hitting instructor.

To say that those postseason games don't count in the 10,000-loss paradigm is to suggest that they didn't matter. Just as we don't toss out a college football team's bowl-game record or a college b-ball team's NCAA tourney record, so these, too, shall stand.

The tribal council has spoken: Those 35 losses combined with the 9,955 regular-season losses from 1883 thru 2006 equates to the Phillies beginning '07 with 9,990 losses.

So, officially, Milestone Loss No. 10,000 occurred two months ago ... in the third week of the season ... a 5-4, 13-inning loss to the Nationals in RFK Stadium (the Phillies' first game in that stadium since that ridiculous game in the final week of last year ... y'know, the one which began at 11:35 P.M. and ended at 2:10 A.M. .. and we watched in total fascination as the crowd consisted of 400-plus Phillie Phans in the nearly-empty stadium).

For the record, the winning pitcher in Loss No. 10,000 was Levale Speigner (pitching in his fifth MLB game).
In his first 11 appearances, Speigner was 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA.
Since he was conveerted to a starter, Levale Speigner is now 2-3 with an ERA of 8.78.

And, for the guy who had a big hit in the game-winning rally, well .. that's you, Michael Restovich.
2 for 2 in that game (his first of the season) ... and then had two hits two days later.
After that, he went 0 for 19 and got hisself all demoted.

How fitting.

Again ... the tribe has spoken.
Levale Speigner has been voted off the island ...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Burrell For Buerhle?

Phillie Phan has asked that question at least two dozen times ever since the recent (stuff) hit the fan in Chi-Town about Mark Buehrle possibly being on the trading block.
What's sad right now is that there is no trade value for the Pale Hose in a "Burrell for Buehrle" paradigm.
Maybe if it was "Burrell for Beuerlein."
Or "Burrell for a rusty wheelbarrow."

The truth is: No one's going to pay for a one-dimensional player who has a swing barely suited for Over The Line or backyard Wiffle Ball.
And that's why the Phils are going to "pat" themselves on the back for sitting Burrell and giving the speedy youngster a chance to create his own Bourn identity, his own Bourn supremacy and, ultimately, his own Bourn ultimatum.

Just because they PAY Burrell $13 mil, doesn't mean they have to PLAY him. All he does is clog up the lineup and keep Bourn from gettin' vital race-for-the-wildcard experience.

The consecutive game streak of 372 games w/o a stolen-base attempt will be put on hold.
Phillie Phan will get over it ...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Loss No. 9,992 (Blame Game Victim: Pat Burrell)

We've gotta pin it on someone (and Adam Eaton is a repeat offender), so tonight's lucky winner is that $13-mil left fielder ... Big Brick Burrell.
Ever since he hit that HR in his first AB of the win over the Chisox on ESPN's Monday Night Baseball almost two full weeks ago, Burrell has gone 1 for 23 ... his average plummeting to an abysmal .205.

Since it takes approx. 27 seconds to break down the flaws in his swing, let's chew on the raw data instead:
After batting .179 in May, Big Brick Burrell has followed that up by hittin' .127 in June.

Poor little daffodil.
Unless an opposing pitcher is willing to either serve up (soft-toss or underhand) a pitch in Pat's 1-inch-by-1-inch "hot zone," he'll just continue to complete each swing w/ that overexaggerated follow-through.

Given the fact that he's NOT required to do much of anything which would cause him to perspire, it wouldn't shock any Phillie Phan if Pat The Bunny went ballistic and batted .234 in July to get that average up to .225.

OKAY ... so the 8-3 loss to St. Loo wasn't a pretty sight -- but, at least, the perennial journeyman, Russ Springer, got into the game for the Cards.
Remember that bang-up job Springer did for the Phils in '96? As a member of a staff which saw 15 different pitchers, Springer's 3-10 record helped get Fregosi fired.

The Phils woulda had better luck if Fregosi had allowed a Springer Spaniel, instead of Russ Springer, to take the mound in those situations.

