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 February 2, 2019
The “holiday” of Groundhog Day used to just be a silly tradition whereby a rodent determined how long winter would last based on whether or not it saw its shadow. But of course, all of that changed with the release of the 1993 Bill Murray film Groundhog Day, in which a weatherman who is sent to cover that day’s festivities finds himself in some cosmic loop, a repeating hell that only he is aware of while everyone around him unknowingly duplicates the same behavior day after day.
And so, whenever “Groundhog Day” is referenced now, all that anyone thinks about is the film of that name and the themes of déjà vu and the repetitive nature of life that it evokes.
And so, whenever “Groundhog Day” is referenced now, all that anyone thinks about is the film of that name and the themes of déjà vu and the repetitive nature of life that it evokes.
(Brief pause as I present the thin premise of this article).
I don’t know about you, but when I think about the same thing repeating day after day, Philadelphia sports immediately come to mind. Here now is a comprehensive (but in no way complete) list of the most “Groundhog Day” things about Philadelphia sports over the past quarter-century.
Philadelphia sports radio ruins your morning by getting you all riled up about something stupid
Look, I know they have to pander to the lowest common denominator by trying to drum up controversies and espousing fake opinions to keep the listeners interested, but sometimes I feel like I’d rather wake up to “I Got You Babe” on my radio every day for all eternity than having to hear someone complain about Joe Buck or Tony Romo or whoever for the millionth time. Also, how many times can you have a contest about “Who do we hate the most”?
Wentz vs. Foles (and their subsequent support groups against each other)
Honestly, the cathartic outlet of Philadelphia sports radio should have just stopped after the Eagles won the Super Bowl. There was no reason for it to exist anymore. But, since it didn’t, the Wentz vs. Foles debate became the most mind-numbing thing to come out of the Birds’ follow-up season. Hosts and callers alike have been declaring their preference for months, and then making the same exact points to back up their ideas every single day since. Once in a while, some genius thinks they are approaching the whole debate in a different way, but it turns out they’ve simply not been paying attention during the 700 previous times that someone made those same exact points. I don’t know who is worse: them for doing and saying literally the same thing every day for months, or me for still listening to it and thinking I’ll hear something new eventually.
Flyers goaltending crushes your soul
Hey, we have Carter Hart now, so this no longer applies! I hope. But from John Vanbiesbrouck to Jeff Hackett to Ilya Bryzgalov to Steve Mason and on and on, the team has lacked any stability at the position for almost my entire life. But maybe, like Phil Connors in the film (spoiler alert!), we’ve finally extricated ourselves from this with the emergence of Hart. Could it finally be February 3 in the Flyers’ crease?
Sixers, injuries, ineptitude, repeat
Even in the midst of a solid season marked by the stellar play of Joel Embiid, I can never shake the feeling of how much of a joke of a franchise the Sixers have been, seemingly for a long time. From coaches that stick around for less than a season to signing injured guys who never end up playing for the team, it’s been a wild ride. Then, just when we think they’ve turned a corner, their first overall pick from last season develops a mental block that turns into a made-up injury AND their GM resigns after his wife (or so he claims) sends some tweets containing disparaging remarks about the team. What. A. Cluster.
This Bryce Harper talk…
Any day now would be nice. We get it, sportswriters feel the need to put something out there. They have to earn their pay somehow. But you’re really just wasting all of our time if you don’t have anything for us. First, the Phillies were shoo-ins for Harper’s services. Then they weren’t. Then it was all but a done deal. Then, other teams jumped back into the fray. Who even cares at this point? This applies to a lesser degree with Manny Machado aka Johnny Hustle. It’s been more annoying than Needlenose Ned Reyerson.
Play for the Flyers, get a job
The team’s “good old boys” network has been a running joke for a long time, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without merit. Once a Flyer, always a Flyer, especially while Ed Snider was running the show. That means you…Bill Barber, Ian Laperriere, Gord Murphy, Paul Holmgren, Craig Berube, Ron Hextall and on and on, extending down to the Phantoms even with the likes of Kjell Samuelsson, Riley Cote, etc. Ironically, the Flyers looked to finally be breaking out of this mold four years ago with the hiring of Dave Hakstol as head coach. Uh…maybe just stick with the good old boys, I guess.
Andy Reid’s “gotta do a better job”
“Big Red” would always start off with the injuries, and then it was on to the mea culpas after every loss, a maddening display that did nothing. And it’d be one thing if he truly meant it, but over the years I think we all kind of figured out that it was code for “I’m saying it’s my fault, but it’s really somebody else’s”. It was truly an odd 14-year journey with Andy, who came sooooo close to being immortalized in Philadelphia sports history, but merely goes down as the big man who couldn’t win the big one. It’s at least a little comforting to see that he’s continuing the trend in Kansas City. Andy, time’s yours.
The media hates Philly fans
Did you know that Philadelphia fans threw snowball at Santa Claus and Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson? And batteries at JD Drew? And shot off a flare gun, punched a police horse and cheered a career-ending neck injury to Michael Irvin? And that things got so bad at Eagles games that they put a prison in the basement of Veterans Stadium? Well, if you’ve ever watched three minutes of a national broadcast involving a Philadelphia team, you’ve heard all of this. And it’s presented in a fashion that would lead you to believe that all of these things happened within a week of each other and were done by every fan in town. GIVE IT A REST! I swear, sometimes they’re just reaching for material. Like making some “Groundhog Day” list.
Come back tomorrow when I repost this same article.
Keep on scratchin'!
Published March 26, 2019
We’re two days away from MLB’s Opening Day, and it’s time for the Phillies to start showing that their offseason makeover has actually turned them into contenders rather than some kind of paper champions. But before we all dream of the World Series, the Phils’ first task is a tough one: coming out on top in a very competitive National League East division.
Now, let’s look at the rest of the teams, in ascending order of how much they could threaten the Phillies’ rise to power…
Yes, they still exist.
Offseason Changes: Yet again, the Marlins ditched their best player this offseason in an effort to shed even more payroll from their joke of a team.This time, the Phillies were the direct beneficiaries as they poached catcher JT Realmuto from the Fish. The Marlins got top prospect SIxto Sanchez in the deal, but he is a year or two away from making any kind of impact in the majors. In fact, the biggest positive change the Marlins made this offseason was in upgrading to some better looking uniforms, getting rid of the “generic opposing team from a straight-to-DVD baseball movie” look that they had been sporting for the last few years.
Why They Could Threaten the Phils: The Marlins actually have some good young pitching that could turn into something special. Also, anything can happen, right?
Why They Ultimately Won’t: The Phillies are made up of major league players. The Marlins are not. There’s something to be said for the old “ragtag group of players comes together to challenge better teams” scenario, but anything approaching even a .500 season for Miami would be a huge success. They should be easy pickings for the entire rest of the division.
Did You Know? The MIAMI Marlins have never finished over .500 (They were Florida before, remember?) In fact, this franchise has only posted winning records in six of their 26 seasons, although they’ve won the World Series both times they managed the make the playoffs. So undeserved.
New York Mets
Working on a 50-year World Series drought if not for Bill Buckner.
Offseason Changes: The Mets swung a trade with the Mariners for Edwin Diaz, quite possibly the best closer in the game. They also picked up Robinson Cano in that deal, and he’s still got some ability as long as he doesn’t get busted for PEDs again. Their biggest free agent signing was to bring in Wilson Ramos behind the plate after he finished last year with the Phils. They also shed some dead weight elsewhere on their roster, and they generally look better than the 77-win team that muddled through last year.
Why They Could Threaten the Phils: A tremendous rotation, headed by Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, can cause headaches for a lot of teams. Diaz anchors a solid bullpen, and the lineup could prove to be sneaky good with the likes of Michael Conforto, Ramos, Cano and presumably top prospect Pete Alonso. And Jose Reyes is no longer around taking up a spot for some reason.
