That was fun. WOW!

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer throws during the first inning of a baseball game with the San Diego Padres, Saturday, June 5, 2010, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

The partial season ticket plan really brought us to a great game, one that we might not have even gone to for the threats of heat and humidity.  We had run the 8k Moorestown earlier in the morning, which was amazing fun, but also exhausting.  To saddle up and get to the Bank seemed like a lot of work.  But I’m glad we made the effort – that was a whale of a job by Moyer!  A complete-game win backed by an offensive performance we, the like of which we haven;t seen for a little while.

And we’re off….!

I take a few days off and the next thing you know, I’ve got about three hundred unread items in Google Reader.  Some of these items are from that haul and some of them have whiskers on them (meaning older than three days) and some of this isn’t related to anything at all.

Now I’m going back to sitting on my ass for one more day, getting ready to listen to the Eagles (vs. Dallas) on the radio and walking my big puppy in the sub-zero wind chills.

I’m feeling surprisingly level-headed about the Phillies’ Roy Halladay deal


Am I sad to see Cliff Lee go?  Of course.  Despite a slight dip in his performance at the end of the regular season, he was standing tall once the playoffs began, and I found his attitude to be about pitch-perfect for this town.  Not a diva, not a headcase, just a guy.  So, of course, I would have wanted him to stay on the team, but, in the bigger picture, it didn’t make sense and Amaro made the right call.

The talk was that Lee had always wanted take his shot at free agency.  I don’t know much about the guy’s background, but he just doesn’t seem like he got into this game, when he was a youngster, just for the money.  When it became clear that he could pitch at a very high level and even win a Cy Young, I’m sure he realized that this was a moment where he could take care of his family for the rest of his life, no matter what .  All he has to do is be smart and seize the moment.

And Lee has already won in the playoffs.  He doesn’t have a World Series ring, but he’s clearly ready to sacrifice that in order to get financial security for himself and his family.  Which means the Phillies HAVE to move Lee now.  There is no chance that they can pay him after next year, and pay Hamels and pay Howard, and pay Werth, and pay Victorino and pay Utley, etc.  You keep Lee, you commit to breaking up the team.  I want to win next year, but I don’t want to break up the team.

Which brings us to Halladay.  This guy wants to win so much I can taste it.  And he’s already proven that he’s an ace – not a good pitcher, not a serviceable pitcher – an ACE.  Hallady knows that he will never win as a Blue Jay, simply because of the Yankees and the Red Sox.  For the duration of Halladay’s career, those other two teams will always be better and the Jays will never never never make the postseason.

So, Halladay will come here with such a fervent desire to win that he will take LESS money than he can get elsewhere.  That’s pretty much an offer that Amaro can not refuse.

And for those who want to see Cole Hamels shipped out of town, I can only say this:  I would not feel comfortable with the Phillies moving Hamels anywhere closer than Japan.  Even in the American League, I have no doubt that trading Hamels would come back to haunt us somehow, and, if he were to end up in the National League, you could count on him skinning us alive a few times per year.  I don’t know if he can get his shit together, but I know that he can’t have the opportunity to do it elsewhere because he’s too damn good.

The Enigma


Sports Talk radio will kill you – it will kill everyone.  It has the power to draw a person in with the promise of entertaining moments – SHARED – in-between these meaningless contests of athletic nonsense.  When we ignore everything that is truly connected to human suffering and decency, then we have this opportunity to live in a fantasy land.  As unhealthy as that sounds, the fucked-up unreality is validated by every person in the stands, every family worshiping at the altar of their flat screen TV and every knuckledhead who roams the streets, banging pots and pans, when it all goes right.

Seen in these human terms, what Cliff Lee did for the Phillies and the phaithful in game one of the 2009 World Series, was a gift.  An entire region was transported out of the muck and filth of their mundane and existence as we were told, by no less authority than Joe Buck, how great this representative of our town was.  He was magical.  He was un-hittable.  He made defensive plays in the field that looked other-worldly, bizarre.  And we all got to bask in his reflected glory.

But the true magic of baseball is that it just goes on and on and on and on.  This is often cited as a criticism – “the games are too long, the season is too long, there’s no action, it’s so boring!”  These critics miss the point entirely.  That reflective pace, all that navel gazing, that’s what’s so special.  The invisible game that is played between a hitter and a batter IS the action – and it is all unseen.

