Monthly Archives: October 2008

To win, you gotta have chin

On Saturday night, I met up with Jacobs and Hoffman, two contributors to the site, at Fox and Hound to catch the Penn State game. I was fairly surprised by what I saw when I arrived – Penn State was trailing Michigan 17-7 at the 12 minute mark of the second quarter.

“What the hell is going on here?” I asked.

Jacobs didn’t hesitate to answer my question. “Fucking Michigan is running up and down on us. Let’s get the hell out of here, go to a different bar. I can’t stand all of these damn Michigan fans. Look at all of them over there! Where do they come from?”

Sure enough, an entire section of the bar was entirely decked in blue and maize. Disgusting. Apparently, they had been hooting and hollering for the entire game; in fact, one delightfully obnoxious bar patron had even brought his cowbell, and was whacking that thing unmercifully every time Michigan did anything positive. (Editor’s note: Yeah, I’m just gonna stay away from that one). It was too much for Jacobs, a diehard State fan and a rather passionate dude. But I wasn’t about to be phased by some stupid cowbell.

“Dude, trust me – when Penn State comes back and wins this game, it will be awesome to watch all of these Michigan fans leave the bar dejected and distraught,” I said. “You’ll see – when Appalachian State beat Michigan last year, I was at this bar. Watching all of the Michigan fans sadly stream out of here, dreams broken, while all the fans of other teams heckled them, was truly priceless. As annoying as it now, it will be sooooo worth it later.”

Now, I know how harsh, and unbelievably cruel, that sounds. But there was a deeper point I was trying to make – a real winner always has to take the best punch his/her opponent can throw, get back up, and punch back harder. To win, you gotta have chin.

Chin has been all over the MLB playoffs. In game one, the Dodgers jumped on Cole Hamels early, scoring two runs and quieting the uproarious Philadelphia crowd. But the Phillies calmed down, shook out the cobwebs from the Dodger haymaker, and Chase Utley and Pat Burrell each hit home runs to seal the Philly win. Game 4 was another example – for most of the game, no matter what the Phils did, the Dodgers had an answer. They led 5-3, and you could sense that series momentum was shifting in their favor. But the Phillies weren’t done fighting yet, and when Shane Victorino tied the game with his rope to right, the Dodgers started to sway. And then Matt Stairs hit them with a left that they never saw coming, and they dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes. No matter how much, or how hard the Dodgers swung, they couldn’t knock the Phils down, and they certainly couldn’t handle the counter punch. It was of little surprise that the Phillies sealed the deal in game 5 – the Dodgers were sporting a glass jaw.

To win, you gotta have chin.

The ALCS was a dissertation on chin. The Rays had the Red Sox down for the count, leading them 7-0 in the seventh inning in game 5, with a 3-1 series lead, after pasting them in the two games before. Honestly, the Red Sox looked unconcious before they hit the mat. And yet, somehow, someway, the came back to win that game. Uh-oh. And when they won game 6, you couldn’t help but wonder if the Red Sox had absorbed the very best punch that the Rays had (and, truthfully, it was one hell of a punch), and were going to win this series. And yet, the Rays had one last trick up their sleeve (Matt Garza), and were able to take a few crushing blows of their own, pulling out the game 7 win. That the Rays were able to regroup after seemingly losing all of the momentum in the series that they had signed, sealed and delivered, they showed me something. Resiliance. Fight. Chin.

To win, you gotta have chin.

It’s the reason that Rocky is Philly’s favorite sports hero: the man never gave up. He never stayed down. He not only took your best shot, he wanted it. He wanted you to give him all you had, and then he wanted to give you just a bit more. He wasn’t the most talented or hyped fighter, but he could take anything you had in your arsenal, and fight on. Rocky wasn’t real, but the spirit and essence of his character most certainly is, and its what the Phillies are going to have to rely on against a dangerous Rays team.

To win, you gotta have chin.

Oh, I almost forgot: Penn State ended up beating Michigan, 46-17. Since my arrival at the bar, Penn State scored 39 unanswered points. Apparently, your Pundit is good luck. (Editor’s note: Doesn’t change the fact that he never gets lucky – ZING!). After every touchdown, following the traditional “WE ARE – PENN STATE!” chant, a chorus of us would ask one other question.

“CAN WE PLEASE GET SOME MORE COWBELL?”

Nobody on the Michigan side ever answered our pleas. They knew they were defeated. They knew that to win, you gotta have chin.

