Years ago, I documented an epic trilogy of events that occurred while I tried to write a college paper with my bedroom door open as my roommates got stoned in the living room and played D&D. The world was different then. I forget why, but the world is always changing, so let’s assume that it was.
So, in the nature of telling stories as people play games, I’m going to tell the tale of the 2010 Philadelphia Phillies just in time for the year to end while my parents, sister, and brother in law engage in a hearty match of “Settlers of Catan,” a recent Christmas present to one of them and a board game I’ve heard described as “WHAT THE FUCK?!“
I’ve got some time as they set up the game to explain my thoughts on the 2011 season as a whole. Everybody seems to be holding weird pieces of cardboard and my mom is demanding to know whether or not she needs to move the salt and pepper shakers off the table, so we’ve got, like, 20 minutes.
Oh my god, the Phillies. Usually you can track a year with the Phils through a series of phases, varying trends, and exciting recoveries. This year, we got chunks. Massive, thematic, painful, elating chunks. The things that happened occurred through much thicker periods of time; we were winning, and it was grand, or we were sucking, and it was terrible. Even the off season provided stretched sagas of agony or jubliation. So it was a year more of feeling a certain way for long periods of time, rather than checking online and adopting flickering, manic emotions on your way to work each and every day.
“In the beginning,” my sister explains, “what you need to focus on is brick and wood.”
With a strong foundation, you can accomplish anything (THIS IS THE CONVERGING METAPHOR). The Phillies did in fact start throwing money at their more valuable commodities. In January, Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz got to cash in on their contributions with extensions accompanied by money.
“These roads must have some value, even though they aren’t worth victory points?” dad continues.
Value, it seems, is in the eye of the purchaser, whether you’re holding onto Shane for a bit longer, or watching your sheep die at the hands of the Robber in the Night.
Brad Lidge celebrated a remarkably shitty 2009 with some knee surgery. “This surgery was not directly related to any previous surgeries,” says the team physician, explaining this was one of those arthroscopic surgeries that was just too much fucking fun to do for any particular reason.
But maybe the best news of January was the snagging of Danys Baez, a veteran reliever, close pal of Jose Contreras–who was also signed for a year–and as The Baltimore Sun described him, “… a setup man along with Ryan Madson and J.C. Romero, and he’s a potential option as a closer if Brad Lidge struggles again.”
Tyson Gillies was pretty excited to be in the Phillies system in February; not even really caring when his friends and family would call him from his hometown of Vancouver to tell him how awesome it was to be hosting the Olympics. FOX Sports talked up the kid’s gusto, which is to say, they had a lull in baseball stories and saw a talented prospect with a “great story” (Tyson’s hearing impairment).
“I don’t think I’ve seen anybody on a baseball field work as hard as he does,” said Phillippe Aumont, ex-locker puncher.
The Inquirer ran an article jerking off Philly-area writers and fans, re-telling the tragic story of Phillies fans for the ten trillionth time. Don’t get me wrong, we’re great. But every time we’re great, somebody’s got to write a book about it. It’s like somebody’s paying them money to do it or something.
And then, hey! There was Phillies Phan Phest down in Clearwater, where the Phils rolled out a cross section of bench players, new, unfamiliar acquisitions, future Astros, and Kyle Kendrick to sign autographs for their adoring/clearly uninterested public.
Just kidding. It was great.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Be on the lookout for “Phreak Show: How Rooting for the Phillies Cost Me My Job, My Family, and My Life!” in March 2011, $34.95 from Nefarious Publishing.
Jamie Moyer tore through Spring Training like a hijacked SEPTA bus, swiping the fifth starting spot out of Kyle Kendrick’s desperate grasps, and performing so well that Rich Dubee gave him compliments in public. The gesture was so jarring, a shocked press corps assumed Rich Dubee was dying of something. Dubee called a second press conference to remind the public that he is eternal, and will never be dying.
“Paint the Town Red,” opened, putting a six-foot statue of the Phanatic in every important corner of the city–significantly absent from the display is a statue in my neighborhood just north of the Art Museum where I was constantly accosted by pre-teens about buying their drugs. I spent the rest of the off season trying to track these things down and “reviewing” them. I got about halfway through and gave up.
