Archive for January, 2008

2008 Promotions: Dollar Dogs, Disco, Dreidels

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Tue, January 22, 2008 11:45 AM Comments: 8

The Phillies have announced their giveaway and celebration days for 2008.

Dates to remember:

March 31 vs Washington – Opening day. Phillies will raise the NL East Champion banner and fans will get replicas. I just love saying that first part.

April 2 vs Washington – Opening night. Maroon old-school shirts with “Opening Night 2008″ emblazoned on the back. Methinks this will be the hot shirt for 2008. Also, yes, one of the best nights ever, a Dollar Dog Night.

Other Dollar Dog Nights:
April 15 (Tues.)
April 29 (Tues.)
May 13 (Tues.)
May 26 (Mon.)
June 3 (Tues.)
Aug. 19 (Tues.)
Sept. 9 (Tues.)

April 3 vs. Washington – First showing of pinstripe-less alternate uniform (against a team with almost the same kind of uniform).

April 30 vs. San Diego – Jamie Moyer bobblehead day. Awesome.

May 3 vs San Francisco – Chase Utley life-size growth chart. If you go, steal one of these for children 14-and-under and give it to your girlfriend, I promise you she’ll make it worth your while.

May 16 vs Toronto – Irish celebration. If you go, wear a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” pin and walk around Ashburn Alley all night, I promise you your girlfriend will break up with you.

May 18 vs Toronto – Phanatic’s birthday. Always a good day at the park.

June 1 vs Florida – “Father’s Day” game. Take dad.

June 4 vs Cincinnati – Boast to Reds fans about how Jimmy Rollins is better than Barry Larkin as you hold up your Rollins MVP bobblehead.

July 9 vs St. Louis and July 11 vs Arizona – Fireworks nights.

July 12 vs Arizona – Italian celebration. Wear a tight T-shirt, spike your hair and tan yourself before going. Also, make stupid gestures. Just kidding, Italians.

July 13 vs Arizona – Shane Victorino “Flyin’ Hawaiian” Figurine. Back by popular demand, Vic’s getting Run No. 2 as a Bobblehip . Hopefully he nails another game-winner.

Aug. 5 vs Florida – Ladies Night. I hear they’ll install a pole in left field for Burrell to get the mood started. I’m already getting a bunch of guys together so we can go and hit on chicks.

Aug. 22 vs Dodgers – 1970s Retro Night. I cannot wait.

They’re also throwing in a Jewish Heritage night to go along with the Irish, Itaian and Hispanic nights. I hope Mike Lieberthal returns for that one. Mark down your calendars, fans, which games are you heading to?


Odds And Ends: Jan. 20

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sun, January 20, 2008 07:07 PM Comments: 5

Some odds and ends for this cold weekend:

  • The Phillies had four arbitration cases and quickly settled on two: Brad Lidge agreed to a $6.35MM season, and Ryan Madson inked a $1.4MM deal for the year.

The other two without contracts: Ryan Howard and Eric Bruntlett. Obviously the big story here is Bruntlett, who hasn’t yet agreed on the Phils’ offer of $550K while asking for $800K himself. I really think Bruntlett is worth about $600K, so I’m with the Phillies on this one.

Okay, seriously, Howard is asking for $10MM while the Phillies are offering $7MM. The largest arbitration deal ever was for Alfonso Soriano ($10M), so Howard is obviously looking for the best. Last year he matched the record for one-year deals for non-arbitration-eligible players (Pujols, $900K). This year he looks to match Soriano. Logically, if he matched his 2006 output (an MVP, 50+ HR, a .300+ AVG), he deserves to match the record. He didn’t. Close, but he didn’t. That said, Howard should get about $8MM in 2008, a little above the Phils’ conservative-as-usual deal, but much less than what the big man wants. Truth is — he needs another year to prove himself worthy of the bucks.

Kendrick said he is “not worried about” a sophomore jinx after a rookie season where he went 10-4 with a 3.87 ERA. The jinx may be due to hitters figuring out Kendrick and defenses collapsing on him. Kendrick relied heavily on his defense in 2007, which means it’s very possible the 23-year-old could go 2-5 with a 5.88 ERA before being called down to AAA Lehigh Valley. That said, Kendrick seems unflappable enough, and while he may not match the 3.87, he should stay above the Minors in 2008.

Chris Coste also took queries at the pre-Carnival stop. He said he’s glad control of his fate seems more in his grasp this year. Last year he was pushed back to the Minors after the Phils signed Rod Barajas. Coste should be Carlos Ruiz’s backup in 2008 while also grabbing some pinch hitting spots. But make no mistake, with Jason Jaramillo waiting in the wings , Coste is very much close to being the team’s 25th man.

Yes, John Kruk. The John Kruk. I’m hoping for some air time with brother-by-another-mother Carl. Kruk will fit right at home in the South Jersey-set cartoon farce.

  • Doug Glanville took pen to paper for the New York Times this week, writing an intriguing Op-Ed piece about the victim of illegal substances — purity.

He voiced how baseball needs to run into this new era full steam, scared straight, to recover the damage done. What Glanville said has been repeated numerous times by other reporters and columnists; that said, it was refreshing to see an actual player who was entrenched in the game during the Steroid Era discuss those things. And of all ballplayers, I’m glad it was Glanville — an articulate, Ivy-bred man with a strong sense of both place and history. Between this piece and his managing at the Sporting News ‘ fake 1986 league, I hope Glanville looks to be finding his way into a new career in baseball. He’d be a welcome addition to any front office or bench.

I’ll definitely be taking the voyage to D.C. over Labor Day, so join us there. I want to head to Clearwater for Spring Training, but I don’t know if it’s in the cards. Same with Denver. But don’t you be halted by my inability to party. Get on board — it’s going to be an awesome year for us.


Phillies Road Trips 2008

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, January 17, 2008 10:03 AM Comments: 6

Listen up Phillies fans because we are planning at least three awesome road trips this year to see the Phils play.

Phillies Spring Training Trip

First up is the annual pilgrimage to Clearwater. Phillies Nation and friends will be down this year over St. Patrick’s Day weekend (March 14th-18th). During this stretch we will be partying inside and out of Bright House Networks Field for two games: Saturday, the 15th versus Minnesota and Monday the 17th versus Cleveland. If you’ve never been to Spring Training (or can’t stay away), this is the weekend to go. It’s a wonderful mixture of Spring Training, Spring Break, St. Patty’s Day, and March Madness all in comfortable 85-degree weather.

