Tag Archives: Cole Hamels

Aaron Nola, The Symbolism of Facing the Rays, and the Concept of Hope on a Random Tuesday Night

(Picture via nola.com — Kinda makes you think)

I used to have this — for lack of a better term let’s call it a — ‘talent.’

You could name a random date between the months of April-October, and for an approximately seven-year span from 2006-2012, I could tell you what the Phillies did on said date. Not just whether they won or lost but final score, opponent, winning and losing pitchers, how runs were scored — everything.

Friends of mine who knew about it would tell friends of theirs. It wasn’t totally unusual to walk into a room and be suddenly greeted with:

“September 26, 2008.”

Let me think for a second. They beat the Nationals, 8-4. Wait, maybe it was 7-4, dammit, no, it was definitely 8-4. Joe Blanton got the win. Ryan Howard hit a three-run homer to center field in the first inning that Lastings Milledge leaped at the wall for but couldn’t bring back. Charlie Manuel got ejected in the top of the ninth inning just for the hell of it, and the Phillies put themselves in position to clinch their second consecutive NL East title the following day.

I think this whole thing started somewhere around May 12, 2006, when a then 22-year old Cole Hamels made his Major League debut on a Friday night against the Cincinnati Reds. Five shutout innings with only one hit allowed. I don’t recall ever being asked that date, but I wish I had.

Recently that ‘talent’ or whatever you want to call it has evaporated some. Name a random date from 2006-2012, and I’ll be very rusty trying to come up with the answer. Name one between 2013-2015, and I likely won’t know it. Combine less accessibility to games on TV along with the Phillies recent slide, and it had to end at some point. Shelling out money for MLB.TV to watch a team that is going to flirt with a franchise record for losses just isn’t that tempting.

I can count on less than two hands how many Phillies game I have watched so far in their hellacious first half of the season that left them with the worst record in baseball at the All-Star break. Tonight though, I’ll get one closer to double digits when Aaron Nola steps on the mound at Citizens Bank Park and throws his first pitch in the majors shortly after 7 p.m.

Hope is a beautiful thing, and tonight it comes in the form of a 22-year old right-handed pitcher who skyrocketed through the Phillies minor league system to the tune of a 2.57 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning after being drafted out of LSU last summer, leaving the team’s much-maligned front office almost no choice but to call him up to the show.

How Nola fares specifically tonight in his first start is arguably irrelevant in the long run. He won’t save the Phillies from 100 losses and the worst record in baseball this season, not with his perceived innings limit and the other eight players in the starting lineup with him. He won’t rescue them from the baseball hell that a laundry list of miscalculated personnel decisions has subjected them to for next season or two. He won’t automatically make them a contender again.

No, not even close. Nola won’t single-handedly do any of that, but perhaps it is fitting that his initial taste of major league baseball comes against the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that rarely visits Citizens Bank Park but was here for a six-day stretch when baseball in Philadelphia was at its happiest over the past three and a half decades.

Hamels pitched like an ace that he would ultimately become. Chase Utley deposited a ball in the right field seats. Brad Lidge fell to his knees in celebration, and it rained a lot, so much that a mostly likable bunch of Rays players and coaches who played in the 2008 World Series decided to complain about Mother Nature among other things nearly seven years later.

Nola’s arm will not make that scene any more recent, but it can make the current mess a bit less painful and create the notion that better days are ahead even if they aren’t yet visible.

It won’t bring back the rally towels, and the scoreboard watching in late September, and the magical October nights when more than 45,000 fans rocked a ballpark to its core, but should those one day return over the next decade, Nola will likely be a driving force behind it.

Hope.

For such a short word, it’s a really powerful one, driving decisions that without it would make little to no sense, like being excited to watch a 33-62 baseball team in a bar on a random Tuesday night.

July 21, 2015.

Nine years from now, if I remember one thing from this nightmarish season, it will be whatever happens tonight.

