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2008 Phandom 25

The 2008 Phandom 25: !

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sat, January 24, 2009 05:00 PM Comments: 24

Last year I wrote a series of posts chronicling 2007’s 20 greatest moments in Phillies Phandom. Each game had a special “wow” factor, whether it was an insane comeback, an awesome feat or a trademark moment. And each game was a Phillies win, of course.

For this year, clearly, you know the top moment. But ranking the rest was very difficult. Do I rank the NLCS second just because? Is the NL East clinching victory as important as other postseason moments? I used some heavy discretion, but I believe I came up with a pretty solid list.

Each moment has an attached video link, if you’d like to go back and reminisce.

Like the 100 Greatest Phillies countdown, I’ll be posting one per day. I swear, you won’t get any more countdowns this offseason.

***

1. Champions
Date: October 29, 2008

I waited 24 years.

I waited while watching poor teams. Very poor teams. I waited while sitting in blue seats in Veterans Stadium. And yellow seats. And orange seats. And brown seats. And red seats. I watched while thinking Jim Thome was the cure. Or Gregg Jeffries. Or Billy Wagner. Or Tyler Green. Or Bobby Abreu. Or Kevin Milwood. I waited.

The night the Boston Celtics won the National Basketball Association championship, I cried. I actually cried. “Why can’t it be us?” I pleaded as Kevin Garnett held up a trophy and yelled “Anything is possible!” Yes, I actually cried. Why Boston all the time? Why not one championship for a Philadelphia team? I’d even take the Sixers.

My prayers would be answered swiftly. In fact, the next championship to be determined. The Phillies.

Seriously — the Phillies? The Philadelphia Phillies? With their red pinstripes and funny logo text? With their troubled past and 10,000 losses? With their mediocre stars and half-baked celebrations? Please. Championships came to big-time franchises. To the New Yorks and Bostons and Saint Louises of the world. To the Chicagos and Los Angeleses. Not to Philadelphia. Not to the blue-collar little brother of everyone else. Not to this funny little city.

And yet there I was, standing with legs shaking, hopping madly in front of my television screaming “Come on, Brad! Come on, Brad!” as Eric Hinske confusedly took his stance at the batters box. How the hell did I get here? How did we get here?

While the season itself took 174 games to play out, this moment began to unravel on a Monday night, two prior. Sitting on a stool in a cavernous bar in Mansfield, Connecticut, I watched Shane Victorino lace a single to left field, scoring two runs and sending the crowd into a frenzy. Everyone was bundled, but nobody was sitting. Then I watched as a torrential storm moved over Philadelphia, and the Rays chipped out two runs before the game could be halted. Angry? Yes. Upset? Sure. Confident? Still.

After 45 nail-biting hours, we returned. Shaking but excited, I watched with eyes wide all by myself in a Connecticut house. To my side was my phone, my connection to my father, my brothers — my lifeline. Geoff Jenkins was first. He meant business, bashing the ball into right-center field, celebrating with fist pumps and shimmies. I love Geoff Jenkins.

Then came the leader, the consummate Philadelphian, Jimmy Rollins, who bunted Jenkins over for Jayson Werth, who brought him in by capitalizing off the Rays’ bumbling defense. Boom. A lead. A light.

Rocco Baldelli would bring it right back to squares with a home run. The Rays rallied after that, but Chase Utley made possibly the most amazing defensive play in World Series history, a sttuter and throw to home that ended the inning and caught the Rays in an eager position. All of this wouldn’t deter me at all. I called my dad.

“Don’t worry. It’s okay. Pat’s hitting one here. He’s gonna do something.”

My dad was hesitant, but I was never more sure. And Pat Burrell stepped up, worked the count, then unleashed his most gorgeous swing, which launched the ball into left-center field, inches shy of clearing the fence. It didn’t matter — Pat did his job. His final hit as a Phillie was his biggest.

Shane Victorino followed, and though he failed in his bunt attempts, he bounced one to the right side, moving pinch runner Eric Bruntlett to third. Up stepped Pedro Feliz — unquestionably the most clutch Phillie in the most clutch opportunities — who took a Chad Bradford fastball up the middle for the go-ahead run. And that was all they needed.

JC Romero continued for the eighth and though he let up a hit, induced an excited BJ Upton to ground into a double play — now the biggest double play in Phillies history.

Then it was Brad Lidge’s time. It was time to complete a perfect season. He got an abused Evan Longoria to fly out. Then he gave up a hit to Dioner Navarro, but got Ben Zobrist to line out to Jayson Werth. Breathe in, breathe out. And here we were.

Did I think Hinske could continue the game? Maybe a little. Hey, I’m from Philadelphia. But I knew Lidge wouldn’t spoil his perfect season here. No, not here.

So one strike went bouncing into foul territory. And one more strike was called by the umpire, much to Hinske’s chagrin.

Hinske settled back in. Lidge set up. Ruiz gave him the fingers — slider. Lidge confirmed. He set. He breathed.

Philadelphia waited.

I waited.

