September 2007

Joy in Phillyville

September 30, 2007

There’s no joy in Mudville, a suburb of New York, but there’s plenty of exuberance in Phillyville. 

The comeback kids didn’t need to travel that route today.  They took the lead and added on and at 4:35 p.m., they were the National League East Champions!  All that **** we’ve had to read all the time that we hadn’t had a postseason appearance since 1993 is deleted from the files forever. 

We have now reached the postseason in four consecutive decades.  I’ve been dying to write that.

There were so many heroes but Jimmy Rollins stepped up again.  He’s certainly been a force and if he’s not the MVP, we will carry the protest to the Supreme Court.

After the game, the players celebrated on the field, did the usual champagne showers and then came back on the field to salute the fans again.  They wouldn’t leave. 

Tomorrow, the fans get to salute the Eastern Division Champions at City Hall at noon.  Tuesday, they will work out at Citizens Bank Park and on Wednesday, the new five-game season begins.

The 1980 team had its own identity, a group that was formed in the 1970s and then climbed to the highest peak in team history.  The 1983 NL champs had so many older players on the team and they didn’t really catch on fire until September.  The 1993 team took over first place on April 19 and never looked back.  They were a bunch of misfits, wild, crazy guys.

Charlie Manuel’s team had a slew of injuries but they never quit.  Philadelphia is a blue collar town that loves people who bust their butt, don’t give up and keep working and working. This season seemed to be a constant roller coaster, pogo stick or yo-yo, whatever you want to call it.  Up and down, peaks and valleys.  Their resiliency was amazing.

The Ghost of 1964 is dead!  In case you aren’t aware, the Phillies led by 6.5 games with 12 games to go.  They went on a 10-game losing streak and before you knew it, the pennant was flying in St. Louis.

This year, the Mets led by seven on September 12.  They hit the skids and now they have a ghost in their closet.

In 1950, the Phillies won on the last day of the season, 4-1, in 10 innings at Brooklyn.  Robin Roberts pitched all 10 innings, his fourth start in the last eight games.  Guess they didn’t worry about pitch counts back then.  Fifty-seven years later, the Phillies clinched on the last day, a day on which Robbie celebrated his 81st birthday.  Earlier in the day, Robbie sent a good luck e-mail to Charlie.

There’s one other factor to the success of the ’07 team.  He’s in heaven and as Dallas Green said after the game, “He’s up there crying like a baby.”  John Vukovich, we miss you, we love you and we’re crying too.

Let's Go Phillies

September 30, 2007

Today’s Lineup
Rollins, ss; Victorino, rf; Utley, 2b; Howard, 1b; Rowand, cf; Burrell, lf; Dobbs, 3b; Ruiz, c; Moyer, p.

What begin with the first game on April 1 has come down to the last game on September 30.  After 161 games, we’re tied with the Mets.  So, we’re down to a one-game season.

When the sun sets this evening, we will either be the division champs, preparing for a one-game playoff against the Mets on Monday at Citizens Bank Park or planning a vacation.  Other possibilities exist beyond tomorrow but it is a bit complicated.

This bunch of Phillies has bounced back from all sorts of adversity to get this far.  It is a matter of putting yesterday’s 4-2 loss behind and focusing on this afternoon.  One thing we have going, the Phillies are 41-12 in the history of this park on Sundays.

Sold Out
500 standing room only tickets were sold out in 18 minutes when they went on sale this morning at 9 o’clock.  A fan came at 2 a.m. today and was the fourth person in line.

No Cheering
There’s an unwritten rule in the Press Box that cheering isn’t allowed.  Well, this isn’t the press box.  It is a blog, so: LET’S GO PHILLIES!

National TV Today

September 29, 2007

Today’s Lineup
Rollins, ss; Utley, 2b; Burrell, lf; Howard, 1b; Rowand, cf; Werth, rf; Helms, 3b; Ruiz, c; Eaton, p.

Sorry, got to keep it short today because there are a lot of planning issues going on.

Game is on FOX at 3:55 this afternoon.  Be sure to catch the opening.  It will get you juiced.

And, yes, rally towels again today, thanks to Hatfield Quality Meats and SuperPretzel.

Three-game season

September 28, 2007

Tonight’s Lineup
Rollins, ss; Victorino, rf; Utley, 2b; Howard, 1b; Rowand, cf; Burrell, lf; Dobbs, 3b; Ruiz, c; Hamels, p.

Speed is tough to defend and it got us going last night.  Jimmy Rollins again started the game with a hit, Shane Victorino laid down a bunt, John Smoltz hurried, threw the ball away and the race around the bases was underway.  By the time the first inning was over, the Phillies had a 4-0 lead.

Can’t say enough about Kyle Kendrick and the big three in the bullpen.  Getting to the seventh inning really enables Charlie Manuel to go to the big three.

Now, the season comes down to a three-game season against the Nationals, who would love to be the spoilers.

But, we can’t look beyond tonight.  The players have been focusing on one game at a time.  We may be tied, but we haven’t won anything.  J-Roll said it best, “We haven’t done anything.  We’re at zero.  No one wins at zero.  We still have work to do.”

There were a few tickets available for tonight and tomorrow (Sunday has been a sell out).  The ticket windows opened at 9 this morning and 45 minutes later all tickets were sold for the next two games.

Standing room tickets will go on sale for tonight at 4 this afternoon, 1 tomorrow afternoon for the 3:55 p.m. FOX telecast and 9 Sunday morning for the 1:35 p.m. game.  Fans will be limited to two SRO tickets.

By 1 this afternoon, a handful of fans were camped out the ticket office waiting for 4 this afternoon.

The Phillies will top three million in attendance tonight for the third time.  2004 and 1993 were the other two.

Thanks to Citizens Bank and Septa, rally towels will be given to all fans tonight. 

Good luck
76ers coach Mo Cheeks stopped by the park yesterday to wish Charlie and the players good luck.  Andy Reid called Charlie today.  Very nice gestures.

Phillies Fever
Last night’s game on ComcastSports Net drew a 10.5 rating, the highest of the season, topping a 9.2 against the Mets on August 29.  It is also the highest rating according to team records that date back to 1996.

Shane Back In Lineup

September 27, 2007

Tonight’s Lineup
Rollins, ss; Victorino, rf; Utley, 2b; Howard, 1b; Rowand, cf; Burrell, lf; Dobbs, 3b; Ruiz, c; Kendrick, p.

Kyle Loshe really stepped up last night, some big key hits and then the door was closed by the big three in the bullpen for a big win. 

Now, we are on to tonight’s game, a rookie (Kyle Kendrick) against a vet (John Smoltz). 

What a race.  Trying to figure out how the NL will end makes one dizzy.  The AL is boring!

Rally towels will be back for each game the rest of the regular season.  Daily News had a great headline on the Phillies game story, “TOWELELUJAH!”  Fans were waving them throughout the night, including when the scoreboard posted five runs for Washington for a 7-6 lead in the fifth inning.  The roar of the crowd at that time was something special.  The fans are really into it and it certainly adds to the home field advantage.

Jimmy Rollins again started the game in electric fashion with his lead off triple.  “MVP, MVP, MVP” is the fans’ chant every time he comes to bat.   Really cool.

How’s this for some strange figures.  After 462 at-bats this season, Pat Burrell is hitting .258, 29 homers and 95 RBI.  After the same at-bats a year ago, the numbers are exactly the same.

Florida Instructional League
In the daily reports we receive from the FIL currently going on in Clearwater, FL, there was a note about RHPs Andrew Cruse and Ron Hill, “Andrew pitched a solid inning, Ron was a little rusty.  Now they head for the Hawaiian Winter League.” 

Two young men going to Hawaii to play baseball!  Such punishment.

We Need A Win!

September 26, 2007

Tonight’s Lineup
Rollins, ss; Utley, 2b; Burrell, lf; Howard, 1b; Rowand, cf; Dobbs, 3b; Werth, rf; Ruiz, c; Lohse, p

Tough loss last night, needless to say. 

What a finish to the NL season.  The Padres, for the second time in about a week, won on a three-run homer in the ninth inning.  Those are huge momentum builders.  The Rockies are hot, really hot.

We just need to win each day, starting tonight.  Guess everyone has figured that out.

Crowd was really into it last night.  The Toyota rally towels made Citizens Bank Park look like a blanket of snow.  Thanks to Lukeoil and Verizon, fans will receive rally towels again tonight.

Jimmy Rollins put a charge in the crowd with his ninth leadoff home run of the season and 26th of his career.  It was his 30th homer, joining two other major league shortstops with 30 homers/30 stolen bases: Barry Larkin, Reds (33-36, 1996) and Alex Rodriguez, Mariners (42-46).

Watching Closely
Eighteen scouts are here tonight, most from the teams in contention for the postseason.  This is a scenario that is taking place in any ballpark involving a team in contention.  Pat Gillick has Phillies scouts at various ballparks, too.

Joe Bonsall, lead singer with the Oak Ridge Boys, was a first-time visitor to Citizens Bank Park last night.  A native Philadelphian, Joe is a big, big Phillies fan.

Chart of the Day
Phillies with 30 or more homers and 30 or more stolen bases:
Bobby Abreu  2001 31 HR, 36 SB
Bobby Abreu  2004 30-40
Jimmy Rollins  2007 30-37

Moyer Opens Series

September 25, 2007

Tonight’s Lineup
Rollins, ss; Utley, 2b; Burrell, lf; Howard, 1b; Rowand, cf; Werth, rf; Ruiz, c; Nunez, 3b; Moyer, p.

It was cool going to bed last night and waking up this a.m. tied for first in the wild card race.

Now, there’s work to be done day-by-day.  Each game is a must win.  We can scoreboard watch but we need to focus on winning and controlling our destiny. 

Yes, we’ve been in this position several times this decade and haven’t advanced but we need to look at the glass being half full, as Aaron Rowand has expressed.  There are a lot of clubs who would love to be in our position.

