Friday, October 31, 2008

2008 Phillies in Review

As I put the bow on the 2008 Phillies season, I have a lot of reflections and a few interesting questions. This championship, perhaps more than any other in recent baseball memory, really was a full team effort. So many of the "little guys" made big contributions in huge spots down the stretch, it really is hard to believe. Even the choice of World Series MVP was a very close one -- I have no problem awarding it to Cole Hamels after the incredible pitching performances he put up in Game 1 and Game 5, leaving the game in line for the win in both of them and giving up 2 runs, including errors leading to most of those runs, in each game. Hamels was awesome, all season, all playoffs and all World Series. But just think of all the big efforts made by different members of this team in the World Series overall.

First, you have to mention Chase Utley, who somewhat unheraldedly made the two biggest defensive plays of the entire series in my view. First was in the hard rain in the 5th inning of Game 5, with Hamels needing a big double play on a slow roller through the soggy grass to second base. Utley charged right into the basepath, picked up the ball and spun backwards to tag the runner, before spinning the rest of the way around and gunning out the batter at first base. It may not sound like much, but if you watched the first half of the clinching game on Monday night you know exactly the play I'm talking about. And then of course there was that incredible fake-out play in the second half of the clincher, a play that only a few human beings alive would ever make. As I said when I live-blogged the game, if Derek Jeter makes that play then he is called the greatest fielder who ever lived for ten years by Yankee fans. After somehow reaching the ball bouncing directly over and behind second base, Utley knew he had no shot of catching the speedy Iwamura at first. But with Bartlett chugging fast towards third base in a crucial one-run game, somehow in real time Utley realized he could dupe the runner into making a mistake. So he faked the throw to first, causing Bartlett to round third and break head-down for home, where Utley threw and nailed the runner by a good 8 to 10 feet. It was sheer brilliance, and again for those of you who have played a lot of baseball, try to imagine that Utley made that play completely on the fly. In other words, it's not like he planned that play. You don't plan for what you will do if the ball is hit slow up the middle and you don't have a play to first but the runner from second base is running hard to third. Not a chance. That baby was all improv. And that's what makes Utley so fucking special. As I said, there's only a couple of human beings alive today who have that field awareness, that presence, it takes to make or even conceive of making a play like Utley did there. Wrap that in with his big home run in the first inning of Game 1 and his two-run shot in Game 3, and Utley was obviously a huge factor in the Phils' series victory.

Although I don't think he was a serious contender for MVP, Phillies slugger Ryan Howard contributed in his own way to the Series victory as well. Howard played a nearly flawless first base throughout the five games, and despite his 9 strikeouts, he still ended up a respectable 6 for 21. Double respectable when you factor in his team-leading 3 home runs and also team-leading 6 RBIs for the series. In a 5-game series where the Phillies scored a total of 24 runs, Ry Guy knocked in 6 of them. His series was pretty much typical of his entire season this year, where he easily led the league in strikeouts with something like 190, and yet also crushed everyone in both leagues with 48 home runs and a whopping 146 RBIs. Howard single handedly won us Game 4 with his two absolute crush-jobs against Rays' pitching, including a mammoth shot to right in the 8th which put the game out of reach.

And what about Pedro Feliz. This guy played a very quiet yet awesome third base for us all season, where he was brought in for his glove and not for his bat, and yet there he was knocking in the go-ahead run in the clinching Game 5 with a nice up-the-middle liner. It's not often that your #7 hitter plays such a big part offensively in a series, but keep in mind that it was also Feliz who got our first hit and RBIs with runners in scoring position in this entire series in Game 3 with another line shot, this one to left field. Feliz literally had as many big hits as anybody in the entire World Series, and again for a guy who was brought here to play defense and simply not be a huge offensive liability, he came through big time in the clutch.

It's a similar story for Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz, another guy who is here because of his stellar defense behind the plate, but who otherwise bats 8th and is just hoping to keep us in an inning here and there. Instead, Ruiz busted out with 6 hits in 16 at bats, including a crucial home run in our 5-4 Game 3 victory. With the stacked lineup the Phils brought to every game this year, having a guy hitting that good at the very bottom of the lineup was just a sickening turn of events for the overmatched Rays.

Phillies right fielder Jayson Werth also came to play in the Series, leading the team in hitting with a .444 series average on 8-for-18 hitting through the five games. Werth also chipped in with a team-leading 6 walks to go along with his team-leading 8 hits, putting him on base 14 times or nearly three times a game. He also led the team with 3 stolen bases in the series, and did not make an error in the field. Hard to argue with his contribution to the team's first championship in 28 years.

Let's not forget Geoff Jenkins btw, who had a pretty horrible season for the Phillies, but when he was brought in for his first at-bat in three weeks to start off the resumed Game 5 in the bottom of the 6th, he promptly bashed one off the center field wall for a leadoff double. Jenkins would later score, putting Cole Hamels in position for the win, and saving the team from falling behind when Rays' outfielder Rocco Baldelli would homer off Phillies reliever Ryan Madson in the top of the 7th inning. And there is bench player Eric Bruntlett, who came up with another critical home run in just three World Series at-bats.

And then of course there is the pitching. Cole Hamels dominated the Rays, posting a 2.77 Series ERA beat only by Rays' Game 2 starter James Shields who pitched 5 shutout innings in the Rays' only win of the series. And every other Phillies starter completely outperformed every other Rays starter as well, with Brett Myters (3.86 ERA), Jamie Moyer (4.26 ERA) and Joe Blanton (3.00 ERA with a big home run to boot) each surpassing starting rotation counterparts Scott Kazmir (4.50 ERA), Matt Garza (6.00 ERA) and Andy Sonnanstine (6.75 ERA) of the Rays. Moreover, the Rays' pitchers not only gave up 10 more runs but also a whopping 27 walks over 5 games. That is more than 5 walks per game, while the entire Phillies' staff surrendered just 10 free passes over the series. In every aspect of the game, the Phillies' pitchers whooped down on the Rays, which was supposed to be the Rays' big advantage coming in to this World Series.

And last but surely not least there is JC Romero, Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge, the cornerstones of the Phillies' major league-leading bullpen. Between them these three came up with two wins, including Romero's victory in the clincher by getting four key outs to bridge the gap between Madson and Lidge, and Lidge's two huge saves including the final pitch of the 2008 World Series. These three combined to give up just 6 hits and 2 runs in 10 1/3 earnings of action in the series, a truly dominant performance that, when you combine it with the stellar starting pitching the Phillies saw during their final five games, made us almost unbeatable by any team who stood before us.

Lastly, apparently Mike and Mike in the morning were talking on ESPN Radio on Thursday and one of them made the comment that "we all know the Phillies were not the best team in baseball this year, but they did what they had to when they had to do it" or something like that. I spent a lot of time over the past 36 hours thinking about this. Are the Phillies the best team in baseball in 2008? And let me start by assuring you: I don't actually care about the answer to this question. You could argue that the Phillies were the 10th-best team in the league; I don't care as long as our team goes into the books as the 2008 World Champions. But just for interest sakes, let's see.

We had the second-best record in the National League with 92 regular season wins. Only the Chicago Cubs had more, and they got swept out of the first round of the playoffs, even with home field advantage, in three straight by the LA Dodgers. So the Cubs were not the best team in baseball, I am putting my foot down on that one. And then the Phillies basically completely crushed the Dodgers on both sides of the ball in the NLCS, easily winning in five games including two of the last three wins at Dodger Stadium. In my mind, there's no plausible argument that the Phillies were not the best team out of the National League this year.

Turning to the American League, the Anaheim Angels led the majors with 100 wins during the regular season. However, the Red Sox came into the Angels' house and beat them not once but twice to start the series, and the Angels could muster only one 12th-inning win before the Sox closed them out easily, 3 games to 1. With a playoff performance like that, at home no less, I'm putting my foot down again and saying no way the Angels were actually the majors' best team in 2008. Now in the ALCS, the Rays pretty much took it to the Red Sox early, nabbing a 3-1 lead before the Sox fought their way back after a ferocious 7-0 comeback in Game 5 to even the series at 3. But the Rays came through in Game 7 at home, just as they had all through the season in beating out the Red Sox by two games to win the always hard-fought AL East and in winning the season series with the Sox during the 162-game regular season. Bottom line, I think it is clear that the Rays earned the right to be called the AL's best this season.

And then we completely schmeistered the Rays every which way in the World Series. We won in 5 games despite the Rays having home field advantage. Over five games the Philies outscored the Rays 24-15, we outhit them 44-33, and we outwalked them 27-10. Our pitchers out-pitched them with a team ERA of 2.86 to the Rays' 4.50, giving up 14 earned runs to the Rays' 21 (and two of the Rays' earned runs from Game 5 were not really earned runs either). In my mind there is simply no way to argue that the Rays were a better team than the Phillies in 2008; five more regular season wins does not undo an absolute drubbing in every aspect of the game on baseball's biggest stage at the very end of the season. I suppose the best argument that can be made is that the Red Sox might have been a better team than the Phillies, but think about that assertion for a minute. In order to argue that, you're now saying that a team that finished with the third-best record in the American League, a team that couldn't even win their own division and who lost the season series and then the ALCS to the team that did win their division, was the best team in baseball. That just makes no sense if you are able to look at it objectively.

Now I won't argue that the experienced veterans on the Red Sox would likely have put up a better fight against the Phillies in the World Series. That much is almost certainly true, and is probably true of just about any team moreso than the Rays. The Rays ended up playing like exactly what I had thought they would -- a team full of young, wide-eyed kids who were still trying to absorb the fact that they hadn't lost 100 games again this year, let alone won their way through the toughest division in baseball and two playoff series to find themselves with home field advantage in the World Series. But in my mind, an objective look at 162-game records leaves only the Angels, Rays, Phillies or Cubs in contention for the best team in baseball, and after you consider what happened in the playoffs and eventually in the World Series, I think Mike Greenberg is just plan wrong. There is only one sensible, objective conclusion in my mind, and that is that the Philadelphia Phillies were in fact the best that baseball had to offer in 2008. I would not have said that prior to the playoffs this year, but what does that prove? It was in the playoffs where the best team really showed itself, as is almost always the case.