I swear I can tell you exactly what happened. Lidge’s pitch started high, dipped low. Hinske took a mighty wail but missed it. Ruiz clasped the ball in his glove. A bunch of fans behind the screen leaped in the air. One fan turned to his friend and raised his arms. An enormous roar rushed through Citizens Bank Park. And that roar — I swear to you — wasn’t just the people in the stands. No, the roar included some South Philadelphians, some Chester residents. The entire region let out an exasparated, long overdue roar.

And I, in my Connecticut house some 300 miles away, leaped into the air, squealing like a 5-year-old girl. I hurriedly found my contacts and pushed “Dad,” still squealing. He picked up at some point, just to hear me in various forms of squeal. He was laughing.

Meanwhile, Brad Lidge was being hugged by Carlos Ruiz, then tackled by Ryan Howard. Others followed. I didn’t see any of this — instead I was stepping around my living room, squealing and cheering and beaming. Without a doubt, it was the happiest moment of my life.

I waited 24 years for this kind of happiness, and when it happened, I had no words. I’ve written more than a thousand posts about the Phillies, and I’ve written thousands of things in my life, but just once, I had absolutely no words. Nothing could match the elation I felt at that moment. Nothing.

That’s why we follow baseball. That’s why we engage so much effort in such an endeavor. Sometimes it rewards us. And October 29, 2008, I was rewarded. We were all rewarded. We were champions.

Easily the greatest moment of 2008. Easily.

The video: We win

From the comments:

Craig: C’mon Phillies. World champions tonight.

NJ: Chase Utley you the man!

Joe: Is that the last at bat for Pat?!? Goodbye, friend.

NEPA: So clutch by Feliz. Great play by Iwamura.

Georgie: Seriously, who sits in a bathtub on the beach holding hands with another person in a bathtub?

CT: OH GOD, JUST ONE MORE

Matty: YESSSSS!!!!!!!! CHAMPIONS!!!!!!

Poomie: we are the champions, my friends

  • 24 Comments
 

The 2008 Phandom 25: The Home Run

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Fri, January 23, 2009 08:00 PM Comments: 22

Last year I wrote a series of posts chronicling 2007’s 20 greatest moments in Phillies Phandom. Each game had a special “wow” factor, whether it was an insane comeback, an awesome feat or a trademark moment. And each game was a Phillies win, of course.

For this year, clearly, you know the top moment. But ranking the rest was very difficult. Do I rank the NLCS second just because? Is the NL East clinching victory as important as other postseason moments? I used some heavy discretion, but I believe I came up with a pretty solid list.

Each moment has an attached video link, if you’d like to go back and reminisce.

Like the 100 Greatest Phillies countdown, I’ll be posting one per day. I swear, you won’t get any more countdowns this offseason.

***

2. Matt Stairs!
Date: October 13, 2008

With one mighty swing, everything changed.

Forty years old. Endless experience in major league baseball. Good teams that didn’t go far enough: The Expos of 1992 and ’93, the Athletics of the late 1990s. Bad teams that did nothing: The Royals of the 2000s. Never a moment that approached the pinch hit he’d be handed against the Dodgers in game four of the National League Championship Series.

The Phillies and Dodgers were tied. While the Phillies creeped out to an early lead, Los Angeles responded late. They got a few runs off Joe Blanton, then Casey Blake popped a mammoth shot that put the Dodgers ahead 4-3. A sacrifice added a run. The Phils were down two, close to a series tie, needing something to wake them up.

The Dodgers bullpen did their job until the eighth, with Hong-Chih Kuo in his second inning to pitch against lefties. Ryan Howard led off, and in a big spot, singled to center field. That brought in righty Corey Wade, but it wouldn’t matter. Pat Burrell popped out, but Shane Victorino found the groove, lasering a ball into the right field corner. It looked like a double, felt like a double, but somehow, kept going, and cleared the fence for a tie game. That woke ‘em up.

Though Pedro Feliz lined out, Carlos Ruiz — a playoff MVP if there ever was — kept the inning alive with a single. That proved absolutely key. It turned the Phillies lineup and gave Charlie Manuel a chance to look into his bench, ready to make a giant contribution. Would it be Greg Dobbs? Sure, he was the best pinch hitter in baseball, but he had to be saved. Eric Bruntlett? Well now at a tie, it may be better to hold onto Bruntlett for a potential defensive replacement. Chris Coste? Can’t use the backup catcher. Maybe Geoff Jenkins? Or maybe Matt Stairs?

The decision came down to those two, and as Joe Torre elected hard- and high-throwing Jonathan Broxton as his next pitcher, Manuel knew what he had to do — point to the hard- and high-hitting Stairs.

He took a pitch. Then another. Then a strike. Then a close ball. Then, down three and one with Jimmy Rollins on deck, Broxton thought he could get Stairs with a fastball inside.

Bad. Bad. Bad. Bad move.

Stairs bit his lip, flinched, then locked in on the pitch. He began his swing, quick as the night, and connected with the ball at the most perfect spot — the absolute most perfect home run swing you have ever seen. The ball flew in majestic fashion, reaching its highest point on par with the “76″ sign above the scoreboard. It landed in the back rows of the Dodger Stadium grandstand, some 420 feet away from home plate. It was Stairs’ first postseason homer, his 255th of his career, and the biggest one he’d ever hit.

The mighty swing gave the Phillies a 7-5 lead, and they wouldn’t let it go. JC Romero started the eighth and Brad Lidge finished it, then worked a scoreless ninth for one of the most tense wins in Phillies history. For Stairs, nothing would top it. Nothing would top getting his ass hammered that way. No, for that moment, Matt Stairs wrote his name into Phillies history. And we’ll never forget him for that.

The video: Stairs kills it

From the comments:

Jeffrey: Base hit! Baby steps, boys. Baby steps.

Dave: And now Vic will perform the GIDP….

Matty: Can Victorino put one in the right field bleachers? Please?

CT: VVVVVVVVVIIIIIIIIIIIIICCCCCCCCCCCCC!!!!!!!!!

Manny: I like Stairs right now… let’s see

Matty: Broxton in a non-save situation? This is too good…..

Dave: MOONSHOT!!!!!!!

Lou: the phillies have just won this series.

  • 22 Comments
 

The 2008 Phandom 25: CC Sucks!

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Wed, January 21, 2009 10:54 PM Comments: 24

Last year I wrote a series of posts chronicling 2007’s 20 greatest moments in Phillies Phandom. Each game had a special “wow” factor, whether it was an insane comeback, an awesome feat or a trademark moment. And each game was a Phillies win, of course.

For this year, clearly, you know the top moment. But ranking the rest was very difficult. Do I rank the NLCS second just because? Is the NL East clinching victory as important as other postseason moments? I used some heavy discretion, but I believe I came up with a pretty solid list.

Each moment has an attached video link, if you’d like to go back and reminisce.

Like the 100 Greatest Phillies countdown, I’ll be posting one per day. I swear, you won’t get any more countdowns this offseason.

***

3. Victorino takes CC to school
Date: October 2, 2008

I have attended hundreds of Phillies games in my 24 years on Earth. Many played like company picnics — a couple thousand people hanging out in the multi-colored seats of Veterans Stadium, shirtless fathers, bumbling children, cigarette-smoking mothers in skimpy t-shirts. A lot of haze. Not a lot of drama.

A few games had the trappings of stunners. Most of those games occurred at Citizens Bank Park, with newly minted crowds, crab-fry-munching families, red-clad newbies from La Salle or St. Joe’s. While I knew I was maybe the biggest fan of the 42,000 in attendance, it was nice to see 42,000 in attendance.

On October 2, 2008, I arrived at Citizens Bank Park after an arduous early afternoon drive on Interstate 95. I drank. And drank. And played cornhole. And drank. The sky grew a weird tint of violet. My brothers all had tickets for different areas of the ballpark. And I drank. And I entered the park, excited for my first taste of playoff baseball in 15 years, and saw a sea of red at Citizens Bank Park. A glorious, biblical sea of red.

That sea caused a tidal wave unheard in a Philadelphia ballpark in decades. The wave picked up steam in the second, with a runner at third, a run across, and pitcher Brett Myers hankering in for an at bat against the invincible CC Sabathia. It grew with each pitch. A foul. A ball. A foul. A ball. A foul. A ball. A foul. With each pitch, the wave grew in complexity — at first, applause, then cheers, then disbelief, then laughter. The at bat became comical, as if Sabathia was scored to the Benny Hill theme song. And when Sabathia unfurled that final pitch, a low fastball that Myers didn’t bite, the wave crested, rolling toward the shore. It was something I’d never experienced in Philadelphia.

The wave rolled on high, chanting “CC sucks!” as Jimmy Rollins stepped in. Patient as ever, he walked on four pitches. Suddenly the bases were loaded, Shane Victorino stepped in, and the wave was nearing the shore, ready to crash and topple the 300-pound Sabathia from the mound, as if he was Charlie Brown. And like Snoopy, most of us were laughing hysterically. CC Sabathia? Pitching this poorly? Haha!

If the Phillies didn’t win the World Series, this moment would’ve topped the list. But they did, and maybe, they don’t win if this moment doesn’t happen. This moment, this very moment, is one of those moments that is key in comprising legend. It’s a premonition, a prologue — the first giant wave before the tsunami that would occur less than a month later.

Victorino, after rattling off a foul and finding himself in a small hole, licked his chops. Sabathia needed to eliminate Victorino, but these are why these moments exist. Sometimes things don’t go as they’re planned. And all the while, the wave rode, the fans stood, cheering, howling, hoping for something — a ball, a wild pitch, a single, a blooper. Something.

Sabathia unfurled a changeup that played inside. Victorino pulled it, and the ball flew through the violet sky, into the sea of red, causing the wave to swallow Sabathia whole. We were drunk with adulation. I had a headache, a lost voice, and a red face. Red as the sea. With a 5-1 lead off the invincible Sabathia, there was almost no reason to complete the game. It was inevitable.

The game ended at 5-2. Victorino’s grand slam was the difference, and then some. In small context, it won the game and slayed the beast. But in the larger context, it represented the moment the Phillies became a legal threat. Now they could do anything, and at any time, and against any man. The team meant business.

When the game ended, I emerged in the parking lot, a voice hoarse, a head aching. But all ill feelings were exalted from my system — for now, I had seen a team committed to the goal, and a city committed to its team. For now, we were all the biggest fans, a sea of red that never broke.

The video: Victorino hits the granny

From the comments:

CT: The crowd is loving Brett making contact here… beat that ball Brett!

