Ask the fans, ask the ticket manager, ask the merchandise mongers in Philly. Ask the hitters who 16 months ago were the engine room of this franchise and suddenly, says shortstop Jimmy Rollins, "are the B team." They'll tell you that Amaro and the newly ravenous Phantoms didn't just buy talent when they lured Loose Laser from Gotham City and created The Legion. They purchased energy, the kind that creates songs—there's already Baseball's Four Aces, by the old Philly quartet Danny & the Juniors—before seasons even begin, the kind that gets infielders on their toes in the dog days of August and raises the endeavor to something higher than the 162-game task of winning the NL East: unfurling a season worthy of The Legion.
"Every guy in here feels we need to win the World Series this year," says closer Brad Lidge. "That's the only acceptable outcome."
Self-doubt nowhere to be found, for the first time in Philadelphia history, for two entire months from The Day Cliff Lee Signed ... until the combined weight of three spring injuries—the broken bone in the right hand of touted rookie rightfielder Domonic Brown, the knee pain threatening to sabotage All-Star second baseman Chase Utley's season and the shoulder pain plaguing Lidge—made fans wonder if they'd angered the gods and chest-pounded too early, if now The Legion would have to come to the rescue again and again, all summer here in the Haunted Hurlers' House.
A boom lift rises to an ad panel above the seats in rightfield foul territory. A workman's ladder clatters. A groundskeeper shakes his head—part wince, part pride—at the brown footprints in the grass, relics left from Tunnelman's one-week visit in January: He had to work out every day, even in the frost. A landscaper studies the f------ flower box waiting to lure fly balls, planning the pansies for Opening Night.
The stadium? echo Tunnelman and Loose Laser. They never even thought about short fences or a heebie-jeebie stadium. They don't get it.
"O.K.," says Smoltz. "I was wrong. These guys aren't bothered by anything. I didn't think you'd get any good free-agent pitchers to play in that park. Now I'm the one saying, They'll be better than we were."
The beast's nearly ready. The curtain's about to rise. Able to leap small ballparks in a single bound? Here comes The Legion of Arms.
To be continued....