By Bill Campbell
Up and Down Broad Street
Last Sunday’s Inquirer summed up the Broad Street Run in a memorable way stating, “Broad Street was a no-go. I-95 was a parking lot and game day traffic hadn’t even begun while the Independence Blue Cross Broad Street run rendered that 10-mile city stretch off limits to vehicle traffic until close to noon.” Yes, it was ugly. But that jam up isn’t the thing to remember about last Sunday.
It’s a day that top finishers, Ethiopian natives Askale Merachi and Ayele Feisha, will long remember for the great conditions and enthusiastic crowds. Feisha’s day began at 4:30 a.m. in New York. He drove to Philadelphia, lined up along with about 40,000 other run participants and took off at 8:31 a.m. Forty-seven minutes and three seconds later, he threw up his arms and dashed through the finish line, running eight seconds faster than the next finisher in the ten-mile race. Merachi, the fastest female runner, finished in 53:46. Behind came thousands of runners committed to the event and determined to ignore safety concerns. It was a picture perfect day for the Run, even if the shadow of Boston was carried by every runner and reveler there. Fortunately, the day ended without incident, that highway log-jam broke up and the city was proud.
On Saturday, a horse named Orb won the Kentucky Derby with jockey Joel Rosario in the saddle. The trainer was sixty-two-year-old Shug McGaughey, a member of the Jockey’s Hall of Fame, who had never won the Derby on or behind a horse. Orb is owned by Ogden Mills Phipps and Stuart Janney III, first cousins and prominent members of the Phipps racing empire. Six generations of that family have been involved in the sport, stock-piling victories in the biggest races – but the Kentucky Derby had eluded them too. In 1998, their Easy Goer finished second to Sunday Silence and that was the closest they’d ever come to the roses. Phipps also lost the legendary Secretariat as a foal on a coin toss to another stable. So, although the family insisted it didn’t have Derby fever, we can assume that the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home” at Churchill Downs last Saturday brought a large lump to their throats. As it turned out, the tune never sounded sweeter for the Phipps family when Orb crossed the finish line.
On a sour note, last weekend saw the Phillies blanked on Saturday by Jose Fernandez, a rookie pitcher from Miami, on one hit for a final score of 2-0. The next day the Phils and starter, Roy Halladay, were blown out by the Marlins 14-2. Such losses are more than the Phillies and their fans expected to face this season. And at this writing, Halladay is on the disabled list and heading to Los Angeles for a consultation with an orthopedic surgeon.
On the Road
When the Phillies considered their upcoming schedule last week, they had reason for encouragement. They were to play two games against the Indians in Cleveland and return home for four against the purportedly pathetic Marlins. For a team that had gotten out of the gate slowly with disappointing results in the early going, Charley Manuel’s guys could anticipate the chance to better their record. But schedules can be deceiving – as can a roster that lists more talent that it actually contains. The Indians won both games in their Progressive Park and the Marlins took two at home from the Phils, who were lucky to break even in that series. In fact, after winning the first two games of the series, the Phillies actually presented the Floridians with a chance to shine.
After seeing the rookie Fernandez shut them out and watching Halladay obviously struggle on the mound, you have to wonder if things are going to get better – and, if they do, with what consistency. The Phils are on the road now for six games against clubs that are in serious contention and have consistent pitching. That trip includes San Francisco and Giants pitchers Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito, all of whom know how to throw against the Phillies. After the third game, an afternoon get-away, the team will travel to Arizona where they’ll see some improved pitching among the Diamondbacks. Barring any future problems in the rotation or bullpen, the Phils will pitch Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick and Jonathan Pettibone in California. Hamels will take the mound in Arizona. Doc Halladay will be in LA for medical testing.
Placido Polanco, now with the Marlins, commented on Sunday after Halladay left the game, “If the man is hurt, he is hurt. I hope he gets things taken care of. I hope he comes back like the winner he is.” Also speaking after Sunday’s game was Charley Manuel, who faced the future realistically saying, “We will continue to struggle until we start hitting the ball better and making better contact and doing things better.” The struggles continue. And, yes, we also wish Doc well.
Communication Problems in the Club House
You would think that the Phillies might have learned something from last season’s drama with Chase Utley. Utley missed most of last year because the only person who knew about the severity of his aching knees was Chase Utley. The general manager, the manager, the trainer – no one knew if Utley’s knees had acted up during the winter or if he had done anything about them in the off-season. It was baseball’s version of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” as Utley seemed to have kept all in the dark until the blinders were finally pulled off everyone’s eyes at spring training. The player’s silence and the team’s reluctance to press him probably lost them a pennant, though we’ll never know for sure. But that brings us to the equally disturbing situation with Roy Halladay.
