Jim Bunning, the Hall of Fame righthander who died Friday night of complications from an October 2016 stroke, didn’t mind breaking a few taboos. Whether during a perfect game, helping the hunt for the Major League Baseball Players Association’s first executive director, or driving even his Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill nuts, the freckled Kentuckian feared no hitter, manager, owner, or fellow politician.
The early-to-mid 1970s Athletics and the 1986 Mets were seminarians in comparison. Meet, or re-meet, the 1993 Phillies, the zoo in which the animals held the keys, thanks to William C. Kashatus’s Macho Row: The 1993 Phillies and Baseball’s Unwritten Code. (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press; 343 p.; $27.95.)
They were the Philthy Phillies who won a pennant dramatically enough and lost a World Series even more dramatically. Carrying themselves like old schoolers while, somehow, organised and managed like a sort-of school of tomorrow, the 1993 Phillies were the Hell’s Angels without motorcycles but on actual or alleged performance-enhancing laughing gas.
Perhaps if the Mets knew Yoenis Cespedes would hit three home runs the day after, the might ask someone to take one for the team every day. For results like a 14-4 blowout of the Phillies Tuesday, you might find any number of Mets willing to take a pitch upside the head the night before.
If I didn’t know better, I’d swear Edubray Ramos was auditioning for the Texas Rangers to shore up their bullpen. Based on his work in the eighth inning Monday against the Mets, the Phillies righthander seems a good fit for a team sometimes renowned for waiting till next year and the last minute to settle a grudge.
It’s bad enough if and when a young pitcher gets the call to the Show, gets the start under whatever circumstances, and gets slapped around. It’s almost worse if you’re a veteran who hasn’t seen major league action in almost two years and you got a call up to take a spot start.
Jeremy Guthrie would never kid you that he’s been one of the greats of his time. But he might have told you he was serviceable enough to pitch in all or parts of twelve major league seasons prior to Saturday.
Dallas Green, who died today at 82, once told his players he was the toughest sonofabitch for whom they’d ever play. Whether leading the Phillies to their first World Series title or surviving the furies of George Steinbrenner with the 1989 Yankees or the planned obsolescence of the early-to-mid 1990s Mets, Green’s kind of tough let him survive the kind of times that could break the toughest of birds at a moment’s notice.
There are times when entire baseball seasons or championships are believed to turn, for better or worse, on single acts at the plate, on the mound, or in the field. Marshal the appropriate evidence and those beliefs can be either upheld or obliterated.
It got this bad for the Phillies this week when the New York Mash (er, Mets) came to town and blew them away in a four-game sweep: interim manager Pete Mackinin came to the postgame press conference after Thursday night’s thrashing armed with numbers. And, with the baleful conclusion, “We’re giving up way too many runs.”
If Jacob deGrom ever had a speck of doubt that his teammates could and would have his back, that speck was obliterated Monday night. It’s not every pitcher—at his level or otherwise—who can have a rare putrid start, leave his team in the hole by five, and then watch with his own jaw joining every other one hitting the floor in Citizens Bank Park as his Mets did to the Phillies what, not so long ago, the Phillies did to their opposition with long-since-gone aplomb.
Spending at at least a year and a half as the subject of trade speculation, while insisting he really didn’t want to leave Denver, Troy Tulowitzki—swapped to the Blue Jays this week, for former Mets shortstop Jose Reyes—says he was blindsided almost completely by the deal. Apparently, he had a gentleman’s agreement with Rockies owner Dick Monfort that he wouldn’t be dealt without his prior knowledge and approval. Until he didn’t, of course.