We all know the story.
Bryce Harper had the audacity to approach home plate with a bat, and Cole Hamels decided it was up to him to test the kid’s moxy. Striking Harper in the back with the baseball, Hamels incensed the Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, who called him “fake tough,” possessing as he does the standard Manual of Toughness all GMs are required to keep in their offices.
Now, we’re 60+ games into the season. The Nationals continue to thrive. The Phillies continue to fall. Charlie Manuel has tried everything to spark his team, from “nothing” to “a closed door meeting.” With so little success to celebrate, the team is falling back on that age-old cure-all to a baseball slump: “Just going out and having fun.”
Remember “fun baseball?” It was that game you played as a kid, back when everybody would cheer for every play and everyone shook hands at the end and nobody’s coach called them a “freak show” in front of their grandparents. It’s a magical age when your love of the game makes it easy to tune out the relentless jeers of your teammates and coaches when you show up wearing prescription rec-specs and realize two minutes before starting in right field that you left your glove next to your N64.
Anyways, that. That’s what the Phillies are trying to emulate.
And the first step in doing so is making light of the year’s drama thus far. It didn’t get any more dramatic than Cole’s outburst and Rizzo’s response, so the Phillies trotted out some “Fake Tough” t-shirts last night before the game. They also all wore their socks high, Hunter Pence style. The fun, unifying gesture inspired them to start a 0-run rally in the top of the first in Minnesota, stranding two runners.
Then Kyle Kendrick, the only guy not out there in high socks, gave up a shit-ton of runs and the bullpen came in and kept the fun going by pretty much disgracing themselves.
The “Fun” experiment a failure, it will be exciting to see what dramatic moment the Phillies will try to make light of next. Perhaps t-shirts immortalizing the Shane Victorino-Cliff Lee dugout argument from earlier this year? Or a picture of Chad Qualls entering a baseball game.