The last time we saw the Phillies they couldn’t hit or score runs unless it came on a long ball. In fact, I even hatched up some harebrained idea that the Phillies’ brass should go out and shore up the offense by signing Barry Bonds to some type of bargain basement deal.
But rather than dig into the T.J. Maxx of all free-agent signings, the team was reportedly kicking the proverbial tires around the Colorado Rockies and All-Star Matt Holliday.
Holliday ain’t no T.J. Maxx or even Filene’s Basement, you know.
Anyway, the Phillies’ hitting and more to the point, it’s so-called “situational hitting” was so freaking lousy that skipper Charlie Manuel called out his hitters by telling them how much they stunk.
“You’ve got to really concentrate on moving a runner,” Charlie vented last Sunday in Miami after an extra-inning loss. “You’ve got to want to move him. Sometimes they feel like we’re giving up an at-bat. No, you’re not. There’s hits all over the field. If you hit behind the runner, you can still get hits. That’s just called execution and hitting the ball in the right direction. When we don’t do that, I was telling some of our guys around the cage, it’s going to be hard for us to win.
“I hear everyone [praise] our lineup, but people don’t realize, we've got a different lineup than we had last year. We’ve got three or four top-notch major-league hitters. Have they had better years? Yes. At the same time, they’re still good hitters. But if you follow our team, we’ve got different people. Sometimes, one guy makes a difference.”
Was that one guy Aaron Rowand, the gritty and playoff-tested centerfielder who took a multi-year deal from the Giants last winter? Or maybe past league MVPs Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins had grown complacent with the fundamentals? After all, the national TV media digs the long ball.
Regardless, it’s difficult to get the fawning attention the ballplayers crave without the October spotlight. After all, that’s where the real legends are made and the statistics really matter. To feed the narcissism, the Phillies need to score runs and that just isn’t going to happen if they decide to wait around and hope someone hits one over the fence.
It ain’t beer league ball, folks.
But maybe the Phillies finally got it during the ninth inning of last night’s improbable comeback at Shea Stadium to knock off the Mets, 8-6. Sure, Johan Santana leaving the game after eight stellar innings of work probably spurred the Phillies in the six-run ninth, but it wasn’t so much about the finish as it was the journey.
Sure, So Taguchi and Jimmy Rollins drove in the biggest runs with extra-base hits, and some mental errors by the Mets clearly helped the Phillies in the big ninth inning, but look at what they did to set the table for the game-breaking hits.
• Jayson Werth, Greg Dobbs and Shane Victorino singled to start the ninth and load the bases.
• Carlos Ruiz reached on a fielder’s choice when Jose Reyes inexplicably missed stepping on second base. One run scored.
• Taguchi tied the game with a two-run double. Still no outs.
• Rollins drove home the go-ahead runs with a two-run double. No outs.
• Chase Utley advanced Rollins to third on a ground out.
• Pat Burrell walked.
• Ryan Howard drove home Rollins for the sixth run of the inning on a ground out.
What’s missing? You guessed it, the home run.
See how fun that was without a homer.
Anyway, the important part was that the Phillies kept the lead in the NL East and should return to Philadelphia for the weekend series against the Braves no worse than a game out of first place. Prodigal right-hander Brett Myers makes his return to the big leagues tonight at Shea…
It should be interesting.
It’s gotten to the point where manager Charlie Manuel will use utility outfielder So Taguchi only if he has no other choices. In fact, Taguchi has just six at-bats in the last month and seven going back to May 30, which was the last time he started a game.
It seems as if the manager is loathe to use Taguchi even as a late-inning defensive replacement for left fielder Pat Burrell after the former Japanese star misplayed a few fly balls in a couple of losses. Even in pinch-running situations Manuel has turned to infielder Eric Bruntlett or sometimes pitcher Adam Eaton.
No, Charlie probably isn’t going out of his way not to use Taguchi, but it sure does seem like it.
