Seeing Red: When to Catch the Phillies in 2011
I cannot wait for Valentineâ€™s Day.Â There I said it.Â As a matter of fact I will tell this to anyone who will listen to me.Â Sometimes I will find myself just staring at the calendar with January at the top and tease myself and flip the page over to February.Â I will then scan down to the 14th of the month, a Monday this year, and longingly look at it and maybe even sigh a little.Â Have I cracked?Â Gone soft?Â Will I be plugging â€œGleeâ€ and organizing a trip to the midnight showing of the next “Twilight” movie in this post?Â Everyone relax, this year on Valentineâ€™s Day pitchers and catchers report to their respective sun drenched states to start spring training.Â The long cold winter will be showing its first sign of giving way to spring, and in turn Opening Day 2011.Â How can you not love Valentineâ€™s Day?
Now if you are a Phillies fan, this Valentineâ€™s Day is the starting point of what could be a season to only dare to dream about.Â No need to dive into a team analysis at this point, if you have not heard of the nice little starting rotation that they have pieced together or an offense that has tremendous potential, and looking to get back on track, then you must have been living under a rock the size of Barry Bondsâ€™ inflated melon these last few months.Â The question you need to ask yourself as a fan is â€œwhat games do I want to get to?â€Â This is much easier said than done if you are looking to pay face amount for a ticket for a team that has sold out 120 plus straight games.Â Think youâ€™ll just buck up and enjoy the ride and buy a full or partial season ticket package?Â Sorry, sold out for 2011.Â What is available?Â Six-game packages.Â Letâ€™s be honest, though, in these economic times most of us toss money around more along the lines of the PA team to the west, the cellar dwelling Pirates, as opposed to the team whose grave the Delaware Valley has been dancing upon since stealing Mr. Lee, those beloved Yankees.Â Come February 17th, though, single-game tickets go on sale and you are going to want to go into that day with a plan of what teams you want to see and a fast internet connection if you want to try to score tickets to the best possible games of what will be another 81 straight sell outs.Â Tickets on sale in February?Â The schedule is even out?Â Oh yes, and not only have I peeked at February 14th on my calendar but I also snuck some glances at April through September on their schedule.Â I am going to take you through who you are going to want to see the Phils play along with some weekend day trip ideas sprinkled in just in case you want to spice up the Phillies experience a bit.
Opening Day?Â Forget it.Â I agree it is a special game, but there is better value out there for your money to go with some interesting story lines that could play out.Â You wonâ€™t have to wait long for that to happen because the second game of the year could be just as intriguing as the sacred start to every season, plus come at a better price, and here is why; I am guessing Halladay gets the deserved nod for game one and I am also guessing that Charlie Manuel is going to go righty-lefty with his embarrassment of riches on the hill.Â Now should that be the case, than I can envision Cliff Lee logically taking the ball next.Â What kind of atmosphere do you think Leeâ€™s first start will have?Â Letâ€™s discussâ€¦he became a Phillies legend during the 2009 World Series by beating the Yankees twice, traded away before the 2010 season and said he never wanted to leave this place, turned down the Yankees’ offer this past off season to sign back with Phillies after leading the Rangers to their first post season series win and World Series appearance, and did I mention that he credited the Philadelphia fans for creating an atmosphere and buzz at the ball yard that he wanted to come back to?Â So to re-cap, he essentially told the Yanks to stick it and that the fans here were one of the biggest reasons he came back to the Phillies to finalize a rotation for the ages.Â His first start is going to be a mixture of adoration and bedlam, trust me.Â Lee is going to take two cheesesteak rolls, place them in a wicker basket and feed the entire crowd after the game while turning watered down beer into wine. Â Â I mean, can he do no wrong?
Best series I see this month is when the Texas Rangers pull their high-powered offense into town for a three-game weekend set May 20th thru 22nd.Â The Rangers are not much on pitching but this is not why you are going to want to see them play.Â They call them the Power Rangers for a reason and they can mash with anyone.Â They have one of the best young shortstops in the game with Elvis Andrus, new signee Adrian Beltre at third, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton.Â Hamilton alone is worth seeing them play.Â I never saw Mickey Mantle play live but over the last year all I have read and heard is how Hamilton is this generationâ€™s â€œMickâ€ between his off-the-chart abilities, and unfortunately, the full potential that will probably never be realized.Â It is no secret the reasoning for this is the drug-fueled life he lived at one time, and the toll it has taken on his body in addition to the reckless abandon with which he plays.Â Hamilton wore a flak jacket in the playoffs last year because he had two fractured ribs from running into an outfield wall forcing him to miss the final month of the season.Â So he takes September off, returns to play with two fractured ribs in the playoffs, and wins the ALCS MVP.Â Impressive.
2011 World Series preview anyone? Â A little mid-week tease from the 28th to 30th with the Boston Red Sox, accompanied of course by Red Sox Nation, scheduled to pay a visit.Â Letâ€™s speculate on some of the possible pitching match-ups; Halladay vs. Josh Beckett, Lee vs. Jon Lester, Hamels vs. Clay Buchholz, Oswalt vs. John Lackey.Â I donâ€™t know about you but I would pay to see any combination of those match-ups.Â That is just the pitching side, on offense Boston trots out new acquisitions Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, to go with Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz and the huggable and cuddly Philly fan favorite J.D. Drew.
Aside from Opening Day you will probably pay the most over face value for anyone of the three games in this series.Â If you have to go to one of these games then I suggest you buy the Phillies six-game â€œBoston Red Soxâ€ pack for the BoSox ticket and dump the other five games on Stub Hub if you cannot afford them.
