The Phillies Choke

 This is my first post about the Phillies since I reactivated my website. There’s a good reason for that. After retirement, my priorities changed radically. When I was doing the WIP show, it was my job to keep track of all the teams. Now, with no such demands, I realize how much more I care about the Eagles than the other teams.

     But I was riveted to the TV during the baseball playoffs, even though baseball has become more and more annoying to me. I see the sport of baseball so much differently than the new generation of fans.

     For example, with eyes that have watched the game for 65 years — gulp — I believe the most important at-bat in the seven-game series came in the fifth inning of Game 7. Arizona had just taken the lead, 3-2, and Kyle Schwarber answered with a ringing double to lead off in the bottom of the inning.

     Smart baseball demands that the next hitter, Turner, hit the ball to the right side, to move Schwarber to third with one out. If I were the manager, I probably would have asked him to bunt there. Instead, after flailing at two pitches in the dirt, Turner yanked a bouncer to third, holding the runner. Bryce Harper just missed a homer right after that, driving the ball to the wall in left for the second out.

     If Turner had done his job, the game would have been tied at 3. Everything that followed after that sequence was a futile quest by the Phillies for that elusive third run. It was Baseball 101, not the MIT-level calculus employed in this era of launch angles and exit velocities.

    Frankly, the reaction from much of the city after the loss has been nauseating to me — just as nauseating as the standing ovation Turner got in August that turned his season around. I have just never been programmed to embrace failure — in life or in sports.

     I’m not here today to say my way is right. Twenty years ago, definitely. Ten, maybe. But it is a kinder, gentler fan base now, probably for all of our pro sports teams.

     I’m glad I retired when I did. I’m pretty sure I would be a voice in the wilderness now, screaming about a $240-million roster that stuck out 54 times in the last five games. In my world, there are no expressions of pride when my team, favored to win the World Series, loses to a ballclub with a regular-season record of 84-78.

     The fans who stood for all 18 gruesome innings in the last two home games, both losses, deserved better — whether they demand it or not.

     I came to Philadelphia because of its take-no-prisoners attitude, especially among the best sports writers in America. I did everything I could to build on that reputation, both in my newspaper years and then on the radio. When someone failed, I ripped them. It was part of the job description of being in the sports media in Philadelphia.

     So it’s sad to admit what I learned during the just-concluded Phillies season. My sense of loss is greater than seeing another Phillies team fall short. I feel as though Philadelphia is losing its demanding nature — first with the Turner ovation and now with the prideful reaction to a dreadful defeat.

     Let me say this one more time.

     I’m glad I retired when I did.


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