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 July 31, 2018
Asdrubal Cabrera aside, the Phillies have been among the most silent of contending clubs as this year’s non-waiver trade deadline approaches at 4pm today. Cabrera was a nice little move, but in and of itself that’s not enough for a team making an unexpected playoff push this season.
Matt Klentak swung for Manny Machado and whiffed, seeing him go to LA. Word is he also tried to pry Adam Jones out of Baltimore. No dice. Jones would not waive his no-trade clause, instead choosing to stay mired in last place for some reason. The Orioles also sold off their two best relief pitchers, to the Yankees and Braves respectively. And there was no Cole Hamels or J.A. Happ reunion, as many expected there would be.
Notable names like Ian Kinsler, Adam Duvall, Lance Lynn and Roberto Osuna all changed teams yesterday, but the Phillies didn’t make a peep. Now, the deadline mere hours away, they have to do something.
A 4-game skid has seen their division lead shrink to half a game over Atlanta. And since it’s looking increasingly likely that the NL Central and West will each produce a wild card qualifier, winning the East is of paramount importance to both the Phillies and Braves. One game could be the difference between a division title and not even making the wild card play-in game.
Perhaps Thursday’s franchise-record tying 7-home run game was the worst thing that could have happened to the Phillies. They were absolutely mashing in Cincinnati that night during their 9-4 win. But the last four games have produced a grand total of seven runs and just two home runs.
The offense is lacking another quality bat. Manny Machado sure would have been looking good in this lineup right now. But that ship has sailed, and so other options must be considered. The Phillies are supposedly in on the bidding for Curtis Granderson, which would fall right in line with their “strike out as much as possible” philosophy at the plate. Still, depending on how cheaply he could be acquired, he would be a good option off the bench.
Another name gathering steam is Andrew McCutchen. A free agent at season’s end, the former MVP theoretically shouldn’t cost too much. He might very well represent the best option for the Phillies at this point based on what we know he’s capable of and what the Phillies would have to give up to get him.
The Phillies haven’t really been linked to Nick Castellanos, but he would be the best shot in the arm for this offense among hitters who are known to be available, with the added benefit of being under contract for next year as well. And no, I don’t seriously believe that Bryce Harper will be moved even though the Nationals are “willing to listen to offers”. It would be the smart move to trade him now, but this is the Nationals. They never do anything smart.
Joey Gallo was brought up earlier this week as a possibility for the Phillies as well, but that should be dismissed entirely. He is too much of an all-or-nothing hitter, and has even publicly stated that he hates playing third base, which is where the Phillies would likely have to stick him. Pass. The Phils should also steer clear of Jose Bautista if they know what’s good for them.
As for pitching, Chris Archer would be the gem of the bunch, assuming that the Mets don’t trade any of their pitchers and wouldn’t want to do business with the Phillies anyway. Archer has struggled since coming back from an injury, but he would still look good as a #3 starter for this team. Again, the cost might be prohibitive, but Klentak should be kicking the tires.
And the relievers who are available? Bud Norris, Sergio Romo, Nate Jones et al would all be nice pieces and shouldn’t require much in return. Klentak needs to target this area and give Gabe Kapler an extra arm to employ out of his bullpen. Kyle Barraclough would be the best bullpen move any team could make, but he has three more years to go on his contract and would be much more expensive.
You never want to say that a team should make a move just for the sake of making one, but that’s really close to the situation the Phillies find themselves in. They could be out of a playoff position later tonight if they lose and the Braves win. Wouldn’t it be awful if that happened and they found themselves playing catch-up the rest of the season?
Yes, there are still two months of baseball to play, but if they don’t take a shot now and end up missing out on the postseason, they’re going to have a real hard time convincing me they’re serious about winning. Hopefully this year isn’t their best shot, but you never know. Let’s make it count.
If this is the Phils' top acquisition, they're in trouble.
Published July 26, 2018
Let’s start our Eagles coverage this season with something completely random. This exercise involved looking at a motley crew of players from different positions, making it an apples-and-oranges situation. Anyway, here goes…
10. Chris Maragos – I literally know nothing about him, and even now I couldn’t pick him up out of a lineup, but who am I to argue with his Eagles teammates that he’s an important member of the team? They say they felt his absence last year after he got hurt, and he had enough of their respect to be a team captain, so we’ll slide him into this list based on that. No stats can give an accurate accounting of his worth to the team.
