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 24, 2020
You have to wonder how many "last chances" an athlete can have for one team. For Vince Velasquez, the number is too high to count, but the situation dictates that the Phillies have to use him in a veritable "do or die" on Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays.
I think we can finally say, once and for all, it's time to put up or shut up and get out of town.
The five-year Velasquez experiment has had a few nice moments, but it's largely been a disappointment, one fueled by inconsistency and an inability to translate raw talent into tangible results. Vinny V has pitched in 111 games (98 starts) for the Phils, sporting a 4.75 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP. Those are numbers that simply don't get it done, unless a guy is unquestionably your fifth starter and you're good enough to bail him out offensively most of the time. Needless to say, however, that hasn't been the case over the past few years.
Velasquez shouldn't have sniffed the rotation at all this year, let alone be taking the mound in such a crucial contest, but the team has no choice. His last two starts have shown us everything we've already known about him. In a big game against Miami, he was brutal and couldn't escape the fourth inning. Then he mostly redeemed himself with six good innings against Toronto, although he needed his typically high pitch count (104) just to get that deep. This is the finished product of Vince Velasquez, no longer a young player at age 28. He's not getting any better; he'll always be the poster child for unfulfilled promise, a maddening array of hits and misses.
Still, can he pull a rabbit out of his hat, just this one time? You'd be foolish to discount the possibility that he can come through in a critical spot, although you'd be exposing yourself to the same wounds that he's inflicted in the past. Do we even dare to allow for the possibility of being hurt yet again by a guy that we've already given up on more times than we can count? Like the Phillies, we have no choice. It's sink or swim with Vinny V, as scary as it might be.
This isn't to say that a good Velasquez performance in Tampa should guarantee an extension of his Phillies tenure or offer the organization some renewed hope in him. Far from it. Instead, it's an opportunity for this pitcher to give the team an iota of value for all of their troubles over the last five years.
Come up big and help this team make it into the playoffs, and Vinny can continue his MLB career somewhere else at least content in the knowledge that he came through in a tough spot and showed some return on investment for a team that needed him. He can safely avoid being a Phillies pitching punchline for years to come.
But if we see the Velasquez that we've gotten all too familiar with...overthrowing, walking guys, putting balls right over the plate for hitters to crush...then he should be spared no mercy.
One last dose of "classic Vinny V" that keeps the 2020 Phillies from missing the playoffs (yes, there is plenty of blame elsewhere as well) would be the final insult and absolutely make it open season on this guy. He would go down as one of the most painful busts we've seen in decades, something made even worse because the organization felt the need to give him chance after chance even when it was clearly a lost cause.
Am I basically threatening Velasquez here? Pretty much. And here it is, spelled out…
Prove that you belong in the majors and that this team didn't completely waste their time on you. Bring your best on Friday against Tampa. Because if you don't, if you show that we were right about you all along, then pack your bags and don't ever look back. Ya bum.
Was that last chance-y enough?
Hopefully Velasquez realizes the magnitude of the situation and responds in the best way possible. All you can do with this guy is hope. If he doesn't show up on Friday, the 2020 Phillies will be without any.
This will be his 99th start with the Phillies. It should be his last. Make it count.
One start will determine if his Phillies career was really bad or just regular bad. (Drew Hallowell)
Published September 9, 2020
In this crazy MLB season, I'm not even going to raise an eyebrow over the fact that the Phillies are headed to Miami for a 5-day, 7-game (two double headers) series against the Marlins, one precipitated by the Marlins' collectively poor decision to go crazy in Atlanta just before this regular season got underway.
Play 11.7% of your regular season in a single series? Sure, why not? This thing is already ridiculous enough.
But this isn't your average 7-game, mid-September series. Although, what really is? This one will have big playoff implications for these clubs, and could be the single biggest determining factor of making or missing the playoffs if one of them ends up really laying a hurting on the other over these seven games. I mean, can you imagine the panic if the Phillies lose something like six of seven? Yeesh.
Such a scenario would essentially cement the Fish in a guaranteed playoff spot as a top-two finisher in the division. Conversely, if the Phillies dominate to the tune of at least five wins in Miami, they would be looking great for the postseason, even giving themselves a chance to catch the injury-plagued Braves for first in the NL East.
But before we get carried away with hypothetical results of this massive set of games, let's look at a few storylines:
Since all of the games are grouped in a 5-day span, you won't be seeing any starting pitcher more than once, at least not a traditional starter. Because of this, we could see multiple cases of both clubs using the "opener" strategy, especially when you consider that they only need to get 7 innings of pitching out of each game of the double headers. Maybe the starters get a longer leash in those games in order to save the bullpens for the standard 9-inning games.
All of these games being condensed will also force Joe Girardi into a decision about J.T. Realmuto. On double header days, do you start him behind the plate one game and then DH him in the other? Do you instead give him a full day off in a 9-inning game? Just how much do you want to have Andrew Knapp in the lineup, recent success aside? Jay Bruce’s current injury (shocker) seemingly makes it even more indefensible to keep Realmuto’s bat out of the lineup in favor of another DH on the days when he’s not behind the dish. He can rest in a few months.
As for the Marlins, they’re healthy and right in the thick of things. Their deadline acquisition of Starling Marte was a big move, and he instantly adds some legitimacy to their lineup. Don’t sleep on their batting order. Top prospect Jazz Chisholm is also up with the club now, a fresh face that the Phillies haven’t seen yet but will get acquainted with in a hurry.
Finally, the Phils will get their first look at the man they traded for Realmuto, Sixto Sanchez. The 22-year old fireballer has looked excellent so far, with 19 strikeouts in 19 innings and a very good 2.37 ERA during his young MLB career. You have to believe that he’ll have a little something extra for the Phillies when he takes the mound against them.
With seven games in five days, this is gonna get crazy. The two teams will probably combine to send at least 25 different pitchers to the rubber during the series. It’s going to be 55 innings of baseball (at least) in a little over 96 hours. And when it’s all over, the Phillies could be looking great, in big trouble, or somewhere in between.
Just like the rest of 2020, I have no idea what to expect. Let’s get ready for the madness.
Goin' toe to toe and 'bow to 'bow. (Miami Herald)
It wasn’t easy, but the Flyers were able to dispatch Montreal in six games (one game more than I had predicted) to win their first playoff round since 2012 and move on to the NHL’s “elite eight”. Next up, a date with the New York Islanders, a club that gave the Flyers a lot of trouble this season. The Isles took all three meetings between the teams, though two of them were so early in the season that they can pretty much be disregarded. Those games were over nine months ago, which sounds crazy. Still, the Flyers will be facing a tough challenge against this very well-coached and balanced hockey team. Do they have what it takes to move on to the Eastern Conference Finals?
Here’s a breakdown of which team has the edge in each area, and if we’re calling it SLIGHT, MODERATE or SIGNIFICANT.
Just based on relative depth, you’d say that the Flyers have the edge here. But there have got to be some concerns after the first round saw zero combined goals from Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Travis Konecny. Even Kevin Hayes didn’t seem to wake up until Game 6, and the team managed only 11 goals in the whole series. Still, while some talented players underperformed offensively, the Flyers found a way to win. That has to be a scary thought for any opponent. Watch out if (or when) these guys wake up.
