In case you didn’t notice, because we didn’t do any game recaps over the weekend here at TBOH, the Phillies walked it off yesterday against the disgusting Giants, an occurrence that means less every time it happens. When you surround wins–even fun, late inning comeback wins–with uninspired losses, they don’t really mean a whole lot at the end.
If this is the beginning of an unparalleled run to the division flag, then there would be no way to know it now. It just looks like another win got accidentally thrown into the Phillies’ loss pile, because it’s a long season, and no team has ever lost every game, although sometimes, it can feel like it.
My point is, the Phils came off the field celebrating yesterday, as they should have. It’s a baseball tradition to mob the game-winning hit guy, and it is exciting every time, for everybody. I love when the Phillies win. I smile at people. I tip my cap. I open doors for women, instead of slamming them in their faces and barring them with a chair.
But there is this cycle flowing this season that gets a teensy bit more laughable with each passing. And it begins each time the Phillies reach an oasis of victory or change in this 2012 desert of defeat. One of the sun-bleached cattle skulls on this team will start some positive chatter about how the sun isn’t really too hot and thirstier people have made it through, they just had to drink some sand a few times.
Way back when Jim Thome was still on the team, he had this to say to the equally crippled Ryan Howard:
“You know what I’m looking forward to?” Thome said. “What?” Howard replied. “The two of us in the lineup in June,” Thome said, referring to the team’s Interleague schedule. “That’d be great,” Howard replied. “You know what I’m looking forward to even more?” Thome said. “Both of us in the lineup in October.”
A nice sentiment, and earlier on, totally applicable. Why not us, Jim? Of course, now it’s just us, and not you, because of the whole thing where we forgot how useless a DH is on an NL roster.
“A lot of people have given up on me. A lot of people have given up on this team. I haven’t given up on either.”
That hopefulness continued as he homered in his first at-bat, then Chooch followed him with another one, and CBP went nuclear. Then the Pirates took the lead in the next inning and never gave it back, and we went like 0-8 in his first eight games back or something, and hey; we were right back in the desert.
The second began with a bang. Winning two series in a row was about to breed some contention, but dropping two to the Giants at home isn’t what anybody’s dreams are made of. Then, yesterday’s walkoff, and we get J-Roll saying this.
“Colorado won  in September and found themselves in the Wild Card. Those stories are still around baseball.”
Jimmy’s even giving the team the rest of July and the entirety of August to fart around, reserving next month for the heroic comeback. Hey, I don’t not believe it, but there’s a reason I have to clarify whether I believe it or not.
“The celebration has been a long time coming at Citizens Bank Park!”
–Tom McCarthy, after J-Roll’s hit.
All right, look. No one is faulting the Phillies for celebrating a win or maintaining hope, but speaking from personal, emotional experience, how long can this realistically go on? Here it is late July, the Phillies are what–14 out of the division and 10.5 out of the wild card? But how many inspiring wins will it take to feel inspired? Can we, still? Do the players’ messages of hopefulness come out of a moment of sheer joy, having just won? Hours later, when they’re off the field, relaxing, do they really look at the same standings that we see and think, “Hell YES we can do this.”
I hope they do. And I hope they will. But this latest salvo of positive commentary for a last place team that has shown no real signs of life–per bad luck, injury, yes–all season long may just be the delusional conclusions of a group we are so used to watching emerge victorious. For a lot of people, this could be the first time there’s no reason to watch baseball in October, and that alone fails to penetrate reality at this point. It becomes even easier to believe Jimmy when he says things like that; as if rumors don’t have it that Jimmy himself, the face of the franchise, could be out of town in a matter of days out of desperation or surrender.
But I digress. I’ll buy every positive word they’ll give me and repeat it with a smile on my face. A lot people don’t make it out of the desert. But some people don’t even realize when they’ve wondered into one. And in these times, I’ll take willful ignorance over what may be the ugly truth.