If it's any consolation, Sunday's mound opponent for Colbert Hamels is the super-sub-standard Kip Wells (3-11 / 6.75).
After solving Anthony Reyes (0-9) on Friday, this one looks like a gimme.

Which means that the Cards will probably win, 6-3.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Dealing With Losers (Phils Win, 6-0)

The mighty Zenmaster, Tony LaLoser, probably told Anthony Reyes that just because he was the losing pitcher against the Phillies tonight, that doesn't mean that Anthony Reyes is loser.
Yet, there were some interesting sidebars to tonight's 6-0 Phils win in St. Loo ... an outcome which dropped Reyes' record to 0-9.
With the loss, Reyes is the first Cardinal pitcher to begin a season 0-9 since Danny Jackson in 1995.
Combine with the sidebar to Reyes' previous decision -- when he fell to 0-8, thus becoming the first pitcher since Curt Schilling in '94 to go 0-7 the season after registering a win in the World Series.

In case it's not abundantly clear:
"Yes" ... Reyes' gem against the Tigers in last year's Fall Classic was a complete fluke (so, let's completely disspell the "he's better than his record indicates" tagline when he's taking the mound in the World Series and his season won-loss record is 5-8 and his ERA is hovering around 6.00 ... he really does SUCK).

However, this is less about a stiff named Anthony Reyes than it is about how a stiff named Anthony Reyes made us remember Schill in the mid '90s.

When Schill started 0-7 in '94, a lot of us wondered what his deal was. He'd been the middle-reliever-turned-starter in '92 and was lights out (14-11 / 2.35) for a last-place team before his interesting personal odyssey in '93 (8-1 /3.03 during the first two months ... 0-5 / 11.76 in five starts during the 3-week span which ended June and began July ... 5-1 in his final six starts of the season ... then, two insanely-pitched games against the Bravos in the NLCS after he'd pitched like crap in four starts against The A-T-L during the regular season ... ).

Y'see, it wasn't just the 0-7 to begin the strike-shortened season of '94.
He wasn't anything special in '95 or '96 either.
Obviously, he proved his worth as an All-Star in '97, '98, '99 and '01 before he was dealt away.

Yet, this isn't about the guy who was sturdy as a Phillie and a Hall of Famer after he left or about trying to explain how Danny Jackson went from 14-6 in '94 (when he probably should have won the Cy Young Award) to 0-9 to begin '95 after the Phils had dealt him to St. Loo for the extremely-dreamboatish Gregg Jefferies.

And, it's not about Jackson being the starting pitcher for the Cards on July 22, 1995 when the Phils were trying to notch Milestone Loss No. 9,000 or about how Jackson, pitching for an organization which had axed Joe Torre as manager two months earlier, was attempting to pin Loss No. 9,000 on the Phils as he was backed by an infield of John Mabry (1B), Jose Oquendo (2B), Tripp Cromer (SS) and Darnell Coles (3B).

Well, actually ... maybe it is.
Life has a weird way of going full circle.
We can ask the ageless Jamie Moyer about that, given the fact that he was a 28-year-old sack-o'-crap who was 0-5 / 5.41 for St. Loo when the Redbirds cut him loose in '91.
Moyer didn't pitch in the bigs in '92 and then he had three mediocre seasons ('93-'95) in Baltimore.

Then, Jamie Moyer had seven seasons ('97-'03) in Seattle which sorta defied explanation.
He averaged a 16-7 record and won 20 games twice (in '01 and '03) .
By comparison, The Greatest Southpaw Ever Invented (Barry Zito) averaged a W-L record of 15-9 during the 6-year window ('01-'06) in the "prime" of his overrated career.
Actually, during the past four seasons, Zito has an average W-L mark of 13-11, so, watch out, world ... he might go ballistic and put up one of those legendary 14-12 seasons if we're not careful.

Newsflash: Barry Zito frickin' sucks.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

PHILLIES: STILL Messin' With Our Heads

A 3-game sweep of the light-hitting Chisox ... yes, definitely ... it's another head-scratcher for Phillie Phan.