Meanwhile, right fielder Geoff Jenkins’ season batting average has dipped to .237 thanks to getting just five hits since June 7, and 11 hits after May 28. Over the last month, the left-handed hitting outfielder is batting just .089 (5-for-56) with one homer, one double and 16 strikeouts.
Some say the Phillies’ offensive swoon has come because of a power outage. Even Manuel and some of the Phillies brass have been critical of the team’s inability to score runs without the long ball as well as its reluctance to manufacture runs with situational hitting. Since scoring 20 runs against the Cardinals in St. Louis on June 13, the Phillies have lost 15 of 22 games. Worse, they have averaged just 3.74 runs per game during that stretch. With a lineup featuring the past two NL MVPs – Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins – as well as perennial All-Star Chase Utley and slugger Pat Burrell, the Phillies should score runs by accident.
But they don’t.
“The biggest problem we have is situational hitting,” Manuel said. “Moving runners or knocking in a guy from second with no outs or from third with one out. We definitely have to have more of that.”
If there is one player to symbolize the Phillies’ feast-or-famine offense, it’s Jenkins. This season he has seven home runs, which account for 12 of his 24 RBIs. Howard, too, has personified this symptom by getting 49 of his league-leading 78 RBIs on 24 homers. Howard is also on pace to shatter his single-season Major League record for strikeouts in a season. With 124 whiffs in 91 games, Howard should be the first man in Major League history to eclipse the 200 strikeouts barrier.
Feast or famine.
“Our offense is generated by the top of our order. We manufacture runs by getting (Jimmy) Rollins and (Shane) Victorino on base with (Chase) Utley. Usually from Howard and (Pat) Burrell that’s where our RBIs come from – that’s where we get our runs. Sometimes some guys pick up the slack, but we’re not doing that right now. We’re not getting too much from the bottom of our lineup.”
So while the Phillies acknowledge that the need help with the pitching and are looking to add a starter (and/or a reliever) by the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline, maybe they ought to consider a hitter, too, as they cling by the edge of their fingernails to first place in the NL East.
And if the Phillies are looking for a power bat to come off the bench or to play some right field from time to time against right-handers since Jenkins is hitting just .249 against them as the left-handed bat in the platoon with Jayson Werth, we might have the guy for them.
The guy we’re thinking of has struck out just once every seven at-bats during the past two seasons. Also during that span, he has clubbed 54 homers – or one every 13 at-bats – hit a modest .273, but has a .467 on-base percentage.
Oh yeah, he also has nearly 2,000 career RBIs, seven MVP awards and 762* home runs.
Yes, we’re talking about Bonds…
Yeah, Bonds brings a whole lot of baggage and that isn’t even bringing the upcoming trial for perjury into the equation. He is also two weeks away from his 44th birthday, which would help the Phillies corner the market on mid-40s lefties. And of course there are all the accusations regarding performance-enhancing drug use and all-around surliness. Bonds will never be a candidate for the Roberto Clemente Award, which is given each year to a ballplayer who exemplifies character and charitable contributions to his community.
Yes, Bonds’ off-the-field situation is troublesome and quite serious, but the Phillies need a hitter. On Tuesday night Cole Hamels pitched yet another gem by holding the Cardinals to just a pair of runs and three hits in seven innings, but took a hard-luck 2-0 loss.
The lack of offensive support is beyond frustrating for the Phillies’ pitchers.
“Any time you don't score runs it's hard to win,” Manuel said. “I say it all the time, but when Hamels pitches like that we have to win the game. We came up short. We won four straight on the road and then came home and lost four straight.”
But enough of the hang wringing. If Bonds can play – and all reports indicate that he wants to – why not let him? Surely his skills likely have eroded a bit, but then again, Taguchi and Jenkins only have a combined six more hits than Bonds.
Heck, they have just six more hits than me.
If someone can explain how Bonds can be worse than Taguchi or Jenkins then call the whole thing off.
Here’s the good part – Bonds will work cheap. The Phillies are paying Taguchi $1.05 million this season with a $1.25 million club option for 2009 or a $150,000 buyout. Not bad work if you can find it. They are also paying Jenkins $5 million in 2008, $6.75 million in 2009 with a mutual option for $7.5 million in 2010 or a $1.25 million buyout. Again, not exactly chump change for a guy hitting .089 since early June.
Bonds’ agent Jeff Borris says his client will work for a prorated share of the league minimum, which is $390,000. In other words, the Phillies could have Bonds for the rest of the season for less than $190,000.
“The fact that no team in Major League Baseball has made an offer for Barry even at the minimum salary has created a level of suspicion that is currently being investigated,” Borris said.
“Let's look at the facts. Barry performed admirably in 2007. Barry is healthy. Barry has been offered at the minimum salary and Barry's trial date is in March of 2009, so there would be no interruption of the 2008 season. It defies explanation as to why he is not employed in 2008 with a Major League club.”
There have been grumblings that American League teams Tampa Bay, Seattle, Detroit and Boston have looked at Bonds as a possible designated hitter. There are also some rumblings about the Mets being interested in the star-crossed home-run king. But so far there have been no takers.
Perhaps Bonds could mentor young-ish slugger Howard? Maybe he could teach the Phillies’ first baseman that he can strikeout significantly less without compensating his home-run power?
And who knows, maybe Bonds can still play a little, too. Hey, he can’t be any worse than what they already have.
... get a blog. Or better yet, just invite the writing media over to the locker to chat instead of those pesky TV folks with their makeup and those white, hot lights and cameras. Besides, talking to actual humans instead of inanimate objects like cameras and TV reporters is much more revealing anyway. Sure, the fans might like tuning in from so far away to watch a guy talk with those lights and the microphones bearing down, but come on... no one really enjoys it.
At least that's the way it was for Ryan Howard in Clearwater today. Rather than do the whole big ballyhoo and faux production of a made-for-TV inquiry about his contract and whether or not animosity has festered like a bad blister because the Phillies only want to pay him $7 million for 2008 instead of $10 million just chatted up a few scribes and some inanimate objects in the clubhouse.
It made for a more contemplative, more intimate, more revealing and perhaps even a more trenchant conversation. That's the key word there - conversation. Look, when dealing with athletes, pro writers are dealing with a short deck mostly because they don't know a damn thing about exercise or fitness or training or anything. But that's beside the point. When the glare and scrutiny beats on a guy, it gets hard to explain things, so everyone loses.
Or something like that. Who knows. I'm just making this all up as I go along and I'm sure that five minutes from now I'll have no idea what I wrote. But don't let that stop anyone from acknowledging that sooner or later Ryan Howard will have to answer questions about his contract. What, do you think the writing press is a bunch of shrinking violets? Hey, they might not know the ins and outs of exercise or physiology, but that's not going to stop them from using clichés oh so cavalierly.
You know, whatever.
Here's a question: is it worse that someone made a typographical error in typing up a document filed yesterday in the Barry Bonds perjury case that erroneously stated the player tested positive for steroids in November of 2001, or is it worse that so many media outlets blindly jumped on the story without checking it out first.
Look, people trust the wire services and the big names in the media business without giving it much thought. But even the tiniest bit of research over the false Bonds report should have had folks scratching their heads a bit with wonderment over why the star-crossed slugger would have taken a drugs test in 2001.
Plus, knowing that there are no more secrets anywhere and that the truth always rears its troll-like face, the notion of a failed drugs test by Bonds in November of 2001 should have had the fact-checkers scrambling.
Nevertheless, the underlying problem was evident: Media types are too worried about being first instead of being right.
Finally, my favorite story of the day comes out of the Mets' camp in Port Saint Lucie where Pedro Martinez rightfully claimed that he stared down the so-called Steroid Era and plunked it on its ass.
According to Pedro, "I dominated that era and I did it clean.
"I have a small frame and when I hurt all I could do was take a couple of Aleve or Advil, a cup of coffee and a little mango and an egg - and let it go!"
It sounds like Pedro (and Cole Hamels) are wannabe marathon runners who wake up every morning with everything hurting, shuffle stiff-legged downstairs for some coffee, a vitamin, maybe a Clif Bar or even an ibuprofen with the thought of visiting the chiro for some Active Release Technique therapy before heading out the door for the first of two brutal workouts.
Drugs tests? Where the cup...
"I wish that they would check every day," Pedro said. "That's how bad I want the game to be clean. I would rather go home (than) taint the game."
Here's a theory: the pitching during the so-called "Steroid Era" wasn't so bad. Oh sure, certain media types -- blabbermouths on certain radio stations in particular -- are quick to point out how today's pitchers can't throw strikes, won't work deep into games and how some of them shouldn't be in the big leagues. Expansion, they say, has watered down the game.
Maybe so. But try this out: in facing hitters with baseballs that are wound tighter and who are using harder bats made of harder wood against a tinier strike zone in ball parks that are smaller still, pitchers have to add guile to the repertoire. And we didn't even get into the performance-enhancing drugs part yet. Nonetheless, pitchers just can't lean back and huck it up there as fast as they can -- pitchers have had to pitch in the post-modern era of baseball.
Speaking of doing it the right way for a long time, Sully Salisbury turned in a great story on the meritorious Jamie Moyer, who is heading into his 22nd big league season.
A few minutes in the presence of Moyer makes it easy to believe that you never, ever have to get old. You never have to burn out, get tired, act old, compromise, get mediocre or slow down. Moyer turned 45 last November and be sure that there are players on the Phillies who are "older" than he is - they've stopped being engaged, they know what they know and they don't want to be exposed to anything new. They are already completely formed and they might only be 23 years old.
Not Moyer, though. In a conversation last October, the pitcher says one of the best parts about playing for so long has been the exposure to new people and ideas.
"A lot of times, I just focus on the simplicity of things, and not be the focus of what should be going on here, and just keep things simple. I call it the K.I.S.S. factor -- keep it simple, stupid," he said last October. "I look back on instances in my career like that -- good and bad - but things that I've learned from, and try to re-educate myself and rethink things, and reinforce what I already know. A lot of times, we can overlook things and forget, and after the fact, after the mistake is made, you're like, ‘Oh, I knew that. Why did I do that?' You can't catch everything. But if you can catch some of it, hopefully, it'll work out. What's been fun is being around this group of guys and the energy they bring."
As Moyer told Sailisbury yesterday:
"I'm not as proud of the age thing as I am of the ups and downs I've overcome to create some longevity," Moyer said after yesterday's workout. "I've enjoyed that part. I can smile and say I'm doing what I want to do."
Just one time I'd like to see a player try on a jersey that doesn't fit during those ceremonial press conferences for newly signed players. Like say for instance the Phillies signed Barry Bonds and trotted him out with the whole jersey thing, but when he tries to slip his arms in it goes nowhere because it's one of Jimmy Rollins' shirts.
That would be funny to me.
The Phillies did their little dog-and-pony show with Brad Lidge yesterday where they made him fly to Philadelphia to answer a few questions and try on a shirt. Then maybe he had dinner, watched a little TV in the hotel before flying back home. Apparently everything fit and checked out fine for Lidge and the Phillies. The shirt looked good.
While all of that was going on in Philadelphia, the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez (sans agent Scott Boras) were working on a new deal that would give him a small percentage of a raise and bonuses for breaking records (more on that in a moment). Apparently, A-Rod and the Yanks are just crossing the Is and dotting the Ts on a 10-year contract. Rodriguez, of course, is the player that opted out the last three years of his current deal that was paying him more than $25 million for a shade more than 162 games. It's just a shade more than 162 games because unlike ex-Yankee third basemen like Charlie Hayes, Scott Brosius or Graig Nettles, A-Rod has never made it to the World Series.
Better yet, any person who willingly opts out of a contract in excess of $25 million for 180 days of work is an [bleep]hole. I wish I could be a little more graceful, but I can't. Seriously. Worse, there will be people going on and on about how A-Rod did the right thing because he got more money and more years by opting out... yeah, well, so. Does that much money matter anymore or is just about his ego? It's kind of like the time we were all together talking about the shoddy work of a well-paid media type when someone butted in with a, "Yeah, but he's making six-figures..." You know, as if that were impressive enough to change opinion. After a second or so, someone countered with, "Yeah, he might make six-figures but he's still a bleeping hack."