Today for the first time one of my brothers asked me if this Phillies team has the capability to become a dynasty. I told him no way. I love the Phillies as much as everyone else in Philadelphia does, but I don't believe Philly as a city is cut out for team dynasties. I will root as hard as ever for this team next year, don't get me wrong, but right now I am sensing too much contentment, too much relief, to be able to forecast this team winning their way to back-to-back titles in 2009. We certainly have a very solid young team, with a few key young starters to go along with what is the best bullpen and the best lineup in baseball. But Jamie Moyer is what, 85 years old now? Brett Myers is shaky at best. It's highly doubtful that closer Brad Lidge can go a perfect 48-for-48 again next year. Pat Burrell is (hopefully) leaving, which will take out his 33 home runs and 86 RBIs from our lineup, a guy I won't personally miss at all but whose numbers will need to be replaced from somewhere. But it's all the contributions we got through the regular season, the incredible 24-6 push starting in mid-September and lasting all the way through our 11-3 run in the playoffs and World Series that I think will be the hardest to duplicate in 2009. Ruiz, Feliz, Shane Victornio, Matt Stairs, Eric Bruntlett, Geoff Jenkins, these guys all stepped up big in huge spots when we needed them most, and that's the kind of lightning in a bottle that it takes to win a championship in this sport. So no, right now I flat refuse to think for even one second about dynasties. I'm still gonna take some more time to bask in the glory of the city's first professional sports championship in 25 years. A quarter century is a loooooong fuckin time with no hardware to show for it, easily worthy of a few more days of baskage until turning my sights squarely to the Eagles who are stuggling to find their footing in once again the best division in the NFL just like it has been for the past 25 years straight.

What a year for the Phillies. The Drought is finally over!!

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

We Are the Champions My Friends

The Philadelphia Phillies are your 2008 World Series Champions!!!

What a fucking game!!!

After all the crap from Monday night, the rain- and wind-induced errors, play getting suspended in the middle of an inning through until resuming on Wednesday, the agonizing 47-hour wait for the Phillies players and coaches and fans, destiny finally came to the city of Philadelphia as the Phillies once again jumped all over the Tampa Bay Rays' pitchers to capture the team's first World Series crown since 1980, and the city's first professional sports championship since 1983.

To say this is something special would be the understatement of the century for anyone who really understands Philadelphia sportsdom. This just isn't like when any other team wins a championship, in any other city. As I think I mentioned last week sometime, the best analog I can think of is the city of Boston, but frankly over the past decade even those fans have become complacent, losing the desperation that was once rampant in Beantown as well before the Patriots started cheating their asses off and won three superbowls in four years, the Red Sox finally broke the curse and won two World Series in three years, and even the Celtics joined the party by taking down their first world title in 20 years in the 2007-2008 NBA season. Sure you have the Cubs who as an individual franchise are far and away the saddest story going right now in professional sports, but even in that city, we are only a few years removed from the White Sox winning the World Series, and throughout the 1980's the fans of the Windy City were treated to a Bears thrashing of the Patriots (pre-cheating) in a Superbowl victory as well as of course six world titles for Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

No, Philadelphia stands alone as the most desperate of cities when it comes to the major sports franchises, and that's what makes this title so fucking special. It simply cannot be put into words. Rather than attempt to describe the indescribable, I'll just tell you this quick story. As Brad Lidge closed it out, completing his incredible 48-for-48 perfect season as the Phils' unbeatable closer by getting Rays pinch hitter Eric Hinske to swing about two feet over his patented, unhittable slider, I rang up my younger brother with whom I had been chatting and texting throughout this stub of a game on Wednesday night. We spoke for maybe 3 minutes, because that's all the guy could take. He was bawling. I mean, I'm not talking a few tears or choked up or anything. I'm talking downright sobbing. This is a guy who, although I always think of him as a kid, is now a grown man. He's 30, he is newly married, and probably soon will be a father for the first time. The guy is all growns up at this point, and like me he has been a Philly sports fan through and through for his entire cognizant life. But even at the ripe old age of 30, the guy has had it fucking rough. See, I am lucky to have been alive and have been cognizant when the Phillies won their first -- and only other -- World Series. I remember my father would leave my older brother and I little notes under our doors every night so that when we woke up we would know that the Phils won another game in the playoffs, that the Phils were going to the world series, etc. When that fateful Game 6 came around in 1980, my father woke my older brother and I up near the end, and I will never forget even at the age of 7 years old sitting on the couch while my dad sat in his recliner, watching Tug McGraw strike out Willie Wilson to clinch the title. The team jumping all over the place, boyhood hero Mike Schimdt pouncing on top of McGraw from the third base side, and the crazy celebration that ensued on the field and on to the locker room afterwards. I was well old enough to understand and appreciate what was happening there.

Similarly, I very well remember the 76ers sweeping and embarrassing the heavily-favored Lakers in the 1983 NBA finals, and loving every minute of it. At that point I was a sass-mouthed 10 year old, already playing basketball myself in the driveway whenever I could, and I specifically recall the arrogance and pride I felt seeing the fans sporting signs at the parade saying "We Swept L.A." and "Down With Magic", etc. It was great. But those two memories are forever ingrained in my head, and in my entire aura of being a Philadelphia sports fan.

But now think of my little brother, and moreover, the literal millions of Philadelphia fans like him unfortunately born in the late '70s. G was just two years old when the Phils won their World Series, and even at 5 years of age when the sixers crushed the Lakers, he was just barely too young to get it. He has no memory of either event. To him, they are just stats in the sports almanac, the stuff people talk about and write about in their memoirs, no different from hearing how Babe Ruth hit 60 homers when no one else in the league hit even 10, or Ted Williams hitting .401 in 1941. To him and millions of others just like him in the Philadelphia area, the notion of any Philly sports team being anything but a loser -- let alone a champion -- is just a legend. Something he knows has happened, but has no concept of what it feels like to experience. And the guy is 30 years old now. Just think of how many Philadelphia sports fans have been born in the past 30 years, with all of them never having had the chance to taste what it really feels like to be a fucking champion, to be the king of your sport for a day, or an offseason. See, this is what gives the Phillies fans
the reputation that they have, what makes them the way that they are. This is where the desperation comes from -- from 30 years of fans who have never tasted the thrill of victory, despite the Flyers losing the Stanley Cup finals in 1985, 1987 and 1997, the 76ers losing the NBA finals in 2001, the Eagles losing the Superbowl to the now-known-to-be-cheater Patriots in 2004, and the Phillies loss to the Orioles in 1983 as well as their walkoff defeat at the hands of the Pat Gillick-led Blue Jays in 1993.

Until now. As my brother sat there crying his eyes out last night, you could just hear it in his voice. The change coming over him. Oh, it will probably take a few weeks if not months to fully sink in, but the guy will never, ever be quite as desperate of a fan again as he has been his entire life up until now. Thirty years of young (now grown up) fans, releasing the tension, the frustration, the anger, the desperation of never being able to see a championship, never being able to experience that feeling, of knowing that you are the best the world has to offer, in their entire lives. Thirty years of fully deserving, absolutely crazed sports fans, collectively exhaling, and along with their breath also releasing the anguish of a literal lifetime of losing. These people's entire outlook on sports, if not on life in general, will never be the same after Wednesday night's amazing game and the bringing of that beautiful World Series trophy back to Philadelphia.

By the way, if you want to hear the Phillies' victory called by someone who isn't a moron hater pussy, if you want to hear it the way the fans of Philadelphia heard it, then check out this link. That right there is Harry Kalas, the legendary Phillies announcer now working in his fourth decade of calling the baseball games in the City of Brotherly Love (hahaha I always chuckle at that nickname), getting his groove on and having the privilege of announcing the second world championship in this franchise's less than illustrious 126-year history.

It isn't often that us people from the area get to say this, but god dam does it feel great to be proud to be a Philadelphia sports fan today!

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World Series Game 5 Live Blog -- Take II

So here we go as the Phillies will take their second stab at closing out Game 5 of the 2008 World Series and capturing their first world title in 28 years, and the first championship in any of the four major sports in the last 25. Action will resume in this restart of the suspended Game 5 from Monday night in the bottom of the 6th inning, nobody out, nobody on, with the pitcher's spot due up first, sure to be a pinch hitter, followed by the top of the order for the Phillies. The score begins at 2-2 in what essentially amounts to a nearly sudden death do-or-die matchup between the Phillies and the Rays.

World Series Game 5 -- Live Blog (Take II)

8:37pm ET - So apparently Ryan Madson will be "starting" as the Phillies' pitcher when the 7th inning begins at the top of the next inning. I like that decision. I would pitch Madson in the 7th and 8th, and Lidge in the 9th assuming we can amass a lead before that time. Interestingly, Madson, being a creature of habit, decided to go out and sit in the bullpen and warm up, and he asked Phillies coach Charlie Manuel to just ring him in the 'pen for his 7th inning appearance. Just like always. I like it.

8:44pm ET - Leadoff pinch hitter Geoff Jenkins just smoked Grant Balfour's 6th pitch to the center field wall for a leadoff double. The fans are going nuts. Leadoff hitter and last year's MVP Jimmy Rollins followed up with the best suicide bunt you could do, easily moving Jenkins to third base and getting him in position to score on any fly ball from Jayson Werth coming up next.

8:47pm ET - Jayson Werth did it!! He popped a short fly to shallow center, too shallow for the center fielder and just a shade too deep for the 2nd baseman, who tried in vain to make the even-hard-in-football over the shoulder catch but could not hold on. Werth is safe on first and Jenkins is in to score. 3-2 Phils and still one out in the bottom of the 6th. Utley coming up.

