Tag Archives: Phillies

The Pressure is on the Phillies in Game Five

A few months ago I posted about the “Beauty of a Game Seven.”  Most underdogs can either steal or over-achieve in two games which improve the quality of a seven-game series because it allows the best team to win. But, game fives don’t have the same magic.  The lesser of the teams CAN win a series because the margin of error is so small.  A team only needs three wins to advance to the next round instead of four. On paper, the difference is only one more win, but there are still two teams.  A 2-2 series compared to a 3-3 series is TWO more games which, in the scope of baseball (only sport with five-game series), is at least 18 more innings, one less chance to use the team’s Ace on full rest, and creates a “hot-team” complex that can be argued doesn’t exist.  It doesn’t have the same grueling drama or bravado that a seven game series has.  Game five is game seven’s little, more annoying brother who just wants to know, “Why can’t I go to movies with you?!” Which big brother would reply, “Because you’re just not old enough, now SCRAM!”  Game five is the reason that the pressure is on the Phillies to win on Friday.

The St. Louis Cardinals have stolen two games from the Phillies.  Two blown leads by the “Phightins” have given hope to a more inadequate pitching staff and an above-average lineup that didn’t come alive until September.  They also have Tony La Russa, the all-knowing baseball prophet, who decided to pitch Jaime Garcia, his second-best starter, in game three because of his home record and La Russa had confidence that they would split the first two games. (The worst part, that idiot was right) Playoff stud Cliff Lee pitched like the opposite of Playoff stud Cliff Lee and surrendered a four run lead in game two that tied the series at 1-1.   Regardless, the pitching for the Phillies has been solid.  Albert Pujols, his generation’s best hitter who is batting .412 in the series, only has 1 RBI and has been getting misleading base hits.  The bases are usually empty or the outfielders for the Phillies are able to get the ball in fast enough to stop any base runners from advancing.  But, the Phillies problem is guys like Ryan Theriot and David Freese who are batting .600 and have five RBIs in the series, respectively.  

The contrary can be said about the Phillies’ bats who still are susceptible to a team-wide slump can’t win scoring 3 runs a game, even with that pitching staff.  Ryan Howard is continuing his trend of disappearing in the playoffs and is batting a dismal .133 with six of his 15 outs being strikeouts. The rest of the offense has stalled to averaging three runs a game after putting up 11 in game one.  In game four, Howard, Raul Ibanez, and Shane Victorino went a combined 0-12 in a loss that sent it to game five. The offense only needs to come alive a little bit because, unlike the Cardinals, Phillies have their Ace of the Aces, Roy Halladay, going in game five.  Halladay, who in a conference said “I’m here to bury Caesar not to praise him,” is the video-game player you’d want for an elimination game.  There’s not much more I can say on it that doesn’t require actually watching the Machine pitch.  He’s so fierce and so competitive and his focus is so strong it’s like he took three Adderall with a 24 oz. can of Red Bull. The man could pass a polygraph test his demeanor is so calm.  If I was to use a cliché I’d say that, “he doesn’t have blood in his veins, but ice.”  At an early 2-1 favorite, Halladay will be the reason the Phillies advance.

But because it is a game five and “anything” can happen, I thought of the two cause and effects that can potentially happen after Friday’s game.

Cause: Roy Halladay does his thing, shuts down the Cardinals offense, and gets the and win

Effect: The Phillies won’t get much hype for pulling off a game five win because that’s not how the media looks at favorites.  The Phillies were SUPPOSED to win this series and all they did was keep within the hype. But, because it wasn’t a sweep, the questions John Buccigross will ask Chris Singleton are along the lines of “The Phillies waited until game five to put a lesser team away, is there cause for concern in Philly?”  The baseball pundits won’t agree and say that the Cardinals were a hot team and “people forget how much talent St. Louis really has.”  It’ll be followed by Halladay being recognized again as arguably the game’s most dominant pitcher with the Phillies players saying that they’re looking at it as just another win and are looking forward to the next series. 

The fans of Philly will be calm, but with shades of doubt.  The Brewers-Diamondbacks series has been display after display of offense as each team is averaging more than five runs a game.  They’ll set pitching matchups, seeing when Zack Greinke will pitch against Halladay or Lee. They’ll call Mike Missanelli nervously asking, “With how good the bats from the Milwaukee/Arizona are looking and our offense doesn’t look like it can compete?” To which Mikey Miss will reply, “In the playoffs good pitching beats good hitting. I don’t see how anyone could doubt the Phillies with that pitching staff. They’re the best team in the National League.”

Cause: The Phillies offense stagnates and the Cardinals do just enough to win

Effect: Turmoil in the streets of South Philadelphia. The end of Philly as a city will commence.  Car pileups, fires, looting, riots, destruction of the streets, and chaos infect one of the oldest cities in America (yes, you can argue that this happened in 2008 when the Phillies win the World Series).  Mayor Nutter has taken refuge in city hall as the citizens of Philly demand for his head because no one can grasp what happened.  Signs littered throughout the city would read “Missing Person: Ruben Amaro Jr.”