Phillies in Denver

The next event follows soon after Opening Day and will take place at the home of a new Phillies rival, Denver. We’ll be flying out to Colorado to see the Phils take on the Rockies on April 21st and 22nd – the only games the Phillies will play at Coors Field this year. It’s a bit of a hike from the East Coast but it’s certainly worth getting a peak at one of the stadiums Citizen’s Bank Park was modeled after. Plus, we all hate the Rockies for how they manhandled the Phils last October.

Bus Trip to DC

Finally, due to the success of our last trip to DC (pictures) as well as the completion of the new Nationals Park, we will be loading up the bus and heading down to our nation’s capital once again. This season the Phillies play all weekday games when visiting the Nationals, fortunately one of them is on Monday, September 1st, also known as Labor Day. So it’s hard to imagine a better way to spend the day off work than at a 3:05 game in the new DC ballpark. I’ve been monitoring its progress down along the soon-to-be-gentrified Anacostia Waterfront and it’s looking good – a DC favorite, Ben’s Chili Bowl, as been added to the ballpark concessions. So, save the date now and more details will follow.

If you are interested in going to any of these events – particularly the Bus Trip – leave a message or send us an email.


Lieber Signs With Cubs

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Wed, January 16, 2008 12:00 PM Comments: 5

The Cubs signed Jon Lieber to a one-year deal today, putting him in their running for fifth starter.

Why the Phillies didn’t approach him to re-sign for a year is beyond me, but maybe they didn’t want injuries to creep back into the picture, and maybe the price is steep. I’ll update with more information and a short retrospective on Lieber later today.

Update: The deal is worth $3.5MM for one year.

Lieber went 3-6 with a 4.73 ERA in limited action between rotation and bullpen last season. He spent three years with the Phils — the life of his contract.

When he signed with the Phillies in December 2004, he was set to make $21MM over three seasons, just below the Adam Eaton deal. Lieber’s track record, however, was much more impressive than Eaton’s — he went 20-6 with a 3.80 ERA in a Top-5 Cy Young year in 2001, and for the majority of his career, was slightly better than average.

Lieber was acquired to be a frontline starter. I remember back in 2004 outlining my prospective Phils roster for the 2005 team. Scouring the free agent list, I noticed Lieber and thought “this is a guy the Phillies would take a chance with” — he had a few good seasons and was coming off a bad injury (he had Tommy John surgery in 2002). To me, Lieber would fit the No. 3 role after a poised Brett Myers and either Randy Wolf or a re-signed Eric Milton.

Instead, Lieber was tapped to be opening day 2005 starter, and while he had a good season (17-13, 4.20 ERA), he wasn’t a No. 1 and probably not a No. 2.

Lieber’s time in Philadelphia was filled with some good, consistent stretches, but overall, he was seen as a waste of dollars — a guy who didn’t quite give what we hoped. I don’t blame Lieber — the contract was substantial, No. 2-quality at its time. He never delivered, because really, he never exhibited a consistency of delivering at that level.

The best aspect of Lieber’s game was control. Overall, he walked a little more than a batter per game, including an astounding 24 walks in 2006. But good control without great stuff means easy hits for batters, and Lieber was always one to give up his share of hits — 510 in 76 games.

But he was consistent. When he won, he won a bunch in a row. When he lost, he lost a bunch in a row. You knew what you were getting almost every time Lieber pitched, just by seeing what he did five days before. In the end, his consistency came to a halt with a foot injury last season.

When looking at the free agent class of 2004, Lieber was actually one of the better pitchers signed. Since the Phils weren’t in the bidding for Pedro Martinez or Roger Clemens, Lieber really was the best available pitcher looking back (though Paul Byrd also had a good three seasons since). The bottom line, however, is Lieber wasn’t worth the $21MM for three years — the kind of money you’d more likely give to a No. 2 starter, at least in 2004. Lieber received jeers because he didn’t quite live up to his contract, but looking at Lieber’s career, how could you expect that?

His best days are likely behind him — maybe in Chicago he’ll redeem himself a bit, putting together a nice string or two for the Central-contending Cubs. A 9-7, 4.80 ERA season isn’t out of the question. It’s out of the question for the Phillies, which probably is for the best.


Braves Beat Writer: Phils Will Challenge Favorite Braves

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Mon, January 14, 2008 07:38 PM Comments: 0

Mark Bowman, beat writer at Braves.com, answered some questions as part of his newest mailbag. The first question addressed the Braves biggest challenge in the NL East, and it was an interesting answer:

“This once again appears to be a three-horse race, with the Mets only currently being listed to satisfy those looking to bet a trifecta. Of course, if New York general manager Omar Minaya is able to bring Johan Santana to Queens, prognosticators will have a much tougher time projecting the clear-cut kings of the NL East.”

Wow. Big words. Remember, many of us Mets and Phillies fans think Santana would make the Mets a clear-cut favorite in the division.

“As the rosters currently stand, I’d say the Phillies appear to be Atlanta’s greatest threat. They have the talent to repeat as division champs this year even if they don’t get another assist from the Mets, whose concerns center around their rotation and not how they’ll rebound from last year’s September collapse.”

I would think the Mets will address their rotation, whether it’s through Santana or at least a No. 4 (Lohse possibly), and rebounding from the collapse isn’t as monumental a problem as most would think. It’s a new season — if anything, the Mets are more aware of the problems that caused their slide.

“The Phillies might regret the acquisition of Brad Lidge during some ninth innings in the band box that they call home. But even if a change of scenery isn’t enough to end the mental woes the once-dominant closer battled in Houston, his arrival in Philadelphia has at least allowed Brett Myers to return to the rotation, and that should be considered a good thing in the City of Brotherly Love.

“With Myers and ace Cole Hamels, arguably the NL’s best young left-hander, the front of the Philadelphia rotation is solid. But it’s certainly not better than the one-two punch Atlanta has with John Smoltz and Tim Hudson. And it definitely would again have to take a back seat if Santana is paired with Pedro Martinez, who will remain at least effective as long as his once-prized right arm stays attached to his surgically-repaired shoulder.”

Statistics say Hamels/Myers is inferior to Smoltz/Hudson, but I’d much rather go into 2008 with the Phillies pair than the Braves duo. Hamels has learned how to pitch in the “band box,” while Myers also knows his way around and has solid starting numbers. And they’re much younger and less injury prone (though Hamels is debatable at times). If the Mets grab Santana, yes, the Mets would have the best rotation in the East.

“Each of these teams have solid offenses and the race should be determined by rotation depth. With Hudson and Smoltz, the Braves appear to have the best thoroughbred duo and thus I’ll peg them as the favorites. But when it comes to the NL East this year, the only sure lock is that the Marlins will finish last.”

