Bryce Harper likes the boos. He’s just the kind of guy who gets a laugh at such things, probably because he’s been getting taunted his entire life. I’m not sure he’d know how to play baseball any other way. In anticipation of this series, Harper commented that he hoped he would get booed. Then he spun the Philly sports fan historical wheel of shame and added that he hoped the fans wouldn’t throw batteries. After Harper was drilled by Cole Hamels and the city worked itself into a frenzy, I said it would be better to just ignore Bryce Harper. Why give him what he wants when it has a great chance of spiraling out of control and embarrassing the city once again?
Harper is going to get booed, though. It will be at full throat. I don’t have a problem with booing in general, but I’d prefer there be a better reason than “he’s a d**che.” Putting aside the fact that he’s having admirable success for a 19-year old, Harper is still hitting just .244 with 2 homers. Those aren’t numbers that should cause you to boo an opposing player. And Harper has never really done anything to the Phillies. At least J.D. refused to sign here before we pelted him with debris. At least Scott Rolen celebrated leaving town like it was a governor’s pardon. At least Chipper Jones spent almost 20 years beating down the Phillies with big hits. Harper hasn’t done any of that, but he’ll get an earful the entire series, mostly because Philly fans probably feel some sort of obligation to their own reputation.
Running in harmony with the desire to boo Harper will be the necessity to win the series. You get a lot less satisfaction with your jeers if the team loses 2 out of 3 again. Bean balls and creative signage don’t show up in the standings. As I mentioned Friday, the Phillies are treading into some dangerous waters. After a nice victory to start the Red Sox series, Phillies’ starters were clubbed for six homers over the next two days and they dropped the series to Boston. Joe Blanton’s trade value took a hit. Cliff Lee took a loss he couldn’t quite blame on the offense, and the Phillies were back to .500 with Washington/St. Louis and New York on deck.
It’s my opinion that the Phils need to still be operating at or around .500 on June 12th. That day will end a run of 20 straight games against winning teams. It’s also a day where we might know when/if Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will be back. It’s a stretch that looks a whole lot tougher now that the season has started. No one expected the Mets, Orioles or Dodgers to be where they are. Even the Nats are out-pacing some optimistic projections. So how can the Phillies get through this stretch and be in the neighborhood of 31-31, especially since it starts with one of those “Kendrick Games,”–Kendrick vs. Gio Gonzalez? He are five Phillies who face the most heat in the next three weeks…
1. Roy Halladay–I said last week that Halladay has been the Phillies’ 3rd best starter this year. He’s sitting at 4-3 with a 3.22 ERA. He’s yet to throw a complete game, and the closest we’ve seen to vintage Halladay was his Opening Day gem against Pittsburgh. By this time in 2010, Halladay had 4 complete games and two shutouts. During this stretch, it’d be nice to see Roy bail the Phils out once or twice with a complete game win–not the kind of “good enough” performance he used to win in Chicago.
2. Jimmy Rollins–Rollins appears to be RBI phobic. He has 7 RBI in 166 at-bats. If that sounds impossible…it’s close. Hector Luna has 5 RBI in 12 at-bats. And, Rollins has had plenty of chances. He’s invented new ways to not score the guy from 3rd. J-Roll’s .229 with no production isn’t cutting it. Ruiz isn’t going to hit .360 all year.
3. John Mayberry Jr.–This may sound odd, but the Phillies are really missing Laynce Nix. Nix was hitting .320 with some production when he injured his calf and his at-bats have fallen to Mayberry and Ty Wigginton. Wigginton hasn’t been good since the calendar turned to May and you wonder if he’s got a nagging injury. Mayberry has shown a little life lately. His production is key for the bottom part of the order.
4. Antonio Bastardo–The Phillies have blown several games this season and they’ll play plenty of close games in the next three weeks. With the opposing pitchers they’ll face, it’ll be hard not to. The Phils have to piece together a way to get to Papelbon. I’ve heard the bullpen been called “Crap to Pap.” I saw that at Beerleaguer, not sure if they invented it. Bastardo is the most promising as a potential 8th inning guy.
5. Freddy Galvis–Galvis, of the timely hit and inexplicable 19 RBI (3rd on the team) must avoid a prolonged cold streak like the one he faced at the start of the year and then again in early May.
Other Weekend Happenings…
1. A true Triple Crown Contender. I’ll Have Another took the Preakness (Home of Kegasus) to set up a meaningful Belmont Stakes in 3 weeks. There hasn’t been a Triple Crown Winner since 1978, so people suffering this drought are almost as frustrated as Flyers’ fans. Because I would never jinx an animal, my official position is I’ll Have Another has no shot. None.
2. Jason Dufner is the hottest golfer on the planet. He won for the 2nd time in 3 weeks and it forces parity on the PGA Tour to the forefront. A couple of months ago Rory was going to win every event he entered (and maybe some he didn’t), but Dufner and his obvious skill level are just proof that you can throw 30 or 40 names in a hat at the beginning of the week and take your pick. The PGA Tour has become the NHL playoffs.
3. The Phillies, and specifically Ruben Amaro, had a shady weekend in terms of fan and media relations. First, they kicked a Phillies beat reporter out of the stadium in Clearwater because Ryan Howard’s workouts are off-limits. Then a story was published linking cortisone injections to Achilles tendon tears (Howard had a cortisone shot last September). Amaro quickly went into damage control mode, claiming the Phillies value the health of their players above all else. Considering Howard’s contract, you’d have to hope that was the case, but the Phillies’ desire to control the information continues to make them look disingenuous. Restricting access and creating a cocoon can backfire. Just ask Tiger Woods.
4. New worst Rick Reilly column ever written. I think a million people quit golf because of this attempt at hilarity.
5. Mad Men is lighting the fuse for what should be a tremendous final three episodes. Cliffhanger isn’t the right word for Mad Men, but there’s two big questions left in this season. Are Don and Joan going to hookup? And, how is the pursuit of Jaguar and Lane’s embezzlement going to pan out? Don and Joan has always been off-limits for me, where would you go from there? It looks like they’re going to take it right up to the edge, though. Can’t believe we’re three episodes away from it being gone again.