You know, I was going to do a running diary of the All Star Game tonight, like the one I did a few years ago, but I was tired, lazy, or some combination of the two, so the potentially 10,000 word post that would have been nothing more than stale punchlines and jokes about Joe Buck is neatly condensed for your reading pleasure. Or displeasure. Whatever.
As I sit here, watching the All Star game, I am reminded of my own experiences playing baseball as a child, and most recently, on a beer league softball team. Winning and losing didn’t matter. It never really did, because we were just kids. Even if we did win, big deal. When I was about eight, my Little League team crushed just about everyone else. We finished with a 19-5 record or something, and didn’t lose more than once to a single opponent. But I was eight, so first place in Little League didn’t really matter.
The older I got, the more winning mattered. By the time I was ten or 11, winning was everything, even though it didn’t mean anything at all. It was all about having fun on the field. Throwing, catching, hitting, all that. I was never really bothered by a loss, and an oh-fer at the plate (there were several) stayed with me for all of 45 minutes. I just didn’t care. And why should I? Even at a young age, I could see how competition could bring out the absolute worst in some people. The ones who were so caught up in winning, even if they were the best players on the field, never actually looked happy.
Even now, as a member of a beer league softball team who has yet to win a game, I find myself at peace with the fact that we aren’t that good. I’m more concerned with enjoying myself and having fun with my teammates who are similarly not affected by not having one in the win column. And to be honest, the last hour of work on days that we have a game are some of the best of the week, just because I get to play baseball.
Conversely, some of the most miserable people in our league are the ones who are routinely part of winning efforts or have the ability to mash the ball at will. Case in point: A couple weeks back, our team was short a man, so we borrowed a guy from another team to fill the roster spot. Having played against this guy a handful of times, I knew what to expect: A big bat and a piss-poor attitude. This guy can hit the ball a mile, but he pitches a fit when it doesn’t go over the fence, because triples are not good enough for this guy. And if you strike out to end the inning? You better watch your head, because a bat or some other object is sure to be tossed about, because that sort of thing is just plain unacceptable to the him. Then guy was miserable the entire game. It didn’t matter if we lost by five or won by ten, he’d have been a pisser just the same. Guy was the best player on the team, but was absolutely not having an ounce of fun. What’s the point? None of it matters, and you are only making yourself look like a massive tool (I mean, assuming the six arm and writs bands didn’t already do that.)
Point is, baseball is about fun. Especially when it’s a rather meaningless game on a random Tuesday night in the middle of summer. For an hour or so, we get to leave it on the field before going home to our crappy jobs and lives of unfulfilled potential. It’s an hour of escape, once a week. What’s the point of being miserable and not enjoying yourself? Hitting three homers won’t make your night any better, but actually having fun just might.
How, exactly, does this tie into the All Star Game? I’m not really sure, except for maybe that those players are similarly having a good time on the field, even though the game “matters.” They are smiling, they are playfully jawing with the other team, and so on and so on. And really, I just wanted to write something about baseball.
On the final day of the first half of the season, the Philadelphia Phillies routed the Atlanta Braves to put an exclamation point on what has been a remarkable first half for the National League east leading club.
After splitting the first two games of the series, the Phils came into the game with a 2.5 game lead over their division rivals, and would send Cole Hamels to the hill to clinch what has been the most meaningful series of the season for the club.
He would not disappoint, and followed up masterful performances by both Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee with one of his own, a eight inning, one run performance, where he struck put six Braves en route to his 11th win of the season – the highest total at the halfway point, to date, for the lefty.
After allowing a run in the second inning to fall into an early hole, Hamels did his usual thing, and proceeded to shut down the light-hitting Braves, allowing only two baseunners the rest of the way.
The Phillies’ offense, which had scored a combined four runs between the first two games of the series, went to work on Derek Lowe in the second, when John Mayberry’s two-out double scored Domonic Brown from first to even things up at one.
They continued their assault on the Braves right-hander over the next two innings, where they strung together four hits and got RBIs from Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez and Jimmy Rollins to give them the lead.
It was enough, but they were far from done, as they put the game way out of reach in the late innings, thanks to a six run seventh inning, where they got RBIs from Ibanez, Domonic Brown, and Mayberry, who roped his third double of the day. Ibanez and Mayberry would add to their days in the eighth, when Raul belted his 12th home run of the season, while Mayberry earned his 4th RBI of the afternoon with an RBI groundout to cap the Phillies scoring at 14.
It’s a nice bookend to the first half of the season, one that began with a come-from-behind victory on Opening Day at the hand of the Houston Astros, so it is only fitting that they head into the All Star break on the back of a drubbing. They finish the first half with a Major League best 57-34 record, as well as the largest lead in any division – 3.5 games.