Interesting. Of course, he is the Braves.com beat writer, so I guess it’s not out of his league to be biased somewhat. Still, a 1-2 punch does not a division winner make, so thems is fightin’ words from the Braves beat man. And, you know, you can’t just mark the Marlins as the basement dwellers in the East. Remember, whenever the Marlins cut the payroll, they make a giant push. If I’m Mark Bowman, I’d watch what I say.


Marketing The 2008 Phillies

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sun, January 13, 2008 11:28 PM Comments: 3

Former Phillies bench outfielder Ruben Amaro fielded a chat Friday with team employees — err, fans — via the Internet.  Here are three of my favorite nuggets:

Q:  Are there any plans to get a left-handed bench option for when Dobbs and Jenkins are starting?
Amaro:  One option that is currently on our roster is Chris Snelling.  While he’s battled his share of injuries in the past, he can flat out hit.

Malcolm:  Chris Snelling – MLB – 221 AB / 6 HR / 19 RBI / .240 AVG / .357 OBP / .380 SLG

I wouldn’t say he can “flat out hit.”  In fact, some of his career totals match up well with … uhh … Rubern Amaro Jr.

Q:  Any interest in taking a chance on Bartolo Colon?
Amaro:  That would be unlikely.  We have concerns about his overall health.

Malcolm:  Hey Ruben, question from January 2007 — any interest in taking a chance on Freddy Garcia?

Q:  How does the Phils’ starting rotation stack up against the NL East?
Amaro:  With all due respect to John Smoltz and Tim Hudson, I would take Cole Hamels and Brett Myers at the top of a rotation over any others in our division.

Malcolm:  And with all due respect to Kyle Kendrick, Jamie Moyer and Adam Eaton:  Crap.

This Amaro chat leads me to a subject I hold dearly:  Marketing.  I hold it dearly because marketing says a lot about how one runs an organization.  It’s incredibly important.  The Amaro chat, in a way, was a method of marketing:  Get a figurehead out there to speak about the organization in a casual manner.  Of course, Amaro spouts out a couple Microsoft Word-quality cut-and-paste phrases, but the goal is to reach out to the fans, mainly, us fans, the ones who know how to use computers.

Sadly, the Phillies market mainly to the rest of their fanbase — the families, the older people.  As a result, the Phillies have always been seen as — well — corny.

For one, the Phils weekly magazine is “Phillies Clubhouse.”  It sounds too cutesy.  And most of the show’s feature pieces are feel-good schlock about the team in the community or some stupid interview where answers are painfully obvious.  There’s probably just a little too much emphasis on the Phanatic, though he is the best mascot in sports.  The “college nights” and Thursday night “club” events at the park are watered down.  Even the Phillies broadcast song sounds like it’s a Wiggles B-side.  It’s all too cute.

In fact, I normally receive snickers from co-workers, friends, etc., upon telling them for whom I pledge my allegiance.  It’s not because the Phils are perennial also-rans, but more because the team image is safe.  And that’s true:  Look at the front office.  We complain about the conservative moves being made this offseason; well, it’s an organizational thing.  This is a conservative franchise.

Living in Connecticut, I get a fair share of Yankees and Red Sox exposure.  Like them or not, these are the class teams of baseball.  And they each play marketing strongly:

The Yankees bathe in their tradition.  “Yankeeography,” an hour-long bio show on Yankee greats, spotlights everyone from Babe Ruth to Bill Dickey.  “Yankees Classics” runs the gamut from Jeter’s heroic games to Thurman Munson’s big performances.  Outside of television, the Yankees never have a slogan.  They’re above slogans.  Instead, they parade their World Championships and unifying spirit.  They parade their legends.  They have old-timers day and, really, every other day at Yankee Stadium is there to honor someone.  The fans eat it up, because it makes them feel honored that they’ve been rooting on the best of the best since birth.

The Red Sox amp up their current product with edginess.  Who has the gall to run with “Red Sox Nation” and make it a nationally known term?  Merchandise sales are ridiculous, but it’s because they’re not afraid to run out there with green shirts or pink shirts on a Sunday.  They involve women by playing up their “hunky” players (Lowell, Ellsbury, Pedroia).  Their TV coverage includes “Red Sox Classics,” which does the same as “Yankees Classics.”  Their Red Sox magazine show is fun, but not the corny fun of “Phillies Clubhouse.”  Features are a bit edgier, intriguing.  Even the theme music for Red Sox broadcasts is a rock song.  They make their young fans tough and proud.

Now, the Yanks have a full-service TV station at their use, and the Sox aren’t second fiddle in their home city.  But the Phillies can do a few things to improve their marketing image:

1.  Revamp the TV magazine show.  At least give it a new name.

2.  Create a “Phillies Classics” show.  There’s a wealth of material, and there’s a TV station that can reserve a weekly spot for it.

3.  Pump 2008 up as the year the Phils are going to win the World Series.  Even if they can’t grab anyone else between now and April, tell the city, the state, the world that the Phillies expect to go the distance.  Give the fans a reason to be excited without banking on Utley’s good looks, Rollins’ promises and Howard’s bat.  The front office needs to do something.  “Goosebumps” was a nice slogan, but it says nothing about how the team expects to perform.  The Phillies shouldn’t be afraid to tell people that they’re contenders.

The 2008 Phillies marketing campaign will begin soon.  Will there be a slogan, and what would yours be?  I’d go with ” ’08 … Or Else” or maybe “No Excuses” or “This Year … The World” or “You Will Celebrate.”  Something definite, something ballsy.

How would you market the Phillies in 2008?


Mets Gain On Santana; Don’t Worry (Yet)

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Thu, January 10, 2008 07:44 PM Comments: 14

The Mets are inching closer to securing Johan Santana in a trade.

While you may be panicking, Phillies fan, let’s give you some peace of mind. Remember, as much as Mets fans don’t want you to think so, we are the best team in the East until someone unseats us.

I scanned Johan Santana’s numbers to find some interesting things:

Some Phillies fans are worried that Santana will murder our left-handed-heavy lineup. But I present this statistic:

  • Santana vs RHP: .220 AVG/.276 OBP/.365 SLG
    Santana vs LHP: .223 AVG/.283 OBP/.371 SLG

Looks like lefties hit Santana better than righties. Advantage: Phillies.

Some will point to Santana’s 1.93 ERA against the Phillies, but I’ll point to this:

  • Against the Phillies: 4.2 IP, 0-0, 6 BB, 102 OPS+

Against the patient Phils lineup, Santana could be in for a world of trouble. Advantage: Phillies.