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From the Nosebleeds: The Big 12 ain’t got jack on Penn State

Ryan Jacobs

I was very impressed with Penn State’s performance in Madison this past Saturday night; it was the kind of victory that is solidifying PSU as one of the best all-around teams in the country.  Daryll Clark has been the most impressive player during this team’s rise to 2008 football glory.  Against Wisconsin, Clark proved himself as a passer more than he has all season.  Quite simply, Clark is playing lights-out football.

However, Daryll Clark is being outshined by the holier-than-thou Big 12 quarterback club.  I watched the Red River Shootout and was extremely impressed with both Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford…honestly, who wouldn’t be?  Bradford has thrown for 23 TD’s already this season and McCoy has completed 79.4% of his throws.  These huge stats continue through the rest of the conference with quarterbacks like Chase Daniel, Graham Harrell, and Todd Reesing.  How did this conference give birth to so many aerial assaults?

There are many possible answers to that question, but I think maybe poor defense has something to do with it.  Don’t get me wrong – when you have a gifted offense like many Big 12 teams do, you’re going to score some points. But you would figure that inter-conference rivalries would slow high-scoring teams.  Oklahoma State did a good job of forcing turnovers on Saturday night, intercepting Chase Daniel three times, the first time he’s been picked since the season debut against Illinois (showcasing his, well, God-like abilities during that time). But Daniel still threw for 390 yards in a close game.

Oklahoma, who Kirk Herbstreit says is one of the “nastiest defenses in the country”, got gashed for 161 yards on the ground and 277 yards through the air in their close loss to Texas.  Vice versa, Sam Bradford lit up the “best defense he has seen by far this year” for 387 yards and 5 TDs (though he did throw two picks).  These teams have great playmakers, but defense does not seem to be this conference’s strength.

In fact, Kansas, ranked 27th in the nation in scoring defense, has statistically the best defense in the conference, followed next by Oklahoma at 37.  Penn State, on the other hand, is 6th in scoring defense and 8th in total offense allowed.  I realize that Penn State racked up those stats against some pretty poor offenses, but the same goes with Kansas, Oklahoma, and the majority of the other Big 12 teams, with their early season, cream-puff schedules.  The point is simple: if you’re playing poor teams and you have a good defense, you should be able to win these games without surrendering many points or yards.  These Big 12 teams obviously don’t have those kinds of defenses.

And another thing – I keep hearing that the Big 12 is the best offensive conference in DI-A.  While this appears to be valid, many supporters of this theory have (obviously) never checked out the eye-popping stats put up by players in the non-BCS, Conference USA.  Just check last year’s numbers for guys like Tulsa’s Paul Smith (QB, 5065 passing yards, 60 Total TDs) or Central Florida’s Kevin Smith (RB, 2567 rushing yards, 30 Total TDs), or Tulane’s Matt Forte (RB, 2127 rushing yards, 23 Total TDs), or Eastern Carolina’s Chris Johnson (RB, 1423 rushing yards, 23 Total TDs).  All three of those running backs are now in the NFL and are already, or will soon make a difference for their respective teams.  This is, overwhelmingly, the best offensive conference in D-IA college football and possibly the worst defensively.

I am still impressed with the big-play Big 12 offenses, but I think Penn State deserves some serious national respect. (Editor’s note: Um, gotta say, I feel as though a national ranking of three is respect).  Penn State’s offense is extremely efficient and very balanced, which in turn leads to smaller numbers for Daryll Clark.  This may lead to a conclusion that Clark isn’t good enough for consideration in the kissing-the-Big-12-quarterback’s-ass club. (Editor’s note: From what I’ve heard, people leave these club meetings with a bad taste in their mouth). On Saturday night, however, he proved to me that he has the ability to throw with the best of them.  He is smart, makes good decisions, and can make every throw across the entire field, regardless if he is standing upright or running for his life.  His ability to make plays in the passing game, especially after things have broken down, is amazing.  His comparison to Michael Robinson is unfair, because Clark is a true passer who just happens to be able to run (and with some strength).  Dare I say he reminds me of a young Donovan McNabb at Syracuse?

Clark is enjoying extreme success in a spread offense that has weapons everywhere (7th in Scoring Offense with 45.3 pts./game), and a team that really doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses (9th in Total Offense, 8th in Total Defense, excellent special teams).  Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated (probably SI’s best known college football writer) stated, quite frankly, that he hasn’t seen an offense as dynamic and dangerous as Penn State’s since that of the 2004 Utah Utes, led by coach Urban Meyer, who broke into the BCS that year with an undefeated season.  Anybody else think Urban Meyer knows how to run a really good spread?  Now what about Penn State?

