Wednesday, October 15, 2008

PHILLIES: '08 N.L. Champions

As the final stages of Game 5 unfolded, the obvious question popped into the head of the everyday Phillie Phan before Nomar's foul popup settled gently into the mitt of Carlos Ruiz situated in the middle of the NLCS logo.

"Is there such a thing as 'too much rest' -- as in 12-days-worth -- when it comes to Brick Myers and Jamie Moyer preparing for their World Series starts?"

The Fightin' Phils must ponder that -- and with the 14 days off between Game 2 of the NLCS at The Cit and Game 3 of the World Series at The Cit, Phillie Phan has plenty of time to send out those "Our Most Heartfelt Condolences" sympathy cards to America.

Y'know ... something which expresses a sincere apology to the nation.

"Sorry that it's not Manny vs. the Red Sox, blah blah blah ..."

"Sorry that it's not a Freeway Series between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Los Angeles Dodgers of Downtown L.A., Encino and Hacienda Heights, blah blah blah ..."

"Sorry that it's not a Windy City Series between the Wrigley Northsiders vs. Comiskey's Pale Hose, blah blah blah ..."

"Sorry that it's not Fuuuuu-kuuuuu-dohhh-mayyy vs. Dice K, blah blah blah ..."

"Sorry that Vlad Guerrero still refuses to speak English, blah blah blah ..."

George Costanza says that you can stuff your sorries in a sack, Mister -- but, even so, Phillie Phan is mighty geeked right now ... especially those of us who vividly recall sitting in that hospital room on the 14th floor and while wearing a Visitor sticker and picking at some lunchtime Jell-o (or maybe it was some pasta ... it's difficult to remember because the Mrs. was hooked to an I.V. as the imipenem was workin' its magic) watching that FOX Game of the Week vs. the D-Backs wherein Shane Victorino tied it up w/ a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 3rd, but then Adam Eaton ruined our appetite by walking a .160 hitter (Robby Hammock) before losing the battle w/ Randy Johnson and grooving a 2-strike meatball which The Big Unit rifled into the LF corner for a 2-run double amid a cacaphony of boos which cascaded down from all parts of The Cit -- dismay which increased moments later when rookie R.J. Swindle came on to pitch and served up a 2-run single to Chad Tracy and a 3-run homer to Mark Reynolds for a 10-2, 'Zona lead.

Two weeks later -- when Adam Eaton was required to relieve on consecutive days against the Braves (entering one game after Cole Hamels allowed 9 runs in an inning, five of 'em unearned, and coming in the next day and gettin' hammered in relief of newly-acquired Joe Blanton), it was then that many of us came to the realization that, "yes! The Phils DO have enough pitching to reach the World Series, absotively posilutely!"

Well, as it turned out, those relief stints were Eaton's last appearances with the big ballclub (hopefully ... forever), the Phils recovered from that 9-run inning by scoring 7 in the bottom of the 5th for a 10-9 win before erasing a 5-0 deficit the next day for a 12-10 win ... and, besides, Joe Blanton turned out to be much better than the 7.88 ERA following his first two Phillie starts indicated ... and everybody lived happily ever after???

Sure, there's plenty of satisfaction to be derived from tonight's capture of the N.L. flag, the only drawback being that this transmission placed the names of Chad Tracy and Mark Reynolds (the only player in MLB history to strike out more than 200 times in a season) ahead of tonight's heroes -- those being: J-Roll for jump-startin' matters by hammerin' a June Cleaver Fastball from pitcher Barbara Billingsley for a leadoff homer ... and Howard and Burrell gettin' those big RBI baseknocks (Ryan looked as though he went 5-hole on the L.A. first baseman ... "Lonely?" ... wait, what kind of a frickin' name is that? ... "Lonely"?) ...

Ohhh ... no, we didn't forget Furcal providing some comedy at SS.

FUNNY HOW LAUGHTER IS THE ONLY EMOTION WHICH MAKES ANY SENSE RIGHT NOW, here in this sector of Phillie Phanaticism ... the combo platter of amusement and bemusement ... of wonderment and bewilderment.