In other words, A-Rod might make all the money in the world but he still hasn't played an inning of a World Series game.
But one of the more interesting elements of A-Rod's new contract is that he will get a hefty bonus if he breaks the all-time home run record. Actually, according to Big Stein's son, Li'l Hanky Steinbrenner, the Yankees are working on a "marketing plan" for A-Rod's climb up the all-time charts.
"These are not incentive bonuses," Steinbrenner said. "For lack of a better term, they really are historic-achievement bonuses. It's a horse of a different color."
But the color is still green. And here's the thing - whose home run record does A-Rod have to break to get his horse? Will Major League Baseball still consider Barry Bonds the Sultan of Shots or will he get the big historical asterisk next to his name after yesterday's indictment came down at around the time Lidge was trying on a shirt?
And we all know the Feds never get indictments for cases they could lose. They like to make it look like the Harlem Globetrotters vs. the Washington Generals...
Perhaps more interestingly, Bonds' federal indictment for lying to a grand jury comes after commissioner Bud Selig announced that MLB's revenues crossed over $6 billion. And, a day after The Washington Post offered readers a front-page story in which leaders in the anti-doping movement are convinced that getting indictments and launching investigations is a better tact than spending money to develop full-proof drug tests.
It looks like they got a really big fish.
More:The Bonds indictment (pdf)
As far as updating his Web site goes, Barry Bonds is no Curt Schilling. Like a teenage girl with a Facebook profile, Schilling is always quick to update everyone on the latest news. Whether it's revealing which teams called him during the preliminary stages of the free-agency period or what it feels like to win the World Series for the third time, Schilling has it covered.
In fact, Schilling updates his site so regularly that he supercedes the writers looking for fodder for those ubiquitous "sources" and "rumor rundowns" that have turned the sports pages into a glorified version of People magazine.
Sometimes the stuff doesn't even have to be true.
But with Schilling, it goes directly to the horse's blog... and when a horse says, "Nay," it means nay. Schilling has always been known to say or write whatever is on his mind, unless, of course, he's in front of a Congressional committee.
Bonds, on the other hand, used to do this, too. Because he chose only to speak to the press when he absolutely had to, Bonds posted all of his updates and news on his Web site, too. Unlike Schilling, Bonds updates his site like a teenage boy with poor grammar skills and trouble paying attention. But like Schilling, the so-called home run king (with his train wreck of a reality show) often provided his own scoops by going direct to his site instead of to the sporting press.
Frankly, I'm surprised more jocks haven't copied this model... but then again, maybe they think writing is hard or something.
Anyway, Bonds appears to have given up on his site (unless he's selling silliness like autographs or something) because he went directly to Jim Gray and MSNBC for an interview last night. Instead of saving it for a blog entry, Bonds told Gray that he "has nothing to hide," and that the doping allegations are "unfair to me."
He didn't say whether the possibility for indictment by a grand jury for perjury in the BALCO case was "unfair" though.
The most interesting part of the interview - the part that the Associated Press grabbed onto - was where Bonds said he would boycott his potential induction into the Hall of Fame if the museum chose to display the ball his hit for his 756th home run. The reason is because the purchaser of the ball decided to affix an asterisk to it before donating it to the Hall of Fame museum.
Apparently, more than the possibility for indictment, the asterisk is offensive to Bonds.
"I don't think you can put an asterisk in the game of baseball, and I don't think that the Hall of Fame can accept an asterisk," Bonds said. "You cannot give people the freedom, the right to alter history. You can't do it. There's no such thing as an asterisk in baseball."
This is a cop out, of course. It's just Bonds taking a pre-emptive strike against the Hall and the Baseball Writers Association of America, who (for some reason) are the electors for enshrinement. Perhaps Bonds is just saying, "Go ahead and don't vote me in because I'm not coming..."
Then again, maybe it's just Barry being Manny?
Anyway, Bonds is a free agent and is unsure where or of he will play next season. If he doesn't play anymore, that means he would be eligible for election to the Hall-of-Fame in five years. Surely Bonds has the statistics needed to get into the Hall no matter how he achieved them. However, we all know that politics are just as important as mere numbers. Whether or not Bonds played that game well enough remains to be seen.
We're quickly approaching the most-anticipated Olympic Trials marathon ever and the papers are loaded with stories and predictions It also brings up another point... with distance running as popular as ever and more people running marathons than ever before, why isn't there more coverage of the sport? Oh sure, The New York Times and other big-city papers (excluding Philadelphia) cover the sport regularly, and so do the running hot beds, but what gives?
Then again, it seems as if there is a media overload of stories ahead of tomorrow's big race. When the diehards are so used to getting next to nothing from the mainstream press, the recent coverage feels like standing next to a fire hose turned on at full blast.
Be that as it is, I enjoyed the one in the Times on current people's favorite, Brian Sell. Read it for yourself here.
The quote I liked from Sell (a Pennsylvanian) is: "If you lose a race, that just means some guy worked harder than you."
That sounds a lot like the famous quote from another Pennsylvanian athlete known for his heavy-volume workouts:
There's only one rule: The guy who trains the hardest, the most, wins. Period. Because you won't die. Even though you feel like you'll die, you don't actually die. Like when you're training, you can always do one more. Always. As tired as you might think you are, you can always, always do one more.
The Phillies pulled off a pretty nice victory last night against the Braves to finish the homestand with a 4-2 record. I suppose that should be satisfactory to more than a few folks who like to parse every single word from every single member of the club…
Yeah, you know who I’m talking about.
Anyway, in going 4-2 the gritty Phillies have a slight advantage over the classy Braves for second place in the NL East. Better yet, at 62-55 the Phillies are three games behind the Mets in the East and one behind the Padres for the wild card. At their current pace the Phillies are heading for 86 wins, which they would do by going 24-21the rest of the way. With two consecutive series against a pair of last-place teams, the Phillies should be looking at another 4-2 week.
But let’s get to the bottom line: according to software specialist Ken Roberts’ calculations, the Phillies have a 34.9 percent chance at making the playoffs this season. However, if they continue playing at their current pace, the Phillies have a better than 50-50 chance to sneak into the playoffs. According to the math, 90 wins gets the Phillies in.
That’s 28-17 the rest of the way with games against the Dodgers, Padres and Mets looming.
This could get interesting.
Needless to say, I’m often asked if I think the Phillies can buck tradition and actually make it to the playoffs for a change. It’s a good question, so I’m going to go out on a limb and offer a prediction right here…
Ready? Here it is:
I don’t know. Logically the answer is no because the Phillies just don’t have the pitching. However, even though Adam Eaton has the worst ERA amongst the starters in all of baseball and has an ERA just shy of 10 in his last 10 starts, the Phillies are somehow 4-6 in those games. It’s hard to imagine, but things could be much, much worse.
Instead, the debate is whether the Phillies should replace Eaton in the rotation with J.D. Durbin.
Really? Who saw the coming?
So can the Phillies make the playoffs?
Sure... why not.
*** Want to know how little people cared about the Barry Bonds home run chase? According to Neil Best’s blog, the numbers indicate that only 1.1 percent of the homes that have ESPN2 tuned into the game in which Bonds hit No. 756. Conversely, 22.3 percent of all U.S. households tuned into NBC to watch when Hank Aaron hit No. 715 in 1974
According to Best, 995,000 households tuned in to see Bonds last week, while about 14.9 million watched Aaron pass Babe Ruth in ‘74. That rating would translate to about 25 million homes today, he writes.
Of course there was no proliferation of cable TV or ESPN in 1974. Plus, Bonds played a game that started too late for most east coast households to watch. Nevertheless, 1.1 percent underlies the shift in the media. According to the stats, local TV news saw a ratings drop of approximately 30 percent across the board in the last year, while newspapers have more readers now than in recent years despite a drop in hard copy sales.
