Are the Phillies still playing baseball?
I realized after the third hour of NBC's prime time coverage of everyone's favorite Olympic competition, beach volleyball, that it was only mid-August and indeed the Phillies were still playing. Somehow, through the magic and manipulation of taped "live action" the Olympics, half a world and 12 hours away, seemed more accessible than the Phillies, a mere three time zones behind us. The only baseball game this old head could stay up late enough to watch was Sunday night's improbable national telecast between two teams that can't hit their way out of a paper bag. The schedule must have been set long ago, when at least one club, ours, could still hit and was thus deemed worth watching. I thought the lords who rule baseball telecasts were more nimble than that when it came to scheduling and then I realized the Phils and Pads were probably the only two teams who didn't know they would be going head to head in prime time with volley ball, Michael Phelps and, of course, Michael's mother.
Anyway, the Phils managed only two wins in seven tries out West and those, by 1-0 and 2-1 scores, summed up their ongoing offensive futility. Had not Jamie Moyer and Cole Hamels pitched so well, the Phils could have dropped the entire trip to the Dodgers and Padres and come home four games out of first place after the Mets won six straight...on the road. The Mets have suffered all kinds of injuries this season and still are without Billy Wagner, but they have opened up a lead on the Phillies and Marlins.
A look down the Phils starting lineup reveals a collective funk. Chase Utley is simply not putting good swings on the ball. He seems more and more vulnerable to pitches down and in and his batting average threatens to fall below .280 if he continues this way. Most of Ryan Howard's recent rbi's have come without benefit of a hit as he has grounded into fielders' choices and runs have scored. Jimmy Rollins' average is about 30 points below last season's figure. Pat Burrell continues to hit the occasional home run, thank goodness, but he, too, is mired in a pretty good major league slump. Both victories, however, came courtesy of Burrell dingers. Chris Coste is crash landing. Third base is temporarily a blackening hole except when Greg Dobbs gets the occasional nod. Right field is...wait...can anyone out there hit? This is a vaunted offense? Nearly ten weeks have passed since these guys collectively hit. By week four the brown out was a trend. By week eight it was pattern. By week ten it's a full-fledged black out.
Oh well, at least we have the boys home for a stretch, and against a lousy team. Now we can all look forward to the mixed greeting Jimmy will no doubt receive. Meanwhile, I can't wait to see who wins beach volley ball.