Basically from the moment I was brought into this world, I was a Phillies fan, watching, listening and taking in every pitch I could. And since my birth some 27-plus years ago, the majority of fellow Phillies fans I've come across all have one thing above all else in common: their dislike of Chris Wheeler.
To be perfectly honest with you, I've never really been a part of that contingent. Don't get me wrong, the guy certainly can be grating, but I've never really had a problem with Wheels. Maybe it's because he's a Penn State grad, I don't know. To me, he's far and away the best guy on the TV broadcast these days, since we've gone nearly a decade and a half without Whitey and now sadly with no Harry.
Tom McCarthy is the one who draws my ire the most, mainly because he's absolutely terrible at his job and feigns what feels like forced excitement over just about everything. And as much as I like Sarge as a person, he adds absolutely nothing of substance to a broadcast. I often find myself wondering what the hell the Phillies brass was thinking putting that guy on TV.
OK, that was pretty awesome
I've never really felt that way about Chris Wheeler. The man certainly knows his baseball. He's been around the game forever and you can truly sense his love for baseball. However, I completely understand why he annoys so many people. His insistence on explaining the no-doubles defense every single time a team employs it. His often smug, know-it-all attitude. His irrational "old man" hate of Brandon Phillips. His embarrassingly horrible rug. Hell, even the late, great Harry Kalas notoriously didn't get along with Wheels. The man certainly can wear on you, and the entire Philadelphia Phillies fan base can and will attest to that.
Last night he went into one of those annoying, beat-you-over-the-head-with-it type of rants, and it really began to annoy the hell out of me. If you watched the Phils' 10-2 victory last night in St. Louis, you should know exactly what part of the game I'm talking about.
In the top of the 7th inning, the Phillies trailed 1-0 with Roy Halladay throwing yet another excellent game (though he got himself in trouble with the run he gave up by getting the ball up) but the bats completely silent. How silent? To that point, the Phils only had two hits in the game off Kyle McLellan, and only had one runner even get as far as second base.
Placido Polanco, who really, really is struggling in the five hole ever since his grand slam a couple weeks ago, grounded out. Then Raul Ibanez walked, followed by a fly out to center by Domonic Brown. Here's where I began to get extremely annoyed with Wheels and Tom McCarthy.
When Brown flied out, Charlie Manuel got Michael Stutes up in the bullpen, just as he should have. Carlos Ruiz was up with 2 outs, with the pitcher spot on deck. If Manuel didn't get anyone up and have a pitcher ready, McClellan would have no reason at all to pitch to Ruiz, leaving it up to the very light-hitting Roy Halladay to get a two-out hit to tie it. You can't do that. The Phillies, as I said, had only had one player all game reach second base and had only two hits on the night. If Ruiz got on, the Phils absolutely had to pinch-hit for Halladay. This was a no-brainer. It was the 7th inning, the Phils were down a run, and the offense had been dormant all night. They couldn't let an RBI opportunity slip through their fingers. They just couldn't. 100 times out of 100, no matter how well your pitcher is doing, you must have someone ready so you can pinch-hit if the pitcher spot comes up.
Despite that all, Wheeler made a huge, huge stink about it, saying this is a really tough decision, saying he didn't think Charlie would pinch-hit for Halladay, almost exacerbated that Manuel would dare take out Roy Halladay after only going 6 innigns and surrendering just 1 run. He did qualify that by saying "sometimes managers will do this on the road trailing in the 7th." No, not sometimes. All the time. 100 percent of the time. Unless the pitcher is Carlos Zambrano or CC Sabathia or maybe even Cliff Lee, a guy who can actually handle the bat. Roy Halladay is not one of those guys. He's a terrible hitter.
Yet McCarthy and especially Wheels kept going on about, making a big deal about it as if there was a real decision to be made, almost questioning Charlie's decision. And it continued when Ruiz ripped a single up the middle to put runners on second and first with 2 outs, and Manuel rightfully sent out Ross Gload in Halladay's place. I honestly couldn't believe they were beating this dead horse into the ground, especially when Charlie made the absolutely correct, no-brainer decision. That is exactly why people in this city despise Chris Wheeler. He was so smug that even when he was wrong and probably knew he was wrong, he kept pushing his point home. Just shut the fuck up about it already!
Oh, by the way, Gload came through big time, smoking a single to left to score Raul Ibanez and tie the game — though we know that was even close. For some bizarre reason, Ruiz kept running from second toward third before checking where the cutoff was, and he got tagged out so quickly that I wasn't quite sure he had given Ibanez enough time to score. Luckily he did, but it was an awful base-running play by Chooch. Not only did he nearly cost the Phils the tying run and cost Gload an RBI, but he ended the inning, not giving Rollins a chance to put the Phils ahead. Jimmy would have had another late-inning RBI chance with Ruiz on second and most like Michael Martinez pinch-running for Gload on first.
Regardless, the Phils tied the game with Manuel doing exactly what every manager on the planet would do, because it's the right thing to do. Though it didn't help to quiet Wheels and McCarthy when Michael Stutes came in and had one of his ugliest outings since being called up. Stutes struggled with his command, missing high with just about everything, and gave the lead right back. Though he limited the damage, and we all saw what happened in the 8th.
Shane Victorino got things going with a one-out single, and then the wheels came completely off for the Cardinals and Tony La Russa. La Russa went to veteran lefty Trevor Miller to start the 8th with the top of the order up for the Phils. Miller got Rollins to fly out, then surrendered the single to Victorino and walked Chase Utley. Then Tony La Russa did something only Tony La Russa would do, because Tony La Russa is an asshole.
Presumably, La Russa brought in the left-handed Miller mainly to face Utley and Ryan Howard. Or so it seemed. Because after Miller walked Utley, La Russa yanked him … for a hard-throwing righthander named Jason Motte. This time Wheels and McCarthy were rightly baffled, as was everyone else watching the game. And the move wound up backfiring big time, to say the least.
Motte hit Howard with a pitch to load the bases, then hit Polanco with a pitch to force in the tying run. But it didn't just force in the tying run, it hit Polanco right on the hand, forcing him to leave the game. Not good. Hopefully he'll be OK.
That was it for Motte, but not for the Phils. The St. Louis relievers just completely imploded, undoing all the brilliant work starter Kyle McLellan had done in keeping the Phils' offense down. After Ibanez struck out for out No. 2 when La Russa brought in his other lefty (seriously, he had another lefty but put in a righty to face Howard), Charlie pinch-hit for Dom Brown with Ben Francisco. This is where we thought the inning would end, and by we I mean myself and Adam EatShit.
Right when Francisco was sent in, I received this text from Adam:
Let dom hit. This is fruitless
I agreed. Then all Francisco did was single to left, plating Utley to give the Phils the lead. From there, the carousel was on. Miguel Batista came in to relieve the lefty, and he walked Curbball to bring in Howard. Michael Martinez came in to hit for Stutes and Batista walked him as well, making it 5-2. Then Jimmy singled to plate Francisco and Ruiz. Out went Batista, in came the hard-throwing youngster Cleto … who proceeded to walk to Victorino. Then Utley followed with a single to plate Martinez and Jimmy, and Howard singled to plate Victorino before it was all said and done.
The Phils plated 9 in the 8th, as the genius Tony La Russa's genius move backfired like a motherfucker. Honestly, who the hell lifts a left-handed specialist in favor of a hard-throwing righty to face Ryan Howard? An idiot, that's who. You got what you deserved La Russa.
That's the thing Chris Wheeler should have been harping on last night. And while he did mention it, he seemed to be much more conflicted on Charlie's wise decision in the 7th. That's a prime example of why Chris Wheeler annoys Phillies fans.
Though he's not nearly as annoying as Tony La Russa.