Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Post Season

Wait, wait, what?  There's still post-season baseball going on?  But the two best teams in baseball are done, so that doesn't make any sense.  What do you mean there's port-season baseball?

What it means is that there were a couple of young, hungry teams, who played as if every single out were an elimination out, and they proved that a lot of heart can overcome staunch professionalism and experience.  The Phillies (I'm not going to talk about the Yankees, because they are beneath contempt, and there's no shortage of New Yorkers to do their post-mortem) spent a season doggedly pursuing their only stated goal: the World Series.  Despite injuries, a shallow bullpen, and odd managing choices, the Phillies did what they needed to do: win 2 out of 3 games, over the course of 162 games.  They did it professionally, which is to say, like any good businessmen, they put on their suits, they clocked in, and did what they were supposed to.  But... oh, but for that one big question...

Were their hearts in it?

It sure didn't seem that way for most of the season.  When mid-season trade Hunter Pence is the only guy looking like he's having any fun, that should be a signal to the manager that something's wrong.  The team has now morphed into a group of paycheck players who have been hired to win a world championship, and every move the "employees" make seems to have that unspoken job performance rating attached: if I don't win will I be playing for the Phillies next year?  When you're worried more about what you stand to lose than what you stand to gain, you're never going to beat the teams that play like they have nothing to lose.

Worse yet, you're not going to have any fun.

It's tiring watching a group of overpaid guys play a game -- a sporting game, but a game nonetheless -- and have them wear their grim professionalism ALL THE TIME.  Why?  What's to be grumpy about?  They are the few, the chosen ones for whom genetics and circumstances have allowed a perpetual childhood playing America's greatest game, and they're unhappy?  If your heart's not in it, if every game isn't the World Series and a sandlot game combined in your head, then it's time to walk off the field.

As the Phillies endure the long, cold winter, and shuffle the chips around in search of the dynasty that almost was, they need to consider that fun is what it's really supposed to be about.  The fans don't want to see emotionless robots on the field, we want to see a team.  And when it costs over $100 for a family to go see a game, even in the cheap seats, you owe us not just a team that's playing the odds over the 162-game spread, but a team that plays as if every game is the last, with the joy and fierceness of champions.

It is, after all, baseball.