Reflections On the First Half

2 Jul

It’s hard to believe but the Phillies have passed the halfway point in their season.  At 52-31 they have the best record in baseball and sit in first place in the NL East, 4 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves.  This is the time of year when everyone gives players and teams grades for their first half performance or starts obsessing about what their team must do at the trade deadline.

So I won’t.

Instead I’ll just give you my thoughts on the first half of this highly anticipated Phillies season.  (What, you’d rather have grades???)

After all the hype, all the talk of the Fab Four being the best rotation in baseball history, guess what?  They lived up to the hype.  Other than Roy Oswalt now out with the back injury, this staff has been as advertised, possibly more.  Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels have been extraordinary.  Especially when you consider that the Phillies once potent offense has been inconsistent at best.  The Phillies are 36-14 when one of the big three takes the mound.  It truly is a gift to watch them play.

Which brings me to reflection number two.

Why aren’t fans appreciating this season more?  Maybe as Phillies fans we’re programmed to think the worst or wait for the other shoe to drop but listening to sports radio or reading the blogs, you’d think this team was mired in the cellar.   Yes, the offense hasn’t been great, and it would be nice to have another right-handed bat but it would be nice to win the lottery.  This pitching staff is historic but fans seem to keep looking for the team’s imperfections.  Do yourself a favor and try to enjoy the journey.  (I know I’ve told you that before.)  I mean, remember Charlie Hudson or Matt Beach or Mark Leiter?  You don’t?  I rest my case.

One more thing about the pitchers.  Something I really like is though they may be over-hyped they are all understated.  In this day and age of x-rated tweets and Facebook fan pages it’s nice to have superstars who let their pitching do the talking.  Did you see the warm standing ovation Roy Halladay was given on his return to Toronto?  That’s because he gave them all he had while he played there and left with humility and class.  It can be done.  (Hear that Lebron???)

My flying under the radar award goes to the ‘flyin’ Hawaiian,’ center fielder Shane Victorino.  He is quietly putting together one of his best seasons leading the team in batting average, triples and runs scored.  Most importantly, he has grabbed that troublesome number 5 spot in the batting order and finally given Ryan Howard some protection.  Hang loose, Shane.

And the biggest unexpected surprise has to be the Phillies bullpen.  Going into the season this was one of the team’s biggest concerns.  (That was before we knew the offense would go MIA.)  But the bullpen has been lights out, especially the closers.  Notice the use of the plural here. The Phillies are now on their 4th closer, (count ’em–Lidge, Contreras, Madson, and now Bastardo,) and they are 43-1 when leading after 8 innings.  Now that’s closing.  Take Antonio Bastardo, the back-up to the back-up to the back-up closer.  He is 3-0 with 0.90 ERA and is 4-4 in save opportunities.  Rookie Michael Stutes, he of the flowing hair, has been equally effective.  We may be seeing the bullpen of the future.

Finally, I have to admit to being blown away by the Phillies fans road show.  It seems every game whether in new York or Toronto, the fans are out in force sporting their red and making themselves heard.

Let’s hope we’ll be watching that road show long into October.

So stop worrying, start cheering, and enjoy each game the way they have to play them–one day at a time.

Have a great holiday week-end everyone!

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2 Responses to “Reflections On the First Half”

  1. geetie July 2, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    Now I’ll really enjoy todays game, no matter what. One addition I would like to make. I love to watch Chase, the thinkings women’s baseball player.Not only is his body totally in the game but his head is usually three plays ahead.GO CHASE !!!

    • susan cohen-cickler July 2, 2011 at 5:19 pm #

      Perfectly said. You can add Chase any time in my book. And not just for the way he plays if you know what I mean.

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