I Just Don’t Get It: The Reputation of Philly Fans

So, I was in St. Louis last week for a business trip.  Returning to my hotel room after a long day of site visits and business meetings, I did what any of us would do at that point, I flipped on ESPN and laid down to relax.  It just happened to be 6:00 and Michael Wilbon was in the process of “tossing it up to SportsCenter.”  The SportsCenter anchor took over (someone I didn’t recognize) and launched right into the lead story.  Half paying attention and staring mindlessly at the TV, this is what I heard: 

“As human beings, we all do many things naturally, instinctively, without consciously thinking about them.  For most of us, these things include blinking and breathing.  For Philadelphians, it’s booing…” 

What?!?  Really?  Now, I know that the entertainment business is competitive and, in this era of 872 cable channels and the worldwide web, journalists rely upon shock, exaggeration, and ridiculousness to draw attention and retain viewership.  I understand that.  And, yes, I understand that journalism is more of a mirror that reflects the sentiment of its readership/viewership than it is any sort of ethical or righteous vehicle to guide that following.  And, I’m certainly not going to make the argument that — like some of the radical news stations attempt to do — it even should be a vehicle of that sort.  What I don’t understand, however, is why the so-called best journalists in the world are so creatively inept as to always lean on gratuitous slaps at a city, its sports teams, and, most importantly, its extensive fanbase.  Honestly, it is just downright lazy. 

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I Just Don’t Get It

Why are the Phillies one of the very few teams not to skip a starter to get their ace another outing?

It seems that they would be the most likely to do so for two reasons:

  1. They have a total horse in Halladay
  2. They had an injury in the starting staff (Blanton), so they’d actually be skipping their sixth starter to get another start from Roy.

The only answer I can think of is that they don’t want Kyle Kendrick pitching their home opener.  I sure hope that isn’t the reason, but I’m afraid that it might be.

I Just Don’t Get It: The Shift

So, as The Greatest Baseball Writer on the Planet describes in his ESPN story today, unless something crazy happens over the next three days, the 2009 World Series’s signature moment may have been The Damon Play last night in Game Four.  For those of you who didn’t see it (what the hell else could you have been doing?), Johnny Damon stole second and third on the same pitch.  The Phillies incorporated “The Shift” against left-handed hitting Mark Teixeira, which meant that Pedro Feliz was the only guy on the left-side of the infield, so when Damon, who had reached on a base-hit after an epic battle with Brad Lidge, tried to steal second, it was Feliz there to cover…and no one to cover third base.  So, when Damon slid past Feliz, he simply got up and start running towards third, knowing that the only way he would be out is if Feliz ran him down–no chance of that, even at 35 years old, because Damon can still run.

Now, I see the great baserunning ability.  Trust me, I really appreciate good baserunning, and Damon has always been very intelligent on the bases.  And, unlike seemingly every over-intelligent announcer, I do not fault the Damon Play for the hits to Rodriguez or Posada.  Lidge has total confidence in Ruiz to block the slider, he just made two bad pitches to two good hitters.  I also don’t blame Pedro Feliz or Jimmy Rollins, at all, on the play.  The only one who made a bad defensive play was Lidge, but, trust me, you can’t trust pitchers to do anything other than throw the ball.  This play just opened up, on the grandest of stages, one thing that I Just Don’t Get about the strategic choices of managers surrounding The Shift.  Maybe someone out there smarter than me (which is not difficult to be) can explain it to me.

When incorporating The Shift (and, let us leave the “to or not to shift” debate out of this for the time being), WHY do managers put the shortstop on the right-side of the infield and not the thirdbaseman???

In fact, I have only seen one manager that does what I am suggesting, in moving the thirdbaseman over and keeping the shortstop on the left-side by himself, and that manager is Fredi Gonzalez (I’m sure there are others, but he is the only I that I have seen do it consistently).  When the “shift-worthy” lefties come to the plate against the Marlins, Gonzalez keeps Hanley Ramirez on the left side and sends the thirdbaseman (be it Jorge Cantu or whomever) over to the right side to play just to the right of the secondbase bag–where Charlie plays Rollins.  

