You Again?

Memories!

Oh Zdeno.  You poor genetic freak of nature.  What’s it look like to blow a 3-0 lead in a hockey series?  Well, it looks a little like this picture.   Here’s Chara, head down, contemplating what just happened while 18,000 rowdies throw their rally towels on the ice and scream, “FACK YOU BRUINS!”  Needless to say the Flyers comeback last year was one of my most satisfying moments as a sports fan, but I wonder if it will play any part in this series–a rematch one year later.  I think game 7 was played on May14th last year, which incidentally was the day Flyers Kitten made his first appearance. He’s come a long way, but a year later the Flyers find themselves in another incredibly tough series with a team that certainly has the revenge factor on its side.

Some people are putting more stock in the revenge than others.  If you told me you like Boston because of Tim Thomas or their defense, I’d probably pay more attention than if you say Boston will win because of what happened last year.  That doesn’t make a lot of sense.  In fact, you could just as easily make the argument that it will be incredibly difficult for the Bruins to close out this series regardless of the situation.  They had a 3-0 lead last year and a three goal lead in game seven.  If there is a revenge factor, isn’t there a here we go again factor?   In my opinion it’s tough to find a definitive edge.  Vegas just threw their hands up and said pick ‘em.  You’ve got to respect that.

You’ve got two brutal power plays facing off.  You have Tim Thomas, grand master of the regular season in net for the Bruins and Brian Boucher grand master of the vultured win in net for Philadelphia.  The Flyers have the advantage in offensive depth, they have home ice, and they might be getting the added bonus of an ever more healthy Chris Pronger. I think the Flyers will get the better of the 5 on 5 play, and so it’ll be key for them to stay out of the box and just let the offensive waves do their work.

Prediction:  The Flyers dropped 3 of 4 to the Bruins during the regular season, but I don’t put a lot of stock in that.  A lot of Flyers fans fear Boston, but this is a team that struggled to put Montreal to bed and Les Habitants are nothing to write home about.  There’s just too much difference in offensive fire power for me to pass over the Flyers in this spot.  I say they close it out in Boston again.  This time in game six.

***

Here’s a random one for you…I’m in the car and I hear an advertisement for something called the Vaseline for Men “Keep Your Grip” Challenge.  Um, what?  The prize is a football autographed by Michael Strahan, but it’s the particulars of the challenge that worry me.

***

MLB Underdog of the Day:  Yesterday’s Result: Loss.  Financial Status (-600 smackers). 

Big Dub H’s Result: Loss.  Financial Status (-200)

Well, the good news is Big Dub is proving just how difficult this little game is.  No one said it’d be easy!  My historic two-game winning streak was broken up by the faulty Orioles bullpen.  I had a glimmer.  Dub got pounded for the 2nd straight night.  Hide the children.

Today’s Selection:  Baltimore (+130) over Chicago.  Dub:  Toronto (+120) over New York.

I’m going right back to the well.  The White Sox stink.  They’re in free fall, and can’t score.

***

Quiz of the Day: Declining City Populations. Category: Death of the American Factory.  My Score: 15/30.

Way harder than I thought it was going to be.

Eagles Take the Chris Weinke of the Offensive Line.

Pictures From an Eagles Scouting Trip.

As soon as I got wind there was a 26-year old former Canadian firefighter from Baylor available, I knew that is exactly the kind of player the Eagles would target.  He’s mature!   Some teams wouldn’t touch Danny Watkins because he’ll hit his 30th birthday about midway through his 4th pro season, his prime has already started.  But, the Eagles don’t worry about things like age.  They’re smarter than that.  They worry about mileage (read: wild inexperience).  I suppose if they had taken a punter the fans would have been less interested, but until this guy makes about 4 straight Pro Bowls, the fans are going to hate this pick–especially if Jimmy Smith turns out to be a player for the Ravens.  The good news is, the Birds still have Kevin Kolb.

I said I didn’t care about the Draft, but that doesn’t mean after the 1st round is over that I don’t have some thoughts. There were some pretty interesting developments….

