(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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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Phillies Clinch -- It Never Gets Old!

When I was a young boy, all I heard was how the Phillies collapsed in 1964, up 6 1/2 with 12 to play, and they finished third in the National League. Then came the period from 1975-1983 (and I include the 1975 "Yes We Can" bunch because while they didn't go to the playoffs, they gave us a glimmer of hope for the future), when the team went to the World Series twice and won their first World Series (in 1980). Then there was the drought from 1984 through 2005, where they had a somewhat fluky year in 1993 and went to the World Series, battling hard with a tough Toronto squad before Mitch Williams yielded only the second walk-off home run in World Series history. The team showed some life in 2004, and for the past four years has won the National League East.

I watched the Phillies beat the Nationals in Washington last night to clinch the N.L. East, and it gave me a rush, even as the Phillies batted around in the top of the ninth, added four runs, and beat the Nationals 8-0. Cy Young favorite Roy Halladay needed only 97 pitches for the complete-game win, and what was remarkable was that a large majority of the fans at the park were Phillies' fans. (There have been times over the past two seasons where the Nats and Pirates have advertised their games in the Philadelphia markets, hoping to induce Phillies' fans to make the trip). The team sold out every game this season at home, and now has a streak of 123 straight sellouts. This is the type of stat you hear for some NFL teams and some college b-ball teams, but not usually for baseball teams. Citizens Bank Park is a joint that jumps; the team helps make the place electric.

So, as I watched Roy Halladay strike out the last (nameless) batter of the Nats, and then Carlos Ruiz rush the mound, and the players trot in from the outfield and the bullpen, I still got goose bumps. I also enjoyed watching skipper Charlie Manuel watch the players celebrate from the dugout before he went out to congratulate them.

Put simply, this was one helluva season, given all that the team's been through. Manuel should be the Manager of the Year, and each player should get a share of the team's MVP award. Right now, the team has the best record in the NL and the best record in baseball, pretty good for a team that was depleted with injuries for most of the season and was about .500 at the All-Star break.

How far can they go?

They're healthy, and they have a post-season rotation of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. They could come out flat in the Division Series, but this is a team of fighters, and their post-season, at least today, looks very bright.

It doesn't get old, and it's nice to wake up with a team like this to look forward to.


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