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Friday, September 1, 2006

Phils Miss Another Sweep Opportunity

The good news is that the Phillies enter September with a month of meaningful baseball ahead. The bad news is that they ended August having failed once again to complete a sweep of a team they should have finished off in the Washington Nationals.

I began to wonder if I was imagining things, or if the Phils were really missing golden opportunities to sweep bad teams. I also wanted to get a feel for how they might do on their remaining schedule, instead of the constant noise put forth by some members of the media in Philadelphia based on nothing except how brilliant they think they are.

So, I looked at the Phillies schedule and got some actual facts. Since July 4th:
· The Phillies have won 2 of 3 games against the Pirates, Giants, Arizona, and Washington twice. They also took 3 of 4 from the Mets and Cubs. Only the Mets are currently above .500.
· They swept the Cardinals in three games at St. Louis to open August.
· Of the teams they play the rest of the way, the Phillies:
o Lost 2 of 3 to the Braves in Atlanta and at home
o Split 4 games against Florida at home in July
o Won 3 of 4 against the Cubs in the Windy City
o Won 2 of 3 against the Nationals, home and away
o Did not play Houston

I realize that debating the significance of not sweeping teams is a welcome change for Phillies’ fans. I’m enjoying this season as much as anyone, and watching Ryan Howard is just awesome. I’m not looking to be part of Negadelphia.

However, I’m curious about what so many missed opportunities to sweep bad teams says about this team. Possibly it says nothing more than they’re a young, essentially .500 team themselves.

But it’s also possible to suggest that they just don’t have that something extra to sweep any team. Tough to say about a team that just lost its first game all season after taking a lead into the 9th inning, but I wonder . . . just a touch . . . if “pressure” affects this team. They go into these series knowing they could really use a sweep, and keep coming up just a game short.

This is a team that is going to need every winnable game the rest of the way. General manager Pat Gillick is on record saying he expects the Wild Card to be decided in a one game playoff. If pressure is a problem, they better get over quickly. It’s only mounting.

In my opinion the Phils have a favorable road to the Wild Card. Forget the prevailing media talk that it’s not a favorable schedule because “everybody stinks in the National League.” Look at how this team has performed recently against their remaining schedule.

They should win the NL Wild Card, unless pressure gets in the way.

It’s that time of year again. After a so-so rookie year, I’m kicking of my second season of picking games looking to be more selective. I’m taking Notre Dame –7 at Georgia Tech this week.

Week in Review:

· The Boston Red Sox traded reliever David Wells to the San Diego Padres, an NL Wild Card contender. A bit of revenge for Sox manager Terry Francona on the Philly boo-birds that haunted him? Doubt it, but it could make the Phils’ playoff push a bit tougher.
· ESPN seemed to run the entire press session of Terrell Owens after his preseason debut in Dallas. We wonder why more and more kids mimic the actions of spoiled athletes? They’re the ones getting all the attention.
· It seemed like the same network ran the Little League World Series almost nonstop until it wrapped up last weekend. It was a hell of a lot more enjoyable watching the final on the Wide World of Sports years ago. There were no microphones on the kids, and none of them were profiling for SportsCenter.
· The U.S. Men’s Basketball team failed to win the gold in the World Championships. As hoop experts debate why the United States no longer dominates the basketball world, it doesn’t seem all that hard to figure out. I guess I’m ripping ESPN this week, but so be it. We now have at least a generation of players that grew up thinking the highlights on SportsCenter showed how the game is played. It’s not. By the way, speaking like the hosts doesn’t make much sense either.

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