Also, Santana has never pitched at Citizens Bank Park. Be prepared, Johan, it ain’t no pic-a-nic.

Finally, the Phils play the Mets six times in April, then seven times in July:

  • Santana in April: 9-7 / 4.23 ERA / 122 OPS+
    Santana in July: 15-9 / 3.67 ERA / 104 OPS+

Okay, I’m obviously fishing for poor numbers in his resume (and even these numbers aren’t that poor, and some are extremely small samples), but, here’s the honest truth: If the Mets add Santana, the division isn’t necessarily theirs. In fact, the Mets, in my opinion, have a far inferior offense to the Phillies, while the addition of Santana will probably give the Mets a slight edge in rotation.

What this means most of all, however, is the Phils must answer. They don’t need to break the bank for an Erik Bedard, but they need to find a stable rotation piece and a stable back-end bullpen piece. If they do that, the Mets’ addition of Santana won’t make the Mets the better team.


A Look At The Patchwork Pitching Staff

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Mon, January 07, 2008 11:52 PM Comments: 12

I have the unfortunate job of informing you, the Phillies fan, that there’s a good chance your 2008 Phillies will show up at Citizens Bank Park to play the Washington Nationals March 31 with … with … Shane Youman.

Or someone like that.

It seems the Phils have a hard time getting to a good 25-man roster. Last year, they had about 21 of 25. This year, it’s probably more like … well, it’s 21 again.

Here is the heavy 21 (if they all make it out alive): Ruiz, Coste, Howard, Utley, Dobbs, Helms, Rollins, Bruntlett, Burrell, Victorino, Jenkins, Werth, Taguchi, Hamels, Myers, Kendrick, Moyer, Lidge, Gordon, Romero, Madson.

That means four spots are up for grabs, and look — all the spots are pitching spots! How not obvious! Of course, these spots could be filled some other way between now and March 31, but for the sake of prediction, I’m going to run through the candidates for the final four right now. All these pitchers are going to Spring Training:

Joe Bisenius: The 25-year-old righty reliever walked two and gave up two hits with the Phillies in 2007. He also struck out three. He struggled in Ottawa, but seems ripe for the MLB call. I’d take my chances on him as a 6th inning guy, easing him into the ‘pen rotation if he succeeds.

Travis Blackley: At 25, the Rule V pick will either get on the club or leave the organization. Plus, he’d have to stay on board all year if the Phils would want to keep him. The Phils don’t necessarily need a left-handed starter, so he would need a lights-out Clearwater stint to even be considered.

Carlos Carrasco: The No. 1 prospect projects somewhere between a No. 2 and 3 starter, but don’t expect him to be that guy in March. He struggled a little when joining Reading, so a few more games in AA won’t hurt. I’d like to see him in limited September action in Philadelphia, ready for a call-up around mid-2009.

Fabio Castro: The young lefty was fast-tracked to the Majors, and 2007 showed to be a result of that fast-tracking, as he stumbled a bit. He’s a hell of a strikeout pitcher (32 K in 44 MLB innings, better in the Minors), so he should have an inside track at the LOOGY spot. With a strong spring, I wouldn’t mind seeing him there in April.

Ron Chiavacci: The career Minor Leaguer was impressive in AAA Toledo last year (12-6, 3.39 ERA, 126 K), but at 30, he would need a hell of a Spring to be considered the fifth starter over the Major League vet Adam Eaton. He could slip on the club as the mop-up reliever, and in that race, he should be considered a top challenger.

Clay Condrey: He isn’t a bad mop-up guy, but then again, mop-up guys are supposed to be kind of bad, and to be “not bad” at it isn’t quite cutting it overall, now is it? Last year he was a frequent flier on Air Canada, notching 27 innings for Philly and Ottawa and putting up a 5.00+ ERA with the big club. I’d like a new direction at mop-up man, but consider Condrey the slight favorite, as he’s the incumbent.

Vic Darensbourg: Who now? Picture Condrey, but five years older. Darensbourg was good with Toledo last year (6-2, 1.72 ERA, 42 K), but how good can a career frequent flier be at 37? He could prove valuable as a left-handed alternative to Condrey, but as Vic is a non-roster invitee, I can’t picture the Vic-House in pinstripes to start the year.

Chad Durbin: Making his Major League debut in 1998, Durbin isn’t a stranger to this game. He’s spent every year since then on a Major League 25-man roster at some point; last year, he spent the whole year with Detroit, notching a 4.72 ERA. That makes him the fifth best pitcher on the 2007 Phillies (I didn’t research that, but I bet I’m really close). He’ll be Eaton’s main competition, and could easily grab the mop-up role if Eaton is healthy and good enough to go. I’d pencil him onto my roster.

JD Durbin: If this guy can start 10 games for the division champion Phillies, anything is possible. Durbin is an outside candidate for the mop-up role, as his 5.15 ERA and relatively cheap price will make him a tough draw for fifth starter. At 26, he’s still just young enough to spend the beginning of the year in Allentown without denting his growth. Of course, he may be finished growing. I say he spends the majority of 2008 as an Iron Pig.

Adam Eaton: Because he’s worth $8MM next year, Eaton is the favorite for fifth starter. He’ll likely have a spot on the big club — if he’s healthy. As of right now, nobody’s sure. He’ll need to show he’s healthy both physically and mentally to prove he’s worth the ball every five days. If he’s the least bit unhealthy, I DL the guy until he’s ready.

John Ennis: Colorado-born John Wayne Ennis (yes, that’s right) had a small light and sweet with the Phils last year, and if we’re lucky, that’s what he won’t have this year. He pitched well last year in Ottawa, but that’s where he fits — Ennis seems destined to be a career AAA starter. He’s just not good enough; I’d rather have Condrey or Darensbourg, to be honest.

Anderson Garcia: The other Andy Garcia, at 27, is a lot like Ennis, although his numbers in AAA are worse. This makes Garcia an unattractive option for the March 31 opener. Let’s move on.

JA Happ: With one rough breaking-in start against the Mets under his belt, Happ remains the prospect closest to smelling Big League grass for good. But with his latest injury concerns and spotty play in AAA, I can’t see Happ as completely ready to start the year with the Phillies. He’s joining Jason Jaramillo and Bisenius in Rookie Development Camp, so that’s a small sign he’s on the short list of guys jumping up immediately. I’d like to see him, with success, joining the club as a trial mop-up guy in May or June.

