The Race for Eleven One

I have stories to blog about, but I’ve been focused on car issues and the Phillies in the playoffs. The car issues are resolved, fortunately, and the Phillies in the playoffs is almost resolved, unfortunately. Something more substantial than baseball will return tomorrow, I think.

As for the Phillies, after watching today’s loss, I feel like the season-ending script is re-writing itself. Sunday afternoon I felt as though I was a child in a poor family told by his parents that there’s extra money, which means there can be a Christmas this year. Today, I feel like those parents finally mentioned that, while there can be a Christmas this year, I won’t be receiving anything. Because they hate me.

I love the Phillies, and I have phaith that we can struggle through two tough road games this weekend to bring it back to Philadelphia for the deciding Game 5. But my intellectual streak wants to challenge that so badly because we are a stupid, stupid team. All emotion and no brains. That’s a recipe for the suckage portion of the emotion-fueled pendulum we’ve exhibited so far, not a consistent push for wins on the fundamental portion. We have to fix this.

The Race for Eleven

I don’t know where to begin. I’ve spilled so many electrons over the last few years on my frustrations as a Phillies phan. We’re always close but we’re never the last team standing. Good enough to phight. Not good enough to win. After last year’s season-ending thud, I wrote:

Like every spring before, I’ll be back next year, as gullible and full of optimism as ever when pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater.

And I was back this year, gullible and full of optimism. For good reason. The Phillies are the 2007 National League East Division Champions!

After fourteen years away, October baseball means something again. We have a chance. Like seven other teams, we’re 0-0. Like those other teams, we have an equal chance to chase those eleven elusive post-season victories necessary to win a World Series. I have never wanted anything more as a baseball phan.

I’m so happy that I couldn’t care less how the media will focus on the self-destruction of the Mets over the last 17 games, and how, even though the Mets went 5-12 to tumble down the standings, the Phillies went 13-4 to win the division by 1 game. So, focus on New York all you want. That’s the story. Run with it. But the news is that the Phillies have more baseball to play in 2007.

We’ve won 89 games. We’re not stopping until we reach 100.

I hope Philadelphia isn’t built on swampland.

Remember when I wrote that Washington is “the swamp where Philadelphia’s October dreams go to die”? That was just over one month ago, when the Phillies pushed back into the playoff race. Again. But this time we escaped the Washington swamp, winning 3 of 4 games. That puts us here, tied with six games to play in the regular season.

Just like last year, when we fell short.

I’ve entered the lottery for the right to purchase playoff tickets. Again. I’d like to believe that we’re positioned well, since we face the Braves and Nationals at home, while the Padres are on the road. We’ve dominated in the NL East this year, but playing the spoiler is a huge motivator. Also, the Braves are only three games out, so a sweep of us could put them in the mix. I may go insane if this season ends like every other pennant race involving the Phillies this decade.

Go Phillies!

It’s August. Prep-work for the heartbreak must occur.

It’s that time of year again. Summer is winding down. The last whiffs of meat charring on barbecue grills are in the air. Temperatures are making a final push higher before their looming decline into autumn. School buses are getting waxed and refueled. The Phillies are making a push for the post-season.

For the better part of the last seven years, the Phillies have followed the same routine. Slump horribly in April. Play en fuego throughout May. Swoon rhymes with June for a reason. July brings an improbable hint of life. The last few sputters in the playoff engine burn out in the first days of August as the team pulls itself back into contention. Playoff optimism fever strikes the Phandom. And at some point, this always happens:

Despite every persistent, justified note of pessimism, the Phillies have a chance. The road to the playoffs is clear, lit up like Clark Griswold’s house at Christmas. Phans begin scanning travel websites to figure out the myriad of possibilities for traveling to the World Series League Championship Series Divisional playoffs. Optimism is the only rule of the day.