Why They Ultimately Won’t: This is still the franchise that is paying Bobby Bonilla for longer than the Flyers are paying Ilya Bryzgalov. Several of their key players have been very susceptible to injuries over the last few years, so it’s probably unrealistic for the Mets to expect full health for the whole year from all of their important pieces. Plus, deGrom had perhaps the best season by a starting pitcher this century last season, and the team still managed to finish well under .500. Finally, with the Phillies having struggled mightily against the Mets in recent years, scientific studies suggest that the increased body odor wafting from the stands due to the large number of Mets fans has had a deleterious effect on the Phillies’ play while the Mets are simply used to it. But with the Phillies expecting much higher attendance from their fans this year (both at home and on the road), this B.O. effect should be minimized, allowing the Phillies to truly show that they are the better team without olfactory distractions.
Did You Know? Two of the Mets’ pitchers went on the injured list while you were reading this.
Playoff series win-free since forever.
Offseason Changes: They probably lost an important player. I don’t know, I wasn’t keeping up with it that much. But they did make some decent moves to bring in players like second baseman Brian Dozier and catcher Yan Gomes. Their biggest transaction was to sign pitcher Patrick Corbin, which people viewed as some kind of coup, but keep in mind that he has a 3.91 career ERA in over 150 starts. Still, he’s a very good compliment to Scherzer and Strasburg in the rotation.
Why They Could Threaten the Phils: Max Scherzer is insane, both in his pitching ability and the way he looks. Even at 34 years old, he is still atop his game and could single-handedly will this team into the playoffs. The lineup, even without a certain someone, is formidable thanks to Trea Turner, Juan Soto, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman. Just kidding about that last one, he sucks.
Why They Ultimately Won’t: It’s not often that a team’s franchise player moves within the division, only for his old team to get the best of his new team once the games begin. Then again, maybe this is the only time that this has happened. I have no idea. What, do you expect me to do research? Truth be told, the Nats will be tough, but their rotation is very top-heavy and their offense is lacking in just a bit of firepower to be able to keep up with the Phillies. They really could have used one more hitter. Wonder what happened.
Did You Know? Thanks to injuries and his team always getting bounced early when they do make the postseason, Stephen Strasburg only has three career playoff appearances.
Changing stadiums like you change your pants.
Offseason Changes: The Braves floated a huge one-year contract towards third baseman Josh Donaldson, and he will stabilize a very deep batting order. The team also brought catcher Brian McCann back for a final season victory lap. He is a shell of what he once was, but he should help as a veteran leader in the clubhouse while starting 60 or 70 games if he can still squat without breaking a hip.
Why They Could Threaten the Phils: Ronald Acuña Jr. is an immense talent and will be a terror for many years until the Yankees steal him away. But that won’t be for a long time. Freddie Freeman is probably the best overall hitter in the division, and the team boasts its usual stable of young arms that could very well turn in fantastic results as soon as this year. Or, the Braves can always draw from that plethora of prospects and flip them for more immediate help.
Why They Ultimately Won’t: The Braves surprised a lot of people by winning the NL East crown last year, and they certainly didn’t do anything to hurt their chances this past offseason. But ultimately, the Phillies improved by enough that they are able to match up well head-to-head versus the Braves and will surpass them for the title. It could come right down to the wire, but the Braves will always fade when they aren’t lucky enough to have 5 Hall of Famers playing for them at the same time. Even then, they’d only win the World Series something like one out of every fourteen times.
Did You Know? The Braves tried to wear this as recently as 2013. You stay classy, ATL.
Oh right, the whole point of this.
Bottom Line: You know the deal. They’re gonna win.
My team's gonna win!
Published March 22, 2019
The Phillies announced this week that Bobby Abreu will be the 2019 inductee into the team’s Wall of Fame. Good for Bobby. But this got me thinking.
This is going to sound like a lot of repitition, as you can look at my article about how the Flyers should honor long-time PA announcer Lou Nolan that I wrote back on October 14 (and which you annoyingly have to scroll down about half of the way to read, sorry about that). But, in the same vein, it helps us land perfectly on the next person that the Phillies should so honor...public address announcer Dan Baker.
Some background - Dan Baker has been the in-house voice of the Phillies since 1972. You’ve heard him at every single Phillies game you’ve ever attended. Or, if you’re super old, since you were a kid at least. And since the retirement of Yankees’ PA announcer Bob Sheppard a full decade ago, Baker has been the longest-tenured PA man in the major leagues. He is simply peerless in this regard.
And don’t forget that he also spent 30 seasons performing the same job with the Eagles before they inexplicably “moved on” from him five years ago. I neither know nor care to know the name of the guy who replaced him.
Philadelphia sports fans have been incredibly lucky to have enjoyed the soundtrack that we have over the last half-century. From Harry Kalas to Gene Hart to Merrill Reese, Lou Nolan and on and on, a litany of superb voices have greeted us at the stadiums, on the radio and in our homes. Baker is in that class.
Let’s not take Dan Baker for granted, as the man is now 72 years old. Maybe his aim is to hit 50 years with the Phillies, or maybe he’ll just keep on going for as long as he possibly can. Either way, he has earned it. And so the Phillies should set their 2020 Wall of Fame space aside ahead of time, with Baker earmarked as the recipient of the honor.
The team will have special nights at the ballpark this year to honor Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. Baker is the man who will emcee those ceremonies, having been with the team through the entirety of their Phillies careers, just as he has for hundreds more who have played at Citizens Bank Park and Veterans Stadium.
So, before the Phillies start putting the core of their 2008 World Series team into the Wall of Fame, the team should first give a fitting salute to Baker, who still does the same quality work that he has for decades. There is plenty of time remaining to induct players who have retired in recent years.
I met Dan Baker once, at a panel discussion at La Salle University when I was going to school there. After it was over, I made sure to introduce myself to him. He indulged me and several others by announcing our names like we were coming to bat for the Phillies. Honestly, it was a top thrill in my life.
His voice and his style is so ingrained into me that I can’t imagine attending a Phillies game without hearing it. He no doubt gets requests like this all the time, and he is always happy to oblige. I also know that he does pre-recorded voicework for peoples’ wedding reception introductions. This wouldn’t happen if people didn’t have such a deep connection to him.
Simply put, Dan Baker has been an important part of the Philadelphia sports landscape (not just baseball) for almost 50 years. It’s time to show our appreciation. Phillies, make it happen.
Ladies and gentlemen, the 1980's.
Published March 15, 2019
March 17 is, of course, St. Patrick’s Day, and people mark the occasion by drinking themselves silly as they wear green. It’s great. And since it falls on a Sunday this year, you just know that people are going to make a whole weekend out of it.
So before anybody passes out in a puddle of green goo, let’s take a look at some of the Pats and Patricks that have made an impact in Philly sports these last few decades. I’m not gonna lie…I thought there would be a lot more on here. But even with these slim pickings, we can have some fun.
From the worst and/or least consequential Pats (the sinners) all the way up to the ones who deserve our thanks and appreciation for what they’ve done (the saints), here we go…
This guy played a combined 35 regular season and playoff games with the Flyers in 2008. He had more massive scrotal hematomas (one) than goals scored (zero), as he took a slapshot right to the groin from the Capitals’ Mike Green in the first round of the playoffs that year. And that’s the only reason I even mention him here.
Once called “Fat Balloon” for his supposed lack of conditioning, Falloon totaled 83 points in 144 games as a Flyer. Undoubtedly, his career highlight with the team actually came on St. Patrick’s Day in 1996, when he scored two goals in a win over the Sharks. I was at the game and started a “We want Pat!” chant late in the game in an effort to inspire him into netting a hat trick (which John LeClair had actually already accomplished in that game), but it wasn’t meant to be.
