There are baseball Gods, this I'm sure of. How else can you explain how one team spent 159 days of the 183 day season in first place, and get nothing. The other team was in first place for two days tied and two days by themselves, and they willl open the playoffs today at home against the Colorado Rockies.
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for hooever.jpgHow else can you explain how one player was at the bottom of the well in mid-season, and is cheered and honored at the end of the season. Baseball Gods at work.
For the past several years he's been an outsider. Talk radio roasted him everyday like he was corn on a grill. Pretty as a picture, sure. Well paid, sure. But pretty or paid doesn't help when you are facing a John Smoltz slider on the fists and you buckle at the knees and look skyward, like you're watching for Ed Wade skydiving.

Earlier in the season he was one bad-breath above the 200-Mendoza line, that mystical degree of measurement that says go below it, and you just don't stink, you stink worse than road kill.

In June, Pat Burrell sat at .201 and the 610 talk-radio mongrels circled like Death Valley buzzards and the cell phone prognosticators called him a money stealing, gutless, no nothing of a ball player who was the biggest mistake this winless franchise ever wasted $50 million on. He became the poster boy for 10,000 losses and for a team that hadn't made the playoffs in 14 years. We sat at the Park and watched grown men and little boys call him names that weren't fit for man or beast. One guy, and I kid you not, when Pat came to bat, he stood and held his arm out with his middle finger extended while Pat was up. Never said a word, just stood there with his middle finger extended. I turned to my wife and said, "That guy has got to get a life."

But now look at Pat Burrell's statistics. Maybe not A-Rod stuff, but you have to hand it to him, he fought his way back to respectability. He's had some key jacks and if you add his base on balls to the picture, that .400 on base percentage is making Ed Wade  look more like a genius than a dope.
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for vuk.jpgPat is dedicating the playoffs to his friend and mentor John Vukovich,
who showed him tough-love when Burrell broke into professional baseball from the University of Miami. Burrell will be the key to this potent Phillies offense starting this afternoon. Whether he hits third, fifth or sixth, Burrell's going to make Phillies fans forget the words trade and Burrell in the same sentence. I can feel it in my bones.

Today's game will not only decide who goes 'one love' in this first-team that-wins-three-series, it will be the battle of the MVPs, too. Not since the Missouri Compromise have people on opposite sides of the Mighty Mississippi been so split. On the West, you have those who hail Matt Holiday as the second coming of Doc. And admit it if you will, but Holiday's statistics back up the high praise.
Thumbnail image for east.jpgIn the East, fans are rallying around the beloved J-Roll, who predicted that his team was the 'team to beat,' then went out and did everything he could to ensure that it was. Coupled with his defensive play, Jimmy Rollin's statistics are something to behold as well. Rollins has become a Philadelphia icon and his own poster boy on don't do what I say, but do what I do.
Both players will be leading their team on and off the field. And fans on either side of the Mississippi are saying Matt Holiday and Jimmy Rollins, one of them at least, is the NL MVP.

Two lefthanders will start game one, the Phillies Cole Hamels vs the Rockies Jeff Francis. Game one, the Phillies vs the Rockies. Hamels vs Francis. Get ready to rock and roll.

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