The Islanders are pretty balanced, as well. Matthew Barzal runs the show and, even though he only put up a modest 60 points in 68 games this season, he is a rare talent. Then again, you probably already knew that if you’re a Flyers fan, since he’s worn out the Orange and Black with 17 points in 11 career games against them. Anthony Beauvillier is surging, while players like Josh Bailey and captain Anders Lee give the team some punch. They aren’t tremendously deep up front, but they aren’t just a one-line team. New York finished in the bottom third of the league in goals per game during the regular season, but they’ve scored 30 goals in nine playoff games so far. They aren’t pushovers.
EDGE: FLYERS (SLIGHT)
Aside from veterans Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun, the rest of the Flyers’ defense corps fits the bill as fairly young, full of potential, but still unproven. Now the narrative can start to change with the first career postseason series victory under the belts of Ivan Provorov and his cohorts. Yes, the goaltender was very good against Montreal (and we’ll get to him) but this unit hung tough, blocked a ton of shots, and ultimately took a big step forward in the win over the Habs. The Isles are much more seasoned on the backend, and they possess a good combination of experience, size, and grit that is proving successful in winning playoff games. They could give the Flyers’ offense all they can handle.
EDGE: ISLANDERS (SLIGHT)
Now we come to the, as usual, most critical part. Carter Hart continues to make this tough to evaluate. I don’t need to extol his virtues to any Flyers fan. At times during the first round, he looked dominant. But there were a few occasions where he seemed to lose his angle and looked like he wasn’t totally dialed in for some reason. Yet, he faced his first ever NHL playoff test and passed it, beating his childhood idol in the process. You can’t really argue with those results, but how do you compare him to other netminders going forward?
Looking at Islanders keeper Semyon Varlamov, a 31-year old veteran, you’d certainly rather have Hart for the long term. In a best-of-7 series, though, this is pretty tight. Varlamov’s career numbers in the postseason are very good, although he hadn’t seen any playoff action in six years before this summer. He’s on a roll, having gone 7-2 so far and leading the team to two series victories with seemingly relative ease (.934 save %, 1.67 GAA). Even if he falters, the Islanders have a very reliable backup in Thomas Greiss, and they’d be in better shape than the Flyers would be if they had to lean on Brian Elliott.
EDGE: FLYERS (SLIGHT)
The discussion of coaches has to factor in here, as Barry Trotz vs. Alain Vigneault is the best matchup of bench bosses among all of the second round series. This could come down to whichever of these master tacticians pushes the right buttons throughout. They’re each getting the most out of their respective clubs, and we should be in for a battle as a result.
With neither goaltender all that likely to falter, this should be determined by whether or not the Flyers’ top scorers can do enough to overcome a well-constructed Islanders defense. That unit would be boosted even further by the return of Johnny Boychuk, who sustained an injury in the first game of the playoffs. Meanwhile, the pressure will be ratcheted up a notch for the Flyers’ D, as they try to take another big step toward legitimacy. As mentioned before, you can’t put too much stock in regular season meetings, since these teams have only played each other once so far in 2020. But you can bet that this will be intense hockey in the clubs’ first playoff meeting since 1987. Strap in for a long one.
FLYERS IN SEVEN.
This will be the best Flyers/Islanders playoff series this century. (AP Photo)
Note: Since I wrote this article last year, and that was technically last decade, I stand by these rankings. But I can't see anything topping how bad Thursday's Buffalo blunder was for the Phillies going forward. Anyway, enjoy this article from yesteryear (i.e. last year). Try not to cry.
Originally published June 20, 2019
The 2019 Philadelphia Phillies season was not supposed to be like this.
Specifically, its offense was expected to be a juggernaut.
But the team’s criminally underachieving bats hit (or didn’t hit, which was the problem) a new low on Wednesday, as they cranked out a total of two runs on ten hits in dropping a pair of games to the Nationals. The Phillies couldn’t even plate a run against a pitcher who had broken his nose less than 36 hours before facing them. Talk about flaccid.
It was an embarrassment.
But is it the worst doubleheader that the Phillies have experienced this decade? Our crack staff is on the case, looking over the other instances since 2010 where the Phils dropped two games in one day. There’s a surprisingly large number of them. Or, if you have ever watched the Phillies, it’s not surprising.
Here’s a quick look at the facts.
Yesterday was the Phillies’ 20th doubleheader this decade. They have been swept in ten of them. Half! Ridiculous. They also have 7 splits, and they’ve won both games a measly 3 times, and not since 2012.
Let’s go from “just bad” to “biggest disaster”...
September 11, 2015
Taking on a far superior Cubs team, the Phillies had basically zero chance on this day. Some great pitcher named Jake Arrieta shut them down in the first game, a 5-1 Cubs win. Adam Morgan started and lost for the Phils. Remember that failed experiment? In Game Two, the Cubs started scoring right off the bat against Alec Asher (ew), and the Phillies had to dip deep into the ‘pen to trot out the likes of Kenny Roberts, Dalier Hinojosa and Nefi Ogando in a 7-3 loss. My God.
August 22, 2017
Facing the Marlins, Aaron Nola got lit up in the first game to the tune of 7 runs, and the Phillies bullpen of Jesen Therrien (who?) and Ricardo Pinto (also, who?) didn’t fare much better. The Phils actually hit 5 homers of their own, but it didn’t matter in a 12-8 loss. Nick Pivetta was even worse in the second game, as he couldn’t make it through the second inning, allowing 6 runs. The rest of the game didn’t matter, as the Phillies largely sleepwalked through a 7-4 loss.
June 28, 2014
In a close game vs. Atlanta, Antonio Bastardo imploded in the 8th inning to pave the way to a 10-3 Phillies loss in the first game of that day’s twinbill. The Phillies’ bats were then eerily silent in a 5-1 loss in the second game against a collection of Braves pitchers that I’ve never heard of.
June 24, 2012
Even though Cole Hamels outdueled David Price in the first game of this day’s Rays-Phillies doubleheader, the Phils’ bullpen couldn’t hold a lead, and they lost 3-1. In the second game, Cliff Lee allowed 5 Tampa runs, and a random collection of Rays pitchers handled the Phillies in a 7-3 Tampa win.
September 24, 2011
Coming into the day having lost 6 games in a row as they coasted into the playoffs, the Phillies saw their skid reach 8 games after they mailed in this entire day against the Mets. They dropped the first game 2-1, and then a costly Hunter Pence error turned into 4 unearned runs in the second game, which made the difference in a 6-3 Mets win. These would be the Phils’ last two losses of that regular season. Don’t ask me how the playoffs went.
September 20, 2011
In a tightly contested opening game, the Nationals eeked out the go ahead run in the 10th inning against Phils legend Michael Stutes, winning 4-3. In the second game, the Phillies committed as many errors (3) as they managed hits. Needless to say, they didn’t score in a 3-0 loss. It was a pretty uncharacteristic day for that year’s excellent (in the regular season) Phillies team.
October 3, 2015
When it’s the next-to-last day of the season and you’re 27 games out of first, these things happen. In the opener, the Phillies took a 6-5 lead into the 9th inning against the Marlins. One Ken Giles blown save later, they had lost 7-6. Alec Asher was at it again in the second game, allowing 3 runs in 2 innings in a 5-2 setback, the Phillies’ 99th and final defeat of that season.
