Monday, October 20, 2008

Phlying High

When I woke up Thursday morning and realized that the night before had been no dream, I jumped out of bed. Not that I wasn't tired, mind you. I was exhausted. I'd stayed up until about 3 in the morning, watching every highlight, interview, and pithy analysis, for two reasons:

1) I wanted to make the moment last as long as humanly possible, and

2) I wanted to make sure that everything I thought I'd just seen had actually happened.

And I don't know about you, but the layoff between has been a strange blessing for me as a fan. It's allowed me time to celebrate being National League champions and has afforded many an opportunity to factually say the words, "We're going to the World Series." It's created moments like one from a concert I went to the other night. I passed a guy in a Phillies hat and went up to him, put out my hand, and just said, "Phiiiiils!" He said, "I know! Say it with me now, 'We're going to the World Series.'" And it's given me time to watch baseball, while our season yet continues, without eating my fingernails.

Cole Hamels pitched another incredible game, making one mistake to the machine-like Manny, with no one on. The numbers are amazing: 2-0, 1.93 ERA in 14 innings; 3-0 for the playoffs with just 3 runs given up in 22 innings. And Jimmy Rollins may not be hitting up a storm just yet, but leadoff home runs can be devastating for a home team and crowd, and Jimmy's now done that in each series. And what else can be said about Shane Victorino, a warrior in every aspect of the game of baseball. The catch against the Best Buy sign (and Tim McCarver's brilliant comment that Victorino is probably the team's best buy of the last 10 years), is one I will never forget.

But there were some other incredible things that happened, that are at least worth mentioning, if not marveling over the fact that all of them, and not just one, happened:

1) Pat Burrell made a fantastic catch. I'm going to say that again: Pat Burrell made a fantastic catch. In the bottom of the sixth, Andre Ethier sent a shot deep into the corner of left field, that Burrell reached, caught and somehow hung onto. (And then--though perhaps I'm exaggerating--it seemed like he looked up right into the Dodgers fans' eyes, as if to say, "No no. No reason to get excited. I got it.")

2) In the bottom of the ninth, Casey Blake rocked an offering of Brad Lidge's very deep to centerfield. With his back literally to the wall, Victorino made the catch look easy. What is amazing is not so much the catch itself, but the fact that Blake's hit just didn't make it. That ball could not have been hit any deeper without being a home run that would've made things a whole lot scarier than they were. How often does that happen for us? How often is it exactly the opposite, with the ball finding a way somehow over the fence?

3) After Manny's home run ended Hamels' shutout bid, Russell Martin came up and worked the count full. And on a borderline pitch that Martin took, home plate umpire Mike Winters called it strike three. Inning over.

We got the call. Full count, close pitch, and we got the call. When does that happen? How bout never. But then....

3b) It happened again. Not a full count this time, but a more important situation, with Matt Kemp on second and Nomar Garciaparra on first, and two outs. The 2-2 pitch. Called third strike. Inning over. In all honesty, it was probably low, but I couldn't give a damn. We got another call.

Two more things worth mentioning:

1) Pat Gillick is the man. This guy makes all of the right moves that seemed small, yet completed this team (see Jayson Stark's article on and what does he do when they present him with the National League trophy? He gave all of the credit to Ed Wade, his predecessor at GM, for "a tremendous job getting the nucleus here." All Gillick did, he said, was "kind of filled in around what Ed had in place." What class.

2) I totally fell in love with Charlie Manuel. We've all criticized him as manager, wondering just what the hell he's thinking. But this guy is the patriarch of a real baseball family. As he went to hug Hamels in the post-game celebration, you could see that he called him "my boy." That's why every every infielder is involved in every mound conference during the game. That's why every player leaves everything out on the field. That's why, even when no one outside of the locker room understood it, these guys swear by Manuel. Every player is like Christopher on the Sopranos, saying of their Tony, "I would march into Hell for that man." After losing his mom, June, on the day of Game 2, Charlie fought through it all, calm and cool, focused on being the leader his team needed him to be. And in his typical, understated fashion, dedicated the win to the people of Philly and to June. "I guarantee you my mom's watching right now."

And while writer Gene Wojciechowski is right that the champagne celebrations are overdone, the Phils earned this one. We earned this one.

I gave you beating the Brewers in four. I was one off when I said we'd beat the Dodgers in six. Tampa Bay is a very good team. But my friend Ben said it best:

"It's our time."

We're winning the World Series in six games.

Billy Joel knows what I'm doing. I'm keeping the phaith.


Other Musings: Anyone notice that the drinkability ads are even bigger? The word itself is the focus of the campaign now, whereas before it was just a throw-in line. It's like someone read my blog and did it just to spite me.

Also dumb are the ESPN commercials where guys think that because they listen to them everyday that they know them. "Mike! Mike Tirico! It's me, Stupidy Stupid! I listen to you guys everyday!" If I were a celebrity, and someone just got into my car at the airport, I wouldn't think it some funny coincidence, a cute story to share at the ESPN Radio water cooler. No. I would think I was being carjacked. And that's not so funny.

Did anyone notice the postgame interview with Victorino where the guy asked him if he'd rather play the Red Sox or the Marlins? Oops.

Did anyone notice the guy (I think he was a scout?) who came over to Cole Hamels when he was being interviewed following the game and said something like, "The best looking guy and the best pitcher I know." Whoa, awkward.