The Philadelphia sports scene is already overcrowded. But here's one more thing.
The Philadelphia sports scene is already overcrowded. But here's one more thing.
Published September 30, 2019
I understand the anger you feel at this Phillies team. Or maybe it’s just apathy and exhaustion by this point as yet another season went by the boards without a playoff appearance, or even a winning record that seemed all but assured for almost the entire year.
What a waste.
But what about the team’s biggest purchase, Bryce Harper? What is the proper assessment of the season he delivered?
First, let’s look at the raw statistics.
Back on March 6, this was PSC’s projected line for him…
145 games played. .273. 38 HR. 95 RBI. 105 runs. 8 SB.
And here’s what actually happened…
156 games played. .259. 35 HR. 114 RBI. 98 runs. 15 SB.
So let’s unpack.
Despite a couple scary moments this season, Bryce Harper stayed “healthy” and avoided any trips to the injured list, even as the team dropped like flies around him. And half of the games that he did miss were because of the birth of his son.
It was the second highest games played total of his career, after last year’s 159, and so it seems that perhaps Bryce has finally found the right mix of intensity and caution that seemed missing from his game earlier in his career, when his reckless abandon earned him the “injury-prone” label.
Notably, even when he was going through major struggles at the plate this season, he still busted his butt in right field every game. He’ll never be a great fielder, but his arm was something to behold on multiple occasions. And nobody can argue with the fact that the effort was there every single game. He did all that could have been asked of him in that regard.
The batting average never really got going for Harper this year, as he hit 20 points lower than his career average. He’s better than .259, but not a lot better. I’m hoping that he can hike it by 10-15 points next year. Anything more than that would probably be an anomaly.
His on-base and slugging percentages came in just a shade under his career totals as well. Now, a lot of these numbers are pulled up by his insane MVP year in 2015, so I’m not too worried in this area. As for the counting stats…
A career-high 114 RBI was indicative of how Harper came up big in some clutch situations this year. Staying healthy played a part, but Harper’s walk rate also declined as the season moved along. He was swinging more and driving in runs, rather than accepting a free pass, as he ended with 99 walks.
He also had a ton of strikeouts, 178 of them, to place fourth in baseball. I guess we need to just accept this too. At least the only players who struck out more than him were Eugenio Suarez, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Pete Alonso. Not bad company. It shows that strikeouts are not a hindrance to monster productive years.
Harper’s home run total was low all season before he went on a tear to boost it to 35 by year’s end. Still, with the juiced baseball this year, I would have expected more from him than being tied for 23rd in home runs. He hit 20 at home and 15 on the road, and he’ll need to take more advantage of Citizens Bank Park going forward.
His 98 runs scored are also a bit underwhelming, although he can’t be faulted for a lot of that. Yes, if he had hit a few more home runs, he would have nudged himself over 100 runs on the season, but Rhys Hoskins’ horrendous struggles hitting behind Harper for most of the year were a key factor. If Hoskins came close to his projections, Harper would have probably crossed the plate about a dozen more times on the year.
Finally, Bryce also ran more than I would have guessed this year, especially later on in the season. The 15 steals on 18 attempts were a pleasant surprise, as he picked his spots effectively. He did have some misadventures on the basepaths getting thrown out, but I personally am not going to fault the guy for being aggressive and trying to win. We could use a whole lot more of that around this team.
All in all, it was maybe a little above average season based on Harper’s standards. But you can sign me up for a bunch more of these over the next decade, with the hope that there will be a few unbelievable seasons sprinkled in amongst them.
It was not an MVP-caliber season for Bryce Harper, but he delivered a lot, and he can’t be faulted for the team’s ultimate failure. And, for those interested, he outplayed fellow big-money free agent signee Manny Machado this year.
Harper showed a lot this year, but he’s not going to carry the team on his own. Now it’s up to the Phillies to show whether or not they are willing to spend some more and if they are astute enough to make the right moves to put a team around him that will finally bring this club back to relevance.
I got the moves that really move them. I send chills up and down their spine. (Scott Taetsch/Getty)
Published September 27, 2019
First and foremost, here’s wishing a full and speedy recovery to Avonte Maddox, who was carted off late in Thursday’s game. It looked scary, but reports are good, and hopefully he will be back on the football field soon after he gets back to full health.
Now, the actual game. Color me impressed. Carson Wentz did what he needed to, even though his numbers were dwarfed by Aaron Rodgers. The running game was impressive, featuring dual threats from the backfield. And the defense bent (a lot) but didn’t break, ultimately stuffing the Pack on two critical drives to seal the win.
I will declare the Eagles officially redeemed after an ugly home loss to Detroit just four days before. They are now 2-2, which is exactly where they should be, with over a week to heal up and prepare for a Jets team that they should blow the doors off of next Sunday at the Linc.
Some thoughts on individual performances…
You might as well call this one “Escape from Green Bay”, because that’s exactly what the Eagles did. It wasn’t easy, and it took an unlikely interception of Rodgers in the endzone to put the game on ice late.
After Nigel Bradham snagged the interception and came a few yards out of the endzone, was anyone else yelling at him to fall down? It looked to me like he almost had the ball knocked out of his hands. If that had happened, and the Packers got the ball back and won the game eventually, Bradham should not have even been allowed on the plane. But all’s well that ends well.
Finally, it was huge that the Eagles overcame a litany of penalties to still come out on top. I continue to have no idea what pass interference is, as evidenced by numerous calls in the second half. It’s also laughable that, on pass interference calls that do get challenged, the referees clearly hate the new rule and won’t overturn their original call unless it was clearly and blatantly wrong.
Both teams challenged for pass interference, and neither call was reversed, even though both sure looked like it to me. Nice rule, NFL. I know that I always like it when I make a subjective decision and then have to watch a slow motion replay of the same thing, the sole purpose of which is to make me admit I was wrong initially.
Issues remain with the Eagles, make no mistake, but let’s just bask in this one for the next 16 days until the team’s next real game in Minnesota. Because they are going to cream the Jets.