Or maybe it’s Joe Morgan and Jon Miller of the ESPN announcing crew… apparently they are not too popular.
*** Everyone seemed to enjoy Antonio Alfonseca’s little leg kick after his strikeout to end the seventh inning last night… Sweet fancy Moses!
I always looked at events like Hank Aaron’s 715th home run as “where were you” moments. In that regard I can recall where I was when the ball rolled through Buckner’s legs, when Tug threw the final pitch to Willie Wilson and recently when the Red Sox finally won the World Series.
No, sports moments don’t hold the same cache as truly historical events, but it’s fun to remember the mood, time and place of certain significant sporting moments. Why not? If one is going to invest time in this stuff they might as well do it the correctly by chronicling it.
So when Hank Aaron blasted No. 715 off Al Downing in April of 1974 I was younger than my son is now. Chances are that I was fast asleep or crying or whatever it is that 2-year olds do when Babe Ruth is pushed aside for Hammering Hank.
Thirty-three years and four months after Hank beat Babe, Barry Bonds and his Body by Balco, hit home run No. 756. He did it in the one city that appeared to actually give a damn (or at least they force ticketholders to suspend all logic and rational thought before admitting them into whatever corporation holds the naming rights for that stadium now) while the rest of the sporting public yawned.
When Bonds hit the homer off the Nationals’ Mike Bacsik last night to become the all-time home run leader and officially render all baseball statistics totally and utterly worthless, I had totally forgotten that there was even a game going on in San Francisco. In fact, I was driving on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on the way home and listening to the audio book of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s, All the President’s Men. I hadn’t read the book in at least a decade and figured it was time for a refresher seeing that I fancy myself a bit of a Watergate buff.
What? You thought I’d be listening to local sports talk radio?
Anyway, I suppose there is some irony in listening to the book about the ultimate downfall of Richard Nixon while one of the most beguiled men in America was desecrating the record held by a man who is his polar opposite in nearly every way imaginable.
Other ironies? Bonds passed Hank on the fifth year anniversary of the MLBPA agreeing to (limited) drug testing in the collective bargaining agreement. Meanwhile, commissioner Bud Selig was meeting with former Senator George Mitchell regarding his investigation into baseball’s drug issue.
By the time I finally got home and flipped on the television to see if a Congressional sub-committee had held an emergency hearing to force Major League Baseball to dissolve itself, I couldn’t help but wondering one thing:
Which comes first: Bonds’ 800th home run or his indictment?
Speaking of much ado about nothing, Jimmy Rollins expanded on his quote about the Marlins’ Hanley Ramirez, which from the beginning sounded like Dontrelle Willis was having a little fun with his teammate. My guess is that it became a big deal to the scribes following around the Marlins because they have nothing else to write about.
After all, how often can Scott Olsen get arrested?
There was an interesting item out there regarding Citizens Bank Park. Apparently our little ballpark in South Philly rates tops amongst PETA’s survey of top 10 vegetarian-friendly ballparks.
PETA, of course, is the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which could mean they have an interest in vegetarianism. Frankly, I have always looked at PETA and its message as more than a little pedantic, but if it works for them, yay!
But what really interests me about this declaration is that as someone who is labeled as a vegetarian, finding something to eat amongst the waddling masses is always difficult. As a result, it was quite interesting to learn that Rick’s Steaks on Ashburn Alley offered something called a “veggie steak.” After all, it seems as if the addition of the so-called veggie steak is what lifted Citizens Bank Park from an also-ran into the top slot on PETA’s poll.
The veggie dog and flame-grilled Gardenburger were enough to earn Citizens Bank Park a place on the roster of last year's survey. But this year's addition of the Philly mock-steak sandwich--and the rave reviews it has received from vegetarians and nonvegetarians alike who pile on the grilled onions, mushrooms, peppers, and hot sauce--put the Phillies over the top. The stadium also offers vegetarian subs and wraps, tomato pizza (no cheese, please), fruit cups, salads, and, for the kids, PB&J."Citizens Bank Park's great vegetarian selection benefits both animals and the health of Phillies fans, who will be less likely to keel over from a meat-induced heart attack as they cheer Ryan Howard's next longball," says PETA Assistant Director Dan Shannon.
