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Finish ‘Em Up, Time to Go Home: Last Call for the 2012 Phillies
I found a dead squirrel in our backyard Saturday morning. I’m not sure of the cause of death, but at the time I was fairly certain it would be the only lifeless thing I’d see all weekend.
I was wrong. It was the only lifeless thing I saw on Saturday.
On Sunday, with endless blue skies and an unfortunately secretly powerful sun overhead, I saw something even more lifeless than that poor squirrel- the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies.
It was an idyllic fall day and if we weren’t watching fake baseball then we’d probably be apple-picking or hob-nobbing our way around a pumpkin patch or corn maze. They just don’t make fall days any better. The weather was perfect, the tailgating delightful and the beers wonderfully tasty. Thanks to the team’s mostly lousy season, tickets to the game were cheap- like pre-2009 cheap. And thanks to the team’s unlikely resurgence and valiant attempt to sneak into the 2012 playoffs’ through the back door, the game had meaning- like pre-2009 meaning. It all harkened back to the good old days of a couple years ago, before each season came with the massive expectations of a World Series win and the regrettable accompaniment of disappointment when those wins didn’t happen. The 2012 Phillies had once again soaked themselves in the fountains of plucky, scrappiness, becoming the establishment-bucking upstarts that we had grown to love in the latter years of the previous decade. Things were fun again in South Philadelphia and it didn’t cost your first born to see it all happen. Giddy up!
But ah yes, this is baseball, where expectations are raised in the blink of an eye and the flames of hope are subsequently doused just as quickly. Expectations in general are a lousy son of a bitch. They always seem to lead to disappointment- a heavy-handed buzz kill version of disappointment, made worse by the fluffing up of whimsically engineered circumstances. Disappointment from expectations doesn’t stop there either. This specially-ordered, knife-twisting brand of disappointment is nice enough to incite merciless finger-pointing, because someone has to be at fault for this awful feeling.
On Sunday, it was the Phillies who were at fault. And no matter how many cold beers we drank or how many entertaining Phanatic appearances we witnessed; it wasn’t going to make it any easier for them or us.
Perhaps it was Saturday’s 8-2 lost to the visiting Atlanta Braves or maybe it was the pain of saying goodbye to long time Braves’ third baseman Chipper Jones, but the Phillies were flat from the get go. They were flat from the middle go and they were flat from the end go. Just like in the early months of the season, they wasted a perfectly good pitching performance from Cliff Lee, who pitched eight innings, giving up only two runs while striking out eleven. The Phillies, who prior to Saturday, had shown actual and legitimate signs of life on offense, were held to only two hits- one by some dude named Kevin Frandsen, who I didn’t know existed until Sunday afternoon.
“Doesn’t Polanco play third?” My buddy asked, referring to apparently the former Phillies’ third baseman, Placido Polanco.
“He did,” I replied. “Maybe they finally did the right thing and put him out to stud.”
It was nice to see guys like Ryan Howard and Chase Utley back in the lineup, but it was an all too familiar sight when Howard struck out to end the game. His batting average is currently .225. Just think, if he was only making $19 million this year instead of twenty, it might not even be that high.
Sunday’s loss was the death knell for the Phillies’ admittedly far-fetched playoff hopes, as it dropped them to five games back in the Wild Card race. With eight games left, their turn around is going to have come too late to mean anything more than simply creating some good will to carry with them into the off season. At this point, we should all just be routing for them to stay above five hundred- an accomplishment that would have seemed astronomically outlandish only a month ago. A losing streak at this point would just bring back the disturbing memories of the first few months of this season; memories that have been temporarily swept under the rug thanks to their late season surge. The best cure for the wretched sickness of bad memories, are good ones. It’s true that bad memories have more staying power than good ones, but that power is mitigated some if you leave on a good note. First impressions are important, but so are final impressions. For the 2012 Phillies, this next week should be all about creating a final impression that we can all feel good about- fans, the players, ownership, even the dudes outside Citizens Bank Park scalping tickets.
So we still have something to route for.
It may not be much and may not be what we wanted, but it’s still something. It’s not going to replace the sour patch taste of Sunday’s loss and it’s not going to put the money I spent on tickets to that worthless crap fest of an exhibition baseball game back in my wallet. But it’ll make the taste of the 2012 season go down that much smoother, making it taste better than it really should. It’s the life raft we need. We’d be fools to pass it up.