The fish in question is not a shark, although they have been spotted in record numbers here in Southern California. Nor is it a tuna, salmon or blue gill. No, the Phils are hoping to bait the hook and bring in the biggest fish of all, the swift and talented Florida Marlin. It behooves the Phils to have a great big boat because they will have six opportunities in the final two weeks to finally bring in this most feisty of creatures.
Yes, friends, after over five months of watching Marlins like Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo steal bait from the Phils, it will be time to bring them in, hook, line and sinker. After surveying powerful fish like Derek Lee, Pudge Rodriguez and Juan Encarnacion slip under the Phils boat every time they seemed about to be caught, it is time to wrestle them in.
Never mind that this fish is not only swift and powerful, but also armed with sharp fins. In Dontrelle Willis, Brad Penny, Mark Redman, Carl Pavano and Josh Beckett, this fish has fins that have brought down the greatest of fishermen. In Brad Looper and Ugeth Urbina, the Marlin has rescue mates that assure no ordinary weekend warrior will easily regain the advantage.
If this weren't enough, the Marlin recently added an old friend and trusted ally who swam the last championship race in 1997, Mr. Marlin himself, Jeff Conine. Making this fishing expedition even more challenging is the fact that the last eight attempts at capture have ended in abject Phillie failure. Indeed, the Phils have not so much as received a nibble from this Marlin after early April. Since then, the Phils have cast their lines eight times and all ended with the bait gone and the fish still swimming free. This has caused the Marlin to become cocky and daring. Rather than respect the Phils fishermen, the Marlin has made smug and threatening gestures, with accusations of panic and chaos.
The journey through these deep waters has been much more treacherous and taxing for the Phils fishermen than for the Marlin fish. While the ocean waves have been calm and the depths clear for the Marlin, it has been anything but tranquil for Captain Bowa and his crew of novice anglers.
In fact, a near mutiny on board the ship threatened to make this fishing expedition null and void before it even left port, but the crew settled their differences and the poles were once again baited and hooked. The Phils have some veteran sportsmen who have captured big games before. Jim Thome was famous for his tussles with Yankees, White Sox and Mariners. Kevin Millwood is known far and wide for his outsmarting the Giants, Diamondbacks and Cardinals. Add to that the many famous expeditions of such big game hunters as Todd Pratt, Placido Polanco and David Bell and the Phils chances are good.
In the end, it may depend on the efforts of such novice fishermen like Chase Utley, Marlon Byrd and Brett Myers if the Phils are finally to bring home the prize fish. It is also hoped that past battles with the Atlanta Braves will toughen such key Phils fishermen as Pat Burrell, Randy Wolf, Jimmy Rollins and Mike Lieberthal.
As mentioned previously, the Phils will have six opportunities in the next two weeks to hook the fish. The first three encounters will be in friendly waters, with northeasterly winds favoring the Phils. Needless to say, it will be important to entrench the hook solidly in the jaw of the Marlin before he begins to swim south towards Florida. Once in friendly waters for the final week of the baseball season, this Marlin will be near impossible to bring onboard if the bait has not already been taken. It would then become a fruitless exercise and the fish would eventually remain free to roam towards the Pacific Ocean and a playoff encounter with the fishermen from the City by the Bay.
So, as the 2003 baseball season winds down and the sun sets slowly in the West, make sure you catch a quick glimpse of your favorite Phils this week. Get all the autographs and signatures as soon as possible and not wait till next week, or it might be too late.
Yes, although the schedule on the calendar indicates two more weeks of baseball, rest assured our lovable Phils have decided they have better things to do with their time…they have all gone fishin'.
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