Let the celebratory Busch Lights flow, baby! (David Maialetti/Inquirer Staff)
Published September 24, 2019
A year ago today, you all laughed.
Not me, I didn’t laugh. Yes, I had my doubts, but I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions while everyone was trying to be witty all over the Internet.
Yes, you “couldn’t unsee” the Flyers new mascot. He “was going to haunt your dreams”. He was “a Muppet love child from Delco on drugs”. You rhymed his name with another word. Yada, yada. Real clever.
But, planned or not, the Flyers’ marketing team had hit the jackpot. Any publicity is good publicity. Instead of meekly caving to the immediate pressure, the Flyers (and Gritty himself) defended the honor of the hulking orange creature on Twitter and everywhere else.
Philadelphia truly embraced him as one of their own. Gritty wasn’t pretty. But he’s what this town, and especially the Flyers, needed.
Ah, the Flyers. You’d be hard-pressed to find an NHL team so irrelevant over the past 6-8 seasons. I listen to hockey podcasts and read many hockey articles, and they seem to be one of the least talked about teams in recent years. They’re just...there. Not terrible, but not nearly good enough to contend for a title and merit attention.
They needed something to keep them from falling even deeper into the pit of insignificance. Gritty delivered. The Flyers got national attention for the first time in forever because of him. If only the team on the ice followed suit.
A disappointing 2018-19 Flyers season on the heels of Gritty’s debut was a true disappointment, and it caused many long-suffering Flyers fans to remark that the mascot was the only good thing about the team. They weren’t wrong. Again, full credit to the Flyers’ marketing department for at least bringing something to the table that distracted from the actual on-ice performance of the club.
With Gritty in tow, a new generation of Flyers fans might become hooked, much like the Phanatic has drawn many youngsters to the Phillies over the decades. I truly hope that the team’s actual performance, however, improves soon enough to keep these kids interested.
For the old-time fans, Gritty is here to stay, like him or not. You’ll grumble and grouse when the team underachieves, and rightly so, but you’ll still stay. You’ve stuck it out this long with this franchise. You are never going to leave. Gritty isn’t for you. Deal with it.
As for the other teams in town? They all let us down in the past year since Gritty first appeared. First, Carson Wentz got hurt again, and Nick Foles came to the rescue once more. But a critical dropped pass in the playoffs put a horrible capper on a season where the Eagles looked like they were ready to take a surprising run at defending their Super Bowl title from the year before.
The drops have continued this year, and the team is facing a critical juncture early. It has not been a good year for the Birds. But at least Gritty is going strong.
The Sixers? A very good season. But they came up short in the playoffs. Part of it was their own doing. But part of it was also due to perhaps the luckiest shot in the history of the NBA. It was rough. Gritty has definitely had a better year than them.
Finally, the Phillies. We all expected the team to be getting ready for the playoffs right now, back in the postseason for the first time since 2011. I don’t have to tell you how it actually turned out. It’s a total mess. Thank God we have Gritty.
Imagine a Philadelphia sports landscape sans Gritty for the past year. Looking at this time frame in a bubble, disregarding the Eagles’ Super Bowl championship a few months prior, not much has gone right. Gritty and the double doink, that’s about it. And Gritty is the only one of those two things that doesn’t have a really stupid name.
So, thank you, Gritty. I apologize for all of those who doubted you. I hope they have seen the error of their ways.
Have a happy birthday. I hope the rest of the Philly sports world has more success between now and your second birthday than it’s had over the past 365 days.
A crazy, orange mess that America can get behind. (Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports)
Published September 22, 2019
There is no sugar-coating it. The Eagles blew it on Sunday against the Detroit Lions.
I wrote an article on Section215 earlier in the week that put the pressure on Carson Wentz, saying that the best quarterbacks find ways to lead their teams to victory in games like this when their squad is facing adversity like the Eagles currently are with their slew of injuries.
After this one...I’m just not sure. I really don’t think I can blame Wentz. Not when his receivers dropped seven balls that he put right where he needed to. Not when Nelson Agholor and Miles Sanders both fumbled the ball away. And not when the Eagles’ defense didn’t manage to sack Lions QB Matthew Stafford a single time.
Wentz didn’t play a perfect game, but he sure played well enough to win. So I’m not going to take him completely to task for coming up short in this one. But it makes me sick to my stomach to see the team lose the way they did, especially with another loss likely coming immediately when they face the Packers in Green Bay this Thursday.
The Eagles are staring straight down the barrel of a 1-3 record and a possible 3-game deficit in the division behind the Cowboys, who are doing what they need to and shellacking the lousy teams they’ve played so far.
But the Birds were undone on Sunday by missing their top two wide receivers. Agholor and Mack Hollins put up decent stat lines, but they each had their bad moments, ones that should be expected with both of them getting more looks than they normally would if Alshon Jeffery and/or DeSean Jackson were in the lineup.
The non-existence of JJ Arcega-Whiteside (1 catch for 10 yards) continues to be an issue, as this guy should be stepping up right now if he is going to be worth the 2nd round pick that the Eagles invested in him. I don’t know if Doug Pederson just isn’t using him right, but my gut feeling is that he’s just not good, at least not yet.
Dallas Goedert, who dropped the only pass thrown his way on what would have been a touchdown, is probably playing at far less than 100%. But he has also been unimpressive. Another 2nd round pick that the Eagles need more out of.
Really, this whole thing is making me start to question the last couple of drafts that the Eagles have had. Paging Howie Roseman. Maybe pick some guys that can help right away so that we don’t have to keep signing old dudes who get hurt by Week 2.
I don’t know, it feels like total doom and gloom right now. And all because, two weeks in a row, the Eagles had a pretty flawed performance but ultimately came up short at the end with a chance to win the game.
Hey, wait, that’s the kind of thing I usually blame on Wentz. I’ll give him a small bit of leeway for this one, but I’m getting tired of the same old story. Don’t we all want a quarterback who we can feel confident in authoring a game-winning drive?
Maybe the Eagles’ deficiencies are just too great for Wentz to overcome right now. Maybe he’s just average.