Yes, another Flyer. The Flyers gave up on a 24-year old Sharp in 2005 after he netted just 15 points over 66 games with the team, trading him to Chicago for a bag of crap. Sharp would go on to score 30 goals on four occasions during his career and win three Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks. Smooth move.
Shurmur has been around seemingly forever in football circles, first coming to the Eagles as a tight end and offensive line coach in 1999. He became QB coach in 2002, sticking with the Birds until 2008. In 2013, he returned as offensive coordinator under Chip Kelly. When Kelly was fired with one game left in the team’s trainwreck of a 2015 season, Shurmur stepped in as head coach for the final game, which he won for no good reason, only serving to hurt the team’s draft position. He went to the Vikings for a few seasons after that, and is now set to serve his second season as head coach of the Giants. Yes, those Giants with the 38-year old quarterback and who just traded their star receiver. Pray for him.
The only surname of Patrick in Philadelphia sports history that my research yielded, young Nolan is making strides in his second NHL season with the Flyers. He’s only 20 years old, so there is seemingly plenty of time for him to fill out. But he was the second overall pick of the 2017 draft, and so the team needs him to show that he can be at least a capable second-line center. Next year would be a good time to do that. With flashes of brilliance mixed in among long stretches of inconsistency so far in his 130+ NHL games, Patrick clearly has the ability. But this is the Flyers, so he’ll probably only turn into a star after he goes somewhere else.
From starting as a physical therapist with the Flyers in the 1980’s through his presidency with the Sixers from 1996-2001, Croce has had a successful and extremely interesting career. He is best remembered for his unwavering enthusiasm and also getting extremely pumped when the Sixers won the 1996 NBA draft lottery that would allow them to take Allen Iverson first overall. But after the 76ers came up short in the 2001 Finals against the Lakers, Croce resigned after basically losing a power struggle with Ed Snider. Big mistake, Pat. After sports, Croce went on to commentate for the Olympics, host a self-help talk show, finance an expedition to locate a shipwreck and open a pirate museum in Florida. This guy was, and still is, all over the place.
A brilliant baseball executive who is rightfully enshrined in Cooperstown for his efforts, Gillick had tremendous success with the Blue Jays in the late 1980’s/early ‘90’s. His strategy of “bring in a bunch of future Hall of Famers while they win back-to-back World Series” paid off, as a Toronto team full of future Hall of Famers won back-to-back World Series. What a stroke of GM genius. Also, it helps when Mitch Williams grooves one right down the middle to Joe Carter. But I digress. Gillick had successful stints in Baltimore and Seattle after that, though he couldn’t add another title to his ledger. But that all changed when he came to Philadelphia in 2005, replacing the dearly departed Ed Wade. One might say that the pieces were already there and that the Phillies were destined to win a World Series no matter who was at the helm. But Gillick’s steadying influence and shrewd moves played a large part in the team’s 2008 victory. The only bad thing that came of that was that Gillick then retired and handed the reins over to Ruben Amaro Jr. Well, at least we got one, right?
The slugging Phillies outfielder did some good work with the stick over the years. Pause here for comedic effect. And though one could argue that ultimately he did not provide enough to the Phillies for being a first overall pick, he did end up placing 4th all-time in home runs and 10th all-time in RBI for a franchise that’s been around for over 100 years. So, nothing to sneeze at there. Burrell was divisive while he was here, but it was clear that he squeezed every bit out of his ability that he could. And we’ll always have that image of him leading the parade down Broad Street as the senior member of the team. We’ll also always have this.
The 76ers GM had a near-unparalleled run of success as he guided the team from 1974-1986, although it regrettably ended in only one NBA title for the team. Still, a look at the moves he made over the years…oh man. The guy purchased Julius Erving to bring him to the NBA, hired Billy Cunningham as head coach, drafted Maurice Cheeks and Charles Barkley and traded for Moses Malone. Today, Williams remains in a senior advisory role for the Orlando Magic and is a highly regarded motivational speaker. I feel motivated just going down his list of accomplishments.
And now, hopefully all of these Patricks have motivated you to not be completely stupid this St. Patrick’s Day.
Who needs Kobe?
Published March 14, 2019
Remember when the Flyers were terrible? You don’t have to go back too far, and you can read all about it on other sections of this website.
Well, you’ve probably noticed (and if you don’t like hockey, then just skip this) that they are literally the best team in the league over the past few months, playing at a rate commensurate with the juggernaut Lightning’s season winning percentage during that time.
They’re doing it with a vastly improved defense, special teams that can actually do some special things after months of looking like a dumpster fire on both ends, and of course much better goaltending. And so now here they sit on March 14, five points out of a playoff spot and needing to pass two teams to get to the postseason. They’d probably have to face those Lightning, but we’ll worry about that if and when it happens.
The Flyers have 13 games to play, and they will probably need about 21 of a possible 26 points in order to have a legitimate case for the playoffs, meaning that three more regulation losses would likely knock them out of contention. The margin for error is razor thin, and they only have themselves to blame for that.
So, can they do it?
The optimist would point to the outstanding play of Sean Couturier, who has 36 points in his last 27 games and appears to have turned into perhaps the best two-way player in the league. Meanwhile, Jake Voracek (when he isn’t suspended) has also been going at more than a point-per-game pace for over two months while Claude Giroux continues to produce at his normal consistent rate.
And then there’s the revelation that is Philippe Myers back on the blueline. The hulking d-man seems amazingly quick for his size, and his strength has been on display from the first time he set foot on the ice for the Flyers. He adds a much needed element to the backline, not just for this year but for the long run.
And how about Brian Elliott? Since coming back from his 135th injury, he has put up a sparkling .923 save percentage in going 5-1-1 in recent weeks. Carter Hart is now back and healthy, and should be given every opportunity to prove himself again down the stretch, but the fact that the Flyers weren’t able to find any takers for Elliott at the trade deadline has helped them a ton in Hart’s absence.
Add in improved play from Ivan Provorov, who is probably the most critically important player on the team given that he averages over 25 minutes of ice time per game, and the Flyers have the look of a team that might have just enough to nudge themselves across the finish line and into the playoffs despite having had to make up a massive amount of ground over the season’s three months.
But the pessimist, or “Philadelphia fan” as they are known, would point out that the Flyers’ recent play has been an absolute best case, firing-on-all-cylinders scenario, and the closest they’ve managed to get to the playoff cutoff was three points following Monday’s win over Ottawa. The margin widened back to five points after Columbus beat the Bruins on Tuesday. Thanks for nothing, Boston. So it’s been a lot of effort that still hasn’t gotten them to the cusp of where they need to be yet.
And in any case, the Flyers aren’t just dealing with one team to leap, but two. Both Columbus (who absolutely went for broke at the trade deadline) and Montreal would need to go cold. Or, failing that, the Flyers could still overtake Carolina or the Penguins in place of one of them, but that probably won’t happen. And so the path is extremely narrow.
Schedule toughness is also not working in the Flyers’ favor, with a brutal Washington/Toronto back-to-back on tap over the next two nights, as well as another contest against each of those teams coming up again in a few weeks. The Flyers also have to go to St. Louis and face a club that’s “Flyers hot” with a 15-4-2 mark in the last month and a half. But that game is weeks away, so who knows where they’ll be at by that time? Maybe teams in cushy playoff spots would be preferable opponents at that time.
So, here is the final verdict, courtesy of Philly Sports Complex…
The Flyers’ play under Scott Gordon, which coincided with the debut of Carter Hart, has been extremely encouraging. Not only has the core of the team been impressive, but pieces like Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom are showing that the Flyers’ supporting cast figures to be a strong one for a long time coming as well. This stretch drive will be valuable to the development of such young players, and especially to Hart, assuming he gets back to game action and looks like he did before his injury.