Mostly because that kid -- Kyle Kendrick -- did a bang-up job on the mound in his MLB debut.
And, while Phillie Phan might've seen Ky-Ken wearing #38 and thought, "Hey, that was Schill's ol' number" -- dammit, let's not forget those two pitchers who made #38 "phamous in Philly."

Yup ... Pat Combs is one of the immortals -- but, before that, there was the almost-always-on-the-edge-of-greatness Larry Christenson.
Poor guy ... he made four postseason starts in those playoff seasons of '77, '78 and '80 -- and Lare was brewwww-tullll.
A 9.39 ERA.

Injuries, inconsistency ... it never worked out for Lare.
However, during a Phillies-Orioles/20th anniversary of the '83 World Series four years ago, of the oldtimers who showed up that day, the Phillies didn't have Hall of Famers Pete Rose and Tony Perez playin' first base.
So, Larry Christenson did.

Always the trooper.
Always the good sport.

Where were we?
Right ... the standing O for everybody's All-American, Jim Thome, was nice -- but let's not forget the pioneers who brought #25 to prominence in Philly.
Del Unser and Gregg Jefferies.
Remember those 11 homers Gregg hit in '97 while batting a robust .256?
Francona's rookie season as manag... .... ... . ... ..... ..

Where were we?
"Back in the thick of the wild-card race, that's where," exclaims Phillie Phan.
It sounds interesting, but with the team stuck on 9,987 losses, it stands to reason that the fellas may've lost their focus.

Well, with the Tigers comin' to the Cit for the weekend (Verlander vs. Hamels on Sunday???) and with the unique challenge of a World Series preview unfolding at The Jake on Monday, Milestone Loss No. 10,000 CAN (will?) be achieved before the All-Star Break.

Then, with that 10K in the bank, it'll be back to the business of holding our breaths until Super Slo-Mo Pat Burrell attempts a stolen base (we're at 366, kids!).

Good times.
Albeit confusing ...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Squirtin' some Bactine on Loss No. 9,987

It's GOTTA be a record, right?
Has a team ever shut out its opponent (as the Phillies did on Sat. nite in K.C.), surrendered 17 runs in the next game (as the Phillies did on Sun. afternoon) and then shut out its opponent in the game after that?
Runs allowed: 0, 17, and 0.

Ya got an answer for us, Buster Olney (yeah ... that's YOU, college boy)?

These are the things that keep Phillie Phan up at night -- even as the night yields to sunrise and ESPN's re-broadcast of the Phils-Chisox game flickers out (as it is doing now).
This is the week of World Series rematches (Yanks/D'Backs, Tribe/Fish, Braves/Twins, St.L/K.C.) -- and we might've had another matchup in the equation if only the Chisox had conquered the Orioles in the '83 ALCS or overcome the Blue Jays in the '93 ALCS.

You're to blame, Bull.
You, too, Bo.
You're not off the hook, Black Jack.

Anyway, the Phils got that 17-5 loss outta their bloodstream on the flight home from K.C. -- and then Adam Eaton went out and got his ERA below 6.00 with the backing of those solo pumps by Burrell, Howard and Rollins.
Quite a buzz was created when Thome was in the on-deck circle in the top of the 9th ... only Terrero couldn't get on to make Jim the tying run with the game on the line.

He's one of baseball's most-beloved action heroes -- but, since this ain't the NHL wherein he can sign with some mediocre team which gets hot and wins the Cup, it appears as though Thome's not gonna get his name engraved on any championship hardware.

Which might not be such a bad thing, considering how engravers do a lot of engraving -- but, not always a lot of sports-watching ... which is why, even if he were to win it all, his name would come out as "Tomey" on the trophy.

Wait a sec.
A 3-0 win for the Phils means that they've won four games during the past week while scoring four runs or fewer -- this 4-1 run occurring after going 3-22 while scoring less than five runs at the end of the 'Frisco series.

Still, that doesn't make up for Bo Jackson's dismal '93 postseason (10 ABs, 6 strikeouts) ...