Lincoln Holdzkom: The former Red Sox prospect was gobbled up by the Phils in the Rule V, and while he has more promise than Blackley, it would a stretch to assume he’ll be on the big-league roster all season, avoiding release. Can you stash a guy like Holdzkom as the 25th man? Only if he’s worthy of being the sixth inning guy; he’ll compete heavy with Bisenius.

Gary Knotts: Only some past Major League experience and a strong 21 innings in Reading last year has him in Spring Training this year. To me, he’s one of the last guys to be considered for an open spot.

Scott Mathieson: A real wild card, Mathieson has recovered from Tommy John surgery and is considered a favorite for one of the final four spots. I agree, and I think he should be given the best chance to play sixth inning guy. The 24-year-old has been talked about as a closer candidate; while I don’t know if he has closer stuff, he’s definitely a possibility to become the everyday setup man by August (I forsee another Gordon breakdown).

Just check out these numbers from his 2006 stint with the Phils (37.1 IP):

1st PA against batter: 75 PA, .238 AVG, .283 OBP, .286 SLG, 14 K

2nd PA against batter: 70 PA, .377 AVG, .441 OBP, .754 SLG, 11 K

What a difference, huh? Mathieson seems poised to be a top-of-the-line setup guy, and in 2008, the role of Madson’s doppleganger will work just fine.

Brian Mazone: The former Independent League star has made a nice transition to the Minors (and Japan), but at 31, can he sustain a role in the Majors? As nice as his story could be, I can’t see him up with the big club, especially as a non-roster invitee.

Joshua Outman: One of the club’s top prospects, Outman is right below Happ in the organizational depth chart, since he’s without the Major League experience. The 23-year-old is really in the same boat as Carrasco, having some transition troubles in Reading. He’s been talked about as a possibility for Allentown to start 2008, but I’d almost rather see him start a few games in AA before moving up. A September call-up for good is possible, as well, but for the opening day roster, he’s not quite ready yet.

Francisco Rosario: Though I’m not a fan of his mugshot, he wasn’t totally bad last year. An 8.54 K/9 is good, though his 5.47 ERA isn’t. The righty should be battling with Bisenius and Mathieson for a spot, but he’s fighting a tough battle.

Joe Savery: The first-round pick from last year isn’t ready for a stint in the majors; his time in Clearwater is merely for some tuning. Expect him at the earliest in mid-2009.

Shane Youman: Sub-par Shane. He had a good season with Pittsburgh in 2006, then stumbled last year without a clear-cut role. He’ll be tried out as a LOOGY with the Phillies, challenging Castro and Zagurski. He may be the early favorite because of his veteran status. I’d be careful.

Mike Zagurski: He munched through the Minors last year, and though that might seem impressive, he’s 25 this year, which puts him closer to being a has-been. Castro may have the upper end because of his potential, but if Zagurski can keep his hit totals down in the Spring, he could win out for the LOOGY job.

So if everyone performs at the same level during the Spring, let’s say (which will never happen, but we need a variable), who are the four that win my spots?

Fifth starter
1. Adam Eaton. If — and only if — he’s healthy.
2. Chad Durbin.
3. JD Durbin.

Mop-up reliever
1. Chad Durbin. He could prove to be good in spot starts.
2. Clay Condrey.
3. Ron Chiavacci.

Right-handed sixth inning option
1. Scott Mathieson. Set-up man of the future.
2. Joe Bisenius.
3. Francisco Rosario.

Left-handed one-out guy
1. Fabio Castro. Has potential to be a good set-up man.
2. Mike Zagurski.
3. Shane Youman.

Hamels/Myers/Kendrick/Moyer/Eaton … Lidge/Gordon/Romero/Madson/Mathieson/Castro/Durbin. Is this a good group? You be the judge.


BBC Interview

Posted by Brian Michael, Sun, January 06, 2008 06:32 PM Comments: 0

BBC Interview


The Top-20 Moments In Phillie Phandom: 1-5

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sun, January 06, 2008 04:24 AM Comments: 6

As we reach the end of 2007, I thought it would be nice to look back at the year that was, and what made me, you, and everyone in Phillies Nation … well … love the Phillies.

Let’s put it simply: There were a slew of amazing moments. From the NL East clincher to every late-inning rally and last-at-bat win, the Phillies were maybe the most exciting team in baseball in 2007. Hopefully, you’ll have as much fun and enjoyment looking back, reading these snippets, as I did writing them.

5. August 5: The Miracle at Miller

You don’t know when comebacks are going to happen. Most times you hope it happens, but it just doesn’t. Past Phillies teams would be predictable at this game: They’d be down two, maybe three into the ninth and start a rally. But, as if it were fate, the Phils wouldn’t come through in the end, and the loss would be the score.

Not the 2007 version.

These Phillies came back more than any team in baseball. The biggest comeback of them all? How about when their backs seemed completely pinned to the wall in Milwaukee.

The game was predictable enough as it was. Adam Eaton started, and of course, they were down 4-0 after one frame. Once Eaton gave up another two in the fifth, his day was done, and it was up to the bullpen to at least keep the Brewers at six runs. Well, Clay Condrey and Geoff Geary did that job. The offense, however, couldn’t get back against the expensive Jeff Suppan. Only an Aaron Rowand single put the Phils on the board. It was 6-1 going into the ninth.


Wes Helms starts off against Matt Wise, and grounds one back to him. Wise can’t hang on to it, and Helms makes it safely. Well, that’s cool. Man on first.

Then steps Jasyon Werth, the inexplicably above average Jasyon Werth. After two pitches, he smacks one to left field that … hey … it got over the fence. Alright. Well, it’s 6-3. At least they’re making the Brewers bring in Francisco Cordero. That’s cool.

Cordero enters, and the best closer in the National League faces off with Chris Coste. Well, very quickly, Coste pops up to second, and pinch hitter Carlos Ruiz lines one to right field. So two outs. Good game, Phils, good try.

Jimmy Rollins — who else? — has to keep the game alive against Cordero, and on four pitches, works the walk. Heh, well, they’d need at least another guy on to tie it. Rolins steals second on indifference. Not a big deal. Then, oh, Tadahito Iguchi slices one through the hole for a base knock. Rollins can’t get home. Well, here we go then, the tying run is up. Now … NOW it’s time for the Phils to be predictable.

Oh look, Burrell is the tying run. Here comes a strikeout. Wait. Ball. Oh. Ball. Suddenly, Burrell is taking a walk. Okay. That’s bases juiced. Okay, HERE comes the end of the game.

Up steps Ryan Howard. Okay, strikeout. No, no, he’s hit! He hit him! Wow. It’s 6-4 now.

