Two Atlanta Braves fans sat watching the Phillies yesterday as they were getting swept out of Atlanta—and probably out of the 2012 season.
"Are these really the Phillies? They look...different."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, that guy wearing No. 11 and leading off. The Phillies had a guy, Rollins, he was a terror...this guy is hitting .250 with an on-base percentage of .309."
"That's Jimmy Rollins, all right. Yeah, it doesn't seem that long ago that he was hitting home runs, stealing bases, setting the table. He was the National League Most Valuable Player in 2007, still elite in 2008 and 2009."
"OK, but look at him now. Nine home runs, 17 stolen bases. He does stuff when he gets on base, but those are six-hole hitter numbers, not leadoff numbers."
"So then the next guy, No. 8. He looks like Shane Victorino, that Flyin' Hawaiian character. He was another pest. Bobby Cox used to hate having to let his pitchers throw him strikes. He killed us!"
"That is Victorino. 2008 and 2009 he batted .293 and .292. He got three hits today to drag himself back up to .261. He's 31 now, and you know how speed/power outfielders age. Ask Carl Crawford."
"Hitting third is No. 26. Now, my eyes aren't what they used to be, but there is no way that's Chase Utley. He has a career average/OBP/OPS of .289/.376/.881. But this guy walking gingerly to the plate is at .247/.340/.822."
"And that's when he plays, which is half the time. Something is wrong with his knees. Maybe he played too hard for too long, maybe his body just wasn't meant to take the pounding at second base long term. Anyway it's Utley...just not the Utley you remember."
"The cleanup hitter is a big left-handed batter, looks menacing, wears No. 6. They used to have a guy named Ryan Howard, he hit 58 home runs one year. Fifty-eight! Drove in over 100 runs six seasons in a row, also won a National League MVP trophy. This No. 6 here, though—hitting .231, slugging .500. I mean, Josh Willingham is slugging .570 this season."
"Again, it's the same guy. It's Howard. That's the name they announce, that's the name on the paychecks. But I agree with you, watching this player, it's just not how anyone thinks of him. To top it off, he blew his Achilles tendon out at the end of last season, so he's literally limping around because 80 percent of him is better than 100 percent of John Mayberry Jr."
"The guy who pitched for them today, No. 34, big guy. Six innings, six hits, two home runs, three earned runs allowed, on the hook for the loss. They used to have Roy Halladay wearing No. 34; he wore that number when he was no-hitting the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Championship two seasons ago. Where'd he go?"
"Nowhere. Halladay pitched today."
"Really? Is he hurt or something? The Braves almost chased him in the first inning, had two across and the sacks full before he squeezed out of it."
"Well, if he's hurt, he'll never say it. But there has to be some explanation for 4-6 with a 4.33 earned run average. His ERA for his career is 3.27, and he pitched for some crummy Toronto Blue Jays teams."
"All right then, let's get out of here. It's sort of too bad, really. We got these tickets figuring we would see a battle between our Braves, who the Phillies eliminated on the final day of the season last October, and those same five-time-defending National League East Champions now scrapping for their lives. Some battle. They lose 6-2 with barely a threat."
"In the three-game series they scores four runs and committed five errors. "
"Do you think we'll see those champion Phillies again?"