Friday, October 14, 2011

The Fan In Me

It took me a little while to build up the strength to actually write this. It has only been a few days since the Philadelphia Phillies lost game 5 of the NLDS and the wounds, the gaping, throbbing, excruciating wounds, as they say, are still open. For example, the first working title of this post was: ‘You’s Guys Suck’ (as an ode to South Philly dialect) and the other, and my personal favorite, ‘Phalling Phlat’ (see how I substituted the ‘f’ for ‘Ph’).

Last Friday night, I settled in on my living room sofa with my wife and kids. The agreement was we would watch the Phillies play the Cardinals in game 5 of the NLDS. I was excited. My kids complained because they wanted to watch Victorious and my wife was on the phone ignoring all three of us. By the 2nd inning of the game, my family took a vote and I was kicked off the island. Like Napoleon being exiled to Elba, I was exiled from the living room and away from the impressionable ears of my children and sent to my bedroom and the television there.

I couldn’t help myself. Watching the game made me angry. Nothing new for me however as a lifelong Phillies fan. I love this team. Some might say (some being my wife) I love them a little too much. But I can’t help it. Like any fan of this team, it’s in my blood.

Growing up, whenever I played baseball I imagined myself as a Phillies player. I’ve made plays at second base as Juan Samuel and turned double plays at short as Julio Franco. Shagged fly balls in the outfield as Greg Gross and handled the hot corner as the greatest 3rd basemen ever, Mike Schmidt. I’ve watched. I’ve suffered. I’ve rejoiced. Through every last place finish, every bad trade (Von Hayes immediately comes to mind), every Joe Carter World Series winning homerun, I’ve been a fan. This is my team and no matter how much hurt, anger, or frustration I have felt at the end of long losing seasons (and there have been more than our fair share of them), I’ve remained as such. The fan in me said, ‘We’ll get’em next year’. But as this season came to its shocking conclusion, I wasn’t hurt, angry, or frustrated.

My wife asked me at the end of the game, ‘Are you angry?’ I sullenly told her, ‘no’. She asked me if I was sure. I told her I was sure. She told me if I would be able to act accordingly, I could rejoin our family downstairs. I shrugged my shoulders and said sure. The truth was I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t hurt. It took a few days, some talking to myself in the car on the way to work, talking to the dog (she agreed with me that Cliff Lee losing a 4-0 lead in Game 2 was a killer) and a warning by my wife to snap out of it to come to the conclusion what I was feeling was disappointment.

I dread disappointment. As a kid, disappointment was the one emotion I tried to never cause in my mom. I was much more equipped to handle her being angry (I had plenty of experience with it) than for her to break out an ‘I’m disappointed in you’. When my mom was angry with me, I would retreat to my room. When she was disappointed, I cleaned my room. And her room. And the downstairs. Anything to get her to stop being disappointed.

As a parent, I see disappointment from the other side and it isn’t any fun on this end either.

Because anger subsides. We can come up with excuses and justifications to help calm ourselves. We can lay blame on one person or instance (Game 2). And we can get over being angry. But disappointment? That lingers. It hangs in the air like it hung in my mom’s memory because disappointment comes from failing to live up to expectations. Disappointment runs deeper than anger because anger can come from one brief moment. Disappointment comes from knowing you could have and should have succeeded but didn’t. Disappointment cries out for redemption. It is not going to subside until you can prove otherwise.

And therein lies the lesson my mom taught me. A lesson I am trying to teach my kids. A lesson hopefully the Phillies learn from. The only way to rid the shroud of disappointment covering you is to go back at it again. To take the next opportunity and knock it out of the park (so to speak). Because no matter how disappointed she was in me, my mom made it clear, things can be righted, it was up to me. She was willing to give me the opportunity to do so; I had to be ready to show her I was capable.

I was angry in 1993 when Joe Carter hit a homerun to win the World Series. I wasn’t angry last week. What I felt about the Phillies at the end of that game as Ryan Howard lied on the ground in pain and the Cardinals celebrated was more powerful than anger. I was disappointed. I felt this way because I knew this team was capable of so much more than what I had just watched (by myself in my room) and I’m not willing to let that feeling go. But, come next April, I’m willing to give this team I love another opportunity and the fan in me knows, they’ll be ready.