National TV
For those Phillies fans living elsewhere in this country, the Phillies will be on national TV 7:05 tomorrow night (ESPN) and Saturday afternoon (FOX), a 3:55 p.m. start.

Chart of the Day
Jimmy Rollins has scored 132 runs.  It is the fifth highest total in Phillies history (since 1900).
158 Chuck Klein, 1930
152 Lefty O’Doul, 1929
152 Chuck Klein, 1932
143 Lenny Dykstra, 1993
134 Roy Thomas, 1900

Day of Rest

September 24, 2007

At this time of the season, players are physically and mentally tired.  It is part of the marathon called a 162-game baseball season.  For the first time since September 6, the Phils have a day of rest.  Adrenaline even gets a day off.

While the Phillies are idle today, their postseason rivals are playing: Mets hosting the Nationals and Padres in San Francisco.  So, the Phillies’ position in the standings will change without playing a game. To keep abreast of these games, check out throughout the night.

Tomorrow night, the Phillies begin their final homestand, three each with the Braves and Nationals.  The Braves are throwing their best starters, Chuck James, Tim Hudson and John Smoltz.  Anything worthwhile doesn’t come easy, someone once said.  Or, as Charlie Manuel says, “If you want to be the best, you need to beat the best.”

All fans coming to the game tomorrow Rally Towels, courtesy of Toyota.

Sunday’s regular season finale, Fan Appreciation Day, is sold out.  Tickets remain for the other five games.  The Phillies are on pace to draw three million for the third time in their history.  The home field advantage comes into play and Phillies fans will be whooping it up this week.

Remember: Saturday’s game time has been changed from 7:05 p.m. to 3:55 p.m. for FOX TV. 

Meanwhile, back in the office, we continue to make plans for the postseason.  We’ve been on this topic for about a month, following guidelines and deadlines from Major League Baseball. 

Areas being covered include ticketing (tickets are being shipped to season ticket customers), hotels, publications, security, media, television, hospitality, merchandising, ARAMARK and an event called Rally Monday, an MLB initiative started a couple of years ago.  Rally Monday faces the challenge of a tie-breaker game so alternate plans are being discussed.

Now that autumn is here, the challenge is to play fall ball.  (That’s an awful line, I must admit).

Pitchers are Heroes

September 23, 2007

Generally, the Phillies will score runs and the heroes will come from the offense. 

Last night, the pitchers shared the hero crown….Kyle Kendrick, Geoff Geary, J. C. Romero, Tom Gordon, Brett Myers and Clay Condrey allowed one unearned run in the extra-inning win that pulled the Phillies to within .5 of the wild card leading Padres.

For Romero, Gordon and Myers, it marked five consecutive games, generally unheard of, especially at this time of the season.  Myers said it best, “I don’t have time to be tired.”

Pitching coach Rich Dubee pointed out that Gordon and Myers each missed time during the season because of injuries.  As a result, they may be stringer now.

Rest comes tomorrow, the team’s first day off since September 6.  The half-game difference the Phillies face in the East and wild card race goes away tomorrow because the Mets host the Nationals and the Padres travel to San Francisco.

Before tomorrow, there is today, a 12:05 p.m. game in RFK Stadium, the last baseball game in the old place.  Cole Hamels makes his second start since coming off the DL.  Chances are the bullpen will be called on again.   As Myers also said, "If the bell rings, I’ll answer it."

Power and Pen

September 22, 2007

Power and pen led the way last night. 

Power in homers by Ryan Howard (42), Pat Burrell (29) and Jimmy Rollins (29) and pen in the big three closing the door again, J. C. Romero, Tom Gordon and Brett Myers.

Perhaps unnoticed was the contribution of Geoff Geary.  He’s come on strong in the last couple of weeks and that has been a big plus.  He’s back to his form of a year ago instead of earlier in the year.

Adam Eaton won his 10th game.  There are a lot of Eaton critics out there but 10 wins is more than many other free agent pitchers from last winter, including Barry Zito. Yes, Eaton has a high ERA but the final standings are determined by the most number of wins.

Finally, the Padres have lost a game.  Thank you, Colorado. So the Phillies are 1.5 games out of two races, the NL East and NL Wild Card. 

J-Roll Milestone
Jimmy Rollins certainly is putting together an MVP-type season.  He reached a milestone with his 200th hit last night.  It has never been done by a Phillies shortstop.  That’s right, my good friend, Bobby Wine, never had 200 hits….in a season.

By reaching that number, J-Roll became the first player in baseball history with 200 hits, 15 triples, 25 homers and 25 stolen bases.  As Jimmy keeps putting up numbers, he’ll be reaching other levels that few have done.

One other note on Jimmy.  Everyone knows about his offensive numbers and Gold Glove defense.  His durability goes unnoticed.  Just think how easy it is on Charlie Manuel….he just writes Rollins into the lineup every day.

MVP Voting
In case you aren’t aware, two members of the Baseball Writers Association pf America in each city will vote for the MVP of the respective leagues they cover.  The ballots must be filed after the final day of the regular season.