My older son is 7 years old. He was born the year of Ryan Howard's MVP. He was 2 when the Phillies won the World Series. He was 5 when they won 102 games. He knows rotations that have at least 3 aces, sometimes 4. And he swears that in the couple of dozen games that he's seen at CBP in his life, he's never seen the Phillies lose.
Until tonight. Tonight was like nothing he's seen before. That's because he's too young to remember the late 1990s and the late 1980s. For someone like me, who remembers those years very well, tonight's game was very familiar.
It started when we drove to the park. We didn't get there until about 7:05, and the stadium parking lot was nearly empty. When I'm not riding my bike to the stadium, I drive and park in the left field lot. Today, I parked in that lot and got a spot in the row closest to the stadium. At 7:05.
We didn't have tickets, so we walked to the ticket booth along the 3rd base side of the stadium. I figured we'd pass scalpers and maybe buy a ticket from them. They weren't even bothering. We got to the ticket booth and asked what tickets we could buy, and the saleswoman said, "What do you want? You can sit anywhere." So we picked tickets 14 rows behind the visitors dugout and sat down . . .
Just as the Nationals scored their first run. Roy Halladay was effective, but he wasn't breaking faces since he wasn't really sure where the strike zone was. In other words, we had a run-of-the-mill late 80s or late 90s starting pitching performance. There were good spots (the run total he gave up), there were mediocre points (he hit 90 a couple of times and seemed to have his curve and cutter doing interesting things), and there were bad points (he walked 5 and hit 2). And he only lasted 6 innings, giving way to the mediocre bullpen that coughed up the 2-1 lead.
In the stands, there sure seemed to be more blue seats than people. The weather was perfect, and the atmosphere was laid back. People were enjoying late summer baseball, but didn't seem to really care what was going on on the field.
Because, well, do you blame them? Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley were back in the lineup, but so were the newly-impotent combination of John Mayberry Jr. and Darrin Ruf, along with the always-impotent Roger Bernadina. (Try explaining to your kid how your starting outfielder was released by the opposing team a month ago because he wasn't good enough for them. But now he's in the Phils' staring lineup!) The Phillies scored 2 thanks to a screamer down the line off the bat of Cesar Hernandez, but they also made 2 outs at the plate and gave up other outs on the basepaths or in sacrifices.
With the score 3-2 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Bernadina was at the plate sporting his .170 batting average. Is there any surprise then that the Phillies lost the game?
To add insult to injury, the Nationals played great defense tonight. They made great catches in the outfield and infield, they turned stunning double plays, got two outs at the plate, caught baserunners on steal attempts, and made quick plays at first. The Phillies, well, ask Halladay what he thought of Bernadina's ability to track fly balls in right.
Bad baseball with a team half made up of AAAA players in front of a half-full stadium - just like old times.
But you know what? That's the recap on the baseball side of things. On the fun-evening side of things, I had a blast. As I said, I was there with my son and wife on a beautiful night in great seats. I still got to see Chase and Jimmy up the middle and got to yell out Choooooch when he got a key hit. And I got to see Halladay in his resurrection attempt, even if it wasn't the second coming. My son will be just fine having seen a loss. After all, we had a great night at the ballpark.
Despite the Phillies.
Fangraph of remembering the late 80s: