Monday, July 19, 2004

Wake Me When It's Over

Their hustle was amazing, their play inspiring. Outfielders diving for balls with reckless abandon. A starter with complete command of his pitches. Young players, in the thick of a pennant race, performing with confidence, with grace under pressure. A sure-handed manager who handles stars and role players with equal aplomb.
 
Yeah, those Braves are an impressive bunch. Mike Hampton dazzled the Phillies tonight, allowing just five hits in seven innings, and John Smoltz closed the deal with two innings of scoreless, one-hit ball, propelling Atlanta into first place by a game.
 
Let that sink in for a minute. On July 19, the Braves beat the Phillies to return to first place in National League East.
 
Stop me if you've heard this before -- well, actually, don't -- but the Phils, as they have since April 2003, played another game as if they were attempting not to lose. While Larry Bowa smolders in the dugout, his charges lazily punch the cruise control button and expect to glide along in the left line, obstacle-free, at a constant 70 mph. It's just that someone forgot to tell the Braves (and the Marlins and the Mets). At one point in the middle innings, a frustrated Larry Andersen said the Phillies needed some sort of spark, and Chris Wheeler, the ultimate toady, faced with evidence so damning even he couldn't spin it into somebody else's fault, reluctantly agreed.
 
By then, though, Paul Abbott had dug his usual hole, in this case four runs in four-plus innings, and the Phils' offense, so potent leading up to the All-Star break, continued its feeble, post-break sputtering. Tonight's 4-2 loss sets up an important game tomorrow, for after closing the brief series at Atlanta, the Phillies return to the Park for a pair against Florida, against whom, you'll recall, they've dropped a zillion straight.
 
Thank God now is the time. I mean, I'd hate to see how the Phils would play if this were a rebuilding year or something. They'd probably be hovering around .500, right? A perfectly acceptable so-so season, just like so many in this franchise's sad-sack history.
 
Anybody else notice the 2004 version seems hell-bent on continuing that legacy of mediocrity?

3 Comments:

At July 19, 2004 at 11:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, in my whole life I've refused to admit that Cox was a good manager. I've always just assumed that he was dealt a good hand and was reaping the benefits of that. Well, this team has changed my opinion of him. I love the way they play. They act like they want it.

I don't know what Cox is doing but I like it. On paper we've got them by 15 games. Easy. Unfortunately, this game isn't played on paper. That "impending doom" feeling finally set in on me tonight. We're in a bona fide horse race and our jockey doesn't have a whip.

GJT.

 
At July 20, 2004 at 12:25 PM, Blogger Matt said...

Does complaining about Bowa over and over again put us on par with the whiny Red Sox fans? If so, I suppose it will be a burden we'll have to live with.

 
At July 20, 2004 at 1:45 PM, Blogger Tom said...

Not only doesn't our jockey have a whip, he's never even ridden a horse before. You're spot-on about Cox -- if he can win with this group of substandard Braves, he's a far better manager any of us gave him credit for.

 

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