SJ Mike: That was the greatest at bat EVER! This tops Myers bases loaded at bat vs. the Mets.

Manny: HOLY SHIT WE ARE GONNA BRING THIS BIG BEAR DOWN !!

Jamie: FLYING F**KIN’ HAWAIIAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • 24 Comments
 

The 2008 Phandom 25: Joe The Pummeller

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Wed, January 21, 2009 01:32 AM Comments: 12

Last year I wrote a series of posts chronicling 2007’s 20 greatest moments in Phillies Phandom. Each game had a special “wow” factor, whether it was an insane comeback, an awesome feat or a trademark moment. And each game was a Phillies win, of course.

For this year, clearly, you know the top moment. But ranking the rest was very difficult. Do I rank the NLCS second just because? Is the NL East clinching victory as important as other postseason moments? I used some heavy discretion, but I believe I came up with a pretty solid list.

Each moment has an attached video link, if you’d like to go back and reminisce.

Like the 100 Greatest Phillies countdown, I’ll be posting one per day. I swear, you won’t get any more countdowns this offseason.

***

4. Big Joe Blanton
Date: October 26, 2008

The World Series featured all four types of Phillies wins: Game one was a pitchers duel won through small ball; game three was a nailbiter with a crazy ending; game five was the wait and pull away win. But game four of the World Series was the bash opponent into submission game, the game that gave the Phillies 20-run wins during “Hittin’ Season,” big wins in September.

That game four against Tampa Bay had everything you’d want from the beat opponent into submission contest: Ryan Howard struck the ball mightily all night, hitting two home runs; Jimmy Rollins got on base and scored plenty; Jayson Werth hit a coffin-nailing home run. But this game also had the feat nobody thought could be possible — the pitcher swatting a homer.

That pitcher was Joe Blanton, the hulking, husky boy from the depths of Kentucky. He was expert in slinging fastballs that met the corners of home plate as if he was connecting dots. Sometimes guys would hit the heck out of him, but most times in 2008, he got the better of the situation. His 3-0 postseason record showed. But his biggest moment, clearly, was the blast heard ’round Philadelphia.

On the mound was Tampa Bay’s Edwin Jackson. Blanton had already heroically swung at some balls, whiffing into the cold air and garnering playful oohs and aahs. But Jackson was throwing up easy heaters; it was only a matter of time before Blanton would grab a hold and take ‘er for a ride.

And boy did he.

It was a gorgeous home run swing, really. A real lumberjack’s bash. Middle and inside, the ball left the yard and cleared the fairway, landing some few rows back and into a screaming throng of phaithful phans. As Blanton rounded the bases casually (like he did it before), the crowd couldn’t be hotter.

That was the moment. That was the moment a nailbiting World Series officially became incredibly close to finished. It was the moment Philadelphia realized this baby was all but sewn up, that nothing could take it away. Hell, if Joe Blanton’s hitting a home run, there’s no way the Phils could lose. And it was true — this team had gone too far, fought too hard, played too well for chance or luck or whatever to just steal their carpet from underneath the clouds.

Blanton got a big ovation, and then a big raise, and now will be a big star. His is the stuff of legends, of Paul Bunyon, Harmon Killebrew and Ken Holtzman. Who knew? The big Kentucky kid with the redneck sensibility did — that’s who.

A few days later, it would all be over.

The video: Boom goes the Blanton

From the comments:

SJ Mike: HOLY SHIT! Did Blanton just hit a homerun!

NJ: Now that’s how you become a Philly hero period

Matty: That was a hell of a pitch he knocked out

  • 12 Comments
 

The 2008 Phandom 25: Chooch!

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Mon, January 19, 2009 10:46 PM Comments: 20

Last year I wrote a series of posts chronicling 2007’s 20 greatest moments in Phillies Phandom. Each game had a special “wow” factor, whether it was an insane comeback, an awesome feat or a trademark moment. And each game was a Phillies win, of course.

For this year, clearly, you know the top moment. But ranking the rest was very difficult. Do I rank the NLCS second just because? Is the NL East clinching victory as important as other postseason moments? I used some heavy discretion, but I believe I came up with a pretty solid list.

Each moment has an attached video link, if you’d like to go back and reminisce.

Like the 100 Greatest Phillies countdown, I’ll be posting one per day. I swear, you won’t get any more countdowns this offseason.

***

5. Chooch’s chop
Date: October 25, 2008

Bases loaded. No outs. Ninth inning. Tie game. Game three of the World Series. Carlos Ruiz stood in the box, the biggest at bat of his life facing him.

A chop.

It just worked.

Eric Bruntlett slid in past Evan Longoria’s high throw, winning the game for the Phillies over the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-4. The Phils took a 2-1 lead in the series, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Bruntlett set up the rally after getting hit by a Chad Bradford pitch. JP Howell relieved him, but uncorked a wild pitch that sent Bruntlett to second. Dioner Navarro then tossed a wild throw into the outfield, and Bruntlett hurried to third. With the winning run 90 feet away, Rays manager Joe Maddon decided to walk the bases loaded and employ a five-man infield. But Carlos Ruiz beat the strategy. It ended a lengthy night, started by a three-hour rain delay. By the time the game ended, at 1:30 a.m., it was time to call it quits — even the celebrations felt hungover.

