81 in the Books.

Phillies Win Projection Machine.

*Note, I wrote the vast majority of this post before Cole Hamels left today’s game with an injury to his non-pitching hand.

The Phillies played their 81st game last night, another nail-biting win where the pitching stole the show.  It was the 51st win for the home team, and put them on pace for a club record 102 victories.  Two straight wins over the Red Sox, a nice lead in the division, and 3 candidates to start the All-Star game have us sitting nice and pretty, but let’s take a moment away from all that and take a look back at the pre-season predictions.  As is my custom here, let’s examine exactly how wrong I was on March 31st.  We’ll do league-wide stuff first, then focus in on the Phils.

AL Playoff Teams:

What I said:  Boston, New York, Detroit and Oakland.

If the Playoffs Started Today:  New York, Boston, Cleveland and Texas.

Analysis:  I’m percentage points away from hitting 75% here.  Right now Boston and New York look like solid picks.  Dare I say the AL isn’t quite as deep as it has been in past years?   I think the Red Sox and Yanks will have plenty of teams to beat up on to make the post-season.  I also think the Tigers will prevail in the Central.  The A’s were, by far, my worst pick, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Texas repeat in a weak division.

NL Playoff Teams:

What I Said:  Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Colorado and San Francisco

If the Playoffs Started Today: Philadelphia, Milwaukee, San Franciso, Atlanta.

Analysis:  The pitching of San Francisco and Philly should carry them through.  The Central is still wide-open, and I don’t really trust the Brewers to close.  The Braves look like a strong wild-card contender, certainly better than Colorado who has been ravaged by injuries to their rotation and hasn’t hit like you would have expected.

AL Rookie of the Year:  

What I said: Kyle Drabek

Who it is:  Michael Pineda

Analysis:  Drabek started strong for Toronto, or was at least was showing promise, but he couldn’t maintain any level of success.  A trip to the Minors has been a disaster and he’s got no chance of winning this award.  A clear-cut F for a pick, no doubt.  Pineda has some competition with Zach Britton and Jeremy Hellickson among the pitchers and there is always a chance a mid-season call-up like Dustin Ackley could get ridiculously hot in the 2nd half and steal the trophy.

NL Rookie of the Year: 

I said:  Aroldis Chapman

Who it is: Craig Kimbrel.

Analysis:  Wow, good job with the rookies, Grossy.  Chapman was hurt, sent to the Minors and isn’t performing.  What can I say? I went for the 103 MPH fastball.  Kimbrel  is piling up saves in a fairly wide-open NL race.  Maybe it’s hard to give it to a closer, but the best every day option is Washington’s Danny Espinosa, who has some good production numbers, especially for a 2nd baseman.

AL Cy Young

I said: Justin Verlander

Who it is:  Justin Verlander

Analysis:  The Phillies win over Josh Beckett on Tuesday helped the cause here, but really Verlander has been in a groove. He’s dominating the AL in the traditional and metric categories, he threw a no-hitter, and with Jered Weaver cooling off a bit as well, I don’t think this is much of a race.

NL Cy Young:

I said: Roy Halladay

Who it is:  Roy Halladay

Analysis:  The only non-Phillie you can really make a case for is Jair Jurrgens.  Jurrgens has the ERA lead, but he hasn’t eaten up the innings that Halladay and Hamels have or been as dominant.  Halladay wins out thanks to his combination of old-school appeal (complete games and wins) plus he dominates the WAR stats.  Cliff Lee is hard charging, but halfway home I’m sticking with Roy.

AL MVP: 

I Said: Miguel Cabrera

Who it is: Adrian Gonzalez

Analysis:  My boy Miguel Cabrera can’t catch a break.  Last year Josh Hamilton went crazy and this year it looks like Adrian Gonzalez is doing the same.  Miggy is hitting .337 with 17 Homers and 56 RBI, but Gonzalez is still the clear choice. After a modest April, Gonzalez has been getting hotter and hotter, but with the big years Cabrera and Jose Bautista are having, he’ll have to keep the pedal down to bring this home in the 2nd half.

NL MVP:

I Said: Ryan Braun

Who it is:  Jose Reyes

Analysis:  Some people might give it to Prince Fielder.  He’s having a big year for a first place team, and I couldn’t argue too much with that, but Reyes has been unreal this season.  If we ignore W/L record, I think he’s the choice.  Not discounting Braun either, who is probably at least top-4 at this point, but Reyes is leading a suddenly scorching Mets offense.  He’s hitting .351, he’s on pace for 30 triples, 130 runs and 60 steals.  It’s not a conventional MVP season, but he’s still my pick.