1.  I find it interesting that everyone thinks Cam Newton will be a great quarterback or a total bust.  No one thinks he’ll be just a solid pro.  You look at Von Miller who was taken 2nd and there’s at least a few people who will say, OK, he’s not going to be a superstar, but he’ll be a solid producer for you for 10 years.  Not with Newton.  He’s either going to redefine the position or be out of the league in 4 years.

2.  It’s interesting to see how positions are valued.  I’ve heard a lot lately about the devaluing of the running back position.  Now, there wasn’t a star back in this draft so you can’t judge by yesterday’s results, but in general it seems like teams know they have a chance at getting a decent back in the 2nd round or later.  It makes sense with the sheer volume of backs that come out the same year.  You’d think the same would apply to wide receivers, but it certainly didn’t yesterday.  First round receivers bust with uncommon regularity and yet they continue to go toward the top of the draft.  Is anyone confident A.J. Green is definitely a star?  And, the Falcons gave up a TON to get Julio Jones. An odd move for a team that already has a lot of skill on offense.  Four picks for the #2 WR in the Draft?

3.  Only fans more frustrated than Eagles fans?  Perhaps Minnesota who took Christian Ponder at 12.  There was a run on QBs, and Minnesota needs one, but wow.  Right after that pick I sent a message to Big Dub that said this draft was like ’99 Draft without McNabb.  Couch=Gabbert, Smith=Locker, McNown=Ponder, and Culpepper=Newton.  How’s that for some pessimism?  If not Minnesota, how about New England?  They had two first round picks only to take an OT with the first and trade out of the 2nd.  Will the 1st pick in the 2nd round make up for it?

4.  If I was giving out credit, I’d probably reluctantly give some to the Giants who got Prince Amukamara at 19.  Seemed like after Peterson went to Arizona that everyone lost interest in defensive backs and Amukamara fell right to the Giants in the 2nd half of the 1st round.  We all know they need secondary help.  Other than Patrick Peterson it might have been the best pick of the 1st round.

Smoltzy’s Going Pro.

Look Out Tony Romo.

I read a book once and in the beginning it talked about a pyramid of really good golfers.  The bottom rung made up of guys who were, “the best player you know,” and the tiniest point at the top being tour pros.  The point being even if you are very good at golf–you still aren’t that good.  Celebrity golfers could have their own pyramid.  Many athletes and celebs become good players.  A lot of them have the time to work at it, the guys from other sports have a good athletic base to work from, but often their skill is overblown.  You see it manifest in these made for TV events they trot out before the US Open.  Sure, it’s fun to babble on about how Michael Jordan thinks he could play on the Champions Tour, but then you flip on a camera, push him to the tips at a real golf course and he can’t break 90.   There are a couple of guys out there that are good in their own right, not just for an athlete.  Tony Romo has gotten headlines with his US Open qualifying attempts, and this week John Smoltz tees it up in a Nationwide Tour event in Georgia with a real chance to make the cut, according to some people–Tiger love’s Smoltzy’s game.

As a long time Brave, Smoltz has taken up permanent residence on my list of most despised athletes, so I’ll be left with no choice but to hope he shoots the Snowman Family.  That’s 88-88-MC for those of you counting at home, but I don’t know if my ill will be enough for Smoltzy to embarrass himself.  His only previous tournament experience came in last year’s Georgia Open where he had a hole-in-one and shot some decent scores.  It’d be a good story if he made the cut, and would certainly fuel the pitcher’s Champions Tour aspirations.   He’s getting underway, literally as I write this after a long weather delay.  His playing partner is none other than Andrew Giuliani, who was once made famous by Chris Farley.  Talk about a feature pairing.  If you want to check in on Smoltzy, you can do so right here.

***

My favorite fact of the Mets financial fiasco?  They owe Bobby Bonilla 1.2 million a year for the next 25 years.  That’s tremendous.  You don’t hear a lot about deferred salaries when deals take place (either contracts or buyouts), but suddenly with teams in financial straits you realize a lot of clubs owe guys who haven’t seen the field in a long time.  The debts were revealed during the Rangers sale last year and now we hear of the Mets settling with Bonilla for just over a million per until 2035.  Yikes.  They struck the deal to avoid paying Bonilla 5.9 million in 2000.  They deferred the payments and gave Bonilla 8% interest.  Not too shabby.  But, the concession by Bonilla to wait until this year to get paid allowed them to sign Mike Hampton and Todd Zeile.  Bonilla’s original free agent deal with the Mets (not the deal that got bought out was for 29 million.  Now they owe him another 30.

