‘High Hopes’: Here’s to a Phillies victory
Guest commentary by Chris DiNardo
For the first time since “Rocky III,” a Philadelphia athletic icon is trying to defend a title.
Last year’s World Series-winning team, a club that brought the first major championship to Philadelphia since 1983, brought an electric atmosphere to the city, but I can’t help but feel a little more excitement now that we are the reigning champions.
I want another parade. I want to join more than half my classmates on Broad Street on a school day, waving rally towels and cheering on the Fightin’ Phils.
The key players are all there: Chase Utley, the best second baseman in the game, Ryan Howard, one of the only home run threats every time he steps to the plate, Shane Victorino, last year’s playoff hero, and newcomer Cliff Lee, who challenged Michael Vick for the biggest impact by a Philadelphia pick-up upon joining the Phillies in July.
The offense led the league in runs and the starting pitchers showed up when we needed them. We found a way to win no matter what: on the bat of Paul Bako, the speed of Jayson Werth, or the arm of J.A. Happ.
That winning spirit cannot falter, whether trailing in a series or playing on the road, and only one obstacle stands in the way: the bullpen.
The combination of Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson, which combined to keep the Phillies undefeated last year when leading after eight innings, has broken down this season.
Combined, they have blown 17 saves this year. Fans are calling for everyone from Happ to Pedro Martinez to close and have left very little trust in the pen’s ability to relieve or in manager Charlie Manuel’s ability to utilize them.
I am optimistic, however cautiously, in the Phillies’ ability. I want to be singing “High Hopes” along with a recording of Harry Kalas at the end of the Fall Classic.
I want to hear Chase Utley drop another colorful word between “World” and “Champions” during his parade speech. I want to win. I want success. I want another Philadelphia championship. Luckily, for the Fightin’ Phils, unlike Rocky, Mr. T doesn’t stand in the way.
Printed originally on p. 22 of The Spoke’s Oct. 16, 2009 issue.