8:55pm ET - After Jenkins scored the go-ahead run, Rays pitcher Grant Balfour is out, smashing his hat in the visiting dugout, and JP Howell is the new pitcher in to face Chase Utley with one on and one out. Utley struck out on three pitches, not even really coming close on strike three. This brings up slugger Ryan Howard. On the first pitch, Werth was picked off trying to steal second, but he somehow still managed to slide in there safely. Howard pops out to left on the next pitch, ending the inning and leaving the Phillies with a 3-2 lead through six innings. Three innings of Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge to go until the unthinkable....

9:00pm ET - The Rays once again come up to bat for the first time, already down a run having given up yet another "first" inning run to the Phillies, which makes 4 1/2 out of 5 1/2 games of this series where the Phils have scored in the opening frame. Moreover, Cole Hamels now is set to be the winner of this game after all if the Phillies do not give up this lead, since Hamels is the pitcher of record for the 6th inning of this game from Monday night, which would make him the first pitcher in baseball history to go 5-0 as a starter in a single postseason. Madson easily strikes out Dioner Navarro on 4 pitches to start the 7th. But then Rays right fielder Rocco Baldelli promptly parks the first pitch from Madson over the left field wall, and we're tied up at 3.

9:04pm ET - Bartlett roped a single to left field also on the first pitch from Madson, and pitcher JP Howell laid down a nice sacrifice bunt to move the runner into scoring position and make the 2nd out of the inning. Ryan Madson is out, JC Romero coming in to face Rays leadoff hitter Akinori Iwamura.

9:07pm ET - Chase Utley just made an incredible play in the field, one that would be regarded as one of the greatest plays of all time if it was Derek Jeter out there instead of Utley. Iwamura grounded a ball softly dead up the middle of the infield, and Chase extended himself fully to even reach the ball and stop it from leaving the infield. Utley did not have a play at first given where the ball was placed, but he faked like he was throwing to first while still actually holding on to the ball. The fake worked perfectly, with Bartlett seeing Utley move towards first and immediately rounding third and heading home. Utley threw off-balance to home plate and nailed Bartlett by about 8 feet, with a nice tag clearly being laid by catched Carlos Ruiz to end the top of the 7th with the teams tied 3-3.

9:16pm ET - Pat Burrell, 0-for-13 so far in the World Series, leads off the bottom of the 7th by crushing a ball to dead center off the tippy top of the wall, cruising easily into second with a standup double. Burrell completely smashed this ball, a hit that would likely be a home run most nights in Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park if not for the wind still whipping all around the field on the night. Burrell's first hit of the series is also his last, as he is pulled for a pinch runner since he is after all the slowest mofo on the field. Rays pitcher JP Howell is out and Chad Bradford is in to face the Flyin' Hawaiin Shane Victorino. Once again, it's a man on second and nobody out for the Phillies, as the Rays simply cannot stop the offensive onslaught from the best lineup in baseball.

9:20pm ET - Victorino came up to bunt the runner over to third base, but twice he looked horrible like almost everyone in the entire postseason on every team has looked when trying to lay down bunts in key spots. Nonetheless, Victornio hits the next pitch bounding down the first base line, pulling the ball and easily moving the runner to third, getting his job done and bringing up third baseman Pedro Feliz in a huge spot for the team with a runner on third and one out. Feliz comes through with his second huge hit in this World Series, putting the second pitch from Bradford right up the middle and bringing pinch runner Eric Bruntlett in for the 4-3 lead!!

9:24pm ET - Carlos Ruiz looked bad on two pitches before smoking another liner right up the middle that Iwamura made an amazing play even getting to, letting alone flipping to second for the force on the fielders' choice. JC Romero then hits in his spot in the lineup, also grounding to second to end the inning, but preserving the Phils' ability to pitch Romero to the meat of the Rays' lineup in the top of the 8th with Madson already gone from the game. The plan of course will be for Romero to do the job on the "big" Rays hitters in the 8th, and then bring in Mr. Perfect Brad Lidge for the 9th to close the shit out for the hometown fans. Phillies 4, Rays 3 through 7 innings in Philadelphia!!

9:30pm ET - JC Romero pitches Carl Crawford to a full count before giving up a line drive single, but speedster BJ Upton quickly grounds into a huge double play to bring up Carlos Pena with nobody on and two outs. Huge, huge play for the Phillies.

9:33pm ET - Romero falls behind Carlos Pena 3-0 before finally putting one over the plate, and then Pena flies out on the fifth pitch lazily to left, where Bruntlett waits to make the final out of the top of the 8th inning. Phillies coming up to bat, up 4-3, with Mr. Perfect set to pitch to the 5-6-7 batters -- including rookie slugger Evan Longoria -- for the win in the 9th. Three defensive outs away from bringing the championship back to the city of Philadelphia!!

9:45pm ET - 23-year-old Rays fireballer David Price is out to pitch the bottom of the 8th in what I think his only his second appearance in this entire series. Rollins flies out deep to left to start off the inning, followed by Jayson Werth being called out on a horribly low pitch way outside of the strike zone that Tim ShitCarver and Joe Fuck must have just forgotten to make a peep about. Chase Utley took three balls before watching strike one, swinging through strike two and then walking on the 6th pitch of the at-bat, bringing up Ryan Howard with two outs and a runner on first base. Howard's first pitch is called a strike despite being about a full foot above the strike zone, and Utley gets a huge jump and steals second with the count 3-1 before Howard swings through srike two to take it to 3-2. Howard then swings through another one to end the 8th. Phillies are leading 4-3. Three more outs from Mr. Lidge and the world championship is ours!

9:50pm ET - Mr. Perfect Time. This is so much better than in the last Phillies' World Series appearance in 1993 when this was time for Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams. Longoria is first. First pitch: strike. Second pitch: foul. Then a couple of balls and another foul to make it 2-2. Then he pops it up to Utley for the first out. Two more to go!!

9:52pm ET - Dioner Navarro is the next batter. Strike 1 and strike 2. Lidge is on, once again. But then Navarro shatters his bat in a liner to right field, puting him on first base and bringing the go-ahead run to the plate. It's never easy with Philly is it.

9:54pm ET - Baldelli, who homered in his last at-bat, is scheduled to be the next batter with the tying run on first, but Rays coach Joe Maddon decides to pinch hit for him with Ben Zobrist instead. First pitch: strike. Second pitch is high and outside. Third pitch is another ball while pinch runner Perez steals second. Now the Rays have a runner in scoring position with one out and ahead in the count 2-1.

9:55pm ET - Zobrist lines out to right field. One out away from the World Series!!! It's coming down to the wire in Philly. Eric Hinske coming in to pinch hit with two down in the 9th inning. Holy shit!!

9:57pm ET - 0-2 on Hinske!!!

9:58pm ET - Phillies win!! Phillies win!! Phillies win!! Phillies win!! Phillies win!! Phillies win!! Phillies win!!

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

World Series Game 5 -- Take II

So tonight is the night. After a nearly 48-hour respite, Game 5 of the 2008 World Series will resume at 8:37pm ET this evening in Philadelphia. Even though we are now facing a 3 1/2 inning tee-ball game as Riggs put it as the Phillies' best chance to clinch their second World Series in their rich 126-year history, it is still something which I and every Philly fan out there is anticipating tremendously. While stopping Game 5 in the middle of an inning was an unconscionably poor decision made out of pure pussitude and nothing else by baseball commissioner Bud Selig, it does carry one nice advantage for the Phils from tonight's perspective, something more than countered by the even greater corresponding advantage given to the Rays on Monday night -- tonight's stub of a game will feature four innings at-bat for the Phils, and only three for the Rays, assuming no extra innings. In theory that should be good for the team that has hit far, far better overall than the Rays from the first pitch of this series to the last.

I wanted to take a minute here now a couple of days removed from the rain suspension to discuss one last time my feelings on that game. In a nutshell, the weather was abominable and the game should have been stopped much earlier than it was. Probably the middle of the third or the beginning of the 4th inning, judging by how the weather looked on the tv and from chatting with my Philly friends in the area. Unlike some people, I think trying to get the game in was a fine decision, as it was barely raining at all when the first pitch occurred, but by the 4th inning -- a good hour before it was finally suspended -- it was obvious that what was being played out there was not baseball as we know and love it. And remember, baseball isn't football, where playing in the slop or snow or sleet is just an expected part of the game. Baseball doesn't play in conditions like that, but they sat there and kept playing and playing and playing anyways, for a good hour beyond where they should have.

Why? One simple answer. Bud Selig is a goddam pussy. That's it. The rulebook says that he can't suspend a game beyond the middle of the 5th inning without calling it and ending the then-complete game in favor of the team that is ahead at the time. Now, the rules of baseball also give the commissioner absolute monarchical power to overrule any other rules if doing so is "in the best interests of the game", but of course Selig is far too much of a puss to exercise this power when the rulebook says otherwise. So instead, Selig sat there thumbing through his rulebook until he found a rule that says that in the playoffs the commish can suspend an official game until the following day for weather, darkness, etc., but only if there is a tie score. So with the Phillies up 2-0 at the end of the third and with the rain pelting down and the wind swirling madly, with a puddle forming over home plate and with the pitching mound edging closer and closer to unusable, Selig sent the teams back out there. He was not about to face the wrath of fans and writers everywhere for changing the rules and exercising his executive power to erase or suspend a World Series game. So he sent the teams out for the 4th, hoping against hope that the Rays could score two runs and tie the game up so he could trot out his rulebook and read directly from it in front of the cameras. And what happened? Jimmy Rollins dropped a popup to shortstop that the wind carried about 15 feet from the spot where it started its descent. And that runner later scored a run. A guy who should not even have been on base, but who got on base purely and totally because of the weather that across the board the players of both teams agree should not have even had the teams out there to begin with, scored a run to cut the Rays' deficit to 2-1.