Let's think about this for a minute, though:

When the season began, Myers was the Opening Day starter ... Hamels was No. 2 (in theory, apparently) ... Moyer was a shaky No. 3 since he had the trifecta of wearing his important bio info on his back (age = "50" ... MPH of fastball = "50" ... '08 ERA = "5.0") ... Kendrick was slotted at No. 4, which seemed like a good fit given his '07 season (10-4/3.87, but one shaky playoff start) ... and Eaton, the complete waste-of-space (10-10/6.32 in '07) was ticketed for the No. 5 role (with hopes that he'd go 9-9, maybe, and get his ERA under 4.00, if God dropped everything else) ...

That's an OK starting staff, nuthin' special on the whole -- an assertion sustantiated by the fact that, at the All-Star Break, Myers was pitchin' for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Hamels (9-6/3.17) was not always receiving necessary run support, Moyer was slightly-better-than-mediocre (8-6/3.95), Kendrick was actually not afflicted by a sophomore jinx (yet) and Eaton hadn't gotten anyone killed (yet).

R.J. Swindle?

He was probably hoping that Manuel and Dubee would provide him with a more clearly-defined role.

Not today, R.J.

We can probably conclude that, on paper, it was the semi-wobbly state of the starting rotation which, in most of our minds, would prohibit this Phillie team from producing such deep postseason penetration, despite the quality of the starting lineup.

There can be no question that the Cubs were better equipped for such an undertaking, given the starting threesome of Dempster-Zambrano-Harden (and Lilly, if necessary), a lineup which scored the most runs in the NL and a reasonable bullpen.

"The bullpen" ...

Now, therein lies the rub, particularly "The Curse of Carlos Marmol."

Marmol is the guy who nobody's heard of who made the All-Star team this year (the same All-Star team in which extra-mediocre Fuuuu-kuuu-dohhh-mayyy was erroneously awarded Pat Burrell's spot on the roster and then was erroneously inserted into the starting lineup) based largely on everyone's love affair Marmol's 11.7 strikeouts-per-9-IP ratio ... a stat which killed the chances of a two-headed Chad Durbin/J.C. Romero from making the squad (which they deserved).

Again, it's the mention of Durbin and Romero which reminds us what exactly is the true strength of the Fightin' Phils -- especially when compared/contrasted to last year's laughingstock of a bullpen.

What memories:

Geoff Geary (57 gm/4.41)
J.C. Romero (51 gm/1.24)
Tom Gordon (44 gm/4.73)
Jose Mesa (40 gm/5.54)
Clay Condrey (39 gm/5.04)
Ryan Madson (38 gm/3.05)
Mike Zagurski (25 gm/5.91)
Francisco Rosario (23 gm/5.47)
Yoel Hernandez (14 gm/5.28)
Brian Sanches (12 gm/5.52)
Kane Davis (11 gm/5.56)
Fabio Castro (10 gm/6.00)
Matt Smith (9 gm/11.25)

Simple facts: 4.41 and 4.73 are sub-standard ... anything over 5.00 is unacceptable ... and anything 6.00 and up is riduculous.

Hard to believe that Joe Table and somebody named "Yoel" were allowed to pollute that many games -- and we still don't know if Zagurski went by "Zags" or "Gursk" in the clubhouse.

What we DO know (but, sometimes find difficult to believe) is what we saw this season from the 'pen:

J.C. Romero (81 gm/2.75)
Ryan Madson (76 gm/3.05)
Chad Durbin (71 gm/2.87)
Clay Condrey (56 gm/3.26)
Rudy Seanez (42 gm/3.53)
Tom Gordon (34 gm/5.16)
Scott Eyre (19 gm/1.88)

That is so completely commedable.

Romero got a full season and the Gillick signings of Durbin, Seanez and Eyre were well-founded. Madson doubled his workload and looked, at times, like a completely different pitcher than what we'd seen in the past and, hey, lookee thar -- Clay Condrey '08 was exceedingly better than Clay Condrey '07.

