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 January 28, 2019
Well, we’re just 15 days away from the proverbial “pitchers and catchers reporting” to officially begin spring training for the Phillies after what seems to be, basically, a lost offseason. Because that’s exactly how it has to be termed if they fail to land either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.
I know, we’ve all been speculating for months, but let’s come to a conclusion on this and either move forward or move on, ok guys?
To be fair, Harper’s agent Scott Boras is probably the most culpable in all this, as he no doubt tries to milk the Phillies or any other team for every last cent (just doing his job I guess?) while also presumably waiting for Machado to sign first so that the bar will be set for Harper to clear.
But the Phillies are not blameless either, as one assumes that if they had truly offered “stupid money” to either Harper or Machado, they’d be trotting them out for press junkets left and right at this point so that we could all gaze upon their expensive new toy.
And so, it seems to me that the Phils have made a big miscalculation here. By not signing a marketable, hypeable star (sorry, McCutchen and Robertson) early enough in the offseason, they have missed a golden opportunity to build excitement among fans in the city. They could have started competing with the Eagles for headlines a month ago, but the only mentions they garner at this time are when people worry aloud that they’ll whiff on their primary targets in free agency.
Let’s imagine if the Phillies had already signed Bryce Harper…
- The Phillies would have several thousand more season ticket deposits in the bank right now. Individual games would have seen a significant bump as well.
- The Phillies would look instantly more attractive to other free agents because of their willingness to spend and compete for a title.
- The Phillies would have sold tons of Harper merchandise to this point, an opportunity that has now all but flown the coop with so much of the offseason already gone.
And this doesn’t even acknowledge the likes of Dallas Keuchel, a left-handed starting pitcher who would fill even more of an immediate need than Harper or Machado. But the Phillies (and other teams, admittedly) are dragging their feet about including a fifth year in any kind of contract offer to him.
They are in a game of chicken here, hoping that nobody else will meet that demand from Keuchel, driving down the length and/or cost of any contract he signs. And maybe it will work out for the Phillies, and they can nab him. But if it doesn’t, they will have shot themselves in the foot and wrecked their chance at making a big upgrade to their pitching staff all because of how the team’s finances might be impacted in 2023.
As things stand right now, the Phillies are probably the fourth best team in the NL East, even with some nice additions this offseason. But until they show the willingness to take a chance and to open their wallets, they’ll be looking at an uneven season where they can expect to finish in the 77-84 win range once again.
And that’s simply not good enough. Not for all of the bravado the organization has tried to force on us for the last few years.
With just 25 days until the Phillies take the field for their first Grapefruit League game, it just doesn’t seem like there’s enough time at this point to get people fully on board with Harper/Machado/whoever helping to usher in a new era of Phillies baseball.
Maybe that changes instantaneously if they end up signing one of them, but you can’t argue that most of the excitement about such a scenario from a few months ago feels all but dead at this point, with plenty of blame to go around.
I’m not saying we SHOULDN’T care at this point. But it seems like the Phillies, player agents, and really all of Major League Baseball seems like they’re fine with it if we don’t. Why can’t everyone get on the same page so that these star players sign contracts that are dictated by the market AND happen in a reasonable amount of time?
I don’t care if the Phillies overpay, unless they’re going to start “passing along the savings” to me and other fans in the form of lowering ticket prices, cable fees and the like if they end up spending the amount that they want to on players. Failing that (pardon me while I laugh at the notion), just pay what you have to pay.
I can’t speak for the rest of baseball and the new, clear trend of letting good players spend all offseason waiting for contracts. But, as for the Phillies, just stop being cheap. Pay up.
Unless they’d prefer that fans just didn’t care about them.
Please, let's just wrap this up.
Published January 23, 2019
The Flyers are on a roll right now, winning three games in a row and showing some life in what has otherwise been a lost season.
So of course, it was a perfect time for the schedule to serve up an 8-day layoff. Wonderful. So much for momentum.