And, while there is a full line-up of batters to address, there is only one pitcher.  Yes, of course, there are relievers and closers and long men and even janitors on mop-up-duty, but when we get to THIS moment, where the two best teams face each other, it is the starting pitcher who must rise up and perform.  Cliff Lee’s effort from Wednesday night is a perfect example.

A lot could be said about the hard-luck start that Pedro Martinez mustered last night in game two.  Sports talk radio today has been overrun with opinions about manager Charlie Manuel leaving Pedro in too long and that being the key to the Phillies undoing.  I don’t agree.  Pedro is not a Philadelphian, any more than Cliff Lee is.  The time these men have spent playing in the red pinstripes in negligible.  And Pedro is such a natural at inviting the big moment to come to him.  He will go right into the Hall of Fame and he will forever be remembered as one of the greatest to ever climb the mound.  So, when he said to his manager, “don’t take me out yet, I’m OK,” I understand why that manager, who has made so many right moves this year, decided to let Pedro bring the moment to him, perhaps for the last time.  It did not work out, but the series rolls on (and on and on…)

Cole Hamels has piercing blue eyes.  He is left handed, which gives him a natural advantage as a pitcher.  He has the raw talent to be unhittable, and showed that in his post-season performances last year.  But, for those of us who are bored and foolish enough to listen to sports talk radio (from both the Philadelphia and New York ends of the dial), the story of Hamels is that he is vulnerable, that he is not the same, and that he can be beaten silly by the Yankees lineup.

And while we wait for the game to start, that story is repeated and shared over and over again in this echo chamber of sports fandom.  What does Hamels think?  What does he know of all this nonsense?  Does he listen to the stories?  Does he hear sport talk radio?  Does it motivate him?  Is more pressure better or worse?  No one knows.

Just like no one knows why this year he was not as successful as last.  Was it because he became a huge celebrity?  Is he preoccupied with his newborn child?  Is his public profile to visible?  No one knows.

And, ultimately, it doesn’t matter.  In the same way that the joys of a baseball season are fleeting and ephemeral, the attempts to unlocks doors that won’t open are perfectly pointless.  One way or the other, Hamels will take the mound for the Phillies on Saturday night and, for that blissful few hours, sports talk radio won’t matter.  Hopefully, Hamels will just settle into the same kind of brisk rhythm that was so successful for fellow lefty Cliff Lee.  Get the ball, throw the ball.  Get the ball, throw the ball.  Gert the ball, throw the ball.  On and on and on.

Baseball = love


This is why we love the game.  This is why we put up with the frustration and the grind and the years of futility when things don’t go our way.  This is why Harry Kalas said, in his Hall of  Fame induction speech, that, “no matter how long you’ve been in [the game], you learn more about it every year, every day. Every year I see things on the field that I’ve never seen before.”  This is why generation after generation can sit in a crowded park next to tens of thousand of strangers and have the time of their life just watching men stand around and think for three hours.  This is why it’s a chess match and this is why the Phillies have the heart of a champion.

This morning, everyone is at a loss for words and we haven’t even won anything yet.  This series will go on and may even go back to Los Angeles.  But today, none of that matters.

Go read about it at The Fightins, Beerleaguer, The Phrontiersman and The Walkoff Walk.  Soak it up on Twitter and Facebook with the 700Level.  See what they’re saying at We Should Be GMs.  Last night was a special night, and whether you were watching on TV, listening to the radio or lucky enough to be in the stands, that was a Phillies game that will live on in history forever.

Today everyone will try to explain the inexplicable.  They will try with words to describe something that cannot be described.  The emotions run high and we all want to share in this in some way, because that makes something good feel so much better.  I think I know a word that describes this phenomena pretty well:


Two vintage-style items

The first of these is Phillies related and comes courtesy the superior TheFightins website.  This video shows you the power of J-Roll, that vintage look and the immortal John Facenda:

Vintage JROLL from Alexander F Newton on Vimeo.

The other item comes from io9, and is simply a collection of highly stylized sci-fi movie posters that have almost a Soviet-era design, look and feel to them.  You know all the movies, but you haven’t seen posters like this before.  the look actually reminds me of some of the amazing design items at iso50.

Click here for the ultra-coolness.

Owning Brad Lidge


In 2005 Brad Lidge had 42 saves in the regular season, that’s one more than he had in the magical run that lead him to his first and only World Series ring last year.  In 2005, Lidge also had more strikeouts (103 vs 92) and fewer walks (23 vs. 35) compared to 2008.  By all accounts, Brad Lidge had a pretty good season in 2005.  He wasn’t perfect (4 blown saves) but he was a lot better than solid.  He was the kind of closer that gives confidence to every other member of the team.  The kind of closer that makes the other team think that, if they’re down (even by one run) in the 9th inning, they can not win.