This of course gave Commissioner Selig even more resolve to try to wait for a tie. After all, now the Rays only needed to score one more run after the middle of the 5th inning to give him his tie and his precious ability to hide behind the rulebook in suspending the game until later in the week. So he sent the teams back out into the wind and slop for the 5th inning. Sadly for Selig, the Rays did not score and nor did the Phillies, while the rain and wind just got worse and worse, and the field conditions became even more laughable. There wasn't a player, fan, coach or umpire out there who understood how or why these teams were playing baseball -- baseball on its grandest stage, in fact -- in this weather. Even the fucking butthead announcers Tim ShitCarver and Joe Fuck knew the game should not be being played, so you know how obvious it was. But out they went for the 6th inning. And Bud Selig got his miracle. Once again a fairly easy ground ball to Rollins' left at shortstop by Rays speedster BJ Upton to start the inning, and as Rollins picked the ball out of his glove, it squirted out of hands like a wet fish flopping on a hook. Upton, who still believes he owns all four bases every time he gets on first, promptly stole second in the miserable conditions that would have made it nearly impossible for anyone to throw out a runner, and then later scored on a single by first baseman Carlos Pena. 2-2. As Selig prayed to his god that the Rays did not score any more runs so that the game could be left in a tie, he watched and once again was given his miracle. The top of the 6th inning ended with the teams tied at 2-2, and off to the commercial break we went.

And this is when Selig made his third or fourth mistake of the night. While the fans were off watching that redonkulous Chevy Chase / Christie Brinkley DirecTV spot and the paint-dripping iPod commercial and the "Saved by Zero" car ad for the 38th time in 5 games, Selig had a horrible thought. What if the Phillies, who would surely pinch-hit for pitcher Cole Hamels after a 30-minute wait between the 5th and 6th innings already and then would bat from the top of their hugely potent lineup in the bottom of the 6th scored a run to break the tie? Here Selig had sold out his sport, the fans at the stadium, the players, the (relatively few) television viewers, everybody imaginable for the past few innings, sending players out there to play something that only vaguely resembled baseball, watching as the weather directly caused two errors (only one of which was scored an error, wrongly of course but Joe Fuck said Rollins' second error should have been a hit so you know an error was the correct call) which led to both Rays runs. He had finally gotten the tie game that he so desperately needed to be able to hold up his rulebook rather than take the blame responsibility for making the call himself, and in a split second his vagina made the worst decision of the night. The fans on tv came back from commercials to see the tarp being rolled out on to the field, and within ten minutes the game had been suspended for the night. In the middle of the 6th inning.

Try if you can to put yourselves in the position of the Phillies and their fans for a minute. We have won exactly one world title in 126 years. The players on this team, as far as I can count, have won exactly zero world championships themselves. We're up three games to one, just a few innings away from icing our incredible miracle season. We have our ace on the mound, and he's pitching another gem. The weather gets bad, clearly too bad to play, which everyone involved knows to be true. Yet they have to go back out there for three more innings in the field after that point, where two clear weather-induced errors lead to the two tying runs for the opposition. Then as you head out to bat for your bottom half of the sixth, for your chance to hit some popups and grounders that will be impossible for the Rays to field in this sloppy mess, the game is suspended. So, assuming the top of the 4th was the time when the game should really have been delayed, what happened was the Rays were given three chances to bat in that mess, leading to run-scoring errors in two of those three innings. Meanwhile, the Phillies were only given two chances to bat in the slop and try to take advantage of the unthinkable field conditions. In the entire game, the Rays were given six bites at the apple at bat in the slop, and the Phillies just five.

There's a reason that nobody -- and I do mean nobody -- ever suspends a baseball game like this in the middle of an inning. It's called fairness. You give both teams an equal chance to take equal advantage of whatever situation is causing the need for a suspension, and then you stop play once that equality has been achieved. With even a modicum of thought given to the situation, it's the only way. Sure the two shitheads calling the game had no clue about this situation, but does that surprise you? That's yet another way you know what I'm saying here today is right. You simply don't call a game like this in the middle of an inning. That smacks of a basic unfairness that nobody should ever want to see in a baseball game, let alone the Commissioner of the entire sport, and double let alone in the fucking World Series. And to think that the decision was made purely out of fear and pussyness by Bud Selig, deathly afraid to have to go before the cameras and say he was suspending a game that the rulebook otherwise dictates would be called and declared a victory by the Phillies.

Now don't misunderstand me here, I am well aware beyond a shadow of a doubt that they never would -- and never should -- end a World Series on a shortened game like that. That's why if you read my live blog from the game the other night, I kept laughing at the fuckheaded announcers who nothing short of moronically kept pointing out once we were through the Rays' half of the 5th inning that this was now an official game in case it gets called. These guys are so clueless they probably don't know that no World Series game has ever been called on less than 9 innings of play, just like they don't have even the basic understanding of the principles of baseball to know that the sport would never do that in the future either, in any World Series game most likely, let alone in the clinching game. So I was laughing at that mere suggestion from the beginning. FWIW surely I do not agree that somehow our win would be cheapened or "count less" if that's how it was awarded -- you have to look back pretty far to see a World Series where one team beat the living shit out of the other team in every single aspect like the Phillies have done to the Rays in this series so far -- but I knew it would never in a million years happen, nor did I think it should. But sending the teams out there while the Phils were bitten by purely weather-induced errors twice, each leading to a run that eventually tied the score at 2-2 in the 6th, and then rolling out the tarp within seconds of the tie being achieved, not even giving the Phillies their equal chance to even things up in the sloppy weather in the 6th, those decisions are simply not explainable and not excusable on the part of Commissioner Selig. And watching him trot out his rulebook to read his ghey little tie-score-rain-suspenion rule just seconds after calling the game tells you all you need to know about his motivations for these unfathomable decisions. Selig is a pussy and a cock, and this pussycock did whatever he possibly could to pray to get this game tied up, and then unconscionably called the game in the middle of an inning to really preserve the unfairness when he got the tie he wanted. All because he is a freaking pussy -- nothing more and nothing less. And the Phillies and all their fans -- a fan base that deserves screwage less than any other franchise's out there, mind you -- got screwed royally as a result. Sure, both teams had to play in the same slop from the 4th to the 6th innings, but to suggest that that means that it's fair what happened is just another way of saying that you don't understand the game of baseball. Just because the Rays got luckier in not having any popups get caught in the ridiculous wind or any ground balls hit five feet away from their fielders in their two innings in the slop-field while the Phils did get bit by each of those in their three slop innings, that doesn't make it fair or right that the teams had to play through that or that the Phils gave up two error-runs as a result. It's just a dam shame whenever anyone in charge lets his unmitigated pussyness screw everyone involved in whatever it is that the person is in charge of. The employees, the fans at the game, the television viewers, millions of fans of the sport in general, everybody. Bud Selig said Fuck You to everyone who has any involvement with baseball for about an hour straight on Monday night, all because he is a pussy. There it is, plain and simple.

So on we go to Wednesday night. Now the Phils will have a pinch hitter to lead off for Cole Hamels' spot, who certainly cannot continue now after a 46-hour delay despite the fact that he was once again dominating the Rays all through Game 5, and then the top of our order to start off our half of the 6th inning tonight just after 8:30pm ET. The Rays of course will get the advantage of not having to field that 6th inning in the slop like the Phillies did, but nothing we can do about that now, thanks to Bud Selig biggest pussy in sports (just for the Google keyword searches right there). So we have a 3 1/2 inning game here, 2-2 starting from scratch, for what is still the Phils' best chance to win the World Series.

If we lose the game on Wednesday, I'm not going to go crazy. What's done is done, and we still have four at-bats to the Rays' three tonight to win it all, plus two more chances in Tampa to win it even if we cannot seal the deal on Wednesday night. The Phillies were inarguably screwed on Monday, that cannot be debated if you understand things, but like so many other errors in major sporting events, there's no sense in blaming the outcome of the Series on that with so much more left to play. As I mentioned above, nobody but nobody predicted the absolute thrashing the Phillies are laying on the Rays in every possible aspect of this series, and for the Rays to come back and win three in a row at this point would be a comeback worthy of being World Series champions as far as I'm concerned, regardless of the indisputable and unforgiveable screwage of Monday night. Our lineup obviously has been utterly and completely crushing over the Rays' lineup -- not a surprise given our season performance over 162 games, but noteworthy in just how horrible everyone other than Carl Crawford on the Rays is hitting the ball, or not hitting the ball to be more accurate about it. Our fielding has not been flawless, but even with the two purely weather-induced errors on Monday -- only one of which was called an error -- the Rays still have I think twice as many actual errors on the field as the Phils have in this series, a fact known to anyone who has sat and watched every game, regardless of the fact that the official scorers have it as five errors apiece. Our relief pitchers have solidly outperformed the Rays as well, with Madson and Lidge being totally unhittable at this point while the Phils have gone off a couple of times on the Rays bullpen so far in this series. And our starting pitching has seen perhaps as large a disparity as our hitting has as far as our dominance over the Rays in this series thus far, with only James Shields putting up anything that could be called a good outing against the Phillies so far throughout. The Phils have scored in the first inning in all but one of these first five games, and we've had at least two men on in every opening inning. We've left a sick amount of baserunners on throughout these games, but the fact remains that we are getting on base left and right, and being admirably patient at the plate to the point that two of the Rays' four starters have given up their most walks of the year (or even their careers) against us so far in the Series. We are all over the Rays and have been from Game 1 in every single aspect of the game so far, so with Wednesday night's tee-ball affair and then two more shots in Tampa, I am sticking my head out there and saying that if the Phillies lose the series, it is the Phillies' fault and not Bud Selig.

But that doesn't make Selig any less of a fucking pussyshit mofo. I hope he's happy being a slave to the television networks in how he plays these games, while watching his tv ratings slide into oblivion at the same time. At least we know we have Selig rooting for the Phillies to pull this one out now tonight, to help absolve him of what he now knows was perhaps the worst in Selig's long, long, long, long line of poor decisions as the Commissioner of America's pasttime.