Look, I suppose vegetarians have to take their victories where they can find them and the “mainstreaming” of such things as veggie dogs, burgers and steaks, I suppose, is a good thing.
But truth be told, there is nothing appealing to me about “veggiefied” versions of steaks, hot dogs and burgers. In fact, I find it all a little insulting and poorly thought marketing. As someone who has made a conscious choice to be a vegetarian, I do not want to eat meat. Hard to believe, huh? That means the idea of burgers, hot dogs and steaks is not something I miss and a trumped up faux version of those things are equally undesirable.
Come on, do they really think that a veggie burger is going to make a vegetarian feel more assimilated and less of a misfit in the American culture? If so, that’s just dumb. Perhaps what the marketing wizards who came up with those ideas don’t understand is that – lean in closer here – VEGETARIANS DO NOT WANT TO EAT MEAT.
There, I said it. And if you want a list of reasons why this vegetarian chooses to be the way he is, you will have to wait or ask nicely. I’m not going to explain my choices for the same way the dude who chooses to gobble up steroid/cholesterol/fat/chemical/feces/carcass-laden dead animals doesn’t find it necessary to explain himself.
Anyway, I have tried the veggie steak and was not really impressed. Mostly that had to do with the fact that the “steak” was made of textured vegetable protein. Unlike tofu, TVP does not take the flavor of what surrounds it. Instead, it tastes like TVP no matter if it’s supposed to be chicken, steak, or duck.
But just like a cheesesteak, the veggie steak has the onions, cheese, roll and grease, which isn’t exactly a drawing card, either. Frankly, a person would be better off just getting a jumbo grilled cheese… that is if they are not vegan.
Sadly, what has been missed in the novelty of the veggie steak is that Planet Hoagie, also on Ashburn Alley, offers a veggie hoagie, which – get this – consists of vegetables.
Imagine that! Vegetarians might want to eat vegetables!
Without the TVP, the veggie hoagie has eggplant as the base and other sandwich-type vegetables that make it quite hearty. It is a little oily, but at least it’s Omega-3 type oil instead of basic cheese-type grease. Baring that, rumor is there is cheese-less pizza around the park, or better yet, drive up to Tony Luke’s on Oregon and Front and get the Uncle Mike – it’s served vegan or non-vegan style.
I wonder if the folks from PETA have ever been to Tony Luke’s?
Bob Barker's vegan enchilada bake (per Esquire)
• 12 oz frozen vegan burger-style crumbles (Morningstar Farms' work well)
• 1 packet taco seasoning
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
• 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 1 cup low-sodium vegetable stock
• 2 cans black or pinto beans, rinsed
• 2 cans enchilada sauce
• 1 bag corn or flour tortillas
• 3 cups vegan cheddar cheese, shredded
• One 4-ounce can green chiles
• 1 small bag of Fritos, crushed
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees; spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with Pam.
2. In a bowl, coat crumbles with seasoning.
3. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat; add scallions; cook 3 minutes. Stir in flour; cook 1 minute.
4. Add stock; stir 1 minute.
5. Stir in beans; set aside.
6. Cover bottom of pan with enchilada sauce.
7. Place one tortilla layer over sauce; pour bean mixture on top.
8. Follow with a third of the cheese and half the chiles.
9. Add more enchilada sauce and another tortilla layer.
10. Add burger crumbles, more cheese, the remaining chiles, and enchilada sauce.
11. End with the remaining tortillas, enchilada sauce, and cheese.
12. Cover with foil; bake 30 minutes.
13. Remove foil; sprinkle Fritos on top.
14. Pop back in the oven for 15 minutes.
Serve with vegan sour cream. Reheats in the toaster oven really well. My wife made this for me on Monday without the fritos. It was pretty damn good.