Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Pennant

When I saw Greg Maddux enter the game last night, the nostalgia washed over me. It is really hard to believe it has been fifteen years since the mighty Micky Morandini smoked a first inning rocket into the leg of Maddux, knocking him off his Hall of Fame game, leading to Darren Daulton’s and Dave Hollins’ mighty blows. Take a minute to remember it all here.

Then turn your attention to the glorious present- you might start here.

In the end, the Phillies have proven themselves a darn good team. While clearly not great- not in the class of recent Yankees and Red Sox teams- they give their manager 27 outs of effort every night. Cole Hamels’ 14-10 regular season mark is indicative of his up and down nature. But he has been a top of the line LHP starter lately. The Phillies biggest day in, day out weakness is their back-of-the-rotation issues (say Eaton, Kendrick)- but they are sort of papered over in this short series format. They’ve played nine play-off games- if you add in Game 1 of the World Series Hamels will have started four of them.

The Philadelphia line-up can be pitched too- but they create a sort of constant pressure. Considering they have some low batting average guys in core line-up spots, they still manage to get on base a lot. The Phillies simply have a lot of guys who get pitched gingerly to- as the low average guys in the one, four and five holes can slug. Up and down the lineup, the Phillies then hit a ton of home runs- generating an oddly consistent ability to generate crooked numbers. The team might always have multiple guys in fearsome slumps- Rollins and Howard and Utley and Burrell are poster children for whole months of hitting .150- but it is hard to get through 40-50 at bats with this collective without someone, no matter how bad they’re going, losing one into the stands.

And the bullpen is really good. They get to play that same game the Yankees did with their great bullpen- play a six, seven inning game rather than nine.

The Phillies will probably be a distinct underdog versus whoever emerges for the American League. But, with Hamels and Meyers pitching the first two on the road- it is hard to imagine them not getting a split. And I’ll take my chances best of five- with three of those games in our cozy little pad- which will help negate the Rays advantage in rotation depth. I missed a little on the Phillies this year- but it feels like a real toss-up World Series to me. And fate owes this franchise one big.