May we have this dance...someday?
Two days ago, you would have thought the world was ending in east Texas. Another storm had ravaged the Gulf side of the Lone Star state and the locals were silent. Dead silent. Disaster seemed to strike a second or third time, only this time the name was not Katrina or Rita or some other innocuous name from who-knows-where. This time, the name tag read Albert Pujols and the smirk he wore as he smacked a ball 400-plus feet in the 9th inning Tuesday was absolutely Moonshot Manny-esque.
In the media, the writers, specifically the night owls who tirelessly work the unforgiving AP beat, were lambasting the Astros as losers. Failures. Chokers. Bums! They pointed out the franchise’s propensity for losing big games, for never getting to the big dance, for choking versus the 1980 Phillies at home for God’s sake, then again 6 years later against the Mets! Both teams went on to win the prize. From what was penned in the last 48 hours, you half expected the suits to be readying the paperwork for Houston’s dismissal from the U.S. back to Mexico. They disowned that city faster than one could say San Juan Hill.
Are we being dramatic here? Maybe, but if you had combed the wire and read the reports, you would have thought the ‘stros were DOA in St. Louis. The stories weren’t kind and the writers seemed to be waiting for Houston to collapse yet again. What a story that would make!
The writers should have known better. If anyone saw this team’s toasting of their closest pursuer this year, our own Phillies, they would have known this is not a choking team. Down a game or two in the standings, they came into south Philly and stole three straight games from an unusually resilient squad at Broad and Pattison by doing what? Just enough to win each time. Stealing a few bases. Grabbing a few early runs. Throwing good pitches. Knocking a dinger off a former teammate, who by the way is the premier closer in the league we’re told. It’s the kind of thing that makes you like a team, really. They battled back. They hung on. Now, they faced the same killer that got them last year and this time they took them down. Pretty sweet revenge.
Oh yeah. They lost 30 of their first 45 games this year. They had an anemic offense in something of a hitter’s park. They lost their biggest slugger to an injury. They couldn’t score enough runs for the guy with the best ERA in baseball to win more than a dozen games. Their closer made less than the cost of an average house in about 10 major markets in this country.
In short, they were everything the hometown nine were not this year. The Phillies, if they are serious about improving their team and their franchise, should look no further for a gold standard than the National League’s representative in the World Series this year, a team that sent them home by a margin of exactly one game this year. They should start by hiring their former GM and proceed to put together a team of quality arms and hungry position players.
Finally, if Dave Montgomery decided to fire his former GM after witnessing the Astros’ marathon win in 18 innings over the Braves, he should rewind that tape and rewatch it every day until he collects enough fire in his Braod Street belly to do a lot more housecleaning.
Just changing lightbulbs is not going to do it.