10/17/08 6:42 PM ET
Phils try to fight effects of long layoff
Past two World Series unkind to teams with extended break
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
"It can be [a problem]," said Sean Casey, a member of the 2006 Tigers. "Seeing it with the Rockies last year and with Detroit, I don't think you can overlook it. You can't simulate a game-like situation, even when you get a couple guys out there throwing BP for a few innings."A week will have passed since Carlos Ruiz squeezed a foul popup from the Dodgers' Nomar Garciaparra, sending the Phillies to their sixth World Series. The Rays and Red Sox, thanks to an unlikely comeback by Boston in Game 5, continue to play. The Phillies' greatest challenge this week is what to watch on television, or where to go to dinner. The players will pass the time working out, taking batting practice and throwing simulated games but know there's no way to simulate a World Series atmosphere. "When you play every single day, when you get two days off, it feels like a week," first baseman Ryan Howard said. "Now you get seven days off, that's like a month." A month that can still end well for the Phillies, if they can stay sharp and continue to play like a team that has won 20 of 25 games. In 2006, a Tigers team that had won seven straight to reach the World Series morphed into a squad that committed errors and couldn't hit. The Cardinals finished them in five games. A year later, the Rockies won 21 of 22 games, bulldozing their way to the Wild Card and past the Phillies and D-backs for the pennant. With the postseason schedule tweaked to start the Series midweek rather than a weekend, Colorado waited eight days to play Boston, which needed seven games to complete its comeback over Cleveland. The Rockies fought boredom by having workouts, and even had an intrasquad game, complete with statistics and a box score. Then the vaunted Rockies offense scored two runs in the first two games, and Colorado was in four games. "That was probably one of the biggest challenges any team has had to face going into a World Series," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "We tried different things to re-create and hold onto it. But at the end of the day I just don't know that you can without playing games, without that level of competition and without that adrenaline. "It didn't help us, having the time off. I can say that, but I won't use that excuse. We played a very good team that was very hot at the same time." Phillies first-base coach Davey Lopes played in four World Series and was on the losing team three times. He doesn't buy into the theory that a layoff had anything to do with it. "That doesn't bother you," Lopes said. "It's something nice to read and write about. Do you remember who Colorado played last year? The Red Sox. Who was the best team? The Red Sox. It had nothing to do with layoff. That's excuse-making. [If the Phillies don't win, it's because] the other team kicked our butt. "I'm a firm believer in you don't look for that kind of rationalization for not winning the World Series. When you get to the World Series, the emotional level, the intensity level, all that other stuff is irrelevant. You're ready to play. I guarantee you. They'll be ready for opening night. If not, they don't belong on that field and they better have their blood checked. The key to playing in the World Series is to play with intensity, without being intense." When the games start, the focus quickly shifts to the field. Away go promotional and business obligations, and the media is then relegated to the press box. All energy is channeled properly. Forget the layoff at that point. Just focus on the opponent. "There's something magical about this time of year," Phillies reliever Chad Durbin said. "It's a seven-game Super Bowl. You have to simplify everything. After Spring Training, 162 games, the Division Series and LCS, you have to keep doing what you've been doing. You can't get carried away with the stage. Off the field, the stage is much different. On the field, it's the same stage."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.