A red-eyed loss

Over the past two years, I've logged 70,000 miles in the air. That's the rougly the equivalent of flying around the equator three times. Or around C.C. Sabathia twice. Still, I get a little nervous flying. And by nervous, I mean when you see the guy clinging to the right leg of the flight attendant during takeoff, that's me. The anxiety -- I was thinking about therapy, but eventually concluded on my own that its roots lay in my desire to control everything in my environment, thereby saving myself several hundred dollars -- has lessened during my two seasons on the baseball beat. Still, I get a little antsy when I hear a new series of beeps over the plane's intercom system, convinced that, this time, it is a secret code informing the crew to prepare for imminent death. So when four long tones awakened me from my seated slumber aboard US Airways Flight 36 this morning -- it was around 1 a.m. California time, or 4 a.m. Eastern time, or 3 a.m. Denver time, and god knows what physiologic time -- I instinctively bolted upright. The tension was not eased by a flight attendant's voice asking if there were any doctors or nurses on board. Logic told me the flight attendant was not looking to put together a roundtable debate on medical ethics. Turns out, a lady had fainted after walking out of the bathroom -- I can only presume it was because she read my game story while seated on the John -- and whacked her head during her fall. I'm not sure if there were any doctors on board. Poor girl. She is passed out on the floor in need of a doctor, and all the only thing that the 100 or so media members on board are thinking is, "This damn plane better not get diverted to Chicago."

I thought about walking to the back and asking if somebody had called for a sports writer. But then I went back to sleep.


I'm sure few of you have any interest in re-hashing yesterday's melt-down in Los Angeles. And, really, what is there to re-hash? But I've already been asked this question several times, so I figure I'll go on record -- you can't fault Charlie Manuel for taking Pedro Martinez out of yesterday's game. Manuel said beforehand that he thought Martinez could throw up to 90 pitches. And the fact that he was able to get up to 87 in the blistering heat was impressive on its own. I talked to one Phillies pitcher yesterday who said the heat was oppressive. Martinez's last pitch was drilled by James Loney to the warning track. In a 1-0 game, all it takes is one fatigued pitch to tie things up. Chan Ho Park had pitched great the night before and had allowed just five hits in 26 career at-bats against the three batters he was due to face. Scott Eyre was still available. Manuel made the right move. He could have used Martinez to bunt Carlos Ruiz over to second and then left him in for the eighth with Park at the ready. But with a 1-0 lead, all it takes is one pitch.

More questionable, at least to me, was the decision to remove Ryan Madson and use J.A. Happ to face Andre Ethier. But when the Phillies decided that J.A. Happ would be used as a lefty reliever, these were the type of situations they needed to use him in. Ethier had just singled off of Madson the night before, and Happ was the most experienced lefty available. So even in that situation, it is tough to fault Manuel.

In the end, wins and losses fall on the shoulders of the players. And players are human, as we saw the night before when formerly-unhittable Dodgers lefty George Sherrill allowed a three-run home run to Raul Ibanez in Game 1. Chase Utley had a chance to make a routine play -- at least by Utley and Jimmy Rollins standards -- and didn't. Scott Eyre had a chance to retire a lefty hitter, which is his role, and didn't. Ronnie Belliard simply made a perfect bunt. Jim Thome did as Jim Thome does. When you are six outs away from a commanding 2-0 series lead and end up losing, the natural reaction is to point fingers. But sometimes, the other team simply beats you. This series was expected to go six or seven games for a reason -- and in Game 2, you witnessed that reason.

This seires will not be won or lost by the Game 2 melt-down. It will be won or lost by the performance of Cliff Lee in Game 3, and the Phillies ability to finally hit Hiroki Kuroda. It will be won or lost by Cole Hamels' performance in Game 5. Would a Game 2 win have helped immensely? Sure.

But the playoffs are all about perspective, about focusing one's attention on the things you can control, and ignoring the things that you can't.

Kind of like flying.