By Andrew Mashas
I’ll be the first to admit that I am not perfect. I’ll also be the first to admit that I can be hypocritical at times; not all the time, but some of the time. In the past I have blasted channels like Comcast Sportsnet for their flip-flopping on issues when it comes to Philadelphia teams. They seem to really reflect the sentiment instilled in the entire fan base. When the team does well, they will praise them to no end, but when they lose a few games, they will turn against them to show their disdain. I’ve seen commentators on Comcast Sportsnet hail the Philadelphia Phillies for winning four straight games, and then almost totally disown them when they lose the fifth. Now, I’m not saying I hate that channel. It’s actually probably in my top five favorite channels simply because it gives me in-depth analysis on my favorite teams. It’s not like ESPN, who has to give several sports, teams, and athletes, equal air time. Comcast Sportsnet is directed towards the Philadelphia sports fan, which is one of the reasons I enjoy it.
Getting back to my original point; I realize I am guilty of doing the same thing I cannot stand about Philadelphia sports writers. In one of my first columns this year I proceeded to show my disgust for the way the Philadelphia Phillies were performing in the middle of September. If you don’t remember, they were losing more games than winning and falling behind in both the NL East and wildcard races. However, they turned it on when it counted and looked like the September-Phillies I’ve become accustomed to in the past few years. Now I do realize that in the past several columns I’ve been head-over-heels about how the Phillies are performing, totally abandoning my original distasteful position. So with that being said…I apologize and proceed.
Hands down, the hype of this World Series is just as fascinating as the 2004 series. I think this could be the most interesting World Series in my life. Now, of course everyone would say that I’m just giddy about the Phillies being in the series. Sure that helps, but if I was to take myself in a totally unbiased objective view I would hold my position. I’ve also been a voice and a champion for the underdog whether in sports, politics, or society in general. These two teams, the Phillies and Rays, embody everything represented with futility. The Phillies just celebrated their 125th year in existence, and last year jokingly embraced their 10,000th loss in franchise history. No team in any professional sports has been that terrible. In that 125- year existence they only have one World Series ring to their name, while the Florida Marlins have been around for only 15 years and have two World Series rings to their name, not to mention an empty stadium every home game.
If the Phillies institute losing with painful longevity then the Rays are a breath of fresh air in the murky atmosphere of uselessness. No hope, no promises, no chances are ever thrown in the direction of the Tampa Bay Rays. They have served as a tick, easily ignored and unwanted by the American League, and apparently the Tampa Bay community as well. However, this year the Rays have their ticket to their first World Series, coming off of their first winning season. That is, not to mention only their second year out of last place in their decade long ride to sub-mediocrity.
These two teams aren’t the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, and Los Angeles Dodgers. I hope America can handle this. Sporting goods stores are not going to sell out of BJ Upton jerseys or even Shane Victorino ones for that matter. The rest of the country wanted to see Manny come back to Boston, hit one over the green monster in a blue uniform, and have Beantown win its third ring in five years. Sure, it would make for a good story, pull in the most viewers, and give Bud Selig something to smile about for once. However, the exact opposite occurred.
If the stories of these two teams don’t attract viewers I don’t know what will. And the great thing is, if the Phillies somehow suck for this series, I won’t feel terrible because the Rays deserve to win just as much as Philadelphia does. They had to overcome just as much, probably even more, to get to where they are now. Sure they might be a one-year Cinderella team, but I know they’re having a blast while they’re there.
One of the biggest concerns I have with the Phillies in this series, and Game One will already be decided by the time this is published, but there are two rules when it comes to the playoffs. First, pitching and defense wins championships, not slamming balls out of the park, and of course that is what the Phillies do best. The second rule is that, during the playoffs, rest is not the best medicine. One can easily look at the last couple of seasons and see that the Colorado Rockies swept through both the NLDS and NLCS and rested for a good week before the series. Boston had a grueling battle with Cleveland, coming back from a 3-1 deficit and showed Colorado who was boss. The year before was a similar story. The Detroit Tigers looked like the team of destiny as they went into the World Series very early, while the Cardinals came down to a Game Seven, ninth inning, bases loaded for Carlos Beltran, strikeout extravaganza. And who won that World Series? Well I could tell you from memory that the Tigers defense should have won the MVP award.
I have debated with several friends about this concept for the last few days. They are certain that with the rest, the Phillies will be fresh and ready to go, but I say no. That’s not how the playoffs work. The playoffs are a different kind of animal, one that wraps itself around momentum and adrenaline. Right now, the Rays blood is flowing at record pace, just narrowly escaping an almost unfortunate collapse. Some believe that momentum doesn’t mean anything, just like Nomar doing his little hand dance every time he goes to the plate. I say momentum might have more force than you give it credit for.