April 7, 2016

Today's Ballgame as Told in Play Baseball Facebook Stickers

Facebook stickers by Charles Orr. Mental anguish by Josh McDonnell.

Why even check a box score? The Phillies are now 0-3 after today's 10-6 loss to the Reds, but hey, let's look on the bright side. A win's bound to come up soon. That's just, like, the rules of math.

March 3, 2015

Let the Grapefruit games begin!

Wondering what those Phillies have been up to? This morning I paid a visit to some old friends that I hadn't seen in a while, the parts of the internet that still care about the well-being of this city's baseball team - you know, because they're paid to. Between headlines that were all like "Chase is totally fine! Don't even worry about it!" was one that read "Amaro's nephew helps University of Tampa beat Phillies". That's right. A team of fresh-faced college boys led by a young Amaro from Bensalem beat the 2015 Phillies. 

My thoughts raced as I clicked from sad news story to sad news story. How is the Amaro bloodline responsible for exhibition losses that even today's Phillies, predicted to be the worst in baseball, are supposed to win? Hold up, Baseball Prospectus. Even worse than the stinkin' Astros? I read that some dude that calls himself Mattress Mack lost 4-million furniture store bucks in a bet last year when the Astros won a rare "more than 63 games".

Is this what we've become? I bet if J-Roll was still here with his crystal ball and cool ego, he'd be all like, "We'll win 80 games. Well, maybe 75." Wait, what's that, ESPN? After spending years, antagonizing New York Mets fans with his swagger, Jimmy was recently caught saying that a future with the Muts would be "pretty bright". Well, he always did look good in shades.

Back to the Phillies. Things start in the Grapefruit League today against the Yankees. In reality, spring training doesn't matter too much. The Phillies are probably delaying what baseball statisticians and fans alike see as the inevitable. I'm just happy that baseball is being played, and as people say, anything can happen. A chain-smoking Tony Danza once brought the Anaheim Angels a pennant title, and the University of Tampa beat a major-league ball club just two days ago.

The future of the Phillies may not be as bright as J-Roll's, but I'm doing my best to get through my baseball seasonal affective disorder through some good old-fashioned writing about my feelings. I implore you all to do the same to get through this winter of bleak predictions. Until then, I apologize for not having posted since Cliff Lee's arm thawed out last year and leave you with an Instagram photo I took at the ballpark this summer, appropriately hashtagged #philliesneorealism:

Now, let's root, root, root for the Phillies and that Mattress Mack makes a bet against our future sometime soon. 

March 31, 2014

Death to Winter! Long Live Baseball!

What a long, strange break it's been. Polar vortex after polar vortex after polar vortex. Even when you looked to baseball for refuge from your winter malaise, the Phillies were plagued by infectious diseases and bad vibes. Luckily, Freddy Galvis is recovering from that MRSA infection and the Phillies haven't traded the untradable J-Roll just yet. But seriously, folks, it's been terrible. Some "I Love the Phillies" page on Facebook has been trying to sell me a "This Team Makes Me Drink" tee for weeks because, "it's easier to get through some innings with a cold beverage or 2... or 12!"

Let's take a step back from the past few months, ignore that Cliff Lee couldn't fire a hot dog gun last week, and crank up the Ted Nugent. Seriously, do it. It helps.

What's that? The clouds have parted. The sun is shining. The Phanatic's pelvic thrusting on top of the Rangers' dugout. Clifton Phifer Lee is running in slow motion toward the mound. Franzke and LA are providing background to your daily life again.

Baseball's back. There's even a lineup to prove it.

February 25, 2014

Baseball and Tastykake: All the Good Things Wrapped up in One

Tastykake, of course we didn't forget! How could we? In honor of your 100th birthday, we thought we'd take it back to a simpler time for Phillies fans, a time when the team showed promise and the city spent its nights singing Frank Stallone tunes around burning trashcans. It's better to live in an idealized past than eat your weight in Butterscotch Krimpets while worrying about the future.