Phillies Predictions:

I predicted 94 Wins.  The current pace of 102 would blow that away and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Phils got there.

Good Calls:

I predicted a good year for Shane Victorino, we already touched on Halladay, and I touted Mike Stutes as well.  Love our Stutes-y.  I’d give myself 1/2 a point for claiming Howard would be the offensive MVP.  If it’s not him, it’s Victorino.  For Cliff Lee I said 16-9 with a 3 ERA and a few bad starts keep him from Cy Young contention.  He’s on pace for 18-10 with a 2.7 ERA.  The part about the handful of bad starts has been dead on.

Terrible Calls:

Depsite reservations, I said Cole Hamels was the pitcher I was most worried about.  That lasted one start.  Now, Oswalt is that guy, and we’re worrying if he’s going to retire.  I bombed on the corner outfielders as well.  I thought Raul and Ben Francisco would be having better years, especially Benny.  I said 24 homers and a .270 average.  Considering he’s not getting much playing time, he’ll be lucky to get to 12 homers, and we know he’s not hitting .270.  Ibanez might get near my HR projection, but that’s about it.  Things caught up with him one-year early.  I predicted a down year for Placido Polanco. That prediction, unfortunately, is looking less terrible the further we get into the season.  I think this aging team wears down quickly.  Polanco is a prime example.

Ok, that’s the full summary.  Who are you giving out the awards to?

Phillies Game Update:  Cole Hamels leaves a 0-0 game with an injury to his non-pitching hand.  I wasn’t watching so I don’t know what happened exactly, but it sounds like he got hit on a ball back up the middle.  More bad news for the Phillies. Not only long-term, but today, I’m not sure David Herndon and company can keep pace with Jon Lester today.  If Cole’s hand is broken, the Phillies rotation will suddenly be Halladay/Lee/Worley/Kendrick and ???  You don’t want to know the options and AA and AAA.

As expected, Boston getting their hacks off Herndon.  They now lead it, 2-0. I’ve got to say that J.J. Redick has really been the star for Boston this series.  Man, this could really put a downer on what started out as a great series for the Phillies.

Beard Talk.

At Minimum a Triple Violation.

Big Dub wanted a beard post.  I don’t know that I am really qualified to write such a post, but I obviously have an opinion. I know Big Dub could grow a similarly awful beard to the one Hunter Mahan is sporting above.  For my money, it is currently the worst mainstream beard in America, but only after Wilson Valdez shaved his “that thing” the other day. Mahan violates on pretty much every angle.  He’s growing a beard when he really can’t grow one.  His hair has an orange tint (automatic violation), and he’s obviously doing it in some hipster attempt to falsely represent indifference.  Any real beard guy, or anyone who actually is too lazy to shave should be insulted.  I am.  The conclusion I’m coming to here is that beards are only grown for two reasons:  laziness and vanity.  I can personally vouch for this.

Before I get further into the beards, let me take a quick detour to the mustache.  No bit of facial hair is burdened with such terrible stigmas.  “Hey look at that porn-stache.”  “Nice molestache.”  These are things that if you run in my circles you hear just about every day.  Sporting a bad mustache is an invitation for mockery.  The reason you see so many bad mustaches, though, is because on the slim chance you actually pull it off, you are doing something very special.  A power mustache totally flips the script.  As long as there are people like Ron Swanson pulling off the ‘stache to perfection, there will be any number of terrible imitations.

Church.

All right, getting back to beards.  Let’s throw out some varieties of facial hair and some of the things that pop into my mind when looking at said styles.

Old Man Bushy Beard:  The Old Man Bushy Beard is a classic.  Personally, I feel like this is an extension of the, “I’m Old, I’m doing whatever I want,” philosophy.  Just like an old guy in blue-blockers will power through a stop sign with nary a care, they’ll rock their beard and not give a darn what you have to say about it.  Also, they may have some mall Santa aspirations.   Those are choice gigs.

Young Man Bushy Beard:  Totally different animal.  I feel like these guys are trying to send a message.  “I’m rustic.”  “I can fell an acre of timber in a single afternoon.”  I think it’s rooted in misconception, though.  I don’t think many lumberjacks or farmers actually rock these beards.  It’s all guys who think that is what they are supposed to look like, but in fact they’re just working at Barnes and Noble or doing the open-mic circuit in Nashville.