9. Jake Elliott – Last year’s rookie sensation makes the list after just one season thanks to a big leg that nailed five of his six field goal attempts from over 50 yards. Elliott then pitched in seven more field goals in the playoffs, including three in the Super Bowl. A few curious missed extra points show that he’s far from perfect, but the guy delivered when the team needed it badly. Here’s hoping he sticks around in the position for years to come.
8. Donnie Jones – A good punter is hard to find. Most teams treat these guys like Kleenex, but a few get lucky and find the right guy to hold down the position for years without having to worry about it. Donnie Jones was the right guy for the Eagles. For a player already well into his 30’s when the Eagles took a flyer on him, Jones showed remarkable durability and consistency for five seasons and was a stabilizing influence on their special teams.
7. Ike Reese – Before he was busy losing WIP co-hosts at a staggering rate, the “linebacker” starred largely on special teams for seven seasons as an Eagle, making a Pro Bowl appearance in the process. He was one of the most respected players during the heyday of Andy Reid’s time coaching the Eagles, a true heart-and-soul player whose importance to the club went largely beyond the numbers.
6. Brian Mitchell – Even though he was already a wily 10-year veteran when he came to the Eagles, Mitchell provided a big spark for the team’s kick return game for three seasons at the start of this century. He set the club’s all-time punt return yardage record and is second in kickoff return yards. Along the way, he ran four kicks back for touchdowns and holds three of the top ten spots in Eagles history for single-season all-purpose return yards.
5. Brian Westbrook – Westbrook was used only sparingly as a punt returner for most of his career as an Eagle in an effort to keep him healthy, but the results were explosive when he was. Teams frequently sacrificed field position by kicking the ball away from him, aware of his big play ability. He ran back two punts for touchdowns during the 2003 season, including an 84-yarder in the dying minutes of a game at Giants Stadium that the Eagles had no business winning and that is largely credited with saving the season.
4. Jon Dorenbos – It takes someone truly special to distinguish themselves as a long snapper in the NFL, but Dorenbos did with a decade of flawless play for the Eagles. He even made a pair of Pro Bowls for it. A truly remarkable success story who overcame personal tragedy, Dorenbos serves as an inspiration for people that working hard to be the best at something can pay off, both in long snapping and in his ongoing career as a magician.
3. Darren Sproles – As he heads into his final NFL campaign, Sproles has been a sparkplug in his four seasons as an Eagle so far. He shares the franchise record with four punt return TDs and has made three Pro Bowls as an Eagle, twice leading the league in punt return yards. Simply electric. Here’s hoping for one last hurrah.
2. DeSean Jackson – The other Eagle with four career punt return TDs, Jackson pulled off another Miracle at the Meadowlands for the Eagles with a game-ending runback in 2010. You know the one. He ranks second in team history in punt returns and punt return yardage, and would easily be first in those categories if Chip Kelly hadn’t gotten trigger happy and let him go to Washington after the best season of his career. He was truly a huge weapon for the Birds.
1. David Akers – An easy call at the top spot for his durability and consistency, Akers is the Eagles’ all-time leading scorer and holds the franchise mark for games played as he shined at the kicker position in town from 1999 to 2010. He went to five Pro Bowls as an Eagle, and his 294 field goals for the team are three times more than anyone in team history. In over a decade with the team, he only ever missed one field goal inside thirty yards, and he endeared himself to fans by throwing a pass, running the ball or delivering a hit once in a while as well. A class act off the field, Akers’ contributions will be remembered for a long time.
Gives great speeches at the draft, too
Published July 23, 2018
Chase Utley, Manny Machado and the Dodgers roll into town to begin a 3-game series with the Phillies tonight, weather permitting. So I thought it was an apropos time to look back to a day five years ago when I made a Dodgers-Phillies game the central focus of my bachelor party. I found it pretty memorable, for some of the wrong reasons. At least, the parts I do remember...
