Pat Neshek is not a Phillie. Oh, he wears red pinstripes and heads to the mound every few days to unfurl that herky-jerky, Frisbee-tossing delivery. But he’s no more invested in the club than the fan who shows up once a season on bobblehead giveaway night.
Pat Neshek is not an All-Star. Yes, he’ll be in Miami next Tuesday. He may get a chance to confound an AL hitter or two. But in a game featuring headliners, Neshek will be the afterthought. The oddity. The player you really can’t tell without a program.
Neshek will represent the Phils because of a silly rule requiring the All-Star Game to field a player from all 30 teams. That may be designed to keep interest alive in every fan base but, let’s be honest, it’s an insult to this once-great franchise. Or at least an embarrassment.
Because Neshek, whose career here spans all of 32.1 innings, now exposes everything wrong with the Phillies. Not that it’s his fault.
One of the so-called foundation Phils should have made this All-Star Game. But, alas, every one of them – from Franco to Herrera to Eickhoff to Velasquez – has fallen through the floor into baseball hell. Or, it should be one from the next generation making a splash. But they’re all stalled at Lehigh Valley.
Need evidence that the Phils rebuild has withered? Twenty players named to this year’s All-Star Game are 25 years old or younger. Baseball is bursting with youthful greatness. Meanwhile, our representative is a 36-year-old traveling salesman on his sixth stop, who came to Philly last winter as a salary dump. Neshek is actually the oldest player on the NL roster.
That’s not his fault. This is nothing personal against Neshek.
Well, maybe some of it is. Several times recently, manager Pete Mackanin has heard his best reliever decline to pitch in a particular game, or opt to shut it down after an arduous five-pitch inning. It’s almost as if Neshek wants to save his best stuff for those late-season pennant-race games he’ll be throwing for someone a long way from here.
And that’s the point. Everyone concedes that Neshek is a Phillie only until they can trade him for whatever Grade-B prospect shakes out. He’s a walking bargaining chip. A man with no nation. A breathing, side-arming testament to the failure that now stands for big-league baseball in Philadelphia.
Neshek will be gone before the Eagles play their first pre-season game in August. Hell, it’s not inconceivable he’ll be traded by next Tuesday and show up at the All-Star game like Jeff Samardzija in 2014, wearing a generic hat and jersey that look like they were just pulled off the shelf at Modell’s.
It was a fluke when Dom Brown made the 2013 All-Star Game, but he was joined by the worthy Cliff Lee. This marks the franchise’s low point in the Midsummer Classic since Wayne Twitchell in 1973. And at least Twitchell spent five seasons with the Phils.
Neshek won’t make it five months.