It should’ve never happened that way. The Phillies held a 4-1 lead in the seventh inning, thanks to three home runs and a groundout RBI. Ruiz, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard supplied the power, pushing the Phils very close to a 2-1 advantage without much of a fight. But starter Jamie Moyer got hosed. A Carl Crawford bunt attempt was expertly and beautifully played by a diving Moyer, and yet Crawford was incorrectly called safe on the play. It led to two groundout runs, pulling the Rays within one. Even worse, they scored the tying run off Ryan Madson in the eighth, thanks to an infield hit, two steals and a wild throw.

The Phillies had outplayed Tampa Bay all game. There was no way it could end poorly.

It didn’t. Ruiz channeled his inner Chooch, getting just enough of the bat on the ball to put it in play, creating a tough moment for Longoria, a still very green player participating in his first World Series. Ruiz played like a champion all series, swatting balls, handling the staff like gold. His little squib was the kind of play that typified the 2008 series — it sure wasn’t pretty, but it was clutch, and it got the job done.

Like the 2008 Phillies campaign, it just worked.

The video: Chooch wins it

From the comments:

Keith: RUIZ. our best hitter

Jeffrey: Three cheers for Jamie Moyer!

Dave: Ive never seen a WP on an IBB before….

NEPA: NEEDED A 9 MAN INFIELD I GUESS.

Joel: WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

YEAH PHILLIES!!!!!!

RUIZ is Da Man!

  • 20 Comments
 

The 2008 Phandom 25: League Champions

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sun, January 18, 2009 11:16 PM Comments: 3

Last year I wrote a series of posts chronicling 2007’s 20 greatest moments in Phillies Phandom. Each game had a special “wow” factor, whether it was an insane comeback, an awesome feat or a trademark moment. And each game was a Phillies win, of course.

For this year, clearly, you know the top moment. But ranking the rest was very difficult. Do I rank the NLCS second just because? Is the NL East clinching victory as important as other postseason moments? I used some heavy discretion, but I believe I came up with a pretty solid list.

Each moment has an attached video link, if you’d like to go back and reminisce.

Like the 100 Greatest Phillies countdown, I’ll be posting one per day. I swear, you won’t get any more countdowns this offseason.

***

6. National League champs!
Date: October 15, 2008

After Matt Stairs homered the Phillies to a 3-1 lead in the National League Championship Series, October 16 set up like a celebration. With the Dodgers clearly wrapped around the fist of the business-like Phils, a game five victory in Dodger Stadium seemed all but evident.

On the mound was Cole Hamels, who silenced the Brewers in game one of the Division Series, then bested Derek Lowe in the game one of the Championship Series with a gutsy performance at home. The ace. He was born for these kinds of games.

The beer flowed early. We readied ourselves for a jubilation unseen in 15 years by gorging ourselves early, fidgeting with our hats, clasping our hands repetitively. We chatted with friends, cleaned up our mussels when Jimmy Rollins strode to the plate at the top of the match.

One swing. And suddenly we were celebrating.

That was it. That was all we needed. Rollins’ homer — like the one he swatted to open game one of the DS — signaled a victory. There was no way the Dodgers could rip it out of the Phillies’ hands. So we watched as the Phils mounted a rally off poor Dodger defense. We watched as Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell stroked RBI singles off Chad Billingsley. We watched as the Phils ran out to an early lead.

Hamels was brilliant again. He walked into a few small hiccups, but relied on the amazing defense behind him, turning double plays, making long catches near the wall. Chase Utley. Shane Victorino. These guys brought their gloves.

And Hamels got a few choice punchouts. His strikeout of Jeff Kent to close the seventh brought his night to a close, and brought the Phils close to finality. This was it.

Ryan Madson — as he had done all series — pitched a sweet eighth, handing the ball to Brad Lidge to bring the Phils to the World Series. There was no doubt.

The celebration was one of overjoy. We were already drunk, but now we were punchdrunk, smiling, even crying, as we yelled and gasped. The Phillies were National Laegue champions. Who would’ve thought? Who would’ve predicted back in March that the Phils would win the National League? Only one national writer did such. This writer didn’t even do it.

But that’s the beauty of the game. That’s why we watch. So that maybe, maybe one October night, we can celebrate.

The video: Phils win the pennant

From the comments:

Jamie: Oh man…this is exactly the way I wanted this to start. I think Howard will be giving moonshot Stairs a run for his money tonight too…I predict Ryan has a long one.

Phils2611: victorino is the F’ing man…

SJ Mike: The Phillies win the pennant!

The Phillies win the pennant!

The Phillies win the pennant!

  • 3 Comments
 

The 2008 Phandom 25: What A Comeback

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sun, January 18, 2009 09:22 AM Comments: 12

Last year I wrote a series of posts chronicling 2007’s 20 greatest moments in Phillies Phandom. Each game had a special “wow” factor, whether it was an insane comeback, an awesome feat or a trademark moment. And each game was a Phillies win, of course.

For this year, clearly, you know the top moment. But ranking the rest was very difficult. Do I rank the NLCS second just because? Is the NL East clinching victory as important as other postseason moments? I used some heavy discretion, but I believe I came up with a pretty solid list.

