Hate It or Love It

by | October 24, 2008 at 5:09 PM | General, MLB, Philadelphia, Sports

You’ll have to forgive me. It’s been 15 years since the Phillies have been involved, so I had forgotten:

I hate playoff baseball.

I hate watching the Phils squander opportunity after opportunity. I hate seeing guys I thought were clutch look so clueless out there (I’m talking to you, Werth and Dobbs). I hate wasting Eric Bruntlett’s first home run since he was 8 years old.

But most of all I hate myself.

I hate myself for caring so much. I hate myself for spending 162-plus nights a year on something I have absolutely no control over. I hate myself for thinking the Phils can get a big hit despite watching them fail 27 out of 28 times.

That’s a lot of hate.

Oh well…pitchers and catchers is only 114 days away.

Sorry, I had to get that off my chest. One hundred seasons of losing turns you into a glass-half-empty kind of guy.

Deep breath…

I’m OK now.

The truth is, all is not lost. A split in Tampa is acceptable. And if the Phils win the “home series” this weekend, they at least go back to the Trop one game away from a championship.

There are plenty of positives for Phillies fans.

Let’s start with .372.

There’s a lot of focus on the Phils’ ineptitude with runners in scoring position. With good reason. It’s maddening to watch them press both in RISP and ROTWLTTO (runners on third with less than two outs) situations.

But, what I haven’t seen written anywhere else is the Phils’ batting average when runners aren’t in scoring position: .372.

That’s a pretty incredible number. The Phillies can hit this staff. They can hit the young starters, and they they’ve proven they can even hit the overhyped David Price (I’m not saying the kid won’t be great some day, but unlike Fox, I’m not ready to anoint him the next Sandy Koufax off of four batters in Game 7 of the ALCS).

Of course, the inability to capitalize on 17 hits in two games is maddening. And the 1-for-28 number seems statistically impossible. But from Rollins-to-Ruiz, the Phillies are making Tampa’s pitchers work. They are getting quality at-bats up and down the lineup. If you watch baseball, you know that eventually pays off.

Moreover, everything that could go wrong went wrong in Game 2. Jason Werth booted a ball that cost them two runs. The umps completely blew two calls that cost the Phils at least one run. And Greg Dobbs looked more uncomfortable than Scott Boras in an ethics class.

After all of that, Philadelphia was still just one hit and/or one blown call away from being up 2-0 in this series.

Despite a shaky start, Myers pitched extremely well. After the first two Tampa batters, Myers settled down, and his performance has to give fans confidence that he could win a Game 6, if necessary.

And it looks like Howard is getting back on track. He ripped that ball to center in the second inning. It’s always a good sign when he hits a ball that hard without pulling it. If Howard gets hot, that just may open the floodgates.

For the veteran Philly fan though, Game 2 brought back all the frustrations of the past 25 years.

Watching the Phils come up empty inning after inning leaving 22 runners on base in two games reminds us of ‘83, ‘85, ‘87, ‘93, ‘97, ’01, and ’04. It reminds us what losers we are.

We look at the pitching matchups for the next two games—Moyer v. Garza; Blanton v. Sonnanstine—and we worry. Objectively, both favor the Rays.

And we keep coming back to that 1-for-28 and fear our team is in the midst of an epic choke.

It’s easy to get down. It’s easy to unsubscribe.

But remember Philadelphia, this is our team….the same team that has bounced back again and again this year. Things went wrong all year for them (Howard’s slump, Rollins’ slump, Utley’s slump, Myers’ slump), but they always came back the next inning. Countless winnable games were lost this year, but the Phillies always phought back the following night.

So yeah, the Phillies are 1-for-28 with RISP. But this city is 0-for-100 with TTCWR (Teams That Can Win Rings). Despite our championship drought, we fans will still be there this weekend at the top of our game.

And our team—the team that embodies who we are as a city, the team that is always looked over but never gets out-grinded, the team that WILL end our 25 years of misery—will do the same.

Everybody hits…I hope.

 

Email me at russakoffrules@comcast.net; follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/leerussakoff.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.