Feelings, Whoa-oh-oh, Feelings…
"I hate the Phillies, and I don’t want to see them celebrating. They’ve been beating us up all year." –Scott Olsen
When I first read the words of fiery starting pitcher Scott Olsen last September, I’ll admit my inner fan was in complete agreement. The Phillies took 13 of 19 games from the Fish in 2006, and tension between the two teams seemed to build with every meeting. At the time, "hate" didn’t appear to be a strong enough sentiment.
Unfortunately, those heated September emotions are now a great source of personal shame.
After this week’s tumultuous series, I am beginning to rethink the whole "rivalry" mentality. Several interviews with various Phillies players have opened my eyes to the deep emotional damage that this 23-year-old pitcher has inflicted upon our division opponents. Scott’s recent demonstration of completely unprovoked animosity has only served to pour salt on the still gaping wounds embedded in the hearts of Philadelphia.
In the third inning of Tuesday night’s game, Chase Utley innocently called for time when Scott was already in his wind-up. Home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez awarded the late call, and Olsen sailed the pitch high. After the timeout, Utley promptly struck out, and the inning continued without further incident. In the top of the sixth, however, Utley again called for time in the middle of Olsen’s delivery. This time he walked, and Scott inexplicably lost his cool. Chase stared out at the mound with a smirk on his face. To the average observer, I am sure this appeared to be some sort of provocation, but I am convinced Utley’s look was meant to be apologetic.
I watched in shock and horror as Olsen returned Chase’s attempt at peacemaking by yelling furiously. Scott’s tantrum was entirely uncalled for, as Utley explained in a postgame interview:
"As a hitter, you want to be ready, and at that point [on a 3-1 count, in the middle of the pitcher’s delivery] you’re not ready, so you call timeout," he explained, his voice trembling, "Most pitchers understand that." Wiping away tears of hurt and frustration, he added, "It’s a guy who doesn’t necessarily respect everyone on our team."
Chase broke down at this point, unable to regain his composure. As Pat Burell held the weeping second baseman, stroking his hair, Shane Victorino took over, revealing his own angst over Scott’s emotionally devastating words of last season. "That’s what I didn’t like," Victorino said, dabbing at his eyes with a lace hankie offered from Cole Hamels, "To me, the word ‘hate’ is a big word."
Seeing the raw emotion Scottie’s harsh statements have caused, I was ashamed of my team. And I was shamed further as Dontrelle Willis instigated a bench-clearing incident on Thursday, without an ounce of provocation at all from the Phillies.
What has our team come to?
The players of yore would roll over in their graves to see such scandalous behavior. Teams hating each other? Rivalries? Pushing and shoving on the sacred diamond that has always stood as a symbol of peace and a beacon of hope to all who view it?!
Perhaps it is the youth of the Marlins players, and the organization itself. Established teams, rich in history– such as the Red Sox and Yankees– would never dream of “hating” each other. Rather, they warmly greet one another with loving embraces at the start of each game, smiling in brotherly adoration while opposing fans come together in unity, holding hands stadium wide as the organist plays “We are the World.” And as A-Rod hits one out against Matsuzaka, both dugouts, joined by Red Sox and Yankee fans alike, erupt in cheers of congratulation.
This is the legacy of baseball.
When did the Marlins forget this? Was it when two Phillies pitchers, noted for their outstanding control, pegged Miguel Cabrera in his injured elbow last season? Was it when they started employing annoying and potentially harmful delay tactics with Scott Olsen, knowing from previous experience that this would rile him? Was it when Lieber plunked our first baseman, and still felt the need to attempt a beaning of our ace pitcher as well? Or perhaps it was when the heckling began from the Phils bench on a simple retaliation pitch from Willis.
I simply cannot understand why any of the aforementioned incidents would be viewed as anything other than acts of love and offerings of peace. Certainly nothing the Phillies ever do demands less than the highest level of "respect," so I totally understand where Chase Utley is coming from.
It is time for an olive branch, folks. I, for one, will no longer stand for any form of animosity at the ball park. No more cheering when the opposing pitcher gives up a run. No more boos when Cabrera is intentionally walked. The events of this past week have led me to the conclusion that baseball just isn’t the place for rivalry. It is simply too hurtful. As Chase Utley and his team have so graciously reminded us through their crying to the media, baseball players are human beings with fragile hearts. When you cut them (uh, or say that you hate them) they bleed.
Scott Olsen, I love you as a Fish, but your viciousness toward the poor Phillies is simply unacceptable. I believe you need to dig deep within the recesses of your heart and soberly ask yourself: Can’t we all just get along?
And then send Chase Utley a dozen roses.