Imagine yourself as a Philadelphia Phillies fan. You go out in the off season and bring in Billy Wagner and Eric Milton. You know the Braves are going to fall off this year. You have a new ballpark. Pat Burrell looks like he is going to hit this year. You have solid starting pitching and solid relief pitching after last year's bullpen disaster. And you start the season 1-6. Ugh!
The fanatical Phillies fans (you can't help the alliterations with this team) booed their team during their home opener today in their new stadium. If this keeps up, it's going to be a very long season in Philadelphia. The problem with this team will not go away until one Larry Bowa goes away.
The Fan has always liked the Phillies. As a Bergen County, New Jersey kid who loved his Yankees, the Fan spent a glorious month every summer in Wildwood-By-The-Sea on the southern tip of New Jersey (exit 4b). The Fan would get down to the beach by eight in the morning and wait for the boys to sing their song: "New York Daily News...Daily News here." All the early box scores would be available along with a lot of news about the Yankees. There was a lot of news about the Mets too, but who cared?
But the New York Daily News didn't have the box scores from the later night games. So at just about eleven-thirty, the next set of boys would be singing a new song: "Phil-a-DELPH-EEA Daily News...Daily News here." The later newspaper would have all the late box scores. It was from that paper that the Fan started to gain an interest in the Phillies and how tough their fans could be.
Mike Schmidt played his first year while on that beach and batted .199 with a thousand strikeouts and the Philadelphia Daily News would scream and wonder why he was playing. The fans booed him mercilessly. He went on to have a Hall of Fame career. Those memories came back last year with Pat Burrell's travails that never untracked. That's why it's so important to the Fan that Burrell bounce back. And he has so far. But still the Phillies lose.
There was as much anticipation for this year for the Phillies than at any time in a long time. There was a lot of anticipation last year and despite a lot of setbacks, they had a good year. But this year...this year they are supposed to win. All the experts picked them to win. And they are 1-6.
You knew it was going to be a rough start when Jose Mesa saved the first game of the season...for their opponent! Mesa nearly cost the Phillies the playoffs last year in single-handed fashion. The Phillies won their only game the next night with Wagner getting his first save as a Philly. But Mesa shut them down again the third game and the Pirates won two out of three.
They then lost three straight to their new rivals, the Marlins. And lost again today to last year's doormats, the Reds. That made five straight losses where they scored a total of ten runs. Man. The Phillies fans must be going crazy.
This space has railed against Larry Bowa before. Larry Bowa is an ulcer. He is a stress inducer. Players don't play well at this level with stress. Look at what happened last year when the Marlins switched managers mid-stream. The Marlin players started having fun and they started winning. A manager does make that much of a difference and Bowa is the problem here. Scott Rolen would still be in Philadelphia if it wasn't for Bowa. That's all the proof needed to make this argument.
Larry Bowa has created what the Yankees deal with in New York. Watching the Yankees last year, the game isn't fun for them anymore. They HAVE to win and there is no fun. I don't blame Torre for that, but the situation and the expectations has debilitated the Yankees in their last two World Series appearances. And Larry Bowa does that for the Phillies all by himself.
The Phillies can still turn it around and win this thing. But they won't as long as Larry Bowa is manager. Is the Fan worried about eating crow for saying this? Nope.
It really is hard on a baseball fan to have to get through NHL playoff season. Tonight, Barry Bonds tied Willie Mays for third place on the all time homerun list. That is historic as the mark of Willie Mays has stood for a long time. Instead of Baseball Tonight being on at 10pm where it belongs, both ESPN and ESPN2 are showing hockey playoff games. Grrrrr! And then if you try to wait out the hockey game to hope to see Sportcenter (without knowing when it will be on), the hockey games go into double-overtime and pushes everything back another hour and a half.
The Fan has an idea: Why don't they just start the hockey game with a fight and then a sudden death format with the first team that scores wining the game. Then we can get Baseball Tonight on where it belongs and Sportcenter where it belongs. The least ESPN could do would be to just run ONE hockey game and leave the other station free for the only show that makes boxscores the second best thing to do as a baseball fan.
No one will ever convince the Fan that Barry Bonds' accomplishments are tainted. The man is purely amazing. Enhancements (which we can thank the steroids flap for rescuing that word from the fringe drug companies) do not aid the bat speed and hand to eye coordination and the ability to hit the one decent pitch Bonds sees a game. Barry Bonds is simply a baseball miracle that the baseball fan will not accept and it's really a shame. We are witnessing history and those that can testify to that history are denying what they are seeing.
This is a once in a lifetime baseball miracle folks. See it for what it is.