Welcome to 2021. Yes, we’re still alive. Also, the Phillies are in the World Series against the 2017 and 2019 world champion Houston Astros. The ‘stros hope to parlay their Odd Year Magic into a third title, while the Phils are in the World Series for the first time since 2009. They made the playoffs in 2020, beating the wild-card-winning Chicago Cubs in the National League Division Series before dropping the League Championship Series to the Damn St. Louis Cardinals.
But this year they came back with a vengeance, beating the Brewers in the LDS and Braves in the LCS.
Now it’s time for the World Series. Phillies vs. Astros.
(Also, we have Manny Machado, Mike Trout, Marcus Stroman and Carlos Carrasco now).
Enjoy this gaze into the hazy future! Game 6. Phillies up 3-2.
PHILADELPHIA — Imagine, if you will, that even for several fleeting seconds, you can see the future clear as a fresh snowflake dancing across a December twilight. It’s there in front of your face. A man sizing up the situation, winding his bat into place, and then connecting with the ball before being feted with screams and celebrations.
Imagine that you’ve started over. That you have no memory, no basis for understanding, no past to recall. It’s a blank slate, a white room, and you’re alone without help. So what do you do? You figure out your hands and feet, and your arms and legs. You touch your face, and thoughts form about how everything operates. Soon you’re crawling, then walking, and then studying the white room. At some point you think there must be another room, and so you search for an exit. Once you find it, the world opens up ahead of you. Now there are more possibilities, and slowly the possibilities grow atop one another until your mind is filled with thoughts, ideas and notions that threaten to confuse and disrupt your very primal behavior of crawling, then walking, then studying space.
I get bored writing about Maikel Franco. I get bored wondering whether the Phillies should have signed Jaime Garcia, and whether they also should have traded for someone like Chris Archer. Often I don’t feel like writing the same pieces repeatedly, and editing the same pieces repeatedly, and reading various opinions that may be different, but let’s be honest, they’re actually pretty similar. I think we all want the Phillies to be better this year, and we all believe that there is a reality in which the Phillies should be a wild-card contender, because what’s the use in being patient? What’s the use in waiting for something? The Eagles weren’t that patient – they saw a moment to strike, and so they did, and what occurred was still one of the most unbelievable things I have ever witnessed as someone who follows sports. So why can’t the Phillies do the same thing? Just sign Alex Cobb and Jake Arrieta, because this team can really win 85 games or even 90. It can happen!
But right now I don’t care, mostly because I’ve been thinking about that and writing that repeatedly for the last five months. Next I’ll be writing a piece about what it means to believe in Gabe Kapler and so-called “unorthodox” managerial techniques, even though he’s not really that unorthodox, it’s just that people who follow baseball tend to think things have to be done this way or that way. What’s with this coconut oil crap? He’d better lay into Odubel Herrera! He should be more like Larry Bowa!
See, that’s when I get bored. Because I can write and will write that opinion (because at the end of the day I’m a writer, and if you read George Orwell’s essays you’ll understand why most of us do what we do), but how far are we moving that needle anyway? And how beneficial is my writing to the greater good? Do people care? Do I care? Does the world need yet another middle-aged white dude expressing his opinion about baseball? So yes, this is the moment the thoughts, ideas and notions confuse and disrupt and obfuscate, and I get frustrated and give myself writers’ block and then get bored.
The first line that I wrote in this fantasy piece (these are being called fantasy pieces, which is true but I just love how they’re being called fantasy) is crap. It’s the usual flowery prose I tend to write to invoke mood or place. Some people love it. Often I hate it. It’s easy to get there for me. Very good writers tend to laugh at a line like that, and so do I, but I find myself writing it more often because it’s the usual flowery prose that some people love. So I guess I’m doing something right. But it’s simply crap. Still, at this moment in this current write-up, it’s typical for me to refer back to that opening line, connecting it somehow to the words I used earlier. It’s part of my style, which is about synthesizing concepts so that you can see how we’re all connected. So that can sound like obtuse, selfish crap, but I really believe in that. So midway through a longer piece I may refer back to that opening line, saying something about how in the game I was supposed to write about, Manny Machado hits this mammoth home run that turns the tide of this fantasy game and makes him a hero to all fantasy Philadelphia sports fans.
I mean, I had built this arc in which Machado was hurt, a la Kirk Gibson in 1988. Mike Sadowski started it with his write-up, and I furthered it in my previous one. It’s storytelling, and I was proud of it, even if it was for a second or two. Then I was going to weave in the #RallyFrog idea written in an earlier game recap by Brendan Sample, which I thought was clever. I was thinking about how to sum it all up, tie it together and then pull back the curtain, showing you that this was all ridiculous, that I was some autistic boy holding a snow globe. But people beat me to it by berating me repeatedly about how this whole series was a waste of time, and that we weren’t good writers, and that this site was losing credibility.
That stuff doesn’t really affect me, in that I don’t spend more than five minutes of a given day thinking about what people think about my writing here. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say it affected me on some level. Writers, and I’m generalizing here, are constantly worried about how they’re perceived, if people approve of their work, and if they’ll ever earn recognition. I have a book deal. I’ve written thousands of pieces that have been published at a variety of publications and websites, and yet I can’t help but question my abilities all the time. And when people criticize or bash my writing or even my creative choices, it does hurt. Maybe it would hurt you if some random person just walked into your workplace and berated you because the work wasn’t fulfilling for them. Maybe not. I don’t know; I’m not you. But I am me, and boy do I have problems.
So in this game the Phillies were down 1-0, despite Aaron Nola pitching extremely well.
“Insert quote here from Gabe Kapler about Nola’s performance.”
And they would have two, maybe three big opportunities to score a run, but each time the Astros would find a way out of it.
But then, finally, Mike Trout would beat out a third out, maybe in a controversial call that gets replayed repeatedly. And then comes Machado, with one bad knee, and he slams a pitch into left field and over the fence, sending Philadelphia into a tizzy. Then in the ninth, Roberto Osuna is wild and ineffective, unable to get an out. So Vince Velasquez comes in and pitches the inning of his life: three big strikeouts and one world championship.
I would’ve written about what the fantasy championship meant to us, the fantasy Philadelphia fans. I would’ve connected it to something else I allude to earlier in the write-up, maybe Orwell – or not, because that’s too obscure, like most of my writing, and especially this. Okay, I would’ve connected it to how we didn’t care anymore about coconut oil, and Odubel Herrera would forever be a hero in Philadelphia, and all the great Phillies that came before, like Larry Bowa and Ryan Howard and etc., etc., could be vindicated once again.
That’s how I would’ve done it. And it would’ve been fine, and people would’ve probably sneered at it. But then everyone would move on. I’d write my piece about Kapler, we’d continue spring training coverage, and soon it would be as if this never happened. As if it was some fantasy in a snow globe, where the snowflakes dance across the December twilight, allowing us for just a moment to forget that there was anything beyond our wildest dreams.