After a four day vacation that will see the Phillies send five players – Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco – to the All Star Game (though only Halladay and Lee will actually get a chance to play), the Phillies get back to the grind on July 16th, when they open up the second half of the season in New York, where they will take on the Mets for a three game set.
Cole Hamels (W, 11-4) allowed one runs on three hits in eight innings. He walked two and struck out six.
Jimmy Rollins went 3 for 4 with an RBI.
Michael Martinez went 4 for 5 with two runs.
Chase Utley went 2 for 5 with two runs.
Ryan Howard went 2 for 4 with an RBI.
Raul Ibanez went 2 for 5 with a homer (12) and six RBIs.
Carlos Ruiz went 1 for 4 with a double (11) and two runs.
Domonic Brown went 3 for 5 with two RBIs.
John Mayberry went 3 for 5 with three doubles (9) and four RBIs.
Uh oh…you know what that means?
In honor of this momentous occasion, here is a picture of a dog wearing a Phillies shirt. Well, look at that.
Derek Lowe (L, 5-7) allowed four earned runs on ten hits in six innings. He struck out one.
Dan Uggla went 1 for 4 with a run.
Brace yourselves, Phillie fans, because this morning we got a cot-damn bombshell, brought to you by our dear friends from Philly.com.
Phillies infielder and one-time pitcher Wilson Valdez is making $560,000 this year but tipped only 50 cents on two drinks he paid for with a $100 bill for him and a pal just before last call at Time (1315 Sansom) after last Thursday’s late-ending game against the Cubs.
People, Wilson Valdez is barely making above the league minimum this season. He earns less money than Kyle Kendrick. He’s practically poor, in baseball money. If he was a normal person like the rest of us, and was relegated to pushing papers from nine to five, he’d be earning like $24K a year. That said, let us not cast out the baseball player who is trying to cut loose after dropping a game to the Chicago Cubs.
Besides, who is to say that this waitress didn’t have it coming? Maybe she insulted his throwing arm, or better yet, I bet he ordered one drink, but she gave him two because “I hear you like double plays.” Is that the way you treat the future shortshop of this fine organization? Come on, 22-year-old bartender who refers to herself as “a model,” you know better.
Personally, I’d feel honored, not insulted, if The Man With The Golden Goatee stiffed me.
Let’s be honest: A lot of us don’t like Kyle Kendrick. I’m talking about Kyle Kendrick, the pitcher, and not Kyle Kendrick, the person, who I assume is a pretty swell guy with a pretty wife who lets him pose in awkward and embarrassing photo shoots like this one.
But this is not about Kyle Kendrick, the person-slash-model-slash-perennial prankee. This is about how he manages to succeed, in some capacity, at a sport in which he is not considered to even be an average player.
Wednesday night, in a tie game against the Florida Marlins, in a game that is as important as a game can be in May, Kendrick was charged with pitching, at the time, the biggest inning of the game – bottom of the eighth, tied at three. This all in light of the fact that there were no fewer than three pitchers who were not only better, but available, and that he had to snake his way through the middle of the Marlins lineup, which, if you’re keeping score, is pretty damn good.
They say that the only things guaranteed in life are death and taxes. Of course, that only holds true if you’re not also a Phillies fan, because you can then add “incessant complaining about the park dimensions from opposing play-by-play announcers.”
That was certainly the case on Thursday night, when Nats radio play-by-play guys Charlie Slowes and Dave Jagler just had to make a comment about the size of Citizens Bank Park following Shane Victorino’s third inning home run. I swear, it’s like these guys are contractually obligated to bitch and moan about the teeny tiny ballpark that the Phillies play in, because it’s not as if though the other team – in this case, the Nationals – also get to take advantage of the same dimensions.
After Vic’s homer, which he hooked just inside the foul pole and about five or six rows deep over the fence in left field, they unfurled this little nugget:
“Here, Houston, a few parks that you can see a hitter just basically pops it up down the left field line and it lands in the stands for a home run” and later on “…just a little pop fly.”
No word on whether or not they had similar things to say about Raul Ibanez’s fifth inning bomb that landed in the front row of the second deck, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they blamed the super-secret fly ball jetstream that only the Phillies hitters have access to during the games.
You know, maybe I’m taking this to personally, which is silly, because really, who cares what other announcers think? It’s almost as if their opinions on the Phillies are informed by nothing but comments on blogs as opposed to actual information. You’d swear that these guys think that the walls move in when the Phillies come to bat or something.
Of course, a quick look at MLB Park Factors have shown that The Bank isn’t the exxxtreme hitter’s park like some make it out to be. It’s not a park where fly balls go to die, like Petco Park in San Diego, or where home runs leave at a ridiculous rate like U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, either. It gives an advantage to the hitter, sure, but it’s not like Little Leaguers could go deep within the confines.