There it is. Too many blown leads and letdown games earlier in the year largely doomed this team, for this season at least. And as exciting as their recent play has been, punctuated by the outdoor game comeback that could serve as a franchise-altering focal point at some juncture down the road, I just don’t think they have it in them. And that’s a shame, because I want to believe in this iteration of the Flyers.
But the Hakstol stink just got too deep in them and didn’t give them enough of a chance to salvage the season. So I think they’ll finish ninth in the East, about three points out of the final playoff spot.
Better luck next year. Just like seemingly every year for the Flyers.
An image from the internet, apparently.
Published March 9, 2019
I must confess that I still don’t fully understand the NFL. Everything just moves so fast.
Maybe it’s just the nature of the game, but guys go from top players to has-beens faster than you can say “career-altering knee injury”. Players switch teams at seemingly breakneck speed. Good teams crumble (except the Patriots). Bad teams rise up out of nowhere to challenge for a title, and then often go right back to where they were.
In the other professional leagues, there is an ebb and a flow that the NFL is just simply missing. Maybe it’s due to the fact that football’s short schedule and the ridiculous amount of money involved mean that teams can’t be shy about making moves. Act or fall behind. And this week, the Eagles sure saw a lot of that action.
A week ago, word came out that long-time Bird Brandon Graham was coming back, signing a new 3-year contract with the only NFL he has ever known. It came out of nowhere. For months, it was assumed that Graham was done as an Eagle, something that was only hammered home further when Graham quite classily said goodbye to all of the reporters in the locker room at the end of the Eagles’ season.
But no, there is another chapter to be written in his story in Philadelphia. Would the Eagles have even entertained such a move if Graham hadn’t made the most important defensive play in team history? Probably not. But he did, and he continues to play at a high level, and so the Eagles chose familiarity. They know what they are getting with Graham, a guy who has seen it all so far, having played three seasons each under three different coaches so far in his NFL career. Hopefully, both sides (and the fans) will be happy with the arrangement for the life of the contract.
The busy week continued for the Eagles when it was announced that Nick Foles would be going to the Jaguars. Maybe. Honestly, I don’t fully believe anything I hear during this period where things aren’t official per NFL rules as we await the start of the league’s fiscal year in a couple days.
So, Philadelphia said a tearful sort-of-goodbye to its lone Super Bowl MVP this week. Nick, we’ll see you when you’re back in town with the Jaguars. Again, maybe. Who knows what will end up actually going down. We all knew this was coming, but it just feels bizarre to be happening in such a way.
Then, on Friday, defensive end Michael Bennett said in the morning that he would not take a pay cut from the Eagles, instead expecting a raise. Mere hours later, he was a Bird no more, traded to the Patriots supposedly. And so Bennett will take his severe lack of shoulder pads to New England, where he’ll be hoping for a happy ending with that club.
But one has to wonder: why would the Eagles, or anyone, even bother to trade with the Patriots? Seriously, just freeze those guys out. Let them exist on an island, don’t do anything to give them any potential help, and hope they finally roll over and die.
This trade is especially curious as it’s just New England’s 5th-round pick in 2020 in exchange for Bennett and the Eagles’ 7th-round pick that year. I get that the Eagles didn’t want to pay Bennett, but he’s only worth a two-round upgrade in the draft? I guess I know even less about the NFL than I thought.
And now, we find ourselves very close to the free agency period. Things are sure to get crazy around here really soon. I would make predictions about who the Eagles are going to sign, but again, I know nothing.
And that’s just the way the NFL wants it. Keep ‘em guessing. After this week with the Eagles, I sure am.
Philadelphia's wheelchair-bound community breathes a sigh of relief.
Published March 6, 2019
It’s probably still way too soon to be doing this since the guy has yet to even take swings in a spring training game for the Phillies, but we will anyway. After all, fantasy magazines and other prognosticators have had their 2019 projections out for months, and that without even knowing where Bryce Harper would land. So let’s take a dive into what’s realistic (REPEAT: REALISTIC) for Harper to show in his first year for the Phillies.
First off, how often will he be on the field? Not to burst your bubble, but it’s not going to be for 162 games. Harper just isn’t reliable in that area, and the fact of the matter that hardly anybody in the league is these days anyway. Even for a 26-year old at the height of his physical prowess, it is only reasonable to expect a few bumps and bruises with Bryce.
So let’s assume one (hopefully) short DL stint, as well as a few “maintenance” and planned days off. We’ll mark him down for 145 games and be happy about it. And we’ll be ecstatic if he can average something like that over the life of his contract.
What about Harper’s batting average? It’s proven to be the most volatile part of his game in recent years, dropping 87 points, then going up 76 points, then back down by another 70 points. That leaves Harper as a .279 career hitter as he begins his Phillies tenure, which ultimately seems about right. I’m seeing projections anywhere from .265 to .282, so let’s roughly split the difference and say he’ll come in at a .273 mark, trading off a few batting average points for what we all expect to be a power increase this season.
Speaking of the power, Bryce now plays his home games in his favorite road park. He’s gone yard 14 times in 50 career games at Citizens Bank Park, which strongly indicates that he should be able to hit 22-25 dingers just at home this season. He’ll undoubtedly hit fewer on the road (probably in the teens), which should put him at about 38 for the season.
We’re going to have to be a bit moderate with the RBI projections because we don’t know where Harper’s primary slot in the batting order will be yet. #3 would be ideal, but don’t put it past Madman Gabe to bat him second or even leadoff as he tries to find the optimal order. Harper scraped out 100 RBI for the first time in his career last year, and he needed 159 games to do it. So we’ll give him 95 RBI this year to account for potential time missed and a volatile spot in the batting order for the time being.
On the flip side, it will probably rank as a disappointment if Harper doesn’t score 100 runs. He’ll be on base plenty, and he presumably will have several quality bats right behind him. Let’s say 105 runs scored. Stolen bases? I wouldn’t expect too many. Bryce swiped 13 bags last year, but he likely won’t hit that number again. It’s probably in everyone’s best interests that he not run very much anyway, so we’ll give him eight steals on the year.
The final tally of our projections for Bryce Harper in his first season with the Phillies…
145 games played. .273. 38 HR. 95 RBI. 105 runs. 8 SB.
That’s a pretty good line for a fantasy player, one likely to be taken at some point in the first round of a draft if you’re into that sort of thing. And yes, there are far deeper numbers that speak more to how good of a player Harper is and how much of an impact he will make on his teammates and the ballclub as a whole. But I’m not going to get into projecting his hard-hit rate or OPS or anything to that effect.
All you need to know is this: The Phillies have a monster on their hands (in a good way), and any perceived pressure arising from signing such a rich contract will not affect Harper in the least.
Can we just play ball already?
A franchise cornerstone. And Bryce Harper.
Published March 1, 2019
Christmas came early for Phillies fans yesterday in the form of Bryce Harper, completing the team’s overwhelming offseason makeover.
So let’s figure out how things will look once the games actually start to count, with the caveat that wild card manager Gabe Kapler could just do some straight-up weird stuff.
First, the offense…
Harper will obviously be a fixture in right field, and even Gabe’s analytics can’t keep him out of a lineup spot every day. Unfortunately, this means that Nick Williams is probably out of a job. I’m thinking that the Phillies use him as a fourth outfielder/pinch hitter for a few months this year to try and showcase him, hopefully then flipping him for pitching help at some point during the year.
Williams is a nice hitter and can help a lot of teams, but he obviously doesn’t have a spot here anymore. If he had more of an ability to play center and/or Odubel Herrera didn’t have three more years left on his contract, then maybe keeping Williams would be a viable option. And who knows, maybe Herrera ends up being the one the move. But probably not.
