Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Reaping What You Begat

Ryan Madson strode to the mound to take on the Mets last night. He was there because the Phils are short on starting pitching. Anything could happen, and everybody knew that. But what I didn’t expect was the acid flashback I had as the game started.

The current crisis became crystal clear after an imp appeared dressed in candy stripes and sat on the sofa. He began to shake and dance. There was nothing I could do, so I turned inward and contemplated the inter-connectedness of it all.

They are short on starting pitching because two of last year’s hurlers are injured and another was shipped to Texas. His name was Vicente Padilla.

In exchange for Padilla, new general manager Pat Gillick received Ricardo Rodriguez, a complete failure who was released before the season started. The reason the Phils had Padilla was because Curt Schilling demanded a trade. That exorcism was performed in July, 2000. There are no players remaining from that trade on the team.

The imp chuckled, shaked and danced. The lead changed hands a couple times. It was 4-4 in the sixth inning…

Despite the looming shortage of pitchers this season, no additions with any notable tenure in the major leagues were made to the rotation. Gavin Floyd, scared shitless, tried and failed comprehensively. Ryan Madson, a proven middle reliever with one start in the bigs, was tried, failed, and put back in the pen. He was reinstated as a starter after Floyd fucked a tree and another rookie, Cole Hamels, was briefly disabled. Then Jon Lieber got injured. Madson made two serviceable starts after that and got to stay in the rotation. Tonight, he failed again, looking more lost than ever.

As usual, there are reasons for the specific ineptitude of tonight’s 9-7 loss. Madson got clocked because he served up too many plum pickins’ to the best-hitting team in the National League, and the Phils’ defense did everything they’ve been doing wrong all season again in the sixth inning.

As David Wright homered to left to start the inning, a kaleidoscope of colors spun around my living room as I envisioned how nice it must be to have a third baseman for the future, because the Fightless sure don’t. He’s there because their team had the foresight to draft a third baseman instead of relying on free-agent mediocrity like the Phils did when they signed Dingdong David Bell. They will need to find another team’s reject next season; there are no third baggers anywhere near close to being ready in the entire minor league system. The worst part about that is that Dingdong might be the Fightless’ best option.

Dingdong committed his tenth error last night in that five-run inning, and for a little psychedelic perspective, I was just thinking what could have been from a multitude of angles. He was at third base because the Phils needed somebody after Scott Rolen demanded a trade and was dealt in 2002. Rolen wanted out because the team looked as if they weren’t serious about winning – especially after the Schilling trade. Rolen was soon a Cardinal, and still is. There are no players remaining from that trade on the team, either. The last one, Placido Polanco, was able to play both second and third base, and was traded for the madman with a machete, Uggie Urbina, who had taken up residence in a Venezuelan jail in the offseason. He's still there. Maybe forever. Polanco’s replacement at second, Chase Utley, made his sixth error in the fateful sixth tonight after he threw a ball he caught off Julio Franco’s bat ten feet wide of first base attempting to perform a double play.

Julio Franco is a Met because there is a Fountain of Youth in his backyard in the Dominican Republic. He was once a Phillie, too. After 29 major league at-bats, he was traded with four other players for Von Hayes in 1982. Hayes retired in 1992 after 12 seasons at 34-years-old. Franco is in his 25th professional season and will turn 48 in August. He plans to play next year, too.

Von Hayes was billed as the next Ted Williams. If you ask me, he was the next Elton John. The guy who was deluded into thinking such disordered thoughts was Bill Giles, who had begun disassembling the team’s future in 1982 by sending Larry Bowa and future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg to the Cubs for the incomparable Ivan DeJesus. Sandberg was the throw-in.

Giles is like the Owsley of this whole, bad acid trip also known as being a Phillies fan – his retarded baseball sense has been awesome and far-reaching in its impact. His father used to be the president of the National League. In traditional nepotistic fashion, he set Billy up in baseball, and after apprenticing in Houston, the young idiot became a Phillies “vice-president” public relations flack responsible for such bread and circuses at the ballpark like Kiteman, the World’s Highest-Jumping Easter Bunny and the Phillie Phanatic.

The man will do anything for a buck. Why else would he have Karl Wallenda perform a high-wire act from one end of Veterans Stadium to the other without a safety net between games of a doubleheader? I was one of the 65,000 who went to see him do that. I remembered asking my father if they would play the second game if they had to clean his splattered guts off the Astroturf.

“Hope he didn’t drink too many Schmidts before he got on that wire,” some guy in the row in front of us said.

“Hell, if he makes it, he should down a case,” my Dad joked nervously.

Giles begat Giles, for sure, and Junior begat all the horseshit that has been Phillies baseball since he somehow cobbled together an alliance of filthy rich bluebloods to buy the club from Ruly Carpenter and install himself as GM by default in 1981. The Phils fate has been sealed and par-boiled in failure since.

Giles gave up the GM title but never the duties. After a thorough reaming of the fans in the early 80s – imagine a middle infield of Franco and Sandberg -- he brought in Woody Woodward to be his front man. Then he brought in Lee Thomas. And, in a move as stunningly idiotic as risking Wallenda’s life above a packed stadium – the guy eventually fell to his death in Puerto Rico – he hired Ed Wade, who, with Uncle Bill’s assent, proferred all those big, fat multi-year contracts for players that can’t beat the Mets this year, couldn’t beat the Braves the last three, and whose presence precludes the acquisition of pitchers that might give fans a reason to go to the games and not be swallowed by a sea of orange-and-blue jerseys inhabited by smirking fans with New York accents.

What a bummer Wallenda fell off his wire.


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