Sunday, May 30, 2010

Did that actually happen?!

While spending the holiday weekend in my home state of Delaware, I reluctantly joined some friends of mine at Damon's to watch the Flyers battle the Blackhawks in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Had it not been for an opportunity to chow down on some barbecue ribs, I might have rejected their invitation. Now I must eternally bow before those ice boxing-obsessed knuckleheads for far more than a simple porkfest.

Gee, Roy Halladay, thanks A LOT.

For the rest of the season, I will be unable to speak a single negative word about the Philadelphia Phillies. That's at least four - and most likely five - long months of holding my virtual tongue after every blown lead, losing streak or Ryan Howard slump.

Halladay, you may not understand after all those years in Toronto, but do you know how impossible such restraint is for a Philadelphia fan?? You may as well banish all the cheesesteak vendors from Citizens Bank Park or take away the Phanatic's all-terrain vehicle. It just ain't natural.

You bestowed this ungodly task upon me with your historic performance against the Marlins last night. Never before had I witnessed a no-hitter of any kind, coming the closest in 1997 when I watched Mike Mussina - during his pre-traitor glory years - take one into the eighth inning for the Orioles. Roy, you have now provided me with a trifecta of baseball bliss by showing me a perfect game for my team by the best hurler in baseball.

My standing in the sports blogging universe will never be the same. Even a hint of criticism toward my guys, and it's, "Hey, shut up, fool. You saw Roy Halladay throw a perfect game. They won't even let Johan Santana stay in the game past 105 pitches."

See what you've reduced me to?

And what's worse is you toyed with those hitters, while making all of us sweat. Nearly half of your outs never made it out of the batter's box, and I swear all 11 of those strike threes were on different pitches. You probably set a record for 3-2 counts in a perfect game, and you didn't give in with a fastball on any one of them.

To top it all off, you followed your worst start as a Phillie with the best start anyone in the majors is going to have all season. While all of your teammates crowded around you in celebration after the final out, the Marlins' dugout and clubhouse was likely littered with the splintered remains of bats broken out of the frustration you caused. Someone who makes a lot less money than you had to clean all that up, and the sounds of weeping can be heard from the second-floor administrative offices of the Louisville Slugger Factory.

All good, old-fashioned ribbing aside, you dazzled, champ. That pile of dirt 60 feet, 6 inches from the plate that you've made an inviting home over the past decade is your launching ground of magic displayed not just last night but every fifth game of the season. Most of the people who packed into that sports bar in New Castle, Delaware, were supporting a different team in a different sport, but by the last few innings of your greatest achievement, they were all cheering for you. Baseball never fails to remind me why I love it so much, and you gave me one of the best examples ever. Thanks for 2 hours and 14 minutes I'll never forget.

Friday, May 28, 2010

We caught a fish!

The Phillies finally remembered how to score!

I could hear the collective sigh to the east after the Phitins' 3-2 win over the Marlins earlier tonight, and I never would have guessed the drought-ending raindrop would be a Raul Ibanez triple. Get it however you must, guys.

Then Ryan Howard ties the game an inning later with an RBI single, while he's sitting comfortably on my Fantasy Bench. Naturally...

I won't gripe anymore about my own failings as a manager. Charlie Manuel's confidence never wavered, and his boys are still in first place where they belong. And what a lovely metaphor - all they needed to get out of their funk was a trip to the Sunshine State.

Everyone enjoy their Memorial Day festivities! It's tough for me to rationalize honoring fallen American soldiers by inhaling a bunch of grilled hot dogs, but they are so very delicious.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cheese and Goose Eggs

And now for something completely different...


A report from the BBC2, as BBC1 has been arrested for showing its naughty bits in public.

It's just a four-game losing streak, but even the recent glory of a World Series title and three straight division titles aren't enough from wrestling down that same old Philadelphia fan pessimism. The Flyers are going to have to win a Stanley Cup to do that. It's times like these I almost wish I was a hockey fan.