Meanwhile, Andrew McCutchen will presumably play left field, although it’s the outfield position where he has the least experience in his career. Oh well, I’m sure he’ll deal with it. As for the infield, we know that ¾ of it is set with Hoskins, Segura and Franco. Good for Maikel for surviving the offseason, by the way. I’m personally fine with him still being over at the hot corner. His glove is good, and he won’t be under pressure in the middle of the lineup anymore.
The one question mark in the infield is at second base, where the Phillies still have Cesar Hernandez as the presumptive starter. But they are so pot-committed to Scott Kingery that it really is not fair to the guy to just shuffle him around as a super-utility player in the hopes of getting him 100 or so starts and a reasonable amount of at bats. Hernandez is just average, and so he has no real trade value. But Kingery could be something special. He didn’t look the part last year, but he has such a better offensive cast around him in 2019 that it’s time to let him sink or swim with an everyday spot in the lineup.
Hopefully JT Realmuto can start 120 games or so, because I still think that Andrew Knapp stinks as a backup. So let’s just hope that JT stays healthy. I’d personally be happier with Drew Butera or one of the non-roster invitees in camp. But this isn’t too big of a deal.
Crazy as it sounds with all the change this offseason, the Phillies will send out the same exact rotation this season as they had for most of last year. And that of course means that Aaron Nola will headline, just as he hopefully will for the next decade or so. But the concern is after that, as Jake Arrieta is more of a #3 at this point of his career.
Nick Pivetta, who is getting a lot of love from the analytic and fantasy communities, might be a very good #3 as soon as this year. Meanwhile, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez probably top out at #4s. Dallas Keuchel would have been a perfect addition to this staff as a legitimate #2 (and only lefthander), but we can’t have everything. Again, best guess is that the Phillies will shop for pitching help at some point during the season. And hopefully the staff can remain as healthy as they did last year.
Bullpens are the most volatile part of a baseball team, so I’m not even going to guess what the final construction of it will be at such an early juncture. But suffice it to say that the Phillies’ bullpen should be pretty good thanks to the addition of David Robertson and another year of Seranthony Dominguez. Just like any year, there will be surprises (both good and bad), but overall it looks solid.
I have no idea how madman Gabe will build his everyday lineup, but here’s how I would do it…
P Nola (yes, I want Nola in the lineup every day!)
Also, Gabe needs to not pull the “pitcher batting eighth” garbage. I hate that.
I think that I could see flipping Realmuto and McCutchen’s spots because of McCutchen’s on-base abilities, which are still solid even on the backside of his career. But, on the flip side, he could help set the table for the likes of Franco and Kingery if he’s used in the 5-spot.
Segura isn’t a total burner, but I think he’s the only one who really makes sense in the leadoff spot as the team’s best speed threat. And I think that Harper has to bat third, both to break up the righthanders in the 2-and-4 holes and also to give him some extra at bats over the course of the season as opposed to if he hit fourth. As for the cleanup spot, Hoskins all the way. Mark down 110 RBI right now.
I’d be fine with Franco and Herrera flipping as well, but putting Odubel sixth avoids having three straight righties. Anyway, Gabe has options. Hopefully he doesn’t tinker too much. As for reserves, Aaron Altherr is probably hanging by a thread, only potentially keeping a roster spot because Roman Quinn can’t stay healthy. Maybe Dylan Cozens forces his way into a spot due to a Williams trade/Quinn injury/etc. as well. That would be a good development. The reserve infielders should be Hernandez (until such time that the Phils can unload him) and Sean Rodriguez, who can shuttle all over the field. But maybe they go with the uninspiring Mitch Walding.
Final thought, and a way too early prediction…
In 2019, the Phillies will go 94-68 and win the National League East. They’ll win their first round playoff series before losing to the Brewers in the NLCS. But 2020 will be their year.
Probably a very slippery high-five
Published February 27, 2019
Well, it finally happened.
After (insert number) long (insert unit of time measurement), Bryce Harper has found a new home, and it’s not the Phillies.
Screw that guy. Who needs/wants him anyway?
The Phillies have made large improvements already this offseason. Yes, Harper was the “biggest fish”, and the Phillies surely tried. But in the end, $(insert large number) million just wasn’t enough for him. The guy clearly did not want to play in Philadelphia.
He and his agent (insert expletive) Scott Boras are just a couple of phonies. They didn’t even have the guts to simply say they were just looking for the biggest payday. And even when the Phils offered megabucks, they took a (insert contract details here) from the (insert team here) and spurned Philadelphia instead. They jerked us all around for months on end.
I hate them.
So let’s all lustily boo Harper every single time he comes to Philadelphia for the remainder of his career, even more than we did during his time in Washington. We were all ready to embrace him, but like a jilted lover, we must ratchet up our enmity towards him even more.
Now he gets to play in cozy (insert name of inferior city), a place where the “pressure” just won’t be as intense as it is in Philadelphia. Harper can coast through games whenever he feels like it without being called out for it, because fans in (previously named city) suck. They have no passion, and they don’t even deserve the team(s) they have.
So, enjoy the lack of consequences, Bryce. But you know what else there will be a lack of? Love and respect. If you had chosen Philly, you would have needed to bust your butt, but the payoff would have worth it. Play like you are meant to, help us to just one measly title, and you’ll be a legend here forever.
I guess you must have talked to Scott Rolen about this, huh? Screw him too.
But why risk it, right? Might as well just take the easy way out and sign somewhere else, opt out of your contract after a few years, and then go play in another market where they don’t care about baseball. Enjoy being a mercenary, you carpetbagger. That’s all we’ll ever think of you as being from now on, just a cowardly gun-for-hire that didn’t want to challenge himself here.
We all know that Philadelphia isn’t an easy place, but trust us, you’d rather have the fans here on your side than against you. From now until the day you retire, it will be merciless. And actually, even after you retire, watch your back. We don’t like you.
So congrats on the payday. I guess our money wasn’t good enough. But we are going to make you wish you had reconsidered when we beat you and the (whatever team) again and again. And watch us win another World Series before you do. It’s gonna be sweet.
See you on (date of Phillies’ first home game vs. Harper’s new team). You had better bring your A-game. We’ll bring the Duracells.
Editor’s Note: Take this down after Harper signs with the Phillies.
Your guess is as good as mine.
Published February 21, 2019
It’s only Thursday, but it’s been a crummy week so far in Philadelphia. And it has the potential to get downright disastrous.
Of course, any discussion around here has to involve the “Harper Hysteria” that is ridiculously plodding through its fourth month. As the daily onslaught of “updates” from sportswriters attempting to validate their jobs shows no signs of slowing down, there is simply no getting away from it.
For the longest time, we heard that the Phillies could get Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado. Well, Machado flew the coop the other day, signing a hugely unexpected deal with San Diego. And that means that the Phillies literally have to give Harper (and uber-annoying agent Scott Boras) what he wants to avoid having the worst “good offseason” in baseball history. The Phillies have brought in several all-star caliber players these past few months, but without landing one of the two biggest fish, owner John Middleton’s “stupid money” comment is going to look…well…stupid.
The pressure is on GM Matt Klentak to get Harper at all costs. If he goes elsewhere, it will not be accepted around here. I personally have mixed feelings on the issue, but I’m waiting to see the rationale if and when Harper signs elsewhere. If it’s simply a matter of him not wanting to play for the Phillies, I will hate him even more than I already have for the last few years. But if Klentak cites that the Phillies were simply outbid, then it will be open season on the organization for failing to put their money where their mouth is.
Also sliding under the radar was the fact that Odubel Herrera left practice yesterday with a strained hamstring. While it has become popular to rag on the guy, let’s not forget that he basically carried the Phillies’ offense for the first two months last season while rattling off a long consecutive game on-base streak before the wheels fell off for him. Herrera remains an important part of the club, even more so if the Phillies don’t get Harper. So, absent Harper, any kind of extended absence for Herrera turns the team’s outfield suddenly very thin. Even though Herrera seemingly isn’t very popular, he has put together a nice run so far in his 4-year career, and the Phillies need him healthy.
