Balls, Sticks, & Stuff
It Was the T-Shirt All This Time?

The 2005 Phillies Spring Training T-Shirt

As we have all heard ad pukem, when the Phillies began spring training sporting t-shirts reading, "Now Is The Time", it apparently had a negative effect, opposite from what was intended. The t-shirts were meant to inspire. Coming into spring training the Phillies had a new and improved roster (on paper), the rest of the NL East was in decline (on paper), and just about everyone who had just heard of the game of baseball was picking the Phillies to win the NL East and go deep into the playoffs.

But as we all know, that is not how the season turned out. The team knew there would be no excuses for failure, and instead of just taking the field and reacting reflexively to the ball and rely on the natural athleticism that got them to the peak of their field, they seized up, squeezing the bats too tight at the plate and thinking too much on the mound. Underperforming all season, the injuries began to mount in direct correlation to the humidity and the team faded out of playoff contention after a 1-9 stretch in August.

But fast-forward to mid-September. The Phillies have won 6 straight - 9 out of their last 10 - and have media and phans alike asking, "What happened between August and September?" Apparently, the team learned how to relax. Todd Zolecki quotes Tim Worrell in the Inqy:
"I think the biggest thing, really, is that we were somewhat out of it, and now we're just relaxing and playing"...
..."Weren't we picked to be playing the Yankees in the World Series? I think that's part of it. I signed here because of that. So my expectations were where everyone's were. Things didn't go our way early. And obviously, we're responsible for that. You can see that. And when guys got hurt and other guys stepped in, they pressed, too. You press because you want to contribute, but it takes you out of your game."
If that is the case, that the expectations got to the team and they wilted under the pressure, then its conceivable that phans could have to endure another stretch of bad play. Because of the recent good play, with twenty games to go the Phillies are again in contention for a playoff berth, albeit just barely. But before you count them out, the Phillies are well aware that their psychological profile is their biggest obstacle (again, Zolecki and Worrell):
"...We can't sit there and let what we're doing right now get us into that 'Geez, we have to win today.' Because we did that earlier in the season and look what happened."
So when takes the mound against one has to wonder, how tight will Gavin Floyd hold the ball tonight on the mound when he faces the Cincinnati Reds? Will Pat Burrell leave fingerprint like indentations in his Louisville Slugger?

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