Friday, July 20, 2007
They are the losingest [is that a word?] team in baseball history, the first team to lose so many games. Quite a distinction to have isn’t it? Sports Illustrated had a nice little piece in last week’s issue containing quotes from the Phillies recent past about the team’s futility. The principle lure of the Chicago Cubs is their futility, the lovable losers who haven’t won a World Series since 1908. The Boston Red Sox built their identity for the better part of eighty years on the fact that they traded away the greatest player in baseball history. Both teams are beloved by their long-suffering fans. An entire movie – Fever Pitch – was built around the idea that a seemingly sane and normal guy put his love of the Red Sox before his relationships with women. Stephen King has written often about the Red Sox in his books. Books, documentaries, websites devoted to the Red Sox and Cubs abound.
Why haven’t the Phillies built a similar following? There are a few possibilities: Philadelphia, the blue-collar town it is, isn’t full of narcissistic writers the way New England is. The Phillies have no one traumatic event that shook the team to the core like the Babe Ruth deal, Bill Buckner’s error, or Bucky Dent’s home run. Unlike the Cubs, the Phillies haven’t always played in attractive stadiums full of ivy on the outfield walls (admit it Cubs fans, 90% of the appeal of Cubs baseball is Wrigley Field). Add in that the Cubs actually were a strong team at the turn of the century and won the World Series twice (1907 & 1908), as compared to the fact that the Phillies didn’t win until 1980 – thus becoming the last of the original sixteen teams to win the World Series, and it doesn’t surprise anyone that the Phillies barely register on the radar of the national media.
The fact that the Phillies get notice for their futility only is something that irks me. Here are the all-time leaders in losses:
Philadelphia Phillies: 10,000
Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves: 9,677
Chicago Cubs: 9,421
Pittsburgh Pirates: 9,336
Cincinnati Reds: 9,335
St. Louis Cardinals: 9,152
I thought it was interesting that nobody is mocking the St. Louis Cardinals for losing over 9,000 games in their long history, or the Braves for being closer to 10,000 losses than 9,000. The Philadelphia Phillies have existed since 1883. They’ve lost a lot of games. They’ve also won a lot: 8,805. The Mets have only been around since 1962 and they’ve already lost 3,775 games. The Mariners? Been around for thirty years and have lost 2,541 games. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays will hit 1,000 losses this season for certain and they’ve only been around for a decade. They have a worse winning percentage than the Phillies!: .399 vs. .468 … As do the Texas Rangers: .467 vs. .468 … And the Colorado Rockies: .465 vs. .468 …
… The Phillies are still in the playoff hunt. Right at that .500 mark (okay, a game below it) and they are still holding on, just six games behind the Mets, despite some serious stumbles along the way. After the Phillies weather this series in San Diego with the Padres, they have some smooth sailing coming up: Nats and Pirates at home, then the Cubbies in Wrigley. The Phillies don’t get to match-up again with the Braves until August 10 and the Mets until August 27. I know it is encoded in the DNA of Phillies fans to be pessimistic and anxious about the team’s prospects, but people shouldn’t.
The Mets, by the way, have amazing resiliency. After looking vulnerable in mid-June, they’ve been playing some good ball of late. The stretch in late-June / early-July where they were playing 18 games in 17 days actually turned out well: one postponement, ten wins and seven losses. I was wrong. These guys are for real. Damn…
… The Phillies signed first-round pick Joe Savery. Savery is off to beautiful Williamsport, PA to join the Crosscutters in the New York – Penn League. Unfortunately Savery has missed the first month of their season and probably won’t get more than four or five starts in before the Crosscutters season sends on September 7th.
The Crosscutters are 14-15, by the way, and sit three games out of first place in their division. Their top player thus far this season has been Tyler Mach, their second baseman and the Phillies fourth-round pick (143rd overall) in the draft. In 21 games, Mach has 15 extra-base hits. Keep an eye on him.
Schedule for next week:
Monday: Thoughts on 756
Tuesday: Small-Ball Index
Wednesday: Farm Report - Lakewood
Thursday: Is the Phillies Starting Pitching Bad?
Friday: Farm Report - Clearwater