Jimmy Rollins goes yard vs the Cubs (source: NBC Sports)
I attended my first Phillies game of the season phinally vs the Cubs on Thursday afternoon. Here are some random thoughts, anecdotes, and mental notes I took during the game:
– Fan jersey violation of the day: Some guy in a Jon Lieber jersey. Jon Lieber? Wow…he was here for seemingly like a week and a half and spent most of that time on the DL. I'm pretty sure his wife and kids probably didn't even own his Phillies jersey.
– Every time I go to CBP I am still amazed by the energy of the crowds and just how great the stadium is compared to the Vet. It's the best live sports experience in this town in my lifetime.
– All that being said, I also remembered why I dislike day baseball games from May-August. It's just too hot in the sun. If I'm going to be sitting still in 88 degree weather with the sun beating down on me, I'd rather be sitting on the beach with a nice ocean breeze. And I know they widened the seats in the new park and everything, but speaking for myself anyway, I think our asses have widened by about the same amount, so it's still about as uncomfortable as sitting in an airplane seat for anyone taller than about 5"8 or more than about 160lbs. I spent the last 5 innings of the game standing in the shade in the concourse area, which is just as well anyway.
– On a non-baseball-related note, why is the Spectrum still there? I haven't been down to the stadium complex since last October and after seeing two of the final Pearl Jam shows there, I thought it was scheduled to be knocked down this past Winter or is going to be used as a museum or something? Last time I was there the concessions and bathrooms definitely seemed like they were from another era. It seems like they are just waiting for it to collapse on its own? It is probably teetering on the brink anyway. At this rate, Pearl Jam can play there the next time they are in town. No seats? No problem….standing room only.
– The game flew by….it was in the 7th inning after about 80 minutes. Cubs batters swung at first pitch and made outs like 5 or 6 times vs Blanton. Overall it only took about 2:45.
– Some older senior in the row next to me appeared to be making his wife punch out dozens of all star ballots, while he listened to the game on his headphones. I admired the guy's balls. If I tried that with my wife, I'm sure something besides ballots would be getting punched.
– They say you see something that surprises you at every baseball game. A few years ago it was Wes Helms batting 4th for the Marlins. At this game it was Marlon Byrd batting 4th. He had a decent year last year and is off to a good start this year, but still Marlon Byrd batting 4th! He used to hit 7th or 8th when he played here. Also, more useless trivia: there have been only 2 players in MLB history with a first name of "Marlon", and both played for the Phillies at one point – Marlon Byrd and Marlon Anderson.
– The top 2 hitters in the Cubs lineup were Fukudome and Theriot. I'm not sure of the correct pronunciations, but I like mine better anyway: F&@KYou Dome and The Riot.
– Without a doubt Jason Werth has passed Chase Utley and Cole Hamels as the top heartthrob for female fans. If they don't resign him, hearts will be shattering in pieces all over the Tri-state area. Ross Gload started for Werth in RF though, much to the dismay of the thousands of young females in attendance. But they got to see him pinch hit and play the field the last few innings.
– Speaking of which, in the CF bleachers there was a big sign with a simple message: "Sign Werth." Not sure if this has been there before, but the public campaign to pressure ownership to keep him is definitely underway.
– In re of that, the Phils of the last few years have become what the Flyers in the 80's were to female sports fans in the area. The Flyers back then used to make all the girls swoon with Rick Tocchet, Peter Zezel, Brad McCrimmon, and company. The Phillies seem to have had that buzz the last few years with the ladies.
– As for actual baseball strategery, it largely went unnoticed by announcers and fans, but that was bad baserunning by Chase Utley tagging up to go from 1st to 2nd in the bottom of the 6th inning. He is one of the top 10 players in the game according to Sporting News, and I know he likes to be aggressive, but the reward didn't outweight the risk there. Let's count the reasons. Howard's fly out was the 2nd out. Polanco tagged and went to 3rd. Utley would have been out at 2nd if they throw was accurate and/or wasn't dropped by the shortstop. He was still almost tagged out which would have ended the inning. I know the baseball axiom is always: don't make the first or last out at 3rd base. And I imagine that should be expanded to: don't make the final out at 2nd base when there is a runner on 3rd. It was a 1-1 game at the time, so at that point it was more important to stay at first and keep that big hole open for Rollins. A base hit to RF gives you a 2-1 lead.
– Then Ryan Dempster followed that up by inexplicably giving Rollins a 3-0 fastball with first base open and the struggling Ibanez on deck. I think the move there has to be you throw him a 3-0 breaking ball and then if he takes for a strike, you come back with 3-1 breaking ball and if you walk him, you walk him. J-Roll may be the best dead red hitter on the team (just ask Jonathan Broxton) and he got a 3-0 fastball, belt high, middle-in (as Wheels would say) and he hammered it into the RF stands to give the Phils a 4-1 lead.
– Later in the bottom of the 7th after the Cubs had pulled to within 4-3, Ben Francisco pinch hit for Ross Gload and led off with a single. Brad Hoover was up next and I was thinking if they are going to pinch hit for Blanton as expected, then this is an obvious bunting situation….unless you are going to let Francisco try to steal the base. Hoover of course popped out to shallow RF. And then they pinch hit Werth for Blanton and he flied out to deep Center. The only thing I can think of is Chollie was worried about them intentionally walking Werth with 1B open and didn't want to waste a chance for him to get an extra base hit. But that's still not the worst thing in the world. Then you'd have 1st and 2nd with 1 out and Victorino and Polanco coming up with 2 chances to drive in an insurance run. And Werth was staying in the game anyway…it's not like wasting a Matt Stairs at bat last year, where you knew he wouldn't be staying in the game after he hit. Then with 2 outs and Victorino batting, Francisco finally ran and had the base stolen, but Victorino swung and flied to left.
– As of now Shane Victorino has more RBIs than Jason Werth and is on pace for over 100. Go figure. And that is mostly out of the leadoff spot this season, with the pitcher hitting right in front of him. I guess it highlights how often Ruiz and Castro/Valdez have been getting on base for him. The bottom of the order has been a hidden strength for this team so far this year.
– Jose Contreras had a shaky 9th inning, throwing a lot of pitches, falling behind hitters, and hitting Soriano with a 3-2 pitch to lead off the inning. But he came back and pitched out of a 1st and 3rd, no out jam. He has closer stuff and at this point is the best option, as he seems to be adjusting to this new role more smoothly than a fine Cuban maduro. It kind of reminded me of an old Wild Thing save from back in the day. Maybe Contreras is the new "Cosa Salvaje."