For those refined gentlepeople who prefer the cerebral grace of baseball to the plebian savagery of football, October is the greatest of months. Will Leitch looks at each of the eight playoff combatants. Now up: The Philadelphia Phillies.
After the Cardinals won the World Series, the scene around Busch Stadium was what it would look like after a zombie apocalypse if all the zombies were actually puppies who exhaled nitrous. It was unabashed chaos, the landscape littered with googly-eyed Midwesterners, running into walls, lying around the ground kicking their feet in the air, climbing the Stan Musial statue outside, taking off their shirts and waving them in the air, as if beckoning for a rescue they hope never actually comes. A big happy bomb had gone off. It was our Woodstock. It was a glee riot.
In March 2007, five months after that night, I wrote on this site that I didn't want the baseball season to begin. This was the opposite of the way I had been raised, the way I am wired. I am the guy who will watch a meaningless Mets-Nationals game on Sunday afternoon rather than a Browns-Bengals game. Baseball is all that I care about. And I didn't want the season to begin. I wanted that game to last forever. I knew the Cardinals were a weak team in 2007, just like, all told, they were in 2006. I knew they wouldn't win again. I wasn't ready for someone else to take their turn. (That it turned out to be the darned Red Sox made it worse, and better.)
When the Phillies won the World Series last year, A.J. Daulerio, editor of this site, vanished for a few days. (I remember receiving emails from people in Philly at the time. "We think we just saw him at the Locust Bar!") Something about your team winning the World Series makes all the usual rules and regulations vanish. (To be fair, Daulerio generally comports himself, in his daily life, as if the usual rules and regulations do not apply, so I'm surprised anybody noticed the difference.) You are a giddy screaming mess for at least a week afterward. It feels like the logical end of something. It feels like the end of baseball.
As I wrote back in 2007, "anybody who says the first title just makes you hungrier is full of it." It is to the Phillies' credit that they have rejected this notion; they are going for it this year, all in, as if they didn't win last year at all. Cliff Lee, Pedro Martinez, Ben Francisco ... the Phillies are trying to fill in all possible gaps. I have no doubt that if Roger Clemens had any interest in coming in to be the closer sometime in late July, the Phillies would have at least considered it. They have the bloodlust of a team that has never won a title before. In the past, it would have looked desperate. Now it just looks like piling on. Good for them.
Still, it's bizarre to think that the lone repeat champions this decade would come from Philadelphia, doesn't it? (By the way, Philadelphia fans don't receive nearly enough credit for avoiding the Boston plague, immediately turning into our-shit-don't-stink self-important spoiled brats after winning a long-awaited title. They're pretty much the same miserable fucks they've always been, and you have to salute them for that.) From this angle, the Phillies look to have the ideal postseason team: Strong rotation, massive power, enough speed, little unimportant depth. They'd have to be the favorites, right?
But yes, oh yes, Mr. Lidge, the one guy who didn't get the memo that this year meant as much as last year, the one guy not playing along. It was inevitable, really, that Lidge, haunted Lidge, would turn back into the sadsack of Pujols-at-Enron-2005, body slumped over, bewildered that this could be happening to him. Even when he was so dominant last year, we all knew a reckoning was coming. We couldn't have known it would be this. But we know it could not last. He is more human than the rest of them. He is still hungover.
This could be one of the the last runs for these guys, you know. The two youngest guys in their starting lineup are Shane Victorino, 28, and Ryan Howard, 29. Chase Utley is going to be freaking 31 in December. Teams age fast. You have to grab what you can, while you can. Sometimes if you forget that you've won one, you might just win two. The Phillies' place in history is secure. That they don't think that's enough is impressive, and rare. Good for them.