This strategy seems to make a lot of sense to me because the shortstop is usually the better athlete and there is a lot more ground to cover when you’re the only one on the left side.  Plus, this move keeps the SS in his regular position on the diamond, where he is presumably most comfortable.  You only have to have one guy (the 3B) out of position, instead of two.  BUT…it seems to make EVEN MORE sense to do when there is a guy on first, because otherwise, you have your 3B covering second on a steal attempt (which is exactly what happened Sunday). 

Now, I’m not ripping Charlie Manuel here, at all because it seems like 28 other managers in the league would have done the same thing, but I am saying that if Jimmy Rollins had taken that throw, he would have (a) known more what to do on a steal attempt of second and (b) would have had the athleticism/footspeed to run down Damon if he tried to head for third.

Honestly, I just don’t get it.

I Just Don’t Get It…

NOTE:  Just when you thought you were getting tired of my gimmicky “recurring themes posts,” I want to add another to the mix.  I am not a smart man.  In fact, I am quite dumb.  There is a wide range of things that I simply don’t understand.  I have found, however, that it can be quite therapeutic to acknowledge what you do not know and ask the question.  So, I am not looking for answers (though, they are welcome), I am just trying to relieve myself of the burden of my stupidity–or at least today’s reminder of it.  As always, thanks for listening.

Okay, today’s burdensome reminder of my stupidity is two-fold because there are similar situations for two Philly sports that I simply don’t understand.

CASE #1:  The Eagles
Okay, let me see if I have the facts straight:

  • The Eagles are (and have been every year in the McNabb Era other than the Super Bowl year) in desperate need of a big-play wide receiver
  • Chad Johnson, a clear #1 wide receiver, is unhappy in Cincinnati
  • The Eagles are, as always, very much under the salary cap ($17.12 million under, actually)

Okay, I don’t get it.  Why are there rumors swirling about Chad Johnson going to Miami?  Why are the Eagles not involved?  Are they scared of another “loud” wide receiver after the T.O. debacle?  Are they not convinced that Chad Johnson is really deserving of being a #1 wide receiver, and therefore, getting #1 WR money?  Are they banking on Reggie Brown to finally have that break-out year?  Is there someone in the draft that they have their eyes on?  Are the Eagles involved, but it just has not gotten to the media yet?  Is Johnson intent on going to his hometown Dolphins now that they have Parcells?  Or, is the media blowing this out of proportion and Johnson is not really going anywhere? 

All of these are possible, but if Johnson really is on the proverbial “trading block” and the Eagles are not in daily phone conversations with the Bengals, then something is wrong.  How perfect of a fit is Chad Johnson in Philadelphia?  I just don’t get it…

CASE #2:  The Phillies
There is a similarly vexing situation going on with the Phillies.  Now, I understand that the Phillies have neither the prospects, the ownership payroll ability, nor the risk affordability to even pursue a Johan Santana.  Players like Santana are only available to teams that play in New York, Boston, Chicago or Los Angeles.  Whereas the other side of the spectrum–the Twins, the Marlins, the Pirates–only get star players for 6 major league seasons, forcing them to build by trading the Santanas and Cabreras of the world.  The Phillies are in the middle.  They can keep their own star players, but once a star hits the open market, they have no chance.  These mid-level teams can (and recently have) win titles, but they have little room for error.

This leads me into what I don’t understand about the Phillies right now.  Why are they not in the discussion for Erik Bedard?  Right now, it seems as if the Orioles are in serious talks with the Mariners.  Can the Mariners give a better package than the Phillies?  Are the Orioles looking to ship Bedard off to the West Coast, so as to curtail a little of the hammering they are bound to take in the press?  Do the Phillies think that the asking price is too much for a young, front-line pitcher?  Do they believe that Hamels, Myers and Moyer are a “Big Three?”

Just like the Eagles, who could fill a major need with an available player, Chad Johnson, the Phillies can also fill a major need with an available player–Erik Bedard.  So, why are they not involved?  I just don’t get it…