Sunday, May 30, 2004

You Can't Handle the Truth! | The Kansas City Royals were one of last season's charming, near-success stories. They hung around the A.L. Central race for most of the season despite a roster filled with Mitchell Freedman types and an inexperienced manager who seemed more cheerleader than field general.

This year's Royals, though, are locked in the division's basement and have stumbled their way to the American League's second-worst record. You'd think that fingers would be pointing and heads rolling in Kansas City. You'd be wrong, according to Murray Chass's baseball notes column in today's New York Times:

The Royals are in last place with a 17-29 record. In the same number of games last season they were 25-21, a game and a half out of first place.

Given the state of their starting pitching, the Royals seemed doomed before the season began. Three pitchers, Runelvys Hernandez, Miguel Asencio and Kyle Snyder, were out for the season, and Brian Anderson, a journeyman left-hander, was the No. 1 starter.

But [general manager Allard] Baird sees the Royals' problems differently. "We just haven't played good baseball," he said. "I don't blame the players, the coaches or the manager. I wish I could put my finger on it. When you don't play up to your talent level and you are failing to execute offensively and defensively, you get what we have now -- losing games we shouldn't lose."

Talk about an odd soundbite. Baird either believes his team has hopelessly thin skin or is manfully offering to shoulder the blame himself. Because if a last-place team's players are blameless, coaches are blameless, and manager is blameless, whom does that leave? The guy who acquired the players and hired the manager and coaches, right?

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Don't Blink or You'll Miss It | We were out last night, so it wasn't until this morning that I realized the Phillies had to scratch out a couple of late runs against the Braves just to send the game into extra innings. By the time we got home and I put the game on to check the score, it was the bottom of the 10th and Chase Utley was up. Utley ripped a ball that appeared headed toward the gap, until a fine leaping grab by Atlanta's second baseman. Tomas Perez then strode to the plate, and I remember thinking to myself, hmmm, he has some pop; maybe he can send everyone home happy. I turned the TV off, went upstairs, and turned on the set in our room -- just in time to see Perez being mobbed by the Phils between home plate and the first-base dugout.

So: Elation because the Phillies won? Frustration because the Marlins did, too, to keep pace in National League East? Or irritation because I missed Perez's tater?

My solution to this dilemma was two minutes of irritation, followed by lots of elation. As for the Fish, I didn't know they had won until this morning.

Finally, I just love that guys like Tomas Perez can have the chance to be heroes. Baseball is a great, great game.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Braves and Beemers | Billy Wagner and Jeff Cooper smooched and made up, Kevin Millwood labored through four wobbly innings in the Phillies' 6-1 loss (Inquirer; Daily News) to Atlanta, Phil Nevin apparently has anger-management issues, and Larry Bowa's daughter totaled her BMW but emerged relatively unscathed from a car accident near Citizens Bank Park. Just another night at the ol' ballyard, right?

While Jaret Wright handcuffed the Phillies into the eighth, Millwood again had location troubles. After a nice start, the Phils' No. 1 starter has walked 13 and given up 15 earned runs in his last 15 innings -- hardly the kind of performance we were promised by Scott Boras last winter. If the remainder of Millwood's year resembles what we saw last year -- really good starts mixed in with a fair number of "How the hell did this guy ever win 18 games?" starts -- then that one-year contract will turn out to be a brilliant move by Ed Wade.

Meanwhile, the DN's Rich Hofmann takes Bowa's reaction to his daughter's accident and pads it with a lot of Afternoon Special-type sermonizing to tell us mere fans -- you know, not sportswriters, who can look beyond the stats and the games -- that the players and managers and coaches whom we cheer and boo from a comfortable distance have, like, feelings. Wow -- they're ... Just Like Us. Thanks for the lesson, Rich.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Not So Chipper | The Atlanta Braves who come to the Park tonight to open a four-game set are starting to look like those late-'80s Braves teams that really sucked, observes Jim Salisbury in the Inquirer today. I'm sure I speak for the entire baseball world outside of Buckhead when I say: Awwwwww.

Meanwhile, both the Inky and Daily News report that mending closer Billy Wagner is having a substantial difference of opinion with the Phils' oddly mustachioed trainer, Jeff Cooper, over Wagner's rehabilitation from back spasms and a groin injury. Coop doesn't talk to the media -- who the hell does he think he is, Steve Carlton? -- so we're left just with Wagner's side of the story. Manager Larry Bowa backs his player, which is the smart move, since, after all, Billy Wagner is a hell of a lot more important to the Phillies' World Series chances than Jeff Cooper. PhilliesBlog has an appropriate take on the matter:

This annoys me, but in the end I really just don't care. I don't care if they start kicking each others' asses, as long as Wagner gets better.

If Wagner weren't getting along with Bowa, or some of the other players, that would be a different story. But right now, although I like both Wagner and Jeff Cooper, I don't care what their relationship is.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Shea Split | The Phillies used a single big inning to down the Mets, 7-4, at Shea tonight and salvage a split in their two-game series. The Phils' six-run seventh allowed them to overcome an early deficit, and the bullpen bent but didn't break in holding on to the lead. Unlike last night, the Fightin's had an efficient game, scoring their seven runs on just eight hits. The Mets graciously provided three errors and left 14 men on base to help Philadelphia's cause. Meanwhile, Florida blanked the Reds to hold onto a first-place tie with the Phils in National League East.

Me-Ouch | On my list of cultural milestones that I need to experience before I die, a Garfield movie ranks somewhere below a Creed box set, Lethal Weapon 12: Riggs's Flatulence, Murtaugh's Incontinence, and CSI: Gary, Indiana. Yet one of history's all-time unfunniest comic strips will indeed come to the big screen next month.

This is as naked a money grab as I've seen a long time. Jim Davis, if there is such a person, is surely wealthy beyond any sane person's wildest dreams at this point, thanks to the titanic licensing fees he's managed to accrue for his painfully mediocre strip. (More likely is that "Jim Davis" now comprises a dozen or so recent college graduates whose job is to write lame gags and execute the strip's simple line drawings, all in hopes of jumping to the Yes, Dear writing staff some day; meanwhile the real Davis uses $100 bills to light Cuban cigars while he tosses the kids a few shekels for their time.) Has anyone been clamoring for a Garfield movie? Even the dorks who suction-cupped Garfield dolls to their cars back in the '80s have moved on by now.

That's why it's been so gratifying to see the strip Pearls Before Swine take a few swings at Davis and Garfield. Usually I find that Pearls pushes its eccentricity a little too hard, like the Far Side knockoffs of a decade and a half ago, resulting in a forced but not especially funny three panels. But this week's series has seen Stephan Pastis indulge in a rare bit of fellow-cartoonist bashing. It won't keep Davis from stealing even more scratch once the film opens, but I do give Pastis props for calling it like it is.

Warning: More Dangerous than Black Tar Heroin | It is, according to a story in Thursday's New York Times, "a pastime for many, even a livelihood for a few. For some, it becomes an obsession. Such [people] often feel compelled to [do it] several times daily and feel anxious if they don't keep up. As they spend more time hunkered over their computers, they neglect family, friends and jobs. They [do it] at home, at work and on the road. They [do it] openly or sometimes, like Mr. Wiggins, quietly so as not to call attention to their habit."

And just what might this illicit, compulsive activity be? Online porn, right? A nasty little coke addiction, maybe?

Nope. Try blogging.

Katie Hafner's story is about what you'd expect from the Grey Lady -- a rather flatly written, finger-wagging look at bloggers who just don't seem to know where to draw the line. ("Tonight on Fox: When Bloggers Attack!") It might have been nice to talk to, say, those of us who have found a way to balance our home, professional, personal, and blogging lives, or even people who, like, do this because they enjoy it, not because they're possessed by it.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to sign out of Blogger so that I can cruise to while I take a hit off my crack pipe. Cheerio.

It's Not Easy Being Green | Man, has the state of Vermont had a tough week or what? Favorite son and faded Flyer John LeClair is on the verge of being released, the patchouli-scented jam band Phish turned in its notice, and the entire state was named one of the country's most endangered historic places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It's enough to make any self-respecting Vermonter explode in a disturbing orgy of temporary insanity.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Action Snooze | As part of its never-ending quest to avoid presenting even a nanosecond of anything that might qualify as real news, broadcast journalism slipped to a new low last night. WPVI-TV's Action News -- the region's top-rated show, mind you -- devoted a chunk of its already miniscule news hole to ... a house fire in Kensington? ... one of its weatherclowns emceeing a local Cub Scout pack's awards ceremony? ... the health reporter's hangnail operation?

If only it were so newsworthy.

No, Action News demonstrated its commitment to informing its viewers by airing bloopers. Of its own prior newscasts. On the flagship 11 p.m. show.

Every time I think TV can't get any more stupid or irrelevant, I am, sadly, proven disastrously wrong. If ours were a literate and savvy population cognizant of current affairs, I'd laugh it off as harmless. But so many people think that those 23 minutes of blow-dried, airheaded, cliche-ridden crap is all they need to know, it frustrates the hell out of me.

Now, the missus is a big fan of bloopers shows, and if it's Ray Romano blowing a punchline or Gene Rayburn dropping an inadvertant sexual innuendo into his banter with an attractive female contestant, well, hey, have a blast. But the 11 o'clock freakin' news?

I understand that these stations exist to make money. Fine. Let's just be honest with each other and not call what the locals air at 11 o'clock "news." Unless, of course, you really needed to know about that fire in Kensington.

Met Offensive | The Phillies pull into Shea to face the Mets for a quick two-game set; Eric Milton goes against Steve Trachsel in tonight's opener. The Inquirer fills in the off-day with a look at renowned Met slayer Pat Burrell's offensive resurgence, while the Daily News picks up on Bobby Abreu's suddenly hot bat and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan's new, and successful, laissez-faire approach.

Last night Florida used three big innings -- of four, three, and six runs, respectively -- to destroy the Diamondbacks, 13-5, and pull into a virtual first-place tie with the Phillies, though the Phils are up by a few percentage points. The Fish open a three-game series against the smoking-hot Reds at Great American Ballpark tonight.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Inq-Stained Wretches | The Inquirer has gingerly stepped onto the blogging bandwagon with Spilled Inq, written by staff writer Kristin Holmes. The site appears to be just a day old, with Holmes promising an "entertainment-celebrity gossip blog" which is "a deliberately skewed look at couplings and uncouplings, hits and flops and highly disposable news." Thus far, though, Spilled Inq is little more than shortly noted links to stories Holmes finds interesting; there's no snarky commentary, no follow-up, and no local connections beyond brief mentions of aging homies Dick Clark, Bill Cosby, and Patti LaBelle. And the newspaper industry wonders why it's losing younger readers.

Fly Out | Maybe it's because I watched the third period in a darkened Connecticut hotel room with the sound turned off, but the Flyers' loss to Tampa Bay Saturday night has not been as devastating to me as I expected it to be, especially after reading all of the papers' glum post-mortems. Severely banged-up and against a clearly superior opponent, Philadelphia stretched the conference finals to game seven through will alone. The Flyers went further than any of us had a right to hope for; in essence, they were playing with house money. Unlike prior body blows, this loss was a valiant one, one that will not strip away memories of what the team accomplished just to get there. The NHL is about to hang itself with a destructive work stoppage, and when it's all over and everyone is back on the ice, the Flyers likely will be a much different team than the one which ran out of gas Saturday night. So salute their accomplishment in the face of such adversity, then prepare for a brave new world.

The Flyers' loss leaves the Phillies as the only team to continue playing. I missed just about all of the weekend series against the Padres, but no matter -- recent form held, and the Phils took two of three to leapfrog back into first over the Marlins. The Phillies blogosphere helped me catch up last night with some really spot-on takes on the past few days. As Ken Hitchcock did, Larry Bowa is making do with his own depleted lineup, but is getting just enough pitching and hits in the right places to get by. It's not especially attractive to watch -- having Tomas Perez play first and Tim Worrell close is like that season when cousins Coy and Vance filled in for a striking Tom Wopat and John Schneider on The Dukes of Hazzard -- but wins are wins, and they don't give you extra points for pretty ones.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Flyered Up | Brett Myers's dazzling shutout of the Dodgers yesterday was only the second-best performance of the night in South Philadelphia. At the Center, the Flyers, forechecking ferociously and playing to save their season, scored with less than two minutes to go in regulation to force overtime, then chipped in a goal toward the end of the first OT period to force game seven against Tampa Bay tomorrow night in the Eastern Conference finals.

Keith Primeau has put together a string of playoff games the likes of which I haven't seen in at least 10 years. His leadership and relentless style at both ends of the ice have kept the Flyers alive through a crippling string of injuries. For a change, it's not the big, bad Flyers who are playing down to the level of their competition; rather, this is an overachieving, gutty group of skaters using will and guile to keep up with a younger, faster opponent.

And the fans have noticed. "Middie Back!" ("If the Flyers eventually lose this series ... they can still hold their heads high") and There It Is ("I'm afraid I may be starting to believe in these guys") show the Fly Guys some appropriate love, while the Inquirer's Phil Sheridan writes today of character and determination:

... [I]t would have been easy to turn, but this crowd stayed as upbeat as it was orange.

Maybe that's because this team has done something the Flyers have seldom been able to do. They are seen as underdogs rather than underachievers. They have rallied around each other despite -- or because of -- injuries that have threatened their stars and decimated their defensive corps.

"I think the character of this team started forming when the injuries happened," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said.

This team has played hurt and played hard and played with heart, all of the things that Philadelphia values above even winning. That's why the crowd continually roared its approval through a score-or-say-goodbye third period.

Instead of expecting disappointment, the fans expected everything these Flyers had.

They got it, because that's just how this team plays.

Fight Songs | The splendid novelist and music writer Nick Hornby files a rambling and observant New York Times op-ed piece today on the state of rock music, one which appropriately includes several references to the rambling and uneven yet entertaining Philadelphia band Marah. Besides exploring the importance of rock for people of all ages, Hornby delivers some spot-on notes about the intersection of art and commerce, and laments that so few musicians are trying to have it both ways:

In his introduction to the Modern Library edition of "David Copperfield," the novelist David Gates talks about literature hitting "that high-low fork in the road, leading on the one hand toward 'Ulysses' and on the other toward 'Gone With The Wind,'" and maybe rock music has experienced its own version. You can either chase the Britney dollar, or choose the high-minded cult-rock route that leads to great reviews and commercial oblivion. I buy that arty stuff all the time, and a lot of it is great. But part of the point of it is that its creators don't want to engage with the mainstream, or no longer think that it's possible to do so, and as a consequence cult status is preordained rather than accidental. In this sense, the squeaks and bleeps scattered all over the lovely songs on the last Wilco album sound less like experimentation, and more like a despairing audio suicide note.

Maybe this split is inevitable in any medium where there is real money to be made: it has certainly happened in film, for example, and even literature was a form of pop culture, once upon a time. It takes big business a couple of decades to work out how best to exploit a cultural form; once that has happened, "that high-low fork in the road" is unavoidable, and the middle way begins to look impossibly daunting. It now requires more bravery than one would ever have thought necessary to try and march straight on, to choose neither the high road nor the low. Who has the nerve to pick up where Dickens or John Ford left off? In other words, who wants to make art that is committed and authentic and intelligent, but that sets out to include, rather than exclude? To do so would run the risk of seeming not only sincere and uncool -- a stranger to all notions of postmodernism -- but arrogant and vaultingly ambitious as well.

Any thoughts on who's taking such risks these days? Off the top of my head, I'd argue that Counting Crows and Old 97s have produced recent records that are smartly written, well performed, and sprinkled with enough hooks to earn a lot more radio time than they got. The late and dearly missed Kirsty MacColl spent a career recording superb and accessible albums that barely registered on this side of the Atlantic. I could go on and on, I suppose, but then I might sound like Hornby when he worries that he "run[s] the risk of being seen as yet another nostalgic old codger complaining about the state of contemporary music."

Even if it's true.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Phly Guys | Not much time to write today; hope to have more tonight, hopefully after the Phils sweep the Dodgers. Last night's win and Florida's loss pushed the Phillies into first place all by their lonesomes, but there were disconcerting injury reports accompanying the good news. Mike's Baseball Rants takes a concise and perceptive look at potential repercussions.

Speaking of injury news, a torn fingernail chased Los Angeles starter Hideo Nomo in the second last night, but, unlike my concern over Randy Wolf's elbow, Dodger Thoughts' Jon Weisman spies a blessing in disguise:

The injury forces Nomo to get a nice spring rest, and that has long been what many have suspected that he needs. Consider that in nine starts this season, Nomo has allowed a grand total of three runs in the first inning. His control has been relatively sharp -- only two walks. He has not been a disaster coming out of the pregame warmup. It has been as the innings progressed that he has faltered.

Becoming a couch potato doesn't make you stronger, so ultimately, Nomo is going to have to build up strength through exertion. But isn't it possible that he needs more in reserve, that someone needs to hit the reset button with him? That he isn't fully healed from his surgery and needs more convalescence?

The door is open for the Dodgers to decide that Nomo should miss two starts and therefore go on the disabled list, followed by a minor-league rehabilitation assignment -- without this indicating a setback to Nomo's pitching arm itself.

Jon also links to's latest defense-independent pitching statistics, which have Kevin Millwood as the only Phillie among baseball's top 50 starters, a reflection of the staff's good-but-not-great status. It's also a vivid reminder of why the Phils need their starters to stay healthy -- there's no Schilling-level stopper capable of dominance nearly every time he takes the hill. So get well soon, Wolfie.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Hidden Gem | Randy Johnson, you may have heard, hung a perfect game on the Braves last night. (Salon's King Kaufman has some amusing nuggets of trivia on the achievement.) No-hitters are uncommon enough, but a perfect game qualifies as a truly special and rare phenomenon. Yet despite my being in attendance at the Phils-Dodgers game, I found out about Johnson's terrific feat only after it was over, when Citizens Bank Park public-address announcer Dan Baker was looking to kill time during our eighth-inning rain delay.

And thus comes my first major complaint about the Park: My hoped-for vast improvement over Veterans Stadium's pathetically uninformative out-of-town scoreboard has not come to pass. Yes, CBP's scoreboard now shows the number of outs and the position of baserunners at the other games, but those are the only upgrades. Other games' trends, how runners scored, who's gotten key hits -- none of that stuff pops up on the new scoreboard. The only info I could glean last night before Baker's announcement was that Johnson was throwing a shutout.

Last June I wrote, "In this era of fantasy leagues and instant information, an improved scoreboard is not too much to ask. As with so many parts of the Veterans Stadium experience, the bar is pretty low." Sadly, CBP can't clear even that bar. The good news is that it's an easy fix. Take one of the zillions of worker bees who show up to work each game, plop her in front of a PC, tell her to pay close attention to what's happening at every other stadium, and post her summaries every three innings or so on one or two of the many video display boards around the Park.

Knowing what's happening in places besides my seat in Section 329 makes me a better baseball fan, not just a better Phillies fan.

And that's good for all of us.

(Cue NBC's "The More You Know" music.)

Deep Thoughts | One of the things I was thinking about when I wrote yesterday about the experience of attending baseball games was the chance to witness something special with my own eyes. So there were Dad and I at the Park, in the midst of the Phils' 8-7 win (Inquirer; Daily News) over the Dodgers, watching Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell, and Jim Thome go back-to-back-to-back against Wilson Alvarez in the fourth. This was a first for me, and it was very, very cool.