The Chin Strap:  Everyone loves a chin strap.  And, I’m talking about the full effort here.  No mustache.  The Amish rock these with an odd grace, but we’ll leave them out of it.  The chin straps you see in the world of electricity are usually worn by guys who cannot grow mustaches and yet have no idea how bad a chin strap actually looks. I feel like people with chin straps have a high propensity for wearing jorts.  They also may or may not have a souped up Mitsubishi.  In extreme cases the chin strap wearer will have designs cut into their hair.

Wanna Go for a Ride in my Impreza?

The Goatee:  I feel like the goatee should have a grandfather clause.  Like the NHL players who were allowed to continue playing without a helmet, I feel that if you can prove you wore a goatee in the 90s, then you are allowed to keep wearing it. Otherwise, I think we can chalk this up to a failed experiment.  I remember being around 12 and thinking that as soon as I was able I was going to grow a goatee.  I’d immediately look harder, older and just walk around in a fog of masculinity.  A few years later, this is exactly what I did.  Of course, I looked like a donkey.  The goatee for me has become the male equivalent of Mom Jeans.  Tiger Woods isn’t pulling it off.  “Oh, sweet goatee, Tiger.  But, can you move your minivan?  It’s blocking an exit.”

Chin Only Garbage:  Any type of “soul patch,” or its brethren.  Can’t believe I just typed soul patch.  Unfortunately, I once had a chin only beard after realizing the mustache part of my goatee wasn’t happening properly.  This was clearly the nadir of my facial hair career.  The thing with these beards is that if you have one I can guarantee that your friends are in a constant debate over how to tell you that you look like an a-hole.  They are almost embarrassed to be in public with you, but duties of the friendship just slightly outweigh the atrocity on your face.  Do everyone a favor and shave.

The Perma-Stubble.  I think this beard has somehow garnered a level of acceptance across all fields of masculinity.  But, I have to say, I find this to be the most vain of all beards.  You know how much work it takes to maintain a beard in this fashion?  A lot.  And, that is precisely what most of these guys don’t want you to know.  I understand the appeal.  We’ve all looked in the mirror on like day 2 or 3, been ready to shave only to find yourself looking absolutely ravishing.  You put off shaving and embrace the perfect stubble, but the next day you are back to looking like garbage.  So, you must maintain, and from that point on you are just chasing the dragon.  So, I’ve got to say, regardless your walk of life, if you have this beard going, you are a bit of a pretty boy.

The Catch All, Carnival Beard Category:  If you happen to have mutton chops, or perhaps a reverse goatee, some wild Fu Manchu, I’d say you are the type of person who is likely to get into an argument about your beard.  Someone will say you look like a douche with your reverse goatee and then you’ll say, “What are you gay?  Why do you care what my beard looks like.”  These guys will preach that their beard is a result of them, “not giving a F–k,” about anything, but we know that isn’t true.  It’s best to just let these guys be, though, because they are very likely to challenge you to a fight.  Of course, if you want to get into a fight, go right ahead, whatever works.

I think that’s all I have on beards.  Hopefully that is acceptable for Big Dub, and everyone else can feel a little more educated on the subject.  Feel free to call BS, or correct any glaring mistakes you see in my analysis.  I feel like I’m probably right, though.

One-Day Blogcation.

Look, A Corona Commercial.

In honor of Cliff Lee going into Robin Roberts territory, I’m not going to be making any actual posts on the blog today. What could there possibly be to say?  I’d just muck it up with my fancy vocabulary.  Plus, we’ve got a real Ferris Bueller cracking the blinds open kind of day out there, so I’m not going to rack my brain trying to think of something clever to say about Wimbledon or grilled cheese sandwiches.  It’s almost the 4th of July, anyway.  I’m sure some people have already started their vacation.  I’m going to poof for one day, and then be back tomorrow.  Maybe there will be something to talk about.  Someone hurry up and buy the Dodgers.

 

 

Becquette vs. Leigh (AKA, Mother Lovin’ Throws a 2-Hitter).

Lee is the Eagle on the Left. I think.

