I can't speak to the math of the young lady holding the sign up today that said "142 Days Till Spring Training." I have no idea when pitchers and catchers report, or when the truck heads south. There's time for all of that, plus Hot Stove Season.
The Phillies were 0 - 5 in the games I went to with my son this year. That was Le Suck, especially today, with yet another Cole Hamels Gem flushed straight down the crapper. Still, we had a great time, even after I had a hissy fit earlier this year and swore off the Phillies for the rest of this year. The weather was nice, Cole Hamels was pitching, and I was faced with no baseball for 5 months -- I relapsed. Besides, I am a walking hissy fit. I get all wound up, and then it blows over. I still love you, Phillies.
Today was a great day at the ballpark.
My son demanded that we leave really early. Like "we're going to get to the ballpark before they open the gate, and you're too young to stand around in the parking lot pounding beers with me, so what the fuck will we do for an hour" early. We left a little later than that, but just a little.
We got to CBP, the sky was crystal clear, and the sun was out. We got a Ryan Howard bobblehead, which we did not set on fire. We got 2015 schedule sticker things. We stood in line to get autographs along the first base side. Jerome Williams was the only guy out there for a while. He signed everything thrust into his face for probably an hour or so. He played catch with a little kid right in front of us for a couple of minutes. The kid couldn't have been more than 6.
Williams is a guy that came to Philadelphia partway through a lost year. He pitched well. Maybe he senses that there is a spot available next year, too. But nobody is going to measure whether he stays or not based on how many autographs he signed today. Or whether he spent a bunch of time with the little kid who was clearly there for "Baseball!" rather than being a cynical autograph hound kid. He must have seemed like the Wizard of Oz to this kid. It was a beautiful, sappy baseball moment.
My son got his grubby baseball signed a few minutes later, but whether that happened or not, Jerome Williams already entered my hall of sentimentally liked Phillies. "He signs baseballs for kids!" Listen, that is a terrible reason to sign him up for next year, and maybe he strangles puppies in his basement, but the sentimentalism was in the air for me today. I have plenty of time to be bitter and angry this winter, I promise you.
Still, even during another Sargasso Season, collections of moments like this, and like Tony Gwynn playing when his father was dying from cancer, like Jimmy Rollins hitting a walk off homer and going "Shut the fuck up!" in the same breath to a heckler, like watching Kenny Giles deal death, like watching Franco play all the defense today at third -- all that makes baseball worth watching, even if there were a half million fewer fans this year at CBP. That's another issue, and another story. Maybe there are not wins, but there are moments. And I feel like the bottom has been hit. Again, another story for another day.
Today was just a moment, and we were both in it. Today was perfect, even if it wasn't. Cole Hamels got his 200th inning. He just missed his 200th strikeout. He got a fat lip. He got two hits. He drilled a Brave with a 93 mph fastball in a meaningless game after Chase Utley was hit. He was not fake tough. He was what you want from the heart and soul of your team. His team. Hamels was everything I wanted today, except a box score winner. My son and I are both sophisticated enough fans at this stage to realize that this was not because he was not a winner.
The offense was awful, and we were frustrated. As "meh" to "bad" as they have been today and this year, at least there are bright spots: Jake Diekman (who got his 100th strikeout today!), Ken Giles, Cole Hamels, Maikel Franco to dream on, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz, and Utley, and maybe soon Aaron Nola and J.P. Crawford.
It is also plain old fun to go to the ballpark. My son almost got De Fratus and Diekman autographs, but fell a couple of signatures short. He was right there when both had to go, but he understood. He was excited just to see them, and to get to look inside the dugout from the corner along the first base side.
"De Fratus is tall!"
My wife couldn't find a Giles shirsey for my son's birthday earlier this month, but I found one with him today. I got a Franco shirsey (20% off!). I got my pizza steak at Tony Lukes (I know that the pizza steak is largely reviled, but it is what I grew up with in the barbarian borderlands to the west where such things are tolerated). Christ, I even drank a draft beer today.
There was a naked Phanatic. No, really.
We talked about what the pitching staff might look like next year. We fantasized about how deep the bullpen might be next year while remembering that people always seem to get hurt. We looked at Charlie Manuel's new plaque out in Ashburn Alley. We held the baseballs showing pitching grips one more time.We talked about how, when Schmidt couldn't play anymore, he retired, but players don't do that anymore, not when there's $60 million dollars on the table. We moaned about the stupidity of the Howard extension yet again.
We walked out to the place we always park, and we waved goodbye for the year.
When got home after a long ride, we were both kind of in shock that there are no more Phillies games this year. It went so fast.
I was never a Phillies fan because they were good. Baseball was a math thing for me, and it was a connection to my family members who were fans. It was part of summer, and road trips, and skipping school to go to games.
If the Phillies were ever good, it was a blessing, but I expected more bad to follow. The Phillies have been bad for two years in a row. It's been three years since they were good. Three years. I still don't expect them to be bad, though. Not like they were before. This team will never be "Phillies in the Vet in 1988 or 1989" bad. CBP, even with a bad team, is a great venue, lacks the rats, cats, and urine smell, and it is fun. The team is financially set. They are another year closer to scuttling a stack of bad contracts, and reinforcements are on the way, including another protected pick this winter.
It might even be time to think about chiseling the Phillies for a season ticket package this winter.
I hope that girl was right today, and that it is only 142 more days till more baseball is coming.