Once more this spring, baseball came back. Rumors that the Phillies would start playing real baseball - cold, wet, industrial baseball, not the citrus-scented, warm-weather theatrics they put on in South Florida for over a month - were incredibly true. While they soldiered through nine innings of clammy ball n Cincinnati, we celebrated their return with muffled cries and dramatic eye rolls at work. But just as we were feeling comforted by their presence, the schedule dictated that they not play the following night.
An interminable evening followed. Other teams played. Our envious, crooked stares at them did nothing to quell their fans’ enthusiasm. The sun set, and darkness crept in. We were told the system was in place in case opening day was rained out; that way, the Phillies could just play the next night. But it hadn’t been rained out. And now we were left with a night to fill, stirring the same empty feelings of the off-season we’d thought we’d left behind, and causing the Phillies team with whom we’d only just become reacquainted to fade from our delicate, possibly clinically damaged memories.
But hey, it’s a long season. The Phillies eventually returned from their hiatus and have played so many times since, only several times becoming victims of baseball’s cold-blooded “travel days,” a facet of the sport that unnerved, confused officials assure us time and time again are necessary so that teams can “get places all over the country.” It will never not sound suspicious, but Rob Manfred has made it clear that he has higher priorities than investigating this matter, like installing a team in Las Vegas and not forcing the Indians to change their logo.
Everyone managed to keep it together until last night, when the Phillies failed to show up at Citizens Bank Park for the second consecutive evening. Do not believe your friends and relatives and those officials from before when they tell you this is “quite normal” and offer excuses like “inclement weather” and “sometimes the team has away games.” The fact of the matter is, with every night the Phillies do not play a game, our image of them dims and our recollection of them deteriorates. One night is enough to forget their names; two nights makes us wonder what the massive monument in the middle of a parking lot is next to I-95.
So before nine strangers take the field tonight to play what I can only assume will be a second team, let us use this refresher to become informed on the team we so “easily, alarmingly” forget:
Who are the Phillies?
The Phillies are a team, invented in 1883, who has lost more times than any other collective body of grown adults, ever.
Why are we excited about them?
Because, and I know we say we might see some signs of improvement every season, but this season, we might see some signs of improvement.
Where have they been for two nights?
No one’s talking. They played three games at home against the Atlanta Braves, then inexplicably took a night off, then refused to play during a driving rain storm, and will now play the Miami Marlins at home. Something’s going on here. But we’ve learned it’s best not to ask questions.
Okay, so... who are some of the players? Like this guy. Who’s this guy.
I literally have no idea. See what I mean? It doesn’t take long for names like “Ty Kelly” to escape my cognitive grasp, and I’ve been watching most Phillies games for the better part of a decade. See how his position is listed as “INF/OF?” That’s every position. That’s impossible. He can also hit from both sides of the plate? Ludicrous. What’s most likely is this “guy” is actually a newly formed human in its larval stage, birthed in some nefarious Phillies lab, and is still waiting for things like his “personality” and “skill set” to be installed. I’ve been told to stop guessing this about everyone but in this case it seems like the evidence is pretty clear.
But let’s move on to some of the people I actually can remember. Ah, yes. Odubel Herrera. He’s like a Shane Victorino-type, if Shane had doubled as a part-time umpire during games as well. I hope he’s collecting two paychecks because he does a lot of ball and strike calling at the plate. He plays center field, which puts him next to... yes, yes, I’m remembering now - Aaron Altherr. He swings like Jayson Werth and is one of the reasons the Phillies have a lot of depth at the “scrappy underdog” position.
What other “underdog” types are there, I love those?
Shut up, it’s all coming back to me. There’s Tommy Joseph at first base, but people are starting to consider him old news because his story of overcoming multiple concussions and a position change to be a big league player doesn’t thrill the traditionally cosmopolitan Philadelphia sports fans watching him anymore, so they’ve moved on to the other first baseman, Brock Stassi, who fought tooth and nail to get a roster spot this season and gave a tear-soaked interview after being informed he made the team. Of course, even Stassi doesn’t tickle some people’s fancy anymore since they know hot-slugging first base prospect Rhys Hoskins is in Triple A.
Because, you know, sure - the Phillies, in mid-development and observation mode, probably feel like they got a good enough look at two young players, one a rookie and one playing his first full season, in less than a month. Also, both of them play the same position and by definition cut into each other’s playing time. Stassi has had 23 AB.
You’re getting a little worked up. Why don’t we move on to pitch—
And Maikel Franco! Guy’s listed as a franchise cornerstone and hasn’t grown into Mike Schmidt before the age of 25, so yeah, let’s turn on him too. For being such a “tough” bunch, something about baseball really makes Phillies fans want to wave the white flag. We watched how many seasons of Cesar Hernandez before he broke out? Six?
Oh. Only “part of three?” Huh. Feels a lot longer than that. But still. He used to be a Triple A warm body tossed into the mix so the umpire could count nine defenders and start the game. Now he’s the best player on the team and the Phillies have to figure out what to do with him as the next generation of young infielders sprouts in the minors. Patience paid off! Incredible.
On second thought, the pitchers might make you even more stressed.
Stressed? Who’s stressed?! This is baseball! This is the fun part! Talking about it, yelling about it, making rude internet comments to each other about it - this is what Abner Doubleday envisioned back in the 1800s when he swung a broken-off table-leg at a debt collector, missed, accidentally made solid contact with an orange, and determined the act was so much fun that he should build an entire industry around it.
That can’t be true. In fact, I know it isn’t.
What do you know! You just asked me “Who are the Phillies?” a few minutes ago. Now, where were we? The pitching? Oh, good lord. Well, the pitching is sort of “in-between” right now, to the point that extending Jeremy Hellickson instead of trading him doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Aaron Nola strained his lower back, but he’s fine, Vince Velasquez typically throws 110 pitches before the 12th out of the game, but that’s fine he’ll work it out, Nick Pivetta was supposed to make his big league debut until the Phillies mysteriously disappeared last night, but that’s also fine because the Phillies don’t want to exhaust the entirety of their young pitching depth before the close of the season’s first month anyway, so. It’s fine. It’s all fine. Jerad Eickhoff seems fine. Everybody seems like they’ve got a curveball they like. Except for Velasquez. It’s fine! It’s fine.
I think the lesson here is to just stay calm.
Who isn’t calm? I’m calm.
You are literally dangling from a chandelier like a startled cat.
Yes, I am calmly dangling from the spot in my house where I feel most safe. That’s the definition of “calm.”
What time does the game start.