Each moment has an attached video link, if you’d like to go back and reminisce.

Like the 100 Greatest Phillies countdown, I’ll be posting one per day. I swear, you won’t get any more countdowns this offseason.

***

7. Game of the year.
August 26, 2008

One-hundred and seventy-six games. Fourteen of them in do-or-die playoff situations. Four incredible wins in the World Series. But one game was more thrilling than all of them.

August 26, 2008. The day the Phillies-Mets rivalry became, proof-positive, the best rivalry in baseball.

It was a long Tuesday night. It started a little after 7 p.m., as Jose Reyes took out his 4-iron and teed off a lining triple against Jamie Moyer. A few singles and some wild pitching later, and the Mets had staked a 2-0 lead in the first. It was typical for the Metropolitians to do this — they were peaking at this point, with Reyes hitting the bags in the first and scoring runs like nothing else mattered. Though Rollins responded in the bottom with a leadoff double, the heavy hitters failed.

The Mets went back to work off Moyer. Damion Easley homered to make it 3-0. And in the third, Carlos Beltran and David Wright set up the rejuvenated Fernando Tatis. One swing later, and the Mets had a 6-0 lead. Goodbye, Jamie; goodbye, game.

danny: The Mets are such a better team than us except for their bullpen. Hell, if their bullpen wasn’t a joke, and ours wasnt having career years all around, we’re down like 5-10 games to them.

Griffin: to be fair, we weren’t winning that game anyway. oh well, Kendrick vs. Johan tomorrow!! ugh.

David, the Mets fan from Queens: Believe it or not, I am still not confident with a six-run lead when our bullpen will pitch AT LEAST three innings tonight. Do you hear me, my fellow Mets fans?

Now down 7-0, the Phils decided to start hitting Martinez. It started slowly — Shane Victorino reached on fielder’s choice, stole second, moved to third on a classic Jayson Werth blooper, then scored on a Pedro Feliz sacrifice fly. 7-1.

With Clay Condrey settling in, the Phils went back to work in the fifth. And it started with Condrey.

The mop-up righty hammered a double to start the fifth. Yes, a double. That brought up Rollins, looking to spark something — and he did. Boom, a shot to right, and it was 7-3. Things were starting to pick up.

Richie Allen: I told you..I told you..we are gonna win today…I guarantee it

Chase Utley walked, as Martinez started to wither. Though Pedro got a slumping Burrell to strike out, Ryan Howard wasn’t going down as easy. He cranked an opposite-field blast — his league-leading 35th — to make it 7-5. Now it was a game, setting up a new matchup: The best bullpen in the National League vs. the most troubled relief corps.

The Phillies turned to new acquisition Scott Eyre, who proved his worth with a stellar 1.2 innings. The Mets went with Brian Stokes, who slung a strong two frames. But in the eighth, Mets manager Jerry Manuel decided to turn to his veterans, men who the Phillies just knew how to hit.

First, Duaner Sanchez. Goggles lasted one out, until a Carlos Ruiz single lifted him. In came Pedro Feliciano, who surrendered a single by pinch-hitting Chris Coste (remember, this is the eighth). A Rollins single (his fifth hit in five tries) brought home Ruiz. 7-6. Joe Smith finally finished it, securing a one-run lead with new closer Luis Ayala coming on board.

But before the Phils could attempt to tie the game, they had to salvage the top of the ninth. One man remained on the bench: Eric Bruntlett. But Charlie Manuel didn’t want to waste Bruntlett’s bat. At the time, we all wondered, “Why? Who cares?” but clearly, Manuel knew better. Instead of bringing in Bruntlett, he kept Coste as catcher and moved Ruiz to third base. A move like that makes it a once-in-a-lifetime game.

The move paid off in spades. Ruiz saw nothing in the ninth, as Brad Lidge recorded a 1-2-3 frame. And in the bottom, finally, Bruntlett got his chance.

It didn’t come easy. A Howard flyout and Burrell groundout put the Phils against the wall. Up stepped Werth, who kept it alive with a single. That brought up the pitcher’s spot, and Manuel made his move to Bruntlett.

“Line drive to right center!”

I didn’t think it. You didn’t think it. Nobody thought it. Sure, I said, “He’d need a double here, but a good double. But Bruntlett?” but I didn’t really think it. How could I? And yet, Bruntlett stroked a perfectly-placed double, Werth got the green light, and Easley’s throw — while very good — was a touch off for Brian Schnieder. Tie game. 7-7.

J-Man: Definitly one of the best games i’ve seen in awhile…Well here comes Madson to blow it.

Then came extra innings. While Ryan Madson extinguished the Mets easily, the Phils threatened against Aaron Heilman, but couldn’t deliver. Rollins had a chance, Howard had a chance, Burrell had a chance. But nothing.

Until the 13th. After Manuel exhausted his bullpen, the Mets had Scott Schoeneweis. And Victorino greeted him with a smoked liner into right field. Landing on third, Vic set up the Phils for a big win. The Mets countered by walking the bases loaded. And with nobody left on the bench to pinch hit, Manuel turned to pitcher Brett Myers.