Jeff Francoeur said something dickish (WHOA!), and another virus, the flu, soared through the Phillies clubhouse, infecting numerous players like some sort of disease bred to victimize Jeff Francoeur’s irritants. I would not be at all surprised to discover Francoeur is a pagan sorcerer of some kind.
Ryan Howard was not traded to the Cardinals for Albert Pujols (I mean, what?)
Also, Roy Halladay threw his first pitches as a Phillie and allowed no hits in two innings, which in retrospect, is a fraction of his ability to throw innings with no hits in them.
Holy shit, its baseball season!
I was wandering through the neighborhood, walking dogs, listening to the afternoon game from Citizens Bank South in Doc’s debut from the radios of contractors’ cars parked outside of people’s homes. He sounded like he was doing pretty well. For the first time, things seemed to be proceeding exactly the way I had pictured them.
Even SEPTA was taking part, abandoning their usual pattern of “sucking,” as they decorated the Pattison Station in “Phillies Red and White.”
“There will no doubt be a festive atmosphere on board the trains, as fans embark on what they hope will be yet another championship season,” SEPTA explained, apparently trying to tell us that every SEPTA train doesn’t have a “festive atmosphere.” The guy pissing in the corner while giving the rest of us a thumbs up would disagree.
But yeah, everything was great. Then this happened, and another year of Phillies baseball was overshadowed by the epically dick-headed behavior of one particularly high profile worthless crock of shit.
Thank you, Matthew Clemmens.
May was a month of things repeating themselves. The Phillies were good. Jeff Francoeur had some more complaints/was a dick. Fans took the momentum of Pukemon and ran with it; onto the field, that is, until they were electrocuted. I was actually at this game. If I had known my friend hitting me in the arm to get my attention and saying “Look at this clown,” would set off a nationwide media storm, I would have done nothing and kept things exactly the same, because the media is stupid.
Francoeur’s little thing appeared in the New York Post’s “Mets Insider,” which, while usually being home to nothing but the sound of ghastly, howling wind and billowing tumbleweed, allowed him a platform from which to whine his opinions about the Phillies having an unfair advantage or some stupid thing.
Fortunately, idiot fans and Jeff Francoeur’s voice were all drowned out by the sound of Roy Halladay throwing a perfect game in Miami, Florida, on May 29. You’re probably shitting your pants just thinking about it.
The historic performance came in the midst of a Phillies decline that brought to mind the image of a ball of shit rolling down a hill, also made of shit, that kept getting bigger and bigger. Something needed to happen.
Doc’s perfect game seemed to be the key to turning this shit-balling tour around.
Not even close.
The Yankees bitch-slapped Roy Halladay and made us look like assholes, two human children were caught on camera drinking beers at Phillies games (But in the context of the rest of the shit happening within our walls this year, who the fuck cares), and opinions were offered ad nauseum on how to fix the situation that was plummeting playoff hopes across the Delaware Valley.
We still weren’t in first place, and this was clearly some sick joke played by the organization in some sort of Truman Show-esque experiment. Was my only explanation.
But between it all, the Phillies picked hometown boy and LHP Jesse Biddle in baseball’s draft, which I fucking called in the FanSided live chat during the proceedings. If anything makes a team experience better, it is personal victories that no one else cares about.
YOU’RE WELCOME, PHILADELPHIA.
By early July, shit was still falling from the skies in South Philly. We weren’t pitching to back the hitting. We weren’t hitting to support the pitching. We were, as Charlie called it, missing that “swagger” we had previously that magically gave us wins. Refusing to scream himself hoarse at his team in front of all the reporters like I said, Charlie decided it best to just wait it out and hope the Phils put it together for themselves.
They started to, a little, but Ruben Amaro put it together a little better by acquiring Roy Oswalt, marking it as the second half’s “Holy shit!” moment. I was 90 minutes late to a Black Keys concert in order to watch RoyO’s first start as a Phillie, in which he gave up a ton of hits and runs and screamed “FUCK!” while the cameras rolled. Hilarious.
