Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Oswalt walks off the field after Game 4 of their Major League Baseball NLCS playoff series in San Francisco

Are the Phillies choking, or are they just gettin’ beat?


“I feel like we didn’t really lose. We just ran out of innings.”

Joe Blanton, always looking on the bright side of life.

That came from Jeff Passan’s postgame article over at Yahoo!  More interesting than Blanton’s take was Passan’s. After calling the use of Oswalt in relief desperate — and I kinda agree — he says this:

And that’s what the Phillies, an on-paper juggernaut, have turned into: a group clawing for any sign of life against a Giants team that against great odds is making Philadelphia look not just mortal but frightened . . . The Phillies look beat up and beat down. The Giants sterilized their bluster, thieved their momentum, made mortal the pitching deities who were supposed to slay them. After four games, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and now Oswalt all have losses. H20 looks more like H2No.


I’ll go with Jeff on the tone here — there is definitely a sense that the big Russian has been cut and doesn’t quite know what to do — but I think the take on the pitching is a bit off.  I don’t view Oswalt’s volunteering to pitch yesterday and subsequent failure to be his problem nearly as much as it was Charlie Manuel’s. If I were a manager I’d want any of my pitchers to want to go out in any game. It’d be up to me to tell them no, and Manuel didn’t do that.

More broadly speaking, the big three haven’t really failed here. Halladay didn’t have his best game in Game 1, but he pitched well enough. He made a couple of key mistakes and his offense didn’t help him out facing a pitcher just about as good as he is. Oswalt certainly did his job in Game 2. A team with Philly’s offensive tools shouldn’t be resigned to defeat simply because Cole Hamels gives up three runs. Matt Cain just whupped them.

I think Charlie’s moves were regrettable in Game 4, but ultimately, I view this as less as the Phillies choking or being frightened or running out of innings or however else it’s being described than them simply gettin’ beat. I’m not alone in this, by the way:

“They’re beating us.  It’s plain and simple. They are beating us right now.”

That’s Shane Victorino, saying pretty much all that needs to be said.

Marlins granted permission to interview Larry Bowa

Larry Bowa
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The Miami Marlins, despite not having technically fired Dan Jennings, are actively interviewing for a new manager. Their latest target is a familiar name: Larry Bowa.

Jim Salisbury of reports on the coaching staff shakeup with the Phillies and, in the course of it, notes that the Marlins have asked and have been granted permission to interview Bowa, who is currently the Phillies’ bench coach. He has been offered a contract for 2016 by the Phillies, but he has never made a secret of his desire to manage again and has interviewed a few times over the years. Bowa, of course, managed the Padres in 1987 and 1988 and managed the Phillies from 2001 into the 2004 season.

As recently as a year ago it seemed unlikely that Bowa would get another look for a top job anyplace, what with baseball’s seeming eschewing of the crusty and feisty old managerial types in favor of young, inexperienced managers who had just recently retired from playing. But given how poorly that’s gone for most clubs — the Marlins included with Mike Redmond — this could be a winter in which we see a bunch of those old salty types returning.

Champagne after a loss? Why not?

Astros Wild Card

There was some hockey person last week arguing about how it was silly or untoward for baseball teams to celebrate clinching wild cards or other, less-than-championship-level accomplishments. Calling it bush league or lacking in act-like-you’ve-been-thereness or what have you. I can only imagine what he’d say about the Astros celebrating with champagne following (a) winning a wild card; and (b) losing the game which immediately preceded the celebration.

But screw him. Seriously.

I used to think that way. Indeed, if you search the HBT archives I’m sure there’s a post or two in which I disapprove of teams engaging in multiple champagne celebrations. But I was wrong about that and I’ve changed my mind on the matter over the past year or too. And on some other matters as well, all for the same reason: athletes are people just like us, not some avatars for our machismo and our fantasies. They’re people who have spent their entire lives devoted to their calling and do it under a lot of pressure and in the face of a lot of criticism and expectations from others. Why on Earth would anyone deny them their happiness upon the realization of an accomplishment?

This is even more true if you’re one of those misguided souls who erroneously believe that sports actually is separate from real life and believe them to be supremely and impossibly important. Even if you’re right — and you’re not — wouldn’t that give the athletes an even greater incentive to celebrate accomplishments? Funny how those people who who act as if sports is life and death would deny athletes their joy for defying death, as it were.

My view on the matter now is that if a guy hits a homer he should be able to celebrate it. If a pitcher strikes a guy out, he should be able to celebrate it. If a team makes the playoffs, no matter how low their seed and no matter the manner in which the accomplishment is achieved short of their competitors going down in a plane crash, they should be able to celebrate if they so choose.

So enjoy your hangovers this morning, Houston Astros.