See you tonight at 8:37pm ET. I will probably live blog again this evening just for shit n giggles, but this time I'm gonna get ragingly hammered even before this game starts. I'm planning to leave work a little early today unlike the other night, and I'm thinking it will be Killians Red tonight instead of the Johnnny Walker blue label I've been hitting up over the past week or so. By the time the Mookie rolls around (10pm ET on full tilt, password as always of "vegas1"), I should be absolutely trashed no matter who wins this game.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

World Series Game 5 -- Live Blog

I haven't done the live-blog thing in quite a while, and I figure tonight with the Phils on the brink of the championship is as good a time as any, as long as I'm sober enough to keep it up anyways....

World Series Game 5 -- Live Blog

9:06pm ET - Cole Hamels so far has, unsurprisingly, been great, giving up no hits in the first two innings of the game, once again dispensing with Rays sluggers Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria who are now 0-for-31 thus far in the World Series. Once again, the Phillies get two on with 1 out in the first inning, and even Pat Burrell spared us the torture by walking to load the bases with one out. Then Shane Victorino roped a liner down the left field line to score two and get us yet another 2-0 lead in the first. The Rays pitchers simply did not come to play in this series, what else can you say about it. The big question right now is: will those two first-inning runs be enough to win the game right there, with Phillies Ace Cole Hammels on the mound? In all we sent eight batters to the plate in the opening inning, once again getting well inside the Rays' starter's head early, plus adding very important throws to his pitch count to start off the game.

2-0 Phillies through two innings. More than a fifth of the way to tasting the thrill of ultimate victory.

9:15pm ET - Another quick inning in the 3rd for Mr. Hamels. No hits in the entire first cycle through the Rays' lineup, including Hamels' first strikeout of opposing pitcher Scott Kazmir, but then Rays leadoff batter Akinori Iwamura put one nearly through Hamels' legs on a 2-2 changeup for the Rays' only hit so far tonight before Carl Crawford, the Rays' best hitter by far so far in this World Series, quickly grounded out meekly to second base to end the inning.

Still 2-0 Phils, middle of the third. Three innings down, six more to go.

9:21pm ET - Kazmir gets his easiest and quickest inning here in the third, sending down the Phillies in order on very few pitches and some bad swings especially by Victorino for the third out. 2-0 Phillies through three innings.

9:31pm ET - Hamels gives up a run on back to back hits by Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria, the first two hits for these two players after the combination began the World Series by going 0-for-31. But then a 3-1 double play from Navarro put a quick end to the threat, as Hamels has had a knack for coming up with when he's needed them all through the 2008 postseason, and we are through 4 innings at Citizens Bank Park. Phillies 2, Rays 1.

9:50pm ET - OK there goes Joe Buck talking about them possibly cancelling this game due to rain, under which circumstances the whole game would be erased. Uh huh. Buck, you are an absolute fucking clown. But the big news of this inning was definitely Cole Hamels taking a fastball in the left index finger of his pitching hand during a bunt attempt. It didn't look like it felt very good and it will remain to be seen how much of an effect this is going to have on hands down the best pitcher in the postseason so far this year. What a terrible shame if his performance gets cut short or hampered by that freak injury at the plate. Otherwise though, the Phillies loaded the bases with two outs, making up a bit for Rays pitcher Kazmir's 9-pitch third inning as he had to throw 33 pitches in the 4th, although the Phils did eventually fail to score when second baseman Chase Utley grounded out to second with the bases juiced to end the inning.

We're through four full innings on a cold and rainy night in Philadelphia. The score: Phillies 2, Rays 1. Now we'll see how Hamels' pitching hand holds up as we move to the 5th.

9:56pm ET - The weather bit the Phillies to start the 5th inning as Jimmy Rollins lost a popup from Rocco Baldelli in the wind and rain to lead off with an error. But what an amazing play by Chase Utley to turn a brilliant double play as he skillfully made the tag of the runner on his way to 2nd base before spinning and gunning the throw to first. Hamels didn't have to throw many pitches at all in that inning, but what he threw looked just fine so far. Middle of the 5th inning, Phils coming up to bat, still 2-1 Philadelphia.

10:08pm ET - The temperature on the field dropped to a cool 40 degrees as the 10 o'clock hour came, and the Phillies once again got their leadoff man on base as slugger Ryan Howard walked on five pitches to start the bottom of the 5th. Pat Burrell then walked after a solid at-bat on Scott Kazmir's 104th and final pitch of the night to once again get two on with nobody out. Kazmir has been pulled from the game and we await the new pitcher as the Phils are once again threatening to add to their lead.
10:20pm ET - The Phillies again busted out with runners in scoring position, going 0-for-3 in the 5th with three popups off of new Rays pitcher Grant Balfour. While at first it kinda bugged me, I have to admit I have grown to enjoy listening to these two uninformed Phillie-hating announcers idiotically proclaim that pitches to Pat Burrell that had to be three or four inches low should have been called strikes against him. What a bunch of F-heads these two clowns are. But knowing how much it obviously bothers them both to see the Phillies doing well, I am coming to enjoy listening to their struggles. Anyways, as the rain continues to pound down and Joe Buck again talks about the umpires cancelling the game and I guess awarding the World Series to the Phillies, we move to the 6th inning with the Phillies still clinging to a 2-1 lead.

10:40pm ET - OK before the sixth inning even started, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver managed to get in their nightly mention of "all" the amazing sporting events that went down in Philadelphia this weekend. All those events meaning a football game and a basebal game in the same day. That's it. During Game 4 they tried to lump in Saturday's Flyers game as well, but that was just redonkulous of course. But they got in the reference once again, making it every single game in this series where they've said the same stupid thing, further icing themselves as the two largest morons in sports commentating today. Anyways, after a full 30-minute layoff between pitches, Cole Hamels came out in the 6th doing his thing and doing it well, putting down the first two batters at the top of the Rays' order before Jimmy Rollins booted another ground ball at shortstop, seting up Carlos Pena to knock in the tying run with his second hit of the World Series.

10:30pm ET poker update:

Pokerstars 50-50 (now it's actually a 70k guarantee every night): 5690 chips, good for 260th out of 960 runners remaining.

Full tilt 50-50: 3504 chips, in 236th of 594 remaining, both at the first break.

Through 5 1/2 innings, it is now a 2-2 ball game. The Phils are going to need to score some more runs if they are to close this thing out in front of the hometown fans tonight.

10:42pm ET - Rain Delay. That sucks. This is unreal, the umpires wait until the Rays score a run to tie the game up, and then they immediately roll out the tarp since now the rules dictate it would be a suspended game instead of a cancelled game if the teams cannot start it up again. And the radar does not look good, either for tonight or for tomorrow. So even though it's been sickly pouring for over an hour here, the umps have waited until the minute after the Rays tie up the game so that it can be suspended until a later date instead of having to call the game and awarding the series to the Phillies. What a perfect fucking ending to an entire series full of absolute clusterfuckage from the umpiring crew. Here's hoping the entire crew breaks their legs when their car crashes into McCarver's and Buck's on their way home from the game tonight.

11:14pm ET - Well, the game has officially been suspended until Tuesday. Still trying to get over the fact that the fucking shiteating umpire crew just put a game into rain delay -- eventually calling the game for the night given the weather forecast -- based on the fucking score of the game instead of based on the actual weather!!! Where the fuck is someone coming out and firing these umpires forever from ever calling another World Series game after their performance throughout this series? And I didn't even mention the clearly blown call on the no-infield fly rule that the umpires inexplicably missed earlier in the 5th inning tonight. Which they also had a gheyass excuse for then too, but the excuse was redonkulous just like the head baseball official's story tonight that "they would have delayed this game in here in the middle of the 6th inning based on the rain and the field conditions absolutely regardless of the score." Uh huh.

So there you have it. The game has been suspended because as soon as the umps saw that they could suspend instead of cancel the game based purely on the score, they jumped at the chance.

Real fuckin fair guys. I feel like I just got punched in the fucking stomach, as does every Phillie fan in America. Simply inexplicable.

Update: As of early Tuesday afternoon, the rest of Game 5 has been pushed off until at least Wednesday evening. Nothing like 48 hours between games and then a 3 1/2 inning "tee-ball match" as fellow Philly guy Riggstad has described it to decide the World Series.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

World Series Thoughts

So here we sit, four games in to the World Series and with my Philadelphia Phillies sitting in the extremely unfamiliar territory of being up 3 games to 1, with one more game at home on Monday night and a chance to close out the franchise's second World Championship in its 126-year history. This just one year after becoming the first team in professional sports to record 10,000 losses as a franchise. And they can win the championship at home in front of the totally deserving home town Philly fans if they can pull it together for one more big win tonight. I'll get to a recap of the weekend's baseball in a second, but I have to say for the record that one of my lasting impressions of this series so far has got to be the umpiring. Or should I say, the lack thereof.

There have been several blown calls through just four games in the World Series. And I don't mean some subjective play where reasonable minds could disagree, or some minor pitch call or something that is just not important enough to even mention. No, I'm talking about blatant, embarrassing mis-calls, ones where the video clearly shows the umpire's inaccuracies, the kinds of calls that absolutely must land these guys in a meeting at the head of baseball's offices sometime in the week or so after the World Series is over. And there's been at least one absolute bonehead call in every single game so far of this series. And I'm probably forgetting a couple to boot.

In Game 1, maybe the 5th inning, the umps started down the road of suckitude by missing the balk on a Cole Hamels pickoff of Rays center fielder BJ Upton. Granted, Upton was so keen on stealing every fucking time he gets on base that he took off about three full seconds before the balk occurred. But then he almost got bailed out on the balk, which showed up only at the end of the stride, but from the slo-mo replay it is clear that Hamels did step about a foot towards home plate by the time that foot came down on his throw to first. It was a balk, plain and simple.

In Game 2, 1st inning, the umpire made the pretty close to unprecedented move of calling a Rays batter out on strike 3 with a full count going (it was a strike btw, albeit on the outside corner. Yknow how I know? I saw it. And Tim McCarver said it was clearly a ball. So you know it was a strike). But then the ump, just a second after calling the batter out, turns to the ump on first base and asks him if the batter checked his swing. The 1st base umpire says no, and the home plate ump sends the batter to first on a walk. The runner later scores when he should have never even been on base. The home plate umpire's official story is that he "meant to" call the pitch a ball but failed to make the right hand motion (and oral call) in accidentally calling the batter out on strikes. Obviously, that is unacceptable at the most basic level and is inexcusable in any game, let alone a game of this magnitude. And the pitch was a strike anyways and the guy should have been called out for letting it go by with a full count going.

Two nights later, in the crucial 7th inning of Game 3, ageless Phililes pitcher Jamie Moyer makes an incredible diving play to shovel a slow topping grounder on the right side to Ryan Howard at first base, and Rays runner BJ Upton is clearly out by a step, very visibly so on the replay. But the first base umpire, standing right there with more or less the perfect angle on the play, calls Upton safe,much to the chagrin of the hometown fans, the fielders and the Phillies managerial staff. And, of course, since Upton feels entitled to every single base once he steps foot on first, the guy who was actually clearly out at first then proceeds to steal second, steal third and then score to tie the 1-run game in the frigging 7th inning on the mis-throw when he steals 3rd base. All when he should have obviously been called out at first to begin with. Sick.

Also in Game 3, late in the game at that in a crucial one-run game, Jimmy Rollins is at the plate and clearly gets hit by the pitch from the Rays' wild pitchers. It was so obvious -- forgetting for a minute the replay which actually shows Rollins' uniform flapping back as the ball hits it -- but it was so obvious even in real-time that even those dolts McCarver and Buck knew it as soon as the pitch came in to home plate. They even replayed the pitch in real-speed and real-audio, saying you could even hear the pitch hitting the batter, from way up where they were sitting in the superbox for the press. And yet somehow, the home plate umpire, standing what, two feet away from where the pitch came in, missed the whole thing. Rollins argued, the ump told him to kiss off, and Rollins flied out on the next pitch to end a super important inning where the Phils were close to getting the go-ahead run across the plate.

Now on Sunday in Game 4, first inning, Rays third baseman Evan Longoria tags Jimmy Rollins at 3rd, and the umpire there calls him safe, saying that Longoria failed to make the tag on Rollins. The replay clearly shows that Longoria nipped Rollins' shirt before he slid back in to third base. Now granted, this was an idiot move by Rays pitcher Andy Sonnanstine to even be chasing Rollins down at this base instead of just taking the double play and ending the inning right there without the Phillies even scoring a run. It was a horrible, inexcusable mental error in fact. But this blown call ended up loading the bases, and the next batter Pat Burrell (if you can even call what Burrell is doing in this World Series "batting") walks in a run, one that should never have scored in that spot since Rollins should have been out at third, and we all know Burrell would have found a way to strike out if given antoher chance in that spot.

And, there have been at least 8 or 9 clear missed calls on balls and strikes, most in pretty dam important spots since these are all basically low-scoring, one- and two-run games. Now granted, this new Fox Trax thing where they show the strike zone in a box and then superimpose the path of the pitch on top of it is kinda like the slow-mo replay on check-swings in that it basically always shows the pitch to be a ball. But the key is that these umpires have been inconsistent in how they're calling balls and strikes, both from game to game and even within games. The same umpire has called guys out on strikes with pitches a good 3-4 inches beyond the outside corner of the plate, and then later on in the very same game the same ump is walking a guy on a full count on a pitch that Fox Trax shows to be right on the corner of the plate. It is just highly frustrating to watch as a fan of the game when the calls aren't even being made consistently throughout the game or games.

And oh btw, don't worry both Tom ShitCarver and Joe Fuck mentioned within an inning of Sunday night's missed call on the tag on Jimmy Rollins in the first that that was "another call that went against the Rays." Yeah guys. That's why the Rays aren't winning this series. Because of the umpires. Not the fact that their 3-4 hitters (Pena and Longoria, who had those 58 home runs and 187 RBIs between them during the regular season, the only two actual good hitters on this team through 162 games) are 0 for 29 with 15 strikeouts through four Games after the team hit what, 23 home runs in their two previous series in the playoffs. Not because the Phillies pitching staff, which was supposed to be our weak spot coming in, has given up 2 runs, 4 runs, 4 runs and 2 runs to a team that previously hit those 23 home runs and flat-out hit the cover off the ball in two playoff series against the White Sox and Red Sox. And surely not because in the first four games of the series, the Rays' supposed-to-be-awesome starting rotation has yet to come up with one great game -- maybe Shields in Game 2, but that's the only Rays start that was even close to good -- and in fact for the most part their starters have looked more or less lost right from the beginning, as in giving up runs in the very first inning, and consistently falling behind batters, givein up more leadoff hits and walks than getting leadoff outs through four games, putting the Rays' pitchers constantly in trouble. And the Rays are surely not losing because of the team's what, six errors so far in four games of the World Series. Nope. It's because of the umpires, who have roundly blown multiple calls every game, clearly ones in favor of both teams evenly. These commentators, I hope they both have migraines for a month every time the think of this World Series. What pieces of garbage.

So the big news over the weekend that has contributed most to the Phils' 3-1 series lead has to be team leaders Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins finally waking up their bats in Philadelphia. Rollins started off Games 3 and 4 both 2 for 2, and Howard busted out with his first home run of the postseason in a key spot late in Game 3 when he and Utley went back to back, and then again in Game 4 with the massive 3-run homer in the bottom of the 4th with his all-strength monster opposite field blast to give us a 5-1 lead as well as the 2 run mammoth crushing homer in the bottom of the 8th for the 10-2 lead. Charlie Manuel said this over the weekend and the two idiot announcers mentioned it several times during the Game 4 broadcast, but it is definitely true that Ryan Howard in particular can and has carried this team on his back for hugely long stretches of the season, several years in a row now. The guy is just so effing good when he hits the ball, that even when he strikes out 175 times a season, if he's hitting 50 homers and 150 RBIs in his other 450 at bats, he is simply crushing against the opposition. I'm not sure which of his two home runs on Sunday I was more impressed with. The opposite-fielder in the 4th was quite impressive, the kind of hit that only a small handful of batters in the majors today can consistently muscle out there like he can, but then his homer in the 8th was so sickly crushed that it might have been even better. If I'm the Rays in Game 5 on Monday night, I am thinking long and hard about pitching to Ryan Howard at all when we have that no-good piece of shit Pat Burrell coming up right behind him.

Pat Burrell. This guy just fucking sucks. Everybody in Philly has known this for several years now, and yet somehow outside of this town people cannot help but be mesmerized by his 25+ home runs and 85+ RBIs every season. Please somebody, anybody, take him off our hands. What a fuckstick in the clutch. Here's a proposal to save a lot of time in these games -- every time Burrell is supposed to be up, let's just skip his spot and give us an out. And every third scheduled at-bat for Burrell, we'll give us two outs, just to adjust for all the double plays he hits in to with his lazy slow ass.

It's great seeing the guys who are doing the total opposite of Burrell in the clutch, guys for example like Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz. Look at his average during the regular season (.219, with 4 home runs), and then check him out in the World Series, where he was batting .500 through three games including a crucial home run early in the series to spark us to our 4-2 win in Game 1. Ruiz has been one of the top one or two fielding catchers in the National League all season long, and here in the World Series he has stepped up several times for us behind the plate. Thank you, Carlos Ruiz. The same can be said for Jamie Moyer, who had gotten shelled in his previous two postseason starts in 2008 before painting the corners with his 84-mpg fastball all night long on his way to powering the Phils to their Game 3 victory on Saturday night. And let's not forget Joe Blanton, who came out on Sunday and probably pitched his best game as a Philadelphia Phillie since being acquired from the Oakland A's just before the trading deadline this summer. And I won't even mention how badly he rocked the ball that he put over the left-centerfield fence in the 5th inning on Sunday to help his own cause and lift the Phillies to a 6-2 lead in the gem of a game he had been pitching to that point.

The bottom line so far in this series is this, just as I had been hoping: most of the Rays team, both their pitching and their hitting, is playing scared, nervous and just way too jittery baseball. Their youth and total, raging inexperience is showing all through this World Series so far. They are playing exactly like a bunch of kids would normally be expected to play in their first World Series, their first playoff appearance even after a decade of sicklosing. The Phillies, on the other hand, are getting mostly solid starts from everyone on their staff (other than crazyboy Brett Myers of course, who is basically back to his dicksuckitty self that got his ass sent down to the minors for a few weeks around the middle of summer this year). And even though the Phils have been hitting fairly poorly with runners in scoring position so far in the series (until Game 4 anyways, when they finally went a respectable 4 for 14 with runners on 2nd or 3rd), they are pounding out lots of hits, drawing lots of walks and just generally constantly putting the opposing pitchers in bad situations and forcing them to make mistakes -- just enough mistakes to be up 3-1 through four games. Think about it -- again other than James Shields' start in Game 2 -- when have the Rays pitchers not been in trouble early and often? Sure the Phils have let the team off the hook several times until Game 4 by not stepping up when runners were in position to score, but the fact remains that they have absolutely constantly had runners in scoring position, and as I mentioned above I believe we have gotten out leadoff batters on base more times than we haven't through four full games so far in the World Series. We are all over the Rays on offense, and on defense our pitchers for the most part are pitching great fucking games. And we are fielding the ball pretty well as well, with Ruiz beghind the plate and Feliz at third basecoming up with their same brilliant defensive performances that they did quietly all through the 2008 season in Philly, and Shane Victorino chasing everything down in center field, calling his teammates off loudly and wisely and making every play we need him to make.

So Game Five is on Monday night, once again at 8pm ET, and unfortunately once again on Fox. Cole Hamels against Scott Kasmir once again in a replay of Game 1. Here's hoping the Philly bats that woke up on Game 4 stay hot early and often as they have pretty much all through the series thus far.

Seriously, can somebody tell me -- how the eff am I supposed to actually do work today?

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

World Series, Game 1

So I started off on Wednesday night after a long day of work by cracking open my bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label, the first time I've ever drunk Johnny Walker in my entire life. I got this kickass bottle as a gift from a lawyer friend of mine who I helped get a job a year or so ago, ironically at the company that recently purchased my former employer after their bankruptcy. On this night I drank for two reasons: first and foremost, to celebrate the Phillies on their first World Series appearance in 15 years, and secondly, because I got word that most of the team I worked with at my former employer are about to be laid off by the new company that owns them. Mostly likely on Thursday (update: they did in fact get laid off, mid-morning on Thursday). Basically I knew this was coming for them since the day the buyout was announced, but to actually see it happening live now has me all broken up. Both of the people I hired earlier this year are among those getting the izznax. It's sad as hell to tell the truth. So I drank to them as well on Wednesday evening as I sit down to watch my Fightin' Phillies hopefully win on the back of staff ace Cole Hamels.

Oh how do I hate Tim McCarver and Joe Buck. I can't even decide who I hate worse. But tell me, does anybody -- anybody in the world -- think these guys are anything but horrible sports announcers? Tim McCarver has always hated the Phils ever since he's for some reason been allowed to call baseball games. Go do a google search of Tim McCarver for a good laugh though and just see how many people hate him. Including, of course, Deion Sanders who dumped a bucket of ice on Timmy boy after he heard about McCarver saying some unflattering things about Deion during a broadcast. "You're a real man, Deion!". That's what I keep remembering Timmy Mac saying after being embarrassed like that. What a whore. Anyways I will never understand how the literal two worst baseball announcers around today are somehow the two schmike selected to call the Fall Classic. Leave it to Fox I guess.

Anyways BOOOooooooommm! Chase Utley hit a two-run homer in the first inning off Rays' starter Scott Kasmir. I called one of my brothers, and then the other. We were all fipping out, as was every Phillies fan I'm sure. Chase fought back from 0-2 in that at-bat too. What a great young home-grown player Chase is. It's one of the things that goes largely unnoticed about this Phillies team -- moreso than at any time in the past, this team got great and did it largely on the strength of homegrown talent from the Phils' own minor league system as opposed to trades or free agent signings from other teams. Think about it, just look at that lineup -- Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell and Carlos Ruiz, and of course Cole Hamels, all have only ever played for the Philies. It's amazing what a really solid farm system can do for a team over a few solid years.

Unfortunately the 2nd inning saw the beginning of a very annoying trend in Game 1 where the Phillies loaded the bases and yet failed to score after a horrible baserunning error by the Flyin' Hawaiin Shane Victorino. For the life of me I kept waiting for these two bumbling idiot announcers to say something about how horrible it was for Victorino to make the third out with the bases loaded by tagging up on a very short and very easy fly ball to shallow center against a fielder in B.J. Upton known to have a good arm. I mean, it was definitively inexcusable, flat-out just mind-bogglingly horrible. We have the bases loaded, our leadoff hitter is up and flies out to shallow center. If you just sit on your ass and wait, we have Jayson Werth (who did in fact lead off the next inning by roping a double down the right field line), Chase Utley and Ryan Howard set to bat next. And the bases are already loaded now! And you're getting thrown out by a mile tagging up on a lazy fly ball that barely reached the middle of the outfield, when the center fielder has a gun for an arm and is easily able to get set and ready to throw before even catching the ball? My god how horrible, surpassed only by the complete vapidity of the announcers to not even know enough about the game to comment on the play. Just laughable.

By the third inning when Werth led off with his double, it was obvious that Rays' starter Scott Kasmir was off his game. No, you wouldn't know it from the sickly pro-Rays announcers of course, but I'm convinced they were only barely paying attention to the actual game being played. They had to be. Kasmir gave up 7 hits I think in 6 innings, but also four walks in what was in the end not a strong performance at all. This despite Joe Maddon coming out in the 5th inning with the earphones on and talking to Buck and McCarver abuot how great Kasmir was doing finding the plate on the night. Uh huh. Great at finding the plate. Basically two baserunners per inning, and this is a great start? Hmmmmmm. Perhaps Joe Maddon is a poker blogger and we didn't even know it?

Phils' starter Cole Hamels pitched another gem, scattering five hits for two runs over 7 innings in earning his 4th postseason victory so far this year with an ERA of just 1.55 so far in the playoffs. His only real problem came in the third inning, when he loaded the bases on a walk and a couple of singles before getting Upton to ground into a sharp double play ball fielded cleanly by Pedro Feliz at third base. He has been solid all year on defense for us over at the hot corner, and is another of those guys on the Phils like Greg Dobbs and Carlos Ruiz and Shane Victorino who was unheralded all through the regular season but who quietly had a very solid year for us, making their contributions where and when needed the most.

The Phils tacked on a third run on a fielder's choice from catcher Carlos Ruiz in the third, which was good because Hamels gave up his only big hit of the night an inning later when Carl Crawford reached out and put one just over the right-center field wall. At this point it was 3-1 Phillies, and it was a lead they would never give up as Hamels gave up just the one more run on a nice hit into the right-centerfield alley by the Rays' leadoff man Iwamura in the 5th. Ryan Madson came in to set up in the 8th and absolutely mowed down the Rays with a slim 3-2 Phillies lead, and then "Mr. Perfect" Brad Lidge -- who was 46 for 46 in save opportunities so far this season coming in to Wednesday's game, including the playoffs -- completely shut down the Rays in the 9th. His slider is just so good, as good as Madsen's fastball was in the 8th and as good as Hamels's changeup was all night through the first seven innings.

It was good our pitching was so strong on the night, because as I mentioned the Phillies could not hit in the clutch to save their lives on the night. In the end our hitters went 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position, stranding 13 runners on base in what proved very fortuitous for us to have such great pitching in this game. Plus, we can't expect to keep beating a great team like the Rays with Jimmy Rollins, last year's MVP, and Ryan Howard, two years ago's (and maybe this year's) MVP, looking completely and utterly befuddled at home plate. Howard for crying out loud is the sickest of all, with the Rays even electing to intentionally walk Chase Utley in the ninth inning just to put two guys on base to face Ryan Howard, who promptly sat up there like a pussass, barely taking his bat off his shoulder on his way to striking out yet again. And if you know baseball at all, Howard isn't just run-of-the-mill striking out. He is looking downright silly and outright confused up at the plate, he really is. He better come out of his funk quick -- him and Jimmy Rollins for that matter, or we're going to have a lot of trouble holding on to leads in the biggest series in the lives of any of the players on either team left in this year's Fall Classic.

I did want to mention briefly again just how horrible Buck and McCarver are on the mikes as baseball announcers. I'm thinking not only of the lack of insight into the finer points of the game from either of them as I mentioned above, but also of Buck proclaiming on Wednesday night that "voguing is prohibited in the rays clubhouse" since manager Joe Maddon told the team to wear khakis and blue blazers on Thursday. I mean, please tell me Buck and McCarver are up there eating magic mushrooms or something during the game, it would explain so much that comes out of their mouths. I'm also recalling McCarver insisting that Pat Burrell should have been called out on strike 3 and then putting up the "Fox cam" and the ball is at least a foot low and a foot outside. Then Burrell ends up topping one down the first base line and beats it out, and there is fuggin McCarver again saying how Burrell should have been called out for runner's interference. For running in the basepath!! What an abject moron. Then in the 5th inning McCarver mentioned that Ruiz and I think it was Pena were both from Latin America, where the baseball draft is not active. Apparently Puerto Rico is not Latin America, huh? Nice one, Timmy. Then in the 6th McCarver pointed out what a "special sports day" it was going to be in Philadelphia on Sunday, since not only are the Phils playing a World Series game there, but the (last place) Eagles are playing the Falcons. Wow!! Asshead. And then my favorite line of the night maybe, in the 9th inning with Lidge out there to close it out, McCarver makes the astute observation that "A lot of Lidge's sliders are in the dirt. Ruiz will have to block the ball." There's fucking nobody on base, assidiot!! Ruiz could literally see the ball heading low, and just stand up and let it roll between his legs and pop into the stands for all it matters to anyone. What an effing clown.

And btw, how many times are they going to show that Christie Brinkley / Chevy Chase "Vacation" takeoff commercial for DirecTV? I mean, once or twice is one thing, but seven or eight times in just one game? Ridiculous.

Game 2 tonight, Brett Myers against Rays' ace James Shields. This one I would lay about 80% odds that the Rays come back and win. Before the series began I predicted a Game 1 victory from Hamels, we lose Game 2, and then (hopefully) we take 2 of 3 in Philly to send the series back to Tampa with us leading 3 games to 2, and no reason to change that now. 8pm ET tonight, coverage on Fox once again with the two greatest baseball minds of our generation calling the game. Lucky, lucky us.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Historical Look at Bull and Bear Markets

With the stock market once again rolling over and playing dead on Wednesday, I went looking to compare the current bear market with historical bear markets in an attempt to put this past year of market shittiness into perspective. I share with you the following chart, which I cobbled together from a number of different sources on the web, including with my own trusty Texas Instruments calculator, and some cold hard math. Following is a chart of all of the bull and bear markets recorded in the S&P 500 Composite index -- the broad index of roughly the 500 largest companies traded in the U.S. It shows the percentage gain from closing bottom of the previous bear to closing top on the S&P 500 Comp for each of the bull markets, along with the length of time measured, as well as the percentage drop from closing top of the previous bull to closing bottom for each of the bear markets recorded going back to World War I. In fact there were several financial and economic slumps, some of them quite massive and in a few cases even requiring what was then the major U.S. stock exchange to shut down for days on end that occurred during the 1800s, but with technology, regulation and markets what they were back then, I think using just the 1900s to be a more useful example (and also the data is much more readily available during that time period). So here is the chart, take a look and let's see what conclusions we can draw from it:

S&P Composite Price Index Bull and Bear Markets 1914-2008

Market TopIndex High% IncreaseMarket BottomIndex Bottom% Decrease
10/9/2007 1565.15 101.5% 10/10/2008 899.22 -43.5%
03/24/2000 1527.46 59.6% 10/9/2002 776.76 -49.2%
07/17/1998 1190.58 304.3% 10/08/1998 957.28 -19.6%
07/16/1990 369.78 67.1% 10/17/1990 294.51 -20.4%
08/25/1987 337.89 233.1% 12/04/1987 221.24 -34.5%
11/28/1980 140.52 61.7% 08/12/1982 101.44 -27.8%
09/21/1976 107.83 73.1% 03/06/1978 86.90 -19.4%
01/05/1973 119.87 73.0% 10/03/1974 62.28 -48.0%
11/29/1968 108.37 48.0% 05/26/1970 69.29 -36.1%
02/09/1966 94.06 79.8% 10/07/1966 73.20 -22.2%
12/12/1961 72.64 86.4% 06/26/1962 52.32 -28.0%
08/02/1956 49.75 267.2% 10/22/1957 38.98 -21.6%
05/29/1946 19.25 157.7% 06/13/1949 13.55 -29.6%
11/09/1938 13.79 62.2% 04/28/1942 7.47 -45.8%
03/10/1937 18.68 131.8% 03/31/1938 8.50 -54.5%
07/18/1933 12.20 120.6% 03/14/1935 8.06 -33.9%
09/07/1932 9.31 111.1% 02/27/1933 5.53 -40.6%
09/07/1929 31.86 408.9% 07/08/1932 4.41 -86.2%
07/16/1919 9.64 60.7% 08/24/1921 6.26 -35.1%
11/20/1916 10.55 59.1% 12/19/1917 6.00 -43.1%

OK. First a couple of general trends I noticed right away here. Interestingly, the end of wars, despite the general feeling of peace and happiness that this might instill in the average American, has not been kind to the stock market. World War I ended in 1919, and that began a two-year bear that knocked more than 35% from the S&P 500 Composite. World War II ended in 1945, and the period from mid-1946 to mid-1949 saw the S&P tumble nearly 30%. The U.S. pulled out of Vietnam for good in the 1973-74 timeframe, and that period of time also saw one of the worst bear markets in U.S. history, with stocks falling 48% over a 21-month period. If history is any guide, the likely withdrawl from Iraq that future president Barack Obama says he plans will not be greeted kindly by investors in U.S. equities.

Other trends. The current bear market facing investors is definitely among the very worst in a century. In sheer magnitude of the drop from the highs, the current plunge of 43.5% in the S&P closing value ranks as the 5th largest of the 20 bear markets recorded since the nineteen-teens. But even that doesn't tell the whole story. The bear market of 2000-2002, caused directly by the blowup of the tech/internet bubble, saw stocks shed nearly 50% of their value, but that bear from peak to trough lasted more than 2 1/2 years. The 1973-74 bear market with its drop also of just under 50% took a year and nine months to bottom out. The 1938-1942 bear is historically regarded as one of history's worst, but again because it lasted nearly 3 1/2 years until the selling finally subsided for good.

The current bear, conversely, has lasted almost exactly one year. Within a week or so, the top to bottom drop of over 43% in the S&P 500 has occurred all within just one year. It's hard to believe stocks could drop that much over just a one-year period, but there is a historical precedent. If you look at the chart at the bear market of 1937-1938, there you can see a strikingly similar move, with the broader stock index plummeting more than 54% in more or less exactly one year. This of course was the middle of the Great Depression, in particular when things had appeared to finally be picking up with the economy for the first time in a decade, and as a result President Franklin Roosevelt had actually pulled back some of the spending on the New Deal and other related efforts. The consequences proved dire as stocks quickly dropped back to their 1935 lows in just twelve months.

The thing about that 1937-8 bear market though that is most different from the current market is where it began. In 1937, the S&P was at 18.68, having rallied over 131% from its 1935 bear market lows of just over 8 and still a good 50% above the previous bear market high from 1933 of 12.20 on the S&P 500 Composite index. In 2007, however, the bull market high of 1565 is more or less exactly the same as the bull market high from 2000. In other words, in 1937, stocks had advanced a full 50% higher than their previous bull market highs from just four years earlier before embarking on their worst one-year plunge of the century. In the current market, however, stocks had just advanced to a shade above the previous bull highs from eight years earlier before once again cratering 43% (and counting). This makes the current bear market arguably even worse than that we saw in 1937-8, because back then in a year stocks tumbled from 50% higher than their previous highs, whereas here what has happened in 2008 looks and feels more like a double-top of the 2000 market highs than a dropoff from a new higher high reached in 2007.

For those of who who think the sky is falling, however, don't despair. Check out 1929-1932 on the chart. This move, begun by the great stock market crash of 1929, pushed stocks down a jaw-dropping 86% over nearly three years of sickening panic selling. By contrast, the Dow would have to get to roughly 1980 or so before we reached that point on its current scale, and that my friends is simply not going to happen. That why they call it the Great Depression, and I do not believe it is improper to say that something on that scale is highly unlikely to ever happen again, with the regulation and the globalization across the marketplace today, and just given the sheer size of the global economy.

There are two other things I can't help but notice from this data I found and that I think are very instructive points to live by. The first is simply to be sure to notice the absolute, stark regularity of bear markets. They're just like economic recessions, and up until the current president took office, everyone seemed to always understand it: they happen extremely regularly, and in fact are a normal and necessary part of the whole process of economic and equity expansion. Just look at the dates of all the bear markets that have occurred since World War I. 1916, 1919, 1929, 1932, 1933, 1937, 1938, 1946, 1956, 1961, 1966, 1968, 1973, 1976, 1980, 1987, 1990, 1998, 2000 and 2007. Two in the 19-teens, one in the 1920s, four in the 1930s (Great Depression, no shit), one in the 1940s and another in the 1950s. Three in the 60s, and then two in the 70s and another two in the 80s. Two more in the 1990s and now two again in the 2000s. How's that for regular? Over the past hundred years, 20 bear markets, spread fairly consistently and linearly throughout the market's history. That averages out to a bear market -- a drop of roughly 20% or more in stock prices from peak to trough -- every five years or so. Every five years, stocks lose at least 20% from top to bottom of a given move. It doesn't happen like clockwork every single five years, but just in the past four decades we have seen exactly two bear markets in each. And that's all we're looking at right now here in 2008, the second of two bears during the 2000-oughts. Unfortunately our current administration does not seem content in accepting the reality of this consistency in the stock market, but the consistency and regularity is there nonetheless. Bear markets happen, and they have to happen in order for the whole market system to work. Bear markets are how the weak, shortsighted and pessimistic investors are shaken out of the market, to be replaced by the strong, longer-focused and more optimistic types that fuel the next bull run. And those bull runs simply cannot happen without the bear periods mixed in. And stocks always come back. Always.

The other thing I can't help but notice -- and this should not be surprising to anyone out there, really -- is that some of the worst, sharpest bear markets have tended to follow the biggest bull runups immediately preceding them. Obviously the Great Depression is the best example of all of this phenomenon, with stocks soaring an eye-popping 409% from 1921 through 1929 until the bubble popped in a huge way and led to the massive 86% decline in stock prices over the following three years of trading action. The next biggest percentage gain in a bull market on that chart occurs all the way up in 1987, where the period from 1982-1987 saw U.S. stocks rise over 233%. The result? A sickening bear market I didn't even mention above, but one that saw stocks slump 34.5% over a period of less than four months. This of course included the well-known Black Monday in 1987 when the S&P 500 declined by over 22% in one day, a day that I myself and most people old enough to give a crap back then will never forget. You think this month's been bad? The biggest daily declines we've seen in October 2008 have been rouhgly 8%, which has happened twice now (with a nice 9% gain day stuck in between, thankfully). Imagine one day when the market fell nearly three times as much as the worst day in October. That my friends was not a good day, and was easily the closest we've ever come in any of our lifetimes to stories of stockbrokers jumping out windows as is often retold from the great crash of 1929.

Unfortunately, the next largest bull market runup on the chart occurred from 1990 to 1998, where in U.S. stocks soared more than 300% over an eight-year period. Of course massive changes in technology and infrastructure led to increased productivity for U.S. companies that had been heretofore unprecedented to say the least. Fueling that huge gain was also the decreases in regulation of several industries, notably the financial services sector, created and pushed by the Clinton administration. But whatever the cause, the end result was still a 300% gain in equities in less than a decade. And now since then the broader S&P 500 index has seen declines of 49.2% and 43.5%, with stocks now sitting below where they were in October 1998 when the bear market of 1998 ended abruptly. Whether than has been enough carnage now to "pay the piper" for the excesses of the 1990's bull market still remains to be seen, but seeing all these numbers laid out in the chart above I think gives some solid perspective to the true magnitude of this year's stock weakness from the eyes of market history. And if nothing else, it really is amazing how many of the more recent bear markets have ended in October. If the lows from two weeks ago hold, that will be four consecutive bear markets that saw the eventual lows put in sometime in October, with Black Monday in 1987 also occurring during mid-October in the bear imemdiately preceding that one. So if history is any guide, we are at a real inflection point in the markets as things continue to rock n roll on Wall Street today.

Cole Hamels against Scott Kazmir tonight in Game 1 of the World Series. 8pm ET on Fox. Here's hoping that Joe Buck and Tim McCarver's plane crashes runs out of fuel before making it to the game so they have to bring in Harry Kalas, easily the greatest announcer in the history of baseball, to call the Phillies' second coronation in their illustrious 126-year history.

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