Max Blue / Historic Teams
FORTY THOUSAND PITCHES
By Max Blue
One hundred sixty two games æ no playoffs for the 2002 Phillies , enough is enough æ 250 pitches per game more or less . . . forty thousand pitches. Forty thousand pitches, and God help me, from my comfortable chair right behind the mound, I watched them all. Four seam fastball, two seam fastball, curve ball, slide ball, circle change, straight change, knuckle curve, bow tie, high and tight, low and away, dirt ball, cookie, fat pitch, wild pitch æ plenty of those, we led the league . . . I saw them all. And I listened æ I didn¹t have to listen, I could have hit the mute, but I listened, even though I knew what they were going to say : "so and so likes to get his arms extended" . . . "right down the middle for a ball" . . . "he likes the ball middle-in." I watched and I listened, I couldn¹t help myself, even those games in Detroit, Cleveland, and Baltimore where they employ the worst threat to civilization to come out of the twentieth century æ the designated hitter (the bile rises in my throat to write those two ugly words) æ no use trying to disguise it with code, I know what DH means. It means damned hard, as in damned hard to take. Maybe the Baseball Guru should run a contest on the true meaning of DH æ disgusting habit?
It¹s hard not to learn something about your guys when you watch that many pitches. You get to know that Doug Glanville can¹t lay off that low and away slider, and that it helps not a bit to yell, "don¹t do it, Dougie." You wake up in a cold sweat at the image of Jimmie Rollins jumping out of his shoes flailing at high cheese. You learn that Pat Burrell can hit a 98 mph fast ball about three city blocks, or at least a country mile, and if he would cut down on his swing with two strikes on him he would hit about 50 points higher. But you also learn that Pat Burrell ain¹t cuttin¹ down on his swing for nobody, no way, no how, and that when he gets a few years older he will be pulling chest muscles from all that whoosh. You wonder why the rest of the team don¹t learn something from Bobby Abreu and Jeremy Giambi about working the count, since they have on base percentages over .400 and nobody else is close. You learn to live without Scott Rolen æ don¹t get me started on Rolen. It¹s too late, I¹m already started æ for five years this guy has been playing third base like nobody could believe, even Mike Schmidt who won nine gold gloves at third for the Phillies, says he couldn¹t carry Rolen¹s glove. When he was a rookie I wrote a story about Rolen called "Wonder Pup, the Sunshine of Hope," I loved him, and several million people around the Delaware valley loved him as well æ he was the ultimate blue-collar ballplayer, he made Charlie Hustle look like a slacker. And then last summer something happened, nobody knows for sure what, but it seemed to start when Dallas Green made some snotty remarks about Rolen on a local talk radio show. The next thing we hear is that Rolen is starting to make demands on Phillies¹ management which he must have learned from Curt Schilling the year before . . . "Don¹t be so cheap, go out and sign some free-agents, I want to play for a winner."
. . . I wonder how guys like Schilling and Rolen can face their teammates when they start making public cracks like that? No wonder the word leaks out that Rolen is considered a cancer in the locker room. I wonder how guys like Schilling and Rolen can so easily discard the love and adulation bestowed on them by millions of people, to say nothing of their place in the 100 year history of the team.
So the Wonder Pup is gone, and I have to explain to my 8-year-old grandson why his favorite player has jumped to the St. Louis Cardinals. And I, along with all the rest, have to face another bleak example of the depressing dictum that only selfishness motivates human actions when the first thing we hear after the trade is that Rolen is talking about going to baseball heaven in St. Louis after escaping a different fate in Philadelphia.
And what is to save us from this melancholy sewer of cynicism? Forty thousand pitches. Somebody is still swinging the bats, somebody is still going from first to third, some little kid is still sitting beyond the left field wall calling "hit it to me, Jimmy, hit it to me."
Get a life you say? I have a life, thank you very much.
Glassboro, New Jersey
October 15, 2002