Between the league-mandated “bye week” and then the All-Star break, the orange and black don’t play again until Monday, giving team members ample time to take care of some odds and ends that they’ve been too busy to attend to during the past few months. Let’s see what they’re up to…
Carter Hart: His dad is teaching him how to shave because Carter just found his first few facial hairs last week. He’ll be out of the car seat before you know it, too. It’s a wondrous time to be a young man.
Wayne Simmonds: Hitting Zillow and Realtor.com pretty hard, finding out how much he can get for his place. It won’t be long. He’s also practicing his “Thank you, Flyers fans” speech in front of a mirror every night.
Radko Gudas: Presumably going on a 4-day bender in Atlantic City to blow off steam due to the fact that he has avoided suspension so far this season. You know he has to get it out somehow.
Michal Neuvirth: Rock climbing, kayaking, bungee jumping and other outdoor activities befitting his athleticism. What could possibly go wrong?
Jori Lehtera: Getting his burner phones organized and labeled. Between being indicted in Sweden and scoring 3 points in 27 games, who has time for these things, you know?
Dave Hakstol: Knocking on doors at an empty Flyers Skate Zone, still not realizing he has been fired.
Jakub Voracek: Picking up extra work appearing as Gritty at birthday parties and corporate events, because I’m still not completely convinced that he and Gritty aren’t one and the same.
Andrew MacDonald: Writing even more ‘thank you’ notes to Paul Holmgren, who signed MacDonald to a 6-year, $30 million contract way back in April of 2014 that the Flyers are still stuck with for another season after this one. Also, he’s sipping cognac in his mansion aside a roaring fireplace. At least, I assume he is.
Claude Giroux: Partaking in all-star festivities in San Jose, and I’m sure he’s thrilled that he had to go across the country to represent his underachieving team thanks to the NHL’s “every team gets an all-star” rule. During the flight, he’ll also be making a list of plays he shouldn’t have made this year that would have kept his scoring numbers down, thus persuading the league to pick one of his teammates instead of him.
Brian Elliott: Hard to say, but he’s probably just going to be chilling at the same witness protection house he has been for the last two months, which must be where he is because we haven’t heard a damn thing about him.
Nolan Patrick: Playing Fortnite with teammates, and getting really irritated when Hart talks trash and calls him “geezer” and “old timer”.
Once the fun ends, it will be back to business for the Flyers. Let’s all hope that they can continue their recent winning ways into their final 34 games this season. It will go a long way towards them missing the playoffs by 8 points instead of by 15 points.
What, me hockey?
Published January 21, 2019
We were lucky to have had Roy Halladay.
Without waxing poetic or getting overly gushy about things, suffice it to say that tomorrow will be an affirmation of his pitching greatness, the penultimate step in Roy’s baseball journey, ending of course when he is enshrined in Cooperstown this July.
And that day will be tremendously bittersweet, as we witness the posthumous induction of a player who passed away between the time of his voluntary retirement and the beginning of his Hall eligibility. It’s quite unique, the first time in baseball history it’s happened, as far as I can tell. And Doc’s absence will be even more conspicuous on that day than it has been for the past year-plus for the baseball community.
Here is a man who, after nearly a decade spent among the top starting pitchers in baseball, came to the Phillies at age 32 and was every bit of what they had hoped for. His work ethic was second to none, and he rewarded the Phillies’ faith in him by delivering perhaps the two finest back-to-back seasons by a pitcher in team history.
Over the course of 2010-11, he had a 40-16 win/loss record, a cumulative 2.40 ERA and 17 complete games over those two seasons. As a point of reference, no pitcher had more than two complete games during the 2018 MLB season. Only a few years after his career ended, they just stopped making them like Roy Halladay.
Oh, and let’s not forget Halladay’s 2010 Cy Young, a second-place Cy finish in 2011, his perfect game and his playoff no-hitter. For two years, the man did everything possible to deliver another World Series to Philadelphia and to capture the first of his own career.
Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be, as those Phillies teams both came up short in the playoffs for numerous other reasons that didn’t involve Halladay. Following that, Halladay was spent, as he struggled through an injury-shortened 2012 and then was downright bad in 2013 before another injury ultimately forced him to retire. He was 36 and had logged over 2700 innings in the major leagues, simply spent.