I was going to write something about the game tonight earlier in the afternoon, but I decided against that, and instead I am going to slowly melt into a live commentary of the game starting at exactly 7:05 pm.  I have to say, people are really excited about this series.  It’s dominating on the radio, and all our insecurities are shining through.  Before I pop back in a couple of hours, I encourage anyone who would like to share their thoughts, bring up a topic, whatever you’d like.

The biggest Phillies news of the day was Ryan Madson heading to the DL.  Madson will be eligible to come off on the 4th, but I guess it got to the point where they couldn’t afford to be short an arm in the bullpen especially considering Contreras went back on the DL recently as well.  The Phillies bullpen is suddenly thin, and if they got into a 3-inning situation it would likely be Herndon/Stutes/Bastardo.  Not exactly how they drew it up in March.  Hopefully Cliff won’t tax the bullpen too much.  For something to chew on, the Phillies are a very modest (-135) favorite tonight.  Nervous!  And the over/under is set at 7 runs.  Still can’t sniff 6.5.  Maybe on Thursday.

All right, back at 7pm-ish.

Quiz While You Wait: Historical Travel Posters.  Category: Stereotypes.  My Score: 19/20.  

Not our most rigorous, I gave up on guessing the last one.

***

All Right, Let’s Do This:

I’m ready to go.  I’ve made myself a roast beef sandwich.  I’ve got an American beer in front of me and some pretzels as well if the mood strikes.  This game has pitcher’s duel written all over it, but who knows.  Smart money’s on the over?

Before we get started, do you know who should be one arrogant S.O.B.?  The guy that first flavored mayonnaise.  What a simply genius move that was.  I’m rocking some Chipotle Mayo right now.  It’s a delight.  There’s a restaurant in Paoli that has horseradish mayo on their roast beast sammy.  Oh my.

If any Phillies fans out there sold their tickets to people from Boston they should be ashamed of themselves.  I know the prices were ridiculous, but have some pride.  I’m sure you could find some bandwagon, yuppie Phillies fan to take the tickets.

Lee gets Ellsbury on two pitches.  Perfect game intact.  I’ve got to get to my sandwich.  Pedroia out on one pitch.  Now, I guess I’ll wait to see what Adrian does before I gorge myself.  Slow roller to 2nd, 1-2-3 inning on five pitches.  American League lineup?  Not impressed.

Phils have some decent numbers off Beckett, but I imagine most of those were compiled years ago.  They go fairly quietly in the first.  A routine running catch from Ellsbury reminds me of how good the A’s outfield looked over the weekend.  A visual reminder of how little ground the Phillies cover in the outfield (even with Shane Victorino).  Way too many balls drop out there for how small the park is.  Dueling perfect games!  48 outs to go.

Darnell McDonald, starting leftfielder, is hitting .109.  Maybe Carl Crawford isn’t having that bad of a year.

From the obvious department, Tom McCarthy says the Marlins aren’t playing well and I’ll add that Ryan Howard is not fast. His lack of wheels cost Shane an infield single, and possibly the Phils a little rally in the 2nd.  Good news is, we broke up the no-hitter.

Dom Brown, instead of showing the crowd a new willingness to hustle, hits a 2-run homer into the bullpen and trots around the bases at his usual pace.  Phils lead 2-0, ending Beckett’s scoreless inning streak and the dream of the shutout.  Standard Phillies procedure now will be to look to Cliff and say, “Two’s enough, right?”

Josh Beckett has 2 homers and is hitting .400 at Citizen’s Bank Park.  How many, can he play left-field, jokes just echoed through the Delaware Valley?  Beckett makes the jokes less absurd with a scorching line-out to Ryan Howard.

Josh Beckett has officially become crafty, he hardly ever throws that nasty bender he used to have, and he’s nowhere near 95 mph.  It looks like he’s picking around like Halladay a bit, but without the top-shelf command.  He’s nowhere near Lee’s economy through 3 innings.

Both pitchers settling in, still 2-0 headed to the 5th.  Raul Ibanez looks…bad.  I’m not sure if he has another one of his hot streaks in him.  One of these times the guy is going to cool off and just stay cool.  The tingling most Phillies fans have in their shorts for Ryan Ludwick and Heath Bell?  Every Ibanez at-bat right now makes you a little more desperate.

Perhaps we should take a moment to say this isn’t exactly Boston’s best team we’re seeing here.  Mike Cameron (.152) the aforementioned McDonald, Jason Varitek, counting the pitcher’s spot there are about 4 outs in the lineup tonight for the Sox.  Lee just stretched his scoreless innings streak to a career high.   A couple insurance runs would be a dream, but I have to check in on this sausage disaster on Master Chef.