And is it possible that the reputation that The Bank has garnered has less to do with its dimensions and more to do with the fact that they’ve had some pretty prolific home run hitters come through there in the last seven or so years? I mean, if they had a lineup of Abe Nunezes and Chris Robersons as opposed to Ryan Howards and Chase Utleys, The Bank wouldn’t have the reputation it has, nah mean?
Regardless, perhaps the Washington Nationals announcers should withhold their judgment of The Bank’s porch in left field, which is between 329 down the line and 334 as the wall juts in as it heads toward left-center.
I guess they do have a point, as 334 feet isn’t that great a distance, especially compared to left field at Nationls Park, which sits at…336 feet.
I guess if I had to watch 162 Nationals games a year, I’d be pretty bitter, too.
As some of you know, I can be found over at NBCPhiladelphia.com on a daily basis to their aptly named Phillies blog, Philthy Stuff. For the most part, I spend my days reacting to the Phillie news of the day, doing recaps and other fun stuff. Sometimes, I get to react to things that extend far past the baseball diamond. The breaking news of Osama Bin Laden’s death durin Sunday night’s Phillies/Mets game was no exception. If you’re so inclined and don’t mind reading 800 or so words from yours truly about how real life intersects with sports, then click on through. Thanks, all. [Philthy Stuff]
Tomorrow morning, I’ll be making the 90 minute trek down the turnpike to head to my most favorite place in Pennsylvania: Citizens Bank Park. It will be my second game this season, and my first time seeing Cliff Lee in person. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to some afternoon baseball, as most of us would if it meant not having to sit in an office all day while the more fortunate got to sit in the sun and watch the glory and splendor of American’s Pastime.
Then I saw this:
Huh, I thought. A robot that can throw a baseball? How quaint. Here I thought they called those “pitching machines,” and I used one of those in high school, but whatever. But being the ever curious person that I am, I wanted to know more. I loved robots growing up, and I one day dreamed about having a robot best friend or something.
Needless to say, I got a little more excited. It’d be like a real life Transformer, I thought. Then I tracked down this column, and it was then that I realized just how wrong I was. Read more »
Either the Phillies had this made up last week, or someone on the payroll works really, really fast. Personally, I like to think that they made a half-dozen of these things last December. Courtesy of the official Twitter account of the Philadelphia Phillies.
In what should be a surprise to no one, Roy Halladay has been named the 2010 National League Cy Young in a unanimous decision. This comes on the heels of a terrific season, his first in red pinstripes, that saw him go 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA in 33 games. His 250.2 innings pitched led the National League, as did his sparkling 7.30 K/BB ratio, nine complete games, four shutouts and 30 walks.
Despite stiff competition from St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright and Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez, Halladay ran away with the decision by collecting all 32 first place votes.
In his first season in the National League, Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies won the Cy Young Award to go with the American League trophy he won with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2003. Halladay became the fifth pitcher to win the award in each league and the 16th multiple winner.
Halladay was the 13th unanimous choice in NL voting as he received all 32 first-place votes from two writers in each league city to score a perfect 224 points, based on a tabulation system that rewards seven points for first place, four for second, three for third, two for fourth and one for fifth. The BBWAA expanded the Cy Young Award ballot from three to five pitchers this year.
Roy’s first season out of the American League East was as great as advertised, as he had an immediate effect on the team in spring training, with his vaunted workout regiment rubbing off on other members of the team. He set the tone on Opening Day with a command performance against the Washinton Nationals and bookended his award-winning season with a complete game shutout in D.C. to clinch the fourth consecutive division title for the Phillies, with a perfect game on May 29th against the Florida Marlins, just for kicks.
His regular season dominance carried over into his first ever postseason start, when he threw a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds in a 4-0 win in game one of the National League division series. Despite being bested by Tim Lincecum in game one of the NLCS, he took the hill in game five to keep the Phillies alive with a six inning, two-run performance despite pitching the final five frames with a pulled groin.
And guess what, Phillie fans? We get to watch him for at least another three seasons.
It is the second career Cy Young for Halladay, who won his first award in 2003 while with the Toronto Blue Jays. He is the first Phillie to win it since Steve Bedrosian in 1987, and the fourth overall, joining Bedrosian, John Denny (1983), and Steve Carlton (1972, 77, 80, 82).
According to MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, the Philadelphia Phillies and pitcher Jose Contreras have come to terms on a two-year contract worth $5.5 million with a club option for a third year.
Contreras was one of the best relievers on the team in 2010, his first as a full-time reliever. He went 6-4 with a 3.34 ERA and four saves in 56.2 innings. Although multi-year contracts for relief pitchers can be precarious (Danys Baez, for instance), the deal for Jose isn’t cost prohibitive.
With Jose back in the fold, and rumors circulating that the Phillies are in talks with former Mets’ pitcher Hisanori Takahashi, it appears that the early priority for Ruben Amaro is to bolster the back end of the bullpen.