The struggling Phillies have scored in just one of their last 38 innings. I'm not even going to bother wasting time on a search, because that has to be the worst futility of any team in that long of a stretch this season. The team itself hasn't been shut out three times in four games since 1990. Though I will always hate that Comcast doesn't show the Phillies here in Gettysburg, I'm glad I haven't been witness to the way they're playing right now.

At the same time, it doesn't surprise me all that much. As dangerous as it is, this lineup is full of sluggers who are very susceptible to striking out. Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez and Jayson Werth have all been known to suffer horrible slumps that last for long periods of time. If those slumps should coincide, that short porch in right field may as well be sitting directly behind first base.

It also doesn't help when J-Roll is on the DL and Shane Victorino isn't hitting in his stead. Roy Halladay has also lost his last two starts, though the lack of run support can negatively effect even the best pitcher in baseball.

Man these Phillies...they can destroy anyone and then turn around and make pitchers like Zach Duke, Tom Gorzelanny and R.A. Dickey look like Pedro Martinez.

Hopefully that closed meeting last night after Philly's second straight shutout loss to the Mets was a swift reminder to the players that they are a winning group that are still sitting in first place. That won't last long if this keeps up.

The Phils need to salvage a win against New York before a six-game road trip through Florida and Atlanta. If not, then I must resort to two words that have never before escaped my mouth.

Go Flyers.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Beards of Summer

Since I reminded myself of it yesterday, here is one of Larry Anderson's Shallow Thoughts, which during television broadcasts in the late 1990s were always preceded by this question from Harry Kalas (clearly grinning in anticipation as he asked it): " you have a Shallow Thought for the day?"

"Yes I do, Harry. If a turtle loses its shell, is it homeless or naked?"

a pregnant pause, then the obligatory chuckle from HK

Man, when it's not Interleague Play, those Phillies sure are fun to watch, aren't they? They've made first place their exclusive home as of late, and in no small thanks to that lovable furry slugger, Jayson Werth.

Playing his first full season as a starter in 2009, Werth came into his own, bashing long balls left and right and displaying more patience at the plate than anyone else in the game. And for female fans, Werth wasn't a bad dude to look at while he trotted around those bases, growing out his locks for the playoffs and rockin' the cool soul patch on his chin.

Then JW showed up at Spring Training camp in late February looking like he had just spent the last three months mushing sled dogs through the Yukon. The patch had transformed into a thick forest, which became the focus of all his interviews. Werth grew irritated by that same question (Who are you hiding underneath that fur?) after a few days like anyone would. Then again, maybe Barry Bonds should have done the same thing. I'm not in any way suggesting that Werth is taking steroids, but if Bonds had grown out a long beard, it might have distracted everyone from his freakishly expanding cranium.

I already touched on the subject of Werth's facial hair in a column I wrote for the Times at the start of the 2010 season. Unfortunately for me, the jerk went and shaved off his beard the day before the column ran, disproving all of my humorous predictions about how long he would keep it.

Werth then turned the tables again by simply growing the beard right back! It's recently dawned on me that Werth, like all baseball players, is probably ridiculously superstitious when it comes to playing the game. He grew the beard in the offseason and decided he liked the look (god knows why; it makes his long face appear downright creepy), but the Florida heat eventually got to him and he shaved it off.

Then the baseball superstition kicks in when he realizes this is his final season before becoming a free agent, and he needs to convince the higher-ups around the league that last year wasn't a fluke. It's Opening Day, and that beard can't grow back fast enough.

In his first two games against the Washington Nationals (Werth and everyone else's punching bag in '09), Werth goes just 1-for-8. By the end of the week, however, whiskers have sprouted all over the place. He's back in the zone. Five games in, Werth's average spikes to .409.

But where's that explosive power? Put your trust in the beard, Jayson.