***

MLB Underdog of the Day:  Yesterday’s Result:  WINNER!  Financial Status: (-1/2 stack).

Two wins a row!  That’s how it is done, people.  An easy, breezy beautiful win by the Rays.  It was never in doubt.  Go to bed early and wake up happy.  I don’t know if Big Dub is going to continue to pick, but his successful reverse hexola on the Phils yesterday has him sitting at (-100 dollars) if he wishes to continue.  How could I stop now?  One more is a streak.

Today’s Selection:  Baltimore (+155) over Boston.

Not a lot of good options on the board today, so I’m swinging for the fences.  That’s called situational underdogging.

***

Quiz of the Day:  Movie Posters.  Category: Judging Books by Their Cover.  My Score: 19/24.  

Hint:  An American Tail and Fievel Goes West are both IN-correct.

Michael Scott vs. Roger Goodell

Usually the King of Awkward.

Tonight is Michael Scott’s last episode of The Office.  Even though the show has lost some punch in recent years I feel obligated to watch Steve Carell’s last dance.  Nothing can stay fresh forever and when I watch The Office now, that is my feeling.  There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with it, but it doesn’t have the same impact that it once did.  The gags get old or too far-fetched, plot lines are eventually resolved, and the show basically outgrows itself.  It was still a great show, though, and so I feel the need to put it to bed.  It’s not a series finale, but with departure of Steve Carell, it might as well be.

The show took a sentimental turn last week and I think tonight will be more of the same.  Jim is crying in the previews after all, and I imagine the Nard Dog and even Dwight might be total wrecks.  Even with the sentimentality, though, I’m sure The Office will still crank up that awkward meter.  It’s the show’s calling card.  Back when it was really clicking I used to hear about people who didn’t like it because it was too awkward.  Watching Michael Scott made them want to change the channel.  I know that feeling.  It could definitely get uncomfortable, but that was part of the fun.  I might cringe or look away, but I never bailed completely.  I hope they can find some of that magic tonight, and close it out with a good episode.

If awkwardness is your thing, and I know there are plenty of you out there, but The Office doesn’t do it for you, perhaps you’ll want to check out the NFL Draft instead.  It should be an uncomfortable nightmare.  It’ll come at you right from the start with the first appearance of Roger Goodell.  I imagine we’ll see the worst reception a commissioner of any league has ever gotten?  There was a big question about whether the college players should attend the draft, but maybe the NFL should have taken steps to get rid of the fans, because Goodell is going to get hammered.  He’s going to get showered with boos to the point where it becomes uncomfortable.  It may interfere with the proceedings.  An interesting side bet for the Draft might be, do the fans ever relent?  By pick 20 are they out of energy, or do they load up on Roger for all 32 selections?  Let’s not doubt the commitment of NFL fans.

The cloud of the lockout will take a lot of the fun out of the evening as well.  Even with the lockout temporarily “lifted,” I don’t think there is anyone out there who thinks this will end up being decided by a judge.  I have to hand it to Judge Susan Richard Nelson, though, she is hammering the league and seems to be enjoying the opportunity.  The NFL hasn’t had much luck in the courts recently, and the ruling by Judge Nelson is the latest blow.  All reports indicate she went out of her way to write an iron-clad decision that will be difficult to overturn in the court of appeals.  At the very least she should be getting gift baskets from the players union by the truckload, but even if her decision ultimately sets a deal in motion, it won’t change the face of this Draft–which is no player movement and no deals getting done.  Every pick will get the question, “How do you feel about going to (Fill in City)…..maybe?”  That’s no fun.