Now it’s Aaron Rowand. Okay, NOW they lose it. Right? He hits it, grounder to third … that’s gotta be … oh man! It got through! One scores! Are you kidding! Roberson scores! We tied it! We tied it! Holy crap, we tied it!

Luckily Helms wasn’t in the position to tie it, because he flied out to end the inning (despite being very close to a home run).

But Helms would get his. With two on and two out in the 11th, after stalwart performances by the bullpen, Helms struck one to right field, falling shallow and going back for a double. Two scored. The Phils had an amazing 8-6 lead.

And of all people … of all people … Jose Mesa shut the door for the save (not before loading the bases, of course).

While many Philadelphians ended their viewing of the game early because of Eaton’s performance and a perfect summer weekend day, the Phils gave the stragglers something to remember. It was, really, the beginning of the Phils stretch run. Not too long later, they’d walk over the Mets in a four-game sweep, and not long after that, they’d win the East. So go back, recall that fine ninth inning, and remember, sometimes, these comebacks happen. You just never know when.

4. July 8: Destiny is a rainstorm.

The Phillies began the year 4-11, and didn’t reach .500 until May 16. They didn’t climb from .500 for good until July 21. But somewhere in between, their season turned a corner. It was the moment the Phillies not only began playing better, but became one of baseball’s coolest teams — a group of guys everyone and anyone could get behind no matter what. It was the day the Phillies became a real team.

Cliché? Hackneyed? Maybe, but come on, you didn’t feel it?

The Phillies were playing the Rockies in Coors Field, with both teams straddling .500. (Honestly, who could’ve imagined this matchup would repeat itself in October?) It was a pretty boring game, with Eaton giving up four early runs (what else was new?) and the Phils climbing back thanks to the big boys (Utley single, Howard single, Rollins single, Burrell home run — all RBI hits). With a treacherous rainstorm coming toward Coors Field, the teams tried to finish as much of the tie game as possible. Luckily, the MVP (again) came through.

After two-out singles by Barajas and Eaton (seriously?), Rollins drilled a liner to center, scoring Barajas on a bad throw. Eaton, meanwhile, got out of the sixth with the lead, and it was 5-4 Phillies.

Then, it hit.

The rain came, and the tarp came out. After what seemed like a flawless placement, the wind kicked up and blew the tarp out of control. Fans screamed as groundscrew members went with the tarp, sliding across the grass and hanging on for dear life. Remember, the stadium is high in the mountains — the wind is a bitch.

What seemed like a lost battle became a shocking moment when, from the dugout, came every single Phillie. They hustled onto the field, grabbing an end of the tarp, and began securing it and straightening out the situation. Crew members regained themselves and got their bearings. And the fans in Coors Field cheered wildly. Unselfishly, the Phillies players were risking injury to help the groundscrew nail down the turf.

Victorino was the star, running like a chicken with his head cut off and sliding around to help the crew. Abe Nunez was seen shotputing a sandbag. Utley and Co. were giving their all to the tarp while slowly and surely, the beast was being tamed. Soon, the tarp covered the entire infield, the Phillies were retreating back to the clubhouse and the fans were giving the visiting team a standing ovation. Yes, the visiting team.

The actions were replayed on ESPN, Comcast SportsNet, everywhere. The Phils were the toast of the sports world — for once, unselfish actions trumped the Barry Bonds’ and Michael Vicks. For once, good guys were doing good. And for the rest of the 2007 season, they were good guys. Despite the bullpen meltdowns and tough losses, you couldn’t root against these guys. It wasn’t right. Utley and Co. are great guys. It’s a fact. Being a Phillies fan today is amazing, because these guys are just fun, good guys. We have no LoDucas or A-Rods to root for. We got good guys.

And good guys do win. That day changed the season forever. The play was inspired. The words were truth. The actions were fierce. And the Phillies — the good guys — wouldn’t be denied.

3. July 25: When no one thought it was possible …

You’ve been there.

It’s the ninth inning, and your team is down to the very last out, hell, the very last strike. And only some miracle will get your team the tie. So you wish for some hit, maybe a home run, maybe something else — a triple, whatever. Maybe some play that happens once every three or four years. Anything.

This night, Jimmy Rollins made sure the miracle would come.

The MVP made so many amazing moments during the 2007 season. But you can argue this was his greatest.

Let’s set it up. The Phillies were beating the Nationals 4-2. Cole Hamels had pitched seven strong innings, striking out six and giving his bullpen a chance to close it out. Ryan Madson held it. Antonio Alfonseca didn’t. A double off makeshift closer El Pulpo, and another off lefty Mike Zagurski made it 5-4 Nationals. It happened that quickly. The final two outs of the ninth occurred quickly, but the fans were depressed. Personally, following the game on MLB Gameday Audio, I wanted to throw something into the computer screen. Why the hell did this always happen?

Chad Cordero entered the game for Washington, seemingly the easy choice to end the game and send everyone home upset. As was the norm. It started that way. Carlos Ruiz flied one lazily to right field. Pinch hitter Greg Dobbs grounded one to shortstop for out number two. Ho freakin’ hum. Thanks a lot, Alfonseca.

Then, like so many times, Rollins came up with the game on the line.

After a few pitches, he saw one he could hit. He roped it into left field. It looked good, but became playable. Then, it happened.

No one could hang on.

The ball squibbed between the Washington outfielders and tracked to the fence. Rollins saw it all the way. He was at second. He decided to go for three.

The throw came to cut-off man Jose Batista. Rollins was reaching third when he looked out … and … Batista … couldn’t … quite … hang … on!

Rollins, so aware, so freakin’ aware, sped up again and took to home. Oh my God! Batista’s throw came in …. SAFE! TIE GAME!

It happened. That play that never happens. That play every fan dreams of. It happened.

That’s why Jimmy Rollins won the MVP award.

It almost seemed inevitable at that point. They had to win this game. But when? Tom Gordon closed out an inning. Clay Condrey did his job. In fact, he lasted three innings and did a yeoman’s job in long relief. In the 12th inning, fans all thought the game would end, with Utley and Howard coming to the plate. No dice. But they would end it, we all knew that.

In the 14th inning, our wish came true. Utley drew a leadoff walk, bringing Howard to the plate.

It was a foregone conclusion.

“Long drive!”

Game over.

Not only did Rollins make the impossible play, but Howard put the nail in the coffin. And on that bench, feet from Howard’s game-winning blast, Rollins had this to tell the camera: “Dat’s how you win!”

If you’re the 2007 Phillies, that is how you win.