By late April, Yukon Werth has all but returned, and he goes yard twice in one game against Arizona. Come early May, the beard is large, and Werth is in charge. He piles up eight extra-base hits in six games and nabs Player of the Week honors. As of this posting, Werth is ranked third in the NL with a .327 batting average and leads the league in doubles with an eye-popping 22. He's also on pace for his first 30 home run/100 RBI campaign.

Though I make fun, Werth's strategy is clearly working, so stick with it, buddy.

It's possible Jayson could be taking the advice of teammate Ryan Howard. The Big Man has been sporting a thin beard since last season, and it has apparently done wonders for him as well. 2009 was Howard's most consistent season since his rookie year. Consider that his batting average dipped below .250 in just two games the entire season, and both of those came in the first week of April. For a power hitter that strikes out nearly 200 times a season, that's an amazing accomplishment. It's all thanks to the scruff.

Clearly I am not basing any of this posting on dependable and recommended statistical analyses. Werth and Howard will likely shave off their beards before tomorrow night's game and combine to go 7-for-9 with five taters just to spite me and my hairy theories. That's fine; fuzz or no fuzz, just keep on winning fellas.

It's Time to Let Sarge Go

A question for you to ponder: Is it a crime that I was born and raised in the Delaware Valley and at the age of 27, I just saw my first lacrosse game??

I trust I've left the five of you in suspense for my next posting. I made sure I waited until the oddest time of day to do so. Delirium has a way of making sequences of words flow in unique, distorted fashion.

This is something I've been meaning to get off my chest for quite a while: it's time to let Gary Matthews, Sr., go. His Cadillac Time has come and gone as far as I'm concerned, and I long for the sweet sounds of Larry Andersen's Shallow Thoughts.

Let's face it, some ex-ballplayers and managers are not meant to be broadcasters. I used to think otherwise, so I was excited at the start of the 2007 season when Sarge entered the booth for the Phillies. He was a local hero, despite only spending three of his 16 seasons with the Phightins.

I cut him some slack during that first year getting his feet wet with Harry the K and Wheels. HK was a broadcasting legend, and Chris Wheeler was also a seasoned veteran (all of his personal controversy aside). While I'm sure both of them made Sarge feel right at home, keeping up with those guys on air was likely intimidating.

However, by 2008, I had gone from giving Matthews the benefit of the doubt to doubting the benefit of his so-called broadcasting skills. The untimely passing of Harry last season (R.I.P) only made Sarge's inadequacies stick out more.

Whenever watching Phillies games, I'm usually cringing from the fourth through sixth innings when Matthews is on. In my many years of baseball viewing, I only reserve the disrespect of pressing the mute button during Atlanta's home games when the Tomahawk Chop theme plays, but I may have to extend that discourtesy for my beloved Phillies. Sarge is just too hard to listen to without fear of popping a blood vessel in my forehead.

To give some examples of his futility, Matthews never offers any insightful or original comments, which is the purpose of a color commentator. The play-by-play guy explains what happens, and the color guy elaborates with his own baseball knowledge and experience. I don't doubt that Matthews carries a wealth of both in his head, but it just seems like his discomfort of talking live on the air prevents any of that from pouring into the microphone. Instead, we just get glorified explanations of what the play-by-play guy just said, or embarrassing comments like this:

"What happens is you jerk off the ball. You just wanna let this guy here jam you, and if it comes, it comes."

This is probably Sarge's most infamous statement, and is the fodder for all 20-something Phillie fans with a YouTube account.

What I can't stand is when Tom McCarthy (who is no Harry Kalas himself, but good enough with Wheels) will try and draw some of Matthews' knowledge out with pointed questions. The only problem is that TMac partially answers the question himself in the middle of asking, and Sarge will simply regurgitate back that answer with slightly different words. Yeah, Sarge, we know J-Roll was looking for the fastball. McCarthy already said that...

Perhaps I'm being too harsh, and Sarge does impart some worthy comments for the die-hard fans. It's only that I'm so disappointed with the words he just said that I'm not even listening. Watching baseball should not have to be this tedious. Too many people already can't stand it because it's "too slow."

