Things may look a bit bleak for the Phillies and their fans right now. The Fightins playoff ace, Cliff Lee, the guy they got in the offseason to help them get over their playoff hump and into the World Series, got shelled Sunday night. Lee gave up a career high 12 hits and five runs in just six plus innings against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 2 of the NLDS.
The series is now tied at one win apiece. The Phillies next head to St. Louis where a short series gets even shorter. It is now the best of three with the Cardinals holding the edge playing two of those games in front of their home fans. And to make things even worse for the Phils, in Game 3, they must face the Cardinals tough lefty Jaime Garcia who has held them to just two runs—one earned—in 15 innings this season.
So what is a Phillies fan to do? Well, at times like these, it is often wise to turn to the karmic rules of baseball for comfort. So here we go with the five karmic reasons that the Phillies will still go all the way. (Full disclosure: I was shooting for ten but five was the best I could do.)
The Cliff Lee story has been well-documented by now. The Phillies acquired him in the off-season, and in doing so, stunned the baseball world. But it is important to remember that in order to join the Phillies, Lee left money on the table, a lot of money. He is not the typical “show me the money” superstar athlete that we have become all too familiar with in today's high-priced sports world.
To be exact, Lee reportedly left $30 million on the table to come to the City of Brotherly Love. Why? Because he had enjoyed his short time playing in Philadelphia, because he thought his family would be happier here, because he loved playing in front of the Philadelphia fans.
Trading money for happiness? If that’s not good karma, I don’t know what is.
The Phillies finished their regular season with three games against the Atlanta Braves, a team trying desperately to hold onto the NL Wild Card spot. Even one win against the Phillies, who had already wrapped up the division and home field advantage throughout the playoffs, would have at least insured the Braves a one-game play-in. Two wins for Atlanta and they would have been the NL Wild Card winner with the Phillies playing the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS, a much better match-up for them than the Cardinals.
So there were many fans and analysts who suggested the Phillies should just play their back-ups both in the field and on the mound, hoping that they would lose some if not all of those games to the Braves. Like the Yankees, who rested their entire bullpen in their final regular season game, which also had playoff implications. The Yankees lost to the Tampa Bay Rays helping the Rays to compete one of the biggest comebacks in baseball history.
But manager Charlie Manuel would have none of that. He believes in the integrity of the game and played all of his healthy starters even using closer Ryan Madson late in the game. Both teams played hard for 13 innings that night with the Phillies finally winning the game and ending the Braves season.
It was this “what is best for the game” attitude that got the Cardinals into the playoffs in the first place. So it seems karmically right that Charlie's self-less integrity should be rewarded.
We’ve all heard the unspoken rule that good guys finish last, but should they? I think not. This Phillies team is one of the few teams in major league baseball who do their jobs on the field like professionals and behave the same way off of it. They have no scandals, no arrests and no steroid accusations.
When Cliff Lee joined the team, he became one more superstar on a team full of high-profile players, not to mention completing the Phillies ultra-hyped “four aces” starting rotation. Many predicted that the combination of all that hype and all those egos was bound to create trouble in the clubhouse. In fact, it has been quite the opposite.
There are no I’s on this team. There's no bickering and finger pointing in the clubhouse when the going gets tough. The Phillies are a tight group who support each other on the field and off. Many of the team's biggest stars, like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels to name a few, front their own fundraisers and charitable foundations giving much back to the community in which they play and live.
Supporting each other, their sport and their comunity? Lots of good karma points there!
Yes, I know Tony La Russa likes to consider himself a baseball genius, he of the pitcher batting eighth and star of the book “Three Nights in August.” And yes, I know St. Louis is baseball heaven but how do you explain this great baseball strategist’s statement when interviewed during the national television broadcast of Game 2. With his Cards already down one game and behind in game two, La Russa was asked how he could get things going for his team.
The Cardinals legendary manager petulantly responded by blaming the umpires complaining that there were two strike zones in the game, one for Cliff Lee and one for the Cardinals. Is that the best answer this great baseball mind could come up with for his team's performance? To blame it on the umpires? Did he not see the third strike call on Chase Utley that night? Utley couldn’t have hit that ball with a bean pole it was so far outside.
Come on Tony, win like a man, lose like a man. The baseball gods surely don’t like to reward that kind of classless behavior. And karma dictates that they certainly shouldn’t reward it now.
The Phillies fans should be rewarded for their unequaled support of their team. While some of the teams in the playoffs rarely fill their stadiums for regular season games and sometimes not even during the playoffs, the Phillies fans come out in droves. For the first time in their history the Phillies led the Major Leagues in overall and average attendance and they are riding a streak of 204 consecutive sellouts at Citizens Bank Park.
Phillies fans have even been known to follow their team all over the country to watch them play. In fact, Phils' supporters have often turned Nationals Park in DC into a sea of red when their Phils play the Nationals. Other team organizations actually look forward to having the Phillies come to town because it means big attendance numbers and more revenue for the stadium, as well as more money spent at stadium concession stands.
That kind of unwavering fan support not to mention spreading the love around, now that’s definitely good karma.
So there it is, some reasons Phillies fans can hold on to. And, did I mention that Chase Utley’s wife Jen raises money for abused animals? And, oh yeah, I think Raul Ibanez was a boy scout.