Time for Some Phillies Baseball

Time for Some Phillies Baseball

It's been a pretty crazy day around these parts with that exciting news and all. Thank you all for the support, by the way. It's much appreciated. Matt's actually down in Florida already and I'm literally running out the door right now to catch a flight to Tampa en route to Clearwater for a few days of Phillies baseball. So you'll have that to look forward to. Before I hop on 95 to the airport, our boy Rev wanted to wax poetic on what it's like to be a Phillies fan these days. You know, before Placido hurt his knee. These are the Rev's words.

As
our fearless leaders Enrico and Matt P. head down to Clearwater for
spring training I thought it’d be appropriate to write a Phillies-related
post. It’s nearly impossible to not have a good time down there. I
couldn’t possibly give them any Clearwater-related tips or advice
other than to say appreciate it. Which, going forward, is the same advice
I’d give to all Phillies fans.  What do I mean by that? Without
going all Peter King on you I’ll try to explain.

I don’t think too many people would disagree that we’re in the midst
of a golden era in Phillies baseball. They enter this season having
been to consecutive World Series. They’re also three time defending
National League East champions. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy
Rollins are the best players in franchise history at their respective
positions. As a result of their success fans have flocked to Citizen’s
Bank Park in staggering numbers (3.6 million last season – including
73 sellouts).

Needless
to say, these are not the same Phillies that players used to put at
the top of their no trade list. Nothing illustrates this better than
the fact that Roy Halladay wanted to come here, and in so doing
was willing to give up the chance to explore free agency. He wanted
to be here so much that he signed a contract extension…for below market
value…with the Phillies.  Considering where they came
from the fact that the Phillies have morphed into a winning organization,
with a beautiful ballpark, and are an organization that players want
to play for is nothing short of stunning.

Since
it is relevant I suppose I should mention that I am 34 years old. As
a kid and then teenager I was accustomed to the Phillies trotting out
overpaid and underperforming free agents (Parrish, Lance; Jefferies,
Gregg), overhyped farmhands (Chamberlain, Wes; Combs, Pat), and in over
their head managers (Leyva, Nick; Francona, Terry). I never could have
envisioned a day where the Phillies would be mentioned as one of the
top organizations in baseball. They were a mom and pop operation run
by a nice man with white hair (Bill Giles) who was the designated sacrificial
lamb for a Keyser Söze-like secretive ownership group. They played
in a 66,000 seat 2/3rds-plus empty multi-purpose stadium (between 1989
and 1999 they averaged approximately 26,200 fans per home game). It
was bleak. As Henry Hill in Goodfellas said after the helicopters follow
him everywhere - as he realizes he’s going to lose everything - “these
were the bad times”. That’s what it was like to follow the Phillies
then. And now? Now life is good.

In
light of all of this history, and looking back at the offseason, with
the trade of Cliff Lee and the acquisition of Roy Halladay, it was stunning
to me that we spent the winter analyzing how the Phils would match up
with the Yankees in a presumptive World Series rematch. We didn’t
even give the regular season a thought. Another National League pennant
was assumed. I was just as guilty as everyone else. However, now that
we’re in the lull between the start of spring training and the start
of the regular season I’ve had a chance to reexamine things and regain
perspective on how incredible a run it has been, and will hopefully
continue to be over the next few years.

I
know I’ve been spoiled by all this success.  However, I don’t
want to look back ten years from now and regret not having truly appreciated
each and every time this core group of players takes the field together.
I lived through a 6-4-3 of Thon-to-Herr-to-Jordan. As a result, I don’t
want to look past however many more Rollins-to-Utley-to-Howard’s we
may have. We’ve gone from Person and Wolf at the top of the rotation
to Halladay and Hamels. How about from Milt Thompson and Phil Bradley
to Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth? It borders on unfathomable just
how far they have come. Do you realize there are kids out there who
have no idea about what it’s like to suffer through a 90+ loss season?
The Phillies have finished above .500 eight times between 2000 and 2009
(they were 65-97 in 2000 and 80-81 in 2002).