Cliff Lee sacrifice fly to deep left, and buoys himself to a 3-0 lead.  I think Cliff’s going to go deep this year before all is said and done.  Dom Brown, channeling Pete Rose, sets the record for fastest time from 3rd on a sacrifice fly that didn’t draw a throw.

Beckett erases Boston’s first hit with a routine double-play ball.  He carried his bat down the line like a confused t-baller. Sarge says you don’t see that too often, and I guess by not too often he means never.

Beckett inexplicably (gunslinger’s confidence?) pitches to Victorino with a base open and Raul on-deck.  Shane homers to right, running the lead to 5-0.  Things looking pretty rosy down at the Bank right now.  As expected, Raul grounds out to the right side.

Lee’s scoreless streak hits 30 innings.  Someone call Orel Hershiser and tell him to start getting nervous

It’s the rapidly increasing strike zone of Darryl (sp) Cousins.  Someone has an appointment at Cheerleaders. Victorino gets rung up on a ball that’s closer to the Red Sox dugout than the strike zone.  Up five runs there, I might just go ahead and get tossed and get first dibs on the buffet.  Headed to the 9th…

Lee finishes off the 3rd consecutive shutout with ease.  Well, I’m sure we’ll hear some grumblings about the Phillies only having six hits, no game is complaint free after all, but this is the kind of game that can ease your mind, especially if the Phils get one of the next two.  A lot of pressure off Vance Worley for tomorrow.  Like I said, not the best Red Sox team, but a real quality win for the Phils.

900 Ways to Make a Bogey.

The Easiest Score to Make.

I made a lot of bogeys today.  My game is in a state where I currently am more concerned with how I am hitting the ball than the actual number 0n the card.  In fact, with a handicap that needs some carbo-loading the best case scenario for my game is that I stripe it and shoot a million.  I’m not going to say I striped it today, but I did hit some conspicuously long 3-woods and some on-line iron shots.  Unfortunately, the majority of these iron shots ended up 1/2 club short and I got up and down 0 times out of, well, I missed a bunch of greens.   At one point pulling up to the next tee box I said apropos of nothing but my scorecard, “900 ways to make a bogey.”  It made me think I should do a post about the intricacies of making bogey.  There might not be 900 ways, but there are a bunch.  Here’s a walkthrough…

1st Hole Specials: Ways not to make a 10 on the first hole.

The First Hole Bogey:  You take some astronomical number of shots, usually involving multiple tee shots and a generous gimme, and still take a bogey.  The reasoning?  Can’t take double on the first hole.  Have I ever done this?  Probably.

Mully Bogey:  Tee shot off the planet, re-tee (no penalty) and proceed to make one of the following types of bogey.  This is the score I make on the first hole of approximately 10% of my rounds of golf.  To cast myself in a slightly better light, I made a regulation USGA par on the first hole today.

Routine Bogeys: The Following Bogeys are your pedestrian bogeys.  They require no real flair for the dramatic.  They are the nuts and bolts of the bogey train.

3-Putt Bogey:  The ball striker’s bogey.  My blog has its title for a reason.  I three putt all the time.  It’s a constant occurrence.  If you get tired of watching Jimmy Rollins hit pop-ups, you’d get tired of playing golf with me.  Just kidding, I’m amazing to play with.

Punch Out Bogey:  You hit your tee shot behind a tree, into the hay, onto another fairway, regardless you cannot reach the surface.  Luckily, there is always a seam.  You knock it back into play, knock it on and smoothly two-jack for bogey.

The Always Chasing It Bogey:  Your tee shot is in play (kind of).  You try to maneuver something up toward the green, but you don’t get there.  You then chunk wedge to 28 feet and two-putt for bogey.

The Non-GIR Bogey:  Beautiful tee shot.  You then fan/skull/chunk/block/underclub your second and end up just off the green.  You do not get up and in for par.

The Lateral Hazard Bogey:  You rip a tee shot into a creek, but you caught enough of it that you can take your drop, knock it on and two-putt for a nice bogey.

The Gimme Bogey:  You have golfed your ball “par” number of times.  You are looking at a putt of some arbitrary distance and you give yourself that putt.  You either pick it up, or do some kind of one-handed, eyes closed flail at it and then pick it up.  Please note that you must give the putt to yourself.