As for the rest of the game, there was a lot to like and a lot to dislike. The teams played pinball last night, launching a combined nine homers, including two each by Burrell and Los Angeles's Jason Grabowski (no, really). Vicente Padilla, his velocity down, was rocked at the outset but hung on to throw seven gutty innings, and the Phillies got him off the hook with a determined comeback fueled by all the long balls. Amaury Telemaco pitched an effective eighth, and with the Phils up 7-6, Marlon Byrd singled home an insurance run in the bottom of the frame that would prove huge.

After Byrd's hit, the heavens opened and drenched us all. The stadium cleared out. Some of us hung around under cover to catch the end of the Flyers' loss to Tampa Bay on the big screen. After a 41-minute rain delay, the Phils were retired in the eighth inning, and Tim Worrell took the hill for a save attempt for the second straight game. The ninth was an adventure, with Olmedo Saenz's tater drawing the Dodgers to within a run and Jimmy Rollins juggling a hard ground ball before barely getting a force at second to end the game.

Worrell was admirably candid on the postgame radio show about his failings Monday and his struggles last night. I'm a sucker for good guys; it's the main reason I can't join fully in the seasonlong effort by my fellow Phillies bloggers to slip a shiv between Doug Glanville's ribs. But I do acknowledge that honest self-assessment is no substitute for talent, especially on a contending team. Indeed, Worrell's impressive accountability aside, what he has shown thus far is clearly not closer material. His fastball was in the low-to-mid 80s last night, and his pitches were up in the zone. If it wasn't obvious before, it sure is now -- Billy Wagner's return is imperative. As Jim Salisbury notes today, the Phillies simply cannot afford for him (and the more-dinged-than-he's-letting-on Thome) to be out too long.

Eric Milton gets the ball against Hideo Nomo tonight, a prospect which concerns Dodger Thoughts' Jon Weisman:

[Nomo's] strikeouts have vanished like D.B. Cooper; home runs have sprouted like weeds. There have been games of endurance, but none of dominance.

If Tuesday night's five-homer performance by Philadelphia was any evidence, Nomo is hours away from facing a formidable offense in a formidable ballpark. The Joy of Cooking offers this recipe for disaster in both Japanese and American cuisines.

His vulnerability is a secret to no one.

Baseball being baseball, you can cringe at the thought of Nomo taking the mound and still retain the hope that somehow, the Strat-o-Matic dice will roll and land on outs enough times.

You'll root for him to survive, a batter at a time.

And you'll hope that they know when to throw in the towel, knowing that other battles lay ahead, next week, next month, next year.

You hope that something unpleasant doesn't become something nasty.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Dodge Ball | Nearly 30 years ago, my father bundled my brother and me into a hot car, drove to South Philadelphia, and introduced us to Major League Baseball as a spectator sport, as opposed to something you watched on TV on Sunday afternoons. (This was before television contracts exploded and put almost every game on the tube.) The Phillies were playing the Braves. We had awful tickets -- the 600 level in Veteran Stadium's right field was pretty desolate -- but to me the whole experience was magical. Bake McBride looked close enough to touch; I remember my brother and me calling his name in hopes that he'd hear us and acknowledge our tribute. The day launched a lifetime of attending games, some of them memorable, many of them forgettable, all of them contributing in some way to a love affair that has given much more to me than it has taken.

I get to repay Dad tonight with his first visit to Citizens Bank Park. I hope he recalls this trip in future years as I have my inaugural game at the Vet.

The Dodgers are in, still sporting the National League's best record but trying to fight their way through a four-game losing streak. Third baseman Adrian Beltre finally looks like the player so many thought he'd be for several years now, and catcher Paul Lo Duca is hitting .365. Onetime stud Shawn Green and free-agent pickup Juan Encarnacion are scuffling along at .231 each, though. Pitching has been decent but not great for Los Angeles, though Eric Gagne is as lights-out as ever.

The series begins with Vicente Padilla opposing Wilson Alvarez, who's having a fine year thus far. Dodger Thoughts' Jon Weisman offered his thoughts yesterday:

The team has an interesting week coming up, starting with a visit to Philadelphia, winners of 12 out of 18. Once again, the Dodgers are starting a road trip against a contender in the NL East -- just as they did against Florida two weeks ago. The Dodgers were coming off a disappointing homestand against Montreal and New York, but came alive on the road, winning two out of three against the Marlins and five of six overall.

With a day of rest today, the Dodgers will reach the City of Brotherly Like before the hometown Phillies, who finish a four-game series at Colorado. The Odyssean Wilson Alvarez will kick off the Phillies series for Los Angeles on Tuesday in a pivotal game for the Dodger psyche -- either he will continue to live the dream, or the Dodgers will have a five-game losing streak with Hideo Nomo set to be the stopper.

Staying Power | Both Bill Liming and Shawn, in respective comments on yesterday's recap of the Phils' loss to the Rockies, argue that Randy Wolf should have been permitted to pitch longer in the seventh. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but they're not the only ones who feel that way. Both papers note that Wolf himself was none too pleased to get the hook from Larry Bowa. From Marcus Hayes's account in today's Daily News:

"Wolfie was on empty. He was beet-red. Out of gas," Bowa said. "Joe [Kerrigan] gave me a heads-up in the sixth."

"I told the manager I thought his stuff was getting short. It was a common sense, a very logical decision," Kerrigan agreed.



"[Bowa] said that?" he asked. Pause. Lips thin.

"I thought I pitched pretty well today."

Right...but were you tired at the end?

"I thought I pitched pretty well today. That's pretty much all I'm going to say."

Did you feel like you could have stayed in?


Did you want to stay in?

"It's not up to me."

This is one of managing's trickiest balancing acts. No pitcher will ever claim to be too tired to continue, and when you factor in pitch counts, matchups, and amounts of rest before and after the start, you begin to see why the decision is so difficult. Opportunities for second-guessing are wildly abundant; Grady Little is buffing his resume for just that reason. Not having seen Wolf pitch for most of yesterday's game, it's hard for me to take a side. It's hard to fault Bowa for putting the game in the hands of the league's best bullpen, but when a hitter as skilled as Todd Helton says, "I was just happy to see Wolf get out of the game. He was throwing incredible," well, you start to wonder.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Rocked | If you had asked me back on May 7 whether I'd be happy with a 7-3 Phillies road trip to Arizona, San Francisco, and Colorado, I'd have looked at you funny, asked if that was a trick question, and responded quickly, before you had a chance to withdraw it, something along the lines of "Hell, yeah!"