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Cliff Lee, The Phillies, and The Night I Realized Twitter was The Place To Be for Breaking News

For much of the fall months, I have devoted this space solely to the Eagles — Either mini-think-pieces, analytical posts, Cody Parkey kickoff contests, trolling national writers who thought Chip Kelly had any interest in the Florida job, and haikus. Mix in a post or two about Penn State, and that has essentially comprised the entire blog.

Today, we are going to go down a different route because tonight marks the four-year anniversary of one of my favorite baseball memories.

Favorite baseball memory on December 13? Is that even possible? 

Yep, it sure is, and it has nothing to do with a perfect game, walk-off home run, or World Series moment.

Rather, it marks the four-year anniversary of Cliff Lee — my favorite baseball player of all-time — spurning the Yankees (and Rangers) to re-sign with the Phillies in free agency after having been surprisingly traded by the Phillies one year earlier.

Furthermore, it was the key moment in an intersection of sports and social media for me, as it was that night when I realized that Twitter was truly the best source for breaking news.

To appreciate how significant of a moment this was though, you first have to understand how unlikely it was.

After giving them fits in the playoffs in back-to-back Octobers, the Yankees were far and away considered the favorites to land the most prized free agent on the market. They needed an ace to team up with C.C. Sabathia, and it was no secret that Lee was the apple of Brian Cashman’s eye as the winter meetings went down the previous week.

The Rangers — Lee’s team for the second half of the 2010 season — were also thought to be trying their hardest to not let Lee get away, but few thought they would be able to go toe-to-toe with the Evil Empire. Some Phillies fans — myself included — held out hope that a Philadelphia reunion was possible, but we also knew the reality of the situation.

The Phillies had dished out some massive contracts in the previous years and already had a rotation featuring Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt. Even if there was some mutual interest, they financially couldn’t match what the Yankees would offer.

It seemed like a near forgone conclusion that Lee would soon call the Bronx home, and many were surprised that a deal wasn’t completed the previous week.

On Monday, December 13, 2010, things started to heat up when Jon Heyman reported early in the day that a “mystery team” might be in on the Lee sweepstakes.

The use of the term “mystery team” is normally pretty hollow, thrown around by agents to reporters to drum up more interest in their client, but Heyman might have been onto something here.

Heyman initially did not provide a ton of context, but later in the day, Jayson Stark took a stab that the mystery team might actually be the Phillies.

At this point in time, I did not even possess a Twitter account. I was one of the folks who was fascinated by the site enough to search for things but hadn’t yet joined and started tweeting on my own for whatever reason.

I began reading about Stark and Heyman’s tweets from my Facebook feed though and quickly texted some of my friends who I often talked baseball with.

It was my Finals Week in school, and with no exams until Wednesday, I had a lot of time to spend on the Internet between studying, and nothing had me more excited than the idea that my favorite player might come home again.

A few of them knew what I did. Others had not yet heard. This was no doubt moving quickly though, and as the afternoon transitioned to early evening, I must have typed “Cliff Lee’ into whatever the Twitter search bar looked like in December 2010 a good 100 times looking for any legitimate updates that existed.

Stark seemed to be picking up steam.

Heyman jumped in again, this time with a bit less vagueness.

At this point, any additional studying that night was a distant thought. I was locked into this, eagerly searching for news on Twitter every second.

One of my friends responded to a text at one point as the night got deeper with:

Where the hell are you finding this stuff? 

“Twitter, dude, we gotta be on Twitter. This is where it’s going to go down,” I answered.

Nothing was official yet, but as the night wore on, reports came out that the Yankees and Rangers had been informed Lee would not be going to either club. The context clues were all there.

“Dude, holy shit. He’s coming back. This is really happening. He’s coming back.” 

Bam.

A few hours later, SportsCenter came on the air with “Cliff Lee is a Phillie again,” but the news had already dropped on Twitter earlier.

An Associated Press article published in the wee morning hours may have summarized things most succinctly in terms of what Lee’s decision represented for the sport:

This was a rare instance in which the Yankees’ financial might failed to land a player they wanted.

