by Clark Groome
It’s that time of the year again. The Phillies, sporting the worst record in baseball, have ended their 63-99 campaign just one game shy of an ignominious 100-loss season.
The Eagles, highly touted before their season began, stand at 1-3 and have displayed so many problems there is concern they can’t be fixed with the current crop of players.
The Flyers, new coach in the lead of a team that is not significantly changed from last season’s disappointing show, haven’t begun the regular season. The perennially “rebuilding” Sixers are just beginning their pre-season rituals.
So, back to the National Pastime.
With the Phillies out of the playoffs, what’s a person to do? This year’s baseball post-season is filled with reasons for the Philadelphia sports fan to cheer. Three of the playoff teams – the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Texas Rangers, and the Toronto Blue Jays – boast rosters that contain former significant Phillies players, all traded for prospects in the Phillies’ rebuilding efforts.
The Dodgers have our old heroes Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley reunited at short and second on a team that just might have the best pitching rotation in baseball.
Ace Cole Hamels has been a key to the Rangers’ success since joining them a couple of months ago. Reliever Jake Diekman was part of the Hamels trade and sports a 2.08 ERA since the move to Texas.
The Blue Jays acquired centerfielder Ben Revere who has hit .319 since moving north of the border.
For those who want to see old Philly friends do well and perhaps win a World Series, rooting for the Dodgers, Rangers or Blue Jays would be a good thing to do.
Wasn’t it those same Blue Jays who stole the 1993 World Series from the Phillies when Joe Carter hit that home run in the sixth game? Some will not want to forgive the Blue Jays, Phillies manager Jim Fregosi or reliever Mitch Williams for that sudden and crushing blow.
As for the Dodgers, if you go back to the late ‘70s you’ll be aware that LA topped the Phils in the 1977 and 1978 National League Championship Series. The Dodgers remain anathema to many local loyalists, even though it was that same team that lost to the Phils on their way to the 2008 World Series victory.
As for the Rangers, there’s no history, but they are from Texas and do play in the other league.
So if you eliminate those three, you’re left with seven other participants in this post season: the Houston Astros, the Kansas City Royals and the New York Yankees in the American League, and the Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals in the National League.
The two New York teams are easily dismissed because the Yankees beat the Phillies in the 1950 and the 2009 World Series. The Mets? Hell, they’re the Mets.
St. Louis, of course, is always a contender and is known locally as the team that unexpectedly won the 2011 National League Division Series and not only ended that year’s campaign but the Phils’ five consecutive years participating in the playoffs.
While there’s really nothing in the Phillies history to give a reason to root against the Astros, the Pirates, the Royals or the Cubs, only the Cubs’ long-standing history as an underdog has any real draw for the sentimentalists among us.
Rather than finding a reason for rooting for or against any one of this year’s 10 post-season participants, why not take another approach?
Each of these teams and many of their players have great stories to tell. They’ve all played really good baseball.
The various series should be filled with excitement, surprises and superb moments.
The post season is when baseball is at its best, so why not just enjoy the sport? If you have a rooting interest so much the better, but now is the time just to sit back and enjoy the game that for so many for so long has meant so much to generations of fans, never more so then when it’s playoff time.
And this year there’s a bonus: Watching the MLB games might just reduce the pain the Eagles are causing and the angst the Flyers and the Sixers are generating before their seasons begin.