In the 1970s, home run hitters were fueled by Jelly Krimpets...

Pennants were raised by Kandy Kake gnomes...

Women played baseball...

...and the only Hall of Fame that mattered was one that everyone agreed on.

From the inside pages of old Phillies yearbooks and our hearts to yours!

Happy birthday, Tastykake!

January 8, 2014

Broadcast News: Wheels Rollin' on out, Sarge to Hang up Hat

Longtime Phillies broadcaster Chris Wheeler is officially leaving the booth after nearly four decades according to the AP. Sarge will also be hanging up one of his many hats as the Phillies color analyst. We'll always have the memories - like that time maracas were more exciting than a Marlins game or Chase Utley called Wheels "Muff". Oh, and of course:

Phillies fans have been tuning out the television broadcasters in favor of the radio guys for years. There's even a movement to get Franzke and LA on the boob tube. I don't know about you, but I can't picture either hamming it up with Gregg Murphy reporting from no man's land or Captain Obvious, T-Mac. Plus, Todd Zolecki's reporting that they're staying put on the AM/FM waves.

Who will replace Wheels and Sarge? Will they bring in a woman? Will she know her stuff? What will happen to the Sarge Said What? Twitter account? Tune in this season to find out, or just keep the radio on.

January 6, 2014

That Old Time Philadelphia Feeling

While the debate rages on as to whether today is "the most depressing day of the year", it certainly feels like it. I'm probably as bummed and irritable as those old dudes that pregamed Saturday's Eagles loss in a hot tub with a bottle of Wild Turkey - you know, the season finale that made Nick Foles and an entire city yelp, "I'm hurting inside right now in my heart".

That Philadelphia feeling. It's so familiar.

If I'm lucky, I won't have to drain a hot tub full of tears and broken dreams later tonight. Hell, on the other hand, is set to freeze over as tomorrow's low temperatures may break some records. This is Philadelphia though, so why not root, root, root for the cold and bank on the opposite happening?

Bill Veeck once said that, "There are only two seasons - winter and baseball." Maybe that's a good thing in light of 2013 for the Phillies. Everyone needs time to recover and get back on track, next season's team of grumpy old men included. As for me, I've been looking to baseball past and trying not to take things too seriously in the new year.

Enter Curt Schilling of the 1989 Orioles/the Christmas gift that keeps on giving:

Let's look at the line: 9.82 ERA, 15 IP, 16 ER, 10 BB, 4 K, 1 CS (Curt Stache)

Things didn't turn out so bad for Schill. He eventually traded in the stache for a mullet and a place in Philadelphia's hearts. He led the Phillies to upset the Braves in the '93 NLCS, earned himself Most Valuable Player honors, and prevented heartbreak for one more day by tossing a five-hit shutout in Game 5 of the World Series against Toronto. He even won three World Series on some other teams as an old man years later.

A lot of us may be hurting inside right now in our hearts because we'll be forced to contemplate the future of the Phillies soon. Perhaps the best way to pregame the 2014 season is drunk in a hot tub. I'm sure that's how the '93 Phillies would do it. Plus, it's not actually sad until the game's over.

October 9, 2013

Raise the Jolly Roger!

We interrupt your regularly scheduled baseball-less October in Philadelphia to bring you a brief history of the Jolly Roger. No, not the Jolly Rogers, the midwest's favorite pirate-themed Renaissance folk group with such hits as "Beer, Beer, Beer" and "Your Pirate Dad" (though I'm sure most Yinzers and Pittsburgh dads would be into them). The Jolly Roger! That flag Buccos fans raise with a can of IC Light after every win.