Written by guest contributor Jimmy Ettele who can followed on twitter @jetts31 or other ramblings can be found at

Monday, October 10, 2011

Game 5

Section 330 was very angry Friday night. Young boozed up men in row 5 screamed louder as the game went on. The deeper into the game we went you could hear their voices becoming hoarse their throats becoming sore. A group of women, old enough to be your mother, let loose a barrage of obscenities that almost makes you want to tell them to act like adults. Fans yell and scream in the direction of home plate trying to will the players into scoring a run, getting a hit or just plain getting on base.

Then the final out came.

Some people yell some more. A plastic beer bottle gets launched into the seats below letting loose a tail of leftover beer as it sails downward. Some fans just stand there shocked while contemplating how this could have happened.

People respond to the same situation in different ways. Some extreme. Some are calm. But no matter how you react you cannot change the events that have taken place just beforehand. We can only learn from what was and hope for a better outcome in the future.

I myself was depressed making the long walk from the 300 level town the ramp and out of the stadium. But before I could even make it off the Phillies property something calmed me down. A father was walking with his son. This boy was maybe 4 or 5 years old. He said innocently to his father "The Phillies lost right dad?" You hear in his dad's voice that he was upset with the results as he responded to his son with an exasperated "The Phillies lost."

That exchange calmed me. It reminded me that baseball is just a kid's game and it is silly to get so worked up over something you can't control.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Must Win?

     Well after a lackluster performance from Cliff Lee and the bats, the Phillies face something they haven’t faced all year. A must win game. The division was never in doubt, and despite the 8 game skid at the tail end of the season, the Phillies were on cruise control. Sure the pundits will say that the Phillies faced adversity because they had so many key injuries, but a game in June cannot simulate the need to win a game on the road in a 5 game series that is tied up 1-1.
     Cole Hamels is they key here. Oswalt had been above average in his last few starts, but I cannot see being down 2-1 on the road and having to depend on that Roy. It is a must win. Hamels has been a stud in the NLDS for the Phils. He sports a 2.20 ERA and 30 K’s in 28.2 Innings of work. Sounds like he would be 4-0 there right? Wrong. He is 2-2. Plagued by the lack of run support.
     So let’s take a look at the Cards starter for Game 3 and how the Phillies match up. Yikes. The Phillies are hitting a paltry .211 against Garcia in 2011. That is the bad news. The only probable starter that has hit Garcia well is John Mayberry Jr., who should play LF in place of Ibanez. More bad news though...The Phillies top 5 in the lineup are a combined 8 for 55 against Garcia. So who, if anyone, will be on for Mayberry to knock home? Let’s hope he will go 3-4 with 3 bombs and the Phils win 3-2.
     Polanco may be more hurt than he is even letting on with the sport hernia. He is 0-8 with 3K’s and has looked lost at the plate. At this point, I have to assume he is in there because the Phils don’t have anyone better and Placido’s glove work has been stellar at the hot corner. With that being said, I think he should move back to his normal second spot against LH starters. But didn’t I just say he can’t hit apparently? Well he has a .314 average out of the 2 hole. Put him where he is most comfortable. At 2 he knows his role and is comfortable. At 6 or 7 he doesn’t know whether his role it to get on, knock people in, or move them up. Consequently, he has done none of the above.
     I felt like the Phillies, once again last night, waited for the 2 or 2 run homer. Playoffs are pitching, small ball, and timely hitting. Charlie needs to switch things up just enough to throw the Cards off...and maybe shake the Phils up a bit without feeling like a panic button is hit. Rollins, Polanco, Pence, Howard, Mayberry, Utley, Victorino, Ruiz is what I propose and here is why.
     Switch, right, right, left,right,left,switch, right. That is the first reason and it creates a real nice mix with LaRussa being the human rain delay of pitching changes late in games. Speed at the top, middle, and back end of the lineup. Rollins, Mayberry, and Victorino need to swipe bags. If Mayberry gets on, this creates a large hole on the left side for Utley to shoot for. Ruiz has proven to be a clutch performer who would see many fastballs, which he mashes, and could knock Shane in from second...and stay out of the DP. The move of Polanco to the 2 spot is also because he normally makes good contact and is a good bunter. Chase strikes out a lot and is a bad bunter.
      The playoffs are the second season. You have to change and adapt. Hit and run. Steal. Create runs. Play solid defense and rely on pitching. This is a must win. Maybe the first must win since being down to San Fran in last years playoffs..where the Phillies once again relied on the 3 run HR that never came. Cole will be Cole and put the Phillies in a position to win, the question is...will the Phillies rise to the occasion like they did in 2008 and 2009, or will they be on the outside looking in with questions as SS and closer plaguing their offseason wish list? Must win. Must win now.