August 30, 2017
The Phillies hadn’t lost a doubleheader in eight days, so they were due. The Braves blew up Jerad Eickhoff, and the Phillies had no answer for knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who stifled them for eight innings. It all ended in a 9-1 loss. The Phillies, as they so often do, then fell behind immediately in the top of the first of the second game. They would lose it, 5-2. The Phillies only managed 13 hits the entire day. Pretty bad, but of course we’ve seen worse.
September 11, 2018
Another pair of losses to the Nationals, but this one came at the not-so-friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park. In the opener, the Phillies’ anemic offense didn’t score until the bottom of the 9th in a 3-1 loss. The nightcap ended up being an unmitigated disaster, as the bullpen choked on a 6-3 lead in the 9th inning and allowed the Nats to tie it up. Then, the Phillies got their first two runners on in the bottom of the inning but were unable to score. In extras, a Juan Soto bomb gave the Nats a 7-6 win and a sweep of the day.
So there’s our power (or weakness) rankings. As you saw, some of those days were pretty bad, wretched even. But I’ve reached the conclusion that yesterday was the single most putrid day of Phillies baseball this decade, and that’s saying something.
Yes, they were just two regular season losses in June, and that hurts far less than losing a single game down the stretch in a tight pennant race. But they all count the same, and the abysmal showing yesterday highlights some serious problems with this current team.
Basically, yesterday was the worst.
How’s your seat feeling, Gabe?
It feels like we all took a line drive to the groin on Thursday. (Timothy Ludwig/USA Today Sports)
Published August 20, 2020
Despite a missed opportunity in Game 5 of their series with Montreal, the Philadelphia Flyers are still in a good position to advance to the next round as they hold a 3-2 series edge.
And nobody should be happier about that than Claude Giroux, as he's been eerily quiet so far.
Since entering "the bubble", Captain Claude has posted just four assists in eight games, with only one even strength point to show for his efforts during this time. In years past, this kind of performance from the team's top scorer would have earned the Flyers an early exit. Thankfully, though, the organization has done a good job of late to surround Giroux with enough help that he longer has to be the focal point of the offense. We saw it during the regular season as well, with Giroux finishing fourth on the team across the board in goals, assists, and points. He doesn't have to carry the entire load for this team to be successful.
That being said, he needs to be better than this.
If the Flyers somehow manage to lose this series after going up 3-1, all fingers will point immediately at Claude Giroux, fairly or not.
There would rightly be plenty of blame to go around in this case, but let's be honest. We all know which player will bear the brunt of it. As the long-standing face of the team, Giroux's point totals won't matter if he oversees such a collapse, especially after being so invisible for long stretches of play that he was basically demoted to the third line.
No one on the team needs this series to be over (in winning fashion) more than Giroux does so that he can regroup and prepare himself to put on a better performance in the next round. But if the Flyers lose the next two games and are sent packing? Hoo boy. There's no coming back from that for Giroux, not when many already had serious doubts about him already.
Then again, Claude Giroux has been written off before. Here's a guy who saw his point production drop from 86 to 73 to 67 to 58 over a four-year span, at which point he was left for dead. Then, just as he turned 30, he exploded for a 102-point campaign and dragged an underwhelming team to the playoffs. And therein lies much of the criticism surrounding Giroux. The playoffs.
As we all know, legends are made in the postseason. Just ask Nick Foles. Or Matt Stairs. Or many other players who weren't the best at what they did but picked the perfect time to cement themselves in the minds of fans forever. Yes, Giroux had a huge overtime winner as a youngster in 2010. And that one shift in 2012. Other than that? It's awfully hard to remember him coming through in a big spot, at least as far as the playoffs are concerned. Again, that's probably extremely unfair, but such is the burden of leadership.
By helping his team win a playoff series for the first time since 2012, Giroux would be taking a necessary step forward in his attempt to establish his legacy as an all-time great Flyer. Fail, however, and that opportunity might go out the window for good.
The Flyers haven't won a playoff round since Giroux was named captain over seven years ago, something he hasn't had total control over but that nevertheless reflects poorly on him as being a truly special player or one that might be worthy of the Hall of Fame someday. No doubt he realizes the clock is ticking to make the most out of his career, so chances like the current one can't be wasted.
A certain segment of Philadelphia fans will always regard Claude Giroux as a nice player, but not an elite one, with only the image of him hoisting the Stanley Cup being sufficient to change the narrative. And while that shouldn't be the lone factor in how Giroux is ultimately regarded, he'll need to do more than he is currently in order to elevate his legacy.
That starts by getting this Flyers team past Montreal so that he can continue to build himself to a level that we can all regard as having met our expectations. Otherwise, he'll just be the next man up in the "what could have been" club of Philly sports, right next to the likes of Donovan McNabb.
Please don't let it happen, Claude. Show that you are the captain this team needs.
Oh captain, my captain. (Yong Kim/Inquirer Staff)
Published August 15, 2020
The fact that Nick Williams was claimed by the Cincinnati Reds, a few days after the Phillies designated him for assignment, doesn’t really matter. He had been relegated to the status of an afterthought for a few seasons, both for reasons of his own doing and the team’s reluctance to ever really trust him.
No, the main takeaway here is that the Phillies have now officially parted ways with every piece they received in the trade for Cole Hamels, just over five years after they did the deal. And based on what we all expected when they pulled off the swap, that’s a pretty large disappointment. When the Phils traded Hamels (and Jake Diekman) for six players, it was believed that at least a couple of those guys would be key cogs in a return to the postseason for the Phillies.
Didn’t happen. In fact, not even close.
First off, one of the players was pitcher Matt Harrison, who was hurt and never pitched again. So he doesn’t really count. Alec Asher was the first of the players to actually crack the bigs, and he was hot garbage in 12 starts over parts of two seasons. Jake Thompson wasn’t much better in 30 appearances (18 starts) with the team. And injuries derailed what looked like a potentially promising career for Jerad Eickhoff after he had a nice debut in his first full season. The Phillies finally let him walk after 2019, leaving Williams as the last vestige of the Hamels trade. But that’s now over, and history will show that that the team got next to nothing in exchange for their ace.
As I wrote before about Williams, his failure to capitalize in a Phillies uniform was both self-inflicted and a result of the Phillies never giving him a true chance. He was basically headed out the door after the signings of Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper locked down the corner outfield spots, so it was surprising that he remained under team control even this long. Maybe if they had acted sooner, they’d have been able to get something for him. But as it stands, they got nothing.
Hamels himself has been good, not great, since the trade. And we may in fact be seeing the end for him, as he’ll likely miss this whole season with an injury after signing with the Braves last year. He’ll try to come back as he pursues some career milestones, but it doesn’t seem like the Phillies traded away a pitcher whose best years were ahead of him, as they did with Curt Schilling 20 years ago. Still, the fact that an aging Hamels has managed 16 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) since the trade, while all of the players the Phils received in return haven’t even produced half that number combined, really shows you how badly this turned out.
Yes, I deliberately haven’t mentioned the last player from that trade: Jorge Alfaro. Some will point out that he was flipped to acquire J.T. Realmuto, which gives him some value beyond solely what he produced in Philadelphia. But when you factor in that the Phils also had to surrender top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, not to mention the strong possibility that Realmuto might not stay with the Phillies past this year, Alfaro’s net contribution doesn’t equate to much either.
While the loss of Williams on the waiver wire seems like a pretty small transaction, it slams the book closed on one of the most important trades the Phillies have made this century. Unfortunately, the book was rife with errors and really could have used an editor.
