This time about a year ago, the Phillies were clinching the NL East Championship and heading to the playoffs. While we were ready to believe 2008 was the year, the tension at every game in the playoffs all the way to the World Series was intense. People were constantly asking, “Do you think they’re going to do it?” I never gave an answer. I felt the jinx would be on if we exuded too much confidence. It was indeed a beautiful thing to see the Phils knock out the Brewers then the Dodgers. But the rain that delayed game 3 until a 9:45 start because of constant rain was worse than the pain of a root canal.
There was no anticipation greater than game 5 which took three days to complete because of more rain. Then we reveled in the Halloween day victory parade bringing millions to the streets of center city Philadelphia and the victory celebration inside that gorgeous ballpark which was just so surreal. OK folks: BEEN THERE; DONE THAT.
Now, the sports fear in me is deep. I have not allowed myself (until now) to think about the post season. I received my tickets this past week. I noted the seat locations; marked my calendar and put them away. I have little doubt the Phils will be at least division champions. But this is a much different season. The mastery of skipper Charlie Manuel getting through the many pitching dilemmas and matching up middle relievers with possible set-up guys and closers has to have been part of the reason Charlie dropped major pounds this season. The Brad Lidge dilemma is trying. There is so much in a closer’s head, I can’t even fathom the psychiatry behind it. One day you’re a hero, the next day you’re a bum. While there’s no doubt the pitching staff has given us fans more gray hairs, we are still cheering. Even now, while I begin to look at baseball in October and be sure I have my calendar clear to go the games I have tickets for or watch on television, I am afraid. Mostly I’m afraid that if the Phils don’t repeat, the criticism by those fly-by-night fans who only cheer for the Phils when they’re winning, will think they knew best. I always fear for the players who will not return. I never like change, but to see players go off to another team or worse yet released, pains me. I’m a loyal Phillies fan. I will cheer until the final out this season, whenever that happens. Let’s give them some of that Phanatic karma and know that every season, these guys under Charlie Manuel, have been playing their hearts out most days and that is why we believe in the 2008 champions.