Monday, August 6, 2012

The Hall of Phillies Ghosts

Yesterday afternoon, I headed down to Citizens Bank Park to take in a sparsely attended August outing between the no-longer-in-last-place Phillies and middle-of-the-pack Diamondbacks. I'm sure the Phillies once again announced another sellout, but the ballpark was emptier than I have ever seen since it became the Phillies' new home in 2004.

There were plenty of empty blue seats. Ashburn Alley was nearly vacant. Practically no concession stands hand any considerable lines. Hell, there was no wait for hoagies or cheesesteaks any time we walked past. While it wasn't quite as bad as the old days of routine last-place finishes, it did bring back a few memories of Veterans Stadium.

It was really odd to see Citizens Bank Park in that state. For the first time in a half decade, there is literally no real excitement around the Phillies. The season is over for all intents and purposes, with focus shifting on the offseason and figuring out a way to rebound for 2013.

Even in an exciting game in and of itself, a game in which Cliff Lee struggled with the long ball and fell behind 3-0 only to see the Phillies battle back behind John Mayberry, Domonic Brown, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, the atmosphere was subdued. It's not 2008 anymore, that's for damn sure.

For the first few innings, we baked in the left field stands. Then we decided to take a stroll around the park and find some more choice seats in the unoccupied sections. On the way, on the first base side between right field and first, we came to this hall of ghosts, with Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino hanging above the corridor, only to be followed immediately by Joe Blanton.

Three former Phillies all shipped off to the West Coast, Blanton and Victorino as Dodgers, Pence as a Giant, to remind us of a season lost. It was comical and a little bit sad all at the same time.

Speaking of the Dodgers, Cliff Lee toed the rubber for the first time since those L.A. jerks claimed him off of waivers in their attempt to poach from the team that repeatedly tormented them in the playoffs. I'm not sure if Cliff was distracted by that or just continued his subpar season, but he surrendered three runs in the second inning on two homers, then gave up a third home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the sixth right after Chase Utley had tied the game with a solo home run of his own in the 5th. Not an impressive outing for Lee, but then again he hasn't exactly had the most impressive 2012. No Phillie has, with the exception of Carlos Ruiz, and now that guy is on the disabled list.

However, the Phillies wouldn't quit, led by their two lanky outfielders who are auditioning for roster spots in 2013. John Mayberry, who scored on a wild pitch in the second after walking, and Domonic Brown, who doubled in that same inning and then scored on an Erik Kratz double, were at it again.

After Utley flied out and Ryan Howard struck out for the third time in the game to lead off the bottom of the 8th, Mayberry singled, then got to second on a wild pitch. Brown followed that up with a single off the pitcher, putting runners on second and third, and then Mayberry scored the tying run on a throwing error by the pitcher.

As we settled in to seats down low near third base, Jonathan Papelbon got through a scoreless top of the 9th, and the Phillies went into small ball mode.

Juan Pierre led things off as a pinch hitter, another guy we were surprised hasn't been moved yet. You'd think some team would be interested in Pierre for his base-running, leadership and the fact that the man can still hit a little, evident by his .314 average here in 2012. Thankfully on this day Juan was still a Phillie, as he led off with single, then was advanced to second on a bunt by Nate Schierholtz.

Up came Laynce Nix to with a single to put runners on first and third. Then Arizona decided to intentionally walk Utley to get to Ryan Howard. That seemed like a good idea, seeing as Howard looked absolutely awful yesterday, heading to the dish 0-for-4 on the day with three horrendous strikeouts.

So naturally, Ryan ripped a walk-off single to right and sent us all home packing. And by us all, I mean the 20,000 or so Phillies fans there as Pierre crossed home plate.

In an exciting come-from-behind victory, the real story was the ghost town that CBP had become, one haunted by the hall of former Phillies ghost, reminding us all just how dismal 2012 has been.

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