There’s a beauty about baseball season that’s different from every sport.
Summer’s soundtrack soothes on any day of the week. Following America’s pastime is fulfilling in many forms, whether you’re keeping score or discussing the intricacies of a double switch.
For as great as baseball is, few things are worse than when you’re presented with a bad team in your town. That’s when baseball’s marathon becomes a never-ending lecture, similar to how you probably felt taking in a boring subject during your childhood education.
Bad baseball is mind numbing and it’s something Philadelphia became accustomed to over the past handful of seasons or so with the Phillies.
That’s not the case this year.
“I think it makes your heart beat a little faster,” manager Gabe Kapler said after the Phils beat the Braves 3-0 in the opener of their series this week. “As a fan of baseball, as a fan of the sport, it’s nice to see two teams with really rich history and amazing fans, and a rich history of winning, competing for first place in the National League East. I’m a baseball fan at heart and thinking about that gives me goosebumps.”
The 2007 Phillies video yearbook was appropriately named “Goosebumps” because that’s the feeling that season provided. It was a year Jimmy Rollins proclaimed the Phillies as “the team to beat” in the National League East. The shortstop backed up his words, the squad rallied to catch the Mets at the end of the season and a portion of the fan base which never really cared about the Phillies started to show interest.
The night Kapler oversaw an embarrassing bullpen gaffe in Atlanta, which called for Hoby Milner to enter the game without warming up, the especially positive, sometimes quirky manager said the Phils will make the postseason, something that hasn’t happened since 2011.
Kapler’s declaration nearly two months into the season isn’t far-fetched. The club is on pace for 97 wins at 28-19 heading into their series against the Toronto Blue Jays Friday night. Four of its five current starting pitchers feature ERA’s below 4.00 and three less than 3.00. The bullpen features a mixture of pitchers with closer stuff and long relief guys who can keep a game close. Batting averages could certainly improve, but the Phils heading into Friday night are second in baseball in terms of walks, first in the National League. Their .324 on base percentage is eighth in the majors.
Individually, Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta are aces, while Nick Pivetta is proving he’s a very reliable third starter. Even Vince Velasquez is showing great signs of improvement. Reliever-wise, Seranthony Dominguez is going to be a problem for opposing hitters late in games. Defensively you can’t find a catcher with a better cannon than Jorge Alfaro.
Most importantly, they’re a team with an identity, core and extremely bright future, whether it’s Odubel Herrera, Rhys Hoskins or most of the other regular players Kapler typically puts in his lineup.
“Resilient is a really good word to describe [this team],” Kapler said prior to Tuesday’s game versus Atlanta. “I think fighters [is another word.] I think we understand the passion of the city, what the fans of Philadelphia want from our players and that’s to give 100 percent effort and be prepared and work harder than anyone else out there.”
Don’t look now, but the Phillies are back and Philadelphia summer nights are once again going to be daily parties.
Before I forget …
• Carson Wentz surprised many people this week when he went through drills at Eagles voluntary organized team activities.
Carson Wentz doing quarterback drills at Eagles Voluntary OTAs pic.twitter.com/J0rTFQhPW1
— Dave Uram (@MrUram) May 22, 2018
Not only did Wentz participate on a limited basis, he impressed.
More Carson Wentz at Eagles Voluntary OTAs from earlier on pic.twitter.com/vpYTfAgB8q
— Dave Uram (@MrUram) May 22, 2018
True, Wentz is facing a pass rush or 11 defenders, but considering his ACL and LCL injuries happened about five months ago, this is an encouraging sign.
• With that being said, kudos to the Eagles once again for not trading Nick Foles, because the latest report indicates the return was a bag of baseballs. Michael Silver of NFL.com reported the Cleveland Browns offered the Birds the 35th pick in this year’s draft for the Super Bowl MVP. A “draft enthusiast” might think that’s a price you can’t pass up, which is exactly what the Eagles did. Not only that, but according to Silver, the Birds ran it by Foles, who clearly wanted to stay in Philadelphia. Even though Foles wants to be a NFL starter, his priorities appear straight. Going to Cleveland isn’t much of a prize for winning the Lombardi Trophy as a backup.
• The Eagles releasing linebacker Mychal Kendricks wasn’t surprising, except for the timing, but it might be the one Howie Roseman decision this off-season that makes no sense. Even though the Birds don’t typically use a three-man set and Kendricks never lived up to what the fan base hoped he would, linebacker was a position which lacked comfortable depth and features injury prone Jordan Hicks. Not to mention, Kendricks played well last season once Hicks went down last season. I’m not sure cutting Kendricks to free cap space was worth the risk, even if he wasn’t worth what he was making.
• It’s a tremendous story that the Vegas Golden Knights are playing in the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season. I’ll be surprised if most of the Delaware Valley doesn’t root for the Knights against Alexander Ovechkin’s Capitals. Vegas is a perfect example to every patient general manager in sports, not just hockey, that you don’t need a lifetime to build a winner. Vegas did it in less than one year with a bunch of players every other team didn’t find valuable enough to protect.
• We learned this past weekend that lovable Sixers center Joel Embiid doesn’t like water slides.
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) May 20, 2018
My question is whether this is a fear of water slides or heights in general? Is it feasible for a 7-footer to be frightened of heights? I guess anything’s possible.