The Head Game

Just what might the distant future hold for the Phillies? Well, nobody knows for sure, but we've got a sci-fi channel sort of look into the future of the Phillies.

The year is 2029. Jamie Moyer shuffles up to the podium to collect his reward. Way back in 2010, Moyer finally retired at the age of 47 and began his illustrious career as pitching coach of the Philadelphia Phillies. Later, he would manage the team to its first world championship since 1980, a knock-down, drag-out, nine-game set culminating in Tokyo in 2019.

Several men in dark suits line the rows along the front and back, wearing clear, wireless earpieces that can only be seen by those in adjacent seats. These are assumed to be secret service men. Armed guards cover the exits. The entire affair has been shrouded in secrecy—in fact, the time and location are unknown to everyone but the members of the exclusive guest list. Not even the President herself was invited, though several wags of the Washington Post suspect that is because she is a long time, die-hard Nationals fan.

Moyer accepts the formalities with stone-faced resignation. He would rather be at home with his family, sharing in the levity of a game of lawn darts with his grandchildren. But Moyer is a team player, willing to sacrifice himself for the good of his team and his nation.

Why all this attention for a pitcher who retired without fanfare?

Moyer, you see, is no ordinary man. In addition to being honored by baseball, Jamie is something of a government prototype.

Between Moyer's ears is what might be considered one of the primary science projects of the United States government. Close to a billion dollars of federal funding enabled the National Academy of Neurological Sciences to map every molecule of Moyer's brain. It turns out that brainpower is the most important weapon in any nation's arsenal, and Moyer's is one that the government has coveted for a long time.

Moyer shuffles his feet as the stentorian emcee unveils with a flourish a 3-D model of his brain for inclusion in the baseball Hall of Fame. Of course, due to national security concerns, this Hall-of-Fame brain is not an exact replica.

The exact replica of Moyer's brain, precise down to a millionth of a micrometer, was recently printed out at a top-secret nanotechnology lab at the University of Pennsylvania. This facsimile brain will be implanted into the skull cavity of a player to be named later.

This player has already been chosen, though most of today's attendees do not yet know it. A young high-school pitcher with a cannon for an arm lies semi-frozen on a slab in West Philly, a victim of an unfortunate swimming accident leaving him brain dead. His heart still beats and there is no collateral damage to any other part of his body. His muscled left arm remains intact.

Now, brain transplants are nothing new, they've been doing them since 2015. But this is different. This is the first time an artificial brain, mapped entirely from the living tissue of another, will be implanted into a corpse. Stem cell research has come a long way since the turn of the century, and officials believe the Phillies have a future ace waiting to be unfrozen. For now we may call him Frank. Frank N. Stein.

Whether or not Frank will make it back to the mound remains to be seen, but if he does, the Phillies will be the focal point of an uneasy truce between a nation of sports fans and military scientists. Apparently, baseball is only the starting point for Mr. Stein. If he can perform the acts of muscle memory on the mound with distinction, he will be reassigned. Not to Triple-A, mind you, but to Uzbecktajikyrghanistan, the new rogue republic in the East.

As Moyer accepts his prize, he drops the following words of wisdom on the crowd: "Never give in to your opponents, no matter what the count or situation. Take your time and make your pitch and let the chips fall where they may."

At the mention of chips, I head back to the refreshments table, where I overhear a startling revelation. Frank N. Stein has just regained consciousness thanks to Moyer's replica brain. The first words out of his mouth were: "Aspirin. Someone. Please."

Perhaps Mr. Stein will lead these 2029 Phillies to another world Title. Too bad this procedure wasn't available when Brett Myers broke into the league, the Fightins' might not have had to wait quite so long for another title.

Speaking of Brett Myers, what a battle between Myers and Miguel Cabrera in the 6th inning of Friday night's match against the Marlins!

With two outs, Cabrera stepped up to the plate. Cabrera, for those who somehow don't know, is the Marlins best hitter, among the top five batsmen in the National League.

Myers wound up and uncorked a buzzsaw up and in, a hard one up around the choppers. Bob Gibson and Sal Maglie, the Barber, would have been proud. Cabrera danced to the chin music, a message if ever there was one. The wicked pitch didn't hit Cabrera but it sure undressed him and left him grimacing in pain from a strain to his oblique.

With the count 1-0, Myers had Cabrera on the ropes. But Brett couldn't deliver the knockout blow. Myers should have smelled blood and gone in for the kill, but he ran the count to 3-1. Then he gathered himself, scraped off his cleats and rejoined the battle.

Showing a calm and focused demeanor, Myers pounded a strike to the mitt. Then, with the count full, Cabrera reached on a seeing-eye single.

Two hits later, the bases were loaded. This early test was a big moment in Brett Myers bullpen career. Myers appeared slightly shaken. But a funny thing happened on the way to another Myers meltdown. Following a coaching visit to the mound, Myers gathered himself and punched out Cody Ross to end the inning.

After the Phillies failed to score, Myers began the seventh with another strikeout. Later, on a 2-2 count, Myers blew a fastball by another overmatched Marlin for his fourth K in two innings of relief. Nothing doing for the Marlins and the Phillies held on for the win.

Ah, but Myers wasn't done making a case that a move to the bullpen was just what the doctor ordered.

On Sunday night, in relief of Jamie Moyer's two-hit gem, Myers slammed the door on the Marlins in the eighth, striking out Miguel Olivo and Russ Jacobs in convincing fashion.

Maybe moving Myers to the bullpen isn't such a desperate misadventure after all. Certainly it is much easier than a brain transplant would have been.


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