PhilsWeek! – Ryne Sandberg and the case of the mysteriously unavailable closer


Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to PhilsWeek! – a fun* look back at the week that was and all the exciting happenings surrounding everyone’s favorite major league baseball team: The Philadelphia Phillies!

*Note: Amount of fun experienced may vary.

Super big Phillies issue of the week: Where’s Johnny?

We were starting to come around. After his opening week meltdown against Texas, it looked like Jonathan Papelbon was going to have an awful season that made us all hate him with the fury of a thousand suns. And then something odd happened: He began to pitch well.

Since the first week of the season, Papelbon has been perfect in save situations. These haven’t been easy saves either. Most of the time, he’s entered with narrow leads, and yet, the saves have been remarkably drama-free for the most part.

Yes, the Phillies still have plenty of issues, but the closer has been the least of their concerns.

That was until yesterday.

At first glance, it wasn’t completely unusual that he was considered unavailable for Sunday’s game. Papelbon had earned saves on both Friday and Saturday night – and the game on Friday required him to warm up multiple times.

But upon closer inspection, it didn’t make that much sense. Papelbon only threw 21 pitches over those two appearances, and the Phillies did not have a game scheduled for Monday. So was it really beyond his capabilities to pitch a third day in a row?

After the game, both Papelbon and manager Ryne Sandberg were asked questions about the situation. There was talk of “soreness” but the answers were a lot vaguer than they should have been. The impression I got is that Papelbon declared himself unavailable, and Sandberg was unhappy about it.

Regardless of whose fault it was, on a day when the Phillies really needed him, their expensive closer wasn’t available and a very winnable game went into the loss column.

Pennant year song of the week

Winning the National League pennant isn’t something the Phillies do all that often; it’s only happened seven times in team history. Each week, I’ll take a song from one of those years that somehow ties into the events of the past week.

Yes, I’m Ready – Teri DeSario, 1980

Those were the words that Papelbon should have said to Sandberg on Sunday. Unfortunately, it was left to Antonio Bastardo (who really should have been able to get the job done) and Roberto Hernandez.

Right player, wrong uniform

There are some players who played their entire careers with a single team, and it’s impossible to imagine them in a different uniform: Mike Schmidt with the Phillies,Cal Ripken with the Orioles, and Derek Jeter with the Yankees are prime examples. On the other hand, there are some players who you might associate with a certain team…but they also had a forgettable stint (or two) with another team. You might not remember their time with those other teams, but the internet never forgets!

Sammy Sosa is famous for hitting home runs. In 1998, while a member of the Chicago Cubs, he engaged in a spectacular duel against Mark McGwire to see who could break Roger Maris‘ single-season home run record first.

McGwire won that battle, but Sosa didn’t exactly allow himself to be diminished. He was the first player to hit over 60 home runs in three different seasons (Oddly, he twice led the National League in homers, but neither came in a season when he hit over 60)

By 2004, people had begun to accept the possibility that some of the era’s prolific sluggers might have had some chemical enhancement. The Cubs did their best to distance themselves from Sosa by trading him to the Orioles. Since then, they have seemingly done everything besides outright denying that he ever played for them.

After one season with the Orioles, Sosa was considered so toxic that no team would offer him a guaranteed major league deal. He sat out for the 2006 season before sucking it up and taking a small contract to finish things up with the Texas Rangers.

The Week Ahead

The Phillies will have a two-game series against the Angels book-ended by two off-days. When the Angels come to town, it would be a great time for Phillies fans to show Mike Trout how much we love him, in case he ever decides he gets tired of Southern California in a few years.

Inane Rap Lyric of the Week

I’m not two cause I’m not a tulip” – Nice and Smooth, Hip Hop Junkies

I’d love to say that this line makes more sense when taken in context, but it doesn’t; it really doesn’t.

See you next week for another installment of PhilsWeek! Be sure to follow me (@MikeLacy_215) and  That Ball’s Outta Here (@FS_TBOH)  on the Twitter!