While the origins of the term "Jolly Roger" have been lost or are still just hiding from Wikipedia under an X somewhere, two possible explanations are given. The first is that pirates originally used a red flag called "Joli Rouge", meaning "pretty red" in French, but the term was corrupted by English speakers into its more fun form. Another possibility, more in line with the whole skull and crossbones thing, suggests that Jolly Roger comes from the term"Old Roger" for the Devil and probably "pirate flag". According to some old text, "It had in it the Portraiture of Death, with an Hour-Glass in one Hand, and a Dart in the other, striking into a Heart, and three Drops of Blood delineated as falling from it. This Flag they called Old Roger, and us'd to say, They would live and die under it."

As for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have impressively died under it in the regular season for over two decades, the origins of the team's catchphrase "Raise the Jolly Roger!" are less elusive thanks to the aptly titled Pirates blog, Raise the Jolly Roger. Play-by-play announcer, Greg Brown started saying it after Bob Walk told him he needed a good call in the rare chance the Pirates did something great. Brown said that he wanted to party like it was 1909, the year Pittsburgh won its first World Series, "I told him I didn’t want anything silly or meaningless and that maybe if it involved something related to 'Pirates' that I’d consider it."

The result of Greg Brown's serious desire to celebrate like a pirate: the wonderful "Raise the Jolly Roger!" as well as "Clear the deck, cannonball coming!" every time a Pirate smacks one into the river. (BTW, a big "Cheers to you, matey!" to Pedro Alvarez for breaking up Monday's no-no with that 428-foot cannonball.)
Thanks to to Cutch and the gang finally bringing the Pirates over .500 and into the postseason, "Raise the Jolly Roger!" has really taken off. The Buccos started raising an actual Jolly Roger after every win. The dad rock group, Johnny Angel and the Halos, released a "Raise the Jolly Roger!" song. Even Alex Trebek has been in the know!

Maybe all this pirate-themed excitement is due to the fact that Pittsburgh got to raise the Jolly Roger a rare 97 times this year or that this video plays on the Jumbotron before each home game. Either way, thinking the pirate life's for Scoring Position this October has been a lot more fun than whining about the recent Phillies and hating on squirrels. After all, the Buccos are underdogs with a similarly rich history of being losers. Plus, it's really fun to shout "It's grilled cheese time!" whenever Jason Grilli comes in to close.

Only time will tell if the Buccos will get to raise that Jolly Roger once more in a sea of Cardinal red or if they'll be drowning their postseason sorrows in beer, beer, beer.

September 11, 2013

Dog Days of Baseball

Typical Muts fan
The Phillies hosted their first ever Bark in the Park last night. While I'm not opposed to combining great things like baseball and pooches, the fact that the 66-78 Phillies, 15.5 games back in the Wild Card, now host the promotional bring your dog to the ballpark event seems suggestive of something greater - you know, that we're officially a bad team that fewer fans want to watch implode. How long until they're giving out tickets on packets of hot dogs?

You could have come to the groundbreaking realization that the 2013 Phillies are terrible by tuning in to the 8-2 loss to the Padres, most games played in the past two years, or angry WIP callers, but some of us prefer to live in a cloud of hope. I'm just thankful that there are K-9 specific areas at CBP.  Really terrible teams like the Marlins let 'em roam around the entire place, which I imagine is fun to watch given the dancing marlins on that neon fountain in the outfield. High hopes! Phillies fans should also find solace in things not being as bad as the minors. Camden Riversharks games are often reduced to people chanting "Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!" at opposing batters since strikeouts equal free slices at select locations of some pizza shop in Jersey. Be happy that we're not there yet. High hopes!

Even with the new awesome opportunity to be covered in dogs at Phillies games this year, the boys in red pinstripes have been Ruf to watch (to make the same joke that Gregg Murphy has been waiting his entire life to make). Still, bigger questions for the future remain. Where do the Phillies go from here? Is it nowhere but up? Are there more promotional events in our future? Is this the beginning or end of the dog days of Phillies baseball?

Looking up "dog days", the phrase dates back to the ancient Romans and according to some old book, was believed to be an evil time in which "the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies."

