Monday, October 3, 2011

No Lead Is Ever Safe, Especially for the Eagles

In general, people grow tired of hearing sports cliche after sports cliche. But there's a reason cliches are uttered by coaches, managers and athletes over and over again — because they often are true. This weekend leant credence to one of the oldest cliches in the book: No lead is ever safe.

Not a 16-3 lead against a conference doormat. Not a 3-0 lead in the first inning on the road. Not a 20-3 halftime lead at home. And not a 4-0 lead with one of your aces on the mound.

Everything started to unravel on Saturday as I put myself through the torture that was watching Penn State take on Indiana. It was a terrifying game in which Penn State trailed freakin Indiana for most of the first half and went in at halftime tied 3-3.

While the defense was awesome almost all game, making the 16-3 lead seem like 50-3, Indiana found a way to finally move the ball downfield and score a touchdown, making it a six-point game. Honestly, Penn State could have easily lost that game and it was just more of the same. The quarterbacks stink. Both of them. Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden are both terrible, and they're both getting worse because the coaching staff won't let one develop. Even when they make a good play, like McGloin's 74-yard touchdown pass to Derek Moye, it was the wrong throw. Moye was actually covered, while the tight end had no one within 20 yards of him over the middle. Worked out, but still, these guys stink.

I'm not even going to waste any more of my breath on this game other than to say I hate pretty much everyone on the team right now except for Devon Still and Justin Brown. This is just a bad football that also happens to be terribly coached. It's going to be extremely painful here as the Big Ten season is underway.

Here is what can be loosely described as the highlights.

I really shouldn't have even bothered watching that travesty of a football game.

And things went from ugly to bad in the first inning of the Phillies game. Roy Halladay continued his strange trend of being exponentially worse in the first inning than he is in every other inning, giving up a leadoff single to Rafael Furcal, walking Albert Pujols and then giving Lance Berkman a hanger, which he quickly deposited in the rightfield seats. It was just like the last time Doc faced the Cards, with Furcal hitting the first pitch and Berkman blasting a home run.

Making it infinitely worse, Adam EatShit was going off the deep end of despair, proclaiming the series all but lost. Thankfully Roy and the Phils did not maintain that same mentality.

As frustrating as it was watching Kyle Lohse deal, you could see Halladay flip a switch and bear down. After that first inning, Halladay went out and retired 23 of the next 24 batters he faced, including 21 in a row.

After the Phils scratched one out against Lohse in the 4th, you got the feeling something good was going to happen, and boy did it ever. With Doc rolling, the offense got a jolt of energy with that run in the 4th, and Jimmy Rollins got things kickstarted in the 6th with a leadoff single. After Chase struck out, Hunter Pence singled and we all started to get really excited with Ryan Howard at the plate.

What happened next is exactly why the Phillies overpaid for the big man. Howard worked one of the best at-bats of his entire career, laying off bad pitches, fouling off a great changeup to stay alive with two strikes, and then finally murdering a baseball to the upper deck to put the Phillies ahead 4-3.

All five of us in the room leapt from out seats and began bouncing around, with Adam tossing me back down into my seat. That's why Ryan gets paid the big bucks. One incredible at-bat and a gigantic blast completely changed the complexion of the game. Just like that, the 3-run deficit was erased and now turned into a one-run lead. Two batters later, Raul Ibanez emphatically put the game away.

The Phils put a five-spot up in that sixth and never looked back, tacking on 3 more in the 7th and two more in the 8th to take game 1 pretty easily. After that shaky first inning, Halladay was as good as he's ever been, finishing with 8 innings pitched, 3 hits, 8 strikeouts and just one walk. The only troubling thing after that first was Michael Stutes struggling with a big lead, but Ryan Madson made sure no major damage could be done.

The top of the order was on fire, with Jimmy (2-for-4, 3 runs), Chase (3-for-5, 3 runs), Hunter (2-for-5, 2 runs, 2 RBI), Ryan (1-for-3, 4 RBI), Shane (3-for-4, 1 run, 2 RBI) and Raul (2-for-4, 1 run, 3 RBI) absolutely destroying the baseball. It certainly was a nice way to get the postseason started.

Unfortunately, the good times wouldn't last in Philadelphia. Minutes before the Eagles were set to kick off against the Niners, I received a terrible omen. My arch nemesis was being honored prior to the game as the hometown hero. Right away, when Arkansas Fred texted me about it, I told him the Eagles were definitely going to lose. I just had no idea it would happen by them blowing a 20-3 halftime lead.

Kulp said it best, there's really no point wasting too much energy rehashing the same terrible mistakes this team keeps making.

Michael Vick was phenomenal, passing for a career-high 416 yards, but the Eagles wasted that effort with poor execution, terrible turnovers, penalties and atrocious defense. Alex Henery missed two kicks under 40 yards that would have extended the lead and probably iced the game. No kicker in the NFL should ever miss any kick under 40 yards barring extenuating circumstances like hurricane conditions or 50 mph winds, let alone two. Henery was drafted precisely to avoid misses like that. He failed miserably.

Though not as bad as Ronnie Brown, inexplicably trying to throw a ball as he was swallowed by tacklers down near the goal line, instead fumbling it away. This team's red zone ineptitude has reached new heights.

And the defense, well what more can you say about it? Jason Babin has been great, but no one else on the team has at all. The linebackers are all special teamers. Nnamdi has been a huge disappointment. They can't stop the run. They can't hold leads, which is conceivably what this defense was built to do with the talented corners and good pass rush. And Juan Castillo is clearly ill-equipped to make the proper adjustments. The Eagles are a bad, bad football team right now. In fact, watching them is like watching a bizarro Penn State with the same results.

The offense is talented and explosive, but the defense sucks horribly, the inverse of the Nittany Lions. But they do have a few things in common: they are terrible in the red zone, they shoot themselves in the foot, they get outcoached every week and they are incredibly painful to watch. Rooting for Penn State and the Eagles is incredibly hard to do right now.

Honestly, the best part about football this weekend was hearing the guy near the microphone absolutely killing Ronnie Brown, yelling at him nonstop that he is terrible, asking what he was thinking, and finally my favorite, "I HOPE YOU GET CUT!"

Also, Jim Mora is horrible at calling a football game and sounds like he's never even watched football before. No wonder he was such a terrible head coach.

Oh yeah, and Shady. He's really good. You should probably find a way to hand the ball off to LeSean McCoy more than 9 times, especially when you have a 17-point lead in the second half, seeing as he is the best player on this team and all. God I hate my football teams right now.

At least the Phillies were there to lift our spirits in the nightcap … initially, anyway. The Phils jumped all over Chris Carpenter in the first two innings to spot Cliff Lee a 4-0 lead thanks to Tony La Russa being an asshole.

Carpenter just threw a complete game on Wednesday to get St. Louis into the playoffs. Then he decided after tossing him for nine innings, La Russa would start him on three days rest for the first time in his career. It did not go well, with Rollins continuing to stay hot, and Howard and Ibanez continuing to drive in runs.

Once it was 4-0, the game looked to be all but sewn up. After all, Cliff Lee was on the mound, and he's only been one of the best playoff pitchers ever, not to mention St. Louis had to dip into its very suspect bullpen extremely early. The game was right where you'd want it if you were a Phillies fan, set up perfectly to go up 2-0.

Only baseball doesn't work that way. Lee never quite looked comfortable all night. He had to work around a leadoff triple on the first pitch he threw to Rafael Furcal in the first, then work around a leadoff double in the 2nd. He just couldn't seem to get his command where he needed it, and it came back to bite him in the ass.

After getting ahead of Lance Berkman 0-2 in the 4th, Lee lost him and walked him to lead things off. Then he got lit up for three runs that could have been four had it not been for a great throw by Raul Ibanez and an incredible job of holding on to the ball by Carlos Ruiz as he got trucked by John Jay at the plate.

Meanwhile, the Phils couldn't do anything against the much-maligned St. Louis bullpen. It was incredibly frustrating after watching the Phils bash 14 hits and score 11 runs in game one, including five runs off the Cards' bullpen, then touch up Carpenter for 4 runs in the first two innings, only to come up empty the rest of the game against six relievers.

And Lee simply didn't get the job done. Let's face the facts, if you score four runs for Cliff Lee, you should win the game, simple as that. I don't want to let the offense off the hook, because you can't stop hitting in the 2nd inning and have everything be OK, but this loss was more on Cliff and Charlie Manuel than the bats.

Cliff just couldn't command his pitches. He was leaving lots of balls over the plate, often missing his spots with Ruiz having to reach across himself to catch the ball. And the Cardinals, namely the bottom of the order, hit him around. After he surrendered the tying run in the 6th and had given up 9 hits on 101 pitches, I was certain his night was done. It should have been done, because Lee just didn't have it. Forget about the high pitch count, Lee didn't deserve to go out for the 7th because he wasn't pitching well.

Yet there Charlie was, sending his ineffective starter who couldn't locate to save his life back out there, and Albert Pujols made him pay, driving in what turned out to be the game-winning run.

I don't make it a habit of questioning Charlie Manuel these days, but there is no way Lee should have been back out there. Again, not because of the 101 pitches, but because he was just not pitching well. Just because he's Cliff Lee doesn't mean he is immune to getting yanked a little early. Tony La Russa didn't hesitate to lift his ace. Charlie shouldn't have hesitated either. Now this series is all tied up, and the Phils will have to face a pitcher that has owned them in Jaime Garcia tomorrow.

It's frustrating because the Phillies had the game right where they wanted it, giving Lee an early four-run lead. But as we saw this weekend, the old cliche really is true: no lead is ever safe. Especially when you're the Eagles.

P.S. At least the Phillies don't have the huge whining assholes that are La Russa and Carpenter. Those two guys can get fucked, seriously. Tony calls out the home-plate umpire during an in-game interview, and Carpenter carries on like a child, which he's been known to do. La Russa just is just a prick who thinks he's god's gift to baseball, and I can't tell you how many times I've seen highlights of Carpenter screaming at his teammates for missing a play or making an error. It's gotta be hell to play defense behind him. Thank god the Phils don't act that way. Now go out and beat those assholes in their own stadium. That is all.


  1. Even worse is that La Russa gets rewarded for his bitching...that pitch that Chase struck out on was no where close...I can't wait to send these bitches packing

  2. Yeah, that pitch on Chase was about a foot outside and near his neck. That wasn't even a case of "you have to swing at anything close with 2 strikes." That ball was nowhere near any competent ump's strike zone. Can't fault Chase for that one.

    But the bats definitely gotta do better against the bullpen. Those at-bats were atrocious, especially by Shane and Raul when the relievers came in. Ugly.

    Also, it was a tough play, but Shane should have caught that ball Craig hit in the 7th. Maybe that's unfair to say, but Shane is so good out there that he shoulda made that catch. He overran it. Lots of missed opportunities out there, but bottom line is you have to protect a 4-run lead, and you especially can't let the bottom of the order kill you like that.

    Yesterday was just awful.

  3. So true man. The Eagles have given up the ghost three games in a row. Hard to believe that their defense could be that bad against the run.