The Phillies, finally, have figured out how to misdirect (read: lie) everyone without tipping their hand. Oh sure, in this particular instance there were plenty of clues as well as the proverbial writing on the wall, but when pushed and shoved and asked all the probing questions, the Phillies stayed on message, stuck to the story and never wavered.
Boy how things have changed. How so? Well, there was a time – back in 2004, I suppose – where Jim Thome was held out of a game and then not used in a late-inning, pinch-hitting situation against a right-handed pitcher even though the tying runs were on base and a home run could have won it for the Phillies. When pressed on why he didn’t use Thome in that particular situation, manager Larry Bowa tersely answered that his slugger was “unavailable.” Time and time again Bowa repeated those words… “He was unavailable.” Or, “I told you he was unavailable.”
Over and over again, like a broken record, he spoke.
But upon some reflection, Bowa slowly and thoughtfully sauntered back into the clubhouse, called over the writers as he propped himself up on the table in the middle of the room and waited for a few stragglers to gather around.
Then he confessed.
I know, Larry Bowa.
Bowa just didn’t feel right about hiding Thome’s injury and used the notion that the opposition would read the stories and use that knowledge in an attempt to expose the slugger’s weakness. After all, ballplayers do not talk amongst themselves and rely on the daily coverage from the press for their information for all of the happenings around Major League Baseball. Nevertheless, Bowa couldn’t keep the secret, though, like any self-respecting baseball manager, he blamed the press the same way Ol’ Man Johnson did with “those meddling kids” in the Scooby Doo cartoons.
"I would have gotten away with keeping Thome on the bench if it wasn't for you muckracking little newshounds... drat!"
In the caper of Tom “Flash” Gordon and his meddlesome shoulder, however, Charlie Manuel never charted off message. When his closer was spotted at the Tampa International Airport waiting to board a plane back to Philadelphia, Manuel and the rest of the Phillies’ brass stuck to the script.
“He’s just going back for a routine check-up,” they said. “Nothing to worry about.”
Nah. Gordon had to have his arm checked out during his first spring training with the Phillies and went on to have a first half worthy of an All-Star nod. At the time the news of the check-up conjured up images of Mike Jackson and the 2000 Phillies. Remember that? Think of where the Phillies would have ended up that season if they didn’t have Jeff Brantley… wait, 2000? Never mind.
But, when Gordon stumbled out of the gates, blowing three save chances in April and complaining about his strength and inability to through his curve with his normal panache, the Phillies followed the lines.
“Gordon still has good stuff,” they said. “The fact he's gotten hit is the location of the pitches he's thrown.”
When Brett Myers, the Opening Day starter, was bumped out of the rotation and into the role of set-up man for Gordon, the answers remained the same. Myers to the ‘pen? It was just a way of shoring up the team’s weakness. Why would anyone think anything different?
“Gordon is our closer and we're committed to him until Brett becomes better,” they said.
So wouldn’t you know it that after Gordon’s first perfect inning of the season for a save in Tuesday’s victory in Atlanta that everything would come unhinged? The day after that outing, where he got a pop out and a pair of strikeouts for his fifth save, Gordon told leading bulldog and Delawarean, Scott Lauber, that his shoulder wasn't feeling so good and that probably wouldn't be able to pitch regularly until it starts to feel better.
After the game, and nearly past the deadline for most of the newspaper writers in Atlanta, Manuel finally revealed the truth. Gordon was hurt with an injury similar to the one that sidelined him for most of last August. Gordon, 39, reportedly could miss significant time.
“Since spring training, I’ve been concerned about Flash,” Manuel told the writers late last night.
“He was sore in spring training when we kind of shut him down,” Manuel told the writers last night. “He was a little stiff and sore.”
“I don’t want to speculate,” he told the scribes. “Hell, I’m not a doctor.”
“I'm sure Brett will get some opportunities to close,” he revealed to the writers.
Uh, yeah. Anyway, as his teammates headed for a charter flight to the coast where they open a four-game series against the Giants tonight, Gordon jetted back to Philadelphia to be examined – again – by team physician, Dr. Michael Ciccotti. When he returns is anyone’s guess.
More: Phillies lose game and Gordon
Even more: Ouch! Gordon ailing as Phils fall again
Sweeps week bonus coverage: Gordon out, Myers in