The penultimate week of Spring Training is usually a time when I dust off my bobble head dolls, pull my Phillies jersey out from the closet, and go online to purchase tickets to a few games.
But not this year.
The Phillies, despite having six – SIX – verifiable starting pitchers (OK, maybe Adam Eaton isn’t quite verifiable) are looking shaky on the mound. Add to that shakiness a bullpen that’s about as solid as Jello at a Lutheran pot-luck and you get a lot of games where the bad guys are scoring 4, 5, 6 runs against us. This is a problem.
But with our offense we can surely win lots of games with football-like scores, right? Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Pat Burrell, Wes Helms, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Aaron Rowand . . . they guys can hit, right? Well, not really. The reigning MVP Ryan Howard seems to have lost his swing somewhere along his endless off-season MVP tour, and Pat Burrell stinks worse than summer road kill (at .178, he’s hitting much less than he weighs this spring, a simple benchmark any big leaguer needs to match).
The sad state of the guys in red pinstripes is only part of my enthusiasm deficit. In a few days my subscription to XM Satellite Radio will run out. We’re going through some belt-tightening around the Zephyr household, and I thought the $13 monthly fee was something I should cut. And so with the end of my XM subscription also comes the end of crystal clear baseball broadcasts in my car and at home (every team in MLB, every single game). Since we do not subscribe to cable television, and since the Phillies AM radio broadcast is mired in static every night in our distant suburban outpost, I will likely not be catching much Phillies baseball this year.
Considering that baseball games were places where I renewed my relationship with my father and fell in love with my wife, this is kinda sad. For me, there’s lots of meaning in baseball that transcends nine players on a diamond. But the good news is that these relationships have moved beyond the baseball stadium, and this spring and summer I will spend many an evening with my 3 year-old throwing a ball and teaching her the finer points of America’s Pastime – and, in the process, falling deeper in love with my daughter and this thing called Fatherhood.
The Phillies might once again be a mediocre team in a mediocre division in a mediocre league. But that’s OK, because on the sidewalk in front of our townhouse we’ll have the best team imaginable – and memories better than any pennant race in history.