Speaking of organizations that never have any luck with health, the Sixers were back at it yesterday, announcing the Joel Embiid will miss at least the next few games with “knee soreness”. In true Sixers fashion, Brett Brown added his spin that Embiid’s participation in last weekend’s All-Star Game didn’t cause it. In fact, a big reason for this kind of tendinitis, according to Brown, is too much “time off”.
So, the Sixers prescribed…time off.
Here. We. Go. Again. It goes without saying that any kind of long-term injury to Embiid would be a crippling blow to a promising Sixers season. If the team were to hit the skids while he is out, it would ruin their chance of home-court advantage in the first round and put them in a difficult matchup with the likes of Indiana or Boston. With the Sixers seemingly having pushed all of their chips into the center of the table by bringing in Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler, a 6-game loss in the first round would be devastating.
Brett Brown also announced that Zhaire Smith will miss his entire rookie season. I know it’s hard to remember that far back, but Smith broke his foot in August and then suffered some sort of bizarre allergic reaction a few months later. And now, yet again, the team will get zilch out of a first-round draft pick in Year One. Shocker.
Finally, turning to the ice, the Flyers’ recent red-hot play hasn’t done all that much to help their place in the standings. They did push closer to a spot in recent weeks, but their playoff hopes still could be classified as slim. And this was before Tuesday night’s showing against Tampa. The Flyers didn’t embarrass themselves in the 5-2 loss; they were simply beaten by a much better team. And they also did little to help potential franchise savior Carter Harter, hanging him out to dry for three goals in half a period before Scott Gordon acted with the quick hook in order to give Hart a chance to regroup for tonight’s crucial match against Montreal.
And then there’s the outdoor game looming on Saturday, with Sidney Crosby and the Penguins coming back into town. As the Flyers search for their first ever outdoor win (in their fourth attempt), they could easily find themselves basically out of playoff contention by the end of that one if they don’t get back to their recent winning ways.
The outdoor contest will be the Flyers’ last game before Monday’s NHL trading deadline, likely spelling the end of Wayne Simmonds’ career in orange and black. Hopefully the Flyers will be able to recoup some sort of usable assets in exchange for a heart-and-soul player that we will be sad to see go.
Also of note, Radko Gudas earned his long-awaited first suspension of the season for a high stick late in the Tampa loss that nobody saw happen because there was no good reason to be watching the game at that point. He’ll miss these next two pivotal contests, meaning that we’ll be forced to see Andrew MacDonald in the lineup. Please make it stop.
It just doesn’t seem like it’s our week. Ugh.
I'll be under the opera house for the next week.
Published February 16, 2019
Yesterday, I called into WIP in an attempt to play “Beat the Hammer” on their midday show. Some fifteen minutes later, I was a winner. I moved to 2-0 all-time, the first person to do so, by defeating Joe DeCamara. It came about 17 months after my first win, which I detailed in my book. Shameless plug.
Anyway, what does this prove? Admittedly, not a whole lot since “The Hammer” could torch me in some areas, and it just happened to be my day yesterday. But it still felt great, and I especially appreciate the love on Facebook and Twitter as people were happy that I won, but mostly that Joe had lost and seemed miserable in doing so. The guy does know his stuff, but I’ve clearly got him running scared at this point.
Since my previous BTH victory back in September of 2017, I had only tried to play again a couple of times, maybe on four or five occasions. But I missed out on being whatever random caller number they were looking for. Yesterday, though, on my second attempt dialing in, WIP producer James Seltzer popped on the other end of the line and congratulated me for being the fourth caller. Off we went, and I was a lot more nervous than I remember being last time.
Seltzer and Jon Ritchie were especially pumped when they discovered that I was in fact “Kevin from Wilmington” who had dispatched The Hammer previously, and Seltzer then revealed that the category was Philadelphia All-Stars, a nod to the NBA being on its all-star break this weekend.
Joe retired to whatever soundproof area he goes to, the 45-second clock started, and Seltzer began the questions. I was initially worried that the entire category would be basketball (my weakest of the major sports), but it turned out that the first question was the only one about basketball. And I actually got it right, correctly naming Allen Iverson, Dikembe Mutombo and Andre Iguodala as three of the five 76ers to make the NBA All-Star Game between 2000 and now, not including current Sixers Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
Next, Seltzer asked which Phillies infielder was the last Phil to get a hit in the MLB All-Star Game. Really, the only possibilities were Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. I went with Utley and was correct. I looked this up afterwards, and Rollins’ last All-Star Game was unfathomably back in 2005. I don’t know how that’s right, but it is.
On the third question, I made my first misstep when Seltzer asked me to name one of two Eagles wide receivers to ever be named to five Pro Bowls. Mike Quick and Tommy McDonald, the correct answers, both went through my mind, but I froze and said Fred Barnett. For the record, Barnett only went to the Pro Bowl once. A bad job by me there.
Getting back on track with the next question, I correctly named Roman Cechmanek as the last Flyers goaltender to make an all-star team, way back in 2001. I loved that crazy guy. It briefly occurred to me that this could be the question that was going to win me the game, knowing that Joe isn’t really in the same league as me when it comes to Flyers trivia.
Lastly, Seltzer asked what pitcher was the last Phillie to be named to back-to-back all-star teams. I had a kneejerk reaction and went with Curt Schilling, remembering his consecutive 300 strikeout seasons in 1997 and 1998. Schill did make the all-star team those two years (and in 1999), but my answer was wrong. I had totally forgotten Roy Halladay’s outstanding 2010 and 2011 that made him an all-star, but the answer was even more recent, as Cole Hamels did it in 2011 and 2012.
So, three out of five correct. I was prepared for a tiebreaker.
I was shocked when The Hammer passed on the first question after spitting out Iguodala and Iverson but then drawing a blank on the third name. He got the Utley question correct, and then nailed Mike Quick (make Herr’s yours) on the Eagles question.
There was a long pause as he considered the Flyers question before finally passing. I knew at that point that I was assured of at least a tie. Finally, he answered Halladay to the last question. The buzzer indicated he was wrong, and then time elapsed before he had a chance to go back to the two questions that he had passed on.
I was a two-time Beat the Hammer champ, and Ritchie and Seltzer went crazy, just like last time.
Let this be a lesson that you too can win tickets to go see Beck. All you need to do is spend an inordinate amount of time on sports and have a memory bank that can contain a quarter-century’s worth of otherwise useless information.
Oh, and I’ll be calling again to scare the hell out of Joe DeCamara.
Ritchie cheered as DeCamara went down.
Published February 14, 2019
Earlier this week, it was announced that later this calendar year, the Wells Fargo Center will be home to a new state-of-the-art digital scoreboard, one that’s unlike anything seen before in an arena anywhere.
The kinetic 4K scoreboard will feature loads more LED room, whatever the hell crown trusses are, rack and pinion steering, flavor injectors, a unisex bathroom and all kinds of other wacky stuff. It will help to optimize your in-arena experience so much that you won’t even care about the 50% increase in ticket prices that it’s bound to create.
But that’s not all. While Comcast Spectacor is busy slinging a few hundred million more dollars around to upgrade the arena, they’re also adding a lot more enhancements that fans will love…
The Flyers Goaltending Experience
Journey deep into the bowels of the building on a runaway mine cart as you are subjected to a never-ending loop of Michael Leighton allow Patrick Kane’s Cup-winning goal in 2010. Then, take a virtual journey with Michal Neuvirth from the ice to the trainer’s room to the hospital and finally to the morgue where you can take part in his autopsy. Finally, stare into a garbage fire until you see Carter Hart emerge from the flames to save you before you pass out from smoke inhalation. Hopefully.
Markelle Fultz In-Urinal Highlight Video
Playing inside every urinal at the WFC, you get to watch each and every one of Fultz’s 110 career baskets as a 76er. Then, fans can engage the video with the byproduct from their $14 Stellas until the plasma technology inside the urinal screens turns Fultz’s Sixers jersey into a Magic jersey. Aiming for his face won’t do anything, though.
Paul Holmgren Bad Contract Exhibit
Right next to the Flyers’ hat trick display, you’ll find a veritable library of documents housed in airtight and temperature-controlled display cases, intended to serve as reminders for all-time of just how monumental the signings of players like Ilya Bryzgalov and Vincent Lecavalier were. And don’t forget Andrew MacDonald, the gift that keeps on giving. Marvel at the history.
Allen Iverson Simulator
Strap on the VR glasses for a day in the life of The Answer. Ride in the backseat of your buddy’s SUV as you careen toward the TGI Friday’s on City Ave. Arrive late for everything. Don’t even show up for promotional appearances or whatever else you don’t feel like doing. When you’re AI, you call the shots. And everybody will still love you. Who wouldn’t want to experience that?
The Jerry Colangelo Build-Your-Own-Tweet Machine
Input as many keywords as you want into a computer, and then watch as it constructs a narrative that serves to undermine your credibility as much as possible. Then, stand around for a week without facing any consequences before you blink first and ultimately bail on the experience. On your way out the door, make sure you fill out a comment card blaming your wife for everything.
The “Unused Cams” Module
We’ve all seen the Kiss Cam and Flex Cam and whatever else they trot out during games, but now you can get an up-close look at ArenaVision’s control room equipment where you’ll be able to scroll through and view prototypes of many of their unused cams. They include the “Only Person in a Section at a Sixers Game in 2014 Cam”, the “People Who Just Realized They’re Wasting Their Time at an Arena Football League Game Cam”, the “Forced Applause for the Military Because People Would Feel Awkward if They Didn’t Do It Every Single Time Cam” and the “Drunk Fans Thinking They’re Funny by Doing an Eagles Chant During a Terrible Flyers Game Cam”.
You know what, maybe they’ll add even more features and exhibits to the building that I’ll cover here down the road.
Don't forget to watch the actual game down below.
Published February 11, 2019
Tonight, the NHL schedule serves us up just the second Penguins-Flyers game of this season, and the teams’ first meeting in Philadelphia since last spring’s ugly playoff series. Of course, with the Penguins in town, that means one thing…crappy fans who didn’t care about that team until they started winning titles. Oh, and Sidney Crosby will be in the building.
Now reviled in Philadelphia for over a decade, there is plenty of history (good and bad, mostly bad) to draw on when it comes to “Sid the Former Kid” and his head-to-head matches with the Flyers over the years. Let’s take a look back…
October 14, 2005
Crosby makes his first appearance in Philadelphia, playing for a terrible Penguins team in a game that famously featured Flyers goaltender Antero Niittymaki allowing a goal from center ice to the Pens’ Maxime Talbot (his first NHL goal) because Niittymaki was looking up at the scoreboard and not paying attention to the faceoff. Crosby registered a goal and an assist as the Penguins overcame a 5-1 deficit to force overtime. Thankfully, the Flyers won it in the extra session on a goal by terrible defenseman Mike Rathje, of all people.
November 16, 2005
I get my own first look at Crosby in person as the teams meet in a nationally televised Wednesday night game. Derian Hatcher thrills everybody by knocking out a couple of Crosby’s teeth. It was great. Nobody scores in the first two periods, but then Penguins quickly take a 2-0 lead early in the third thanks to a goal and an assist by Crosby. Joni Pitkanen immediately responds for the Flyers with a pair of goals, and it’s off to overtime again. But this time, Crosby gets a signature moment, scoring the overtime winner against Niittymaki, who was actually paying attention that time. Seemingly, a rivalry is born.
October 28, 2006
In an early indication that it was going to be a terrible year for the Flyers, Crosby and the Penguins smoke them 8-2, with Crosby netting a hat trick, still the only one he’s ever had against the Flyers in the regular season so far. The Penguins would go on to beat the Flyers ALL 8 TIMES THEY PLAYED that season, with Crosby totaling 16 points in the process, including a 6-point night later in the season. Let’s never speak of it again.
December 11, 2007
The Flyers put an 8-2 hurting on the Penguins in a game that I got to see in person as I was working at the then Wachovia Center at the time. Joffrey Lupul and RJ Umberger both score hat tricks for the orange and black. Crosby has two assists in the defeat, and he somehow gets named the third star of the game. His team lost 8-2! I am still not over this.
May 9, 2008
Crosby meets the Flyers for the first time in the playoffs as the teams square off in the Eastern Conference Finals. He scores a goal in Game 1 to lead the Pens to a win. Ultimately, they have a pretty easy time in a 5-game series triumph, with Crosby scoring 2 goals and 5 assists in the series. At least they didn’t go on to win the Stanley Cup that year.
April 15, 2009
This time, the teams meet in the opening round of the playoffs. Crosby has a goal and an assist in a 4-1 Penguins win in Game 1. He goes on to total 4 goals and 4 assists in a 6-game series victory, which included a 3-goal comeback in Game 6 to end the Flyers’ season. The Penguins went on to win the Cup that season. Crap.
March 18, 2012
Thanks to injuries, Crosby plays his first game against the Flyers in 15 months. He goes pointless for just the eighth time in 37 career regular season games against the Flyers to that point of his career. Scott Hartnell scores a buzzer beater in overtime to give the Flyers a 3-2 win. Take that, Crosby.
April 22, 2012
On the first shift of Game 6 of their first round playoff series, Claude Giroux crushes Crosby with a hit and then scores to set the tone as the Flyers cruise to a 5-1 win, capping off a wild series and sending Crosby and company home for the summer. Crosby also famously utters his “I don’t like them line” in the midst of the dirty, grueling series. Crosby-haters and others speculate that Giroux has perhaps passed him and others as the best player in the league. Uh, it didn’t really shake out that way.
January 21, 2016
Crosby scores a goal and an assist in a 4-3 Penguins win, ending an 8-game skid against the Flyers that dated all the way back to 2013. It also starts a new streak of the Pens winning five straight against the Flyers when Crosby is in the lineup, which includes a win in an outdoor game at Heinz Field on 2-25-17. Crosby nets a goal in that one as well.
April 22, 2018
Crosby finishes off a 6-game Pittsburgh series victory by scoring a goal and two assists in an 8-5 win. It was a ridiculous series where the Flyers couldn’t keep the puck out of their own net, surrendering 28 goals in the six games. Crosby’s totals: 6 goals (including a Game 1 hat trick) and 7 assists. It wasn’t pretty, with the only comfort being that the Penguins lost in the next round, as Crosby failed in his bid for a fourth title.
So, here’s where we stand…
In 64 regular season games against the Flyers, Sid the Middle-Aged Man has 39 goals and 55 assists for 94 points, the highest offensive totals he has against any opponent. Pittsburgh has won 35 of the 64 games. Clearly, the “Crosby sucks” chants bring out the best in him. He’s also added 15 goals and 21 assists in 23 playoff games, which is an insane rate.
So yeah, I guess he’s good. But that’s the fun in hating him and his team, the challenge of trying to shut down the best. And tonight we get to remind ourselves once again of why he’s still public enemy #1.
Right before another dirty play I'm sure...
Published February 9, 2019
Good for the Phillies, and full credit to Matt Klentak and whoever else had a hand in the decision to trade for catcher JT Realmuto.
Just like the fans, I think they got sick of waiting around on Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado, and so they acted. The acquisition of Realmuto takes a good amount of pressure off of the team to sign one of those two marquee free agents. Maybe it still happens at SOME POINT down the road (spring training starts next week!), but even without such a move, the Phillies have improved by leaps and bounds since the end of last season.
