“This is a time to cherish,” Jimmy Rollins was saying. He was sitting in the dugout, hours before the first pitch last night. The ballpark had begun to awaken after the long night before. The stadium service people and all manner of media were performing their ancient rituals. Boxes of rally towels were stacked at the gates.
Cherish. It is a really rich word, the very sound of it somehow adding to its meaning. You cherish valuables, but only the most valuable. You cherish memories, but only the absolute best of them. It is not a word used wantonly. It is not a word a baseball player uses in July.
“You never forget that a lot of guys don’t make it this far,” Rollins continued. The win in Game 4 of the World Series would not go final for another nine innings and 6 hours. The Phillies would ride Joe Blanton and Ryan Howard and four home runs to a 10-2 victory but they would follow Rollins, again. He was on base four times and scored three times.
The Phillies are one game away now from their first title since 1980. The city of Philadelphia is one game away now from its first major sports championship in 25 years. These are big numbers. We tend to measure around here in decades and years (and mostly next-years, at that). One game is difficult to comprehend but it is this morning’s reality.
“There have been a lot of dreams cut short – we all know what happened in ’93, the last time the Phillies were here,” Rollins was saying. But they never got as close as these Phillies now are, up three-games-to-one against the Tampa Bay Rays.
This was the 102nd win of the Phillies’ season. As we all know, Rollins predicted 100 at the start of the year, but he was talking about the regular season. Since then, though, he has happily embraced the notion that the playoffs count toward the total, too. And why not?
He is imperfect, granted – he stood and admired his eighth-inning shot to right field last night for a little bit too long, and had to hustle into second base when it hit off of the top of the wall. But he remains their most visible presence.
They have plenty of leaders. He is simply the one most willing to catch the arrows.