Penn State’s offense is ranked statistically with the best in the nation, but I still don’t think that many analysts realize the stats they’ve compiled.  In the first quarter of this Saturday’s Red River Shootout, a stat flashed onto the screen: Oklahoma has outscored their opponents 103-3 in the first quarter this season.  Kirk Herbstreit promptly stated, “I don’t know if we’ve seen a stat like that in college football”.  Oklahoma improved upon that stat, making it 110-6 by the end of the first quarter in that game, a very impressive stat with a 104 point difference.

Now look at Penn State.  Coming into Madison, Penn State had outscored its opponents 110-20 in the second quarter, then improved that stat to 131-27 by halftime; a very impressive stat with the same 104 point difference as Oklahoma in the first quarter. So in a word, Kirk Herbstreit is wrong.  I won’t give him that much flack, as Herbstreit seems to be a Penn State supporter himself.  In the end though, he played quarterback at Ohio State, which forever leaves a part of him in the realms of douche-bagginess. (Editor’s note: Dot that eye, bitch!).

Coming into this Saturday, I thought Oklahoma had the best all around team in the country.  But after seeing them lose and seeing Penn State’s complete dominance, I think the Nittany Lions need to be considered as the nation’s most solid team from top to bottom.  I still have much respect for Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, USC, Florida and the likes (and I realize that Penn State has a ways to go), but PSU is a force to be reckoned with.

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There is something in the air – The Phillies are headed to the World Series

Oh, what a fantastic night it was. The Phillies handled their business one last time against the Dodgers, and are awaiting the winner of the Red Sox / Rays series. Truth is, I can’t give a full recount of the game, but what I can do is give a complete recount of the awesome evening I had watching it. And it was a truly special night, one I will remember until the day I die. Unless I get Alzheimer’s, I suppose. Actually, I’ll probably still remember it even if I get the Alzheimer’s. I may forget how to wipe my ass, or where my own bed is, but I’m fairly certain I’ll remember last night.(Editor’s note: I hope he doesn’t expect me to wipe his ass someday).

Our fateful evening started as a few of us made a trek to Chickies and Pete’s. We had a simple plan: those of us that lived close and got off of work early would go over an hour or so early and reserve a table, and the rest, who worked later or lived further away, would meet us over there. Yeah, that was a lapse in judgement. First of all, I’m fairly certain that there is no “early” arrival at Chickies and Pete’s – the place was probably hopping at about noon with a sea of red and white Fightins’ fans. And it was so busy, they wouldn’t even let you reserve a table unless your entire party was standing in front of them. It was so packed, they closed the doors about 40 minutes before the game even started – we had to haggle just to get a couple of our friends in. And, we were about 10,000 names down on the list to get a table. We were told, rather politely, that we could be expected to be seated by about the ninth inning.

Speeeeeecccccccc-tacular.

But persistent we remained. We planted ourselves right next to the receptionist, and continued to playfully act like we were every single party that she called over the loudspeaker. Saddam H, party of one? Oh yeah, that’s us all right. Our hope was waning, and we began to discuss what the hell we were going to do to watch the game, especially as the first pitch grew frightfully close. And then, literally as the starting lineups were being announced, a girl walked by and told us she had our table ready. The receptionist (actually, I’m fairly certain she was an angel in disguise) winked to my buddy and said, “You’re welcome.”

Was this night meant to be?

I’ve got to say, Chickies and Pete’s is a friggin’ sweet place to catch the game. They had the Phillies PA announcer introducing every batter. The Phillies Post-Game Live crew was hanging out. Multiple news channels were getting footage. Hell, Mayor Nutter showed up. C & P’s knows how to throw a party, people.

So we sat down, and promptly ordered pitchers and crab fries, and got ready for the game. The excitement was beyond palpable – it was electric, infectious, it grabbed you by the shoulders and shook you until you were dizzy and exuberant and utterly ready to explode. And when Jimmy worked the count full, and lined a shot into the right field stands, the place erupted like the cork off of a bottle of champagne, only instead of sticky liquid oozing from the bottle, it was ecstatic Phillies’ fans standing and slapping five and chanting in utter joy. In that moment, I think we all felt that this night was going to be a celebration.

In that moment, we knew that this night was meant to be.

