Thursday, July 15, 2004

Pray to Jobu

The city dailies offer the predictable second-half previews today -- Todd Zolecki's evenhanded breakdown in the Inquirer; and, in the Daily News, Marcus Hayes's half-full assessment and Paul Hagen's half-empty one. The blogosphere is similarly conflicted; Phanatic Phollow Up's Jane Conroy and Phillies-Fan's Bill Liming counsel patience, while Mike of a Citizen's Blog and Brian of the Citizens Report, like me, are more concerned.

I'm reminded of a couple of movies as the season's second half gets underway.

The first is Rocky III, and the scene playing in my mind takes place after Rocky has gotten his ass kicked by Clubber Lang. He's moping around a gym, mourning Mickey and feeling sorry for himself, when Apollo Creed shows up. Apollo gives Rocky a necessary reality check, telling him that while Mickey's death undoubtedly contributed to the merciless beating inflicted by Clubber, "you lost that fight for all the wrong reasons."

Likewise, the slimness of the Phils' first-half lead is for all the wrong reasons. I don't want to hear about injuries. I don't want to hear about slumps. The Marlins lost a lot over the winter, but they're right there. The Mets were thought to be at least a year or two away, and they're right there. The Braves are a shell of their 1990s dynasty, and the Jones boys have been an embarrassment this season. But they're still there. The Phillies, meanwhile, like last year's squad, are a team whose total is less than the sum of its parts. Every few weeks they look around their locker room and say, geez, now would be a great time to pick thing up, and then they go out and go .500 against the likes of the Expos and Royals. On paper the class of the division, they are in reality its biggest disappointment, and there is no close second.

The second movie I'm thinking of is Major League. The Phillies are about to play 19 of 24 games on the road, including four series over the next two weeks against Florida, Atlanta, and New York. They desperately need to tear off the kind of streak the Indians put together after Jake Taylor told his teammates they had to "win the whole fuckin' thing" just to spite their owner. In one of the greatest sports-film montages ever, the Tribe do absolutely everything right -- stay late for additional batting and fielding practice; take the extra base; pick one another up; star in an American Express commercial -- and are rewarded with a first-place tie with the Yankees. I long to pick up my morning paper in late September and see the kind of stirring headlines and photos that the Cleveland Plain Dealer ran to accompany the Indians' fictional romp through the American League.

And if that doesn't happen anytime soon? Well, don't expect Larry Bowa to pay the price. As Hayes notes in his story, GM Ed Wade is

not considering firing the manager or coaches.

"I think our staff's done very well," Wade said, especially lauding Bowa. He was dubbed by many the manager most on the hot seat as the season started, with the club that faded out of two wild-card races in his first three seasons now carrying a team-record $93 million payroll. "One of the things is keeping an even keel. Letting the guys develop their own chemistry."

As Bowa often says, chemistry equals winning.

With 12 of their next 15 games against division rivals New York, Atlanta and Florida, against whom they are a combined 8-18 this season, the chemistry's volatility will be tested immediately.

Now is the time, boys. Again.


At July 15, 2004 at 4:44 PM, Blogger Chris said...

"Tribe Trounces Twins," anyone?

At July 15, 2004 at 5:02 PM, Blogger Tom said...

Precisely. Or: "Jes!" (Said in Serrano's voice while slamming fist, holding cigar, into palm.)

At July 15, 2004 at 7:00 PM, Blogger Matt said...

Keeping an even keel? Bowa practically pops an aneurysm on the field arguing with umpires, but the players are supposed to keep an even keel? Perhaps it's time for Wade to go, as well. Someone please call Mike Arbuckle.

At July 16, 2004 at 11:28 AM, Blogger gr said...

best line in major league: "i look like a banker in this" (charlie sheen)

At July 16, 2004 at 3:50 PM, Blogger Wyatt Earp said...

Best line in Rocky III: "I'm the new champ! GRR!!!" - Clubber Lang.


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