Tuesday, October 20, 2009

NYT: Give the Phillies the Respect They Deserve

That's fucking right, New York Times.

October 21, 2009
Sports of The Times
Give the Phillies the Respect They Deserve
By WILLIAM C. RHODEN

Philadelphia

For the last nine days my in-box has been flooded by angry e-mail messages, mostly from fans of the Philadelphia Phillies who objected to my contention that a Dodgers-Yankees World Series is what baseball needs, and what network executives privately want.

A couple of them even informed me that a host on WIP Radio in Philadelphia gave me the honor of being his weasel of the week.

The arguments were familiar: the Dodgers are soft, aloof and Hollywood. The Yankees are arrogant, spoiled and overpaid. The Phillies, on the other hand, work hard, play harder, play fair and care more about the game.

The no-respect theme is a familiar lament in Philadelphia, and in the case of the Phillies this season, the lament is justified.

Despite being the defending World Series champions, the Phillies are treated like stepchildren by the networks, sometimes relegated to afternoon or late-night games, while the Yankees-Red Sox-Dodgers triumvirate receive top billing.

The Dodgers part of the equation is becoming moot; Jimmy Rollins has seen to that. On Monday, in the bottom of the ninth of Game 4, Rollins, the Phillies’ shortstop, doubled in the tying and winning runs as Philadelphia pushed the Dodgers to the brink of elimination with a 5-4 victory.

So much for Yankees-Dodgers nostalgia.

The great thing about these playoffs is that coaches’ polls and computer rankings don’t factor in. It doesn’t matter what you or I want, or what network executives want.

The only thing that matters is what unfolded at 11:52 Monday night when Rollins succeeded and Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton failed.

Despite the snubs, Philadelphia plays on, forcing television networks to take note.

Ryan Howard, the Phillies’ slugger, sat in the middle of the clubhouse early Tuesday talking about his team, the national news media and the notion that the Phillies are not being respected.

“There’s only one thing you can do, and that’s go out there and win,” Howard said. “Whether they want to respect it or not, doesn’t matter. We’ve got the trophy; you’ve got to respect the trophy.”

Howard has heard the Dodgers-Yankees talk. Last year he heard the same talk about the desirability of a Red Sox-Dodgers Series. Instead, Philadelphia played Tampa Bay.

“I don’t think it was the matchup that people really expected or wanted to see,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what you want. Who’s ever there at the end is there at the end, whether it’s Yankees and Phillies, Dodgers-Yankees, Phillies-Angels. You’ve got to respect whoever’s there and whoever wins.”

Can the Dodgers force this series back to Los Angeles? Of course they can. Will they? Probably not.

With an opening win in Game 1, an 11-0 rout in Game 3 and a spirit-breaking victory in Game 4, the Phillies have effectively set up shop inside the Dodgers’ heads.

Rollins made the point throughout the season and he made it again Monday night: the greatest difference between last year’s run and this year’s is that this season’s opponents expect Philadelphia to win as much as the Phillies themselves expect to win.

Howard agrees: “I think that teams realize we’re a team that keeps coming from behind; that’s going to stick in your mind, especially if it’s happened a couple times. They start thinking: We’ve been here before, now what’s going to happen? Are they going to come back? Are we going to be able to hold on?

“Then things start getting shaky.”

In addition to the objections over my call for a Yankees-Dodgers World Series, I heard from many fans who pointed out that such a Series would feature two high-profile players who had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs: the Dodgers’ Manny Ramirez and the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez. In February, SI.com reported that Rodriguez was among the 100 or so players who failed a test for performance-enhancing drugs in the 2003 survey testing of all major leaguers. In May, Ramirez was suspended for 50 games after it was reported that he had tested positive for a banned substance.

If we’ve learned anything about this issue, it’s that there are two major groups of players: those who have been caught and those who have not. Some have been forced to come clean; others are shivering in their shoes, hoping that the complete list of those who tested positive in 2003 is never made public.

So before Phillies fans, or any others, throw stones, they need a reality check. In January, Phillies reliever J.C. Romero was suspended for the first 50 games of the 2009 season for using performance-enhancing substances. This positive test came about two months before he won two games in the World Series last fall to help the Phillies win the championship. The suspension came afterward.

This year the Phillies again are a great team, and they may be in the process of building a dynasty. So they deserve our respect, but spare us the lectures.

2 comments:

barry cassidy said...

go phils

dyeve said...

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