The crowning achievement of Draft awkwardness, though, the thing that will would make Michael Scott and the writers of The Office proud will be that green room.  A record number of players, twenty-five to be exact, have accepted invitations to attend the Draft.  That’s a lot of guys, and that’s a lot of waiting.  Also, they are only doing one round tonight, so what are the chances that all 25 guys get selected?  Pretty high, I would imagine, but there’s always a chance.  If someone sits there all night and doesn’t get their name called–that’s rough.  Do you come back Friday morning?  Do you leave around pick 25 no matter what so they can’t get the shot of you sitting there while the staff breaks down the room?   Tough decisions out there.

The good news is you really don’t have to choose between Michael Scott and Goodell.  You can catch the first few picks, then swing over and watch The Office, and you’ll be back in plenty of time to see those final uncomfortable moments. Overall, it’s a pretty interesting TV night.

The Anti-Bellwether.

When You Aren't Lead Sheep.

I had a thought the other day that immediately amused me.  This isn’t terribly hard to do, but I rarely share.  I think this one is worth mentioning.  I either heard a song, or someone was talking about a band in some context and I was a little surprised to have heard of the band.  I want to say it was Arcade Fire.  Now, I know absolutely nothing about Arcade Fire.  I don’t know their songs.  I don’t know what kind of music they play.  I don’t know if Arcade Fire is a guy, a girl, if it is like Good Will Hunting and someone in the band is called, Timmy Fire.  I’ve got nothing.  What I do know is that they have “Indie” attached to them in some way.  And to me that means, not mainstream.

So, I imagine way back when the absolute dorkiest of the music dorks discovered Arcade Fire they felt incredible.  Here was this new and great band that no one knew about and they could be cool and listen to them all by themselves.  Well, eventually the band gets more and more mainstream and what I thought of when I recognized the name, “Arcade Fire,” was that if I had heard of this band there is almost no way it can still be Indie or still be that cool.  Take an authority on obscure music and create the exact opposite–that’s me.

When it comes to music I am so far behind the trends that I usually miss them entirely.  I thought that was pretty funny, and it made me think of how it applies to other areas.  Anything trendy, or wanting to be elitist probably has people like me who are just about the absolute last person on board or the last person even aware in my case with music.  I imagine there are little niches of socialites who know they need a new bag when they see some random walking down the street with it.  Or scotch aficionados head back to the drawing board when they hear someone order their favorite 18-year old creation with a splash of Coke. Everything has trends, you know.  From hat brims to sustainable fish, there are always the people who get in early and then the people stumbling behind, and then the absolute last person.  Sometimes it’s fun to be last, I think.

***

MLB Underdog of the Day:  Yesterday’s Result:  Winner!  Financial Status: (-123 Finskys)

Zach Britton folks, get on board.  He ends a long and  miserable losing streak for me.  There’s fight in this old dog yet, I’m telling you.

Today’s Selection:  Tampa Bay (+115) over Minnesota.

After Manny split the Rays have loosened up.  The Twins are still a hot mess.  Two in a row?

***

Quiz of the Day:  Internet Logos.  Category: You spend how much time online?  My Score: 18/30.

I feel like I’ve been on a selfish good run of sports quizzes lately.  Bombed this one.  Even with some random guesses.

Oswalt Leaves Phils For Personal Reasons.

Phils Down to Three Aces.

Roy Oswalt won’t be with the Phillies for their afternoon getaway game in Arizona Wednesday.  He left the team to attend to a personal matter, and those are the only details that are available.  There doesn’t seem to be a timetable for his return, Ruben Amaro said only that he expects him to be back.  There was a lot of speculation about Oswalt’s 3-inning performance Tuesday night, but something like this doesn’t point to an injury.  More than likely, Roy’s head was just elsewhere.  This is the kind of thing you see when there is sickness in a family, something of that nature, so you just have to hope for the best for Roy Oswalt and his family and be patient waiting for details and his return to the rotation. If he does miss a start, it’s likely Kyle Kendrick would slide right into his spot in the rotation.  The Phillies also have two off-days coming up, but they haven’t been keeping guys on normal rest to this point this year.

What Would You Do…

...In A Bench Clearing Brawl?

So, I was doing my usual morning perusal of internet stories and I see that Bryce Harper got involved in his first bench clearing affair last night.  It was not a brawl.  Harper struck out, there appeared to be some words exchanged with the pitcher, Bryce took a few steps toward the opposing dugout and then everyone was milling around on the field.  That’s what happens in 9 out of 10 baseball dust-ups.  Charge out of the dugout, lose momentum quickly, look at the other team and realize no one is going to do anything, and then get on with the game.  To get a real brawl going you need a long history of incidents and bad blood, or one complete lunatic.

I’ve never been involved in a bench clearing brawl.  The closest I came was probably my junior year of high school.  We had a kid on the team who was a good player, but his arrogance outweighed his baseball skill set.  He was an agitator, a cocky prick, the kind of guy you find amusing when he’s on your team and the kid that all the opposing players wanted to strangle.  I think he fashioned himself as old school.  He dipped Copenhagen and wore eye-black, but he also went overboard a few times and this was one of those occasions where he did a poor interpretation of Ty Cobb.  He was on the mound, not his usual position, but we, as always, were a little short on arms.  So, he’s on the hill and what I imagine was a couple of innings of junk talking culminates in a verbal confrontation with a hitter on the opposing team.

All of this is my best recollection, I don’t remember exactly how it went, but our fearless hero told the guy at bat that he was going to hit him.  He may have even pointed at his head.  So, he settles in for his first pitch and whizzes one up and in, in the general direction of the kid’s head.  It’s not that hard to get out of the way when you know someone is going to throw at your head.  And, we’re probably talking about 78 mph here.  I don’t know if the kid hit the deck, but he was certainly well out of the box.  The ball never had a chance to hit him, but he settles back in and yells at our pitcher, “You missed.”  The reply came quickly, “I have three more chances.”

This incited some chatter amongst the teams, umpires and coaches.  Tensions got pretty high, but who am I kidding?  It still wasn’t anywhere close to a brawl.  He never did hit the kid and later got ejected for spiking the first baseman while running out a ground ball.  Such is baseball.

But say he actually rattled one off the kid’s helmet?  And, a full-on brawl ensued, where would I have been during all that? Diligently taking care of the score book?  Throwing hay makers?  Running in late to kick someone while they were down? Tossing helmets?  There are a lot of roles to be played in a good baseball fight.  Some of the jobs…

Bullpen:  The easiest job of them all.  You run in at half-speed, get to the infield dirt and turn around.  If things really get involved, maybe you shoot into the dugout to reload on seeds.

Catcher:  Ton of pressure on the catcher.  He’s bound by obligation to tackle the charging maniac from behind.  Whether or not he gets there could change the nature of the whole fight.  Also, if you know your pitcher is a glove thrower…he’s going to need some help.

Pitcher:  Highest potential for embarrassment.  Unless you are a seasoned hardass like Nolan Ryan, you could make a fool of yourself here.  Either by running away, throwing your glove, or getting bundled.  It’s got to be surreal seeing a guy charging at you, possibly bat in hand.  If the pitcher ends up meeting you 1/2 way, you’ve probably charged the wrong guy.

First Guy Over the Dugout Fence:  This is the guy on the team that wants to get in a fight.  You have to realize that when a guy charges, for a few seconds there is a good chance he’s going to be out there in a 1 on 3 or 1 on 4 scenario.  The first guy over the fence has to even out those odds.  He usually comes in real hot, so watch yourself.  Depending on his desire to create malice, he’s either tossing bodies off the pile or looking to blindside someone.

I’m not sure I’d want to be any of these guys.  I don’t want to get hit under any circumstances.  I’d be better off being the guy who had gotten rocked earlier in the game and was already in the showers.  I’d come stumbling out after it was all broken up in my shower shoes.  If I was on the mound, I’m not sure I would throw my glove, but I might kick.  Kicks are hard to pin down.  They just happen some times.  I’d love to hear what role you see yourself playing in the baseball brawl, especially if you are a first man over the fence guy.

Anyone Care About This Draft?

Wake Me Up When We Get Patrick Peterson.

I was in the car yesterday at around 6 pm when I heard on the radio that the lockout had been lifted by a judge somewhere.  My immediate thought was that the ruling would make almost no difference in the current labor situation, and from what I can gather, I was correct.  This morning we had NFL players showing up to team facilities only to be told they could not work out–if they were even allowed inside.  I guess they can sit around, watch Oprah and have a Coke or something, but stay away from the weight room.  The NFL requested a stay, immediately appealed the decision and when you leave all this on the stove for a while about the only thing left in the pot is the fact we are dealing with a-holes, here.

They’ll eventually figure this thing out, but not before the draft.  I’m sure some Eagles fans had hopes of shuffling Kevin Kolb off to Arizona about 10 seconds after the court ruling for a U-Haul’s worth of picks, but that’s not happening.  What we’re headed to on Thursday is what should be the most boring draft of all-time.  Teams can’t trade players, they can’t negotiate with the players they pick, and mixed in with all the mundane analysis and projections will be lockout speculation.  Bad TV programming gets worse.  I feel less interest than ever surrounding this year’s draft, is that the case?

I partially blame the quarterbacks.  Almost all drafts, in the hype stage, come down to the quarterbacks.  There are a lot of names out there this year, but they all fall short of capturing undivided national attention.  If Andrew Luck was coming out and 5 teams were falling all over themselves to trade up to #1 to get him…well, that’s intrigue.  This year, no one is creating that kind of interest and the Panthers may take Newton by default.  Think this Newton kid is going to be a bust?  Probably.  Do we have to take him just to be safe?  I guess so.  After Newton you’ve got Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, and some fan base is going to be crushed when their team selects Andy Dalton. It’s not a great year for the QBs.

I mentioned last year that there is always one guy in the draft that I would want my team to pick up.  It’s not always the #1 prospect, and I favor some positions more than others, but it bounces around.  Last year I wanted Joe Haden.  I think he had a decent year?  Did anyone watch the Browns?  Well, everyone likes a nice shutdown corner and this draft is once again corner heavy.  You’ve got the Prince from Nebraska, you’ve got Jimmy Smith (who has character issues?) from Colorado.  I love a guy with a shady background.  Love it!  Let him fall into my hands.  Smith is tempting, but I have to go with Patrick Peterson.  He’s a beast.  And, he got a 9 on the Wonderlic.  So, he’s that good without being smart.  I wouldn’t be able to get the card to the podium fast enough.

If you’ve got your eyes on someone, or if you’re even going to bother tracking the Draft this year, let me know.  I’d love to hear a decent argument.

***

Quickly…Tiger is hurt.  His knee.  His achilles.  His knee and achilles.   He’s going to miss the Wells Fargo tournament at Quail Hollow, which is the rare event on Tiger’s schedule.  I assume he’ll pop up at the Memorial?  The US Open?  Who knows.  Lost in the Schwartzel on Masters Sunday was Tiger’s obvious discomfort on a shot coming into the 18th green. The guy’s knee has to be a wreck, his entire body is probably shredded, and the last thing he needs right now is to be missing time.  Poor Tiger.

***

MLB Underdog of the Day:  Yesterday’s Result: Standard Loss.  Financial Status: (-730.oo)

Charlie Brown, thoughts on my underdog gambling record:

“Good Grief.”

Thank You, Charlie!

Today’s Selection:  Baltimore +115 over Boston.

***

Quiz of the Day:  Tecmo Super Bowl QBs.  Category: From the Archives.  My Score: 27/28*

Didn’t see a good one today, so this is the first Sporcle quiz I ever attempted, I think.  I’m fairly sure that was my score the first time around.  It might have been 26.  This time I still missed one guy.

The Slumping Offense.

Just How Dire are These Straits?

Hey, want a positive?  The Phillies got a scoreless inning out of Mike Stutes.  Perhaps last night was the first inning of a successful season for Stutes–a rare bullpen arm coming out of the Phillies farm system.  Other than Stutes and Cliff Lee’s strikeout touch (let’s not get too excited about that total), all attention after the game focused on the struggling offense.  A five-game winning streak had just ended, the Phillies still had the best record in the National League, but the offense has been dormant for two weeks. And, this wasn’t Petco Park.  It wasn’t another slop throwing lefty.  I think a lot of people thought, well get them to Arizona, then they’ll finally hit.  Not last night, and it seemed to trigger the panic button.  Up and down the line up, with the exception of Placido Polanco, the Phils are staring at a lot of 0fers, 1fers, and 2fers.