Creative Bogeys:

The “Lateral Hazard” Bogey:  Similar to the method above, but you don’t actually hit the ball in a lateral hazard.  You hit your ball OB, lose it, hit it into a water hazard, whatever.  Then, you take a 1-shot penalty, an illegal drop, knock it on and two-putt for bogey.

The Two-Chip Bogey:  Around the green in two shots (on a par 4), you perhaps find yourself in a bunker.  You then leave it in the bunker.  Or you skull it across the green.  Or, you get cute with a flop.  You have to chip again.  This time you knock it up there stony like you’re Gary Player and tap-in for bogey.  The rich man’s 2-chip, 2-putt double.

The 2nd Ball Birdie:  First tee shot goes out of the golfing boundaries.  Then you become a tour star.  Playing by the rules you birdie your 2nd ball for a smooth bogey.  This was the first hole of my college career.  Par-5.  Two-Iron a mile OB left, 2 iron down the gut, 2 iron just short, chip to 4 inches, bingo.

The 4-Putt Bogey:  There’s always consolation to be had in such endeavors.  At least you’ve driven a par-4 or hit a par-5 in two.  You might be thinking, this sounds a little ridiculous.  Let me take you to the Tryall Club in Jamaica.  I’ve ridden the trade winds onto a par-5 in two shots.  From 10-feet above the hole the worst caddy on the island, Jasbo, says, “It’s fast.” No sh*t.  My birdie putt coming back was from about 30 feet.  Use your imagination for the rest.

The Hole-Out Bogey:  I was going to break this up into the chip-in and hole-out, but the point is the same.  You are not on the putting surface and have already achieved “par.”  At that point you channel Ray Floyd and jar it from somewhere.  I think the most satisfying way to do this would be to hole out your 3rd attempt from a greenside bunker.

The “Didn’t Make Bogey” Bogey:  You just lie.  Period.  No frills. Not the 1st hole, nothing.

I think that about covers it for what I can think of tonight.  Feel free to contribute your own, or some more detailed variations on the bogeys above.

 

 

 

A Pretty Good Baseball Series.

Bonding Over a Mutual Distaste for Nick Swisher?

Tomorrow the city of champions (self-attributed) will pay a visit to the city of pitching (bitterly self-attributed).  It will be sold as a World Series preview, but it doesn’t have to be that to be an interesting series.  Since starting the season 2-10, the Red Sox have been the best team in the American League.  The Phillies have spent the majority of the season atop the National League standings and currently own the best record in all of baseball.  The Sox are one of the few teams that haven’t been swallowed up by the league-wide shortage in runs. The Phillies rotation has Jayson Stark thumbing through the annals of baseball reference once a week to look up some new stat.  The series will have the attention of the city.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the regular season attendance record was broken once, twice, or even all three days for this series. Some thoughts, in no particular order:

The Phillies should be thankful Roy Halladay isn’t pitching.  Big Roy has Omar Daal-ian career numbers against the Sox, and if my memory serves me, was knocked around in Boston last year.  It’s not like you’d sit Halladay if these teams met in the World Series, but missing his spot in the rotation for this match-up isn’t the end of the world.  Considering its current makeup, this may be the best alignment for the Phillies staff against the Red Sox.

I already read one article in the paper today making villains out of Boston fans.  Coming from us, that’s akin to calling your identical twin the ugliest person in the world.  Right now people in Philadelphia are jealous of the titles Boston is winning, and in baseball they are jealous of the Red Sox offense.  If you asked people if they’d rather the Phillies hit like Boston but were tied in the division instead of 5 games ahead with their current list of mashers, most would take the offense.  This little glimpse at a high-scoring team will pull at the heartstrings for Phillies fans and make them dream of 2007-2008.

Every time Boston comes to town it should be a reminder that we probably give coaches way too much credit for the wins and way too much blame for the losses.  Terry Francona was hated in this town to near Rich Kotite levels.  A baseball fan in Philadelphia wouldn’t have trusted “Tito” to pump their gas.  It was an uproarious error of the greatest magnitude here when Boston brought Francona in to manage their big budget roster.  Enjoy mediocrity, we said, right before the Sox ended their historic drought.  Then they won another to eliminate the fluke factor.  I think a lot of people have forgotten about Francona now, just like they’ve forgotten they used to loathe Charlie Manuel, but just something to think about.