Can Williams make something out of himself in Cincy? Common sense says “no”. He’s nearly 27, and he’s going on three years without any kind of MLB success. But stranger things have happened; if the Reds are willing to give him a shot, they could be rewarded. It’s something that we never really had a chance to find out here. We all should have expected more after trading away Cole Hamels.
Then again, it was one of the last deals of the Ruben Amaro Jr. regime. Maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised.
Nick the Lick
After months and months of waiting, the Flyers are finally beginning their postseason, with the round robin having served as an appetizer and run-up to the impending thrill of white-knuckle, playoff hockey. Improbably, they’re going to be meeting a Montreal club who, under normal circumstances, would have been out of it months ago. But circumstances have aligned in the only way conceivable for this matchup to come to fruition, with the Habs upsetting the Penguins (ha!) and the Flyers winning the East’s round robin to capture the top seed. Now, what do we make of the best-of-7 series between these two teams?
Here’s a breakdown of which team has the edge in each area, and if we’re calling it SLIGHT, MODERATE or SIGNIFICANT.
Normally, you’d save a goaltending discussion for last. But this is the elephant in the room so we’ll just get it out of the way first. Ever since the NHL revealed its restart plans and we could see the playoff matchups weeks in advance, all anyone said was that Carey Price had to be superhuman for the Canadiens to have any kind of chance against the Penguins. Many thought he couldn’t do it because, frankly, his play has slipped in recent years.
Well, now he’s back.
Price stopped 126 of 133 Penguins shots (.947 save %) and essentially won the series, outside of a 22-save shutout in the final game where he didn’t break a sweat because the Penguins failed to show up with their season on the line. Overall, though, he was stellar. Once again, he represents the Habs’ best chance to pull off an upset, this time against the Flyers.
Price has the track record on his side, but you can’t ignore the potential in the Flyers’ net. Carter Hart is expected by many to supplant Price as “the next great Canadian (country, not team!) goaltender”, and his first taste of NHL playoff action doesn’t look like it will faze him in the least. As we all know, the Flyers are sitting pretty for years to come with Hart. In a 7-game series, however, it’s awfully tough to take future promise over proven performance.
In case something goes horribly wrong, the Flyers are in a better situation with backup goaltender Brian Elliott than the Canadiens are with Charlie Lindgren/Cayden Primeau. Let’s hope that none of these guys factor into this series, though.
EDGE: CANADIENS (SLIGHT)
If you had any doubts about the Flyers’ ability to put the puck in the net, just take a look at the balanced scoring they got during the round robin, with none of it actually coming from their top scorers. Imagine what will happen when these guys start putting the puck in the net. As we’re all aware, the Flyers can’t throw elite offense out there, but the scoring ability up and down the lineup is something that the club hasn’t had in years. Veteran scoring plus an influx of youth made them 7th in the league in scoring (3.29 goals per game) this year for a reason.
Montreal’s offense is a different story. It’s not as barren as you might think, as top point-getter Tomas Tatar had 61 this year, which is as many as the Flyers’ leading scorer (Konecny). They also had four other forwards crack 40 points, while the Flyers had five others. Honestly, though, this isn’t really a comparison. The Flyers can roll out four lines with the potential to light the lamp, while the Canadiens have to dress guys like Dale Weise, and we all remember that guy. They were 19th in the league in scoring, and you can see why.
Both teams rely pretty decently on contributions from the blueline, with the Flyers racking up an impressive 44 goals from their defensemen this year. The Canadiens mostly lean on Shea Weber and Jeff Petry, who each had solid years in terms of scoring.
EDGE: FLYERS (SIGNIFICANT)
Both teams feature units that can move the puck effectively and pitch in to help the forward group in the scoring department, as mentioned. Beyond Weber and Petry, Montreal has a couple of reliable options in Ben Chiarot and Victor Mete. But they are much more top-heavy than the Flyers. Outside of Ivan Provorov and his workhorse ice time numbers, the Flyers are able to spread minutes around that really allow their depth to shine. Over the course of a series, that figures to work to their advantage. Weber and Petry will be put to the test in this one, while the Flyers are better equipped to play their game in terms of defensive rotation.
EDGE: FLYERS (MODERATE)
Montreal “finished” this regular season where they did for a reason. Their lineup has some threats, but it’s basically average. Their overall scoring and special teams numbers landed in the bottom half of the league, and they were headed for a long offseason before the NHL’s revised format offered them a reprieve. They deserve full credit for dispatching Pittsburgh, but this Flyers team has hit its groove and will not roll over like the past-their-prime Pens did. The main area of concern for the Flyers is now the power play, which they need to get going. Soon.
Carey Price remains the X-factor. He’ll probably steal a game. Maybe even two. But steal the series against this Flyers club? No. I will admit to a bias here, but in all honesty, this Flyers team is objectively too good to stumble against a middling opponent like this. This pick is not based in Orange and Black optimism, but simple fact. The Flyers are the better team, and they will show it.
FLYERS IN FIVE.
Old rivals renew for an August playoff series, just as you expected. (Photo credit: NHL.com)
Published August 1, 2020
I’m just going to say what we’re all thinking, and probably have been for some time: The Miami (I have to make an effort to not say “Florida” anymore) Marlins are a garbage franchise in a terrible sports market, and they don’t belong in baseball. This has been the case for some time, but this week’s developments seal the deal even further.
A perennial losing club, they weren’t going to factor into the standings one bit during this abbreviated 2020 season, but they’ve managed to make their impact by being so wreckless that they’ve likely cost themselves their own season and, much more importantly, looks like they may have robbed Phillies of theirs. I mean, I fully expected the Phillies to torpedo their own season by being unable to beat the sad sack Fish again this year, but now they might not even have the chance.
Throw in the collateral effects on teams like the Yankees and Nationals, and the potential cancelation of this experiment can all be traced directly back to the Marlins’ decision to go out and party in Atlanta. Some people would say to just wipe out the remainder of the Marlins’ season and fine the franchise, but I’m fully onboard with the nuclear option of getting rid of them entirely. They’re a joke, and their COVID tests are the first positive thing they’ve ever produced.
Yes, they won two World Series, and I’ll get to that. But this is a team that has only had six winning seasons in 27 years, making the playoffs twice (just so happening to win it all both times, but whatever). You know who else has more playoff appearances than them during that time? The Orioles, the Pirates, the Mariners...basically everyone. The Marlins have been sub-.500 every year since 2009, back when they were “Florida” and played their home games at a terrible football stadium. Now they’re “Miami” and play in an even more terrible new baseball-only stadium, wearing way worse uniforms as well.
There is nothing good or interesting about this franchise, and even people who play fantasy baseball get sick to their stomach when they find themselves having to draft a Marlin or see an otherwise useful player sign with or get traded to Miami. They can’t draw flies to their games, and this is despite their World Series wins in 1997 and 2003 that you’d think might have cemented a fanbase but didn’t. Those titles were merely the byproduct of a blind squirrel finding a couple of acorns, as they needed Jose Mesa to blow a save and a Cubs fan to do something stupid. Oddly enough, Moises Alou was involved both times. That guy really had a hands-on approach to things. Anyway…
Flags fly forever, and the Fish do have those two pennants in the back pockets of their ugly unis. But think about how long ago the 2008 Phillies season feels. Then tack a few more years onto that. Pitbull and the other seven Marlins fans out there have long forgotten what that excitement feels like. What we’re left with is a franchise that has produced nothing good for a decade and a half, and now their lack of self-control will probably end up ruining the 2020 MLB season for everyone else.