And when Rafael Furcal suddenly became confused and started kicking the ball like Pele and bouncing the ball like Kobe, and the Phillies took a five run lead, we realized that this night was a celebration. Suddenly, the tension started to diminish, the beer kept on coming, and the chants never stopped. LET’S GO PHILLIES, clap clap clap-clap-clap. BEAT LA! BEAT LA! 16 PITCHERS! Clap clap clap-clap-clap. Ok, so maybe that last one was just my crew of seven chanting at the end of the night, but who’s counting?

And even when the Dodgers got on the board off of the bat of Manny Ramirez, panic never settled in, fear never reared it’s cynical head. Instead, we did the only thing that made any sense. We chanted.

MANNY SUCKS! MANNY SUCKS!

When Cole got in trouble in the 7th, and Charlie came out to the mound, with what we all thought was the intention of pulling him, but instead left him in the game, we cheered and yelled because this was Cole’s masterpiece, and it just wouldn’t be fitting for him to not close the inning. And when he took care of business, well, we yelled even louder, hoping that, somehow, on the other side of the country, Cole could hear just how much we appreciated his superb performance.

And suddenly, we were six outs away. There wasn’t a face that wasn’t smiling, but I promise you, there also wasn’t a smile not valiantly trying to push the anxiety of piled failures back into the pits of the stomachs it was rising from. Not this year, we said between gulps of lager from plastic cups. We’re only six outs away, we reminded one other. There is going to be a party on these streets, we said, nonchalantly nibbling our fingernails to the skin.

And then, there were only three outs. And Brad Lidge stepped to the mound. Truthfully, I don’t even remember everything that happened in the inning, though I recall two men reaching base. What I remember was people standing on tables and chairs, peering with brimming exuberance at the televisions lining the walls. I remember friends with their arms around one another, swaying from side to side with the tune of victory softly playing through their heads. I remember the hair on my arm slowly rising as we were one out away.

And when that last pop-up slowly fell into the glove of Carlos Ruiz, well, you’ve never seen a more beautiful scene of celebration in all your life. Music blared, and people danced with no regard or shame. People who had never spoken and likely never would again were hugging and slapping five like they were the oldest of friends. The chants reverberated throughout the building, shaking the entirety of South Philadelphia. And everywhere you looked, people were smiling and laughing as wide and as hard as they possibly could. You just didn’t want to leave the place, and it was a while before people started streaming to the door. Maybe we were a bit drunk, and maybe it’s just a game, and some may say that its more than a tad ridiculous to take such things so heavily, but the celebration was pure, and true, and anybody there would tell you it was an amazing moment in their life.

As we poured out of the door, flickering cigarettes lighting the sky like fireflies, the air remained electric, and the sounds all around were those of joy. Even the cops, mindfully watching to ensure that the scene remained in control, couldn’t help but smile. You’ve never heard a more jubilant throng of car horns in your life, as people politely let one another go ahead of them and walkers slapped the outstretched hands of passengers in the car. Everywhere, people were on their cellphones, texting and calling the people they wished they had been able to watch the game with. I had to call my Dad – truthfully, I was kind of sad that he wasn’t with me. After all, I don’t think I’ve watched any more of the Phillies with anyone than him. When they last went in ’93, he let me stay up to watch the games.

Sure, we were pumped that the Phillies had won, and many of us may have been a bit drunk, but I don’t think that really compared to the camaraderie we were all feeling. These were our Phillies, and we were watching and experiencing this with one another, with the people that, win or lose, we wanted to be in our dugout at the end of the day. Our friends and family, neighbors and coworkers, and, of course, all of the new friends we had made throughout the evening. Surely, we always want our teams to win – after all, this is Philly. This ain’t nobody else’s city, and we don’t do things any other city’s way, and we fight like hell to make sure that nobody changes that. We take pride in what it means to be from or live in Philly, and we expect our team’s to take that same pride and handle their business accordingly.

But, underneath it all, behind the games and the city and the beer and the food and the honking horns and the cell phones and cigarette’s and chants and dances and laughter, the driving force behind it all was that we were just so damn happy to have an excuse to celebrate. And, most importantly, to celebrate with the people we care about.

Because, when the last pitch is thrown, and they put the cover over the field, and the lights go dim, and the stadium becomes nothing more than a lifeless shell…well, isn’t that what this game is really all about?

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A Game Four For the Ages

There isn’t much I can say to really do last night justice: it was tormenting, it was exhilarating, it was exhausting, and it most certainly was awesome. Here are some of my notes from the game that certainly will always be remembered by Phillies’ fans:

– Manny Ramirez is absolutely unbelievable. Seriously, the best postseason hitter I have ever seen. Big Papi’s curse-crushing performance was superb, but Manny is better. You can’t pitch to him. It’s ridiculous.