All I do know is that there’s a razor-thin margin between victory and defeat in the NFL. And, right now, the Eagles are on the wrong side of that edge. I’m afraid it may just get worse from here.
Yong Kim would have caught this one. (Photo by Yong Kim)
Published September 16, 2019
Well, the Eagles lost. But you already knew that. Plus I told you it was going to happen a few days ago.
And while I’m not here to simply recap the game you watched, because you can get that anywhere, we have to unpack a few things as part of this Monday Morning Catharsis®.
The Eagles couldn’t just produce a run of the mill road loss. That’s not their style. Instead, even though I saw it coming, they had to make it as painful as possible. To wit…
Yet another terrible start.
No QB pressure from the defensive line.
Bad protection for Carson Wentz.
Ronald Darby repeatedly getting pantsed.
Blowing it late after somehow managing to take the lead.
That’s a lot to deal with after a simple Week 2 loss. On paper, we shouldn’t be worried about the Eagles being 1-1. But enough issues bubbled to the surface in this game to cause some major concerns going forward.
First, the start. Last week, the Falcons trailed the Vikings 14-0 less than five minutes into the game. I didn’t expect the Eagles to pull off something that extreme, but the Eagles couldn’t even move the chains for most of the first half. It was nothing short of a miracle that they were only trailing 10-6 at halftime despite being heavily outplayed.
I will acknowledge, though, that the injury situation definitely contributed to the creaky offense. More than the loss itself, the far-ranging impact of last night’s injuries could serve to derail this season.
Dallas Goedert was the first to go down, leaving pregame warmups with a calf problem. There’s still tons of time for him to right the ship, but I really haven’t been impressed with him so far in his career. I understand the position he’s in, playing behind a stud #1 tight end like Zach Ertz, but the Eagles need more from him.
Once the game actually started, things got even worse, as both Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson left before either made a catch. The Birds are in serious trouble if either misses an extended amount of time. This situation was a great opportunity for JJ Arcega-WayTooLongName to step up, but he did squat. Numerous rookie wide receivers are off to good starts this season, and he isn’t one of them.
You’d think Doug Pederson would have at least wanted to utilize the running game more with his top two wideouts injured, but he decided not to, despite Atlanta’s problems defending the run. I can’t say I agreed with Doug’s plan in this regard.
The Eagles also got owned at the line on both sides of the ball, with the total lack of pass rush being what I believe to be the team’s single biggest problem area right now. Because of this, good receivers like the Falcons have are able to totally exploit the secondary, as we saw when Ronald Darby got burned on play after play.
The only silver lining was that Darby wasn’t close enough to any receivers to commit any penalties. Someone I was watching the game with said that he was surprised that Darby didn’t fake an injury to get off the field, as it wouldn’t have raised any suspicions thanks to the Eagles’ constant march to the medical tent all night.
And I don’t even want to give Darby credit for his interception, as it was a terrible throw by Matt Ryan. I’m not feeling confident in him going forward.
Finally, just as I was making peace with the Eagles suffering a standard loss, they managed to pull ahead thanks to some heroics by Wentz. But then Jim Schwartz dialed up a rare blitz at the exact wrong time, and Julio Jones drove the dagger through our hearts with a long TD on a fourth down.
The Eagles still weren’t done, of course, as Nelson Agholor managed to make us feel even worse by dropping a sure touchdown on the final drive. By the time that Ertz came up short on fourth down, it didn’t even seem to matter anymore. It felt like the Eagles lost three separate times.
So, what did we learn? We can take the positive approach out of this, the one that says the Eagles didn’t play their best game and had other things go against them but still almost won. There’s some merit in that.
But the weaknesses that were exposed and the aftershock of the injuries suffered last night are far more of a problem than the fact that they lost. My hope is that this was just a Week 2 defeat, and that it doesn’t reverberate throughout this season.
I’m expecting a bounceback against the Lions next week. It’s not time to panic. Yet.
"Here's a guy who can't catch".
- John Madden
Published September 13, 2019
Thanks to all of the craziness surrounding the team, it’s kind of easy to overlook just how great of a season Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto is having. But, make no mistake, he’s been everything the Phils could have asked for as he has taken his game to new heights in 2019.
In fact, Realmuto is probably having the best all-around season of any Phillies position player in a decade or more, going back to some of the tremendous seasons that Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins had during the team’s NL East domination.
And I say “position player” because I am looking at not only Realmuto’s career highs across the board in offensive categories, but the stellar play he offers at a demanding position every game. He is far and away the best in baseball at throwing runners out. It’s a wonder that teams try to run on him at all.
Another telling stat is the fact that, despite the fact that Realmuto has easily logged the most time behind the plate in the majors this season, 17 catchers have allowed more wild pitches than him. Yes, I understand that wild pitches are on the pitchers, but don’t forget that in Realmuto’s case we are talking about this Phillies pitching staff.
One can only infer that he has saved many would-be wild pitches by blocking them effectively. Six catchers, all of whom have played at least 100 fewer innings than Realmuto, have also allowed more passed balls than he has this year. Quite telling indeed.
The supposition that I made about Realmuto’s value is pretty evident if you watch the Phillies on a nightly basis, but good ol’ analytics support it when you look at the WAR (Wins Above Replacement) metric.
With a couple weeks to play in the season, Realmuto’s WAR sits at 4.5, meaning that his contributions to the team this year are equal to about 4.5 extra wins for the team versus if the Phillies had a “replacement level” catcher instead of him. In case you were wondering, his WAAK (Wins Above Andrew Knapp) is about 50.
The unfortunate part of Realmuto’s fantastic season is that he won’t garner any MVP votes, even though he belongs in the conversation. If only some of his teammates had held up their end of the bargain to have this team better positioned for the playoffs right now. After all, even your most valuable player can’t carry the whole team.
But, much like the Phillies wasted what was likely a career year from Aaron Nola last season, they may be seeing Realmuto’s most productive MLB season go down the tubes thanks to all of the other turmoil surrounding the team this year.