That entire bullpen should take a bow (and that means you, too, Rudy) because what it did was studtacular -- particularly since Brick Myers was barely adequate in Game 2 and Kentucky Joe was marginally so-so in the crucial Game 4 (their efforts vs. the Blue Crew not quite on par with their excellent performances in Games 2 and 4, repsectively, vs. the Brew Crew).

Just like the Chicago Flubs, the L.A. Dodjerks seemingly had all of the pitching-staff mathematical equations in their favour during this, The Era Of Sabremetrical Deliciousness Re: OBP + SLG % = OPS ... which is why guys who should know better (Gammons and Kruk) might've felt inclined to lean toward a Derek Lowe pitching on "full rest" w/ Billingsley set for a Game 5 bounceback.

It's not about numbers or theories or supposition or circumspection or arm slot or the fastball topping out at 94 or 95, blah blah blah blah blah blah ... it's about performance, nuthin' else.

If Wade can't figure out that it's wiser to go up and away to Victorino, rather than down and in, well ... okay (that's dandy).

If Broxton wants to hit 100 MPH on the Jugs gun, well ... that's super duper when he's actually toppin' out at 92 on a pecker-high fastball (with no late action on it) which Matt Stairs hits halfway to Oxnard (or was it Ojai?).

While it is true that ("reformed") sex-addict Steve Phillips definitely puts the B.S. in "baseball," it'll probably be years most Americans arrive at the point where discussing what might happen and what should happen are secondary to accepting or appreciating what actually did happen and how it happened as it happened.

Las Vegas bookmakers are counting on that, anyway.

Same with John Kruk (whose job is ridin' on it).

We came to accept and appreciate Krukker for the shaggy/scruffy manner in which he batted .300 during his career while dispalying occasional pop and who, when ya look at it, was better on the basepaths than ya might've thought and, yup, he wasn't shabby with the glove, either.

Really, though ... the sportcoat n' necktie is a mighty feeble cover-up for the fact that he, like (reformed) sex-addict Steve Phillips, doesn't add anything to a Baseball Tonight broadcast.

Krukkie's appeal was that he was a see-ball, hit-ball brand of player (not that he was entirely bereft of the capacity for deep thinking), so rarely, if ever, will he give ya anything more meaningful than, "Broxton probably should'nta grooved one to Stairs."

Jeez ... ya think?

Luckily, the Fightin's have a Henry David Thoreau (simplify ... simplify ...) of mound aces in Cole Hamels ... and that was mighty nice of him to take the pressure off ev'ryb'dy in the 'pen tonight (Madson and Lidge had their token appearances) as well as closing out the series w/o forcing a Game 6 in Philly.

It's a real darn shame for the Dodjerks that they didn't have 7 or 8 runners aboard when Man-Ram went yard (truth: With the way Manny's been hitting, Hamels could've thrown 3 baseballs at once -- and Man-Ram would've probably crushed one of 'em -- maybe two of 'em -- into the left-field pavilion).

Alas, since Manny couldn't deliver that 7-run or 8-run homer to turn the game around, there's really no other choice for those of us Phillie Phans who grew up slightly north of L.A. to phone up the Dodjerk-fan of an ex-mom and end 27 years of silence with a poignant mother-son reunion which is rich with pathos.

"Are you not entertained?! ARE ... YOU ... NOT ... ENTERTAINED?! Is this not why you are here?!"

As it so happens, ex-moms don't like it so much when ya quote The Spaniard, but, then again, ex-moms become ex-moms when they aren't exactly pro-Dodjerk and they're more anti-Phillie simply because their son is pro-Phillie -- notwithstanding the fact that the Alzheimer's is hittin' her quite severely nowadays, which means that, in this instance (and only in this instance), the ex-son is wholeheartedly pro-Alzheimer's.

Hey, she's earned it.

As the band X informed us on the debut album ("Los Angeles") which was discussed previously, "You're Phone's Off The Hook, But You're Not."

Then, who is off the hook?
Let's go with Joe Lefebvre.

Everybody remembers when Jimmy Lefebvre was playin' for the Dodgers, he pronounced his name "luh-FEE-vur" -- but then when Joe Lefebvre came along, we were instructed to pronounce it "luh-FAY."