– While neither bullpen was very good, the boys in the pen for the Phils did just enough to close this one out. I have to be honest, I didn’t agree with using Lidge for the four-out save, though it worked. I was worried that he was going to give up a hit against Manny (which he did), and possibly either get shaken or throw a lot of pitches in the eighth and have a less effective arm in the ninth. Plus, I think there is something about coming out for the ninth inning that is lost when you go into the dugout after the eighth – you come running out, adrenaline pumping, knowing you’ve got three to go and the game is over. Sitting in the dugout, you’re hanging around, you’ve already thrown a bit, the adrenaline decreases. But what do I know? Lidge did his job, and we all leave happy. Charlie Manuel, the visionary.

– How perfect was it that Shane Victorino tied the game? “Sugar Shane,” “The Flying Hawaiian,” “Hit Me In The Ribs Victorino” had to be the one guy that LA fans absolutely didn’t want to see do something positive; his rope into the bullpen must have broken their hearts.

– Matt Stairs, that home run was one of the most majestic, beautiful, wonderful, surreal home runs I have ever witnessed. Take away the context of the shot, and it was still the perfect swing. As soon as his bat struck the ball, I swear a bolt of electricity shot through the city of Philadelphia, because I was on my feet well before the camera showed the ball landing squarely in the shattered hopes and dreams of Dodgers fan everywhere. We were going absolutely nuts at the Pundit Palace. Matt Stairs has hit a fair share of home runs in the fair share of years he has played this game, but I promise you, he has never hit a home run like that. A spectacular moment.

– This team is just special. You simply can’t quit on them – every time I’ve been a bit down on them this year, or I felt momentum slipping from their grasp, they do something that leaves me speechless. They just know that they’re going to somehow pull it off. In Philly, I’ve been saying that there’s something in the air. Well, in LA, the only thing up in the air is the smog and probably the acting careers of half of the waiters and waitresses in the city, so the Phillies had to bring their own magic. And when Chase Utley made his diving double play, and when Shane roped a homer into right, and when Carlos Ruiz hit what seemed to be an innocent little single, and when Matt Stairs enthralled a city 3000 miles away with a swing that I’ve watched about 25 times today and will never forget, that magic made itself known.

– This is the game we have been waiting to see Cole Hamels pitch. He’s been filthy in his first two postseason starts – game five is his opportunity to not only firmly entrench himself as our stopper, but to establish himself as a big-game pitcher on the national scene. I’m confident he’ll deliver.

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Quick hits from the Eagles and Phillies

Eagles

– Juqua Parker, you are the man! Defensive player of the week, if you ask this Pundit. Obviously, the late interception and return for a touchdown sealed the game, but Parker also had a big sack and made an excellent play on a reverse that set the Niners back and forced a third and 18. That long down led to an interception by Mr. Mikell. Good job Mr. Parker – this team needed a spark today, and you provided it.

– Gotta hand the 49ers this – they had a great game plan for attacking the Eagles defense, one that worked for 3 quarters. They ran the ball well, used their hot reads, and did enough shifting to keep the Eagles off-balance. Excellent utilization of the TE’s, which appears to be the one position which the Birds continually have difficulty defending against.

– The defense did a solid job of keeping the Niners out of the endzone. Early in the game, after a long Allen Rossum punt return, the D kept San Fran out of the endzone. Another TD came on the field goal block at the end of the half. So really, the Eagles defense, when the Niners had to use the whole field, gave up 16 points, and they played huge in the 4th quarter. A good, though certainly not great, effort by the defense.

– A couple of really nice catches by Hank Baskett in the first half, including his spectacular touchdown reception. He has the natural ability to make some plays, but he is either inconsistent or the Eagles don’t construct enough of the game plan with him in mind, because his contributions this year have been sparse at best.

– Why, oh why, is any field goal attempt longer than 40 yards such an ordeal anymore? I was truly concerned that the block and touchdown return at the end of the first half was going to be the play that tilted the game in the Niners direction, and it almost was. I mean, Akers and this unit used to be automatic. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: bring back the beard, David. We need it!

– I don’t know if it was just me, but in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, the Eagles just looked flat. Emotionless. No heart. In the 1st and 4th quarters, they were sharp, precise, and passionate. This inconsistency in both emotion and execution really frightens me. You can get away with playing two good quarters against the 49ers, but not in the NFC East games.