Meanwhile, the Phillies are in an unenviable position when it comes to re-signing Realmuto, whose contract is up after next year. He’s going to command top dollar, and the Phillies really have no alternative but to give it to him. They clearly have no successor in-house, and any attempts to replace Realmuto via free agency or trade would be a huge downgrade. Top level catching talent in its prime doesn’t become available with any kind of regularity.
In his first year with the Phillies, Realmuto has delivered even more than could have reasonably been expected. At least he’ll be rewarded with a Silver Slugger for his efforts, as he will most likely end up leading all catchers in hits, runs and RBI. And even stolen bases!
Playoffs or not, let’s at least all acknowledge what is probably the greatest season by a catcher in Phillies history. At the very least, it’s the best since Darren Daulton’s back-to-back all-star campaigns in 1992 and 1993.
Now the hope is that the Phillies can continue to get this kind of high-level production from Realmuto for at least a few more seasons, assuming that he ends up signing a new contract with the team. Having a player like him in the fold while other teams trot out below-average talent at the catching position gives the team a great advantage.
The Phillies just need to make sure they don’t blow it.
Stud (Yong Kim / Inquirer Staff Photographer)
Published September 8, 2019
First off, you’re guaranteed to read “a tale of two halves” somewhere else describing this game. Real original.
But it accurately describes Sunday’s roller-coaster victory, in case you were too busy watching the Phillies take nine hours to beat the Mets.
Numerous people were likely headed to the Ben Franklin Bridge and preparing to take the plunge after a wretched first half for the Eagles’ offense, defense, playcalling, and even the beer vendors at Lincoln Financial Field. Coors Light is $15 now? Come on.
Let’s recap what went wrong during the painful first thirty minutes of football.
On the very first drive of the season, the Eagles allowed geezer Vernon Davis to pull off a spectacular catch/leap/run while he made Ronald Darby, Andrew Sendejo and Rodney McLeod look like the Three Stooges. Later on, the Eagles would get burned for an even longer TD. All the while, they were failing to get any kind of pressure whatsoever against the legendary Case Keenum.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Eagles didn’t even wake up until after they fell behind 17-0, finally putting a touchdown on the board. All around that long bomb to DeSean Jackson, however, they couldn’t get anything going. Doug Pederson even called a halfback toss to Darren Sproles on 3rd and 1 when a simple dive into the line would have sufficed. It was a mistake that even the newest Madden player would never make. Awful.
On top of all that, the Eagles allowed Washington to eek out three more points at the end of the half. Derek Barnett was even kind enough to move them five yards closer for the attempt when he committed a very weird offside penalty. Almost everything had gone wrong to that point.
But thankfully the Eagles were getting the ball to start the second half after they won the coin toss and deferred, which always gets my seal of approval. I’m hoping that Doug peeled the paint off the locker room walls at halftime as he excoriated the team for their awful play, along with engaging in some self-flagellation for his own playcalling.
Whatever happened, it worked, as the Eagles came out in the second half with a badly-needed 12 play drive that ate up nearly half of the third quarter. It was exactly what the doctor ordered. In fact, as the Eagles were lighting up the Washington defense for 25 points during the second half, the Redskins offense managed to run ten plays for five yards. The Eagles held the ball for about 21 of the first 27 minutes of the half.
Just a great job by the Eagles’ defense to stifle the Washington attack and tire out their counterparts. And it was encouraging to see the team start to get some pressure on Keenum and absolutely clamp down, not allowing the Redskins to get back in the game.
Washington did score a touchdown in the dying seconds as the Eagles laid back, which makes the stats look somewhat less lopsided, but that was as big of a second half beatdown as you’re ever going to see.
A tale of two halves indeed, although I will at least give the Eagles credit for protecting Carson Wentz well for the entire game. Other than this aspect of the game, though, the first and second halves couldn’t have been more night-and-day.
Maybe this is what we should expect in Week 1 after the starters barely played (if at all) in the preseason. Maybe it’s just some weird thing with the Eagles, who have been terrible early in games for a while now. The coming games will tell.
The Eagles did get fortunate that they only needed to play half a game. The Redskins are lousy. Perhaps this will serve as a good tune-up for when the real competition arrives. Because they’ll need to play more than 30 minutes of football in future weeks.
Jackson became lost in the Upside Down after his second touchdown catch. (Bill Streicher/USA Today)
Published September 6, 2019
It’s always so exciting when a new season dawns, especially a very promising one like the 2019 campaign looks to be for the Eagles.
This year, my anticipation is magnified even more, (no) thanks to the frustrating and uneven play exhibited by the Phillies for the past five months in what was supposed to be a “step-up” kind of season after they opened the vault over the winter.
But injuries, lack of hustle, general underperformance and, let’s face it, a near brain-dead manager have all conspired to run this season into the ground.
Thank God for football.
Hello to Doug Pederson, a man who has the full faith and confidence of the fanbase and who actually knows how to deploy his roster in the correct ways.
Goodbye to Gabe Kapler, a man who keeps trotting Sean Rodriguez out there and who doesn’t understand how a double switch works.
Hola to a very deep and capable Eagles roster who looks up to the challenge of “next man up” if injuries should befall some of the starters.
Adios to Andrew Knapp. Seriously, you couldn’t get a better backup catcher off the street? I hope my days of seeing him and hearing the nickname “Knappy” are nearing a merciful end.
Aloha to a fairly healthy Eagles team with a clean slate to work with. That won’t be the case for the full season, of course, but it’s nice to feel like the team has a fair shot with its full roster.
And, uh...also aloha, the other meaning, to Jared Hughes, Nick Vincent and the scrap heap players that the Phillies have been forced to use in important spots because literally their entire bullpen has gotten hurt. Call it bad luck, call it mismanaged organizational philosophy, call it Pat Neshek being unable to tie his shoes without suffering an injury. It’s been a nightmare that I can’t wait to escape.
Bonjour, Howie Roseman, the man with the plan who has built a champion and continues to make the right moves to keep his football team at the top of the standings.
Au revoir, Matt Klentak and Andy MacPhail, two guys who really know how to polish a turd and think they can insult the fans with phrases like “If we don’t, we don’t” when it comes to making the playoffs. Thanks for the effort, guys.