The baseball world was turned upside-down. Now embattled Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro was praised for getting his man. I have pointed out before, that for as much as some folks may currently hate Amaro, they certainly loved him on that epic December night.

From a baseball standpoint, the move hasn’t completely worked out as envisioned. The Phillies have only been to the playoffs once in Lee’s four seasons, and after three fantastic individual years, Lee suffered through an injury-plagued 2014 campaign that saw his season come to an end on July 31st as he reached for his elbow and walked off the mound in Washington D.C.

At the time, it looked like it could be a career-threatening injury. Thankfully, that does not appear to be the case and Lee should hopefully be ready for spring training, but I wrote at the time about how it was a classic example of how cruel and unfair baseball is.

Derek Jeter received a well-deserved farewell tour. One of the best big game pitchers of this generation possibly got a random Thursday night with hardly anyone watching.

Like most big contracts, the final years normally result in some buyer’s remorse, and that will likely be the case with Lee should effects of the elbow injury decrease his trade value.

What a night though. What a night for the Phillies, for baseball, for social media, and for myself, whose favorite player told the Yankees no and came back.

Not to completely internalize something that wasn’t about me, but I think about how Twitter has been a big part of my early career and my life over the past four years, and the origins trace back to that night.

I have turned Internet friends into real friends through that website and was once even invited to a wedding by someone who I had first met on Twitter.

Baseball stories first broke on Twitter prior to that night, and bigger ones have gone down since, but nothing was more meaningful to me than the one that night.

Nowadays I’m not too excited to be on the site when news breaks concerning the Phillies. The demolition of a once great roster could happen at any moment, and the first shoe already dropped this week with the trade of long-term shortstop Jimmy Rollins. For things to get better, all of it needs to happen, and at some point it will likely involve Cliff Lee.

Regardless of when and how it happens though, I wouldn’t trade what transpired four years ago tonight for anything.

In the Latest Example of the Baseball Gods Hating Philadelphia, King Felx Will not Pitch Against the Phillies

The surprisingly good Seattle Mariners will make a cross country trip beginning on Monday night to face the unsurprisingly not good Philadelphia Phillies in a three game-series at Citizens Bank Park, and sadly, Felix Hernandez will not be a part of it.

The best pitcher of the last decade and American League Cy Young favorite will only be able to watch from the visitors dugout since he just pitched Saturday night and will not start again until next Friday at Fenway Park against the Red Sox.

Reading this, you’re probably thinking ‘meh, ace pitchers miss teams all the time.’

That is true, but the thing that especially sucks about this situation is Hernandez as of a week ago was on track pitch the final game of the Phillies series.

Hernandez pitched on August 5th, and the Mariners did not have an off day until this past Thursday, the 14th. Rather than pitch on four days rest like normal, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon shuffled his rotation, which pushed his ace back an extra day.

Instead of going August 5th, August 10, and August 15, he went, August 5th, August 11th, and August 16th.

The first schedule would have put him on track to pitch the Wednesday series finale, but that disappointingly is no longer the case.

If any of that was hard to follow, here’s a link and screenshot of the Mariners recent schedule to illustrate what I just wrote.

Mariners Schedule

I first noticed this a week ago but held off on writing about it hoping for some kind of miracle.

King Felix Screenshot

Felix Tweets

As you can see, a friend of mine who is a Mariners fan provided some hope, but in this instance, McClendon’s aforementioned decision worked against us.

To pour some extra salt on an open wound, Cole Hamels is scheduled to pitch on Wednesday for the Phillies. We could have had Hamels-Hernandez and instead we’re getting Hamels-James Paxton.

Paxton is a pretty nice young pitcher, but he’s not King Felix, who is currently rocking a 1.99 ERA and leading all pitchers in WAR.

If I had to make a list of individual MLB players who I would fork over top dollar to see live, King Felix would be third, trailing only Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout respectively.

If you are seriously invested in the Phillies right now, you are a better fan than me. I still watch most games, but the broadcasts have kinda turned into background noise while multi-tasking on something else. One of the game’s brightest stars in town, however, would have piqued my interest.

