SportsProf

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Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Goblins of Cincinnati

As you probably could guess, I've had a very busy week, which included testing my physical fitness on a rock climbing expedition in the Catskill Mountains that showed me a) that I'm in pretty good shape, b) I should stretch my calf muscles more and c) that using New Balance walking shoes to climb rocks is a very bad idea (I probably strained the calf muscles by pressing harder on the climb to compensate for the lack of traction).

So last night I was tired, watched the Phillies and the enigmatic Vicente Padilla blow a 6-1 lead against the not-as-hapless-as-you-think Reds, only to trail 10-6. At that point, I thought that the Phillies' season was over, shut the TV off, and tried to catch up on some work. Drats, I thought, what a way to go. Handle the Braves pretty well, take care of the Marlins, and then tank against the Reds.

I came downstairs this morning to hear my wife tell my daughter that David Bell hit a dramatic two-run HR in the top of the ninth to enable the Phillies to beat the Reds 11-10 and to gain a game on the Astros, who lost. Somehow, I thought that the ghosts of 1964 were in full retreat, taking it on the chin from the likes of Chase Utley (whose 3-run homer brought the Phillies to within a run) and Bell (who has been very clutch as of late).

Now, it may be that the Phillies will not catch the Astros, and it may be that the Phillies have even underachieved with the fifth highest payroll in baseball. It's not as if this squad is 25 games over .500, it's only about half of that. Which isn't saying a whole lot, except that in the NL, with the exception of the Cardinals, there are lots of above-average baseball teams. But what the Phillies have shown as of late is that their hitters can be clutch, and that their pitchers have some grit, even if last night was disappointing from a hurling standpoint.

Still, if you're a Phillies fan, you have to like what you see. The team seems relaxed, the players are having fun, and the games are fun to watch. Watch Ryan Howard come to the plate, and you see a fearful opposing pitcher (perhaps only fearful opposing righty pitchers, as Howard is still trying to figure out the riddle of the lefty pitcher), and I don't remember many big men striking such fear in opposing pitchers in the NL since the days of Willie McCovey and Willie Stargell (yes, of course, there's Barry Bonds, but how many more titans are there?). See Chase Utley, and you see a tough out. Jimmy Rollins? Okay, he does need to work on his on-base percentage, but he also has a 28-game hitting streak, the longest in modern Phillies history. David Bell? True, he has been a disappointment since they signed him as a free agent two years ago, but he's a consummate professional, and he gives his all. It also looks like the balky back is doing much better. Corner outfielders Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu? More clutch than you think.

Now, before we get so high that we're flying at commercial jetline altitudes, you'd rather be the Astros right now than the Phillies. That's for sure, you'd rather have the lead. But so far the Phillies have left the Mets, Nationals and now Marlins in their wake, and for most of the season the talk was about every wild card contender but them. But somehow they keep on hanging in there, and there remains enough time to catch the 'stros and make the playoffs.

It's been a fun month.

3 Comments:

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Blogger SportsProf said...

To all SportsProf readers: Please disregard the two previous awful posts. They are uninvited and trying my patience. Sorry for their instrusions. They obviously have no blog etiquette and should be totally disregarded.

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