I’d trade my entire inventory of postseason-less memories for a chance to see this group get there.
The players we’ll see tonight, trotting onto the field for the last regular-season home game, have marshalled every ounce of fortitude to make this postseason dream become a reality. Standing alone as the Wild Card leader, in control of their own destiny, deserves considerable respect, no matter where they stand seven games from now. This was a test of will, and they passed with flying colors.
Dear Phillies: We love everything about you. The roster couldn’t possibly contain more underdogs who’ve successfully beaten the odds to prove they belong. And if you’re not a Cinderella story, rookie or some other unlikely part of the supporting cast, chances are you fall into the category of superhero, humbled by success, undaunted under duress.
After the deadline trade of Bobby Abreu -- the Phillies best run producer over the last 10 years -- the challenged was issued. Who would step up? The answer: All of the above. No star shimmers quite like Ryan Howard, who leads the majors in home runs and RBIs, and is the front-runner for league MVP. Chase Utley piled on a 35-game hitting streak that ended just after the Abreu trade. Obviously drained by the experience, Utley is getting his second wind, and still running out dead-duck double-play balls. Jimmy Rollins has done his part to score runs and hit for extra bases, just as Abreu might have done. No disrespect to his 2005 hitting streak, but this is the best J-Roll we’ve ever seen.
Nobody asked the pitchers to keep grinding through every skipped turn in the rotation. Nobody made a peep when they were asked to endure every hack or head case who didn’t belong. Nobody wasted a second chance. Nobody relented when the bottom of the lineup card read Bell, Fasano, Lieber. Nobody caved when the probable starters read Bernero, Lidle, Fultz. Nobody hung their head, no matter how far under the Mendoza line their batting average plummeted, or how often their name was omitted from the lineup card. Nobody quit when a touch-and-go bullpen blew chance after chance. Nobody was too established to treat every game like their precious first, and nobody was too young to see the big picture. Nobody cashed out when the boss sold the farm.
As a long suffering fan, nobody deserves October baseball more than the players of the 2006 Phillies.