Sunday, August 13, 2006

Don't Bet The House, Harry

Chris Michalak last took to the mound in a major league game in 2002. There are reasons for that.

He has kicked around in the minors since 19 fucking 93, and you know how long that has been if you’re a Phillies fan, as we have an incessant and annoyingly palpable measuring stick reaching back to that year, when mullets and steroids and booze and guts and blood and balls last got the team to the post-season.

And while that team rapidly collapsed into itself like light in a black hole – as John Kruk lost a nut, as dope made Darren Daulton delusional and steroids shrunk Dave Hollins’ scrotum – Chris Michalak floundered in the minors.

Since ’93, he has been up to the bigs in parts of three seasons and has been shipped back to the bushes like a defective Chinese import by 12 – count ‘em, TWELVE – different organizations. Somebody must be watching out for this guy. Maybe he gives great massages to owners’ daughters or turns turds into beef, because when you’re 35 years old and still getting shots after allowing upward of five or six earned runs every nine innings in AAA like he has for the last four years, something’s gotta be up.

The Cincinnati Reds, so desperate for pitching they traded for Ryan Franklin, called Michalak up from their farm today and handed the ball to him hours later in the second inning against our beloved Team Schizo with his team trailing 5-4, their starter chased quickly, their bullpen overwrought from the previous day’s 14-inning marathon loss.

And Michalak, a lefthanded junkballer, proceeded to channel Tug McGraw, vintage 1980. His one boo-boo, a Ryan Howard bomb in the eighth inning (his 40th homer), tied the game 6-6 and seemed to make irrelevant his near seven-inning mastery of Team Shook Up as he held the Reds’ one-run lead until then. But as it would turn out, this middle-aged mediocrity won the game.

You can turn your heads now, Ryan and Chase, because it might be better if you didn't read the rest.

In this summer of our discontent -- a summer that has seen the team’s haggard-looking general manager’s pronouncement that his charge will not be too competitive next year -- fans have to wonder why they bother following their sadistic exploits this year unless they are, indeed, masochists like yours truly. After watching Flash Gordon (who wears McGraw’s old number) get blown away in the ninth inning of this game after Howard tied it up, and after watching rookie Scott Mathieson get touched for six earned runs in less than four innings at the start of this debacle, you have to question the sanity of investing time or, worse, money watching this sleight-of-hand trick of a team.

Yeah, it was an entertaining game. And yeah, I know Mathieson is a work-in-progress. But c’mon. He’s a lamb to the slaughter against an offense like that. You’re fooling yourself if you think Team Shook Up is not still shaking down and conducting tryouts. The 25-man roster consists of 13 pitchers, and one of them, Fabio Castro, sits in the bullpen mostly unused because Haggard One Pat Gillick wants to save him for next year and can’t send him to the minors unless he’s offered back to his favorite trading partner, the Texas Rangers. That’s all well and good if you had a few real major league utility players on the bench for late-inning rallies, but, alas, this team doesn’t unless you consider Danny Sandoval or Chris Roberson crusty veterans. Hell, they couldn’t hit a career loser like Michalak, let alone Billy Wagner.

So why expect late-inning victories from this team? After all, Howard came up with two outs and two on in the bottom of the ninth against the Reds’ new fireman, Eddie Guardado. He struck out to seal the loss, 9-7, but another dinger would have won the game. Real excitement, no? And that’s just what they’re hoping will keep you buying the overpriced nachos and cheese or bring your kid for a Pat Burrell baseball cap tomorrow.

But make no mistake: The Phils are not going to be the wild card. They may have loads of games left with allegedly weaker opponents like the Marlins or the Nationals, but if you’re a gambling man, I wouldn’t bet the house on them, Harry.


Anonymous ChuckM said...

Yeah, the quest for the Stumblebum Sweepstakes veered off the road this weekend. An ugly meatgrinder of a series where the bats gamely did what they could to cover for the lackluster to horrid starts and a either gassed or hurting (?) Flash Gordon (where was his curveball?). Today was Myers third shoddy start in a row on a day the BP needed for him to go deep. I guess Gillick aint playing games when he says dont expect much from the Phillies until 2008 as they are not going anywhere with their starting pitching and Zito, Schmidt and Matsuzaka aint coming here in 2007.

13/8/06 10:05 PM  

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