SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

If

If your starting pitchers can get past the sixth inning
If they can endure the local partisans without getting hot
If your hitters can do more than homer and strike out
Then they could be on their way to a playoff spot.

If your skipper can remember that the league has no DH
If your position players can stay off the disabled list
If your bench can step it up and hit every now and then
If the organization can endure years of being dissed.

If the right side of your infield can hit lefthanded pitching
And your shortstop remembers to take a pitch every now and then
If your corner outfielders can play with some gusto each night
If the closer can wield a magic wand out of the 'pen.

If the bandbox you call a ball park can keep fly outs inside
If your young hurlers can go a magical six, or even seven
If Dutch can summon factors from his other worlds
Then your team can earn a slice of baseball heaven.

If your third baseman's balky back can remain sturdy
If your maligned catcher can mend his wounded knee
If your centerfielder can crash into padding next time
The post-season may beckon by October Three.

If your cagey general manager can pull off a mid-season trade
The way the Pope did during the glory years
If the middle relievers can stay the course
The whole team will allay the fans' perpetual fears.

If the team itself can summon the strength
To win despite a tradition that is has roots in disaster
Then come pennant-race time, of their own fate
They will not be a victim, but a master.

The Philadelphia Phillies are 22-15, having won 13 of their last 14 and are now 1 game behind the New York Mets. All this despite the following having happened recently: 1) starting catcher Mike Lieberthal is on the DL with a bad knee; 2) starting CF Aaron Rowand is on the DL after making a spectacular catch that you no doubt have seen many times since last week; 3) starting RF Bobby Abreu has missed the last 2 games with back spasms; and 5) starting 1B Ryan Howard was in the E.R. last night because of a virus, only to pinch-hit in the 8th and hit a homer to tie the game and then hit a homer to win it in the top of the 12th. Bench players Shane Victorino (who reminds me of David Eckstein), Carlos Ruiz and Chris Roberson have filled in nicely for the Phillies. Starting pitcher Brett Myers is starting to look like an ace, rookie Cole Hamels pitched ably Friday night, and veteran starter Jon Lieber pitched a gem on Saturday night.

That noise you hear in the Delaware Valley is the bandwagon, overflowing with gleeful Phillies fans, fans who haven't had the cause for much joy in the past 20 years. As this post indicates, the Phillies had a lot of "ifs" going into the season, a season which, by the way, is only 20% over. It gets hot in the Middle Atlantic region in the summer, nagging injuries end up being problems that put people on the DL for a month, and hot hitters go cold. Stoppers lose the bite on their breaking balls, and the wind can start to blow out in the home park, a place where all opposing hitters like to play.

All of that is a given. Right now, though, all of the "ifs" are falling the Phillies' way, and, as a Phillies' fan, the games of the past 2 weeks have been a lot of fun. About 2 weeks ago the hometown 9 was 9-14 and going nowhere fast. Since that time they're 13-1 and only a game behind the New York Mets.

I don't know where this season will take us, but as my kids have emerged as full-fledged fans of the home team, well, this is just a great way to introduce them to this wonderful sport.

And, by the way, the team is pretty good too.

Happy Mothers' Day!

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