With apologies to John, Paul, George and even Ringo …
Wednesday morning at 9 o’clock, as the day began, I woke up, got outta bed, dragged a comb across my alarmingly-balding head and — what else? — checked the NL East standings. And there they were: the Braves, atop the division at 2-0. And at the bottom? The world champion Philadelphia Phillies, 0-2 … and counting.
“Games in April Count.” That’s the headline on today’s Philadelphia Inquirer column by Phil Sheridan, a good guy and terrific columnist.
Not that the knee-jerk overreaction in one of our great American sports cities is over the top. Not yet. But while we here in Dewlandia are pleasantly pleased with the local nine’s nice start, Phillie fanatics are, well, already concerned.
“The Season After began with great fanfare and enthusiasm among Philadelphia fans,” wrote Sheridan, who was there Sunday night when manager Charlie Manuel helped run a 2008 World Champions banner up the flagpole, the first time Philadelphia has hoisted one in 28 seasons. “One hopes the Phillies will join the party soon. It’s kind of a drag without them.”
Who’da thunk it? The Braves, bottom-feeders last year when they beat the Phils just four times all season, are looking for a 3-for-the-road sweep this afternoon. And the Phillies, baseball’s indisputable best in ’08, are now facing the prospect of starting ’09 0-3. And this, on the day the Phils were to be presented their gold World Championship rings in pre-game festivities.
What’s wrong with this picture? Nothing, if you’re a Braves fan and watched Derek Lowe throw eight shutout innings on Opening Night, then Jair Jurrjens 5.2 more Tuesday evening. Today’s potential matinee idol? C’mon down, Javier Vazquez.
When Kelly Johnson led off Tuesday’s 4-0 win with a first-pitch homer off 45-year-old Jamie Moyer (Chipper Jones later hit his first of the year, too), that made it 27 straight games in which Atlanta’s homered against Philadelphia (and five in two games, by five different players). That’s the longest such streak by the Braves against one opponent since 1954. Sports Illustrated was born that year. Bobby Cox was in grammar school.
As for the Phillies’ long-ball futility thus far in their exceedingly hitter-friendly ballpark? What, Ryan Howard worry? “Apparently,” the Phils’ slugging first baseman and 2007 NL MVP told Sheridan, “we weren’t hitting into the same jet stream as they were.”
Oh. That explains it. Come this weekend, when the lowly Nationals come to Turner Field, let’s see how the wind’s swirling and the ball’s traveling.