The Eagle has landed or should I say the Philly. We have arrived in Clearwater and we weren’t the only fans on our way for some Phillies phun in the sun. The plane was philled with Phils’ jerseys form Chase Utley to Mike Schmidt; young and old alike all sporting their Phillies gear. From caps to socks, Phillies red was everywhere. Baseball was in the air and we hadn’t even gotten off the plane.
And once in the Tampa airport the river of red turned into an ocean. I happily engaged in several conversations about who should lead off and how Chase and Ryan looked so far and how many wins the Phils would have this season. Did I know any of these people? No. At least not in the traditional sense but we were all related by our common bond– baseball. And nothing is stronger than that.
Like these two young women. They were rushing off to try to catch a game in Tampa but they were kind enough to let me photograph them representing their team. And there were many, many more like them.
But before I get to the Clearwater chatter there was another incident I just had to address. It happened during the Phillies-Washington Nationals game on Wednesday. Phillies fans will remember the bad blood that has developed between these two teams. It started last year when Phils’ ace Cole Hamels hit Nats then rookie sensation Bryce Harper. Hamels was suspended for 5 games when he admitted that the pitch was intentional.
The animosity between the two teams continued all season with the Nats getting the last laugh in this case as they won their first Eastern Division title ending the Phillies five year streak atop the division. (The Nats were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs but that’s not really relevant here. I just couldn’t resist pointing that out.:)
So here were those same two team facing off again. Yes it was a Spring Training game but the teams animosity seems to already be in mid-season form. It all started in the third inning when the Nats young ace Stephen Strasburg drilled Chase Utley with a fastball in the back of his left leg. Ut gave him a long look but said nothing and took his base.
All was quiet at least until the Phils Roy Halladay took the mound in the fourth and with two outs the Doc threw a fastball that “slipped” out of his hand and flew behind the back of the Nats Tyler Moore. After the game Halladay denied throwing at Moore on purpose (he doesn’t want to get suspended right?) but the Doc did say :
“‘Really, I think, we do need to protect our guys to an extent. I’m not saying that’s what happened. It slipped. But that’s important. We’ve had a lot of guys hit over the years. As a staff, we need to do a good job of protecting those guys. Spring training you’re not necessarily trying to do it. But it wouldn’t have been the worst thing had it got him after hitting one of our good guys.’”
Unintentional? You be the judge but there were some unconfirmed reports that after the pitch Halladay pointed meaningfully in Chase’s direction.
I don’t know about you but that’s what I call leadership with a capital L. Are you listening Jonathan Papelbon?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to the beach. (I mean back to my research for Saturday’s game.)