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Sam Donnellon | Can dirty underwear help the Phils?

THE BATTING average of your MVP hovers near .200 as he nurses his bruised quad and bruised ego. When he isn't surrendering big innings, your "ace" pitcher is running into stationary carts.

THE BATTING average of your MVP hovers near .200 as he nurses his bruised quad and bruised ego.

When he isn't surrendering big innings, your "ace" pitcher is running into stationary carts.

Your other big free-agent pitcher has an earned run average almost as high as Barry Bonds' home run total.

Your closer is on the shelf.

Ditto his former setup man.

Anyone up for a verse of "Bad Moon Rising?"

The Cubs have their goat hex, the Red Sox used to have their Bambino curse. For more than a century of mostly bad baseball, people have postured some weaker voodoo about the Phillies' troubles.

But the real truth might be that they don't have enough of it.

Voodoo, that is.

So without further voodoo, here it is: Some time-tested superstitions designed to help Ryan Howard emerge from the dark cloud he has played most of this season under. And some ways for his team to avoid further trouble as well.

Let's start with some of the obvious ones for the big man.

If Howard is not sleeping with his bat, he ought to start.

If he is, he ought to stop.

If Wes Helms is not sleeping with his glove, he might give that a try.

On his hand, preferably.

If Freddy Garcia does not have pebbles in his back pocket, he might try putting some there. Of course, after his brush with the cart Sunday night, they might already be there.

If any of them are changing their underwear regularly, well, you know . . .

(Gene Mauch was said to wear the same uniform during winning streaks - which must have made him the cleanest man in baseball during those last, painful days of 1964.)

Touching a cross-eyed person was an old slump-busting staple back in the day. But modern medicine - and repeated warnings from mothers about them staying that way - have put the kibosh on that remedy.

Al Holland, the Phils' closer in the 1980s, used to stuff two dollar bills in his back pocket for luck. If Adam Eaton is a little short this month, I will donate seven of them, one for every quality inning he was supposed to be giving us.

Anyone else?

Maybe Tom Gordon could give Stephen King a $1 million advance to write a sequel of "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon." Working titles might include, "The Fan Who Cheered Tom Gordon," "The Manager Who Trusted Tom Gordon" or even "The Doctor Who Fixed Tom Gordon."

Once he gets off that disabled list, Ryan Madson could try brushing his teeth between innings the way Turk Wendell once did. I'd suggest he fire the rosin bag into the ground as hard as Wendell did before innings, but the way things are going, that might send him right back to the DL. So let's try dental hygiene first.

Howard might try rubbing the batboy's head. He might also consider eliminating the practice of spitting into his hands before he comes to the plate. While this is widely recognized as a good-luck habit, there is something in baseball known as reverse curses. That's why you will occasionally see players and managers stepping on the white lines rather than over them.

Here's one that must be done carefully: Place each of the struggling Phillies into a large clubhouse laundry dryer and press start. Don't laugh. This worked for Cincinnati's Dave Concepcion during a nasty batting slump back in the 1970s. After suffering through endless advice about technique, and trying everyone else's slump-busting superstitions, Concepcion crawled into the team's industrial-sized dryer. With the flick of the "on" button - teammate Pat Zachry did the honors - the hair on his faulty arms was burned off and so was his cold streak.

Ah, but here's the (painful) rub: Concepcion played at 155 pounds and fit easily into the dryer.

Howard is listed at 256.

So this should be done in segments.

Or maybe not at all.

If none of the above works, there is one, final drastic measure to consider. Former Reds pitcher Jose Rijo once told reporters that he sacrificed an animal in his native Dominican Republic over an All-Star break to shake a slump.

Upon seeing their gap-mouthed reactions, Rijo tried immediately to reassure them.

Don't worry, he said. The animal was eaten afterward.

Ah, maybe that's not such a great one. Given their recent difficulties with inanimate objects like walls and carts, a live animal could get them into more trouble than they would be getting out of.

There are the animal-rights advocates, sure. More importantly, though, do we really want to see any of these guys right now with a sharp object in their hands? *

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