In a way, it would almost be a win-win situation. Either the Phillies beat one of the best (something they accomplished when they were one of the best in 2011) and have a nice memory to take away from a lost season, or you get to say that you saw him dominate in-person.

The Mariners have not been to Philadelphia since 2002, and there is no telling when they will be back again.

If you need a team to root for though with the Phillies out of it, might I suggest them? They are currently a half game back of the second wildcard spot in the American League.

Outside of Robinson Cano and Austin Jackson, there are not a lot of recognizable faces in the everyday lineup, but if they crash the playoff party, their starting rotation could make them the life of the party.

Everyone talks about feeling bad for Giancarlo Stanton wasting some awesome years playing for the Marlins, but he is still only 24 years old. His time will come. The Mariners ace has been dominating since 2005 but hasn’t seen an October yet. This might be his best shot.

Unfortunately, rooting for the Mariners won’t solve our immediate problem. We were one day, one Lloyd McClendon decision away from getting Hernandez-Hamels. An amazing matchup to spice up a dull August will not come to fruition.

Another disappointment in a season of them. This time though, you can’t blame Ruben Amaro, although I’m sure some people will still find a way.

Cole Hamels No Longer Sucks Against the Mets

In a lost season for the Phillies where positives are hard to come by, there might be a silver lining in that ace Cole Hamels may have finally solved his kryptonite.

After years of massive struggles against the New York Mets, it appears Hamels has at last figured out how to pitch against the National League East rival.

To the charts we go!

Date Stadium IP ER Score Winning Team Decision QS Career Record vs. Mets Career ERA vs. Mets
8/14/2006 CBP 8 0 13 — 0 Phillies Win Yes 1 W, 0 L 0
4/9/2007 Shea 6 3 11 — 5 Mets None Yes 1 W, 0 L 1.8
6/7/2007 Shea 7 3 6 — 3 Phillies None Yes 1 W, 0 L 2.57
6/29/2007 CBP 5 3 5 — 2 Mets Loss No 1 W, 1 L 3.12
4/18/2008 CBP 7 4 6 — 4 Mets Loss No 1 W, 2 L 3.55
9/7/2008 Shea 5 4 6 — 3 Mets Loss No 1 W, 3 L 4.02
6/10/2009 Citi Field 5 4 5 — 4 Phillies None No 1 W, 3 L 4.4
8/21/2009 Citi Field 5 4 4 — 2 Mets Loss No 1 W, 4 L 4.69
9/11/2009 CBP 6.2 1 4 — 2 Phillies Win Yes 2 W, 4 L 4.28
5/27/2010 Citi Field 6.1 2 3 — 0 Mets Loss Yes 2 W, 5 L 4.13
8/7/2010 CBP 7 1 1 — 0 Mets Loss Yes 2 W, 6 L 3.84
8/13/2010 Citi Field 8 1 1 — 0 Mets Loss Yes 2 W, 7 L 3.55
9/26/2010 CBP 4 5 7 — 3 Mets Loss No 2 W, 8 L 3.94
4/5/2011 CBP 2.2 6 7 — 1 Mets Loss No 2 W, 9 L 4.46
5/28/2011 Citi Field 7 2 5 — 2 Phillies Win Yes 3 W, 9 L 4.31
7/16/2011 Citi Field 4.1 7 11 — 2 Mets Loss No 3 W, 10 L 4.79
9/24/2011 Citi Field 7 1 2 — 1 Mets None Yes 3 W, 10 L 4.54
4/15/2012 CBP 7 2 8 — 2 Phillies Win Yes 4 W, 10 L 4.41
5/28/2012 Citi Field 8 4 8 — 4 Phillies Win No 5 W, 10 L 4.42
7/5/2012 Citi Field 7 4 6 — 5 Mets None No 5 W, 10 L 4.46
9/19/2012 Citi Field 6 2 3 — 2 Phillies None Yes 5 W, 10 L 4.4
4/28/2013 Citi Field 6 1 5 — 1 Phillies Win Yes 6 W, 10 L 4.27
6/21/2013 CBP 6 4 4 — 3 Mets Loss No 6 W, 11 L 4.4
7/20/2013 Citi Field 5 4 5 — 4 Mets Loss No 6 W, 12 L 4.53
8/28/2013 Citi Field 7 2 6 — 2 Phillies Win Yes 7 W, 12 L 4.44
9/20/2013 CBP 7 6 6 — 4 Mets Loss No 7W, 13 L 4.59
4/29/2014 CBP 4.2 6 6 — 1 Mets Loss No 7 W, 14 L 4.79
5/11/2014 Citi Field 7 1 5 — 4 Mets None Yes 7 W, 14 L 4.64
6/1/2014 CBP 7 1 4 — 3 Mets None Yes 7 W, 14 L 4.51
7/29/2014 Citi Field 8 0 6 — 0 Phillies Win Yes 8 W, 14 L 4.31
8/9/2014 CBP 7 1 2 — 1 Mets None Yes 8 W, 14 L 4.21