2. August 30: Beat the Mets! Step right up and beat the Mets!

Of all the Phillies/Mets contests in 2007, August 30 takes the cake. In fact, of all baseball games in 2007, August 30 may be the best of them all. Two heated rivals face off — a game the Phillies could take and consequently sweep the Mets out of Citizens Bank Park. It was unthinkable at the time.

I mean, with a series rotation of Adam Eaton/Jamie Moyer/Kyle Kendrick/Kyle Lohse, do you expect to sweep the Mets?! There was no way. In fact, I pondered if it was likely the Phils could take two in the set. But all four? Wow. It just shows how much passion this group of guys had.

Lohse started the game against Orlando Hernandez, and neither man could get out of the fourth inning. The Phils struck first, as Howard smashed a two-run dinger off El Duque. Then Burrell lined a shot toward the Phillie Phanatic’s nose (homers are all he does against the Mets), before Rowand hit a solo shot of his own. Boom. 5-0 Phils.

That wouldn’t last.

A troublesome fourth inning made it 5-3 Phils, and Lohse had been pulled for Geary. He was no better, giving up two runs to the Mets and tying the score at fives.

In the fifth, the pinstripes would answer. A Howard single and Werth walk set up back-to-back-to-back singles by Ruiz, Victorino and Rollins. Suddenly, the Phils were up 8-5 and seemingly in good position to win. But of course, the bullpen wasn’t finished with its work.

In the eighth inning, with the Phils still holding the 8-5 lead, good ol’ Alfonseca came in to bridge the win to Gordon. Bad move. With two men on, Marlon Anderson struck a double, then Endy Chavez singled home two. 9-8 Mets. An RBI groundout by Carlos Delgado made it 10-8, and the Phils were practically cooked.

But if there’s one thing we learned about the Mets in 2007, it’s that — okay, if there are two things we learned, it’s that:

A: Billy Wagner shouldn’t get two-inning save opportunities.
B: The Mets are chokers.

Willie Randolph tried to get Wagner the two-inning save, but with one out in the eighth, well, the Met killer made his mark yet again:

“Did he do it again … yes he did … outta here!”

Burrell’s perfect swing connected with the Wagner fastball, and it was 10-9. Okay. Here we go.

In the ninth, with the Phils still down one, the setup was priceless.

Werth led off with a single, and with one out, Iguchi pinch hit for Nunez. Werth, straddling off the bag at first, noticed something interesting: Wagner didn’t give a crap about him. “Alright then,” Werth said, and he was off for second, getting in without care. Then he got up, saw Wagner wasn’t looking at him again … so … off he went again. And he slid in safe! Man on third and one out!

Iguchi, of course, came through. Werth scored, and the Phils had tied it at 10. Unbelievable.

But the best was yet to come. With Rollins at the plate, Iguchi noticed the same thing Werth saw: Wagner still didn’t care! Are you kidding?! So Iguchi went, and … he was in! That opened first, and Rollins was put on intentionally. Yeah, for Chase Utley. Great idea.

Utley worked Wagner with a classic at bat. After taking and fouling, Utley was able to work the count full. He waited for his pitch …

Then, it came in, inner-half, down the pipe …

“Line drive … hit to right field!”

Iguchi got a bad start.

“The throw to the plate …”

He slides.

The ball bounces.



“Phils win 11 to 10!”

Insanity at the Vault. Burrell jumps the pile. The Phils sweep the Mets, and do so with the most aggressive baseball seen in Philadelphia in years. There’s no one hero; everyone does their part. Wagner’s the goat. How freakin’ sweet it is.

I followed the entire game while at work. I cheered when the Phils grabbed the lead and went into my 4:00 news meeting with the Phils up 8-5. I came out and almost cried, seeing the Phils were now down 10-8. But in my office, as I tried to work, I followed. Play after play, I became more intrigued, more excited, until, finally, Utley delivered.

I ran outside. Called each and every one of my four brothers. And I screamed.

“I love this God damn team! I freakin’ love these guys!”

The intensity and passion displayed that day on the field may not be topped for a long time. It was the day the Phillies transcended anything else in Philadelphia and became THE team to watch. How could you not root for Werth stealing two bases in a row? Or Iguchi following suit? Or Rollins? Or Burrell pounding Wagner? Or Utley? These guys are absolutely worthy of our adulation, and this day showed it in spades.

1. September 30: Victory

September 29, for me, wasn’t the day. I woke in my Connecticut apartment and drove to the train station to pick up my younger brother. We were going to see Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan that night. Before, however, there was a little Phillies game — the possible division clincher against the Nationals. But it wasn’t happening — it just wasn’t the day.

We arrived at a New London, Conn., bar a moment before the 3:30 p.m, start time, imploring the bartender to flip to the Phils game, though we were the only Phillies fans there. My brother, only 18, wasn’t allowed to sit at the bar and watch, so we sat far away from the TV, watching the game like Shane Victorino watches Cole Hamels. It wasn’t right It just wasn’t the day.

But we watched, hoping the Phils would win and maybe the Mets would lose later that night. But Adam Eaton was on the hill, and his final opportunity of redemption was lost in the disruptive shadows of Citizens Bank Park. Once the Nats jumped on him, it was over. The shadows made it too difficult for the Phillies to pull it out. No home run would even spark a rally. It just wasn’t the day.

The next morning, ears still ringing from a fantastic concert, my brother and I awoke to settle in for the Mets/Marlins game. This time we were inches in front of the TV, as I was able to watch the Mets broadcast on the CW. My laptop, which had given me audio after audio of every Phillies game that season, was at my side, ready to broadcast Game No. 162. A beer in my hand, some takeout pizza for lunch. My brother and I were ready. This was the day.

If there was any sliver of a doubt it wouldn’t be the day, the Marlins made sure to erase it. After the Mets stoked a mini brawl with the Fish, anger settled in. The Marlins wanted to win. Tom Glavine stepped in for the Mets, and became just a hard victim of the Marlins’ will. Single after single, doubles and hit batsmen piled up, and after every big hit, the score climbed. Our emotions grew wilder and more emphatic with each new number on the run total.

Meanwhile, fans — buzzing because of the possibilities — settled into their seats at Citizens Bank Park. They watched Phillies’ pitcher Jamie Moyer warm up, and then, it happened.


The scoreboard was lit and sparked an eruption of joy in every fan at the park. Could this be the day? Could this really be the day? Was that scoreboard lying? Is this true? Could this be the day?

Moyer extinguished one National, then another, then another, and just as quickly, the Phils were at bat. Jimmy Rollins, maybe one, two hits away from securing his MVP, stepped in and bounced one through the hole in right field. Then, he swiped second. Then, he took third. The crowd couldn’t stop buzzing. Chase Utley, with one out, poked a fluttering fly into right field, and though it was caught on a line, Rollins was off. The throw didn’t matter — Rollins wasn’t going to be denied. 1-0 Phillies. Still 7-0 Marlins. And at that moment, the realization was already setting: The Phillies were going to win the division.

The game wasn’t going to end with heroics. It wasn’t going to extra innings. No, this game was a celebration — a celebration of bold moves (Myers to the bullpen), huge signings (JC Romero, Jayson Werth) and incredible singular seasons (Ryan Howard, Rollins). Most of all, it was a celebration of being a Phillies fan — living a life tortured and downtrodden, but grasping the sweet flower of ultimate victory, if only for one gloriously sunny day.

Moyer kept the Nationals at bay while the Marlins made sure the Mets weren’t close to a comeback. While I chewed my nails in nervousness and questioned every moment I was at the train station, waiting for my brother’s train to Philadelphia, some fans at the park were reveling with Moyer’s every out, counting the outs until the division was theirs. Some of us chose to spend this glorious day in different ways.

Back home, I tuned into the Mets game, seeing the game was out of reach for the New York nine. And my laptop told me the Phils were holding a 3-2 lead with JC Romero finishing off a Nationals attempted rally with a huge double play ball. With that one hurdle to clear, it seemed fair to say the day was ours.

That’s when it happened. Chris Coste singled, and one out later, Rollins came back to the dish. He had already scored another run — sliding from third base to the dugout off a Howard bloop single. Now he was taking care of his business.

Back in January, Rollins uttered those potentially damning words: “On paper, I think we’re finally the team to beat.” What a stir it caused. But Rollins wouldn’t back down. Even after a sloppy error in an April Shea game that made fans laugh and squeal. Even after injuries to Howard, Utley, Gordon, Myers, Lieber, Garcia, Hamels, Victorino, Bourn. Even after Eaton and Helms completely blew up. Even after the 10,000th loss, which could’ve defined the season as one of stupid minituae. Even after the bullpen blew almost every lead, big or small, it could grasp for most of the season. Even after all that, he was standing at the plate, a man on first, the Phillies with a one-run lead in the sixth inning of the season’s last game, tied for first place in the division.

So he struck one.

It sailed into right field, and for a moment, the fans leaped for a potential home run. But no, he wasn’t doing that. Not this season. Not with the rare 20-20-20-20 season at his fingertips. The ball bounced off the wall, came off the wall and bounced into Austin Kearns’ glove. Rollins was digging at second. Coste had scored. Who cares. Then, in one of life’s great little moments, the production room switched to the centerfield camera, which had its lens on the dugout, particularly, Pat Burrell and Aaron Rowand.

There really hadn’t been a season where Burrell wasn’t a marked man. The first pick in the 1996 draft was automatically given Ashburn-like status upon his arrival to Philadelphia. And a few 30 HR, .260, 98 RBI seasons later, the fans responded as if he was Steve Jeltz. Broken promises. Overhyped mush. A club kid. A momma’s boy. A thin-skinned bum. He swung too often, and when he didn’t, he looked too long at the down-the-pipe fastball. What a crock.

They tried trading him in 2006, and in 2007 — they being the fans. He’ll go to Baltimore, right? He’ll go to Anaheim maybe, right? But he wasn’t budging. Ed Wade’s no-trade clause on his Schmidt-like contract made him a 2-ton boulder. Sorry, Philadelphia, Patty boy wasn’t moving away. No matter how much you hate that .260, no matter how much you can’t stand that flailing orchestra swing, he wasn’t moving away.

But the second half of 2007 was different — maybe because he left all his usual offensive output for that second half. After a dismal, Jeltz-like first half, he bashed the ball in July, August and September. Literally, he may have been the best player in Major League Baseball down the stretch. And with every big knock (many against the hated Mets), with every aching catch (despite his injury-plagued body), the fans responded. Like he was Ashburn. He fought threw the pain, found his stroke, and most of all, somehow, became a leader. He greeted his teammates with joy, raised his hat high and said all the right words. He even praised those who hated him, Phillies fans, and multiple times toward the end of the season. He respected them. He wanted to play hard for them.

So, when Rollins was gunning for third base, the camera, entrenched on Burrell and Rowand, captured Aaron hitting Pat on the shoulder and directing him to the speeding shortstop. Burrell glanced with shock, awe, excitement. “Jimmy Rollins is gonna try for three!” And the once-hated Burrell was suddenly a child, a full-blown, ecstatic Phillies fan. He was like all of us.

The throw came in, but of course, it wasn’t in time. Rollins slid in safely, raised his arms in adulation and with his dutiful jaw, peered to the sky for thanks. The crowd was electric. Rollins had done it. He had secured the MVP season, secured his promise, secured the division.

As if the celebration needed another big moment, Howard secured it with a bomb to right field. It was the capper, the final blow, the last laugh. The fans just screamed for its flight as the big man trotted home.

And in New York, the game was slowly dying. Mets fans cried, many left, and by the ninth, Shea Stadium was a ghost town. Some miles away in Philadelphia, Citizens Bank Park was an orgy of celebration. For the first time ever. Brett Myers came into the game to finish it off. And after Myers threw one pitch, the crowd blew the roof off again — the Mets game had ended. It was 6-2 Phillies. It was in the books. The game was over. The division was theirs.

Myers struck out the first batter. Then he engaged a fly ball to left for the second out. Then stepped Pena, the final small barrier between the Phillies and their first division title in 14 years. One strike. Two strikes. Ball. A small chuckle escaped, just to lighten the buzz for a small moment. Oh, don’t tease us.

Then Myers was quickly ready, looked in, got his sign from Chris Coste and delivered:

“Curve ball, struck him out! Phillies are the 2007 National League Eastern Division champions!”

Coste popped up and starts running happily to Myers. And Myers, the opening day starter, threw his arms up in the gayest of celebrations (literally and figuratively). Coste came closer, and closer, but then, out from nowhere, Burrell — of course — jumped onto Myers, starting the pile. And the biggest celebration in Philadelphia in years began.

And I was screaming like a girl, crying to my brother who was on the train back to Philadelphia. I had announced the final inning to him as it happened. Then I called my dad, cried to him and laughed, and cried and laughed. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. And of course, the Phillies didn’t beat the Rockies in the Division Series. Well, okay, that’s for this year. In 2007, however, the one thing that mattered most was this game, this moment, this unbelievable feeling.

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