Aaron Nola is 3-0 in seven starts since the All-Star break with a 1.53 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. He has a 1.06 ERA in five starts this month. By every measure, he is unquestionably one of the game’s elite starting pitchers. So when the Phillies announced before Wednesday night’s game that Nola’s next start would be moved up to Sunday afternoon at home against the Cubs, it made perfect baseball sense:
Rotation change: Nola goes Sun. at home. Velasquez moves to Mon. at MIA. Why? “Mostly because Nola is awesome,” Gabe Kapler said. “He’s been tremendous and we want him to start sooner rather than later.” Move gets Nola extra start at CBP, where he is 9-0/1.94 in 13 starts in '18.
— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyNBCS) August 29, 2018
Hard to argue with Kapler there. I would do the exact same thing.
The Phillies went on to lock down an impressive win last night. They showed a pair by erasing an early 5-2 deficit to salvage a game in what had been, up until that point, a completely disastrous series with the Nationals. Carlos Santana, look at you, bringing back your team from the dead with a big-time grand slam. Jose Bautista, whose acquisition many scoffed at (myself included) reached base four times and delivered a go-ahead RBI single in the seventh. Tommy Hunter got the job done with an impressive two-inning save. It was easily one of the Phillies’ best wins of the year.
There were good vibes all around, so I was ready to jump on this morning and go FULL POSITIVE because I feel like I have been a bit surly lately, but then I saw this on my Twitter timeline and got distracted:
Let's bring a little slice of home to CBP for @AaronNola027!
Presenting: Nola’s French Quarter — Come join the party during Aaron's home starts, beginning this Sunday, in our new fan section!
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) August 30, 2018
From the team’s website:
Your game ticket comes with a Nola T-shirt and Mardi Gras style beads – the perfect combination to get in the spirit and make some noise for Nola and the Phillies. Additionally, all fans can enjoy a taste of New Orleans, with jambalaya featuring shrimp, chicken and andouille sausage and hurricane cocktails for sale at the concession stand behind Section 109.
Purchase your tickets now and be ready to bring the energy all game long!
1) The French Quarter/Mardi Gras style beads/Hurricane cocktails: I’m not even going to delve into the possibilities of what could go wrong with this promotion.
2) Did the Phillies move Aaron Nola’s start up a day because he’s awesome? Probably. He gives the Phillies the best chance to win against the NL’s best team in what feels like a must-win series if they want to stay within reach of the Braves. Still, does anybody else find it at least a little bit odd that, like, 16 hours after Kapler announced the change the Phillies’ rolled out a marketing promotion designed around Nola to get more people to the park? Have I become this cynical?
To be fair, I’m sure this was an idea that had been in the works for at least a week or two, so I assume they were going to do this at some point next month, but I can’t help but wonder if any way, shape, or form, the decision to move Nola up a day was business-driven. Free t-shirts, jambalaya, more Aaron Nola. These are all good things. Who cares?
True, but it would be at least mildly concerning if any of the on-field decisions were dictated by business priorities. The attendance at Citizens Bank Park has been underwhelming. They didn’t top 22,525 during the Nationals series. In fact, according to Baseball Reference’s attendance records, the Phillies are drawing just over 27,000 fans per game, which is 11th out of 15 National League teams despite the fact they have spent much of the past two months in or around first-place. That’s less than ideal.
3) The French Quarter? I mean…the possibilities!