June 26, 2009
Dear Philadelphia Phillies,
I know it's been a while since we last spoke, and for that I apologize. Yes, I've been busy with work and everything, but aren't we all? That's not much of an excuse. Though I haven't always been able to watch you over these last few weeks, I'd still say I've been following you pretty closely. My 15-second refresh button on my phone is how I survive eating dinner in the same room where my wife is watching The Bachelorette.
When I think about why I haven't written a word about you in several months, it's probably a combination of a) the fact that I was still basking in the warm glow of the days (and official merchandise available) since October 29, 2008, and b) the faith I was clinging to that the early season roller-coaster ride would smooth out, that the sheer talent of this team would raise them above the NL East, not to mention the resolve and experience of having just won. I still hoped that winning it all would relieve some of the pressure, that a small dose of relaxed confidence would tremendously benefit this team over the course of the season.
I wanted to write a quarter-season review, give you guys a report card of sorts, after you took two of three in the Bronx against the Yankees on Memorial Day weekend. The strange thing about that series was that you should've swept them, and yet you almost lost the series. No disrespect whatsoever to Brad, whose perfect season is perhaps the greatest in the history of closing, and without whom we all know we'd never have won the whole thing. But Brad has been almost as bad this season as he was good last.
To say that this is all on Brad is not only unfair, it's wholly inaccurate. Madson has yet to prove himself the next dominant closer we all thought he would be in Brad's absence. The bullpen as a unit has slipped, failing to keep the team in tight games in late innings. The hitting with runners in scoring position and number of men left on base are statistics that have been far from in our favor as of late. I know I'm not telling you someting you don't already know, but since taking a terrific two of three at Citi Field in Flushing, you've now dropped ten of twelve games, including six in a row at home to Toronto and Baltimore.
My friends know me as something close to an eternal optimist, always the positive, karmic Philadelphia sports fan. They look to me to be the one raising people's frustrated spirits with a reminder to always keep the faith. And you should know, if you don't hear it enough from me, that I continue to, and will always, have and keep my faith in the Philadelphia Phillies.
But it has been more of a challenge to maintain that role, confidently asserting to friends that you will be there in the end. Please don't misunderstand. I don't expect to win the World Series again this year. I have no doubts that you are talented enough to be right back in that winner's circle. But to expect it is unfair, both to you and to us, only setting everyone up for disappointment.
I am disappointed, however, in the missed opportunities of late. Especially while the Mets are momentarily riddled with injuries and question marks. Even playing slightly-better-than-.500 ball would've made a little space between you and the rest of the division heading into the summer. I feel very fortunate, as I'm guessing you do too, that, at least until tonight, you're somehow still in first place. Meaning that, as bad as it's been, the division's still yours to lose. Most people, including our neighbors in Queens, would have to agree with that.
So, gentlemen: the weekend in Toronto offers fresh opportunity. It is a chance to close out strong what has proven to be a tumultuous month, to get this train back on the tracks. I know you can do it. Show me. Show us. Tonight.
Joshua H. Strom