While I'm not a big booster of the Philadelphia Phillies, I certainly respect what it is they've put in place to not only maintain a certain level of success, but also to contend for future World Series trophies in the future. With first baseman Ryan Howard and shortstop Jimmy Rollins, you've got two marquee names in the batting order, both of whom are barely 30 years old. Throw in second baseman Chase Utley, and you've got three quarters of an infield that could play together for another five years. In the outfield, while they lost power hitter Pat Burrell to free agency, Shane Victorino reached career highs in all the major offensive categories and Jason Werth emerged as a full-time player. From a pitching perspective, Cole Hamels recently turned 25 and is becoming a top-flight pitcher with each start, midseason acquisition Joe Blanton is adjusting well to life in the National League, Jamie Moyers never ages but is consistently pitching well as he nears 50 years of age, and Brad Lidge, thrown on the scrap heap by Houston, experienced a career resurgence in Philadelphia. The question might not be how the Phillies did it, but when might they stop doing it.
So with all the work they've put in to build a quality roster, their 2008 World Series win over the Tampa Bay Rays is more a reward to that work and the work of the players, rather than flukes or luck. And it's the World Series win that's the subject of this documentary, which is narrated by Terrence Howard, late of Iron Man and current resident of suburban Philadelphia. And when they say it's a retrospective of the Series, they really do mean it, but the feature (which runs a shade under two hours) does spend a minimum of time on Spring Training and on the Phillies' regular season, about fifteen minutes worth, before focusing on the postseason and on Philly's run to the crown. When it gets to the Series itself though, bring some popcorn, because it gets in-depth, with interviews from Howard, Rollins, Hamels and many others on the team, along with the requisite dramatic music and narration before euphoria is reached. I should note as well that when it comes to the Series, the Rays aren't neglected either. You get coverage of their season, which culminated in their improbable climb to the World Series with interviews from their players and manager Joe Maddon, and they're interviewed with each game as well. When I saw the time spent on the Rays, it became clear to me that this really was a look at the Series and the teams in it, and the feature wasn't too shabby. Allow me to explain...
When it comes to sports retrospectives on a particular team winning a particular championship, it's more of a look at the year itself, from when the players first report to many of those same players spraying champagne on themselves in the locker room after reaching the top of the ladder. Several years ago when the Boston Red Sox made their run to their first World Series, Dennis Leary (I believe) narrated a feature on the Sox which covered February to October, the highlights, lowlights and everything in between. While this look at the Series was good, it would have been nice to see the Phillies season and how they got there in larger fashion, to help give the viewer years down the road a better idea of what it took to get there.
What I also liked about this feature is that it took a slightly "NFL Films" approach to things, with microphones on some of the players as they went about hitting or fielding. Watching Howard say something to a Rays player standing on first just before Moyer reared back to pitch was a really cool sequence, and something that Major League Baseball should do more of in the future. And while I thought that more time could have been spent on February-September, Major League Baseball did ample justice to both the winning and losing teams in October, and this disc reflects that.
Presented in 1.78:1 1080i widescreen with the AVC MPEG-4 codec, the few sequences that borrowed from the high definition broadcasts are replicated accurately without any picture issues. The additional cameras for game play and interviews provide their own detail (I could spot Manuel's age spots and other players' facial detail), but the red in the Phillies' batting helmets and uniforms really stood out to me when I was watching the footage. And that's not just when they did separate scenes where the other colors in frame were dropped, it popped to me, with some occasional saturation. It was a decent disc from a presentation standpoint.
You get the option of 5.1 surround or a stereo mix if you're more conventional. I went with the 5.1 track and it wasn't special. The low end is nonexistent, and the action occurs in front of you. I did hear the rear speakers, but they seemed to be echoing the front channel action, so it felt like being in a chamber of sorts. A Phillies vendor selling World Series programs sounded more resonant than it needed to be. In fact, when I went back and forth between this and the two channel on the fly, the two channel sounded more natural, considering the material.
There is additional footage runs just under a half hour that you can play individually (they're mainly quick hits from the season) or together on a Play All that lasts a little under a half hour. The final outs that clinched the pennant in the regular season and the National League pennant against Milwaukee and Los Angeles are included for your dining and dancing pleasure. You also get a tour of Victorino's home, and some of his comments while being equipped with a microphone during the playoffs and World Series. The final three outs of the series are included, along with the trophy presentation, and all of the footage is in high definition.
In between this disc and the World Series Collector's Edition that I recently reviewed, I'm done with baseball for a little while, anyway. While the Collector's Edition is good from the standpoint of having the Harry Kalas broadcast audio, if you've got the games on an HD DVR, you're going to be fine, and this disc is an added complement to it. It's the same footage from different perspectives, and includes a bounty of interviews from the pertinent players. It's worth checking out at least, but if you want everything Phillies-related on video, it's not too bad a buy either.