Salve to Sunday afternoons or whenever the Birds are on, a few tense but enjoyable hours spent knowing that the team has a great chance of winning every week, no matter the opponent.
Arrivederci to getting sucked in to watching at least some of a Phillies game every single day thinking that maybe things will be different today. You end up regretting it, get angry and say you’re done. But then you do the same thing tomorrow. And you keep doing it and can’t escape.
Hello (because I’m running out of languages) to Merrill Reese and Mike Quick, my favorite broadcast duo that consists of a legend who clearly can’t see anymore and a former player who I enjoy for some reason even though I haven’t understood a thing he’s said in twenty years.
Goodbye to the Phillies’ subpar television broadcast that only gets entertaining when they openly question Gabe Kapler on the air. But a truly heartfelt “I’ll miss you” to the team’s radio broadcast that always tells it like it is.
Hello to holding players accountable and settling for nothing less than their best effort.
Goodbye to literally everything the Phillies have done in 2019. Except Bryce Harper, the guy has been solid this year. I honestly feel bad for him that he hasn’t gotten the help he needs around him. We’ll get ‘em sometime in the next 12 years, Bryce.
Honestly though, knowing the Phillies, they’ll probably make some kind of inexplicable run to pull us all back in one last time even though they have shown time and time again that they are not good enough to truly compete this year. But it will be too little, too late.
They had ample time to get established and set themselves up for meaningful games in September so that they could co-exist with the start of the Eagles’ season. But they have failed. Let’s not waste any more time in putting this wretched baseball season to bed. See you next spring, boys.
Eagles 24/7 starts...now.
"Waiter, two Busch Lights please". (USA Today Images)
Published August 29, 2019
To enhance your experience, crank up your speakers and play some NFL Films music while you read. You may also want to remind yourself of John Facenda’s voice so that you can picture him narrating. And now, the actual article…
Each year, the football gods deign to bestow a gift upon us. A gift so great that we are appeased until the next season.
Philadelphia Eagles. New York Jets. NFL preseason football.
In Philadelphia, it is known simply as “The Game”, an annual test of combat pitting the fourth-best players at each position against one another. It is an all-consuming trial to determine who will don their teams’ colors when the regular season commences and who will find themselves working the night shift at Wawa next week.
As the August wind comes blustering in like a pirate, so do the Eagles and Jets soar in to their annual clash with reckless abandon and an enthusiasm indicative of players who have yet to suffer enough concussions to know better.
These warriors, clad in green, do honor to this great rivalry, one that predates even the Rich Kotite years for both clubs. And in the end, there can be only one victor robed in green, whether it be the Midnight of the Eagles or whatever the hell shade of green the Jets are wearing this week.
For the mighty Jets, the contest holds great value. It is a golden opportunity to vanquish their rivals, because they literally have never beaten the Eagles in a game that actually counts.
There have been bumps and bruises and bloody scars. For decades, these players have sacrificed for the greater good while doing battle at Lincoln Financial Field, whatever stadium the Jets are renting out from the Giants, and the concrete tundra of Veterans Stadium.
But no matter the place, when an age-old rivalry renews, there is never any love lost between the enemies on the field. These teams will not stop until one of them has conquered and won.
Aside from the final score, these magnificent gladiators of the gridiron compete to serve a greater goal. Namely, so that fans too poor to attend a real game can still be gouged to the fullest extent allowable. And also to give degenerate gamblers one more opportunity to lose their money.
Eagles-Jets preseason football also acts as a harbinger of the coming season. The hope surrounding this affair, fresh and renewed each year, intoxicates the fans. The season is almost here. We are so close to seeing our best player go down with a season-ending injury in Week 3.
But even then, with our nascent season already shot to hell, we can always look forward to one thing.
Eagles-Jets preseason football will be there for us next year. And always for some reason. Until we’re dead.
A man for all 3-13 seasons. (NJ.com)
Published August 27, 2019
Sean Rodriguez, you epitomize the lack of accountability that has surrounded this team since Gabe Kapler became the manager.
Directly on the heels of Benchgate (what I’m calling Cesar Hernandez thinking he had a routine day off as opposed to a benching for his lack of hustle) comes a much-need Phils walk-off in extra innings. Who was the hero? Not Bryce Harper (who did homer in his return from paternity leave). Definitely not Rhys Hoskins – more on him in a minute. Sean Flipping Rodriguez! The journeyman utility player who was called upon to pitch as recently as Friday (dude has 1.1 scoreless innings this year).
After his walk-off homer, which was his second hit this month, Mr. Rodriguez decided to take issue with the fans who booed Rhys Hoskins. Let’s unpack this.
I don’t support the notion that fans are allowed to boo because of the money they’ve paid to go to the game. That reason in itself is ridiculous. I won’t even use the excuse that said money pays the salaries of players who have no reason being in the league, like Sean Rodriguez.
Rather, the booing is frustration built up against a team that is so horribly inconsistent and lacking in accountability. The manager is not holding the players to any kind of standard. So the fans are going to let them know.
Rhys Hoskins, a fan favorite, is mired in a huge slump. And he’s received a great deal of support from the fans along the way, much like Pat Burrell used to receive. Last night, The Big Fella came up to the plate against a guy who had loaded the bases whilst throwing 4 out of 16 pitches for strikes. For any non-mathy types, that is 12 balls and 4 strikes.
Bases loaded, one out, tie game in the bottom of the ninth. Coaches at any level will say “take a strike”, meaning, don’t swing until the pitcher manages to throw a called strike. Hoskins swung at the first two pitches and popped out. The guy leads the league in pitches per plate appearance! This critical situation where you should absolutely take is the time you’re going to be aggressive?!
It’s easy for us as fans to preach this concept when we aren’t at the plate. The players have a lot of emotion flowing and adrenaline pumping in these moments. But this is why there are coaches. The Pirates' Chris Stratton couldn’t hit the strike zone consistently if his life depended on it last night. Every coach in the dugout should have been yelling, audibly yelling, at Rhys to take some pitches. That didn’t happen.
