By Joseph Santoliquito
This column wrote itself about 11 p.m. Sunday night when the Houston Astros touched down into Philly. The Astros arrived and whatever team that happened to inhabit the Phillies’ uniforms that ran off 21 victories in 28 games left. In their place was a team that liked to frolic around the basepaths and made the sub-.500, fourth-place Astros look like worldbeaters.
If the Phillies don’t make the playoffs this year (egad, perish the thought), they can always whimsically reminisce about this lovely, late-August series when they’re playing golf at some posh resort in mid-October at some group outing. Let’s see what they can fondly remember: Jayson Werth getting picked off at second by the catcher–when Werth was caught napping between the bases, distracted by Brett Myers sticking out his tongue (there’s a memory for ya’ J Dub). Or they could all share a laugh over Ben Francisco stumbling over third base and getting picked off. Or new left fielder Roy Oswalt being placed in the unenviable role of batting in the bottom of the 16th with the tying run on first.
They can bowl each other over with tales of Ryan Howard going 0-for-7, and striking out five times in the 16-inning game. Or how the Phils’ slugger went 1-for-16 and striking out a total of 10 times in the series. Fun stuff. They can all gather around the camp fire toasting marshmallows, while chuckling over Werth getting lost in the woods and running into a tree (no doubt flummoxed by Myers again), and over the fact that as a team they hovered around the Mendoza line during their 2-6 slide combined against Washington and Houston.
Funny guys, those Phillies. A great barrel full of laughs.
The Phillies have once again reached in the collective chest cavity of the most dedicated fanbase of all the Philly sports’ team and ripped out their hearts. Going down 0-4 to Houston is something that might finally break the spell over the entranced millions that have walked through the Citizen Bank Park turnstiles this summer. Maybe they’ll come to grips with the fact these Phillies aren’t those Phillies of 2007, ’08 or ’09. Not yet, anyway.
It’s embarrassing. It’s comical (at least it is each time Werth is on base), and mostly it’s pathetic. You want to watch the art of the bunt and see how someone runs the bases right, tune into the Little League World Series. Those kids seem to have done a better job mastering the game’s necessary fundamentals than a Major League Baseball team that can’t seem to do anything of those properly.
So, yes, for you true believers that think this team is World Series bound, no questions asked, it might be time to re-evaluate and think again. The Phillies just got smoked over four games by the Houston Astros. And for those with really, really good memories, as I’m sure some of you out there in Phillieland have, those same Astros swept the Phillies last September in Houston. The Phils went on to win 11 of their next 13 after that.
That comparison, however, doesn’t work here for a variety of reasons. For one, the Phillies were 77-58, sitting six games up in first place in the National League East on September 7, 2009, not staring up from second and fiercely treading for a playoff berth. And secondly, that was last year. Let’s leave last year in last year.
As of August 26th, 2010, these Phillies are 70-57, currently sitting three games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves. It doesn’t get any easier. The funny Phils have a major test this weekend in San Diego, which has the best record in the National League. The Padres have won 13 of their last 16 games and were winners of three-straight entering Thursday night’s game against Arizona. Apparently they can run the bases and have rarely stumbled over anything.
It also looks as if they might not be laughing at themselves on the golf course in mid-October like the Phillies may.