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 ...

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