Yet, somewhere in the back of every phan’s mind, he or she knows. We’ve been here before. This time isn’t going to be different. The collection of tickets to playoff games that never happened litter the hidden memorabilia box in the closet, tucked into the original envelope because they’re too painful to look at every day. The hot streaks will come to a close somewhere in September. The details of the script aren’t set, although we can’t shake the feeling that our nation’s capital is now the swamp where Philadelphia’s October dreams go to die. How will it happen this year? That’s all we can think about.

And yet, this year is no different. We want to believe, so we let ourselves believe. We allow a brief glimpse of “what if this year is different?” slip through the cracks of our mental barricades. Maybe, we think, we’ll be able to look back on this team the way we look back at 1993. That team shouldn’t have succeeded the way it did. Even with the almost fulfillment of the goal that year, that was our team. “They” became “we”. We almost won it all. We could taste it. It was ours. We love those guys. We want these guys to mean as much to us as those guys. We wonder if it can happen again.

Like every other phan who’s checking scores from around the league every day to see how the Phightin’s are holding up for October, we know how this will end, except we allow ourselves to get suckered sucked in once again. We’re along for the ride, even when we expect it to crash horribly and, inevitably, far too short of the road’s end. We believe this year will be different.

Please let it be different this year.

Catching Up: Sports Edition

The Phillies are finally winning. After a dismal start, we’ve started winning regularly, and sometimes even convincingly, in the last two weeks. Standing at 11 wins this month, we go into tonight’s series opener against the Braves with a better April than the last two years. (Ten wins in each of the previous two Aprils.) Considering how close we’ve been at the finish line the last couple of years, maybe that will be the difference and there will be playoff baseball this October.

It couldn’t have come at a better time, as the Redskins botched this year’s draft. First-round pick┬╣ LaRon Landry will hopefully become a productive star. His demonstrated talent suggests he will. I hope so, as a fan, but he is not what we needed. I understand the desire to draft talent, but we have a gaping hole in our defense on the line. The Redskins brain trust should’ve addressed this early and often over the weekend. At least Landry will get to showcase his talents when the other teams have infinite time after every snap to find open receivers.

┬╣ We whiffed on the few remaining picks we had, as well.

Vacation Blogging – Spring Training Edition

It’s that time of year again. I’m in Florida watching the Phillies. As a result, blogging will be light, if at all, through the weekend. Until I return, enjoy this picture from today:

That’s Cole Hamels. That’s from his pre-game preparation in the bullpen. It was the best he looked all night. No, that’s not a good thing, but it’s Spring Training. All is still right with the world.

Only Evil Empires Choose Those Colors

This is the attitude I like to see going into the start of Spring Training games:

“I hate the Mets,” said Brett Myers, who made it clear it was more about the uniform than individual players. “I want to beat them more than anyone else. What we need to do is make sure none of their fans get in our building. We shouldn’t sell tickets to Mets fans.”

I second that notion. I have extra reasons to hate the dreadful orange and blue combination, of course. But, yeah, I hate the Mets more than anyone.

I also think it’s a splendid idea for the Phillies to not sell tickets to Mets fans. If you show up at the ballpark wearing Mets gear, no tickets for you. If you call from a New York metro area code, no tickets for you. If your credit card has a New York metro zip code, no tickets for you. Just like there are local blackout restrictions for television, teams should be able to implement targeted non-local blackout restrictions on ticket sales.

Major League Baseball would never allow it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a brilliant idea. Wonderful thinking, Brett.

Via Balls, Sticks, & Stuff

This should’ve happened six months ago.

I’ll have more to say on today’s announcement that Sirius and XM intend to merge after I hear the details from tomorrow’s webcast. For now, I want to express how thrilled I am at this possibility. As a Sirius customer, I love the idea of getting Howard Stern and Major League Baseball on the same service. As an investor, I like the possibility of reduced total expenses. But mostly, it’s about Howard Stern and the Phillies.

Yes, I know this has almost no chance of passing through the FCC. Give me one night of joyous anticipation.