What we have here is a mess of data that covers nine years, three stadiums between the two teams, five managers, six NL East titles, and on a wider scale, two different presidencies.

Let’s pull some relevant numbers:

  • 31 total starts
  • Phillies are 11-20 in those 31 starts
  • 17 quality starts
  • Four starts where earned runs have been higher than innings pitched
  • Four quality starts in five games against the Mets in 2014 including four consecutive outings
  • The four consecutive quality starts streak ties a personal record against the Mets
  • 2.40 ERA against the Mets in 2014. (0.93 ERA last four outings)
  • Current career ERA vs. Mets lowered by .38 since the start of the season and by .58 over the last four starts.
  • Current career 4.21 ERA vs. Mets is lowest it has been since September 2010.

You might not think all of this is a big deal, but I’m telling you that it is. This is not some Drew Balis created narrative. Hamels’ problems against the Mets have been a real issue and acknowledged by mainstream media, specifically this CSN Philly piece by Corey Seidman from late April.

While I would like a bit of a larger sample size to make my point, four near lights out starts will get the job done here. There have been times earlier in his career where Hamels has been going great only to be tripped up when drawing the Mets, and that isn’t the case right now.

Why is it significant going forward though?

It’s important because Hamels has started four games against the Mets every season dating back to 2010 and already has five this year, and the Phillies have yet another series against them at the end of the month.

Whenever the Phillies face their NL East rival, there is a 60 percent chance that Hamels will pitch in a three-game series.

It also matters because as much as I hate to admit it, the Mets are pretty close to being a much improved team. Their rotation next season will feature Matt Harvey, Zach Wheeler, Jacob DeGrom, and Noah Syndergaard.

Right now, the Mets lead the Phillies by four games. If the Phils want to escape the division cellar in coming seasons and snap out of this three year malaise, their number one starter is going to have to beat other teams in the NL East.

The Phillies are still 1-4 in Hamels’ starts against the Mets this season, but run support is now the sole problem as opposed to Hamels himself contributing to the poor record in the past.

If the Phillies can ever return to prominence over the next decade, the left arm of their homegrown ace will be a driving force, and beating the Mets, who figure to be contenders, will certainly be significant.

Much of the talk on Twitter has been about how dominant Hamels has been over the past two months, but after nearly a decade of watching him every fifth day, we already knew he was capable of that. We did not know, however, that he was capable of consistently pitching well against the Mets.

Now we know.

Related Cole Hamels coverage you might enjoy:

Cole Hamels is on the Mound Tonight and I am Hella Hella Pumped

Why I’m Not Buying the Cole Hamels Trade Rumors

Why I’m not Buying the Cole Hamels Trade Rumors

Cole Hamels dominated the Mets at Citi Field earlier tonight.

The first three words of that aforementioned sentence are not exactly surprising. Hamels has been absolutely owning opponents since the beginning of June, posting a 1.58 ERA over that span.