But when the baseball gods bless that trip with seven wins in the first eight games, then gift-wrap opportunities for victories in the last two, I want my team to play for 9-1.

Didn't happen. Yesterday's unsettling loss was succeeded by an even more vicious kick in the teeth today, a 7-6 loss to the Rockies, who scratched back from a six-run deficit and won it in the ninth on Vinny Castilla's two-run dong.

It all looked so good in the early going. Supported by key hits from Mike Lieberthal and Chase Utley (who, yes, is looking more and more like a ballplayer), Randy Wolf cruised into the seventh. He looked sharp, changing speeds effectively and locating his entire arsenal of pitches with laser-like precision. Matt Holliday's leadoff homer cut the Phils' lead to 6-1, and after a strikeout and a single, Wolf was gone. Rheal Cormier then faced four batters without retiring any of them -- two-run tater, bunt single, double, single. Enter Ryan Madson. Single and a pair of fielder's choices, and finally, after five Colorado runs, the inning was over.

Tim Worrell cleaned up Madson's mess in the bottom of the eighth, and the Phillies entered the ninth with their one-run lead intact. But not for long. Worrell channeled Jose Mesa, walking Todd Helton on four pitches and then getting taken deep by Castilla. David Pinto's update to this post really says it all.

The temptation is to point fingers at the bullpen, but the relievers have been outstanding all season long. What happened today was that the injuries to Roberto Hernandez and Billy Wagner finally caught up to the Phils. With Brian Powell and Jim Crowell too inexperienced to trust in pressure situations, Larry Bowa is playing with a shortened 'pen in close games. And Cormier has been considerably less effective than he was a year ago. Amaury Telemaco has pitched well, and Bowa will have to start considering him for late-inning scenarios until Hernandez and Wagner -- especially Wagner -- return from the DL.

Offensively, the Phillies were an inefficient bunch today, scoring only six times on 12 hits and leaving a dozen on base. Reverting to early-season form, the top of the lineup -- Marlon Byrd and Jimmy Rollins, hitting in the 1 and 2 positions, respectively, each game -- turned in a cover-your-eyes performance in the two losses to the Rockies, going a combined 0-for-18.

My guess is that tomorrow's papers will have the Phils in a pissed-off mood, realizing the vast psychological and emotional differences between a 7-3 trip and an 8-2 trip. There's no way around it: Yesterday and today have marked a disappointing end to an otherwise terrific trip.

Coors Blight | It was rather gratifying to read in Marcus Hayes's game story in today's Daily News that the Phillies were "somber, dissatisfied, [and] glum" after yesterday's loss in Colorado dropped them a game behind Florida in National League East. The Phils' Western road trip has been spectacularly successful so far, and it wouldn't have been surprising to hear them brush off the defeat as just another minor bump in the road. But now that they've surged back into contention, it seems, they rightly view each loss as a wasted opportunity.

I saw little of the games in Denver over the weekend, but was able to catch up well thanks to the great work of the folks who maintain the sites noted in the right-hand column of this page. I'm Not an Athlete, in particular, has a nifty chart that maps out the Phils' improving offensive trend quite nicely.

The road trip ends today with an afternoon game at Coors; the inconsistent Randy Wolf goes against Aaron Cook. Then it's back to Philadelphia for a six-game homestand against Los Angeles and San Diego; I'll be at Tuesday's game against the Dodgers.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Smarty Pants | Horse racing for me is a third-tier sport, below even golf and tennis in the activities I'll stop to watch when I'm channel-surfing. So my middling interest in this weekend's Preakness Stakes can be attributed entirely to the presence of the favorite, Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones.

Smarty, of course, is a Philadelphia horse, a fact that the local media overload has rendered as omnipresent as the atmosphere. Bill Lyon actually leads his column today with several paragraphs Smarty's ass -- no, really. I'm expecting a 6,000-word profile any day now of the guy who forged his horseshoes. Of course, this being Philadelphia, we can't be content with merely having a winner -- we have to build a backstory that screams "Underdog!" as loudly as possible. You know, Smarty being all but poured into an Elmer's bottle before being rescued; training, Rocky-style, in a low-tech, hardscrabble environment; being ridden by a recovering-alcoholic jockey; and so on and so forth. It's a nice story, but the notion that our heroes have to get by on will and heart instead of talent plays perfectly into the region's inferiority complex. It's yet another reflection of a pathetic mental state that way, way, way too often keeps us from thinking about, and accomplishing, big things.

Like, oh, I don't know, putting a sparkling diamond of a stadium in a cool downtown spot instead of surrounding it with countless acres of South Philly asphalt... .

Bay Trippers | It was hardly a work of art, but the Phillies scraped together just enough offense and got just enough pitching yesterday to down the Giants, 4-3, and take the series, two games to one. Had Astros catcher Brad Ausmus not suffered a brain cramp in the ninth inning of last night's Houston-Florida game, the Phils may have been able to close the gap in National East to a game. As it is, they head to Denver a game back, with Eric Milton, whose tendency to throw long balls doesn't bode well in Coors, facing Joe Kennedy tonight in the opener of a four-game set against the Rockies.

A day after Jim Thome confessed to thumb soreness, closer Billy Wagner suffered what Sam Malone once described as a "g-g-groin injury" while warming in the bullpen; he could be headed to the DL. With Roberto Hernandez already sidelined, Tim Worrell appears to be the most likely candidate to close in Wagner's absence, though Ryan Madson showed some serious stones yesterday in securing the save against San Francisco.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Quotable | The sublime Emmylou Harris, in a story in the new issue of Esquire (no link available yet):

During those long summer tours, there's nothing on television that doesn't rot your brain except for baseball. And I love the game. I love the history of the game. I love the fact that anything can happen but probably won't. But sometimes does. I love that you don't have to be a perfect human specimen to be a good player; you can be overweight, you can be too short, too skinny.

Let's just say I'm a National League girl, because I don't believe in the designated hitter. And you can quote me on that.

Take that, Citizen's Blog.

Falling Down | The Giants went yard four times last night, including a tater by pitcher Jason Schmidt, to down the Phils, 4-3, and push them two games behind Florida, a 5-2 winner over Houston. Solo dingers by Bobby Abreu and David Bell were not enough for the Phillies, who scratched out just seven hits against Schmidt. Marlon Byrd and Jimmy Rollins combined for a gruesome 1-for-9 performance at the top of the lineup, and, more troubling, Jim Thome may have to struggle through his thumb problems for the rest of the season.

