Howard Bryant of ESPN.com makes a pretty decent observation: when your team becomes a superpower, your fandom changes. The magic is really only there at the beginning of a dynasty or near-dynasty. After that you’re not satisfied with anything short of a title and something is lost.
His Exhibit A: Phillies fans:
For all the fans yearning for their teams to be in the high-payroll, trade-deadline-aggressive, all-in-every-year category, the price of being a superpower can be, of all things, the loss of fun … The Phillies and their fans have entered, for them, a new territory in which winning has been transformed from hope to expectation. It can come at a heavy price for the sports fan, but one that many fans would love to pay. Or at least think they would.
I think the dynamic is right, though I think that Bryant overstates things for most people. When the Braves were in year 12 and 13 of their division title run I’ll admit that it was way, way less special for me than things were in 1991. How could it not be? I wanted the season to get underway, then I wanted the inevitable rise to first place to occur quickly, but then I wanted the playoffs to hurry up and start. Smelling the roses of the regular season made me a bit impatient.
But it was still fun. At least for me it was. Of course, I’m probably less of a rah-rah guy than a lot of others. And it goes without saying that Braves fans are less of a rah-rah bunch than those of other teams.
Phillies fans may be the most rah-rah of them all. So tell me, you guys: still having fun? Or is there a certain stress, the sort of which Bryant describes, inherent in your baseball lives these days?
The magic number to clinch a wild card spot is still 1, but the Mets have at least secured a wild card tie after defeating the Phillies 5-1 on Friday night.
Jay Bruce powered the offensive drive, going 3-for-4 with a pair of RBI singles and his 33rd home run of the season, ripped from an Alec Asher fastball in the seventh inning. On the mound, right-hander Robert Gsellman limited the Phillies to seven hits and one run over six frames, striking out seven batters in his eighth appearance of the year. Behind him, a cadre of Mets relievers turned out three scoreless innings to preserve the lead and anchor the Mets in the wild card standings.
The Cardinals aren’t out of the race quite yet, and can still force a tiebreaker with the Mets if they manage to win the remainder of their games this weekend and the Mets lose the rest of theirs. Any other scenario will ensure the Mets’ exclusive rights to a wild card spot next week. While a wild card clinch is unlikely to happen tonight, with St. Louis leading Pittsburgh 7-0 through 7.5 innings and just entering a rain delay, it remains a distinct possibility over these next two days.
In a season that boasts the likes of Max Scherzer (he of the 20-strikeout masterpiece) and Clayton Kershaw (he of nine separate games with at least 10 strikeouts), there hasn’t been anyone who’s done exactly what Carlos Rodon did this week.
During Friday’s series opener against the Twins, Rodon retired seven consecutive batters via strikeout. His streak — and the beginnings of a perfect game, if you can call it that after just 2 ⅓ frames — ended on a Logan Schafer double that found right field well before Rodon managed to put up two strikes. With seven consecutive strikeouts, Rodon became the first American League pitcher to strike out seven batters to start a game since right-hander Joe Cowley did it for the Sox back in 1986. Had Schafer whiffed on a couple more fastballs, Rodon would have tied Mets’ starter Jacob deGrom for most strikeouts to start a game in major league history.
Not only did Rodon manage to quell the first seven batters in Minnesota’s lineup, but he extended his strikeout streak to 10 consecutive batters dating back through his last start against the Cleveland Indians. Per MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger, the last major league pitcher to do so was reliever Eric Gagne, who accomplished the feat for the 2003 Dodgers during his first and only Cy Young Award-winning season.
Any way you slice it, this is an impressive look: