Does anyone remember Baseball Zen?
It was that beautiful state of careless bliss that came with rooting for a team with hard realities but hopeful youngsters. The Phillies wouldn’t be good, and we knew that, but in the end we’d see some prospects give it their all. Maybe some breakout talents would emerge. All would be fine. Baseball Zen.
And it started that way. Vince Velasquez struck out 16 Padres. Aaron Nola sat down offense after offense. Tyler Goeddel brought out the hose and Cameron Rupp supplied the boulder block. Odubel Herrera walked and bat flipped his way to the All Star Game. And Tommy Joseph supplied that unexpected spark.
But those days seem so long ago.
Now we’re relieved if Velasquez gets through five innings without being annihilated. Nola is down for the count. Zach Eflin, too. Goeddel is on a milk carton. Herrera seems to be joining him there some nights.
Not everything is crumbling, of course – Joseph and Rupp have kept up their decent (though not necessarily game-changing) play, and Jerad Eickhoff and Jeremy Hellickson seem to be immune to whatever sickness has infected the pitching staff.
But no more are we in Baseball Zen. Jake Thompson finally had one quality outing, and now his ERA is a shade below 8. Nick Williams? We probably won’t see him this year. Jorge Alfaro was here for a second, until he wasn’t here. J.P. Crawford? What – you really thought he’d be here?
Baseball Zen is about keeping perspective. Yes the youngsters are struggling, and yes the others aren’t here yet, and we’ll have to wait longer, but don’t let that get in the way of the fact that baseball is happening. It’s baseball! It’s men dancing on grass and dirt, ranging for fly balls and – oh, another fly ball has been hit over the fence and the Phils are already down 4-0.
It’s hard. We want Williams, Alfaro and Crawford here and now. We want Nola, Velasquez, Eflin and Thompson to not be broken, or infected, or whatever the heck is wrong with each of them. And we want Herrera to remember that patience is a virtue. And, damn it, we want Maikel Franco to be the difference maker he’s supposed to be.
And then we see 23-year-old Gary Sanchez have the greatest first 100 plate appearances in baseball history, and where the hell is Williams by now? And I bet you Dave Brundage broke him, and he doesn’t even want to play for the Phillies anymore, and fans are already angry at him for some reason, and what the hell … how come we can’t have a Gary Sanchez for once?
Okay. The Yankees have playoff hopes. The Phillies do not. And both Lehigh Valley and Reading are embroiled in their own playoff battles, and Crawford doesn’t even need to be on the 40-man roster yet, so yes, it makes sense that we don’t see all these prospects. It has to make sense. That’s what we’re supposed to believe.
But it’s hard. It’s hard to believe all of this will work when sometime during the marathon things fall apart.
But things do fall apart.
We have to have faith. We have to keep Baseball Zen.
Oh, look, the Eagles could go 10-6!