It is a real shame that the Phillies and Giants only play each other twice a year during the season.Â These two teams have all the makings of what could be a snippy rivalry as the Giants make their annual visit to South Philadelphia July 26th thru the 28th.Â Things started getting juicy in Game 5 of the NLCS when Halladay and former Phillie outfield statue Pat Burrell exchanged pleasantries after Burrell was caught looking at a called third strike and Doc stared toward the home plate area.Â Evidently Burrell doesnâ€™t like being stared at or breaking pitches away, and in turn had some choice words for Halladay.Â It was only two years prior that Burrell was the toast of the town leading the 2008 championship parade down Broad Street on a horse drawn Budweiser wagon, now after popping off to the staff ace, the Philly fans want to see Burrell dragged down Broad Street behind said wagon.
Game 6 had some more Fall fireworks as Chase Utley and Jonathan Sanchez picked up where Doc and Pat â€œThe Batâ€ left off.Â Sanchez was in mid-implosion on the mound when he drilled Utley with a pitch.Â As the stoic Utley made his way to first he reached down to pick up the ball that had rolled in front of him and tossed it underhand to Sanchez in a â€œI think this is yoursâ€ type of way.Â This mind game set Sanchez off who glared at Utley as the two began using choice words to discuss the dreadful housing market, or something like that, I think.Â This made S.F. manager Bruce Bochyâ€™s decision to give Sanchez the rest of the night off an easy one.Â Everyone knows how this one ended with the Giants getting the last laugh and eventually a World Series ring.
If there is one team in the N.L. that wonâ€™t be bullied by the Philâ€™s starting rotation it is the Giants because they are able to rollout an enviable stable of arms themselves.Â Much like the starting rotation matchups that the Red Sox present, the Giants are on the same level.Â I would pay to see any combo of; Halladay vs. Tim Lincecum, Oswalt vs. Matt Cain, Hamels vs. Madison Bumgarner or Lee vs. Sanchez.Â I want to see Sanchez get a start the most even though he is the least opposing of the four.Â He has made the deadly mistake of letting the fans know they can get in his head and he had a run in with Utley, who is adored here.Â Good luck with that next start here, Jon.
I am going to encourage you to take a little road trip to South Philly.Â The Phillies already play in South Philly youâ€™re thinking right?Â I mean literally South Philly as in Nationals Park in Washington D.C.Â If you have ever watched a game when the Phillies are in D.C. it is surreal because if the visitors score a run you see the Philly gear-wearing fans cheering and jumping up and down in the background all the time.Â I was there on Opening Day last year and the home team was getting booed during pre-game introductions and the place was shaking for the opposition.Â Being division rivals they play down there a few times a year but the Phillies are there for a weekend series from the 19th thru the 21st.Â Weekend series, practically a home game, summer is winding down, chance to do some sight seeing in the Nationâ€™s Capital, come on treat yourself.Â Oh, and be sure to get your tickets out in right field so you can heckle Jayson Werth whose team will be out of it by the second week of May.Â Then againâ€¦ for $126 million, heâ€™ll have the last laugh.
Up to this point we have covered pretty much the entire season and have not mentioned the Metropolitans yet.Â I honestly want the Mets to be on the same elevated level as the Phillies because it makes for a solid trash-talking rivalry.Â Unfortunately, I think Mr. Met and his crew are heading in the opposite direction and many a Philly fan will be taking great glee as the Phillies impose their will on them throughout the year.Â Granted nothing is guaranteed but the Phillies travel to Gotham City the final weekend of the season from the 23rd thru the 25th and you have to admit that it would be fun watching them celebrate on Citi Field.Â Getting tickets to any of the games there should not be a problem, only thing you need to do is watch that magic number make its way to zero and do some planning.Â What better way to celebrate the demise of your enemy than by dropping by their house and popping the champagne as you clinch a division crown?Â I am sure you will want to fill the handful of Mets fans in at the game that this is your fifth straight N.L. East title, then duck and run for your life.
When it comes to getting playoff tickets it is every man for himself.Â Every game is a must see and will make acquiring tickets for the regular season seem like picking up tickets for Spring Training.
And if you see my wife, be sure to tell her she is a lucky woman to have a husband so excited for Valentineâ€™s Day.
– Let me get this straightâ€¦â€¦the Phillies will spend $10 million to upgrade their left field scoreboard but wonâ€™t give the best first base coach in the game, Davey Lopes, more money to stay.Â At least now they will be able to view their runners getting thrown out in High Def.
– I was watching “Prime 9” on the MLB Network the other night and they were counting down the best infields of all time.Â The 1934 Detroit Tigers infield was referred to as â€œThe Battalion of Deathâ€.Â How great of a nickname is that and why was this the first time I ever heard it?
– The 2011 Executive of the Year Award already goes to Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulous for getting the Angels to take Vernon Wells and the rest of his contract.Â Angels GM Tony Reagins had to be drunk dialing the GMs around the league that night and Anthopoulous took advantage.Â I cannot think of any other explanation of how this deal gets done.Â Once again everyone, the lesson is nothing good happens when you drunk dial.
Matt Aber is a baseball enthusiast who went to a Christmas party over the holidays and was the only one there out of about 80 people who was wearing a throwback jersey.Â He is an advocate of the national organization called The Miracle League which allows special needs children to play baseball.Â He encourages you to support this worthy cause and learn more at www.miracleleague.com