So Mr. Rodriguez, I’m sorry (not sorry) we weren’t more constructive toward Rhys. But you saved the day! A career .226 hitter who is only on the team because you were buddies with Gabe Kapler on a crappy Rays team nine years ago.
The inconsistencies of this team are so glaring that most people didn’t even hold it against you that you suck. And getting a walk-off could have even given you some credibility with the fans, despite generally being terrible at hitting. But now you can join the ranks of those who will not be named: the players that called out the fans to deflect criticism from their own poor play.
Coconut oil rubdowns, lollipops, and rainbows haven’t improved this team yet. Maybe some tough love will work. Problem is, the fans have to give it themselves because the team is clearly not getting it from the manager.
We actually beat a last place team! Time to bad-mouth our fans! (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Published August 23, 2019
If you’re one of the football degenerates that spent some time watching the Eagles’ rain-shortened preseason loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night, you may still feel in the dark about the state of the Eagles’ running back situation, based on the usage you saw in the game.
Corey Clement got the primo snaps, and he looked ok in racking up 25 yards on 7 carries. Josh Adams also got 7 carries later, but he mustered just 18 yards. He did haul in a catch, but he also had a drop near the goal line.
And that was it. None of the Eagles’ other running backs got into the game. Maybe that was Doug Pederson’s plan the whole time, or maybe the game being shortened robbed someone else of some playing time.
Either way, the Philadelphia backfield is awfully crowded, and it can’t stay that way. Decisions (i.e. cuts) are coming soon.
Let’s go ahead and proclaim a few locks. Jordan Howard will be on the team. As will rookie Miles Sanders. And tiny, elderly man Darren Sproles will no doubt spend his final NFL season in Midnight Green. While I’m not the biggest fan of the move to bring him back in the first place, it is what it is.
That means that Clement, Josh Adams, Donnel Pumphrey, Wendell Smallwood, and Boston Scott are in a battle for probably two spots. There is a possibility that the Eagles carry only four running backs, but I would advise against it. Five is the way to go.
With the likelihood of injury always looming at the running back position, you can never be too deep. The Eagles have done a nice job to bring in this group, but some guys will be out of a job soon.
First, I’m going to knock out Pumphrey. The dude has a good story, and it would be cool to see him actually get into an NFL game at some point after all he’s been through, but it’s hard to justify using a roster spot on him when the team is so deep at his position. Practice squad maybe? We’ll see.
Next up, let’s consider Josh Adams. He was the team’s leading rusher last season, after all. I actually like the power game that he brings, and he showed himself capable of stepping up last season when given the ball. I would urge the Eagles to keep him on the team.
That leaves one remaining spot for either Smallwood, Clement or Scott. I can pretty safely eliminate Scott here, even despite his 43 rushing yards and a touchdown in last week’s fake game against the Jaguars. I can’t foresee him actually getting carries unless disaster strikes and, as long as Sproles is healthy, Scott won’t really be needed to return kicks.
So, Clement or Smallwood? This is actually really close. They have performed similarly in their careers and are even nearly the same size. The nostalgic among us might automatically give this decision to Clement thanks to his heroics in Super Bowl LII. But that really shouldn’t factor in here, as Delaware’s own Wendell Smallwood has had some solid moments and has shown himself to be an NFL-caliber runner.
In the end, though, I find myself siding with Clement, who separates himself with special teams play and by seemingly being a slightly better receiver than Smallwood. Tough call, but Wendell might find himself on another team in 2019.
So, I’m proposing an Eagles backfield contingent of Howard, Sanders, Sproles, Clement and Adams. And while it would be foolish to expect everyone to remain healthy all year, I think that this group sets the Eagles up for success from the running back position in 2019.
One of the Eagles' 3,948 running backs. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Published August 19, 2019
As the Phillies continue to toy with our emotions (Sweep the Cubs! Lose 2 out of 3 to the Padres!), it’s a fair assessment to say that they are as inconsistent a bunch as we’ve seen in quite some time.
And while there have been a couple positive takeaways and a few great moments like Bryce Harper’s walkoff grand slam last week, we can all agree that they should be better than this.
But, to me, the biggest factor holding them back has been the pitching. Specifically, it’s been the extremely disappointing results from some highly-paid hurlers, and the rampant injury bug that has struck numerous pitchers that have been brought in by GM Matt Klentak.
Let’s start pretty obviously, with Jake Arrieta. When he signed with the Phillies very late in the offseason prior to the start of the 2018 campaign, I viewed the contract as a necessary evil of sorts. It was a big overpay by the Phillies, but if Arrieta could come reasonably close to what he had done in Chicago, plus help act as a mentor for Aaron Nola and the rest of a young Phillies starting staff, it would have been worth it.
Now, 17 months later, we can say it most definitely has not been worth it.
Not only has Arrieta’s own performance ranged from merely average to downright bad in his first two seasons with the team (a 4.54 ERA over 308.1 IP), he has failed to make a positive impact on the rest of the staff.
And while it ultimately rests on the coaching staff to help the likes of Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and company, it was most certainly an unspoken part of Arrieta’s contract that he was expected to help in this area. Teams don’t pay that kind of money for a lone wolf who can’t even take care of his own business, but that’s exactly what the Phillies have gotten in Arrieta.
The cherry on top was the past month, which saw Arrieta pitching with a bone spur in his elbow. It was ugly to watch, it taxed the bullpen, and it was only going to end badly. What was the point?
Also tying up valuable money this year were relievers Tommy Hunter and David Robertson, another pair of Klentak signings that have gone horribly wrong.
First, Hunter was brought in on an expensive 2-year contract following a very productive 2017 season pitching for Tampa. You can understand the Phillies pumping money into a revamped bullpen to some degree, but Klentak (and Andy MacPhail) obviously were too enamored with Hunter, who they were familiar with from their Baltimore days.
Hunter pitched decently in 2018, but he completely broke down this year, as a forearm injury kept him out of action until late June. He lasted all of five appearances before needing season-ending surgery for a flexor tendon injury. You’ve seen the last of him with the Phillies.
