Sunday, May 27, 2007

I'll be a monkey's uncle ...

Yes, that's right, more on the Phillies. I know you don't care, but Doyle's apparently on sabbatical or some shit, it's May, and I sure as hell ain't writing about the NBA or the Indy 500, so suck it up.

And for once -- boy do I love saying this -- the Phils are kind of interesting. There's room for optim ... optom ... well, it's been so long since I used that word that I can't remember how to spell it, so there's room for hope. Consider the following:

They just swept the Braves in Atlanta for the first time since 1986. That shit just doesn't happen. Especially not when they need to do it in order to finally break .500 (now two over). I'd feel better if it happened in August, but losers can't be choosers.

Cole Hamels got his seventh win, fanning eight and giving up 3 ERs in a below-average performance. I don't want to say I told you so (Pat), but young Cole is fast emerging as the best Philly pitcher since Curt Schilling. Obviously, I and every Philadelphian with a memory have our fingers crossed, because he's got a history of injuries and he plays for the worst manager in baseball, in every category, really, but especially at managing a pitching staff. But one year and one week after his major league debut, kid Cole is already the best lefty starter in the major leagues not named Johan Santana, and the fact that his go-to pitch is a changeup bodes well for his arm. I also like the fact that Jamie Moyer has adopted him as his son (and he's old enough for the math to work). As Adam Eaton puts it in this oddly Godly Crasnick article:

"Every night, when Cole Hamels kneels beside his bed and says his prayers, he's interrupted by God, who breaks in and thanks himself for creating Cole Hamels."

Which brings me to another thing I like about this team: they get along. I rarely buy into the whole clubhouse-dynamic-as-relative-to-success angle, and I think Doyle's with me on that. Philly especially, media and fans, seems to concentrate way too much on the "feel" of its teams. I thought it was horseshit during the TO/Donny debacle and during the Larry Bowa years, when everybody thought teams weren't winning because they weren't getting along. These people are professionals; the Beatles were suing each other by the end of their run, and they still did all right.

Still, there is a certain something to this Phils squad that I haven't quite seen since '93. No longer do they have a bitching superstar waiting for a trade (Schilling, Rolen) or a hardass manager tipping coolers and calling his players out in the media (Bowa). Instead, they've got incredible young homegrown talent at key positions (Utley, Howard, Rollins, Myers, and Hamels are one of the best cores in baseball, and Victorino, while not in the same league as the rest, is proving pretty damn capable.) We've got a few free-agent pickups who have filled important roles and fit in well with the team (Rowand, Helms, Moyer). We've got Jon Lieber in a contract year, the only time he's ever any good. The bench, which everybody (including me) maligned at the beginning of the season, is quietly contributing: Bourn blazes on the basepaths, Greg Dobbs straight raked while Howard was gone, Jayson Werth has done well in spot outfield duty, and Chris Coste was solid until he got demoted again. And they get along: every other article I read is about nicknames, rookie initiations, running jokes. Even the baseball writers seem to be having fun. And maybe that won't get you wins, but it's a refreshing change from previous years, and it sure can't hurt. The boobirds have even laid off Pat Burrell, attendance is up, and I haven't heard an "E-A-G-L-E-S" chant in weeks.

And did I mention that Ryan Howard has had key hits in every game since his return on Friday, including two homers today? They've risen to two games over really without any significant contribution from him all season (his leg bothered him for weeks before he went on the DL, and was hitting .200 when he went down), but if Howard starts to hit, this team could really ignite.

Also, believe it or not, the bullpen might not be as bad as we all thought. Granted, it's not good, and not going to be. But Brett Myers apparently didn't quite pull a Dave Dravecky last week. The official word is a strained shoulder, out 3 weeks (of course, they said the same thing about Flash). Plus they might have finally found a capable lefty in Nagurski, who's been just about perfect in his two appearances. Yoel Hernandez, the righty they called up to replace Gordon, has been just as good. Madson's healthy again, which means we might finally have seen the last of Clay Condrey and/or Francisco Rosario, who have been abominable and scary, respectively. Geary's been great save for one heinous outing in which he surrendered three homers on four pitches and recorded no outs. The Sextopus is exactly what everybody expected him to be. If Myers comes back healthy and Flash never comes back at all, I actually kind of like that bullpen.

Sure, there's no way they're going to catch the Mets, who've been absolutely torrid. But I like their chances to hang in the Wild Card until the end of the season, which is the best I've come to expect, an annual ritual of testicle-stomping and inebriation that has in recent years replaced its predecessor, the Eagles' clockwork losing of the NFC Championship game to lesser teams.

Hell, in the last few weeks I've even found a Phillie to really hate, not just bipolar love/hate like Pat Burrrell but legitimate death-wish detestation. Introducing Rod Barajas, the most eminently dislikable Phillie since David Bell. His resume:

Signed for $3 milly in the offseason despite the fact that we had a good rookie ready to start (Carlos Ruiz) and a folk hero 34-year-old backup who impossibly made the majors and stuck by hitting .328/7/32 in less than 200 ABs (Chris Coste). Proceeds to hit .232/2/5 this year when he's not busy being a huge pussy who costs them games. Coste finally got called up anyway, to replace Ryan Howard, then went 2-for-6 in four appearances and was sent down when Howard came back. Now he's in AA, hopefully plotting Barajas' assassination.

I'm telling you, I like the way this season is shaping up. I won't say any more than that so I don't make myself look like an idiot. Instead, in closing, I offer you this result of a Google image search for Dave Dravecky, which I'm posting for no particular reason other than to possibly bring Doyle out of hiding:

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