The fourth and fifth words are a bit more shocking. Hamels rarely ‘dominates the Mets.’ He entered the contest with a 7-14 record and a career 4.53 ERA against them. One would need to take a time machine back to August 14, 2006 — his first career start against the Mets — to find the last time he tossed a scoreless outing against them.

They normally give him fits, but tonight, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Hamels is completely locked in, and during one of the greatest stretches of his career, there is some speculation that it was his final start in Phillies pinstripes with the trade deadline set for Thursday at 4 p.m.

Nope. I’m not buying it.

I’m not beleiving it because if the Phillies were to trade their 30-year old ace, they literally might not be able to field a rotation next season.

I had this in my head for a few days, but the graphic at the top of the page that appeared on Phillies Pregame Live should tell the story. Out of all the pitchers that currently comprise the team’s rotation, Hamels is the only one who really has a good chance to return.

Cliff Lee is about to turn 36 and coming off an elbow injury that cost him two months of his season. If that never happened, it’s likely that he would be dealt, and it is still widely believed that the Phillies will look to move him in the winter once he reestablishes value.

A.J. Burnett could be traded although a 2015 contract option complicates that. He may also simply retire, something he nearly did last winter.

Meanwhile, Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez are both free agents once the season ends.

Now, you could certainly think that the two of them won’t be missed, but a club still needs bodies to take the ball every fifth day. One of the biggest issues is the lack of starting pitching depth in the organization, and this exercise brings that problem to the forefront.

Jesse Biddle’s future is up in the air after a rough patch in the minors led to some time off. Aaron Nola won’t be ready and nor should he be. Jason Marquis and Sean O’Sullivan are two veteran names in the system right now — You start to get the idea of how serious this is.

Aside from a few attractive names at the top, the starting pitching market for free agents is pretty weak.

If Hamels were to be traded, you are essentially looking at an Opening Day rotation of Lee and four number 5 starters (David Buchanan likely being one of them).

The team most linked to Hamels has been the Dodgers with Joc Pedersen, Corey Seager, and Julio Urias the reported players. This would be a haul for the Phillies in theory as all three are currently rated as Top 20 MLB prospects, but only Urias is a pitcher out of that trio.

Due to an unwillingness to waive no-trade clauses among other things, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins figure to be here next season, which means that the Phillies — delusional or not — will enter the year with some intention of trying to win.

As flawed as Ruben Amaro’s stuck in the mud approach might be, it stands a much better chance that the Phillies catch lightning in a bottle with Hamels in the rotation than without him.

David Murphy kinda, sorta argued the opposite yesterday in the Philadelphia Daily News. I’m not buying it when considering the uncertainty that comes with the return in just about any deal here.

While trying to look at this logically, I’ll admit that I’m not completely unbiased when it comes to the issue at hand. I wrote about Hamels and how I hoped he would be here for years to come just three months ago.

Coming up on 39 hours to go though, I am confident that I will get my wish because regardless of the offer, the alternative will not just weaken the Phillies five-man rotation next season, it could essentially leave them without one.

A Conversation with a AAA Tow Truck Driver from Exactly Three Years Ago

For as much as baseball fans enjoy waxing poetic about how unpredictable the sport can be, many will also concede that if one attends enough games, you’ve just about seen it all.

Maybe now and then you’re blessed with a no-hitter or some hot shot prospect making his debut, but things start to blend together for the most part.

At least I thought that was the case on July 22nd, 2011 — three years ago today. In a rather predictable regular season, it was one of the most ordinary Phillies games I have ever attended. until it suddenly wasn’t. In the blink of an eye on a scorching mid-summer night, things changed drastically, producing one of the most memorable conversations I have ever been a part of.

On the three-year anniversary of this event, I have decided to transcribe and reflect upon what happened that night.

As I alluded to earlier, the big detail that I recall from the early portion of this day is how painstakingly hot it was. I was working as a camp counselor at the time and spent practically all of the workday outside. Thermometers eclipsed triple digits. Heat warnings ran rampant on the east coast, and several temperature records were broken.