And hey, it's not like Sarge would be out of luck without the job. Many older fans would still line up for autographs and public appearances, thanking him for his stellar performance in the 1983 NLCS. And if that's not enough to pay the bills, he could be very successful implementing his own line of fedora hats. Half the male adult fans at Citizens Bank Park would be wearing them within a month.

Until then, Sarge's presence is just one of the many negative realities of today's Phillies' broadcasts that frequently find me lamenting, "Man, I really miss Harry and Whitey."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Welcome!/Oswalt to the NL East??

Greetings, everyone!

Recent anxieties about my job security in the print journalism universe have pushed me to join the most up-to-date medium in the easiest and most insignificant way available: starting a blog. New technology has never come easy to me, and even setting up this blog took much longer than the average time, which is probably around 45 seconds.

But alas, here I am and it's time to get blogging! First, I'd like to point out that though this is a forum I'm presently focusing on sports, it is a completely separate entity from my position as a sports writer with the Gettysburg Times. My opinions expressed here in no way reflect those of the paper.

Second, I'm a rather scatterbrained individual. In fact, it only occurred to me to start this blog a couple hours ago. I can't promise that I will post with any degree of regularity, but I vow that when I do post, I will let all of you know. I value all input.

And finally, though I am a writer of all sports and love my job, the one sport about which I'm truly passionate is baseball. Therefore, the majority of my postings will concern the National Pastime, and my hometown team, the Phillies. I apologize if these topics are too boring for most of you, but too bad, this is my blog. If my baseball ramblings will in anyway aid in my dream to exclusively write for a major league ballclub, they will have served their purpose.

That introduction should suffice. Please enjoy all of my postings, however ingenius or inaccurate they turn out to be. Trust me, I've been in the sports reporting business for three years, and I've hit every point on that spectrum. Now let's commence with some baseball chat, which oddly enough for my first go-around will not deal with the Phillies.

It was just reported yesterday that Houston Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt was asking for a trade. This news did not come as much surprise to me considering that the team is off to one of the worst starts in franchise history, and his paltry run support falls below what Jayson Werth alone provides the Phils nearly every night.

I imagine it's frustrating how close Oswalt came to donning a World Series ring in 2005, only to be denied by the Chicago White Sox, who needed help from the umpires just to make it to the Fall Classic. Since then, Houston has never finished better than 11 games above .500, which won't cut it against the powerhouse St. Louis Cardinals.

So where should Roy go?

His age (32), full no-trade clause and the $29 million left on his contract makes that a difficult situation, and the Astros would no doubt demand a lot in return. It doesn't appear Oswalt will be moved in the near future, but there are a couple of possibilities down the road if the teams are willing to take the risk.

The best option for both parties to me is the Atlanta Braves. They've gotten trounced by everyone in the division thus far, including the Washington Nationals, and their starting pitching - outside of Tim Hudson - has fallen well short of expectations. Altanta also has no timetable on the return of Jair Jurrjens, so a slot is open for Oswalt.

I imagine the Mississippi native would also like to remain close to home, especially after a recent tornado destroyed his parents' house. And given that the Phillies are just a Roy Halladay injury away from losing their grip on the East, adding Oswalt could help the Braves sneak into the postseason for the first time in five years.

I don't think the transition would be tough for Oswalt, as he wouldn't be switching leagues and has respectable numbers against the other four NL East teams - 19-12 record with an ERA of 3.46.

It all depends if the Braves are willing to spend the money. Their 2010 Opening Day payroll of $84.4 million was ranked 15th among the 30 major league teams, and they dumped $11 million in the offseason when they traded Javier Vasquez to the Yankees.

The deal is just one Tomahawk Chop away, and I say go for it, but me and my small-town newspaper salary will leave that decision up to the big boys.

I hope you've enjoyed these musings. Let me know what you think! Signing off for now.