1. First foray into the Hall of Fame Club, where the average seat for a season costs about $5,000 for 81 home games. The advantages -- padded seats, shade, private dining areas with air conditioning and a neat Hall of Fame type of gallery. Dining options were good. I bought our tickets on StubHub yesterday morning, paid over face value, but, then again, we wanted to experience the Hall of Fame Club and, so, it was worth paying a little more.
2. As for the game. . . Cliff Lee pitched a masterpiece, striking out 10 in eight innings, getting a hit, stealing a base and doing just a great job. Ryan Madson closed out his seventh straight Phillies win and had one local columnist offering that he's now the best closer in baseball. It is the case, though, that upon their return, neither Jose Contreras nor Brad Lidge will return to a closer's role. That job is Madson's to lose, which suggests a different paradigm from the usual "you don't lose your job to an injury" mentality. Translated: Contreras will get the eighth inning when he returns and if Lidge is to return, well, that's pure gravy. My guess is that Lidge is through and it would be surprising to see him pitch for the Phillies again. The Phillies will have to pay more for Madson and Cole Hamels within the next year or two, but they should have enough room in the payroll to do just that. . . John Mayberry, Jr. had a good game, has a very good OBP and will push others (Raul Ibanez and Ben Francisco) for playing time. When Shane Victorino returns, you'll have him in CF, Domonic Brown in RF (platooning with Francisco) and Ibanez in LF, although Mayberry should push him. Ibanez is very close to the end of his career. . . Carlos Ruiz made an uncharacteristic baserunning blunder last night that closed out a rally for the Phillies. . . the Rangers' bats don't look too good, either. . . Rangers' starter Colby Lewis pitched a very good game last night. . . Domonic Brown's swing still looks loopy and a bit too long to me. . . Ryan Howard's home run got out of the park quickly.
3. All worries aside, the Phillies have the second-best record in baseball (behind the Indians, and it's hard to believe that they will sustain their pace) with Chase Utley due to return tomorrow, some good young relievers (Antonio Bastardo, Michael Stutes and Scott Mathieson) and some starting pitching depth (Vance Worley). Phillies' fans would love to see Denys Baez go, David Herndon to remain in the minors, Kyle Kendrick not to be too heavily relied upon and Joe Blanton, well, ditto for him. The big question regarding Utley, of course, is whether you get the early-in-the-career Utley or the over-the-hill Utley. That's probably a more serious issue than most Phillies' fans would like to admit. Nomar Garciaparra was a superstar until he fell off the table and into a utility role, but he couldn't shake the injury bug. Will that be Utley's fate, too?
All in all, as with most nights, a fun night at the Bank. Great weather (low 70's), great food, fun neighboring fans, an okay drive to and from, and a sold out, electric crowd.
The Phillies' franchise is on a great run. It won't last forever, but it's a lot of fun now.