Saturday, August 09, 2003

A Key Day in the City by the Bay

In any baseball season worth remembering, there are a few key milestones along the way, events whose immense significance you grasp only when the joyride is all over.

In 1993, the last year of any import in Philadelphia, at least when it comes to baseball, three such moments come to mind. The first is Mariano Duncan taking the most dominant closer of his time, the Cardinals' Lee Smith, over the left field wall at the Vet for a game-winning grand slam on Mother's Day. The second is platoon left fielder Milt Thompson robbing the Padres of a salami by snaring a drive over the wall in San Diego, preserving a victory there. And the third is the challenge by catcher and locker-room alpha male Darren Daulton (whose adaptation to non-baseball life has been troublesome) to his pitchers, following a disastrous series (in St. Louis, I think), to find their cojones, throw inside, and pitch like men. Which they proceeded to do for the rest of the year.

Earlier today, in San Francisco, the 2003 Phillies may have done something similar. Against the defending National League champs and one of baseball's elite teams, the Phils rallied from a late three-run deficit to win in 10 innings. Pat Burrell hit a game-tying dinger in the eighth, then went yard for a two-run blast in the 10th to secure the win. It must be noted that Pat the Bat's two-homer game comes on the heels of (a) having his hair dyed blond and (b) my cutting his ass from my fantasy team.

All jokes aside, this is the kind of win that teams often rally around. Vicente Padilla gave up four first-inning runs then pitched extremely well, and the bullpen, in this case season-long studs Terry Adams, Rheal Cormier, and Turk Wendell (four and a third innings pitched, one walk, one hit, one meaningless run), was brilliant for the remainder of the game. If, if, if, if -- if Burrell really is emerging from his year of shittiness, the Phillies' offense will be transformed, and they should be able to leave the Marlins (who are on their way to a win and, thus, keeping pace in the even-Steven wild card race) behind between now and the end of September.

It's early August, yes, but the games feel more meaningful now. Each day's paper presents the wild card standings, and I'm checking on the Marlins (and the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals, and Expos) regularly. (Thank God the Mets still blow, as they should, year after year after year.) Football, basketball, and hockey are wonderful sports, but only baseball presents such daily drama as de rigueur. Even though the game's popularity has slipped, it remains the closest sporting approximation to everyday life -- where things happen over weeks and months, not hours and days, and one bad day doesn't doom your season to mediocrity.


Post a Comment

<< Home