Don’t even let them back in the league, and disperse the players from their organization to the rest of the teams. Also, give the Phillies the first overall draft pick in 2021 for pain and suffering if they don’t play another game this year/the season as a whole ends prematurely.
The world would be a better place without the Miami Marlins. Let’s make it happen.
Collectors' items for when this waste of a team no longer exists. (Dick's Sporting Goods)
Published July 23, 2020
Right now, the sports world seems to be making things up off the cuff, like I did when I was 12 years old and had little pretend leagues up in my room where I rolled dice to figure out game results. To this end, MLB and the players’ association decided a few hours before the first pitch of the season to officially expand the playoffs this year.
That’s bad news for the top teams I suppose, but it can only be good news for teams in the next tier like the Phillies. Actually, let’s amend that. It HAD BETTER BE good news, because if they miss the cut now with over 50% of the league making the playoffs, it would be absolutely unforgivable.
Based on talent (and payroll), there is no way that this Phillies team isn’t one of the 8 best in the 15-team National League. In case you’re wondering, they finished 9th last year, three games back of the Cubs for the oh-so-coveted #8 slot. But that was the era of Gabe Kapler and second half swoons. Surely, things have to be better this time around under Joe Girardi.
Not only that, but new papa Zack Wheeler is aboard to fortify the rotation, and Didi Gregorius will finally get to make his Phils debut. There are holes to be sure, like in the bullpen, but this is AT LEAST a middle of the pack team. That’s not exactly high praise, but this year it would be good enough to qualify for the playoffs as we all steer directly into the skid of sports in 2020.
The Phillies really need to make this year count, because the prospect of J.T. Realmuto sticking around seems dimmer by the day. And they can’t afford to just sleepwalk through another season during the primes of Aaron Nola and Bryce Harper’s careers. This was essentially also the case when this was a planned, 162-game normal slate, but this 60-game sprint has afforded the Phillies a unique opportunity.
Calling it an “opportunity” also comes with the caveat that they had better not squander it. They won’t have to answer to the boo birds in the stands, and maybe some would even write this season off as being somehow “less than official” if they stumble, but they have the same task ahead of them as 29 other teams. They should take it personally if they can’t even post a record in the top 53.3% of the league.
Who knows what baseball’s playoff format will look like after 2020. Or even how baseball in general will look. Everyone is playing under the same circumstances until then (except the Blue Jays, stinks for them), and the Phillies absolutely must crack the postseason this year. Maybe it will feel cheap in some way, but tell me that again if they manage to make a deep run somehow.
With the Phils’ opener upon us, let’s just take this season for what it is and enjoy it while it lasts. But I know I won’t be too thrilled if they can’t even meet the minimum threshold to be in the playoffs two months from now. That’s just my natural fan instinct kicking in after a few months of collecting dust. The Phillies are on notice. Make the playoffs. Or else.
They had best be playing into October. (Thom Carroll/Philly Voice)
Published July 16, 2020
Well, it sounds like the sports fans in this fair city won't be permitted to see their teams live and in person until at least March for the purposes of containing potential virus spread, although even that timeline is in question because nothing is ever set in stone in this world anymore.
Regardless (or, irregardless, since we just learned that's a real word), it seems like a premature decision to say that no fans will be allowed into the sports complex for such a length of time. After all, Philadelphia's fans are a hearty bunch. Here are some items that offer testimony to that fact…
Editor's note: We fully acknowledge the ongoing seriousness of the pandemic and encourage you to follow all CDC guidelines and local mandates. That being said, if you can't at least have some sense of humor about things, stop reading now.
I urge local leadership not to underestimate the virility of the Philadelphia fan. Our immune systems are strong. So pack us three-deep when our teams hit the field/ice/court. Let’s go!
But seriously, just do what the experts tell you.
Everyone in this photo just ate horse poop. (Matt Rourke/AP)
Published July 6, 2020
MLB put out its long-awaited (not really) 60-game schedule for all clubs on Monday night. It was just about as we expected, but with a few modifications to cut down on 2-game series, which would be even more pointless than usual this season.
As for the Phillies specifically, I think they made out pretty well. Consider this…
10 games against each NL East opponent. They’ll be playing 7 of 10 at home vs. the Braves and 6 of 10 at home vs. the Mets. To counteract that, they’ll play 7 of 10 on the road vs. the Marlins and 6 of 10 on the road vs. the Nationals. But that’s about the best you can hope for. Going to Washington is barely even travel, and it’s not like the Nats will have home fans behind them this year anyway. Also, if you’re going to be on the road for 7 out of 10, it might as well be against the worst team in the division, which is what the Marlins are. So that should be agreeable to everyone.
As for the AL East opponents, the Phils get saddled with six games against Toronto since they’re the Phillies’ designated “regional rival” (thanks a lot, Baltimore/DC) while they’ll only face the O’s and Rays three times each. They’ll play a pair at home and a pair on the road against each of the Yankees and Red Sox, which represents the entirety of their 2-game series this year. It stinks to only have three games instead of four against Baltimore, but it’s basically splitting hairs, plus it cancels out since they’ll only have three against Tampa.
They also have to play on 20 straight days from August 25 through September 13. Good luck with all that. Nobody said this would be easy. But let’s go back to the title of this article. What was it again? Right, the start of the schedule really sets up well for the Phils to come out of the gate strong.
Three at home vs. the Marlins right off the bat. Three more against them a week later, then the games against the Orioles following shortly. That’s 9 of the first 20 against very feeble competition, not to mention 15 of the first 23 at home (although, it remains to be seen how much of an advantage home field is going to be in 2020). Still, that’s a sizeable chunk of the season, and the Phillies absolutely have to take advantage, because it gets tougher immediately.
I’m looking for the club to be somewhere around 14-9 by the time that early stretch comes to an end. Heck, I’d prefer they be 17-6; however, I don’t want to be greedy. But they can’t be 10-13 or this short season is going to feel pretty darn long.
Now it’s finally starting to feel real. If everything cooperates, we’ll be watching Phillies baseball in less than three weeks. It’s about time.
Don't touch! (Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports)
Published June 29, 2020
One of the narratives that came out of MLB’s official announcement about a 60-game season, on the local front at least, was about how tough things will be for the Phillies during this abbreviated campaign. NBC Sports Philadelphia even went so far as to call it “brutal”.
Give me a break.
Of course it’s not going to be two months’ worth of easy games; that’s the whole point of sports. But everyone seems to be talking up how difficult it’s going to be for the Phillies, starting with the competitiveness of the NL East. Well, yeah, it’ll be a challenge for them. The Phillies are clearly behind the Nationals and Braves in the division, and they’ll have to go through one or both to make any kind of run. We already knew that was going to be the case in a normal 162-game season. This 60-game season, if anything, makes it easier to overcome stronger competition because the Phillies (or any team facing a bit of an uphill battle in their division) are more likely to hang tough over 10 games against an opponent in a season than over the normal 18 games, where the “better” team is more likely to separate itself.
Then there are the Mets. Come on. The Phillies are at least as good as them, and should frankly be embarrassed if they can’t finish ahead of the Mets in the standings and at least break even in their games against them this season. If the Mets are still better than the Phillies even after losing Zack Wheeler to them, then I don’t know what else to say. The Phillies have to at least move past New York.