– Correll Buckhalter, you are quickly becoming my favorite Eagle. You leave it on the field, and you never give an inch.

– Donovan McNabb had a solid game, save for the interception down by the endzone, which really wasn’t his fault. L.J. Smith loafed that route, and should have ran in front of Patrick Willis. As my old football coach used to say when he was enraged at a player, “THAT WAS A PISS POOR EFFORT. PISS POOR!”

– It was nice to see the Eagles utilizing more screen passes. I’ve felt as though they’ve gotten away from the screens a bit in the past weeks, and it has traditionally been a very effective play for Andy Reid. Keeps the defense on their toes, and allows the backs or TE’s to make plays in space. Actually, the Niners used the screen extremely well against the Eagles D. Mike Martz can draw himself up some offense.

– Frank Gore is a really impressive back. He is so hard to get to the ground, and when he gets that momentum going, look out – he’s gonna knock you in the teeth. That being said, he’s pretty nimble too. When healthy, he’s a top 5 back in this league.

– Alright! The Cowboys just lost to the Cardinals on a blocked punt for a touchdown in overtime. And the Skins lost on a last second field goal against the Rams. Niiiiiiiiiice.

– Dude, DeSean Jackson got lit up on a punt return. I mean, the guy clotheslined him. It looked like one of the overly dramatic and completely infeasible hits you’ll see in the movies. DeSean Jackson – you got JACKED UP!

Phillies

– I suppose I have to address the beanball aspect of this game to start. Can’t blame Shane for being pissed about having a ball thrown at his head, though I can’t blame the Dodgers for throwing at him, especially after Manny Being Manny had one thrown behind him in game two, and Russell Martin had one whizzed above his head tonight. That’s baseball, and it certainly took this series to a new height in terms of intensity. Plus, Shane’s gyrations were friggin’ priceless.

– Not sure what’s going on with Jamie Moyer in the postseason, but his first two innings pretty much put this game out of reach. Hard to be down on a guy who was so vital to our success during the season, but he really killed us tonight.

– Good to see Ryan Howard getting his swing back on track. Look for him to absolutely crush one in the next game or so. Got to get Jimmy rolling, though – he sets the table.

– Bullpen did a pretty good job of not letting this game get too far out of hand. Hopefully, this won’t tax our arms for the next game or so. That could be the truly dangerous aspect of this loss.

– Boy, Russell Martin really took his lumps today, huh? Gets hit twice in the game, and has a fastball go above his head. Get out the ice packs.

– Highlight of the broadcast: the cameraman focusing on Ryan Seacrest as he was playing with his Blackberry, followed by Joe Buck deadpanning, “Somebody tell him the score.”

– The Dodgers absolutely had to win this game. They took care of business, simple as that. It will be interesting to see if the Phillies can up their intensity to match the Dodgers tomorrow

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The Pundit isn’t afraid anymore – talking about the Phillies’ chances

There are moments in life that perhaps on their surface seem innocent enough, but in actuality hold much deeper truths about the nature of things. Now, I don’t want to get into a philosophical conversation about what these things are, or even what they reveal, but I will mention one man who’s actions have started to make me believe in things far beyond the man himself.

That man is Brett Myers.

Brett Myers has been sublime in the strangest of all places – at the plate. He didn’t pitch particularly well yesterday, giving up 5 runs, but his impact went far beyond his arm. Mr. Myers went 3-3 with 3 RBI’s, one a timely two-out single to keep the inning alive. When your starting pitcher, one who had all of 4 hits in the regular season, is the spark that is igniting your offense, something strange is occurring. See, while I don’t want to take anything away from Brett’s achievements, I can’t help but think that he’s channeling something deeper here. I’m almost afraid to say it, but I can’t keep it in any longer. Here goes:

The Phillies are going to win the World Series.

God, that felt good to get out. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Pundit, sir, how could you jinx us? Why would you say something like that? Sure, we can sense something special going on, but good grief, man, don’t put it out there like that – you’re just setting yourself up for failure.

Well, you know what? Fuck that. Most of my life as a Philly fan, I’ve lived with a fake optimism, acting as though I thought my teams would win but never really believing they could do it. I’ve done all of the stupid superstitions, worn the lucky shirts, never tried to jinx the team. Hell, if I was on a bad streak where when I watched the team lost, I would stop watching until they won again. I was committed, and desperate, and mostly I just didn’t think they could do it, so I figured I’d help out as much as possible.