Call it a precursor to his gigantic at bat against CC Sabathia in the division series, because Myers tapped into his big-game persona, heroically standing in as if he wanted to bash one out of the park. Instead, he took pitch after pitch, almost … almost … working a game-winning walk. While he struck out, it riled the crowd and roughed the Mets.

Evan: That was the worst pitching/at bat I’ve ever seen in major league ball.

Up stepped Coste, who despite entering in the eighth, had three hits in his stat line. Assuredly, Coste locked in and smoked a ball deep into center field. No need to be dramatic — the distance itself secured the winning run. 8-7 final. Phillies win. Exhausting, exhilirating, it was the best win of the season, the best game of the season. It featured big offense, clutch hitting, fine pitching, tense moments, heated fan reactions, great defense, awesome tactical moves, big payoffs. Simply put, it’s why we watch and love the game.

And it’s why this rivarly is the best there is.

The video: Coste ends it

  • 12 Comments
 

The 2008 Phandom 25: Pat Burrell!

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Fri, January 16, 2009 10:17 PM Comments: 11

Last year I wrote a series of posts chronicling 2007’s 20 greatest moments in Phillies Phandom. Each game had a special “wow” factor, whether it was an insane comeback, an awesome feat or a trademark moment. And each game was a Phillies win, of course.

For this year, clearly, you know the top moment. But ranking the rest was very difficult. Do I rank the NLCS second just because? Is the NL East clinching victory as important as other postseason moments? I used some heavy discretion, but I believe I came up with a pretty solid list.

Each moment has an attached video link, if you’d like to go back and reminisce.

Like the 100 Greatest Phillies countdown, I’ll be posting one per day. I swear, you won’t get any more countdowns this offseason.

***

8. Brian Wilson, dead
Date: May 2, 2008

Patrick Brian Burrell. How we loved thee.

The longtime Phillies slugger finished his Philadelphia career with a titanic double off the railing, setting off the rally that would ultimately win the Phillies their second world championship. But much earlier in the season, on May 2, he’d deliver a monstrous home run that ultimately, proved to be the greatest longball of his career.

The Phillies were down 5-4 in the 10th inning of a Friday night special against the Giants. San Francisco closer Brian Wilson entered the game and shut down Jayson Werth to prove his point. A flame ball-throwing right-hander, Wilson had staked out to the National League saves lead. He was imposing, he was brutish. Somehow, Chase Utley singled off him. That brought Ryan Howard to the plate, but the big man got flagged by looking at a questionable strike. He argued the call, he was gone. The Giants were up one. There were two outs. It seemed finished.

It was a shame, too, since the Phils played so well early. They hit Giants starter Pat Misch in the second inning, when Utley laced another of his early season home runs for a 2-0 lead. Pedro Feliz added to the effort with a two-run shot of his own in the fourth, against his former team, no less. But revenge would be sweet.

Kyle Kendrick did his part but folded in the seventh. Taxed a little too much, the young right-hander let two on. Ryan Madson tried to relieve and succeed, but failed miserably. Three singles and a groundout later, and the Giants had tied the game at 4-4. Kendrick was no longer of record. The Phillies no longer had a lead.

And they couldn’t get it back. The teams traded zeros until the tenth, when JC Romero put his scoreless streak (dating back to 2007) on the line. The leadoff hitter: former Phillie Aaron Rowand. The pitch: gone. The Giants led 5-4, and the crowd booed as Rowand rounded the bases he had rounded a dozen or so times before. While Romero got in more hot water, he somehow escaped, leaving the score 5-4 as the teams moved to the bottom of the 10th.

And with a runner on, with hopes all but dashed, with two outs, with a game on the line, Pat Burrell stepped to the plate, worked it to a full count, then …

Fastball. And we loved thee.

The video: Pat Burrell!

  • 11 Comments
 

The 2008 Phandom 25: Another Division Flag

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Thu, January 15, 2009 10:20 PM Comments: 13

Last year I wrote a series of posts chronicling 2007’s 20 greatest moments in Phillies Phandom. Each game had a special “wow” factor, whether it was an insane comeback, an awesome feat or a trademark moment. And each game was a Phillies win, of course.

For this year, clearly, you know the top moment. But ranking the rest was very difficult. Do I rank the NLCS second just because? Is the NL East clinching victory as important as other postseason moments? I used some heavy discretion, but I believe I came up with a pretty solid list.

Each moment has an attached video link, if you’d like to go back and reminisce.

Like the 100 Greatest Phillies countdown, I’ll be posting one per day. I swear, you won’t get any more countdowns this offseason.

***

9. 6-4-3.
Date: September 27, 2008

Ground ball up the middle … dive by Rollins … flip to Utley … quick turn … throw to Howard … caught! Double play!

The biggest double play in Phillies history — at that point — secured the team’s second-consecutive division championship. It ended a 4-3 win over the Nationals that the good guys won by the skin of their teeth. And it started a wild postseason ride that ended in the greatest victory of all time.

It was a patented businessman’s win for the Phillies. They scored two in the fourth off sacrifice flies — typical Phillies. Then they got a leadoff home run by Jayson Werth to lead it 3-1.

