Nevertheless, make no mistake about it, sometimes it’s just good to get away. It doesn’t matter if it is to meander through rocky trails beneath a canopy of trees or to sit on the beach with the trade winds cooling down a sunny day. Whatever it is, no one wants to hang around the house all day.
So we travel. We take the act on the road to see how green that grass on the other side really is.
Why not? There’s something relaxing about being out there on the road. You don’t have to worry about the mail, cutting the grass or if the neighbors are too loud. If anything happens, like the basement gets flooded, there’s nothing that can be done about it hundreds of miles from home. Worry about it later.
It’s the same thing with a baseball team, too. On the road all the problems of home go away so all the ballplayers have to do is hang around all day and then show up to the park to play ball. Pretty good gig, huh? Better yet, it’s not even like the players have to schlep their own luggage through the terminal or wait for their row to be called in order to board the plane. Instead they get dropped off on the tarmac of a chartered plane so they can fly all over the country in order to play baseball.
There are other perks, too. For instance, before the trip the players are handed $81 in cash for each day they are on the road. For the current trip through Tampa Bay, Toronto and Atlanta, each player was handed a little envelope with $891 cash. That’s for the players to spend on meals, sundry items and any other incidentals that pop up from time to time.
But here’s the thing – even though the players are given $81 in cold, hard cash in which to purchase food, the visiting clubhouses in every ballpark offer catered meals before and after the game as well as all the gum one can chew and all the sunflower seeds a guy can spit.
And guess what? It’s all gratis.
Or, maybe he’ll just save all that cash the way Rickey Henderson used to. According to the legend, the newly elected Hall of Famer and all-time stolen base king used to collect those envelopes he was handed before road trips and stash them away in a big shoe box that he kept in the closet of his bedroom at home. As the story goes, whenever Rickey’s kids came home from school with a good report card, he told them to go into the closet and bring out the shoe box stuffed with per diem envelopes for a quick game of “Pick It.”
Rickey held the shoe box open and the kid with the good report card got to dip a hand in and pull out an envelope. Needless to say, the kids were all hoping to yank out one of those 11-day road trip stashes buried in the box.
Still, there is an advantage for a ballclub to play at home and that mainly has to do with the rules of the game. The home team gets to bat last, which puts most of the pressure on the visiting team. Other than that there really isn’t much of an advantage to playing at home. Sure, the home town fans can help intimidate the visiting club, but they also can give a lot of grief to the guys in the home laundry.
But that still doesn’t explain why the Phillies went into Wednesday night’s action with a 24-9 record away from Philadelphia and a 13-22 mark in Citizens Bank Park. That’s the best road record and worst home mark in the league. Explain that
Maybe nothing does because the dichotomy of the records defies explanation. In fact, when the local media asked the manager and players about it last week, the frustration mounted. It was as if Charlie Manuel and Ryan Howard went to the movies with some annoying friend who asked questions about the plot the whole way through the picture.
Talk about annoying. No wonder they were frustrated and losing so many games at home.
Regardless, there has to be a remedy for the losses at home. Like, maybe the Phillies can pretend they are playing on the road even when they are in Philadelphia. Maybe they can wear their road grays and shack up in the Holiday Inn across the parking lot from the ballpark.
Better yet, maybe the Phillies can get their road trip envelopes at home instead. Or, barring that, maybe Charlie Manuel can get out the big shoe box and let the team play “Pick It” if they win a game at home.
There's nothing like that shoe box to motivate a team.