Meanwhile, Pukemon went to jail for three months. In Philly, justice is hard, swift, and sometimes apparent.
Some stuff happened, but this month belongs to fucking idiot Scott Barry. The minor league umpire was freshly promoted to the big leagues as a spot-filler, openly mocked Ryan Howard, then ejected him after blowing a call. What it came down to was that Scott Barry is just a fucking idiot, and I mean… what else can you say? They don’t make a Facebook group about it if it’s not true.
The incident led to Roy Oswalty playing left field and Raul Ibanez playing first. RoyO caught the most celebrated routine fly ball in Philadelphia history and Raul had a sweet diving play at first, which would have made the game terrific if we’d actually won it.
Miles south, Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Mark Bradley theorized the Phillies and Braves would meet in the NLCS in the smarmily confident way that local sports journalist’s can just… do.
He would be hilariously mistaken.
“Fuck yes!” yelled a confident Brooks Conrad.
I don’t want to talk about what we did to people in September.
The Phillies played ruthless, stifling baseball in the month of September. They went 21-6. They won 11 games in a row. They went seven games up on the Braves. Roy Oswalt won everything. The Mets tried to stir up some drama, but nobody even cared.
Roy Halladay threw a complete game shut out to end it, just because he wasn’t sure if people knew he was dominant yet.
And then, of course, there were the boobs.
Sitting across the country in a San Francisco, the only guy in a Phillies jersey, people wanted nothing more than to buy me more beers after Roy Halladay threw the second no-hitter in post season history, as if my psychic channelings into the television had actually contributed to the win.
Jayson and Roy brought a desperate NLCS with the Giants back to Philadelphia, where we promptly lost.
Thanksgiving this year was a morose affair, as families gathered around the dinner table without even a Phillies pennant to pad the natural bitterness and resentment exposed at the annual gathering.
But the Phillies woke up with barely a hangover, already hiring and firing people like factory workers tossing defective hams off a conveyor belt.
J.C. Romero was out, Davey Lopes was out (Wait no that’s bad), Juan Samuel was in, Ryne Sandberg was in, and even the Washington Redskins’ Clinton Portis was in, after wearing a Phillies hat during a post game interview. When queried as to why he wasn’t supporting the Nationals, he claimed he had wanted to wear red that day.
Roy Halladay was what an NL Cy Young-winner looked like, too, taking home the award amidst seas of protest from no one.
At one point in their history, the Phillies had a pitcher who once performed amicably enough to earn the crowd’s love. Then, they cut him loose, only to bring him back with open arms this very month. That man was J.C. Romero.
The present is an orgy of Cliff Lee-centric ordeals. Other teams perform a mixture of temper tantrums and hopeful reasoning that the new rotation will mean almost nothing, or it won’t last forever, or that the Giants beat all of the pitchers in question at some point during the 2010 post season.
Nobody wants to talk about the signing of Dennys Reyes, or the very silly way in which he was released back into the ocean to rejoin his brethren (Going for a whale joke here).
And people are only kind of talking about the release of Jayson Werth, who now plays for the Nationals, and was infuriated by the Phillies’ acquisition of his pal, Cliff. He apparently felt as though he’d join the Nats, make a billion dollars, and everything would be fine.
This “Settlers of Catan” game looks to be coming to a middle. Small buildings dot the board and I’ve been hearing the words “wood,” “brick,” “ore,” and “sheep” thrown around with reckless abandon for the last hour. It’s been wild. If the Phillies’ 2010 and “Settlers of Catan” are any indication, change can happen when you least expect it, and it can mean a variety of emotions.
Whether its a monster deal for our right fielder to go elsewhere, a sneaky steal of Cliff Lee from the Yankees, constructing tiny villages on a piece of cardboard, or throwing up on the daughter of a police captain, the Phillies have assured us of one permanent, steadfast fact:
They will in some way be responsible for my death.
Happy New Year! Congrats on reading this entire thing. Sorry I let the “Settlers of Catan” metaphor die out after the first few paragraphs.