But now, there is only one pitch for which Brad Lidge will be remembered in 2005, only one at-bat that matters.  Because on a warm October night in Houston, at the end of game 5 of the NLCS, Albert Pujols owned Brad Lidge.

That probably should have been the end of the story.  I certainly thought I would never here from Lidge again.

And then he ended up in Philadelphia.

Baseball is unrelenting.  Baseball goes on forever.  In Baseball, the ‘modern’ era includes things that happened a hundred years ago.  So first Lidge should have been done-in by Pujols’ gargantuan 3-run shot in 2005.  But that wasn’t the end.  Then I would have expected him to gently ride off into the sunset, perhaps fading to age or injury, after the electric perfection he conjured in 2008.  But that was not the end.

Like Baseball itself, the story goes on and on.

And now, in Philadelphia and Colorado, the next chapter will be written.  Lidge was not just good last year – he was perfect.  Every time he tried to get a save – he saved it.  Every time the team was leading at the end of the game and he was on the mound, his team won.  No closer has ever performed better in a single season for the Phillies.  Not.  Ever.

And what has happened in the recently completed 2009 season?  The one in which the Phillies return to the playoffs as division champs for the third year in a row?  The season when four members of the Phillies everyday lineup have thirty or more homeruns?

Brad Lidge has turned in the worst performance by any relief pitcher on any team in baseball this year.  He is, statistically, Baseball’s worst relief pitcher.

We are well beyond any worthwhile investigation into why this is the case.  The only relevant statement is that he is not injured.  Which means that the cause of his dizzying, dazzling fall from perfection is a true mystery, especially to Lidge himself.  Anyone who says they know what’s going on is wrong.  The nature of closing baseball games is such that these horrors happen.

So, really, the only question is, “What do we do now?”

In mere hours, the playoff rosters will have to be set, and while skipper Charlie Manuel is mulling some players on the bubble, one of them is not Brad Lidge.  He will be on the team, not necessarily because he has earned it with his performance this season, but because he is still better than Escalona and other truly marginal major leaguers.

And he won’t be on the roster to play shortstop.  Or even come in for the 6th or 7th inning.  There is only one thing that Lidge is here to do, arguably only one thing that he is prepared and able to do – close games.  Will he be able to flip a switch and feed off the intensity of a playoff situation?  Not likely.  Not when he’s been so off all year.

But there is no solution or alternative.  And this is not assured failure, not with home-field advantage in the first round and an offense that can produce runs in bunches.  Even if that solid fastball (thrown for a strike) and that magical, disappearing slider don’t come back in full force, Lidge will still be able to get batters out.  And he has the confidence and love of his manager – that’s a factor that may not fix the problem, but it can only help.

And we Phillies fans will bite our nails and sit on the edge of our seats and try to remember that Lidge was successful during 74% of his save attempts (I would have been happy with a 74 for some of my first-year law school classes).

But, as we get ready to go into the playoffs, this is where we live.  Because, in a very different way from Albert Pujols on that night four years ago, we all own Brad Lidge.

Status post travels with Lucy


I’m too tired to be transferring pictures to Flickr right now, but we just got back from a whirlwind tour of north Jersey with Lucy, the slow footed, slow witted Basset Hound.  Now, as calm and easy going as the saintly Lucy may be, she does not travel well.  In fact, in the four years she has lived with us, she has nevr gone for a car ride and NOT thrown up.  But, this weekend, all of that changed.

We had the pleasure of visiting our new friends who live near Summit, NJ.  They are big time dog people and invited us to bring Lucy for an overnight.  It went great!  The dogs got along, Lucy didn’t puke, and Em and I had a huge time.  Katie and Kieth are about the nicest hosts you could have and it was really cool to see a part of my beloved NJ that I hadn’t explored before.  We all met in Ashland, MA at a couples cancer retreat in May, and it was great to reconnect.  We even got to make an impromptu visit to Citi Field, where the Phillies trounced the Mets – Sorry Kieth!

Now I am tired and full of homemade pierogies we got at the farmer’s market in Summit this morning.  We did get to hear Eric Bruntlett’s unassisted, game winning, bottom-of-the-ninth triple play on the radio as we drove home.  And even with all the yelling and screaming, Lucy still didn’t yack.  Good girl!