Coming out of the Temple–Villanova game on Saturday — where the Wildcats showed Temple and a sold out Liasouris Center what a number 9 team looks like — we quickly got on a crowded subway train headed south.
A group of Temple seniors — no, not seniors as in the class up from juniors, but aged people with round bellies, gray hair and throats dry from yelling at Dumpf — were headed to a watering hole just off the Spring Garden stop.
One thirsty senior looked at a couple across the aisle and said to the guy wearing a Phillies hat, “So, whada ya think?” Not missing a beat, the hat wearer shrugged his shoulders and said, “Can’t be worse than last year.”
Oh yea? Don’t bet on it.
As my friend Mr. Terry will tell you, history can and does repeat itself.
Lookit, anyone in Philadelphia who knows that Dalessandros was better than Pats and Ginos put together — hands down — knows what happened in 1964 at 21st and Lehigh. The team finished 92-70 and had the NL pennant stolen from it by the Cardinals on the next to last day of the 1964season.
After the great-collapse the Phillies became mediocre and finally fell below .500 in ’68. . Attendance fell over that period like a boulder dropped off the Manayunk bridge. Attendance fell over that period like a boulder dropped off the Manayunk bridge.
True, part of the attendance drop was you could get robbed, shot or stabbed — or all three at the same time — walking to and from your car into Connie Mack Stadium. Or have your parked car dismantled and left with no engine or tires. “ Hmmm, go see the Phillies and get robbed, shot or stabbed? Buy new tires? Or go to the movies and live another day. Let’s see…” .
Thing was, that sweet taste of victory in ’64 blinded the Phillies’ brain-trust to what was real, and what they could do to get fannies back into the seats — shot and stabbed be damned.
In ’65, a year after the choking-collapse, the Phillies looked around and saw a lanky 22 year old black kid taking up room in the bullpen.
Looking for a sure-fire way to get back in contention and fill the seats, the club traded the lanky black kid named Ferguson Jenkins, along with John Herrnstein and Adolfo Phillips, for two aged pitchers: Bob Buhl, 37, and Larry Jackson, 35. It was about as realistic as a Super Bowl halftime entertainment show.
What the hell were they thinking? Better yet, what the hell were they smoking? I should sue the Carpenters for kid-abuse.
Moves blinded by the sweetness of victory. Buhl and Jackson were disasters and the lanky black kid traded away is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Now, fast forward. Our Dear Leader didn’t put together the great Phillies teams of ’08 and ’09, but he sure as hell had a seat at the table and lifted his glass to clink with Perfect Pat’s when the white towels twirled and the parade followed, rolling slowly through South Philly. And surely he’s tasted the sweetness of victory while his club went 93-69 in ’09…97-65 in ’10…and 102-60 in ’11.
Doesn’t come much sweeter than that.
But now he’s got an aging club with big gaps: A two-and-a-half man rotation, a sour-tooth closer, a set-up guy who still can’t comb his hair using his right arm, a catcher no longer juiced up, a $25 million a year guy at first — the highest paid single-double hitter in baseball, who can’t seem to turn on a breaking ball — a new manger who’s quieter than water in a jar.
A crazed play-the-game-right or I’ll kick your ass bench coach, two light-hitting rookies fighting it out at third — a position usually reserved for guys who can drive in runs, and a bevy of multi-millionaires pointing fingers at anyone and everyone — except who they see in the mirror.
And Dear Leader’s fix?
Marlon Bryd, Bobby Abreu, Will Nieves, Miguel Gonzalez, and Roberto Hernandez.
Yes indeed, blinded by the sweetness of victory.