Our hearts were filled with conflict initally, but then when we had to tell a "Luh-FAY Visits L.A." anecdote, it rolled off the tongue easier.

So, maybe tonight's victory should elicit a game ball rather than a phone call ... and if they actually gave game balls after in baseball as they do in football, some of us would give one to Pops since it was he who bought the tickets for that Aug. '83 game when Schmidty came out of the game in the 4th inning and Joe Lefebvre moved from RF to 3B ... and then Joe had a slight problem when he fielded that little tapper by Jack Fimple and fired a throw to first base with nobody covering the bag, goddammit!

Those Jack Fimple's '83 Dodjerks went 11-1 against the Phillies during the regular season -- and that roster was filled with some of the most-annoying Dodjerks of all-time: Sax, Brock, Marshall, Russell, Valenzuela, Hooton, Yeager, Fimple, Landreaux, Dusty, Reuss, Monday ... but it doesn't matter that Pops and his son never went to another Phillie-Dodger game because the '83 Phils immediately atoned for regular-season misdeeds by knocking out L.A. in the '83 playoffs.

And, now ... this.

So, no ... there's probably no point in the ex-sone asking his ex-mom what she thought of tonight's celebs seated near the Dodjerk on-deck circle ... Pat Sajak -- and, then, a little later, Al Michaels -- just as it's probably useless to ask her how cool it would've been to see the former "Three's Company" WashoutNotNamedSuzanneSomers, Joyce DeWitt, blowin' some good luck kisses at Blake DeWitt.

Before Blake DeWitt, on cue, whiffed again or bounced into another DP ...

Hollywoodland never loses its starlet charm -- and that was never more apparent than during the postgame aftermath when the Disneyland Sports Channel (ESPN) allowed Colleen Dominguez to go wild w/ a live mike during the Phillies' postgame jubilance.

Dominguez (giggly): "Shane Victorino, you're going to the World Series ... how do you feel?" (For chrissakes, EspyTime Network, just get it over with already and have Ta-Ta EyeCandy take off her blouse ... or, at least, have her dressed in a white tank top as players take turns pouring champagne down her front ... tastefully done, of course ... not in a manner which objectifies women, female reporters or the jugs of chick media-types ... just to give America's 18-to-34 male demographic an arousal factor that on-field reporters Ken Rosenthal and David Aldridge simply cannot match ... ).

Speaking of the craziness of the postgame celebration, America saw Phillie World Series '08 architects Pat Gillick and David Montgomery in the clubhouse, along with Bill Giles, blah blah blah ... right about the time we heard Ed Wade's name mentioned, some of wondered how cool it would've been if, somehow, Charley Kerfeld had walked smack-dab into the middle of the trophy presentation and accepted on behalf of, "hey, who the hell are you?" and Charley went Dwight Schrute with, "I'm the assistant G.M.", prompting Ruben Amaro (the kid, not the dad) to burst in and exclaim, "I'm the assistant G.M. ... he's the special assistant to the G.M.!"

Admit it, America ... THAT woulda been cool -- almost as cool as when, during the '86 NLCS, Kerfeld -- a rookie reliever w/ Houston who enjoyed wearing his Jetsons t-shirt in the clubhouse -- couldn't close the deal against the Mets in one of those tense ballgames, so a newspaper writer offered up the punchline: "The Jetsons had a dog named Astro. The Astros have a dog named Charley Kerfeld."

In retrospect, Charlie Manuel would probably take umbrage to such anti-Charley negativity.

This is the kind of sensory overload that we must deal with until it is determined if the Phillies' Game 1 is in St. Petersburg or in Ben Affleck Stadium (Brick Myers is hoping against hope that it's NOT in Beantown because, as the Game 2 starter, he'd be required to pitch in the city where there was "an incident" -- or a "non-incident" -- and there's no way that he'd last long on Fenway's mound with the Chowds acting belligerent re: the "non-incident").

That boy needs to get his mind right w/o having his pitching vibe harshed.

As for the Dodjerks?

L.A.ter, Lost Angeles ...


No comments: