Just a few thoughts as I await my plane to Atlanta this morning. . .
1) Jayson Werth's "team of necessity" quote continues to stick with me. I tried to build my story in today's paper around it. The general thrust of it is this: no one can argue that this Phillies team has come up big in some critical junctures of the season. After -- A) Losing four straight to the Dodgers in Los Angeles, B) Losing a series to the Nationals heading into the Mets series C) Losing a series to the Marlins headed into the Brewers series, D) Losing two straight late-inning leads to the Cubs in Chicago -- they responded with huge victories. Problem is, the Phillies have no more "big games" on their schedule, at least in terms of games that bear playoff implications for both teams. They need to handle these games, which they haven't always done in the past, with a sense of necessity as well.
2) Here's a question: which is more important for these final 12 games -- pitching or hitting? From a pitching standpoint, the good news is that at least eight of the final 12 games will be started by either Jamie Moyer, Cole Hamels or Brett Myers. Since the All-Star break, those three are a combined 17-6 with a 2.62 ERA. Meanwhile, the Phillies hit .325 in their sweep of Milwaukee, scoring six runs or more in four straight games for just the second time all season.
3) You could argue that the Phillies have led to the firing of two managers this season. First, Willie Randolph, whose late-season slide last season was certainly a factor in his dismissal earlier this year. And now, Ned Yost. Turns out I wasn't the only one scratching my head over his decision making late in the game one loss to the Phils. I'm not here to dance on a man's grave, but when an entire VISITING stadium is wondering why you are intentionally walking Ryan Howard with a lefty, and then leaving that lefty in to face Pat Burrell, it's probably not a good idea.
4) The difference between legitimately contending for World Series and winning a game or two in the division series just might be Joe Blanton. It'll be interesting to see if he can string together some good starts now that he apparently has worked through some biceps tendinitis.
5) We should know today who is starting tomorrow. I've got to think it'll either be J.A. Happ or Kyle Kendrick, or some combination of the two.
6) DeSean Jackson is legit. But the Eagles continue to lack the big-bodied receiver that can get the job done in the red zone. Settling for field goals against a team like the Cowboys is a death wish. You saw the difference between having a possession receiver and not having one when Tony Romo hit Terrell Owens on that slant in the end zone, while Donovan McNabb and the Eagles couldn't punch the ball in from inside the 10 in the second half. As good as Jackson is, a 5-foot-9, 160-pound wide receiver is going to disappear inside the 10-yard line.
7) Speaking of Jackson: he'd be wise to check out some game tape of Marvin Harrison. Not for any route-running or pass-catching help, but for some pointers on how to avoid contact and get to the turf without getting a linebacker's shoulder in the quad. Rich Hofmann said it best in his column today: the only thing that can stop Jackson is an injury, or himself. Harrison has done a wonderful job of keeping his diminuitive frame intact throughout his career, largely by his wise decision-making when it comes to taking a hit versus getting to the ground, and Jackson would be wise to follow his lead.
8) My least favorite part of any ride to the airport: telling the Cab Driver I am going to pay with a credit card, then watching his face drop like I just informed him that Angelina Jolie has been disfigured in a car crash. Why do these guys hate credit cards so much?
9) Was Terrell Owens pretending like he was a sprinter crossing the finish line or was he Super-manning Dat You-know-what after his long touchdown?