Friday, May 12, 2006

The Catch

They already loved him around these parts before The Catch, so it’s difficult to imagine how the fans are going to feel about Aaron Rowand now.

He arrived in Philadelphia with a reputation as a guy who would run into walls for his team and that is precisely what he did last night in making one of the most spectacular catches ever seen here or elsewhere.

As soon as Xavier Nady hit the ball Harry Kalas also went into action.  “Driven to deep centerfield,” the voice of the Phillies began with characteristic emphasis.  The camera picked up Rowand’s back from that point as he raced toward the fence in front of the Phillies bullpen.  Glancing once or twice at that fence with utter disdain, Rowand accelerated, always keeping his eye on the ball.

He reached out and grabbed it just over his shoulder and simultaneously crashed into the railing, face first, running so hard there was no time to brace himself.  Had the fence not been there his momentum probably would have carried him as far as Packer Avenue.

He immediately crumpled to the ground in obvious pain but had the presence of mind to raise his glove just long and high enough to prove he not only made the catch but held onto it.

No one in the park was happier than Gavin Floyd, who had walked the bases loaded after getting two quick outs in this, the first inning.  Rowand had saved the day and, as it turns out, the game, which was called after four and half innings with the Phils holding a slim 2-0 lead.  Had Rowand failed to make The Catch, three Mets runs would surely have scored.

Rowand, bloodied but unbowed,  was immediately taken to the hospital where a fracture was diagnosed.  He will have surgery today and probably go on the DL for a stretch.  The bet here is he won’t stay on it a minute longer than mandatory.

Meanwhile, Floyd settled down after that shaky opening frame and pitched better than he has to date.  He finally mixed his pitches well and had the curve and change working for him.  Other than the three successive walks in the first inning his command was better than it had been in any other start to date.

Larry Andersen opined at the start of the game that no one would benefit more from the arrival of Cole Hamels than Floyd.  I had previously written that Hamels’ presence should take some of the pressure off of Floyd who would no longer be the young kid on the block, but Andersen went further and said he thought the decision to keep Floyd on the 25-man roster and in the starting rotation would do wonders for his confidence.  That, and the fact that Floyd and Hamels are good friends apparently, having come into and up through the organization more or less together.

And, oh yes, the hero of the game other than Rowand?  A guy named Utley, who belted a first inning home run that proved to be the game winner.   Where would this team be without Utley?  Don’t ask.


Oisín/Wizlah said...

Please, lets not forget Victorino, who should double-up as 3b coach when not batting. (Or maybe Bill Dancy's problem is that he thinks everyone is Victorino)

As the set up now stands with hamels and ruiz up here, I expect floyd to calm down a lot more. Once he loses the slightly pouty confused look on his face, I think we can stop worrying about the kid.

I was impressed that he got a seasoned line-up of hitters to keep chasing that curve and hitting them to david bell.

Tom Goodman said...

Oisin: Absolutely right. As Jason Weitzel said to me during an in-game telephone conversation, Victorino brings speed to this team that is badly needed. The club is going to miss Rowand, but with Victorino taking his place we should not see too steep a drop-off. Victorino also has an energy that can spark a club.

Trask said...

nice post

Rev. Smokin Steve said...

That catch by Rowand last night is the type of catch you tell stories about for years to come.

He's already becoming legendary in thsi town, and it's only May.

Tom G said...

Love the Packer Ave line.

John Salmon said...

Now he's on the DL for 15 days.

Worth it? Maybe yes, if you assume Victorino will play as well as he has been. No otherwise. This isn't football. You need Rowand out there every day.

Eileen said...

The play by Rowand was AWESOME!!!! He is exactly the type of player we need in Philly. I'm a huge Garry Maddox (Secretary of Defense) fan and Rowand can play Center Field for me any day! Hopefully, we don't lose him for two long. With his energy and attitude on this team, this team is exciting.

RickSchuBlues said...

I think if you could ask Rowand if he'd known the play would cost him two weeks or more on the field, he'd say he still would have gone for it.

That's the kind of thing that a team feeds off, a powerful moment that no one will soon forget. It could have strong implications for the attitude of rest of the team, which as mentioned over at Beerleaguer is perhaps the final hurdle standing in the Phillies way in their quest for bigger and better things.

I shouldn't presume to know what Aaron Rowand hypothetically thinks today, but I'm fairly sure that he wouldn't take it back for anything, pain, disfiguration, missed time, and all.

Tom Goodman said...

A lot of comments on other sites note how costly Rowand's catch was to him and, potentially, the team going forward. Sure, in restrospect one wishes the outcome, not the catch itself, had been different. The problem in speculating about the wisdom of Rowand's devil-may-care approach is that it is difficult if not impossible to imagine he can play any other way. If an athlete is fearless this does not necessarily mean he is wreckless, too. Rowand makes judgments all the time, but he refuses to play scared. For most of his career that approach hasn't cost him as dearly as it did the other night. The danger in playing cautiously is that it will not merely alter his game going forward, it will hamper it.

It's also interesting to note several stories appeared immediately after his face-first crash into the railing detailing that he had already pointed out the peril to management and they had responded positively by ordering additional padding that, after delays, had arrived and was to be installed as soon as the Phillies left on their current road trip. Rowand's request was hardly that of an indifferent let alone wreckless man. The sad part here is the timing.