Vicente Padilla, who has pitched decently this season but has just one victory to show for it, will go against Kirk Reuter in the rubber match of the series this afternoon.

UPDATE: Larry Bowa just got the ol' heave-ho for arguing what was a very dubious strike called on Todd Pratt.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Blogged Down | At right you'll see that I've added links to some of the more regularly updated Phillies blogs, including the new Phanatic Phollow Up. Welcome to the show, Jane Conroy!

Movin' on Up | The surging Phillies won their fourth straight last night to move to within a game of Florida, which ran into the Roger Clemens juggernaut (did anyone envision this level of studliness from the Rocket?) and lost to the Astros. The Phils' offense continued to awaken from its April slumber, pounding out 15 hits en route to the 10-4 victory. Kevin Millwood ran his record to 4-2 with a tidy little 6.2 innings of six-hit, three-run ball. Barry Bonds was 1-for-3 with a run scored, and the Phillies had to intentionally walk him just once.

Across the Phillies blogosphere, there is much rejoicing. "This is nothing short of miraculous," enthuses A Citizen's Blog. "I thought the Phils wouldn't have a shot at catching up until June, not May." Echoes PhilliesBlog, "I couldn't be happier with this team right now."

The most cogent observation comes from I'm Not an Athlete, who accurately points to the kind of hit parade most of us envisioned from spring training: "...[I]t seems like the Phils' offense is finally clicking. They've scored at least 5 runs in 6 of their last 8 games after doing so only 10 of their first 22. They're 13-3 when they score at least 5, which isn't surprising since they've got the best team ERA in the league. When people made their predictions at the beginning of the year, this was the Phillies offense that they expected to see. I hope I'm not jinxing them here, but hopefully this is the offense we'll continue to see this season."

Randy Wolf takes the ball against Jason Schmidt tonight. Given my pathetic inability to handle weeknight West Coast games -- mid-30s + active toddler + full-time job = zzzzzzz -- I'll have to catch the result tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Paging Steve Lake | Stephen Rodrick really brings the funny in a hilarious piece in Slate on "the ultimate sports freeloader: the backup catcher." Among Rodrick's lacerating and completely true observations:

Backup catchers are harder to kill than cockroaches and just as unsightly. The fraternity is the athletic equivalent of Skull and Bones: Once you're in, you've got membership until you're 40 or bat below .180. ...

[Their salaries are] chicken feed compared to Bonds and Sheffield, but it's more than they'd make as PE teachers. ...

A switch-hitting backup catcher is like an uncoordinated 7-footer in the NBA -- somebody always figures they can use one. ...

It helps to be white, have a receding hairline, own a dirty pair of shin guards, and possess a world-weariness that belies the reality of the easiest job in sports.

Wonder if Todd Pratt's ears are burning right about now... .

Save Larry? | Bill Conlin files an intriguing column in today's Daily News that pins the Phillies' offensive underachievement not on Larry Bowa but on Ed Wade. The Phils are what they are, Conlin implies, and to expect Bowa to have much of an effect on that is foolish:

The Fire Bowa groundswell emanating in morning drive-time from 610 on your AM dial is totally misguided. This team's inability to do most of the little things required by a major league lineup has absolutely nothing to do with the manager's flinty personality. It has everything to do with what you get by blending all those strikeouts, an overall lack of speed and the absence of a top-of-the-lineup presence that understands that OBP does not stand for optional batting practice. ...

You might have noticed in the early going, Citizens Bank Park is an upholstered bandbox. The Money Pit will make Denver's Coors Field seem like Yellowstone Park when the weather gets hot and the prevailing south winds start gusting.

So, ban the bunt for everybody but pitchers. J-Roll wants to jump out of his shoes? Good, but he better hit 15 bombs and a ton of doubles. The most encouraging thing I've seen lately is [Marlon] Byrd hitting long balls on early-count hacks. It's easy to forget he was the team's best hitter the second half of his rookie season.

The Phillies have the lowest ERA in the National League, and are all of a game over .500. That's because they are 14th out of 16 NL teams in runs scored. If the Phils scored even an average number of runs, a friend of mine pointed out today, they'd win a hundred games. By far the most damning of Conlin's accumulation of evidence is the leaden anchor represented by the top of the lineup. It's hard to score runs without guys on base, and right now there aren't a lot of crooked numbers in the Phillies' line scores. As much as I dislike Bowa's style and find it counterproductive, I'm not sure Conlin isn't right. Will hiring a player's manager entice Jimmy Rollins to start slapping the ball the other way on the ground instead of trying to pull everything into the stratosphere?

Monday, May 10, 2004

Win/Win/Win Situation | There was a lot to like about the Phillies' weekend sweep of the Diamondbacks, including a balanced offensive attack and a studly start by Brett Myers yesterday. On the downside, Billy Wagner's back spasms have him on the shelf, and watching Todd Worrell work a shaky ninth to close out the middle game of the series early Sunday morning had me desperately wishing for Billy's quick recovery. On to San Francisco now to face the third-place Giants and some cat named Bonds.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Offensive Words | It's no crime to need seven innings before touching Randy Johnson for a run, but one gets the feeling it may have been taken that long regardless of who was pitching last night. Despite the win, last night's offensive output was distressingly similar to the Phillies' season-long futility at the plate. Long balls have been plentiful, and have kept the Phils in the vicinity of .500, but their inability to put the top of the lineup on base and to hit with runners in scoring position has prevented them from grabbing a stranglehold on what appears to be a very weak division.

Take away Jim Thome, Pat Burrell, and David Bell, and you have no regular hitting above .235. Thome has clouted 10 dingers -- yet has only 16 runs batted in, a damning indictment of the early-season struggles of Marlon Byrd, Placido Polanco, and Bobby Abreu. Larry Bowa yesterday called the situation "embarrassing" and "not acceptable," while PhilliesBlog pleaded for "SOMEONE ... to help jumpstart the other players" and ease the considerable burden now weighing down Thome's broad shoulders.

Interestingly, despite five weeks of abject failure, it took the Phillies' four-hour flight to Phoenix for the horrific numbers to bite Bowa on the nose. As unacceptable as his hitters' performance has been thus far, though, he's not sure what else he can do, according to the notes column in today's Inky:

"We signed these guys to play," he said. "They're all established players with the exception of Marlon [Byrd]. The other guys are established big-leaguers. They all have pretty good numbers in their career. You've got to hope that they respond and start to hit."

