Inspirational. Motivational. Momentum turning. Season-saving for young Gavin Floyd. All words or phrases used to describe Aaron Rowand's game-saving catch on May 11, 2006, against the Mets.
What have the games since that catch told us? That all those gushing words and phrases were crap.
As we all know now, on May 11, 2006, Aaron Rowand made The Catch. It surely was a great feat, saving what turned out to be a rain-shorted game. The Phils won 2-0 in five innings, and if Rowand had not made The Catch, they certainly would have been down 3-0 in the first and probably would have lost.
We were told following The Catch that Rowand showed true grit and guts and hustle and determination. No matter that he didn't play for the next few weeks; we were told that his style of play would be infectious and would inspire the rest of the team to match his abilities and step up to the challenge he posed. We were told that lazy Bobby Abreu and gimpy Pat Burrell would see how a real outfielder played defense. We were told that Gavin Floyd, the young hurler on the mound that day, would be motivated to step his game up a notch by seeing a teammate sacrifice his health for him. We were also told that the Mets would be shocked and stunned after The Catch, giving the Phils a chance to compete against them.
We were told a lot of things in the aftermath of The Catch. What we weren't told was what actually did happen: The Catch did diddly-squat for the Phils' season . . . beyond helping to win that one game.
Here's a look at how the Phils and the Mets fared before and after The Catch:
|Place before||2nd (4 out)||1st|
|Place after||2nd (9.5 out)||1st|
Before The Catch, the Phils played .545 ball; since The Catch (including The Catch game), in the same number of games, they've played .454 ball. They've lost 5.5 games to the Mets in the standings. The Mets, who were supposed to be devastated by The Catch, have kept up their pace of playing better than .600 ball, both before and after The Catch. They are, obviously, still in first place.
How about Gavin Floyd? We were told in no uncertain terms that The Catch was going to be the turning point in Floyd's season. He had pitched poorly until that point, but with Rowand's sacrifice behind him, he would be inspired to be the ace we were promised after The Catch.
The chart says it all. If The Catch did indeed inspire and/or motivate Gavin Floyd, it inspired and/or motivated him to pitch like a pre-Humidor Colorado Rockie and be demoted to AAA.
There's a lesson here bigger than just that the Phils have played worse after The Catch than before. It's that when baseball writers, announcers, commentators, managers, and players talk to you about inspiration, motivation, and momentum, take it for what it is: filler for airtime or column inches. It's nothing more and nothing less.