There is no exact tabulation for it, but Halladay threw well over 40,000 pitches as a big leaguer. And that’s just in games, never mind all of the bullpen session and other warmup throws he made. His body was a fine-tuned machine that had finally reached the end of its baseball usefulness. And, to his credit, Halladay didn’t hang around trying to milk the Phillies or another team for every last penny he could. He knew he had maxed out on his talent through the dedication and hard work that had brought him every accomplishment imaginable except for that elusive World Series. And so he stepped away at the appropriate time.
So, Halladay will get 100% of the vote, right? Nope.
Maybe it is that lack of World Series that might be, inexplicably, keeping some of the baseball writers for voting for Halladay. Perhaps some of them are still stuck in their stodgy old ways that they can’t check a box next to someone (on the first ballot) if they haven’t won a ring. It happens in other sports too, I admit. But keeping someone out of the Hall, even if just temporarily until the next year, because they didn’t win a championship is a poor excuse.
The only other reason that anyone could give for excluding Halladay is that they have a “no first ballot” policy or reserve it for someone they regard as an all-time exceptional player. Well, Halladay WAS an all-time exceptional player. Maybe he wasn’t the best ever at one particular aspect of the game like Mariano Rivera was at converting saves, but his career still says “first ballot Hall of Famer” to anyone who’s followed baseball this century.
Side note: there’s not even anything on the plaque that denotes a player as being selected on the first ballot, so why do the writers make it out to be such a big deal? Just the “stewards of the game” trying to feel validated up on their high horse I guess.
Rivera might get 100% of the vote this year to become the first unanimous selection ever. Halladay won’t be on every ballot, but he will hopefully approach that. Maybe if Halladay was eligible one year later, after Rivera had already opened the door for the possibility of a unanimous vote, he would have had a chance. But he’ll be in the 90’s, and that’s still a pretty good indicator of how great he was. The writers who don’t include him should be ashamed.
So, congratulations to Roy Halladay and his family in advance for this honor. Phillies nation is very happy for an honor well earned, and we wish more than anything that Doc could have been here to be a part of it. A great player and first class person.
“Hall” is right there in his name, after all. It’s been a long time coming.
Published January 13, 2019
Ok, stick with me on this one.
Maybe, just maybe the Phillies ALREADY have a deal in place for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, but we just haven’t heard an announcement yet. And maybe said announcement is hinging on a certain football team and how they do in the playoffs.
Make no mistake, the Phillies are not taking this situation lightly. They are possibly on the verge of making the biggest free agency splash in team history. But do you really think they want to announce it the day after an Eagles playoff win? Or even while the Eagles are still in the playoffs at all?
I’m not saying that a deal hasn’t happened yet merely because the city’s football team is defying odds by still being alive at this point, but you have to wonder. And while publicly, the teams in this city all present a unified front, you know that they all have Eagles envy.
Sixers and Flyers, don’t even bother. But in the Phillies’ case, they actually reached the top of the mountain for a few years, and one could argue that they were the #1 team in town for their run from 2007-11. But a bad season here and a blown up Achilles tendon there meant that the Eagles re-assumed top position in the hearts and minds of the city in short order.
And then the Super Bowl happened, and seemingly nothing will ever keep the Eagles out of that #1 spot again. The Phillies are certainly trying to at least attain a position of relevancy, and they really do have an opportunity to reestablish a meaningful place in the psyche of Philadelphia fans since they are the only game in town all summer long. If they can establish some momentum this year and then continue it during the dog days, they’ll be pretty happy with the fan response.
But suffer a fate like last season’s collapse, and good luck drawing people to the park or being a topic of discussion among the unwashed masses that call WIP on the reg. You can only do so many giveaway days to drum up interest when the team isn’t any good.