Here’s something that just popped into my mind.  Will Adrian Gonzalez look scarier in a Red Sox uniform?  We’ve seen Gonzalez in the past.  For me, he’s a little bit like the Greg Maddux of hitting.  Oh, another line drive.  I don’t think anyone quakes when Gonzalez comes to the plate, but then you look up, and he’s killing you.  Maybe that was a result of him playing in San Diego, though.  Out there, you could get cute with him, and the games against the Padres certainly didn’t feel this significant.  Is Gonzalez still a silent assassin, or will there be a couple of at-bats in this series where some classic Philly pessimism portends doom as he comes to the plate?

I’m excited for the series.  Two great pitching match-ups and one very sketchy one.  One thing I might be looking forward to the most is that if the Phillies can win, regardless of how pretty it is, it should shut people up for a while.  If you beat the Red Sox in a series hopefully it won’t be populated with “buts.”  Of course, if the Phillies lose the series, brace yourself, because it’ll probably get pretty ugly, unless they lose every game 9-8, then it’ll be dancing in the streets.

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Quiz of the Day:  50 Largest U.S. Cities Minefield.  Category: New York and 49 Other Cities.  My Score: 27/50.

Read the directions.  I bombed this one.  Badly.  Not because I didn’t read the directions, but because I decided to try to get cute for no reason.  Shame.  A golden opportunity to beat me.  An academic lay-up.  Happy Monday.

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I’m headed out to play golf this afternoon (Fore in the Fescue!).  Who knows how that will go.  Hopefully, I can break 90. Talk amongst yourselves.

American Golfer (Aged 19 Years) Surges To Lead of Middling Tour Event.

If You Squint He Looks a Little Like McIl-Jesus.

At one point during the U.S. Open before there only became one story line someone trotted out the regrettable headline, “UCLA’s Cantlay Can Play.”  Even though that bit of wordplay might cost you some brain cells, it is at its very core, true. Patrick Cantlay, despite the fact that you’ve likely never heard of him (even after last week), was freshman all-everything at UCLA.  About the only thing missing on his resume is a USGA championship.  Forget about Peter Uihlein, the more heralded Amateur champion for a moment, in a world where the next big thing seems to change by the month, Cantlay is lengthening his lead on the field with a possibly historic run at the Travelers Championship.

No one will confuse the Travelers with a premiere even on Tour, but it’s always been friendly to young players and amateurs, and Cantlay is repaying their generosity with a scorching 2nd round.  He’s eight-under through 14 holes, 11-under overall and has a two-shot lead midway through a rain-delayed 2nd round.  He’s got a long way to go, and the event will be a ruthless a birdie binge, but for some perspective, Cantlay could become just the third amateur in the last 60 years to win a PGA Tour event, joining Phil Mickelson and Scott Verplank.  This isn’t Jordan Speith’s feel good top-20 lingering at his hometown track, Cantlay might actually take a run at closing this thing out.

If you did see the U.S. Open coverage you might remember either Johnny Miller’s effusive praise or the insistence that Cantlay was not interested in turning pro.  He intends to get his degree, he intends to play on Walker Cup teams and continue building his amateur resume.  It’s easy to say that when you are turning down relatively modest sums of money, but it would be hard to put a price on a two-year PGA Tour exemption.  He said the Tour will always be there after school, but you could say the same thing for school being there after the Tour.  I honestly don’t think he’s going to win, but it would be an amazing story if he did, and it would be one hell of a decision to make.

It’s hard to gauge these brief flashes of amateur brilliance.  For every guy like Phil Mickelson (or even Verplank) there is an all-world amateur who never makes it.  The phenom is something that has been missing from American golf.  We want it to be Rickie Fowler, or we want it to be Anthony Kim, or Charles Howell and Bryce Molder before them, but more often than not it doesn’t work out.  And now with Northern Ireland’s true phenom being forced down our throats as the next big thing, I have to say it’d be nice to see a teenage American player getting some attention that has been hogged by the likes of Rory and Ryo Ishikawa of late.

So, obviously in your right mind you would never turn on the Travelers Championship, but if you have that spare moment tomorrow afternoon maybe check in and see if Cantlay is holding it together.  I hope that I am not putting any of my notorious poison on him with this post, but he’s made a couple of pars since I started writing it, so I’m going to stick with it.