Robertson was even worse. I really can’t fault Klentak for signing a pitcher who has been healthy for over a decade, as Robertson had appeared in 60+ games in every season since 2010.
But, in typical Phillies fashion, Robertson got into just seven games before going on the shelf. He remained “a few weeks away from returning” for several months before finally undergoing Tommy John surgery recently.
Robertson will be 35 years old by the time he “recovers” from the surgery. He’ll never pitch for the Phillies again, and his MLB career might be over. All this for the low, low price of $21 million over two seasons of nothing. It was horrible luck for the Phillies. But maybe they should have seen it coming.
Signing experienced pitchers in their 30’s who have carried heavy career workloads might seem like a fairly safe bet. Consistency and track record are important. But every body, every arm, has a breaking point. And the Phillies’ management and their 76ers-level medical staff seem to be totally in the dark about these things.
Yes, I realize that young arms like Seranthony Dominguez and Victor Arano have also gone down with arm troubles this year. But, cynically, their absences don’t hurt as much because they are making peanuts compared to the likes of Arrieta, Hunter and Robertson. And don’t even get me started about Pat Neshek.
When a young (cheap) pitcher goes down, they are more easily replaced than pitchers who are making $10, $15, $20 million per year. No, baseball doesn’t have a salary cap, but the Phillies do not want to get themselves over the luxury tax threshold. You can bet that they would have been bigger players for Dallas Keuchel and/or Craig Kimbrel if they had that extra money to spend this year.
It’s insane that the team has over $50 million worth of pitchers on the injured list, but when you commit that kind of money to older players, that’s the risk you run. Maybe there’s something deeper at play, and the Phillies need to re-evaluate their training and conditioning programs. That’s above my pay grade, but what I can tell you is this…
In the current MLB landscape, you need to be extremely careful with the kinds of pitchers you sign, and you need to be thinking one step ahead in case injuries happen.
The Phillies haven’t done this the last couple years, and they are paying the price for it.
Now you see him, now you don't. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)
Published August 12, 2019
I can’t say that I didn’t see this coming.
After finishing off an important 9-game homestand with a disappointing 4-5 record, the Phillies packed up for their final trip to the Pacific Time Zone this season, a 7-game swing through Arizona and San Francisco.
The results, a measly two wins this week, seem to be to be the final nail in their coffin for 2019.
To be fair, this isn’t the first time I’ve thought that the Phillies were cooked. But even the most optimistic of Phils fans have to admit that this team just isn’t good enough, especially after all their flaws were laid bare in front of a national audience in last night’s loss to the Giants on ESPN.
Before that sad display, casual baseball fans across the country were probably thinking, “The Phillies really improved this year, they must just be having some bad luck to be where they are. But they’re still right in the playoff race, so they’ll probably get things figured out”.
Instead, they were treated to a full display of Team Kapler, warts and all. A nonexistent rotation other than their top pitcher. An offense that can’t hit in the clutch to save its life. A bullpen that implodes seemingly every other game.
It all added up to another lost week out west for the Phillies, a recurring theme of theirs over the last several seasons.
Jake Arrieta looked especially spent last night, as he labored through three innings, throwing 66 pitches in that time while allowing five runs on seven hits. At what point does he finally get shut down? He has absolutely nothing to offer right now. I truly hope we’ve reached the breaking point.
The offense, strangely bereft of power in a year where home run numbers are through the roof, also continues to struggle in big spots. Last night, the most notable example came in the top of the 7th inning, when Rhys Hoskins came to bat with the Phillies down by a run and popped up harmlessly with the bases loaded to end the threat.
Let’s talk about Hoskins for a second.
With all of the roster turnover, he has not gotten a lot of notice this season. And while he is achieving some positives, such as sitting in a tie with Mike Trout for the major league lead in walks, he simply isn’t doing enough to help carry this offense.
His power numbers project out right now to end the season around 33 home runs and 94 RBI. Those are pretty solid on their face, but dig deeper and you’ll see multiple other players in the National League who are at or very close to one of those totals RIGHT NOW.
Eduardo Escobar of the Diamondbacks has 94 RBI.
Josh Bell of the Pirates has 93 RBI.
Pete Alonso of the Mets has 38 home runs.
Eugenio Suarez of the Reds has 33 home runs.
Hoskins is supposed to be as good or better than all of these guys (and several others who are outperforming him this year). And while raw numbers don’t tell the whole tale, it sure would be nice if Hoskins could deliver on the kind of 40 homer/110 RBI season that he should be having in a year like this where the ball is flying out of yards.
Other players deserve a share of the blame, but Rhys will act as the sacrificial lamb for today.
As for the relief corps, the remaining healthy arms in the Phillies’ ramshackle bullpen aren’t as culpable as the rest of the team in its severe underachievement, but they’re not helping matters. As soon as I learn some of their names, I can offer a deeper critique.
The final injury that Phillies fans have been made to suffer this season is to see the Mets, on the heels of a recent hot streak, blow right by the Phils, knocking them down into fourth place in the NL East.
If these standings hold, there is no logical reason that Gabe Kapler should not be fired after this debacle of a season. I won’t hold out hope for the dismissals of Matt Klentak and Andy MacPhail, but they should be held accountable as well.
The end result of this road trip and an extended run of poor play is that the Phillies will be once again playing meaningless September games in front of their paying customers, many of whom gobbled up tickets before the season even started, anticipating an exciting pennant race in the season’s final weeks.
I would say “we’ll get ‘em next year”, but I’ve been doing that for about five years.
I’m tired of it. And this team.
I feel like I've used this image before to demonstrate the Phillies' ineptitude.
Published August 5, 2019
Well, it took almost a decade, but Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez shed some light this weekend on the state of his Phillies as they lost the 2009 World Series to the New York Yankees in six games.
Turns out, a bunch of them were sick with swine flu.
What are we supposed to do with that?
Can we get the teams back together and have a “redo”? The Saints still won’t let that pass interference go from last year, so why not? Let’s take it to court.
Or maybe let’s just strip the Yankees of that title and call it a day. I think we’d all be fine with that.