And so we come back to Harper. Or Machado. But more likely Harper. I posit that, if the Eagles are eliminated from the playoffs today, the Phillies will seize the opportunity and announce that they have signed Harper in the days immediately following. Would it be enough to pull a city’s fanbase out of the dumps? It kind of depends on the manner in which the Eagles lose, but the Phillies can’t be too picky about that. They must strike while the iron is hot so that they can grab headlines and take over the narrative. Then they can throw around even more “stupid money” if they like, content in the knowledge that they have accomplished what they told people they would this offseason.
Nobody from the Phillies would publicly acknowledge this, but it would have been better for them if the Eagles hadn’t even made the playoffs to begin with, allowing the Phils to have the stage to themselves. Announcing a big signing in the wake of an Eagles playoff loss isn’t ideal, but it’s the best they can do at this point.
If the Eagles win in New Orleans, this city will be so absolutely bonkers that I find it unlikely that we will hear about a big Phillies free agency signing this week. Remember when the Phils signed Andrew McCutchen last month? That was three days after the Eagles’ crushing loss in Dallas dropped them to 6-7 and seemingly out of the playoff race for good.
Then, the Eagles reeled off three straight wins to inexplicably earn a playoff berth. The Phillies? Not a peep until they signed reliever David Robertson three days BEFORE the Eagles’ first playoff game. And not that Robertson moves the excitement needle very much, but it seemed like they were hedging their bets to make sure they got at least some credit for a nice signing just in case the Eagles won that weekend.
And of course the Eagles “double doinked” their way to victory in Chicago to set up today’s game in New Orleans. Now, I’m not saying that an Eagles win would mean that a big Phillies signing would be delayed another week or be less likely to happen in general…but I’m not NOT saying it.
I just hope that the Phillies’ egos about having the spotlight all to themselves aren’t so bruised by the Eagles’ playoff success that they miss out entirely on the big splash they have basically promised to all of us. And while I understand that they would want all of the attention on them if they’re going to commit over $300 million, I truly believe that the Eagles’ continued playoff existence will prevent that from happening, at least for the moment.
Although, if the Eagles are going to go all the way again, screw Harper.
Could one (or both) of these players' futures be tied to...the Eagles?
Published January 9, 2019
Admit it, right after Cody Parkey’s kick pinged off the upright and then the crossbar on Sunday, your first thought was “Wow, I can’t believe this happened to another team and that we benefitted!” After all, as Philadelphia fans, we always expect these things to happen to us. Even despite last season’s Super Bowl win, we all just figured that things would revert back to normal.
Well, I guess God has become an Eagles fan for some reason, because “back to normal” hasn’t happened yet. But the truth is, what goes around comes around, so we were due for something like Sunday’s “double doink” (I hate the name, so that’s the last time I’ll use it). Not only that, but the Eagles only snuck into the playoffs in the first place thanks to the Bears playing hard and beating Minnesota last week, making this whole situation a double whammy for Chicago. It’s the sort of thing that we presume will happen only to Philadelphia teams, and it’s truly hard to believe that some other team/city/fanbase could suffer this kind of ignominy.
Maybe we were owed one because of the 2011 Phillies. They were the best team in baseball when, in the final series of the regular season, the Braves came to town fighting for their playoff lives. But the Phillies swept them, allowing the Cardinals to beat out the Braves by a single game for the NL wild card. The Phillies would face said Cardinals in a first round best-of-five that, as we all know, was an absolutely crippling loss.
At one time, a generation of Phillies fans had to live with Joe Carter’s home run being their last image of the Phillies in the playoffs, with 14 years elapsing before they finally made it back. Then we had some glory years, but now we can picture an injured Ryan Howard on the ground at the end of that St. Louis series as the most recent moment of Phillies playoff baseball.
And so today, we’re more than halfway to equaling the length of that Joe Carter-induced stretch. Maybe it wouldn’t be that way if the Phillies hadn’t played themselves into a tougher playoff opponent, thus causing the domino effect that ended up ruining the Phillies’ mini-dynasty.
Maybe we were also owed one because of a previous run-in between Philly and Chicago. The Flyers were far and away the worst team in the NHL during the 2006-07 season, and as such possessed top odds to land the #1 pick in that year’s draft. But the Chicago Blackhawks, despite having just the fifth best odds, won the lottery instead, selecting Patrick Kane first overall.
