Hunter Pence was interviewed on WIP recently, and you better believe he said some things.
One was about how the Phillies were the best team to ever not win the World Series, one was about how the memories of his first playoffs exit festers in his mind like a sizzling pool of toxins, but most of what he said had to do with how hard he’s working to come back and do it right in 2012.
So. We’ve heard plenty of these statements in years past. ”Team to beat.” ”Unfinished business.” ”You’re going to Japan, Kyle Kendrick.” These are precursory mantras we have cherished, celebrated, and made our own. They’ve appeared on t-shirts, talk shows, and Twitter. In the end, what value do they really have? Other than the money we pay to wear them on our t-shirts.
They are indicative of an excited player boiling over, and to know that a player is as psyched about the season as we are is a delightful form of vindication. Sure, I doubt any of the Phillies smash a piece of Cardinals merchandise every day until April 1st, but that only shows what classy people they are. It’s about restraint. The players seem to have it.
Anyway, I don’t know if anybody else has realized this, but the Phillies have not won a World Series since 2008. Since then, technically, they’ve been a “disappointment.” Yes, it all depends on your definition of that term. Would the most wins in franchise history be considered “disappointing?” No, but not translating that into a WS title sort of is.
The Phillies have been coming back with “unfinished business” since 2009, and have a bunch of division flags and a pennant to show for it. Which is plenty impressive. I don’t have any of those things. In fact, all I have are replicas of the ones the Phillies have. I also have a perfect attendance plaque from work. I stole it from the guy who had never missed a day until I accidentally switched lunches with him and he had to go home early. ”Poisoned” him, according to the guy’s lawyer. A bit dramatic if you ask me. Besides, I only did it because I wanted his plaque.
Now, we’ve got this awesome team with the best players who love us and we love them, but they’re always saying they’re coming back for a World Series. It just puts a lot of pressure on, and gives the national media reason to make their overzealous assumptions and cast us in the villain’s role–or, in recent years, speculate on the effects of age.
You just have to take these things as what they currently are–enthusiasm. If you look at baseball as a whole, yeah, you’ll see a whole bunch of failures. 29 teams fail every year. So getting people excited to come back and do it again and again and again, especially those of us who are so debilitatingly and emotionally invested, is a challenge.
I guess what I’m saying is I’ve become far too familiar with the media’s process, and I know how Hunter’s positive, fiery attitude could be interpreted.
“Hunter Pence said the Phillies are ‘World Series or bust!’ Will the Phillies explode if they fall short again? Tim Kurkjian explains, next.”
If we could just go back to dominating while nobody looked at us, that’d be great. Instead, this will lead to ESPN’s latest haircut explaining why the Phillies don’t have the youth to compete in the NL East. To which I would respond, “I’m glad that the Phillies are the NL East team furthest away from the last time they pooped their pants.”
Or, it just fuels the commenters to feel righteous in their complaints. Either way, it’s like saying the same word again and again; eventually, it loses it’s meaning.
But this is baseball, and there are no promises. There are no guarantees and there are no sure things. There is just endless hope that the right combination of groomed talent and calculated risk will lead to the Best Day Ever. And I’d rather have players who embrace that publicly than those who would be as mindlessly fickle as some of their fans.