The last image from the Phillies' last postseason appearance. I know.
In 2010, after having the sickening privilege of watching the favored Phillies lose a deciding Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at home to what seemed like an only decent San Francisco Giants side, I tweeted "I'm not a baseball fan. I'm a Phillies fan." I did not see a single pitch of the 2010 postseason after that game. I heard it went pretty well for the Giants though.
In 2011, I again lucked into watching the Phillies' playoff demise. This time, the Phillies managed to lose 1-0 in Game 5 of the National League Division Series. Ryan Howard folding up in a pain-wracked ball while making the last out was just icing on the putrid cake. Phillies fans did not know for certain then that Howard's injury would impact the 2012 Phillies. But we had a sense it would not help.
And now here we are. The playoffs are well underway and the Phillies, for the first time since 2006, are nowhere to be found. With reference to playoff baseball, I find myself struggling to find a reason to watch or to care. Maybe you have a similar problem.
So I am turning to the oldest and best-known cure for this sort of malaise. If I cannot watch the Phillies win, at least maybe I can watch some teams I don't like lose.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever already.
In the shot above, Andy Pettitte is holding the World Series trophy the Yankees took away from the Phillies in 2009.
It used to be reasonable, even expected, to say that the Yankees win because they outspend everyone. But that is not really true any more. Yes, they had the largest payroll coming into 2012. But the next three largest payroll clubs (Phillies, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) missed the playoffs altogether, and the Phillies' and Red Sox' seasons were both abject disasters.
Since money is no longer the deciding factor, the primary reason to dislike the Yankees is, well, they are the Yankees. Alex Rodriguez is in steep decline. So is Mark Teixeira. Curtis Granderson more or less hit his weight. Mariano Rivera suffered a freak injury and missed most of the season. Their starting pitching was in disarray for most of the season.
It all added up to 95 more wins and another American League East title.
You may have figured out by now that I really, really do not like the Yankees. And if I hear another smug Yankee fan talk about "going for No. 28," I'm going to throw up on his shoes. Enough.
The Cardinals always seem to be inches from disaster, yet they keep winning.
These guys are still here? Again?
Yes, they are. The Cardinals have become baseball's version of the National Football League's New York Giants, a team that just hangs around and does just enough in the regular season to get into the tournament.
Then when the tournament starts, no one can put them away.
The Cardinals got into the 2011 tournament only because the Phillies swept the Atlanta Braves (in Atlanta no less) and punched the Cardinals' wild-card ticket for them. Then the Cardinals dominated the Phillies in the National League Division Series, clearly outplaying the Phillies in each of the series' final four games.
The Texas Rangers had the Cardinals down to their last strike twice in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, only to let it get away.
And now this year. The Cardinals had to survive the one-game playoff in Atlanta, and did it at least in part due to the worst enforcement of the infield fly rule in Major League Baseball playoff history. Oh, look, they lead the Washington Nationals 2-1 in their current NLDS. I'm stunned.
The Cardinals can go away any time now.
Another team that just never seems to go quietly.
Sure, it has been two years now. But seeing the Giants in the playoffs as the Phillies sit at home brings the 2010 National League Championship Series loss right back to life.
As that series wore on, and the San Francisco Giants seemed to be playing with all of the confidence and all of the toughness, my mantra was that I would not believe that those Giants could win four games out of seven against those Phillies until I saw it.
Well, after attending the last game live, I was proven a liar. Because I saw it, but I still could not believe it. To say I saw it, incidentally, was something of a stretch. I did attend the first eight innings from a really excellent seat, way up in the 400 level but directly behind home plate.
After the Phillies stranded potential game-tying and game-winning runners in the eighth, though, I called it. I gave up my view of the Walt Whitman Bridge, contemplated jumping, then decided just to head home and sulk. I was well on my way home when Ryan Howard looked (fittingly) at a called strike to end that season.
And here in 2012, just watch the Cincinnati Reds cough up a 2-0 series lead by losing three straight games at home to set up a Cardinals/Giants NLCS. It could totally happen.
I just can't stand it.
"I think maybe Strasburg might have helped us in this series. Just saying."
It is fashionable to get behind fast-rising teams like the Washington Nationals. With 69 wins in 2010 and last in the National League East, a really distant third in the division last year. Now they are the darlings of the dance.
They have seasoned veterans like Jayson Werth (you have heard of him) and Ryan Zimmerman. They have elite pitching in Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann. And they have two of the premier young talents in the game in outfielder Bryce Harper and ace Stephen Strasburg.
You say Strasburg is not pitching? Whose ridiculous idea was that?
Oh, that's right...they did it to themselves, intentionally. Protecting his arm, they say.
For what? For some other playoff run? They're in the playoffs right now!
If I was a Nationals season-ticket holder (or even one of Strasburg's teammates this season) I would be beyond livid. Tomorrow is promised to no one. He could get hit by a bus, he could get sick, his elbow could hold up, but his shoulder could go.
I'm not wishing that, not at all. I only bring it up to underline the idiocy of sitting a healthy player in the middle of a pennant race. Once a team reaches the playoffs, this season is the only season that matters.
It is hard to root for a team that refuses to give itself its best chance to win.