Although the above was said tongue-and-cheek, it’s not that far from the truth.  ESPN will brutalize the Phillies as badly as the Eagles.  With Cliff Lee picking Philadelphia for less money and creating arguably the best starting rotation in the history of baseball, anything short of making the World Series is a bust.  The Phillies already used their “get-out-free” card with a loss in the 2010 NLCS to the inferior San Francisco Giants.  ESPN would blast headlines like “What a Mis-steak!” or “Four Aces Can’t Beat St. Louis’ Straight Flush” (those are actually pretty good) and the 2011 Phillies would be considered one of the most blown seasons ever; especially since they lost a team who needed 18 wins just to MAKE the playoffs. (Regardless if the Cardinals are considered the “hot team” there’s no such thing baseball.  Yes, they’re “hot” at the end of the regular season, but the playoffs are a different monster.)  Don’t be surprised if they do a timeline of all the signings the Phillies and Eagles made throughout the past year while the national sports fan begins to look at Philly as a Choke City.

I really hope for the former.


Why I Won’t Watch the Home Run Derby and MLB All-Star Game

The All-Star game and Home Run Derby used to be worthwhile.  My favorite memory of the “Mid-Summer Classic” was Ken Griffey Jr. rocking home runs in 1998 and 1999 and winning back-to-back home run derby titles.  By far my favorite player with the prettiest swing ever, Griffey gave hope to a steroid-laden era that there may have been someone who did it naturally.  The whole “who’s on steroids and who isn’t” debate has been so diluted, Jose Bautista, the MLB’s new home run king won’t even get a sniff of credit from me because I can’t trust any players. It was exciting baseball when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were going home run for home run and smashed the long ball and ratings record.  There wasn’t a more personally exciting season in baseball (besides the Phillies winning the 08 World Series of course) when Barry Bonds broke the home run record again. But allegations, confessions, and the “Mitchell Report” exposed the cheaters for who they were and baseball hasn’t recovered since.  It took the most exciting play in sports and made it as exciting as a bloop single.  The Home Run Derby was something that was to be desired (in 1998, Griffey Jr. won with a total of seven home runs).  It was hard to hit home runs, but now with undetectable human-growth hormones and performance-enhancing drugs, how can anyone appreciate David Ortiz or Robinson Cano hitting 18 home runs in the Home Run Derby?

That’s just the home run part of it.  I don’t even want to talk about the “show” of it. I do like the sportsmanship and how each player participating wants to see everyone do their best, but I can’t stand the production of the whole thing.  Do you really need Chris Berman screaming “Backbackbackbackback GONE! WHOOP! ROBINSON ‘IF YOU DON’T KNOW NOW YA’ CANO!” (He’s run his course, I loved the nicknames as a kid, but when he runs out of breath after each sentence and barely chokes out a few more words it’s time for him to retire.)?   Bring someone in with some personality and some energy like Stephen A. Smith; someone who will raise his voice and won’t use catch phrases (think about it, could you imagine Smith as a commentator?  One can dream…) It’s like the Super Bowl halftime show, there’s just too much going on.  It’s supposed to be an event every adult thinks back to their childhood when they would have home run derbies with their friends and children to appreciate the difficulty and purity of it.

Then there’s the likes if the Legend-Celebrity Softball game that was a good idea, but is saturated with too many no names. To have the kid who does the voice of “Go Diego Go” is ridiculous and desperate. And why do Ricky Henderson and Ozzie Smith play every year? There isn’t any other Hall of Famer that would want to play? And what’s the deal with everyone being miked up? I understand that it’s supposed to add a personal and comedic element, but the only problem is, they aren’t funny. Spare me the game, simplify everything a bit and save me as a baseball fan.

As for the All-Star game, it’s the same as every other All-Star game; boring.  It’s an exhibition match that doesn’t have the same energy like All-Star games in the past.  These players are multi-multi-million dollar earners and general managers and owners don’t want them getting hurt during an exhibition match.  What’s frustrating is the vote.  Pundits like Mike Golic can’t stand that every team is represented, but don’t mind when Derek Jeter (whose below-average season has been masked by his 3,000th hit) receives the American League starting shortstop over breakout star Asdrubal Cabrera, who is making the Cleveland Indians relevant again. What’s even more frustrating is the players who are voted into these All-Star games miss it for the sake of not wanting to play.  It is an absolute disrespect to the fans, which are directly responsible for the million-dollar contracts, to have them vote you in as a starter and then just abandon them. 

Back to Golic’s view of “every team being represented,” he needs to understand that there are small and big market teams.  Sure there are snubs, but it’s a necessary evil because if as many teams are losing money as the attendance shows then there has to be some glimpse of hope. For example, how many fans attend a Florida Marlins game, about 1,000? It’s not fair because 5 million fraudulent and front-running Yankees fan can vote in six of their players and the Marlins are left out.  And at the least the small market players actually SHOW up to the All-Star game instead of missing it.

