Met With Pride?
Having watched this team sporadically and listened intently for the first six weeks of the season, our original evaluation of the 2006 Phils, pre-8-game winning streak, was that what we have here is failure to do anything especially well. Over the course of April, the team hit poorly in scoring situations, pitched poorly in most situations not involving the 9th inning, and fielded poorly from time to time through the game. And while the current hot streak shows us a team that is fun to watch and entirely capable of wining games from both ahead and behind, let's not get too overanxious. The last three opponants have been a mix of the bad (Marlins), floundering (Braves) and the old and creaky (Giants). Much like last year's 12-1 homestand -- which saw the team go west and struggle in Seattle, scoring 4 runs in 3 games -- the Phils need to pull themselves together when this streak finally ends and they feel their confidence slipping.
That is a worry for another day, however, and that day will be tomorrow when the Mets come to town for a three game set, a trifecta that will show which team is in fact in control of the suddenly medicre NL East. There are so many reasons to want to beat the Mets from their status as the red-headed step-child of New York baseball to the problems they gave the Phils last year to the whole hate-able aura of the thousands of lunkhead fans who come to Philadelphia to out-attitude south Philly's most obnoxious. Last night, Jon Miller or Joe Morgan -- we forget exactly which -- made exactly one good point about the Phils in between sometimes ridiculous discussion about the world of Barry Bonds: when Aaron Rowand came to Phils spring training in clearwater (in a pickup truck driven cross country from the Golden state), he made a point to take every single member of the 40-man roster out for lunch individually at some point. Why? Just cause. Just cause that's what someone looking to lead a team does. And Rowand, currently putting up a nice 311/354/513 line reminiscent of his 2004 career year on the South Side, has been exactly as advertised, probbaly better since moving to the 6th hole. He has been the public backbone this team desparately needed.
What this team never needed, however, was a whiny, self-promoting, public-emoting, media-controlling, virtue-extolling, Biggio-homer-cajoling left-hander throwing teammates under the bus both in season and in the following season. Billy Wagner, with all the class of 'school on Saturday' continues to answer the question no one really seems to be asking: what happened behind closed doors in Philadelphia last year? The answer to you and I is 'not enough to win playoff spot.' For Wagner, however, it appears to be "not enough to make me feel part of a team I was looking to get off of from Day One when I said 'I don't want to be here if there's going to be a bunch of kids (rookies?) running around.'" Last year, some thought Wagner was trying to rally the troops. Looking back, maybe he just wanted to be noted in courtesy class.
Personally, whether or not the Sandman ever enters from Tuesday to Thursday this week, it should be secondary to winning each game before the ninth inning. The Phils have their two best pitchers going in the first two games, their offense seems be adjusting nicely to the newest correct lineup, and they will be at home in front a decent size crowds that want nothing more to laugh at the other team from New York, it's big-spending ways, and its suddenly sensitive stopper.
Thankfully, the good guys rose to the challenge last night in front of a national audience.
Hopefully, there's more in store this week.