Since coming to the Phillies, Doc has won forty games. He threw a memorable perfect game, a no-hitter in the play-offs. He’s won the Cy Young Award twice. He has thrilled baseball fans here with his talent and dedication to the sport. But lately the left-hander’s right shoulder has been hurting like a toothache. Yet, like Utley of a year ago, it appears that he didn’t tell anyone about it. No one in charge seems to have known just what kind of trouble the superstar was in. There was speculation that he had some post-game stiffness but it seems that there had been no discussion about an underlying issue that could be far more serious. It’s pretty clear that Halladay didn’t confide in pitching coach Rich Dubee, since Dubee kept insisting that the problem would pass. And he mustn’t have talked to Charley Manuel, who indicates that he didn’t know what was going on with his prized starter. It was left to all of us to watch him throw on Sunday afternoon, his pain increasing, his frustration mounting and his face getting redder with every throw before loud alarms were finally sounded. Ruben Amaro said later than he knew nothing about Halladay’s severe discomfort until Doc left the game in the third inning after a pummeling. How can this be? Who’s in charge in the club house? It was only after the game, lost lopsidedly 14-2, that Halladay finally acknowledged his problem to a reporter, saying that his right shoulder pain had “kind of progressed over the last two weeks or so.” Which means that he’s been in pain since April 25th, the morning after his start against Pittsburgh. Apparently, he never told anyone about it until he walked off the mound on Sunday. This is hardly the frankness one should expect from a $20 million player. It’s also not the kind of involvement and oversight that we expect from management. Something is missing in the communication skills at Citizen’s Bank Park. It makes you wonder, what is it about the Phillies that seems to discourage its players from telling the truth? And who’s really running the show?
Roy Halladay will be examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum, a renowned shoulder specialist, in Los Angeles this week. Sadly, fans have to consider the possibility that Doc could be done.
Jason Collins’ admission last week that he is gay was seen as a watershed moment in professional sports because he’s the first athlete in one of the four major sports to “come out” while still active in the pros. But Will Sheridan, a four-year starter for Villanova’s basketball team who also is gay, says the true watershed moment won’t come until all athletes involved in the four majors come out as well. Whether Sheridan is right or not, time will tell. But Collins kicked off the conversation and Sheridan credits him for it while noting, “A star player on top of his game would and could change the culture right now.”
Jason Collins, 34, is considered a journeyman player, having spent time with six different teams in a twelve-year NBA career. He can become a free agent this coming season bet there is no guarantee that any team will sign him to a new contract – not due to his sexual orientation but to his age. We’ll have to keep tabs on that story. As for Sheridan, his basketball career was over by the time he publicly came out in an ESPN article two years ago. He said that he had told some close friends in middle and high school that he was gay, and that he had told his college room mate, Mike Nardi, on the first day of school. At 6’8″, Sheridan was a starting forward at Villanova from 2003 to 2007, reaching the Sweet Sixteen and the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament. Some students outside the Villanova community found out about his orientation during those years and taunted him when he played at St. Joe’s or Penn. His biggest fear at those times, he said, was for his parents and grandmother who were sitting in the stands. Now twenty-eight, Sheridan lives in New York where he is a hip hop artist. He acknowledged that he has a still-strained relationship with his father, which he hopes will change over time. He’s realistic, saying, “It took me nineteen years to come out to my parents. I have to give them time to be comfortable with who I am.” Which is pretty much what all parents want for their kids.
Jason Collins and Will Sheridan. Two pretty brave men.
In the Golf World
At Quail Hollow Country Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, a guy names Derek Ernst birdied the final eighteenth hole to force a play-off and then to win the Wells Fargo Championship against Englishman, David Lynn, last weekend. Ernst was playing in his ninth PGA tour as a fourth alternate. He had been driving from New Orleans to Athens, Georgia, to play in a Web.com tour event this week when he received a call last Monday afternoon. He was told that Quail Hollow’s greens were in poor shape and players had begun to withdraw so he’d landed a starting spot if he could get there. He headed for Charlotte. At the start of the tournament, Ernst was ranked 1,207 in the world but he beat out the likes of Rory McElroy and Nick Watney for the win – not to mention Phil Mickelson, who bogeyed two of the final three holes to derail himself. It looks like Derek Ernst’s ranking and his plans for the immediate future have just changed.