There are two ways to look at this. The first is that Bowa, and Ed Wade, need to realize that the season is finite, and if certain players aren't hitting, some sort of changes must be made. Bowa's statement that "[w]e signed these guys to play" implies that because so much contract money is tied up in his underachieving bunch, he's going to stick with them come hell or high water. Yet this is what's referred to in the business world as a "sunk cost," an expenditure that can't be recouped regardless of how well or poorly the acquisition (in this case, players) performs. In other words, the money is already committed, so you lose nothing in trying out other options that may improve the bottom line (in this case, wins and losses) in the long run. The second view is that Bowa is correct. Nearly the entire lineup has a track record that warrants sticking things out, and it's not reasonable to think that proven hitters such as Abreu and Mike Lieberthal can be replaced, especially in early May.

The kicker is, both views are right. So, if changes need to be made -- if the Phils are a couple games below .500 and a few out of first, say, a month from now -- and if it's not reasonable to expect those changes to be made on the roster, where does that leave us?

More importantly, where does that leave Larry Bowa?

Utley Up | Thanks to typical Friday-night fatigue, I lasted all of half an inning before conking out and missing the Phils' 4-1 victory (Inquirer; Daily News) over the Diamondbacks last night. As Phillies Fan's Bill Liming notes, with Florida winning the Phillies remain three games out of first, but are now in second place thanks to losses by the Mets and Braves.

Placido Polanco strained his left quad during the game and was placed on the 15-day disabled list afterward, clearing the way for Chase Utley's return from northeastern Pennsylvania. Liming, of course, has championed Utley since spring training, and hopes that he remains on the roster when Polanco rejoins the club. Given this season's anemic hitting, the Phils certainly lose nothing at the plate with Utley taking some swings instead of Polanco, and I hope Chase makes the most of his chance.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Web of Lies | I'm trying to decide which is worst: (a) The stunning inability of Major League Baseball to discern how fans and the media would react to its plan to sell space on stadium bases and pitching rubbers to advertise Spider-Man 2; (b) MLB's jaw-dropping rationalization of the scheme as a means to market the game to young people; (c) the decision to sully one of the few noncommercial physical spaces remaining in American sports for, in essence, the cost of a bag of peanuts and a giant foam finger; or (d) pulling out of the deal only after Sony Pictures had reaped countless free publicity for the film.

All together now: (e) All of the above.

Reaction has been wide-ranging and varied. Mike's Baseball Rants looks around and sees a fractured and embittered geopolitical situation, which sort of puts the Spidey Spot in perspective:

... I am more amused than upset over the whole Spidey-Gate affair, especially given the fact that I try to ignore interleague baseball as much as possible. I know this is odd for someone professes to rant on occasion. But I feel this is a war that we have already lost. Look at the mini billboards that the Yanks and D-Rays wore in their Japanese Series. And we are already used to referring to a major-league stadium as Petco Park(!). MLB won’t give up after being rebuffed once. It will continue to make the easy grab for cash and milk its product for all its worth.

Likewise, the Daily News's Bill Conlin advises fans to savor their victory over "this aborted bit of soul-for-hire" while warning that more such debacles are on the way. He also takes a poke at the players, including our own underperforming mercenaries, whose inflated salaries have necessitated new ways for teams to raise revenue:

I say this to players who appeared to be upset by the proposed "Spider-Man 2" annexation of their bases: Just shut up. If you don't like it, take a pay cut. Fire your agent. You've inflicted these millions on yourselves. Now deal with them.

In the Inquirer, Bob Ford locks onto MLB's desperate lie about building a younger fan base and enjoys a sarcastic chuckle:

Now, baseball jumps up and declares itself interested in attracting younger fans. This is uproariously funny coming from a sport that plays its best and most important games of the season in the middle of the night.

Entire generations of fans have been eliminated because the playoffs and World Series are scheduled by television executives who aren't worried about selling trucks and razor blades to 10-year-olds. There are millions of children who grow up in this country thinking a baseball game ends in the third inning.

Like Ford, Baseball Musings' David Pinto uses the debacle as a chance to smack Bud Selig with a rolled-up newspaper. Pinto reports that Selig actually said these words, presumably with a straight face, to the Associated Press last night: "I'm a traditionalist. The problem in sports marketing, particularly in baseball, is you're always walking a very sensitive line. Nobody loves tradition and history as much as I do." David's reaction:

Now that I'm no longer rolling on the floor laughing (expansion, wild card, realignment, interleague play, contraction), all I have to say is, "What a schmuck!" Bud, it's okay for baseball to want to make money through advertising. But don't try something like this, then try to say you're on the fan's side. It's very clear to all of us that the only thing you care about is the bottom line.

Bless his old-school heart, the Washington Post's Thomas Boswell plucks the purity card from his hand and sincerely lays it on the table for all the players to see:

No sport, except perhaps golf, has ever been so closely identified with the beauty and uniqueness of the place in which it is played. One of the central reasons that baseball is able to sustain a 162-game season -- twice as many contests as the NBA or NHL -- is that people, for generations, have loved to sit in a baseball park. On our American list of "perfect things," the baseball diamond has always held a high place. Even those who don't love the game understand the combination of power and peacefulness in a ballpark.

No sport holds my heart as baseball does, but to Boswell's misty-eyed ode, I can say only: Come on. The between-pitches sonic blasts exhorting fans to "Make Some Noise!" and the junky modern rock that clangs from the loudspeakers (I'm talkin' to you, Creed) are but two of the many, many things that make baseball stadiums among the least peaceful places on earth these days. In fairness, though, if you're seeking peace and the sounds of silence, a Jimmy Rollins at-bat is just the place to be. (Pause for rim shot.)

Cardinals 7, Phillies 4 | The day was sparkling, the play less so. On a postcard-perfect day at Citizens Bank Park, the sloppy Phillies channeled the Bad News Bears during a five-run St. Louis first and never recovered (Inquirer; Daily News). Despite back-to-back taters from Jim Thome and Pat Burrell, the Phils' offense failed to deliver big hits when they were needed most. For the Cardinals, Scott Rolen continued his rampage through the National League and extended his domination over Philadelphia pitching, and Tony LaRussa expertly micromanaged his reliving corps to get the matchups he wanted. Meanwhile, pinch-hitter Jason Michaels and manager Larry Bowa got tossed for arguing with the umpires. Yuck. The only saving grace of seeing it live was the chance to sip a wonderful Yards Philly Pale Ale and chomp on a delicious slice of Peace a Pizza. I'd have traded that for a lukewarm dog, a flat cup of Bud, and a win.

