(This did not appear in print or on-line....so perhaps like one of those random, unique baseball cards, it is valuable.... regardless, I didn't see a reason for this to go to complete waste, so here is your weekly baseball fix, a few days late)
By RYAN LAWRENCE
September. The New York Mets. The Philadelphia Phillies.
Seeing the Mets in town this weekend almost makes Phils fans yearn for the mathematic equation that led to back-to-back National League East division crowns in each of the last two Septembers.
The Mets have large division lead. They collapse. The underdog Phils, with their proverbial backs against the wall and no room for error in making up ground, take advantage.
The result: the Phils are in the playoffs, the Mets are on the golf course.
It’s clear that dynamic can’t take place again this month. But maybe, in a weird way, it would be better if that was the case.
As Charlie Manuel
said earlier this week, that doesn’t make much sense. Of course you’d rather be in first place, and in first place with a somewhat sizeable lead.
“That doesn’t register for me, sorry,” Manuel said.
But there is certainly something to be said for the way the Phils had to play down the stretch in each of the last two seasons. In 2007, only the Colorado Rockies were hotter among National League teams entering the playoffs.
In 2008, the Phils again had to win nearly every game they played in September, all the way up to the second-to-last game of the season, and they nearly did to catch and pass the Mets. The Phils won 13 of their final 16 regular season games and carried the mojo into a memorable playoff run.
Another mark of the current run of success is the Phillies propensity to come back late in games. They nearly did it again Thursday night in Washington, turning an 8-2 deficit into 8-7 in their final at-bat.
If you rationally analyze the way this team operates, it’s clear the offense gets the most out of its collective talents when it absolutely has to, both in games and in seasons at large. The Phils current funk could be because they don’t have anyone to chase, and other than the Marlins, who are still a few arm lengths away, no one to push them, either.
“When you’ve got a lead, you’re sitting better than when you are when you absolutely have to win that day. I think having a lead has to be better than that,” Manuel said. “Really. I’ll take the lead. I’m not going to give our lead up and say, let’s start even in the league. No, we’re not going to do that. Because I don’t know if we can come through or not.”
Manuel’s analysis makes sense logically. But from the personality of his team, you can probably bet they would come through if they trailing the team like the Mets again, or at least had someone nipping on their heals in the next three weeks.
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Trivial pursuit: A pair of shortstops – Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins and Derek Jeter of the Yankees are closing in on recording the 25th and 26th 200-20-20 seasons in major league history.
Ramirez has 182 hits, 18 shy of 200, while already reaching the 20-mark in home runs (23) and stolen bases (24). Jeter is 12 hits short of 200 to go alongside 17 home runs and 25 steals.
Remarkably, of the 24 players to tally 200-20-20 seasons, 14 of them have accomplished the feat in the same year as another player. Without further adieu, here’s your two-pronged, trivia question of the week.
Who are the only two players in Phillies history to record 200-20-20 seasons and who is the only player in major league history to have three 200-20-20 seasons?
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Northwest hit king: While the national media tripped over itself all week to pat Jeter on the back for becoming the all-time Yankees hit king, surpassing Lou Gehrig, the most underappreciated superstar in baseball reached a milestone of his own on the other side of the country.
Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki
hit a double of Oakland’s Gio Gonzalez Sunday to become to second-fastest player in big league history to reach 2,000 career hits. Ichiro reached the mark in 1,402 career games, just 12 more than Al Simmons needed to reach 2,000.
The next step for the 36-year-old Ichiro is 3,000 hits, the standard mark for the greatest hitters in history. Even though Ichiro’s major league career began late – he didn’t move from Japan to Seattle until he was 27 – he doesn’t sound like an older player mulling retirement.
“I’m not a fortune teller, so I don’t have the ability to look into the future,” Ichiro said. “But that’s why it's fun because the future is unknown. Also, if I set goals for myself, it kind of makes a barrier, and in that way, it might lower my potential.”
"I don’t think he puts a timetable on it,” Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu said. “He told me he’ll go ‘til he’s 50. He was serious.”
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Pirate ship sunk: The Phillies no longer hold the infamous professional sports record for suffering the most consecutive losing seasons. When the Pittsburgh Pirates dropped a 4-2 defeat to the Cubs Monday, it marked their 82 loss of the year, sealing their 17th straight losing season.
Prior to the Pirates current run, they were tied with the Phillies (1933-48) for reeling off 16 losing seasons in a row. Pittsburgh has not had a winning record since 1992, when a slim Barry Bonds patrolled left field and Doug Drabek, the father of Phils top prospect Kyle Drabek, pitched Game 1 of the NLCS.
In the time since, the Pirates have managed to both continually misfire in the draft and receive minimal talent in trading high-priced talent.
“Obviously, they haven't done a good job of anything there for a long time,” said Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez
, who was traded from Pittsburgh to Chicago for Matt Bruback, Jose Hernandez and Bobby Hill. "They haven't signed good free agents. They haven't made good trades. They haven't developed many good players and the ones they have developed, they've traded away for nothing. The record speaks for itself."
While the Pirates current run doesn’t inspire that success is around the corner, they remain a decade of losing seasons away from eclipsing another Phillies infamous record. Pittsburgh’s franchise has 9,168 losses, meaning they’re still 832 away from becoming the only major sports franchise other than the Phillies to reach 10,000 losses.
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Feeling blue: If you’re an avid Phils fan, it’s easy to have blinders on and not see the ups and downs of other clubs. So to help you get through the Phils current early-September funk, know that they’re not the only NL contender sleepwalking down the stretch.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, the best team in all of baseball since the All-Star break, are in danger of losing grip on their own division. Entering Saturday, the Dodgers were 22-23 in their last 45 games.
During that stretch, which began July 26, Los Angeles has seen its lead in the NL West shrink from nine to two games.
So what ails Joe Torre’s men in blue?
Since returning from a 50-game suspension, Manny Ramirez has lacked pop – he’s hit .286 with 12 home runs and 35 RBIs. To put that into better context, Manny’s power stats are comparable to Raul Ibanez’s (11 home runs, 30 RBIs) in the same, 61-game span.
The Dodgers have also had to plug in Phillies/Rangers castoff and swine flu victim Vicente Padilla into a starting rotation that is currently without Randy Wolf (sore elbow) and has seen first-half Cy Young candidate Chad Billingsley fall back to earth (3-5 with a 5.23 ERA since the All-Star break).
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Trivial answer: In 1932, Chuck Klein
(226-38-20) became the second player in major league history to record a 200-20-20 season. The only other player in Phils history to reach the feat was Jimmy Rollins (212-30-41) in his MVP season of 2007.
Hanley Ramirez also had a 200-20-20 season in 2007. If he reaches it again this season, he will become just the second player in major league history to complete the feat more than once.
Former Cincinnati Reds All-Star Vada Pinson is the only player to go 200-20-20 three times. He turned the trick in 1959, 1963 and 1965.