Well, this year, I really believe. I believe that their starting pitching is good enough to keep us in the game, and that the bullpen will seal the deal, and yes, I believe that Brad Lidge will remain perfect. I believe that we’ll continue to play solid defense, and make the smart play. I believe that our big bats will hit, and somebody unexpected will continue to emerge as the hero we need. I believe because the Phillies fans have been absolutely unbelievable, and I don’t think we’ll lose a playoff game at home. This isn’t some hopeful rant of optimism to promote a positive atmosphere that will somehow propel our team to greater heights – I truly think we’re going to win the whole damn thing, and I think it would be sweet to beat the Red Sox to do it.

And I believe because of Brett Myers. Because, in baseball, it doesn’t matter who gets the hit, or makes the play to spur the team on. Myers got into CC Sabathia’s head, and was, along with Shane Victorino, our biggest bat in game two. When he steps up to the plate, it just feels like something is going to happen, which makes me feel as though this team feels as though something is going to happen. Sometimes, the key to success is just believing you will succeed, and focusing on that and that alone. Seems to me as though this team is doing just that.

So I won’t hide my feelings away. I won’t get lost in a bunch of worries about superstition or jinxes or any of that crap. The Phillies are going to win the World Series, and that’s just all there is to it.

(Editor’s note: The Pundit sends his condolences to Charlie Manuel, Shane Victorino and their families for their recent losses. There is much more to life than baseball, and the death of a family member is a painful reminder of this. All of Philadelphia’s thoughts and prayers are with you guys and your families.)

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From the Nosebleeds – The Philthy Phillies

As you may or may not know, From the Nosebleeds is a new feature to The Pundit, where anyone with the itch to write their take on the sports scene has their forum. Again, please feel free to email me with any material you may have. I will do some editing, and add my own take from time to time, but the floor will be yours.

By Hoffman

It’s been well documented over the years that in the city of Brotherly Love, “we” (Editor’s note: We really do lump ourselves together with the teams and a whole slew of people we don’t even know, as though “we” are connected through the force, or something along such mystical lines) have been without a world championship among the four major sports. For the time being we will forget about pseudo-championship won by the Philadelphia Soul, the arena football team. (Editor’s note: Who?). I tend to think they won not because of great coaching, solid players, and the execution of a good game plan, but rather raucous shouting of Ron “JAWS” Jaworski and the flowing locks of owner, Bon Jovi. I would like to make something extremely clear: I have a strong dislike for Bon Jovi, and I would appreciate if he would find another town to crap in. (Editor’s note: Clearly, Mr. Hoffman wants Bon Jovi out of this town – dead or alive!)

So, going back to my original thought, that being the lack of winning in Philadelphia, I believe that could very well change in the coming weeks. (Editor’s note: People, knock on any wood you have near you, immediately. If you jinx us Mr. Hoffman, I swear to all that is sacred, I’ll get you. Believe that!). After watching a rather lackluster performance by the Eagles this Sunday, I was warmed by thought of the Phillies hosting Game 1 of the NLCS. Oh, and by the way, I’ll be attending, ignoring the burning $200 hole in my pocket. (Editor’s note: You can’t put a price on love, people).

For about the past few seasons, the Phillies have been on the cusp of greatness, or at least a playoff berth, dragging true Philly fans along until the last day of the season. Last year they ended a 14-year playoff drought, ending the Atlanta Braves division dominance, all while the Mets stumbled to the finish line (HAHA!!!). I believe last year at this time the Phillies were just happy to make the playoffs. It was a huge hurdle to jump. Obviously, we know how last year ended. The Phillies got in the way of a locomotive, in the form of the Colorado Rockies. (Editor’s note: Ok, I don’t know if it was intended, but I instantly thought about those stupid Coors Light commercials, where the train rolls through the hot areas, making everybody cool, which, if the metaphor was intended, was precisely what the Rockies did to us last year). How torrid they were, winning 14 of 15, and 11 in a row to close the season. They then went on to sweep us in 3, the D-Backs in 4, only to get swept themselves in the Fall Classic against the Red Sox. (Editor’s note: They cooled off. The mountains turned blue. Mmmmmm…beer).

For the last couple years the Phillies have been picked to be very competitive within the very competitive NL East (Braves, Marlins, Nationals, The Mess. Wait, sorry, I meant the Mets). The Phillies can hit and have three legitimate MVP candidates in J-Roll, Utley, and Howard. Everyone knows we can hit, though they haven’t as consistently as I, the fans, and even they would like. Conversely, the pitching has always been thought of as average at best. A group of decent pitchers that give up a lot of hits is something I have become way too accustomed to. But as the Phillies seemingly displaced the wild card winning Brewers with some amount of ease, and the most overwhelming part of the four game series was the quality of the Phillies pitching. It was vital, and dare I say, borderline brilliant.

Cole Hamels has been given the title of staff “ace,” which is a term used much to often around the league these days. When I think of what makes an “ace”, I think of a pitcher who is around the Cy Young Award discussion from the beginning of Spring Training to the first pitch in the autumn air. To be completely honest, Cole isn’t quite there yet. He has all the qualities and attributes to have a great career in this league. Being just 24 years old, his future looks extremely bright. But for now lets leave the “ace” talk for those who truly deserve it, i.e. Brandon Webb. (Editor’s note: I tend to disagree here – I think if Cole Hamels had been given more run support, and thereby gotten more wins, his name would have surfaced more in the Cy Young discussion. He was second in the NL in innings pitched with 227.1, was sixth in ERA at 3.09, was sixth in strikeouts with 196, was fourth in strike out to walk ratio with 3.70 K’s per walk, and was fourth in hits per 9 innings with 7.64. He’s an ace). Cole in game 1 was absolutely stunning. It was an amazing performance, by a guy with seemingly sparse big game experience. That start will propel him throughout the playoffs and probably the next several seasons as he continues to mature.

Brett Myers looks like his old self, or rather a new, better self. Throughout his career in Philly, Brett has had all of the talent, passion, and fire to be great pitcher. But it always seemed like something was getting in the way. And then I figured it out. He couldn’t get out of his own way. His emotion seemed to get the best of him more often than not. His first half of the season, he looked very bad. He couldn’t spot his fastball or even throw it with any sort of velocity. His curveball, which made him a dominant closer in the 2007 season, was non-existent. After coming back from the minors (with the good ol’ Iron Pigs”), Myers has been fantastic, making pitches, throwing with authority and fight, and most importantly, keeping those volatile emotions in check. There have been a few battles between him and manager Charlie Manuel in the past several months regarding Charlie pulling Brett out of the game, but his heart is in the right place.

Game 2 with the Brewers was the pivotal game of the series. Myers was pitching against arguably the best pitcher in the second half of the season, if not the league. CC Sabathia has been pitching out of his mind, posting an 11-2 record with a 1.65 ERA, throwing seven complete games and three shutouts since joining the Brew Crew (show him the money!). But coming off of his fourth straight start on 3 days rest, he was noticeably fatigued. The Phillies bats took advantage of that fatigue, getting out to an early lead with Victorino’s grand salami. They were even able to score runs without help from the glove of Rickie Weeks or Mike Cameron (see Game 1 highlights, or lowlights for the Milwaukee More Taste League).

I’ll quickly touch upon Game 3, as it was a fairly disappointing game, one I missed some due to a little bit of camping. From what I heard and saw as far as highlights, it was not a pretty game. All I have to say is that we need Jamie Moyer (Souderton Graduate in 1981) for the playoffs. We really need him to do well. It would be great if he could throw three consecutive no-hitters, like he did in high school. I mean, seriously…that would be sweeeeeeet!

Joe Blanton has been a great addition to this pitching staff. (Editor’s note: Well, I don’t think I’d go that far). While his midseason numbers were less that spectacular, he did have some playoff experience, which he gained during this days in Oakland. If he can be the pitcher he is capable of being, the Phillies can go a long way this postseason.

I’ll be honest; the Dodgers kind of scare me. They are playing really well, as good as anyone in baseball. They have one of the best modern-day postseason pitchers in Derek Lowe, in my opinion the best hitter, especially in the postseason, and worst left fielder I have ever seen, in Manny Ramirez, and one of the best postseason managers of all-time, in Joe Torre. That is quite a scary combination, but one I am looking forward to face this Thursday. I don’t know if I mentioned it, but I’ll be at the game, and you probably won’t. (Editor’s note: Jerk). With everything I have mentioned above, I still just have a feeling about this group of players, a feeling that winning is not just a destination, but also a journey, a journey that will hopefully end dancing down Broad Street.

I hope to be a regular or irregular contributor to this publication. I can only hope my writing can quench the large thirst of the Pundit. (Editor’s note: To do that, you’ll probably need to bring over a case of beer next time you’re around, Mr. Hoffman).

Long Live the Pundit of Pattison! (Editor’s note: I swear to God, I didn’t add that myself. Seriously. All his doing).

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Filed under From the Nosebleeds, MLB, Phillies