With a tough road trip beginning tonight in Phoenix, the Phils find themselves at something of a crossroads. They're still in the thick of the division race, but mostly because the East leaders, Florida and Atlanta, are playing at almost as mediocre a level as the Phillies. PhilliesBlog speaks for a lot of us when he confesses to "frustration and a bit of anger" over the season's first five weeks, while the Inquirer's Stephen A. Smith saves a typically muddled piece with his hard-to-dispute conclusion: "Especially here, in Philadelphia, where patience is not a virtue, but a burden for those who replaced hope with expectations a few months ago. Because when the Phils moved into their posh new habitat, they vowed it was OK for us to have those expectations, too."

Is it Bowa's fault? I'm not sure, but in the wake of his team taking two of three from the Phillies, Redbird Nation offers this little gem: "Leo Durocher + Bobby Valentine - Casey Stengel = Larry Bowa."

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Phillies 5, Cardinals 4 | The half-full interpretation of last night's win over the Cardinals (Inquirer; Daily News) is that the Phillies used timely hitting and solid pitching to earn the win. The half-empty view is that the whiff-happy Phils could scratch out just seven hits and desperately needed the long balls they got, from Marlon Byrd and David Bell, to eke out a W.

Either way, of course, it beats losing. Kevin Millwood labored for a couple of innings before he found his groove, and gave the Phillies seven-plus decent innings. Byrd connected for a first-inning bomb to left-center to knot the score at 1, and Bell's second-inning single plated Pat Burrell, putting the Phils up until the sixth, when St. Louis scored twice to take a one-run lead. Bell then crashed a line-drive homer close to the leftfield foul pole, and Larry Bowa, in a startling change, used his pitchers effectively to make the lead stand up. The ninth was marked by a Cardinal single and the appearance of a dopey fan who whizzed by Burrell, busy chasing down a fly, to slide into second, but otherwise was uneventful, with Billy Wagner earning an easy seventh save of the season.

Citizens Bank Park shimmers under the lights. The darkness outside helps to mask the unattractive stuff -- the Holiday Eyesore, the warehouses, the parking lots, and the like -- that surrounds the Park, rendering it even more intimate than in the daytime. The centerfield Liberty Bell is spectacular, and thank goodness the Phillies are ringing it often, given how ineffectively they play small ball. It's as if Earl Weaver is pulling the strings in South Philadelphia.

Randy Wolf gets the ball afternoon, and since a ticket dropped unexpectedly into my lap, I'll be at the Park, rooting for the Phils to take the series.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Spider Bites | At the risk of sounding like a musty, change-fearing, self-appointed guardian of the game's best interests, somebody please tell me that this isn't true. It's satire, right? Right? Anybody?

Bankers' Hours | I'll be at tonight's Phils/Cards game, my first under the lights at the Park. I'm told the outfield Liberty Bell, in particular, benefits from darker skies. Now if only the Veterans Stadium demolition crew had trained their eyes on the architectural travesty that is the Packer Avenue Holiday Inn... .

Don't expect me to be among those booing Scott Rolen, by the way. As I noted last year after seeing him play at the Vet, I cannot for the life of my understand why there is such animosity toward a guy who as a Phillie never, ever took a pitch off, who matched talent with class, and who was a model citizen. Rolen did two things for which he should be applauded, not criticized: He called the Phillies on their pre-CBP thriftiness, and he intimated that he preferred not to play for loudmouth blowhards. ("Paging Mr. Bowa and Mr. Green... .") How's that for a capital offense?

Win One, Lose One | Within the space of a few minutes last night, Philadelphians were treated to a pair of exciting finished, one pleasant and one disappointing.

On the plus side, the Flyers advanced to the conference finals with an overtime, Game 6 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Ken Hitchcock's bunch had blown a two-goal, third-period lead, a situation that would have sent prior squads to swift, sure defeat, but these guys possess a mental toughness that is admirable. The Flyers, who closed regulation looking ragged, winded, and terribly flat, came out strong to start overtime, and after 7 minutes and 39 seconds of wildly improbable up-and-down play, Jeremy Roenick top-shelved a drive past Ed Belfour, ending the series.

Roenick is a Philadelphian through and through, charismatic, tough and talented. A few months after a puck blasted his jaw to pieces, he scored twice to send the Flyers to the next round. His Toyota commercials with Mike Lieberthal are practically unwatchable, but Jeremy Roenick can play hockey.

Southeast of Toronto, the Phillies wasted back-to-back-to-back dingers in a 6-5 loss to the Cardinals. The Phils continue to scuffle along, and are now an unimpressive 11-13, but at least they're going down fighting these days. Last night's game ended with a bases-loaded whiff by Pat Burrell, who very nearly beat the throw to first after the pitch got by St. Louis catcher Mike Matheny. I know, I know, moral victories are for losers, but I'd rather see some ninth-inning life than last month's seemingly passive acceptance of defeat.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Counting Cards | The Phillies and Cardinals begin a three-game set at Citizens Bank Park tonight, prompting a yawn-inducing preview of Scott Rolen's "return" to Philadelphia by the Inquirer's Todd Zolecki. This is Rolen's third trip back since his trade -- in 2002, mind you -- so the only new angle is that ... he'll be playing at CBP, not the Vet! Wow, stop the presses. In the Daily News, Marcus Hayes spotlights the troubles currently being endured by Brett Myers, tonight's starter. Myers, perhaps not surprisingly, given his youth and inexperience, is struggling, and has everyone but the Phils' clubhouse guy whispering advice into his ear. Maybe wearing women's underwear would help.

Meanwhile, the DN's Bill Conlin checks in, for the first time in a month, with a piece on Mike Schmidt's efforts to turn the pathetic Clearwater Threshers into winners. While the upper tiers of the Phillies' farm system offer reasons for optimism, the pickings are slim down at the single-A level, if Conlin is to be believed.

Across the blogosphere, things are pretty quiet so far with respect to the Cards series. Among the Phillies posters, only the Citizens Report has filed thus far, cogently observing of hard-hitting St. Louis, "The Cardinals aren't exactly the team you want to play when you're trying to find your groove, but right now Myers doesn't have that choice." I'll be keeping my eye on Cardinal blogs Redbird Nation or Go Cardinals, though there's nothing to report yet.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Catching Up | You wouldn't think of Germany as a hotbed of baseball, but even the Stuttgart suburb to which the Shallow Center household decamped for a week has its own team. Sindelfingen also has high-speed Internet access, so I was able to check in on the Phillies from time to time. It appeared as if the home nine was able to bounce back from the Marlins' sweep and has been playing decent baseball, including yesterday's Bizarro World win over Arizona, over the past week or so. Feel free to use the Comments link below to let me know of any trends or items of interest I missed while I was away.