As for the Marlins, the Phillies have had well-documented issues against their fishy foes in recent years. They went 9-10 against them in 2019, with one of the losses ranking as their worst of the year and possibly among the most putrid in decades. The Phillies must go 7-3 against Miami at a bare minimum in 2020. The Marlins actually improved a bit since the end of last season, but there can still be no excuses.
Now let’s head over to the American League East, where the Phils will meet each team four times for some hot interleague action. Yes, the Yankees and Rays will be tough. But is that really any more difficult than the series against the Athletics and Astros that the Phillies were originally supposed to play this season? Toronto isn’t a big deal either, and neither is Boston. I don’t know why the Red Sox are all of a sudden part of some American Gladiators-style Eliminator gauntlet that people are making this schedule out to be, but I guess everyone is conveniently forgetting that Boston traded away their best player after last season and were widely regarded as having gotten worse as a result. And that was in addition to their manager getting fired in disgrace. Yeah, real tough opponent there.
Finally, there are the Orioles. The Phillies were not originally scheduled to play the O’s in 2020. That means they went from 0 of 162 games against one of the worst teams in baseball to now having 4 out of 60 games (6.67% of their schedule) against them. Sign me up. Again, there are no excuses not to mop the floor with an inferior opponent.
On top of all this, the Phillies will avoid good NL clubs like the Brewers and Cardinals, as well as the Reds, who were the consensus “most improved team” just a few months ago. And let’s not forget the Dodgers. The Phillies won’t have to worry about them or their annual West Coast disaster this year. Every season, they go 1-8 on that trip. How can this new schedule be any worse for them?
No, it won’t be an easy 60-game season. But a long season wasn’t going to be a piece of cake, either. The Phillies aren’t a lock to improve from last year, and the team still has numerous weaknesses. But when people have to make a story out of it and point out how tough this modified schedule is going to be, it’s just annoying. These are probably the same dopes who discuss the Eagles’ schedule every year and talk about how “the NFC East is one of the toughest divisions in football” and “anyone can win a divisional game, regardless of record”. It makes me want to bang my head against a wall.
Let’s just take whatever the Phils give us during this 60-game season. It should be wild. Then, after it all goes down the tubes immediately, we can bang our heads collectively and the “brutal schedule” crowd can say they were right.
Apparently headed for a winless season, according to experts. (Yong Kim/Inquirer)
Published June 27, 2020
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but sports media has basically run out of ideas. And you can be sure that 94 WIP will always be first and foremost when it comes to beating a topic into the ground and re-packaging the same old thing.
Case in point: their G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) of Broad Street, which they’ve promoted left and right for the past few weeks. It was basically the same old “best athletes” list we’ve all been compiling for decades, but with the added twist of...uh...none, really. The only qualifier is that the players had to have been within the last 50 years, so I guess that “all time” only started in 1970.
By now you probably know that Allen Iverson, in a shocker, came out on top. What a mistake. Obviously, you can chalk this all up to the millennials that pushed a more recent athlete over the top while relegating Mike Schmidt, who should have won, to second place. Even Schmidt himself was surprised. But hey, it’s all in good fun.
Except it wasn’t all that fun.
WIP hosts made their own lists and openly mocked how badly the fans screwed things up. They were correct. I could just make you a new (and better) list, but here are some major callouts I’d like to make…
Aw, what the heck. Here’s my top 10…
I just came up with that in about three minutes. And yes, I kept nine of the same players (swapping Lindros in for Foles) but just adjusted the order. Still, this is exponentially better than what WIP listeners came up with.
I’ll be here if you need me to settle any more debates.
Let’s just hope that sports come back soon and are here to stay, because I’m tired of seeing “best uniforms” and “best broadcast booth” and “best stadium concessions” rankings. We need actual games.
The greatest, apparently. (Sky Sports)
Published June 19, 2020
I realize that this comes on the heels of news that several Phillies players and staffers have tested positive for the coronavirus, but that doesn’t take away from the reality of this scenario.
We might actually get baseball in 2020. And, for some time, we’ve known that the designated hitter will be universally instituted for this abbreviated season. Even if MLB doesn’t return till 2021, this will almost certainly be the case as well. So it stands to reason that once we go all DH all the time, we’re never headed back to pitchers hitting in the National League. Pitchers won’t want to deal with batting ever again, and managers and clubs will be happy to have an extra reliable hitter in their lineups. Fans might like it too, since it should lead to more runs scored.
For the Phillies, this is a particularly fortunate scenario, owing to the personnel currently in the organization. Side note: it should go much better for them than their first taste of the DH did back in 1997 when interleague play became a reality.
First, this all hinges on Rhys Hoskins bouncing back from what was a wretched second half of the 2019 season. If he can become a reliable bat and run producer, the Phils will happily keep him around for an indeterminate amount of time because he can easily be slid into the DH spot even if he becomes a total liability over at first base. He won’t have to be “shipped out” to the American League like so many have over the years because they couldn’t be relied upon to play the field.
But it goes beyond Hoskins.
As far as the current roster, J.T. Realmuto is still here as the everyday catcher (although, check back in next year). Let’s all hope that the Phils can somehow get him signed long term, which would be an even smarter investment than it was previously since Realmuto can fill the DH role even on days where he isn’t behind the dish. Yes, you’ll miss his defense while you pray that Andrew Knapp or some other bum doesn’t mess things up, but keeping his bat in this Phillies lineup is a top priority. Thank you, DH slot!
Looking toward the future, though, this is where it really becomes important. I’m talking about you, Alec Bohm. The Phillies’ top prospect is a third baseman, but all the pundits say that he’s too big and doesn’t have the skills to stick at the hot corner long term, projecting as a first baseman in just a few years. Now, the Phillies can put him at first while also keeping Rhys Hoskins. This feels like the solution to a big future problem, although once again this depends on Hoskins stabilizing his stroke and Bohm actually delivering on his promise.
Finally, way way down the road, this will give Bryce Harper a home to live out his golden years. He should be able to age more gracefully between now and 2031 (it still feels weird to write that) if he can take a day off from the field once or twice a week while still getting his cuts in.
These benefits aren’t unique to the Phillies, as every NL club is no doubt lining up scenarios in their minds and delighting over now being able to fit in certain kinds of players that they wouldn’t have previously been able to. But from a Phils perspective, the likely institution of the DH permanently in the National League going forward is a big win.
As starved as we all are for sports in this town, let’s take any kind of win we can get right now, even if it’s just on paper like this is for the time being.
Do I really need to tell you that Yong Kim took this photo? Yong Kim takes all Phillies photos.
Published June 13, 2020
Josh Harris is not a dumb man.
Decades of savvy business decisions have made him insanely rich, and his 2011 purchase (wow, it’s been that long?) of the 76ers most definitely fell into that category. Aside from MLB owners who are currently crying poor, owning a sports franchise is essentially a license to print money. An intelligent businessman like Harris knew that scooping up an underappreciated commodity like the Sixers would pay off in the long run.
Then, for some reason, he decided to add the New Jersey Devils to the fold in 2013, and I immediately started to hate the guy. It showed definitively that all he (and business partner David Blitzer) cared about was the bottom line, with not a shred of regard for fans or trying to win games, other than the fact that winning effectively brings in more money.
