Hunter Pence. It’s going to take the rest of the season for me to decide how he improves this team. I know people are excited, but I think there are other issues, notably the presences of Wilson Valdez and Ben Francisco, who have lately become surplus to requirements. Removing Dom Brown from the everyday lineup doesn’t improve the Phillies chances come postseason play.
I still think the Phillies match up well against any team they could face in the playoffs, but I hate to think that banged up veterans like Polanco or Ibanez could come up short when it matters most.
Can I just say that being a baseball fan in this town would be much easier if people didn’t panic every time their first place team slumped? Slumps end. Appreciate the pitching that you’re seeing every night out there. Home runs are fun, but what we’re witnessing is downright magical. Soak it in. Luxuriate in it. It won’t be long before we’re bitching and moaning about this team in earnest. I fully expect my son to grow up an Indians fan just like his dad.
(Confession: I decided to love a team that was even worse than the Phillies. In Pennsylvania. True story.)
That said, it’s a much easier to team to watch when the worst bats in the lineup could still drive a ball into the left field seats. Stay gold, J‑Berry!
Proof that Philly’s still weird: I met Phillies’ set-up man Ryan Madson at the Troc’s downstairs bar at Yo La Tengo last Thursday night.
He was floored by the band, calling it “pure music,” asking if they were on iTunes and was just an all-around sweet guy. He also shared that his dad played in a band like that in the ’70s. (Ryan, if you ever find this post, can we talk about your dad’s band?)
Me? I played it cool. You see, Ryan Madson is one of just two Phillies that I have a rehearsed story about their career. My Madson moment? 7 relief innings against the Mets. He gave up a homer to Beltran in the 13th, but I told him that he really showed something there. Gutting it out as a struggling young pitcher ain’t easy anywhere, let alone Philly, but he did it. Can’t wait until he’s our closer in 2012.
Yo La Tengo? Predictably great, although the cruel wheel (pictured above) fell on Sounds of Science, Part 2. Ouch. Definitely a “for fans only” set that was a slow burn. They finished with a dazzling second set that blew Ryan Madson’s mind. “Doesn’t it sound like 6 people are on stage?”
I ran a quick search of the archives here at Ramsayings before I started writing this post. Felt sure I’d written about Cliff Lee before, because, really, how has anyone with an interest in the Phillies not written about him? Whether it was his acquisition at the deadline in ’09 or his inexplicable trade before Roy Halladay arrived, I’ve somehow managed to not directly address the magical left hander.
My first memory of Cliff Lee is a fond one. Charlie fell asleep on my chest while we laid on the couch, watching Cliff carry a no-hitter through six innings. It was everything skeptical Phillies fans wanted to see in their new stud pitcher. I mean, how many players had we acquired in the past that just didn’t work out? What is Travis Lee up to, after all? Lee’s acquisition showed that the Phillies organization was serious about being a contender and not just a flash in the pan. It was a refreshing change from my youth, when the Phils were routinely a doormat and most Philadelphia teams found uninspiring ways to trade away their top-tier talent for little return.
That was just how we felt when Lee was traded in the 2009 offseason. Three nobodies who aren’t even seen as developing talent that can succeed at the professional level. We may only ever know Tyson Gillies for his run-in with the law last year. It was about money and restocking the farm system, we were told. Seemed an awful way to dispense with a player who single-handedly pitched us back into the ’09 series.
Now it seems the Phillies are atoning for all of Philadelphia’s sports sins. It’s as if Ruben Amaro is making us forget every bad trade and draft pick and free agent acquisition. Makes it easier to forget how Barkley and Schiling exited or how Shawn Bradley arrived. It’s a reassurance that last season was a precursor to the fall. We’re not selling off yet. The Phillies are transforming Philadelphia into a knowledgeable, passionate baseball town like it’s never been before. The Four Horsemen ride!