But the sad reality is, it doesn’t matter. Who knows why Pedro had to bring this up. It did get me thinking, though. Is it possible that some other Philadelphia teams from years past also had legitimate excuses about why they fell short? Maybe a great deal of information has been kept from us all for years, even decades.
So I did some digging, and here’s what I uncovered about some past local clubs…
The 1993 Phillies, aka “Macho Row” were a lovable, ragtag group of other adjectives that everybody likes to throw around. We all know what happened in the World Series, though, as they lost in six games to Toronto. The ending was particularly bad, don’t know if you’ve heard. As it turns out, that series was the only week all year that the whole team wasn’t drunk. As Lloyd Bridges’ character from Airplane! could tell you, they picked a bad week for it.
The 2001 76ers had a great run all the way to the NBA Finals before running out of gas against the Lakers. Word has now leaked that MVP Allen Iverson played the entire series with broken discs all up and down his back. That’s what happens when one player has to carry an entire mediocre team that deep into the playoffs.
Since winning two straight Stanley Cups over 45 years ago, the Flyers have amazingly lost their last six trips to the Cup Final. Not surprisingly, they’ve all come since Paul Holmgren became part of the organization. He was only with the Flyers for four of the trips (one as a player, one as an assistant coach, and two in the front office), but I’m laying all six of them at his feet. I think that “Paul Holmgren was there” is clearly a legit explanation about why you lost, although it didn’t help matters that the Flyers were playing with a hologram as their goaltender in the 2010 Cup Final.
The 1996-2000 Phillies had Legionnaires’ Disease. Every single player, coach and person in the front office. For five years straight. This one hasn’t been proven, but logic dictates that this can be the only reason they were so damn bad for half a decade. It isn’t theoretically possible to lose so many games without a serious physical malady of this magnitude.
The 2004 Eagles gave us all a thrilling ride to the Super Bowl, but of course it all came crashing down against the Patriots. Quarterback Donovan McNabb famously barfed late in the game. Did the Eagles lose directly because of that? Probably not, although #5 has made excuse after excuse for years. Finally, though, it’s been revealed that McNabb picked the night before to watch the 2003 Korean film Oldboy and puked his guts out in the huddle when thinking about the scene where a character eats a clearly alive octopus. Way to go, Donovan. I’m just glad that Human Centipede was still a few years away from being released.
Finally, the 2019 Phillies have fallen far short of expectations. Perhaps most notably, the bullpen has been absolutely beset with injuries. Obviously, the whole group of them came into contact with some members of the 2009 Phillies sometime during spring training, contracting the long-dormant swine flu from the players who were still carrying it. Either that, or all of these Phillies injuries are because they decided to use the same doctors as the 76ers.
As Pedro just reminded us, there’s a reason for everything. And in the case of this swine flu revelation, this excuse seemed to fit perfectly with what was an extremely crummy alumni weekend at Citizens Bank Park.
I can’t wait for next year when the Phillies celebrate the 70th anniversary of the 1950 Whiz Kids by wheeling out the two remaining living players from that team.
I got sick just from watching this garbage. Thanks, Pedro. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Published August 2, 2019
I’m all for commemorating nice “round-number” anniversaries of memorable events and accomplishments. But sometimes you need to think about things on a case by case basis. And when it comes to the 2009 National League Champions, I see no reason to mark their achievement like the Phillies will be doing this weekend.
Super cynical, right? But here’s why.
Obviously, unless you’ve been living under a rock since Bush’s second term, you know that the 2008 Phillies won the World Series. They’ve been feted numerous times since, and I think that all Phillies fans can agree that we can acknowledge them at every opportunity for as long as we all draw breath.
If the Phillies want to go the same route as the Flyers, who have been parading out the Broad Street Bullies for decades, so be it. It will probably get old after a while, but I’m not worried about that right now.
What I am annoyed by is the follow-up to that team, the 2009 squad that absolutely should have won it all, but instead lost the World Series to the New York Yankees. Admittedly, that Yankees team was pretty good, having posted 103 wins during the season. But they were far from perfect, and the Phillies failed to take advantage.
All of the most important contributors to that 2009 team for the Phillies were already part of the 2008 championship. So there is no need to honor them again for a lesser accomplishment. Some of those players did perform statistically better in 2009 than in 2008, but I’m sure they will all tell you that the preferred the end result of 2008 to the padded stats of the following year.
2009 was also easily Cole Hamels’ worst season with the Phillies, and he followed it up with a terrible postseason. He even admitted that he was spent during the World Series. Of course the still-active Hamels won’t be attending this weekend’s festivities, but is this the version of him we want to recognize?
An even more extreme case is Brad Lidge, he of the perfect 48-for-48 saves in 2008. I bet you forgot just how awful he was in 2009. He did manage to save 31 games but he blew 11 of them while posting a 7.21 ERA and a hard-to-believe 0-8 record. He got one chance to pitch in the World Series, the 9th inning of a tie game, and he gave up 3 runs to allow the Yankees to take a 3-1 series lead. Yeah, let’s salute that guy.
Finally, let’s discuss the premier playoff performer for the 2009 Phillies, Cliff Lee. He was undeniably outstanding in that postseason run after coming over to the team in a July trade. But does anyone really remember him that fondly? I’d say that in the wake of Roy Halladay coming to town the next season and then Lee’s ultimately unfulfilling second go-round with the Phillies, fans are correct in being ambivalent about him.
But none of that really matters, because Lee apparently won’t even be attending the festivities this weekend for reasons that are not clear. It’s his most notable absence since the last two years of his contract, when he earned $37 million for doing nothing.
You might be thinking that the 2009 Phillies are comparable to the 1993 team. But they’re not. The 1993 team stood out like a beacon, the only good Phillies team in a decade (and last one for another decade), and so they should rightly hold a special place for the fans.
The 2009 team should not.
2008 was a hard act to follow, but all the pieces were there. And of course they had to lose to the Yankees to twist the knife even further. For me, I’d sooner forget that happened rather than trying to force some half-hearted celebration for a team that didn’t fulfill its promise.
We're #2, baby! (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)