p Ohh, it’s time! The Philadelphia Phillies — your most recent World Champions (!) — have opened spring training. Turns out the baseball offseason goes pretty quickly when you play ’til the end of October. Who knew?
But as excited as we all are for the start of baseball season, there’s another reason to get pumped, too: The return of baseball writing. Whether it’s whining about the integrity of the game that actually celebrates cheating (as long as it doesn’t involve a needle) or complaining that newfangled stats aren’t as good as old worthless ones (like pitchers’ wins), no sport brings out the best (worst) in a sportswriter like baseball.
CLEARWATER, Fla. - If the 2009 Phillies exhibit an increased swagger when they arrive at training camp, it’s understandable. Figuratively at least, winning a World Series can have the same impact on ballplayers as steroids.
The key phrase in this lead is, of course, “at least.” Is Frank Fitzpatrick suggesting that winning a championship might work as well as steroids do?
Not signed yet is Ryan Howard, who asked for $18 million in arbitration; he set a record (for a player who won) with his successful request for $10 million last season. If he wins — or, really, even if he gets close to it — he’ll be one of the highest paid players in baseball.
Not signed by the Phillies at all is reserve outfielder So Taguchi, who inked a minor-league deal with the Cubs. We’ll miss you, So, and your incredibly wide-open eyes.
Above (at left, obviously) is the patch the Mets will wear at the inaugural season of Citi Field next season. Maybe due to budget cuts the Mets eliminated everyone on staff who has taste? Oh, wait, I bet there wasn’t anyone like that on staff.
So. J.C. Romero. As you probably know, the Phillies’ pitcher (who won a pair of World Series games) tested positive twice for a banned substance and is suspended for the first 50 games of next season. Whoops!
There’s a lot here, but fortunately for us the sports media — both those newfangled blogs that convinced Buzz Bissinger the First Amendment should be eliminated and the old sports media that never, ever writes anything wrong or stupid — is sticking to just writing moralistic editorials or angrily questioning why “nobody cares.”
Like a priest’s sermon about low church attendance, complaining about people not caring is easier than actually attempting to convince someone why he or she should care about it. So it’s kind of popular. Case in point: Mike Freeman, CBSSports.com National Columnist.
In a column about asterisks and morality and whatever else, Freeman manages to write this sentence, which immediately shoots up to #1 on my personal list of most awesomely awesome sentences ever (superb, amazing, incredible, Pulitzer- and Super Bowl MVP-winning sentence in bold):
So, now knowing all of this information, doesn’t the Phillies’ World Series title deserve an asterisk?
Many in the mainstream media are afraid to say this, fearing the wrath of Philadelphia sports fans, but it’s definitely something to consider.
Because if there’s one thing we can say about the mainstream sports media, it’s this: They never, ever say anything bad about Philadelphia sports, lest they anger their fans. Remember when Phillies Nation won the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award in 2004? And when Eagles fans were inducted into 147 different Halls of Fame — including those for badminton, bass fishing, YouTube video making, marbles (in Wildwood, N.J.), birds, pepper, robots, Constitutional scholarship and Elvis impersonation — just last year?
But congratulations to Mr. Freeman; he has truly earned this honor.
(Aside: The photo’s from the game where Michael Irvin got hurt, Eagles fans cheered, Deion Sanders danced around stupidly — okay, that was every game — and a horrible Eagles team beat Dallas. I think they won. One of my favorite sports conspiracy theories ever is this: Irvin was going to be suspended for cocaine, so he and Jerry Jones conpsired to fake this injury in order to save face for him and the Cowboys. Yeah, that’s pretty awesome, if no doubt completely nonsensical.)
“If they didn’t want such words to be broadcast, they should have aired [it] on a delay to catch any obscene language,” wrote a viewer from Philadelphia. “Pull their license to broadcast.”
The Phillies? All the local TV stations? Man, it aired on pretty much every channel, I really don’t want to have to watch just MyNetworkTV and the CW from now on, although I guess I would still get Gossip Girl.
Another viewer wrote: “He should be disciplined for his lack of respect towards his fans and in particular the children exposed to such vulgarity. . . . The broadcasters are not at fault. Chase Utley is.”
Disciplined… by whom? The Phillies, I guess. The Phillies could suspend him or fine him or something. Why this person would be writing to the FCC about this, I have no idea. But people do just complain about anything to anyone, as we’ve seen.
On a side note, can we look at what Chase Utley said to deflect questions about saying fuck on TV:
“I tell all kids not to use that word. If they’re 29 and they win the World Series, I think they can say that. But I definitely would say to all the kids out there, ‘Kids, it’s a bad word. Don’t say it. And I’m dead serious.’”