To show that I’m not making any of this up, here’s a douchey tweet about it.

Phillies Game Tweet

I was heading to the game with my friend Steve and one of his friends. Steve and I were high school friends, and we had kept in touch through our first two years of college. Steve was driving; remember this detail for later.

The Phillies were in the midst of a historic regular season, and Citizens Bank Park was the place to be on summer nights, but on this particular Friday evening, 45,383 folks were just trying to avoid falling victim to heat exhaustion and dehydration.

The ESPN box score records the first pitch temperature as 98 degrees. Usual ballpark favorites like cheesesteaks and crab fries only made you more thirsty, and if you didn’t have a bottle of water within arm’s reach at all times, you were doing it wrong.

The game itself was about as cut and dry as you could get for the 2011 Phillies. Cole Hamels, the only player whose performance has not dipped from three years ago, tossed eight dominant innings, only allowing one run. Chase Utley had two hits as an aging but still kinda formidable lineup produced three runs. Ryan Madson retired three straight Padres in the ninth, and everyone joined Harry Kalas in singing “High Hopes.”

The game lasted less than two and a half hours, but five minutes into the return trip, it became clear that we wouldn’t be getting home anytime soon. Steve’s car had all the signs of a vehicle about to break down — Overheated engine, unable to go faster than 40 mph, steering wheel about to lock.

Here is an Internet picture of I-95 in Philadelphia. This was not our exact location, but it will do to convey what we had to pull off.

I 95

The car on the far left might as well have been us. We figured we had less than a minute to get across four lanes of oncoming traffic and reach the safety of a shoulder. Steve obviously had the hard part of operating a car on its last leg. I was sitting in the back left seat behind him, so my job essentially was to verify that it was clear for him to switch lanes without getting smashed.

I’m normally a somewhat upbeat person, but as we proceeded through this 30-second challenge, I think I said to myself once or twice ‘We’re gonna die.’ 

Thankfully we didn’t die. Steve made it. A similar thing had happened to me with a different friend two years prior at an Eagles game, but having already experienced it once made it no less scary.

We tried the typical let the engine cool down and start up the car 10 minutes later strategy. No dice. Steve called for a AAA driver to tow the car and also get us close enough to home where someone could pick us up.

Forty minutes later, the tow truck came lumbering down I-95. The sun had long since set, but temperatures still hovered in the 80’s, and we were just excited to feel some air conditioning again.

Our driver was a hulking man with a shaved head wearing a T-shirt that looked like it could burst at the seams. He said his name was “Chris” as we boarded the car. It wasn’t a real friendly introduction but certainly not standoffish either.

The best way I can describe Chris is to say that while you might not be best friends with him, he was the type of guy you want to like you because if shit goes down, he could probably take out two or three people at once without much effort. You want Chris on your side.

Chris noticed the three of us wearing Phillies shirts, and this is where things got interesting.

“You kids coming from the game?” he asked. Typically I’m pretty shy in these situations, but for some reason I was the one to answer.

“Yeah,” I replied.

“They win?” Chris asked.

“Yep, 3-1.”

“Good shit. Hamels look good?”

“He did. Ten strikeouts over eight innings. Looked real sharp.”

“Nice. I was trying to watch before my shift. Looked like he was pitching a decent game.”

I kinda gave a casual head nod. At this point, Chris had been driving for a few minutes, and I figured the rest of the ride would pretty much feature silence.

Chris had other ideas though. Soon after, he asked if we had been alive for the 1993 season. Had I been a few years older, that World Series loss to the Blue Jays would have been my first sense of sports pain and not the Flyers getting swept by Detroit in the 1997 Stanley Cup finals, but we explained to him that while we remember watching, we were too young to really understand the magnitude of it at the time.

Take it away, Chris.

Phillies man, they’ll break your heart, man. I remember in 93, I was pumping gas in North Philly. We had a little TV set up outside there. I saw Mitchie-Poo give up the home run. It crushed my soul, man. I didn’t watch another game for 10 years after that. 

