Joe Blanton: Pardon Me, Do You Have Any Gray Poupon?

Last December, my little nephew had a speech impediment and a very specific list. A total boy and a Toy Story fan since birth, he spouted his Christmas wish as only he could:

“I want a big fruck an’ Woody.”

Okay, maybe that’s not funny. Maybe there’s nothing funny about the 7-4 ninth inning loss soured by a New York rally that yanked the turf out from under Citizens Bank Park. If you didn’t see it, that’s when the regular season Brad Lidge reared his ugly head like a double agent twist in a James Bond movie.

I’ll admit. I didn’t see that coming.

My husband calls him “Lights Gone Out” Lidge. Could be. It was definitely a dark scene.

Honestly, I thought the rash would be in the Phightin’s bats, with an annoying itch in the bullpen. But even in my worst nightmares I never imagined “Two-Run Lidge” would come down with the plague.

I think the problem is, 2008 was an amazing season. It had a fairy tale charm that climaxed against a Cinderella team. Like a Disney movie, everything we needed, we got. The top of our lineup hustled to keep up with a bottom as fine as Shane’s behind, pitchers pitched better, batters hit farther, and even without gratuitous chest shots, unsuspecting heroes took the main stage for the feel good movie of the year. But in this series, there have been moments of true inspiration but at no time has the team fired on all cylinders.

Bar one. I’d like to pull back the curtain on the booth housing Ruben “The Great Oz” Amaro, Jr. and say, “Pardon me, do you have any more Cliff Lees?”

Last night’s three run loss didn’t feel like one. The Phillies stayed in the game in spite of the error pinned on Raul Ibanez that wasn’t an error, or Joe Blanton’s performance that wasn’t Cliff Lee’s, or CC’s pants that look like he dresses in the dark.

Ryan Howard hit his way on base, stole second unopposed, and then scored without ever touching home plate.

Wow, I’ve never had that happen to me. And you thought this wasn’t a fairy tale.

The Phils only had one less hit than the Yanks, Charlie Manuel’s bandage matched his skin color perfectly, Derek Jeter didn’t earn his first RBI of the series until the fifth inning, and both teams left seven good men on base. But the Yankees got the bargains they needed like the perfect yard sale, especially when Johnny Damon’s heads-up baseball earned him the best baserunning performance of the night on his unopposed steal of third.

I’ve never had anyone take third base without a warning.

Who am I kidding?

Then, in the bottom of the eight, the Philadelphia boys who earned more come-from-behind wins than any other team in the National League, made a break for it. But not until after Jayson Werth—the white-hot hope—struck out and was followed by another lame at-bat by Raul Ibanez. That’s when Pedro Feliz, who got it in gear in Game Two, shifted into overdrive. Suddenly, we thought we had ourselves a convoy.

But like my husband said, our only rally was in the towels.

Then he said, “Please put in Scotty Eyre.” He prefers a jelly-bellied leftie with a bone chip in his elbow to a closer who grew an Amish beard for the series.

But after two quick Lidge outs, I could taste the third.
I had a big fruck an’ Woody.

Then… game over. Wow, that was anticlimactic.

So why did the Yankee bats that at times struggled coming into this series suddenly find their fire? Maybe it’s in their water. If it is, that’s because it flows gold like liquid Steinbrenner.

The Bombers can be as stone cold as a pack of genetically modified wolves, stalking from the shadows until they sense a weakness and pounce. But even they lost 59 games; even they lost to the Nationals. Every team has an Achilles heel. Their truncated three-man rotation has just come as close as possible to bridging the gap to Mariano Rivera.

Hey look, Oprah’s gone nuts for corndogs!

Okay, maybe that’s not funny. But it wouldn’t hurt to smile. Smiling’s my favorite.

They said a World Series between the Dodgers and the Yankees would have been the series of the century, restoring the public’s interest in a game recently tainted by steroid use.

Let’s not be fans who taint the public’s interest in the game any further.

I love the Phillies but I’m in love with the game of baseball. And if you’re reading this blog, you probably are too.

Let’s act like it.

Go Phils!


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