I realize that Sixers and Flyers fans don’t necessarily overlap all that much, except for those people who beat their chests and bellow “FOUR FOR FOUR!”, but you don’t acquire one of the most hated rivals of a team in the same city (and same building) as a club you already own. It’s mixed messaging, other than the message of “I’m Josh Harris, and I like money”.
And that’s fine, because I’m sure that Harris and Blitzer have earned all their money through hard work and honest dealings while treating everyone fairly along the way. They can do whatever they want with the income that they’ve acquired 100% legitimately and ethically. But as a sports fan, it’s pretty sickening when the owner is only in it as an investment and doesn’t actually care in the same way the average fan does.
The pendulum can swing too far the other way, of course, like with Ed Snider. Harris was able to buy the Sixers from Snider and Comcast-Spectactor mostly because Snider was too focused on the Flyers to devote any energy to the Sixers. He was the Flyers’ #1 fan, which is great in theory, but too often added to the turmoil of the franchise over the decades. Make no mistake, Mr. Snider was all about the Benjamins too, just in a very public and active way. Harris, however, only pops up when he’s introducing the next bozo who’s going to be running the team or landing helicopters in the middle of kids’ soccer games.
All of this brings us to the latest rumors that Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment is interested in acquiring the New York Mets from the down-on-their-luck Wilpon family. It would make perfect sense for Harris and company, falling right in line with their business strategy of scooping up a sports franchise when it’s undervalued. He’d also be annoying another segment of Philadelphia sports fans if he buys the Mets, as Phillies fans can join Flyers fans in being done with the guy and disregarding everything he says and does as top dog with the Sixers. Now, all he’ll need to do is pry the Redskins away from Daniel Snyder, and he’ll have hit for the cycle. Yes, the Giants or Cowboys would be worse, but the Mara family would never sell the G-Men and Jerry Jones will literally never die. Those aren’t real options.
The Mets also have something else in common with the Sixers and Devils, as they are all afterthought franchises in their respective markets. Perhaps that’s a bit unfair to the Sixers, who have captivated the city occasionally over the decades but don’t get a blindly loyal following like the Eagles do, sparking the greatest outrage in bad times and the highest euphoria in good ones. But that’s what Harris wants, operating teams that will turn out consistent profit a bit under the radar, with an occasional opportunity to cash in big time if they start to perform well and garner greatly increased fan interest like the Sixers have in the last three years or so.
I’d sure love to see the Sixers win the NBA championship with this current crop of players, but even that prospect makes me queasy because Harris isn’t an owner who deserves it. And I certainly hope he never gets that experience with the Devils. As for the Mets? I don’t think they need any help from Josh Harris to never win another World Series, but it might be fun to see them try. Harris can even have his bizarre sports network featuring his collection of teams that nobody would want to watch.
The Philadelphia spirit that resides within me will always rejoice at seeing the failure of New York teams. Having a lousy owner is a good way to assure that’ll happen. Josh Harris and the Mets could be a match made in heaven.
If it comes to fruition, I’d like to wish them the worst of luck together.
The wolf of Broad Street (AP Images)
Published June 12, 2020
I know that baseball is different from the NFL or the NBA. You don’t expect the players that you draft to make an immediate impact, except in very rare cases. Baseball’s developmental and minor league system (except for this year) is deliberately set up so that young players acquire the tools that they need and are as ready as possible when it’s time for the big leagues.
Still, we’re going to have to wait a long time for shiny new toy Mick Abel to get to the major leagues, and that’s frustrating if you’re someone who’s hoping for this Phillies team to fulfill its potential in the short term.
Dreaming about Abel and Aaron Nola forming a dominant 1-2 punch atop the rotation? Maybe, but Nola is going to be in his 30’s by the time Abel debuts, so it’s no sure thing. Aaron Nola figures to have the most productive seasons of his career in the immediate future while Abel is still climbing the ladder, if such a thing will even exist in organized baseball after the mess of 2020. After that, who knows? In fact, I can only think of three or four current Phillies who are virtual locks to still be on the team by the time we see Abel toe the rubber at Citizens Bank Park for the first time. Between now and then, it’s going to be near total roster turnover, so the fact is that Abel doesn’t do much for this current iteration of the team.
I’m not taking anything away from the 18-year old kid. He was the top high school pitcher selected in the draft this year for a reason. He’s big, he throws hard, and experts think highly of him. But he’s got so many hurdles to clear that you’d think a supposedly contending team like the Phillies would have gone with a college-aged player with their top pick this year in the hopes that maybe they could crack the club within two years a la Mr. Nola. Instead, a high school right-handed pitcher who just had his senior season wiped out by the pandemic is about as far away from “major league ready” as possible. We’re all going to need to wait a long time on this one, and even that depends on baseball not self-destructing before then.
The Phillies wised up with their later picks in the 2020 draft by taking college players, including a guy who strikes me as a Scott Kingery clone (which isn’t a knock on him). Maybe the Phils will also supplement their strategy by signing as many players as possible during the unprecedented undrafted free agent free-for-all that starts on Sunday. Then again, it’s not totally up to them, since these players are free to choose between whichever teams make them an offer. The Phillies really shouldn’t be banking on unearthing too many hidden gems in that field.
Let’s all hope that Mick Abel stays healthy, keeps developing, and takes a reasonable amount of time before he’s ready to let it rip in Philadelphia. At the same time, we’ve also got to hope that the Phillies are a competitive club when he arrives, and not some rebuilding sad sack franchise who wasted the best years of Aaron Nola, Bryce Harper, and others. Because that would be awful.
This is all a very fatalistic view when it comes to the team’s first round pick, but you also have to be realistic when it comes to evaluating the potential of long-term success for a player as young and untested as Mick Abel.
Maybe the Phillies did end up with the best player available, and maybe they’ll reap some big rewards down the road. It’s just going to take far too long for my tastes. Abel could be great, but he doesn’t do anything for this team or its fans right now. I’d love to eat crow about my opinion, though. Show us what you got, Mick.
Will he be Abel to deliver?
(Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)
Published June 8, 2020
I never intended for this site to go as dormant as it has, but my duties as site co-expert at Section215.com have been a lot to keep up with for the last few months. They’ve been too much, frankly, especially in the wake (or lack thereof) of no new games being played. With that, here is the situation…
I have stepped down in my role at Section 215, though I will still remain there in a contributing capacity. I won’t be getting paid for it any longer, which is a bummer, but being able to author perhaps 5-6 articles a month for that site will be better for my sanity than the 40+ that I’ve been writing of late. So, thanks to all this free time, expect a big bump in content on this site (especially once sports resume), while continuing to check out and support my work on Section 215. I know you want to! It’s a good site, and I still recommend you go there daily if you’re a serious Philly sports fan.
I’m proud of a lot of the content I’ve put on Section 215. Hopefully you caught some of it. But the work never stops, which is difficult when you a.) have a full-time job and a family and b.) are almost out of ideas to write about while you wait for games to happen.
I’ve enjoyed bringing you the various series I’ve put together, like my 20th anniversary tribute to the 2000 Phillies and my examination of bad Flyers’ trades and signings with “Flyers Friday Flubs”. And I still chip away with my Phillies Retro Scorecard Recap series. But those kinds of things only get you so far; they’re nice filler between writing about current on-field events.