If that didn’t sting enough in and of itself, it was just three seasons later that the teams had managed to round back into form and meet in the Stanley Cup Final. And wouldn’t you know it, Kane scored the winning goal in overtime to eliminate the Flyers, giving the Blackhawks their first title in 49 years to snap an even longer drought than the Flyers’, a drought that of course continues to this day whilst Kane has added two more Cups to his ledger in the Windy City.
Maybe it’s something more recent that turned the tide our way finally, like the Sixers’ trading with the Boston Celtics prior to the 2017 NBA draft in order to move up to the top slot and select Markelle Fultz. Boston, meanwhile, slid down to the #3 slot where they “settled” for Jayson Tatum, who ended up being a finalist for Rookie of the Year as he helped lead the Celts to within one win of the NBA Finals.
Along the way, of course, Boston steamrolled the 76ers, beating them in five games in a second round series during which Tatum scored 20+ points in every game. Fultz, meanwhile, did not even play for the Sixers, capping off an incredibly disappointing rookie season marred by injury and controversy surrounding his viability as an NBA starter. The issues with Fultz continue to this day, while Tatum is doing just fine.
Or maybe this can all be traced back to a game between these same two teams, the Fog Bowl that the Eagles lost at Soldier Field to the Bears on December 31, 1988. It took a couple days past the 30-year mark for the Eagles to exact revenge for that one, but they did it. Of course, it’s really the fans who got revenge, as today’s players and coaches had nothing to do with a postseason game played decades ago. Even then, fans of my generation were too young to even remember that one.
Or maybe the concept of karma doesn’t even apply here, and the law of averages is just finally coming down in the Eagles’ favor after half a century of being on the wrong side.
So is God an Eagles fan now? Or maybe he’s wearing #9 for them? At this point, I’m open to anything. Call the Eagles lucky if you want, but it’s about damn time that something lucky happened. How about three more games of it?
Thanks to Parkey, Mrs. O'Leary's cow is officially off the hook.
Published January 2, 2019
Happy new year, and welcome to year #2 of PhillySportsComplex!
Let’s begin our always expert ruminations about Philly sports this year by looking at each of the four big clubs and setting some resolutions for them to follow in the new year. This should be fun. Maybe.
76ers: Fix the Markelle Fultz Situation
What a mess. Not the first time we’ve heard that about the Sixers, right? But this time, the team is actually pretty good, albeit with one big elephant in the room. 2017’s first overall pick, Markelle Fultz, has been one big pain for the organization as it tries to complete THE PROCESS so deftly laid out by Sam Hinkie. And while we do have a diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome (which is acknowledged to be extremely unlikely to occur to a basketball player), it’s impossible to know just exactly what ails the Sixers’ sophomore guard.
Sad to say, but things are already at the point where it’s obvious that this just isn’t going to work out. Fultz will never the kind of star player that a first overall pick should become. Maybe he can be adequate in the right situation, but does he even possess the necessary desire to make himself into a legitimate NBA player? The talent was there, obviously, to entice the Sixers into trading up to take him in the first slot before last season. But now it’s time to cut their losses and rid themselves of him in any way possible. Otherwise, this will just be one more entry into the ongoing saga of embarrassments that has plagued the franchise in recent years. Then, the Sixers can turn their focus toward the players that are actually healthy enough to stay in the lineup and figure out if the Embiid/Simmons/Butler triad can peacefully coexist.
Flyers: Roll with Hart and Don’t Waste Any Money
First and foremost, this is now Carter Hart’s team. Deal with it. No sending him back to the AHL. The Flyers took the plunge, and the kid should be given every chance to become what they hope he will be. There will be some rough times, but good goaltenders persevere and can get past bad outings that happen when they’re 20 years old and playing for a below average team like the Flyers unfortunately are at this point in time. The Flyers also need to clear out every single other goaltender from the organization and start fresh behind Hart. Get him a capable backup, and get some depth guys who stay healthy and can be relied upon for short bursts when needed. Ok then.