In Realmuto, the Phillies now have a hitter who is the best player at his position in the major leagues. I’m racking my brain to remember the last time this was the case, and I honestly don’t think you can make this statement about anyone since Mike Schmidt. Granted, catchers tend to need more days off than other guys around the diamond and they are held to a lower standard when it comes to offensive output, but it was a bold move nonetheless. A bold but necessary one.
Jorge Alfaro was a nice return piece when the Phillies traded Cole Hamels in 2015. Previously a highly regarded prospect that the Phillies likely were able to get only because he was injured at the time, Alfaro looked like he was rounding into a competent player that the Phillies could ride at the catcher position for a few years. But an immediate upgrade was available, and so jettisoning him was a no-brainer.
As for the blue chip in the deal, Sixto Sanchez, I personally was never too thrilled with him. He’s already been dealing with arm issues at age 20, so I’m willing to let someone else roll the dice on his long-term health. I’m also reassured that we are dealing with the Marlins here, a team run so poorly for years (frequently because of shoestring budgets) that they are an afterthought. They’ve shared a division for the Phillies for a quarter-century, but I don’t think anyone can call them a “rival” with a straight face.
This isn’t the Mets or the Braves we’re talking about, where Sanchez has the potential to develop into a stud and the Phillies get a front-row seat for it for years to come. Depending on how Realmuto does in Philadelphia, that would be painful to deal with. Instead, maybe he actually pans out for Miami (I keep wanting to say Florida), has a few nice years, but then gets sold off to a team that actually pays their employees. Point is, I don’t feel at all apprehensive about “helping” another team in the division via this trade.
Incidentally, the other player in the trade, Will Stewart, was the 694th overall pick in the 2015 draft. I think I went three picks later. Just organizational filler there.
The Phillies will still remain in pursuit of the “big fish” in free agency, but this trade makes the situation less critical. They can now say that they have upgraded half of their lineup with the additions of Realmuto, McCutchen and Segura, while shifting Rhys Hoskins to first base. And that’s pretty good for one offseason. I have to say I’m impressed.
What the team really needs to address now is the rotation, currently consisting of Aaron Nola and a bunch of question marks. In my mind, this takes precedence over even signing Harper or Machado, though I would still welcome those bats to this lineup. If they don’t sign with the Phillies, it would at least be nice to see them to go San Diego or someplace else that poses no real threat.
Again, high marks to the Phillies for not becoming so enamored with their own people that they were unwilling to shake things up and take a bit of a gamble for the sake of improving the club immediately. They are now clear in their resolve that the time for action and the time to win is now.
There’s some space on the wagon if you all want to hop on.
Pumped to be playing in front of more than 1,400 fans.
Published February 7, 2019
Just a little while ago, the Flyers were dead as a doornail, and there was no reason to believe that things were going to change anytime soon. They were tracking for what was going to be the second-worst season in team history, better than only the 2006-07 cataclysm.
They nixed Hextall and axed Hakstol, but even those moves didn’t look like they would lead to any meaningful change in the team’s fortune on the ice, not this season. Still, at the very least, the wretched nature of this campaign made it very clear what the Flyers had to do: sell off assets, get the young guys some playing time, and cross their fingers that the draft lottery came out favorably for them, hopefully in the form of the top slot so that they could get the much-hyped Jack Hughes.
Then maybe the Flyers could rightfully make the case for people to get excited about them for next season. Don’t want to lose too many of those ticket deposits, after all.
But now, against all logic, they’re rolling. Winners of eight straight entering tonight’s contest against an underwhelming LA Kings team (third from the bottom in the league), the Flyers have slowly but surely narrowed the gap between themselves and an improbable playoff berth. To be sure, it will still be a tall order, as they currently sit seven points back of a spot with three teams to leap over. But it’s way better than how things looked before this win streak began.
And that’s awesome, because their coverage on WIP has gone through the roof, going from zero Flyers calls per day all the way up to one Flyers call every other day. Let’s see the Eagles get that kind of exponential increase in exposure.
I’m all for Flyers games that have some kind of meaning, but we are now given a couple of big questions to answer in the wake of this resurgence. Here are a few of the most important…
Have the Flyers finally FINALLY found the answer in goal?
Well, I’m not going to get too excited, but all signs point to “yes”. Carter Hart has been amazing, and is clearly the #1 reason for the team’s winning ways of late. Don’t forget, because of that bye week, the Flyers haven’t lost since January 12. A little while ago, people were talking about trying to sign the likes of Sergei Bobrovsky on some 2 or 3-year contract as a “bring Hart along slowly” strategy before handing the reins over to him then. But the process has clearly been accelerated, and it’s now obvious that he will not need that kind of time. There will be some bumps in the road ahead, but HAS TO BE THE GUY from this point forward, and should be afforded the longest of leashes to refine his game.
The bigger question here is probably what the Flyers should do about backing him up. Will Anthony Stolarz, a 25-year old with a history of injuries and only a handful of games of NHL experience, be enough of an insurance plan for the team? Barring something unforeseen, you’d have to think that he’ll only get eight or ten more starts for the rest of this season (including tonight apparently), so that really doesn’t give the Flyers much to go on, even if he’s lights out in those appearances. I’d say, if the Flyers can find the right kind of “mentor” for Hart, and a guy who could also remain healthy and competently play 30 or 35 games next season backing him up, they should go for it. If not, they can bite the bullet, go with Stolarz, and then hope to make an in-season correction next year if that experiment fails.
Has Scott Gordon coached himself into a full-time job for next year?
If the team continues on this path, yes. And they probably don’t even need to make the playoffs. Finishing two points out of a spot versus making it and then losing in a 6-game first round series likely won’t make all that much difference to Gordon’s future. I think we’re all on record as still wanting Joel Quenneville, but you bet the Flyers will be thinking long and hard on this if the team continues its strong play for the next couple months. Gordon deserves much credit for turning around the play of Nolan Patrick, Travis Sanheim and others who were either disappointing or under-utilized while Hakstol was coaching the team. Maybe Gordon is simply the right guy for this situation, even if he isn’t the big name that everybody (myself included) desires. You can’t argue with the results though, and I have to admit, I’m fine with him being named full-time coach beyond this year if the team keeps buying in the way it has. Plus, this is the Flyers, so they can always fire him after three games if things don’t work out.
What to do with Wayne Simmonds?
The writing was on the wall even before this season began, as Simmonds was entering the final year of his contract. He was just turning 30, and his scoring numbers had dropped in three straight years. Not ideal for the Flyers to invest in long term. So, as much as I’m a fan of the guy, I was fine with them letting his contract run its course and then allowing someone else to overpay in free agency. That is, unless they were having a lousy year, in which case they should get whatever they could for him before the deadline. Last month, it seemed like a slam dunk that would be the case.
But this win streak has muddied the waters. Should the Flyers trade Simmonds, even as they attempt to make a playoff push? Yes, I still think they should. Simmonds’ play has improved, although he has been more of a supporting player of late rather than a focus of the offense. His ice time is down as he has been largely slotted as a third liner, even being moved off of the top power play unit at times. Removing Simmonds from the equation would impact the team, but not so drastically (in my opinion) that it would alter their playoff chances this year. Of course, it depends what they got in return for him as well. Either way, whether the Flyers trade him or keep him, I can’t see them retaining Simmonds beyond this year and committing money to a declining commodity when they have other needs that should be addressed. This win streak has made this situation trickier, but I personally still reach the same conclusion.
As this strange season continues to play out, some questions will be answered while new ones arise. But if the Flyers keep winning, I’m not going to worry too much about any of that. And neither should the legions of fans who call in to WIP about the Flyers.
All two of them.
Gordon isn't flashy, but he's getting it done.