This town has embraced its baseball team, in outsized numbers, mostly because it wins but partly because of how it looks at the end of the fight -- bleeding, busted up, bruised and grinning a wobbly-toothed smile that says, "Yeah, but you should see the other guy."
For years now, the Phillies have refused to throw the first punch. (Extended analogy alert!) Season after season, they are content to hang around, absorb punishment, hang around some more, wait for the late rounds, rope-a-dope on spikes. They are Ali against Foreman in Zaire, laying on the ropes, getting pounded, waiting. It is what they do.
Lou Duva, the great boxing promoter/trainer/salesman, used to repeat the honored boxing maxim at times like this, that "styles make fights." So you put together a jabber and a slugger and hoped for a long, interesting night. Or you put together two bombers and prepared for sudden thunder. You put a lefty in with a guy and girded for confused tedium. And then there were the brawlers, often from Mexico for some reason, guys who were "good pitchers and good catchers at the same time," guys who would give and take and get up and give and take some more, thrilling and crowd-pleasing. That's kind of how I think the Phillies are, except they wait forever.
They can't wait anymore.
They are favored in their first-round series against the Milwaukee Brewers. They should be favored. But they need to hit this time and they need to get Game 1 against Yovani Gallardo. From last year, we all have their playoff batting average against Colorado tattooed on our consciousness: .172. It goes without saying that a similar output will yield a similar result. And with CC Sabathia and his apparently-bionic left arm starting Game 2 for the Brewers, well, it is not hard to imagine that as a difficult day for the Phillies under any circumstances.
So they need to start quick. They need to throw that first punch. It goes against the Phillies' nature, but it is hard to see another way. They really need this first one.