Meanwhile, on the mound was Jamie Moyer. For the second-consecutive year Moyer took the hill against the Nationals with a division title on the line. And for the second-consecutive year he pitched well enough to exit with a win in hand. The wise veteran pitched six innings of one-run ball, scattering six hits and a walk. He found himself in a slight of trouble in the sixth, but a diving grab by Shane Victorino helped get him out of the jam. As always, Moyer was solid.

The bullpen did their job, as well. Chad Durbin pitched a scoreless seventh, and Ryan Madson exited a jam in the eighth. He allowed two quick singles, but got Lastings Milledge to pop up. In a scary play, both Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino looked for the ball, and while Rollins made a great catch, he kneed Victorino in the leg. It could’ve been eternally damaging; instead, it was merely a stinger for Victorino, and he stayed in the game. Madson would induce a grounder and finish the inning by striking out Aaron Boone.

Then Victorino showed he wasn’t hurt. With two outs, he beat out a grounder to shortstop. And just as he did it in game five of the World Series, Pedro Feliz provided the important hit, doubling to left-center field to score Victorino. With the insurance run in hand, it was all set for Brad Lidge.

And Lidge needed that insurance run. After striking out Emilio Bonifacio, Lidge surrendered a single and a walk. Then Anderson Hernandez singled, scoring a run. After a Carlos Guzman single, the bases were loaded, the Nationals were within a run, and with one out, it seemed all but finished. It seemed as if Lidge would finally blow a save, and it seemed as if the Phillies would miss out on celebration for a day.

But then, it happened.

Ground ball up the middle … dive by Rollins … flip to Utley … quick turn … throw to Howard … caught! Double play!

The video: 6-4-3

From the comments:

Jamie: This is certainly one game we don’t want Brad’s streak to end on.

NJ: what a time to blow your first save of the year…

Jeffrey: YEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

  • 13 Comments
 

The 2008 Phandom 25: Mr. September

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Wed, January 14, 2009 11:01 PM Comments: 5

Last year I wrote a series of posts chronicling 2007’s 20 greatest moments in Phillies Phandom. Each game had a special “wow” factor, whether it was an insane comeback, an awesome feat or a trademark moment. And each game was a Phillies win, of course.

For this year, clearly, you know the top moment. But ranking the rest was very difficult. Do I rank the NLCS second just because? Is the NL East clinching victory as important as other postseason moments? I used some heavy discretion, but I believe I came up with a pretty solid list.

Each moment has an attached video link, if you’d like to go back and reminisce.

Like the 100 Greatest Phillies countdown, I’ll be posting one per day. I swear, you won’t get any more countdowns this offseason.

***

10. The big man blasteth
Date: September 16, 2008

Need any proof of why Ryan Howard is the most feared slugger in baseball? Look at Sept. 16, 2008 as your first example.

Coming off the big four-game sweep of the Brewers, the Phillies drove into Atlanta looking to take first place in the National League East. They were a half-game back of the Mets going into the night, when Jamie Moyer took the mound for the good guys. Quickly, the game turned into an offensive showdown, with the Phils scoring three via a Chase Utley double and Jayson Werth home run. Howard singled to prolong the inning, but didn’t score.

The Braves shot right back off Moyer, as Brian McCann and Casey Kotchman each punched singles to tie the game at three. Carlos Ruiz responded right away with a homer of his own, and before you knew it, the score was 4-3 Phillies.

Then it turned miserable. Moyer self destructed in the sixth by giving up a single to Jeff Franceour, then walking two in a row to load the bases. He surrendered a one-out groundout to tie the game, but his night was over. Chad Durbin entered and showed his September struggles by letting up a two-run Kelly Johnson single. Scott Eyre allowed a McCann single to tack on a run, and suddenly the Phillies were behind 7-4.

But response was quick, again.

With one out and a man on first, Howard stepped in an tripled on a deep ball to left field. Dude was feeling it. 7-5. With two outs, Shane Victorino proved clutch and singled Howard home. 7-6. An error against Pedro Feliz and a walk to Greg Dobbs loaded the bags for Matt Stairs, but he grounded out to end the threat. The Braves held the lead. But not for long.

Ryan Madson defused the Braves in the seventh. After two quick outs to start the eighth, the Phils broke through against reliever Julian Tavarez with a Werth walk. That brought up Howard, who had been murdering the ball all night. Bobby Cox countered with Mike Gonzalez. It really didn’t matter. Howard was Mr. September.

One moonshot later, and the Phils led 8-7.

It was Howard’s biggest home run of 2008 — a homer that handed the Phillies a first place hold in the NL East, a hold they would retain (okay, they did drop a half game a few days later) until they walked off Citizens Bank Park with the Commissioner’s Trophy in hand. And it was a homer that proved Howard’s worth to the Phillies, an MVP shot of titanic proportions.

That Brad Lidge finished it off in nail-biting fashion was a forgone conclusion. This time he struck out Gregor Blanco after walking the bases loaded. Phew.

But this was all about Howard: Mr. September.

The video: Howard cements his calendarian legacy

From the comments:

Greg V.: The game isn’t over yet Kyle. We’ve come back from worse.

CT: woooooo! Howard is on fire!

Griffin: Howard against a lefty. yikes.

Griffin: I’m eating my words, yes baby!!!!

  • 5 Comments
 
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