I arrived back in Philadelphia on Thursday night, and of course the first thing I wanted to do – besides having a cheesesteak, which I did – was go to a Phillies game. So last night Rob and I headed down to see the Phils open the series against the Pirates as well as for some post-game fireworks. Let me tell you the fireworks were great as always and the game, well, was disappointing as always. My first Phillies game all year seemed pretty indicative of the entire 2006 campaign thus far. It was sloppy, boring, and ended with a loss to a terrible team. In the first inning, Chase Utley mishandled a double-play ball and wound up recording not even a single out. Soon after with a potential double play started by Ryan Howard, Jon Lieber failed to cover first for the relay. Although it’s questionable whether Lieber would have made it to the bag, it was sad to see him not even leave the mound. It was as if he had a shock collar on and vacating the mound would have automatically strained his hamstring. Later in still the first inning, Chris Coste completely missed a perfectly thrown one-hopper from Bobby Abreu which allowed another run to score. Two runs in totaly were scored by the Pirates in the first, and although allowing first inning runs have plagued Phillies starting pitchers all season, I figured the two could be easily overcome playing against the worst team in the league. I was excited for about a whole minute when JRoll lead off the game with a double; but after the Phils failed to get another hit until the fifth, my enthusiasm quickly yielded to boredom. I thought Pat Burrell could rekindle the fire in the ninth, but after being fooled by a changeup and slider, he let a delicious 92-mph fastball sail right down the pike for strike three. Fortunately bad baseball usually doesn’t take long to complete, so within two and a half hours the fireworks began, thus validating the price of admission.
Another aspect of the Phillies which I miss while living abroad is reading the daily recap in the good ole black and white version of the newspaper during breakfast. I especially enjoyed Todd Zolecki’s and Marcus Hayes’ articles which followed the theme of Charlie Manuel’s post-game quote, "I don’t know if it’s you guys or the players or what, but somebody out there has got something against us. Or somebody’s not living right. If you guys are very religious, please go to church. Pray for us." Oh geez, Charlie, that’s the best you can do? It’s obviously divine intervention that is causing the Phillies to lose, not poor defense, inconsistent starting pitching or anemic bats – not to mention erratic management. That reminds me of an odd sight during last night’s game. A new fan group (at least new to me) could be spotted in section 303: Manuel’s Mafia. I don’t quite get the organized crime reference nor the concept of a managerial fan group (especially for our manager) but I probably would have gone for something like Charlie’s Charity Cases or maybe Manuel’s Malignants. Anyway, those thoughts only offered me a brief respite to last night’s embarassing loss. But if you need more more tragically funny Phillies news, check out Phillies Notes which features Cory Lidle blaming the park for his ERA, Pat Burrell’s slump, and Adam Bernero’s walking papers. Go Phils!