Next, even though he’s been a great Flyer, don’t extend Wayne Simmonds’ contract. The guy is 30 years old and has a lot of hard miles on him. Wish him well, but let someone else pay for his declining years. Plus, by not having Simmonds and also ridding themselves of the expiring contract of drug kingpin Jori Lehtera, the Flyers will have enough money as a result to cover the upcoming raises that Provorov, Sanheim, Konecny and Laughton will command as restricted free agents this coming offseason. They’ll also see a number of other underperforming players’ contracts run out, and that should give them some legitimate spending power next summer. New GM Chuck Fletcher has a lot to do, but one of his biggest moves will be to simply do nothing when it comes to expiring contracts. Maybe he could even get some kind of asset in a trade for Simmonds, but at the very least, he shouldn’t extend him. It bums me out to say that, but it’s the cold, hard truth.
Phillies: Stop Being Cheap and Do Something
By this point, it’s painfully obvious that the Phillies aren’t getting Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. The two biggest fish of baseball’s free agency season don’t want to come to Philadelphia. All the excitement about one (or both!) of them in Phils pinstripes next year was all for naught. And while it wouldn’t be totally fair to call the Phillies “cheap” in this instance because it looks like they are willing to spend the money, it does seem like an indictment of the organization as a whole that marquis players simply don’t want to come here. Personally, I think guys just don’t want to play for Gabe Kapler, but who knows for sure. Where the Phillies are being truly cheap, though, is in regard to their pitching. They were reluctant to give too long of a contract to Patrick Corbin because of his injury history. Fine. Then they lost out to the Yankees on J.A. Happ because they were concerned about his age. Fine. But at some point, you just need to pay somebody and hope for the best, because nobody comes without some kind of issue(s) surrounding them. The Phillies are being too cheap as well as too cautious.
So when they also lose out on reliever Andrew Miller after reportedly being very close to signing him, the frustration starts to build even more. Fans are getting restless. There are still quality free agents to be had, but you have to wonder if the Phillies will just pack it in, disappointed with their inability to land Harper/Machado but also deluding themselves into thinking that their moves to bring in Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura are somehow enough to energize the fanbase. The Phillies really need pitching help, and signing the likes of Dallas Keuchel AND Zach Britton would bolster the rotation and bullpen, especially since they are both left-handed. Those moves make a lot of sense, but will the Phillies actually pull the trigger? At any rate, the team needs to make good on owner John Middleton’s assertion about “being a little bit stupid” when it comes to spending money. Because if they don’t make any big splashes this offseason, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to them when they regularly draw 16,000 fans per game this season. As currently constructed, the Phillies don’t have enough to seriously contend for a playoff spot. Time to spend some stupid money.
Eagles: Commit to Carson, I Guess
If you spent any time listening to WIP (radio for dummies), you’ve gotten your fill of Wentz vs. Foles over the last couple weeks. And even though I personally love and appreciate to no end what Nick Foles has done for the franchise, the only logical choice is to affirm Carson Wentz as the current and future franchise QB this offseason, with Foles likely moving on to be an undisputed starter elsewhere if he so chooses. The Eagles invested a lot in Wentz, and he has shown that he has every tool necessary to succeed in the league, except of course for his propensity to get injured. And while you can’t fully alleviate any risk in that area, you can improve the team around him to make things at least a little bit easier for him so that he finds himself running for his life less often and taking fewer big hits.
On paper, there is no comparison, Wentz is a better overall QB than Foles. So what is it about Foles exactly that just makes the rest of the team up their game to a championship level? Call it leadership, poise, experience, or whatever else you want. The hope here is that Wentz has now matured to the level (and soaked up through Foles) whatever lessons he needed in order to complete his transformation into the true franchise QB that we have expected. It won’t be productive for him to have Foles hanging over his shoulder as he takes up that mantle. So, as hard as it is to move past St. Nick, it is truly time to commit singularly to Carson. Unless Foles gets them back to the Super Bowl. Oh boy. I’d hate to be the guy making the decisions for the Eagles then.
Two men enter, one will leave.