I hear that.

May 20, 2013

May the 19th

"May 19th! I'm tellin' you! May 19th!"

The soothsayer to my left shouted reassuringly in the bottom of the eighth. Arms raised toward the heavens, he told all of Section 113 within earshot, "May 19th is one of the most important days in Philadelphia's history! I was born 49 years ago today! The Flyers won the Stanley Cup in '74! Now the Phillies will come back in improbable fashion! May 19th! May 19th!"

Were these high hopes communicated through the spirit of Harry Kalas or too many birthday beers?

It seemed so improbable! Down 0-2, the game had moved at a doodle-ice-cream-cones-into-the-boxes-of-your-scorecard pace. Dubious skies loomed overheard all afternoon while the Phillies played under the lights. Some crazy guy accosted me in the City Hall tunnel to the Broad Street line on the way to the game, howling, "THE PHILLIES SUCK!!! PHILLIES FANS ARE HORRIBLE!!! AARRRGGGGGHHHH!!! THE PHILLIES ARE THE WORST FRANCHISE!!! THE WORST FRANCHISE EVER!!!"

The juju seemed all fucked up, but was it? Of course it wasn't! Some dude was born in Philadelphia 49 years ago! May 19th! May 19th!

Chase Utley smacked a two-out single to score Ben Revere and bring the Phillies within one in the bottom of the eighth. Double high fives all around! The relief provided actual relief, and then when the going got weird, the pros turned weirder.

Cliff Lee made an awful base-running error in the bottom of the ninth but wore an awesome t-shirt after the game, so whatever. Then it was Holy Kratz with the game-tying (could have been game-winning) solo blast! Turkey bacon for everyone! Our section started chanting "May 19th! May 19th!" and Little Freddy Galvis smashed another solo shot that fell just inside the left field pole. Un-friggin'-believable!

I've spent all day trying to comprehend yesterday's events. Why did Cliff Lee do that? How many times have seven and eight hole hitters gone back-to-back with solo shots for a walk-off win? Who would have predicted that Erick Kratz and Freddy Galvis would be the ones to do it? Against "fire-throwing Aroldis Chapman"?

I still can't wrap my head around it, but two things are clear. Baseball's great, and I'm glad that some rally-cap wearing middle-aged dude was born.

May 17, 2013

Ryan Howard: I Love You/I Hate You

Ryan Howard, I'll never get over you. It was a chug a tear salted Kenzinger and storm out of the bar type of breakup. Real ugly. The following months were spent off the grid, terrified of running into anything that might remind me of that season-ending moment. And just when I thought I was done caring after a year and a half of cursing your at bats, you did something wonderful that made me forget about all the bad times and think, "Now that is the Ryan Howard I fell in love with!"

Of course I'm talking about that extra innings hit last Sunday against the D-Bags that led the Phillies to a 4-2 win and an astounding 18-21 record. Look out, NL East! And I wasn't the only one swooning. Check out the post-game recap:
It didn’t matter that Howard had been hitless in his previous 18 at-bats, striking out in half of those. No matter that he was facing a pitcher who hadn’t given up a run all season, either. With the game on the line, few players are better than the Phillies’ bashing first baseman.
That seventh inning tie-breaking hit that led to a sweep of the Muts two weeks ago wasn't too shabby either. Still, great Howard moments are often overlooked in the minds of Phils fans because they remain embedded in this context of polarizing plate behavior. For every clutch "get me to the plate, boys" moment, there's a third swing and a miss that feels like heartbreak. For every grand salami, a golden sombrero. It's what makes it all too easy for Phils fans to love or hate the Big Piece. It's also what gives lovers and haters alike the awful feeling of being stood up for a date whenever Howard doesn't come through.

Okay, okay. I just have a lot of feelings. But even though Howard's had his ups and downs, when he's good, he's good. This one's for you, big guy:

Oh, I was out without a doubt, oh, I was out...