I’ll miss getting paid to write, but it wasn’t all good. The most disheartening element of that scenario was when I saw how many views my articles would get. Now, I never dreamed that hundreds or even thousands of sets of eyes would peruse my words, but once you get used to it, you set an expectation for yourself. So when I wrote a passionate or well thought-out article, or one that I believed was pretty funny, I’d get very dismayed to see that relatively few people read it. Meanwhile, I (or anyone) could crank out the same stuff about the Eagles’ draft that you can find anywhere, and it would do great. I guess my primary areas of interest, for both reading and writing, don’t exactly match up with the “typical” fan all the time. Should I have kept pounding away with articles like why the Eagles shouldn’t sign LeSean McCoy or Zach Ertz’s Hall of Fame chances? If I wanted to maximize page views (and money), I suppose, but I get bored with those things after a while. I’m here to give you something different.
So, long story short (too late), keep heading to Section 215 because I’ll have occasional pieces on there. But also expect to see a revival of this site. I’ve learned some new skills, and I think I’m a better writer than I was just a couple months ago. And since I’ll have more time to research and contemplate, the quality of what I put out will improve. I certainly won’t miss waking up early on weekends to write, writing while cooking dinner, and writing on my phone in the car (as a passenger) so that I could hit the article count I wanted to. I can also neither confirm nor deny writing from the bathroom.
Anyway, thanks to everyone for your clicks and reads and support. You’ll be hearing from me. Is it time for sports yet?
I promise this website's upgrade will go better than this did. (Yong Kim/Inquirer Staff)
Published January 25, 2020
We here at Philly Sports Complex aren’t here to pass judgment. And that goes for the accused, Gritty, as well as the parties that have filed a complaint against him for allegedly taking a running start and then punching a kid for some reason.
But we have to do our due diligence, and after a look into Gritty’s past, we found more questions than answers. What you are about to read may be disturbing...
When confronted with these atrocities, Gritty had nothing to say. But those eyes said it all.
Portrait of a monster
(Eric Hartline/USA Today)
Published January 9, 2020
You’ve no doubt seen the video by now from Wednesday’s Eagles press conference, with head coach Doug Pederson absent-mindedly staring into the abyss with complete disregard for the drinking vessel that was pressed against his mouth.
If you haven’t, here you go.
Now, the important question on everyone’s mind: What was going through Doug Pederson’s head while he was doing that?
Well, here’s your answer. Let’s go inside the mind of Doug Pederson…
All right, ok, Howie, you just talk. That’s it. I gotta hydrate after that case of Busch. Here we go, need some H2O, can’t head for the mountains forever.
MMM. Refreshing. Gotta make sure I get every last drop here. Yep, this is definitely just water. Hey, what if I do this with my mouth and the bottle? Hee-hee. Hey Cowboys, this is you. LOL.
Now I kinda feel like that guy Buffalo Bill, you know, the killer from Silence of the Lambs. Just putting this on my lips. Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo.
Ok, now what would it look like if Andy Reid ate a celebratory kebob after he won the Super Bowl? Just rubbing it all over his lips like this. Doesn’t matter, we’ll never find out. Keep trying Andy, haha. Time’s yours.
Did I get all of the water out of here? Gotta make sure this thing is emptier than our receiving corps. Howie doesn’t need me here anyway, big man has gotta fool with my coaching staff just because he screwed up the entire last offseason. Anyway, water, mmm.
You know, the more I think about it, I really wish I had played better in ‘99. Andy loves me, he would have kept me in the lineup and Donovan would have stayed on the bench. Maybe I’d be the one with the retired number. When they had the ceremony, I could have pulled that line of Donovan’s, “Number five will always love you!” Instead, it coulda been “Number - whatever number I was - will always love you!” What number was I? Dang it. Ah well, doesn’t matter. I’ve got as many Super Bowls as Donovan has DUI-related imprisonments.
Speaking of DUI, yep, this is definitely water. Just saying. Ah man, if Carson didn’t get hurt,we’d be getting ready to play this week instead of having to stand here talking. What a waste. What am I gonna do this weekend? Wait a minute...free weekend! Oh yeah, watch out for Dougie Fresh, everybody.
Better keep draining this water though, can never have enough. Oh man, have I been zoning out this whole time? Hope nobody noticed. Ah, I’m sure it’s fine.
14! I was number 14 in 1999!
That concludes our journey inside Doug’s mind. And this is either the absolute high point or the all-time low for this website. You decide.
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Published October 15, 2020
I never have been a supporter of “America’s Team”, and I never will be. Cut me open, and I’ll bleed Phillies red forever. Also, that’s just the color of my blood. But when it comes to what remains of these MLB playoffs, Phillies fans should just throw up their hands and hope the Atlanta Braves win.
Because shame and inadequacy can be powerful motivators to improve, and an NL East rival taking home the trophy might just help the Phillies in some form. No, the players aren’t going to start playing harder all of a sudden if they see the Braves win, but it might provide a necessary kick in the pants to the organization to get its “S” together so that they can become the next NL East club to win it all.
Prospects for this are dim at the moment, but you’ve got to start somewhere. At the very least, the Phillies have Bryce Harper locked down for his entire existence, as well as a studly looking Alec Bohm. They’ve also got a solid 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation for the next couple years. Beyond that, there are a lot of question marks, like whether J.T. Realmuto will re-sign or if Rhys Hoskins will return to form once he recovers from his surgery. It’s far from perfect, but it’s what we’ll have to go forward with for now.
This certainly pales in comparison to those Bravos, who look like the class of the division for years to come, and so it will be incumbent on the Phillies to make moves to keep up with the Joneses. That’s a phrase that worked a lot better when Chipper and Andruw were in Atlanta.
Again, why does it make a difference whether the Braves win it all or fall short in their quest?
It has to do with the competitive balance of things. When the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, they continued a run of divisional dominance for three more years. That era crashed and burned in 2012, but the Phillies coasted on past success for several years. In fact, between 2009 and 2018, the NL East was the only division in baseball that didn’t win a title. And so it was easy for Phils’ management to point and say “Look how hard this is, none of our biggest rivals are winning championships either. Give us some more time”.
Well, guess what? Time’s up.
With the Nationals breaking through last year and the Braves getting dangerously close, the Phillies can no longer offer up such garbage. They need to get back to being a winning club, a playoff club very soon. This year would have been nice, what with nearly the entire league making the postseason. But they failed to even do that, thanks to the worst bullpen this side of my dad’s over-50 league.
Phillies fans have felt this frustration and embarrassment before (and, let's face it, we'll feel it again). Normally you wouldn't want things to get any worse by seeing a rival win a championship, but at this point, what does it matter? The fear of becoming irrelevant as the teams around them fulfill their promise is what the Phillies need. The Phils are far enough removed from Tampa and LA that they wouldn't feel any additional heat if either of those clubs won this year. But a Braves win would make things even more uncomfortable in Philadelphia, which is painfully necessary.
The fact that my wife is a Braves fan is not coloring my opinion here. (I know, I know.) While I want her to be happy, I grew up detesting that team, so I never want to see them succeed under typical circumstances. But drastic times call for drastic measures, and I think that Phils fans should be supportive of the Braves at the moment. If they win it all, maybe the Phillies will admit how far away they are from accomplishing a similar feat. And perhaps they'll start to make the right moves to turn this dumpster fire around.
Then again, maybe they're hopeless and will continue to be so, regardless of what other teams find the winning formula. Call me a glutton for punishment, but the Phillies need as many hard lessons as possible right now.
And no, I'm not going to say "Go Braves".
Crap, I said it.
Ok, let's not get carried away. (David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)