I think we are seeing the perfect storm of a slump with this team.  I don’t think it is a total coincidence that it started around the time that Charlie began complaining about the power numbers.  The team went from scoring with singles and doubles to not getting on base at all.  His outcry for the long ball, paired with the arrival of some good pitching planted some seeds for what has grown into a full-blown malaise.  When the bad numbers start piling up, the guys get tighter, you forget what it feels like to get a hit, suddenly you are 0 for 10 and you need that hit desperately.  They could be blowing themselves out in the cage before the game taking extra BP.  I have no idea.  I know they are working, but right now it isn’t translating to the field.  Of course the final factor could be the most important, the Phillies are short on offensive talent.

One thing that isn’t a coincidence is that Polanco, the only pure hitter in the line up, is the one that’s hitting.  I feel like with much of the rest of the line up, we’ve all been relying a little too much on hope.  We hoped Ben Francisco would be an everyday player (he might not be).  We hoped Wilson Valdez could fill in adequately (he can’t).  We hoped that Jimmy Rollins would be fueled by a contract year (he hasn’t been).  We hoped that Raul Ibanez would not show the signs of being in his late-thirties (he’s off to another bad start).  That’s a lot of wishing.  You’ve got the one hitter in Polanco, you’ve got one real power threat in Howard and then the rest is streaky at best and they are all locked in a cold streak right now.

The good news is that the Phillies have survived the lack of offensive output.  They are a team built around pitching and so the staff has taken 3 or 4 runs on multiple occasions during this stretch and turned it into victories.  We knew that there would be more low scoring games this year, but it’s the consistency of the low outputs that is troubling.  It seems like in two weeks you’d score 5 runs a couple of times by accident, but that hasn’t happened to the Phils.  They’ve only been shut out twice, but it feels worse than that, because there hasn’t been one easy game during the whole stretch.  If they could just bust out one day it might make the whole team, the whole city of fans relax a little bit.

They have eight more games lined up to do it.  Two more against the Diamondbacks.  Then they get the Mets and Nationals at home.  That isn’t a brutal line up of opposing pitchers.  Maybe a tough guy here or there (the Phils struggle with RA Dickey at times and didn’t hammer the Nats earlier this year), but for the most part teams score against these teams.  That’s why they are .500 clubs at best.  If the boys don’t start scoring, they’re going to really start hearing it from the home crowd and it’ll just turn uglier.  Again, hard to fathom how a 1st place team has gotten themselves into this spot.

Some last-ditch efforts:

1.  Get Rollins out of the 3-hole.  In fact, change around the whole order.  This is something Charlie did in the past, but he seems reluctant this year, I think because all of the options seem less than appealing.  Well, it’s time to change for the sake of change.  I’d embarrass Rollins.  See if that works.  Nothing else has.  Hit him 7th.  Hit him 8th.  Hitting Ibanez 3rd last year seemed to wake him up, throw him in there, it can’t get any worse.

2.  Less Wilson Valdez.  He’s got to play less.  The more he plays, the less productive he is.  And, Michael Martinez is not a big league player, either.  The bench, I hate to say it again, but is not a strong point.  When we’re clamoring for Pete Orr (a guy who has never stuck) that’s a personnel issue.

3.  Forget about home runs.  I’d be fining guys for pop ups and handing out cash for base hits at this point.

4.  Platoon.  Mayberry, Ibanez, Gload and Francisco.  None look like an everyday player at this point, so 3 times a week each, see what happens.

Other than that, there isn’t much to do except trust that it can’t stay this bad forever.  There’s always the slim possibility of a trade, and the wait for Chase Utley to come back.  I had a dream Utley was playing the other night.  I have some issues.

Tonight is a golden opportunity to get things going.  The Diamondbacks will start Daniel Hudson who started the season with a couple of serviceable starts, but has been hit around a bit since.  For some reason I think the knowledge that they should be hitting this guy is counterproductive for the Phillies right now.  If things don’t change, we’ll really have to shift our expectations, and just lean on that pitching staff.  It has the Phillies in first place, but the hold feels tenuous.