So how did the MLB try to curtail (but failed) this?  They made the All-Star game worth something and now the winning league gets home-field advantage for the World Series.  Basically, regardless of how well a team performs throughout the season, if their team loses the All-Star game then they have to start the series with two games as the Away team. If the leagues had the same rules it wouldn’t be so bad, but the American League has a designated hitter compared to the National League where the pitchers hit.  So if the Phillies play the Red Sox in the World Series and American League wins the All-Star game, the Phillies will start the series in Boston, regardless if they have the better record.  Shame on you Bud Selig.

It’s not the worst of all the All-Star events (the NFL has that locked) and it gets by off of tradition.  But it won’t last forever and they need to adjust as soon as possible.

New York on Philadelphia

 Doug Gausepohl (pronounced Gospel) comes from North Jersey, about 45 miles outside of New York City from a town call Byram.  He’s 21 years old and a journalism student at Rowan University.  Since his major sports city is New York, I asked him what it’s like for the people during game day and how they feel about Philadelphia.

Most New Yorkers are Mets, Jets, Nets or Yankess, Knicks, Giants.  Which one do you fall under? Neither! I’m actually Mets, Jets, and Knicks. I could never really get interested in the Nets when I was younger, and my brother was a Knicks fan, which helped convince me to become a Knicks fan.
Describe New York on game day. Depends on the stadium. For example, parking at Citi Field for Mets games is one gigantic parking lot, so there’s a lot of tailgating. Yankee Stadium has a lot of parking garages, so that cuts down on the tailgates. Depending on the game, the pre-game analysis is always a huge talking point in New York. I remember hearing talk about the Eagles-Giants game (where DeSean Jackson ran the ball back for a touchdown as time expired) two weeks before the day of the game.
Who is your favorite athlete? Baseball- Jeff Francoeur and Nate Robinson. I know it sounds crazy, but they both played for my teams at one point, and I loved their character. I think having guys like that on your team are extremely important, no matter what their numbers may be.
You’ve been in southern New Jersey for a few months now, what was it like the first time you talked sports with a Philadelphia fan? It’s interesting, because every time I’ve talked to a Philadelphia fan in New York, it’s usually been at a game where they’re going insane. Talking to a Philadelphia sports fan in class or around campus is pretty normal, because everyone likes to talk sports. I was actually pleasantly surprised about how easy-going about it everyone’s been, considering my past experiences with Philadelphia fans at the stadiums.
It’s widely known Philadelphians hate New York, myself included, why do you think that is? I was never really sure, until I was watching a documentary on the rivalry between the Mets and the Phillies, when some writer brought up a really good point, which is that Philadelphia has always had to look up to New York. New York is the sports mecca of the East Coast, and I think that makes Philadelphia a little jealous. Philadelphia’s a great city, but they’ve always played second fiddle to New York. I think the fans of Philadelphia want to show everyone that they’re just as passionate about sports as New York fans are, and to be honest I think over the past four years or so, they’ve been more supportive of their teams as a whole than New York has.

 What is the perception of Philadelphia in the eyes of New Yorkers? Classless drunks. Sorry, but it’s true. I’ve heard horror stories about Giants fans going to Eagles games and getting jumped the minute they walk in the stadium. I’ve heard about Devils fans getting beer poured on them by Flyers fans for just wearing a Devils jersey. Sports are very important, but they aren’t a matter of life and death. It’s pretty much common ground among New York fans that if you go to a Philadelphia stadium, you: 1. Travel in numbers. 2. Don’t bring your girlfriend. 3. Bring a trustworthy Philadelphia fan with you that will have your back if anyone tries to start sh** with you. (It’s depressing to read that.  It’s amazing what the tiniest minority does to the majority.)
How much of that do you believe is true? I’m not sure. I’ve been to a couple of games at Citizens Bank Park wearing my Mets gear, and no one has said anything to me. Most of the horror stories I’ve heard have been from Eagles games and Flyers games. So from personal experience, I can say that Phillies fans have been fair. Judging that most of the fights at sporting events happen at hockey and football games, I’d believe most of what I hear happens at these other games.

 What would you say separates New York from the rest of the country? The passion and the history. They’re the only city to have at least two teams for each sport. They’re the first city to have a 24-hour sports radio channel. Countless sports channels like YES, SNY, MSG, etc. Dynasty teams like the 90’s Yankees and the 80’s Islanders. There’s no city like it in the country when it comes to sports.
Anyone you want to say hi to? Shane Victorino. I hate you

Blunt Sports Trauma – The Introduction

As with everyone who starts one of these, I say this one has a chance to be big.  I’m from Southern New Jersey (South Jersey from here on out) about six miles outside of Philadelphia.  Yeah, the same Philadelphia where we throw snowballs at Santa (because I haven’t heard that 1000 times already) and where we hit minors who run on the field with tasers. It’s also the same city who has sold out 136 straight Phillies games and finished 3rd in NFL attendance.

Now this web log (I don’t like blog) is going to involve a wide spectrum and how it relates to Philly.  Think of it in terms of what Bill Simmons does, national stories with a Boston bias. That’s what I’m going for.  A focus on sports and how it affects fans from a certain part of the country. So why not the unanimous worst city in sports? Expect stories that range from the Divison race in the AL East to the Philadelphia Eagles hiring an Offensive line coach as their defensive coordinator.

by the way,

I’m Chazz Scogna