April is upon us and that means the return of Major League Baseball. To preview the new season, Billboard.com spoke to a panel of baseball fans from around the music world for a team-by-team preview of their favorite squads.
The musician: Everyone knows Asher Roth from his breakout 2009 hit “I Love College,” but he’s been hustling hard since to keep the music going after a 2011 deal with Def Jam fell through without an album release. He’s set to release his sophomore album “RetroHash” on April 22. On the sports side, Roth is a baseball fanatic who played center field and hit lead off as a kid. “I’m not a big guy so football and basketball were out of the question so I latched on to baseball,” he says. Although he identifies as a San Francisco Giants fan, growing up in the Philadelphia area made him a Phillies expert as well.
The team: The Phillies are showing their age. Many of the key players from their 2008 World Series-winning team are still intact, but most of their stars are now in their mid-30s and struggle with injuries and wear and tear-related decline. New manager Ryne Sandberg sparred with veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins during Spring Training and there have been plenty of other grumblings about the decline of first baseman Ryan Howard and general manager Rubén Amaro’s disinterest in rebuilding the aging team. Still, the thought of a Phillies rebound is enticing, since they still have these and other stars like Chase Utley, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon.
What are your early memories of the Phillies?
The Phllies were huge when I was young. That 1993 Toronto Blue Jays World Series where Joe Carter hit the home run off of Mitch Williams, I remember where I was. I was at my buddy Andrew’s house and his parents had just redone their room. We were hanging out watching the World Series and saw Joe Carter hit that home run. It was heartbreaking.
I really appreciate that team. Mickey Morandini, Lenny Dykstra and Darren Daulton — they were genuine icons. Pete Incaviglia and Mariano Duncan, the players on the Phillies team were why I romanticized about Philadelphia in general. It has so much character to it.
Previously in this series:
Dropkick Murphys Talk Boston Red Sox
Hold Steady & Baseball Project Talk Minnesota Twins
Jimmy Eat World Talk Arizona Diamondbacks
Yo La Tengo & So So Glos Talk New York Mets
New Found Glory Talks Miami Marlins
It seems like the Phillies are kind of fooling themselves into thinking such an old team can still contend.
Age is real. You need be able to leg out those doubles, steal bases and track down those fly balls. It’s going to be a tough one for Philadelphia. It’s sad because they were really killing it for a while. They were doing a really good job for a while with homegrown talent. I don’t know what happened. They just made some weird moves, man. I just think everyone’s down on Rubén Amaro Jr.
It’s been all downhill from the World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays. Moving on, I guess change is hard when you succeed with the guys on your roster such as Rollinses of the world. You can’t deny Utley’s swing and you hope for Howard to return to form.
Tell me about the vibe of the fans in Philly. How do they feel about Amaro?
They really care, man. There’s nothing left to do but root passionately for your sport. It’s the same thing in Boston. They have competitive squads for every sport. I’m pretty sure the expectations in Philadelphia are pretty low. They want to see their teams win. But fans also want Rubén Amaro Jr. out of there. It’s going to take a shift in ownership. There’s 75 wins but 90 loses. It’s just enough to show and prove and keep your job. That’s not what you want to do. It’s not like football where you can keep the same coach. There have to be some changes.
I do want to touch on how bummed out I am with Rubén Amaro Jr. Courting those young kids and then when they didn’t sign with the Phillies, he told on them and revealed they had agents. He ruined their collegiate career. I think that’s messed up man. Rubén Amaro Jr. is digging himself into hole in Philly.
What do you think about new manager Ryne Sandberg feuding with Jimmy Rollins?
That’s big. That’s accountability. Who are the Phillies going to rally around? Ryne Sandberg is unproven so we’ll see how that works out. You don’t have to like the guy. I think he was coaching in AAA before so it’ll be cool to see what kind of team he can roll out every day. This guy’s going to want to play inspired baseball. That’s the kind of baseball to watch: the kind of guys that want to be out there.
On the subject of baseball on the radio…
Another thing that’s dope that I hope never goes away is baseball on radio.
Here’s a crazy theory” [longtime radio announcer] Harry Kalas was such a such a voice of Philadelphia that when he passed [in 2009], he took a lot of that mojo with him.
Syracuse basically built the Big East and when they left, the dude who started the Big East died the same day. I feel there’s a parallel with that. When a team loses a heart or a voice, they lose their way for a little bit. So it’s a theory, but Harry Kalas’ death could have had much more affect on Philadelphia than we realize.
Check back on Billboard.com tomorrow when Asher Roth returns, along with Baseball Project/Minus 5/Young Fresh Fellows/occasional R.E.M. guitarist Scott McCaughey to preview the San Francisco Giants