Based on these beliefs, it is clear that someone with the Phillies messed up. Somehow that delicate equilibrium was disturbed in such a way that the team is caught in an epic hitting slump that should carry a parental warning before the television broadcast.
WARNING: Children with the slightest interest in baseball should leave the room when the Phillies come to bat. Please, think of the children. Self-masochists only.
No, the Phillies recent bit of suckitude is not for the weak. They have scored 10 runs in the last nine games, including a game where they scored an unearned run and won thanks to Roy Halladay’s perfect game. During the current road trip the team went from second in the league in batting average to sixth and from second to ninth in runs scored.
But thank those baseball gods for Halladay. With Mr. Perfecto leading the way with five complete games and three shutouts, the Phils lead the National League with six complete games and have a solid, staff wide ERA of 3.68.
So for a club that has been at the top or just off the top spot in runs scored and homers since 2004, a solid pitching staff ought to be about all she wrote, huh? The NL East ought to just about wrapped up by now, right?
Not so fast. The Phillies kick off June just as they started May… in second place. That’s just the way it goes for a bunch of hitters that have been shut out six times and lost another six games when the opposition scored four runs or fewer. Meanwhile, the Phillies have won eight games by scoring just four runs or less.
The question now is who disturbed the baseball gods, and how do they make amends?
Oh, there are theories for both questions. One of the biggest theories floated around is since Mick Billmeyer was caught with binoculars in the bullpen in Colorado, the team just hasn’t been the same. That may be nothing more than a coincidence considering Billmeyer was convincing with his stance that nothing untoward was happening, leaving it with the caveat that he wouldn’t do it unless he knew he could get away with it.
Besides, there is no way to relay the signs to the hitters with just a pair of binoculars from the bullpen. Sorry to say, but Mick just isn’t sharp enough to pull that off and that’s no knock in the bullpen coach. No one is sharp enough.
So that fact that the Phillies are hitting just .237 and averaging a little more than three runs a game since Billmeyer was “caught looking,” is just one of those funny little coincidences. And even though the slump has been about two weeks, manager Charlie Manuel says it feels like forever.
“It seems like it’s been months,” Manuel said. “Something’s got to break for us.”
Not ha-ha funny, though. Instead that’s where theories on how to break free of the swoon and decades of tried-and-true superstition come in.
Oh yes, the Phillies need a slump buster…
We’ve heard ballplayers talk about specific ways to break a slump, but they would require another parental warning to describe here. Or, as Shane Victorino once so delicately put it, the Phillies need to find a “500-pound chick.”
Yeah. There’s that.
No one needs to be told that of all the superstitious athletes, baseball players are the superstious-ish. Sure, Jimmy Rollins has been hurt and Placido Polanco needs a few days off after an MRI. The Phillies slump very well could end when the regular lineup is together and back in place. It really could be as simple as that.
But baseball players don’t think that way. They can’t even rationalize it. Though a patch-work lineup and some injuries could be the culprit for the swoon, ballplayers are going to take some extra batting practice, look at some video and then hit the town in order to entertain a plus-sized lady after the ballgame. The most integral part of the equation is the evening out with a certain type of lady.
Look, no one is arguing that baseball players aren’t pigs. We get it. The problem is the Phillies are in Atlanta for the next couple of days, which rates very low in the Men’s Health magazine’s list of “fattest cities.” Conversely, Philadelphia usually rates very high in these types of rankings. If fattest city rankings were like Major League Baseball, Philly would be like the Yankees or Red Sox—some years they are the best, but they’re always hanging around.
In other words, if you see one of the Phillies out on the town during the next week or so, just leave him alone because he’s working on his swing.