Now,
by no means do I wish the lean years would come back. It’s an absolute
joy to follow a winning team. What I am saying is that it’s not always
going to be like this. And, as a result, we need to appreciate just
how successful and rare an era of Phillies baseball we’re all witnessing.
While it’s absolutely justifiable to wonder why they couldn’t have
hung on to Cliff Lee and acquired Roy Halladay, realize how rare it
is in the history of this franchise to even be faced with such a dilemma.

So,
as they prepare to head north for the season opener in Washington on
April 5th take a moment and look at the lineup Charlie posts
that day. Halladay on the mound, Jimmy aggressively swinging at the
first pitch, Polanco putting his bat on the ball, Chase gathering himself
before making the throw to first, the Big Man pointing his bat towards
the pitcher, Werth going yard a pitch after he went down to a knee after
swinging through a fastball, Raul feasting on Nationals pitching, Shane
legging out an infield dribbler, and Chooch kicking his leg out Tony
Pena-style. My advice?  Appreciate it.

College hoops wrap: Penn State steamrolled by No. 21 Purdue

College hoops wrap: Penn State steamrolled by No. 21 Purdue

Villanova headlined Philly college basketball action today with a 78-68 win over Providence, led by Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins (see full recap). The win is dampened with the news that Phil Booth is increasingly unlikely to return this season as he still deals with knee discomfort (see story).

Here's a snapshot from the rest of area hoops today.

Penn State steamrolled by No. 21 Purdue
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The way it played this week, No. 21 Purdue is acting like a team that is determined to be in the race for the Big Ten championship all the way to the end of the regular season.

Caleb Swanigan had 19 points and 12 rebounds, Purdue built an 18-point halftime lead and coasted to a 77-52 victory over Penn State on Saturday, four days after shooting 60.4 percent in a 91-68 victory against Illinois.

Against Penn State, the Boilermakers (16-4, 5-2) got 13 points from freshman guard Carsen Edwards and 10 each from Dakota Mathias and Vince Edwards.

"I would just say we were coming out ready to play," said Vince Edwards, who added seven rebounds and three assists. "Our goal is to win the Big Ten. Our focus is to take care of business."

Josh Reaves led Penn State (11-9, 3-4) with 12 points. The Nittany Lions made only 20 of 64 field goal attempts (31.3 percent) and were outrebounded 39-30. Purdue shot 56.6 percent (30 of 53) (see full recap).

Drexel drops road game at CAA-leading UNC Wilmington
WILMINGTON, N.C. -- Devontae Cacok scored 12 points and set a Colonial Athletic Association record with 24 rebounds, helping UNC Wilmington stay perfect in conference with an 87-74 win over Drexel on Saturday.

Cacok, whose previous career-high rebounding was 16, broke the school record (21) and conference record (22) late in the second half as the Seahawks cruised to their ninth straight home win, tying the best mark in program history.

UNC Wilmington (19-2, 8-0) led 53-51 with 15:01 left before four players combined to rattle off 12 straight points. Cacok capped the run with one of his 11 offensive rebounds and a dunk to give the Seahawks a 65-51 lead with 11:23 remaining.

UNC Wilmington is off to its best start ever and has won 24 of its last 26 conference games, including 12 straight. Chris Flemmings led the Seahawks with 17 points.

Sammy Mojica had 15 points and Rodney Williams added 14 for Drexel (7-13, 1-6), which has lost seven of eight (see full recap).

Delaware swept in season series with Towson
NEWARK, Del. -- Mike Morsell and Arnaud William Adala Moto pulled down a dozen boards as Towson won its fourth straight and a season sweep of Delaware with a 75-58 win on Saturday afternoon.

The Tigers are fresh off a win over Hofstra that saw them erase a 16-point first-half deficit, and momentum carried over when they built a 17-point lead at halftime.

Alex Thomas and John Davis added 13 and 12 points, respectively, but Towson saw its streak of three-straight games shooting better than 50 percent end. The Tigers hit 26 of 55 shots from the floor (47.3 percent), including 6 of 15 from deep.

Delaware snapped a six-game losing streak Thursday with a win over Northeastern. Ryan Daly scored 21 points for Delaware and became the first freshman in school history to post six 20-plus efforts in a season. He reached double-digits for the 12th time in 13 games (see full recap).