We transitioned to talking about the then current Phillies. Hunter Pence was the name on everyone’s mind with the trade deadline a week away and the team in need of a corner outfield upgrade, but Chris had other ideas.

I think if we trade for a guy like Coghlan, could be a real sweet move. Guy like that would pop 15-20 home runs in this bandbox of a park. 

Chris Coghlan was in the midst of a -.5 WAR season with the Marlins. The most home runs he has ever hit in a year is nine. At the time of this conversation, he was actually in Triple-A, trying to work out of a rough patch. Aside from sharing a first name, I’m not sure what could have possibly attracted Chris to the idea of trading for Coghlan, but he was passionate about it.

Last but certainly not least came one of the greatest lines I have ever witnessed. The topic shifted to Ryan Howard who was slashing a pedestrian .245/.341/.448 with 18 home runs. Three years later, the Phillies would yearn for anything close to these numbers.

Chris was ready.

Howard’s gotta shoot up a little bit, man. Not enough to get caught, just a little bit. Look guys, I’m 36-years old, I’m in the best shape of my life. I bench 350 every day. Pay me 20 million. I’ll pop a few pills and hit 30 home runs for ’em. Pay me 20 million. 

By now, we were less than a minute away from where Chris would be dropping us off, and perhaps that was a good thing because other than to all laugh together along with Chris, we had no good response ready for something like that.

Here is another tweet to show this actually happened and that I haven’t just drawn the whole thing up in my wildest imagination.

Phillies Game Tweet 2

I highly doubt Chris remembers this conversation as vividly as I do. Hell, he probably doesn’t remember it at all, and that’s okay.

One of the beauties of baseball is that it can hold friendships together as life begins to change and sometimes — even if it only lasts 25 minutes — introduce new people from different walks of the world into your life.

Chris’ opinions weren’t necessarily informed, but they were the perfect combination of humorous and outlandish to make us forget that we had previously been stranded on the side of I-95 without a way of getting home during one of the hottest of summer nights.

Rock on, Chris.

Despite one-bloody-nil, Roy Halladay’s arm falling off, Charlie Manuel being fired, and the ongoing malaise of the last two and a half years, I hope you’re still watching ball — and entertaining some college kids after their car breaks down on a major interstate.

Jon Heyman ‘Reported’ Something Ridiculously Obvious About the Phillies and People Trolled the Shit Out of It

CBS Sports baseball writer Jon Heyman told Twitter something that it has known for two years this morning when he ‘reported’ that the Phillies would prefer to deal Cliff Lee rather than Cole Hamels as teams come calling with the trade deadline approaching.

Heyman’s full report is here although he could have saved himself 254 words and simply typed “DUH’ after this headline.

Heyman Headline

Let’s compare Hamels and Lee for a second:

30 years old vs. A month away from 36 years old

Under contract through 2018 vs. Under contract through 2015

Healthy with a 2.93 ERA vs. Missed two months with an elbow strain

Spent entire career in Philly vs. Five organizations over a decade

Which one would you prefer to hold onto going forward? Hate on Ruben Amaro all you want, but even he’s not that incompetent. Outside of Curt Schilling, Cliff Lee’s my favorite pitcher of all-time. I’m gonna cry whenever the Phillies eventually move him, but separating emotions from baseball sense, this decision is a no-brainer.

This post isn’t meant to kill Heyman though. He normally does good work, unlike someone else who used to write for CBS Sports, and has a national audience to inform that may not find this news quite as obvious. Still though, the Philadelphia sports media decided to have some fun with it.

Below are the best responses:

Murphy 1

Murph going hard.

Murphy 2

Zoo!

Zoo 1

Seidman 1

Mosh who doesn’t even cover the Phillies with a sick response.

Mosher 1

Finger 1

Gelb 1

Jim Salisbury — the most connected reporter on the Phillies beat — jumped in a little late but really came out swinging.

Salisbury 2

Salisbury 1

Yours truly even tried to join the party.

Heyman 2

Have a good weekend, folks.