The baseball playoffs don’t include the Phillies, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a rooting interest. There are a number of ex-Phillies involved in the playoffs. Of course, that could cause you to root against certain teams instead of for them. The choice is yours.
The Baltimore Orioles, with Jim Thome, are likely a sentimental favorite for Phillies fans. The popular Thome’s return to Philadelphia didn’t quite go as planned this year, but Thome parlayed an excellent stint as designated hitter during inter-league play earlier this season into a trade to the Orioles, with whom he is trying to win his first World Series title. The Orioles also have outfielder Endy Chavez, who batted .215 and stole two bases while looking overmatched at the plate in a forgettable 91 games with the Phillies in 2005.
The Yankees look like they’ll leave another Phillies bust, pitcher Freddy Garcia, off their postseason roster. But you didn’t need extra incentive to root against the Yankees, did you?
There are many reasons to root for the A’s, but the presence of ex-Phillies isn’t one of them. If you are a dedicated grudge-holder, you could root against the A’s because of shortstop Stephen Drew, the brother of former Phillies No. 1 draft pick J.D. Drew, who was public enemy No. 1 in these parts for many years. The Tigers, Oakland’s opponents, also don’t have an ex-Phillie connection, although it’s worth noting that the Phillies are one of the few teams reliever Octavio Dotel hasn’t played for during his career.
The Orioles and A’s may be sentimental favorites in the American League, but it’s difficult to find a sentimental favorite in the National League. The Cardinals eliminated the Phillies in the NL Divisional Series last year. Unless you’re a big Kyle Lohse fan from his half-season (2007) with the Phillies, there isn’t any reason to root for the Cardinals.
Then again, the Nationals, who are facing the Cardinals in the NLDS, aren’t likely to generate much positive enthusiasm in the Delaware Valley. The presence of ace Gio Gonzalez is a reminder of a past Phillies failure. He was acquired from the White Sox, along with outfielder Aaron Rowand, in 2005 in exchange for Thome. But the Phillies traded him back to the White Sox in December 2006, with Gavin Floyd, in exchange for the aforementioned Freddy Garcia, who was a bust with the Phillies.
The Nationals, of course, also have outfielder Jayson Werth. Despite winning a World Series with the Phillies, it would be an understatement to say that Werth isn’t popular among Phillies fans. In addition to leaving via free agency, Werth ripped Phillies fans who cheered his injury earlier this year, then engaged in some antics with the crowd during the Nationals’ late September visit to Philadelphia.
Speaking of ex-Phillies who are unpopular with Phillies fans, the Reds feature Scott Rolen at third base. The Giants have outfielder Hunter Pence, who enjoyed enormous popularity before the Phillies traded him this summer, but it’s difficult to root for the team that eliminated the Phillies in the NLCS en route to winning the World Series two years ago.
The playoffs offer slim pickings for Phillies fans. Maybe we don’t have much reason to root for anyone after all.
FAREWELL TO CHIPPER: As I noted in a previous Fish ‘n Chips column this summer, I’ve always enjoyed watching Chipper Jones play. His wonderful career came to an end Friday with a controversial 6-3 loss to the Cardinals in the NL Wild Card play-in game.
Jones finished his 19-year career with Hall of Fame numbers. He batted .303 during his 19-year, including a .364 average in 2008. Jones had 2,726 hits, including 468 homers. What made me a Jones fan, however, was not his numbers. It was his hard-nosed style of play and his respect for the game.
BLAME GAME: Thank goodness the debacle in Atlanta during the wild card playoff game didn’t take place in Philadelphia. If Phillies fans caused a 19-minute delay by throwing debris on the field, we would never hear the end of it.
PITCHING THROUGH HEARTBREAK: If you need an additional reason to root for the Oakland A’s, consider the plight of reliever Pat Neshek. Last Monday, the A’s clinched a playoff berth and Neshek learned that his wife, Stephanee, was in labor with their first child. On Wednesday he was present while his son, Gehrig John, was born. On Thursday his son died, after just 23 hours of life.
Neshek returned to the A’s and pitched Saturday during Game 1 of their ALDS series with the Tigers. He pitched a scoreless 2/3 of an inning, getting out of a seventh-inning jam that kept the A’s within striking distance (3-1).
“It was definitely tough warming up (in the bullpen),” Neshek said. “I was thinking about him the whole time.
“You get on the baseball field and you don’t really think too much about anything else, but (Saturday) I was thinking about it. It sounds so clichéd, but I felt like something was looking down on me and helping me.”
The A’s wore patches on their right sleeves with Gehrig’s initials: GJN.
WERTH IT: When Jayson Werth left the Phillies and received a huge contract from the Washington Nationals, he was widely ripped for valuing money above the chance for on-field success. Werth’s decision doesn’t look so crazy now, does it?
SWIFT CHANGES: The Phillies didn’t waste any time making changes after the season. They didn’t renew the contracts of bench coach Pete Mackanin, hitting coach Greg Gross and first base coach Sam Perlozzo. They were replaced by Ryne Sandberg, Steve Henderson (hitting coach) and Rod Nichols (bullpen coach). Juan Samuel moves from third base coach to first base coach to make room for Sandberg. Mick Billmeyer moves from bullpen coach to catching coach. Rich Dubee remains the pitching coach.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. insists that Sandberg isn’t being groomed as Charlie Manuel’s replacement. If you believe that, I’ve got some early-season NHL tickets I’d like to sell you.
SEASON ON ICE: The NHL lockout will hit home for many fans this week when the season openers don’t take place. The NHL, which is locking out the players because the collective bargaining agreement has expired, has canceled games through Oct. 24.
How bad is the NHL labor situation? When NHL legend Wayne Gretzky said this past week that he thought the season would start by the beginning of 2013, he was described as an optimist.
TIP-OFF: The 76ers open their preseason on Thursday, the same day the Flyers were supposed to open their regular season. The Sixers play at Orlando on Thursday. They will make their “home” debut Saturday against the Brooklyn Nets at Atlantic City’s Convention Hall.
UNPREDICTABLE: How many of you predicted the Minnesota Vikings would in first place in the NFC North after four games? How many of you predicted the Saints would get off to an 0-4 start? The unpredictability from week to week is one reason the NFL is so successful.
EX-PRESIDENTIAL APPEAL: Former NCAA presidents Gene Corrigan and Cedric Dempsey, who were part of a panel discussion hosted by Penn State’s John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, said the NCAA sanctions against Penn State would not have been as harsh if they were still in charge.
Corrigan felt the removal of university officials by Penn State was sufficient punishment. Dempsey said, as NCAA president, he would have visited Penn State in person before making any decisions regarding sanctions.
When asked about trying to change the NCAA’s mind, both Corrigan and Dempsey were doubtful any attempts would be successful.
Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for 24 years, has never thrown debris at a sporting event, although he’s been tempted to throw a golf club or two over the years.