Ha ha, great, I mean it. I also love how dead serious he is — dead serious enough to say “And I’m dead serious.” Don’t say that word, kids. Take it from me, Chase Utley. Look at all the stupid mail I’ve had to deal with because I said it!
Another: “This was not a casual slip. This was an intentional misuse and abuse of the public airwaves. . . . How am I to explain such profanity to my child?”
I don’t know, maybe you can explain to your son or daughter that multimillionaires who have an uncanny ability to hit a ball (far!) with a bat sometimes say silly things, including saying the one word you’re not supposed to say on television on a live television broadcast. Ha ha, that was so awesome, I just remembered.
And another: “It was embarrassing that he was allowed to do that and if there are no ramifications I will be furious. Is there no platform that is sacred anymore?”
Yes, back when World Series victory parades were sacred. Like when the Philadelphia Athletics won the World Series in 1930, and they had the big parade, and second baseman “Camera Eye” Bishop gave a speech about how the A’s finished 102-52 but their Pythagorean record was only 93-61 and it just made him go, “World Bullfeather Champions.” Yes, I don’t know when things changed, but I bet it’s when they took the prayer out of World Series victory parades.
A radio listener who wrote, “I heard it here in Camden,” said: “That sort of language is no big deal… except that Howard Stern was driven off free radio by you, the FCC, because of content and bad words and the like. It’s only fair that broadcasters be held to the same standards… Fine KYW as much as you are legally allowed to fine them!… Lord knows the US Treasury could use the money.”
And, of course, one of the letters is from a Stern fan. I would wager good money the next sentence of this was, “Baba Booey, Baba Booey, Oh my, Richard Christie!”
The blogs have written their goodbyes and the newspapers have done their farewells; with last week’s signing of Raul Ibanez (at right, missing a homer), Pat Burrell is officially done as a member of the Phillies.
It’s funny to remember how much people wanted Burrell out of here just a few years ago; the sting of his one really bad season (2003, when he hit .209) lasted ’til only very recently. But he was a good sport in Philadelphia, and got one base a ton. Somehow that’s still an underrated part of a baseball player’s game, and the Phillies will miss it.
Now that I’ve covered Burrell, let me commence with the bashing of the Raul Ibanez deal. He’s essentially the same player as Burrell, only several years older. He’ll be 39 at the end of this 3-year, $30 million deal. The Phillies could have had Pat Burrell for a one-year deal. A wise man once said: “I’d sign almost anyone to a one-year deal. I mean, shit, you signed Tom Gordon to a three-year deal worth almost $20 million, and he was a retired 53-year-old jazz saxophonist at the time.” Do we need to start calling the Phillies cheap again?
Keith Law (who says the deal is absurd) writes that Ibanez’s defense is even worse than Burrell’s, and the only year he hit lefthanders was 2008. Oh, yes, Ibanez is also a lefty, to go along with Howard and Utley. I see no reason to sign an older version of Burrell who has even more downside than Pat the Bat.
On the plus side, it’s good to know we’re all still able to complain about the Phillies again.
The Phillie Phanatic — dressed up like Santa Claus — will also be around to pose for photos on Saturday and Sunday. Knowing this town, there will be huge lines just to meet the Phanatic and see the ugly World Series trophy.
On Saturday at 5 p.m., there is a tree-lighting ceremony along with carolers, ballgirls and the Phanatic. The trophy will be out from 9 to 4:30 Saturday, and 9 to 2:30 Sunday.
The lovely Erica just dropped off an eight-DVD set of the Phillies’ World Series win over the Rays in October. (Can you believe it’s been a month?!) The set includes all five World Series games and the final 2 games of the NLCS, plus a bonus DVD.
More importantly, it features the Phillies’ radio announcers as an alternate audio track for all the games. And, most importantly, the back of the box features a Ben Franklin quote. Right under that poetic Jimmy Rollins quote.
My best guess is that this thing costs $200 billion dollars. Lemme look it up… hmm… only $80! Not as bad as I’d expect, honestly. According to the press release, “And, From Atlantic City to Allentown, THE PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES® 2008 World Series COLLECTOR’S EDITION is certain to bring out Phanatics, wherever they are!” Indeed it will.
This hits stores Dec. 9. Frankly, I’m not sure if I have the patience to watch 20 hours of baseball again, but maybe doing it when not breathing into a paper bag wondering how the Phillies will blow it will be even more enjoyable.