With a week to let the sting of the World Series wear off — I still have a hard time accepting the World Series MVP being a goddamn designated hitter, even if that Shemp-looking dude killed us — I’d like to present to ye Fightins fans my third annual Phillies Year In Photos. If you’re into such a thing, the 2007 NL East Team To Beat is HERE, and the 2008 WFCs are HERE. This year, the 2009 National League Champs are a The Fightins Dot Com exclusive.
The reason for this is . . . well, my site, Philly Skyline Dot Com (no relation), has been put on the shelf; in less than a month, I’m trading in my Phillies season tickets for the green hills of Portland, Oregon. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to start rooting for the Padres’ AAA Beavers.) I’ll still tune into Franzke and LA on the MLB At Bat phone app and religiously read The Fightins and Beerleaguer and The 700 Level, but I’m going to really miss going to games and getting annoyed with Tom McCarthy’s nonstop chatter on TV and just generally getting wrapped up in Phillies baseball.
The 2009 season was almost the magical ending to my nine-year run of riding the Broad Street Subway to the last stop, from the early days of dollar dogs with the Wolf Pack and Padilla’s Flotilla, to the dominance of Cliff Lee that wasn’t quite enough. Que sera sera. The 2008 season and parade are one of my life’s all time great memories — we’ll always have that — and this year was pretty great too, even if it ended two games too soon, and with A-Rod getting a ring.
Coming off the city’s first sports championship in 25 years, Phillies fans were mad hyped for the season to start, straight out of the gate in spring training. Chan Ho Park and JA Happ battled for the fifth spot before they both settled in comfortably; John Mayberry Jr made a name for himself before ultimately fizzling out. The On-Deck Series featured a rematch with the Rays and Pat Burrell Recognition Night — we recognize you, Pat! — where he stole a freaking base off of Chad Durbin and took Cole Hamels yard the next night.
The regular season started on ESPN’s Sunday Night primetime game, with ridiculous hoopla and player introductions and gold trimmed unis. It could have been an omen if the Phillies weren’t so resilient and their new guy Raul Ibañez didn’t carry them on his back for the early part of the season.
Matt Stairs crushed another late-inning moon shot in Denver, providing Harry the K’s last homerun call. Harry’s death the next day in Washington shocked and saddened us all, and the Phils were quick to wear his memory on their heart for the rest of the season. We all wondered the following weekend how he would have called Raul’s walk-off homerun against the Padres (where McCarthy bumbled through it).
Yet another interleague interlude rolled around, and yet again the Phillies shit the bed. Remember that 13 inning travesty against the Red Sox? Greg Dobbs’ shot clearly went over the foul pole, which should have ended that game right then and there in the 9th with a W. Swept at home by the Blue Jays (without even facing Halladay). Swept at home by the Orioles (without even facing Eaton). At least the series in The Bronx was a success; had it not been for Brad Lidge’s 9th inning homerun offering in the second game to A-Rod, the Phils would have swept. Although I’m somewhat grateful he did; if the third game of that series had not been the rubber match — the Sunday marquee matinee, Hamels vs Sabathia — I might not have bitten the StubHub bullet and gone up there to enjoy the padded leather seats of the $1.5B Steinbrennerian Monument.
Jimmy Rollins’ June swoon was so awful, he earned himself a spot on the bench for four straight games. But he heated up in July with a slump-bustin’ 3-for-4 in the franchise record (for margin of victory) 22-1 trouncing of the Reds. Jayson Werth wrapped that game up with a grand slam, one of 36 dingers in the dude’s breakout season. The following series brought the pitiful Pirates to town, who hammered Hamels early, only to give the game back with 5 runs off of Matt Capps, including Stairs’ rally starter, a three run bomb by Ryan Howard, and Paul Bako’s walk-off single. (This game was also the only known instance of The Fightins, The 700 Level, Walkoff Walk, Philadelphia Will Do and Philly Skyline all in the same place at the same time.) That was right around the time the Phils said goodbye to the previous Bako, Chris Coste. Vaya con Dios, Costie.
After the Phils-heavy All Star Game, the team settled in and readied itself for the postseason by adding Pedro Martinez and Cliff Lee, with Ruben Amaro calling the shots and holding onto Michael Taylor, Kyle Drabek and Domonic Brown. Those three prospects each had killer seasons, solidifying their Major League futures, be it with the Phillies or as a prized bargaining chip.
While there was plenty to make us cringe — JC Romero’s
eyebrows bullshit suspension, Brad Lidge’s post-perfection meltdown, Cole Hamels’ endless, emasculating ads (Comcast, ESPN The Magazine, MLB Merchandise — “who are you?” — D’Ambrosio Chevrolet, Peanut Chews, Two Liberty Place), there were far more moments that will find themselves on the ’09 highlight reel. Werth’s steal of home against the Dodgers . . . Eric Bruntlett’s game-ending unassisted triple play against the Mets . . . Pedro’s outdueling of Tim Lincecum . . . Happ’s complete game shutouts of the Blue Jays and Rockies . . . Jamie Moyer’s 250th win and his bullpen demotion . . . Werth’s 13th inning walk-off HR against the Cubs after Chan Ho’s bullpen mastery . . . Tyler Walker’s sweatiness . . . Sergio Escalona’s and Antonio Bastardo’s ups and downs between South Philly and Allentown/Reading . . . Utley’s Corner at CitiField . . . the little girl who threw her daddy’s foul ball over the railing . . . RyHo’s continued Ruth-like power numbers . . . the best fans in baseball.
The postseason highlight reel was no slouch, either. “Fuck yeah, Jimmy.” Cliff Lee. “Get me to the plate, boys.” Lidge 2, Tulowitzki 0. Later, Rockies.
Pedro-Padilla. 11-0, game 3. Cliff Lee. Stairs-Broxton, the rematch. Jimmy’s unbelievable walk-off double and Franzke’s inspired radio call of it. Ryan Howard, meet Lou Gehrig. Werth and Feliz, yard. Later, Dodgers.
And though the World Series ended better for the other pinstripes, it was still a good one for baseball, clearly the two best teams in the game, the first to go 6 games in six years. Cliff Lee’s hohum catch and behind the back play, Chase Utley’s Reggie-matching homeruns, Chooch’s Señor Octubre performance . . . but also A-Rod’s camera-homerun, Johnny Damon’s double-steal, Matsui’s 6 RBIs . . . can’t win em all, I suppose.
All told, though, 2009 was a fantastic season for the Phillies, one that will without question whet the appetites for a 2010 run. Who will play third — Figgins? Feliz? Who will boost Lee in the rotation — Halladay? Lackey? Who will come off the bench — DeRosa? Stairs? Taylor? We shall see.
That’s all what’s next. Once more for 2009, though, here are exactly 100 photos for you. They’re all saved at 300 dpi for 4×6 printing, so if that’s something you’re interested in, just click on the photo in question to open the Flickr page and help yourself.
Thanks for the memories Phillies, and you too Fightins. I’ll see you next year from the west coast.
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