In mid-August, all of my closest friends joined me for a game against the Dodgers as part of my bachelor party. I had always intended on going to either a Phillies or Flyers game to mark the occasion, depending on what time of year my wedding was going to be. But as it turned out, even with the wedding slated for hockey season, it was just easier and more cost-effective to go to a Phillies game a few months before the date.
And so we started the festivities by checking in to our hotel and having a few drinks. This was followed by more drinks at Xfinity Live! and then at the game itself. The Phillies, languishing well below .500, had finally pulled the plug on Charlie Manuel earlier that day, ending the most successful managerial run in the club’s history. It was not the ideal situation for new skipper Ryne Sandberg to take over, but I had been talking him up for quite a while and was excited about what he could do for the team. His first game behind the bench, however, not so much.
At least I got a solid pitching matchup for my bachelor party as Cliff Lee faced the Dodgers’ Zack Greinke. But the Phils’ popgun offense managed just three hits in a 4-0 loss. While I was hardly devastated due to the degree of inebriation I was experiencing, I was still bitter that the team had such a pathetic showing on a special occasion for me. Was it too much to ask that the team score a run, let alone win the game? It didn’t completely mar my party, but it certainly put me in a bad enough mood to lash out. Again, alcohol.
We returned to the hotel after the game to get ourselves cleaned up before heading back out. Having been fed drinks by my friends all night, I was in a certain condition and simply could not hold back when I saw an older couple wearing Dodgers jerseys in the elevator on the way up to our room.
Unprovoked except by the paraphernalia they were wearing, I let loose a string of obscenities at them that I am only aware of because my friends told me after the fact. I hated these people for cheering on the opposition in our park and for “ruining” my bachelor party, then I exclaimed that the Dodgers hadn’t won anything in 25 years. And that they sucked, probably with many other words added in there.
I should probably relay to these people somehow that I’m sorry for the way that I acted, but they are most likely dead now so it doesn’t matter. It just wasn’t my finest moment.
Or was it?
It was base level, animal instinct fandom on my part, with a sizeable assist from alcohol. Some true passion right there. I was happy to check off “cuss out Dodgers fans in an elevator for no reason” from my Philly sports bucket list, and I should be lauded for it.
After even more imbibing, I remember precious little except waking up in the hotel bed at about 4am fully clothed with my shoes on and my contacts still in. Things could have ended way worse, but I have some good friends. They were there for me that night, unlike the Phillies.
The happiest Ryne Sandberg ever was managing the Phillies
Published July 22, 2018
The Phillies and Padres were postponed on Saturday because they were afraid of getting a little wet, necessitating a doubleheader today. No big deal, as it was your typical run-of-the-mill rainout.
But what about those times that the weather caused things to get absolutely nuts? It’s happened a good deal to the Phillies over the last couple decades, as you’ll see.
Here is a list in increasing level of absurdity, and I’d like to especially acknowledge former Inquirer writer Peter Mucha, whose article on this was a big help. Anyway, here goes…
Sept. 28 & 29, 2006 – With the Phillies still clinging to hope in the wild card race, a storm ripped through DC, causing the Phillies and Nationals to not even start their game until 11:32 pm. The Phils’ resulting 3-1 loss all but eliminated them from playoff contention.
June 9 & 10, 1980 – The Phillies and Giants endured a pair of rain delays in the fourth inning which totaled five hours. Amazingly, Steve Carlton came back out to start the top of the fifth for the Phillies around 1:30 am. By the time the dust settled at 3:11 am, the Phillies had lost 3-1. But they won the World Series four months later, so that’s cool.
Aug. 10 & 11, 1977 – The Phillies settled in to host the Expos for a doubleheader at the Vet. The games themselves back then absolutely flew by, as they were both played in a grand total of 4 hours, 18 minutes. But throw in a pair of rain delays in the first game and then another in the second game, and things still didn’t end until 3:23 am. The Phillies won both games by identical 6-1 scores, by the way.
July 22 & 23, 1994 – The Phillies and Padres were in the second game of their doubleheader when things got nutty. With Mickey Morandini at the plate in the bottom of the fourth, there were two separate delays during his at bat, and then another one later in the game, which caused the teams to play until 1:56 am.
July 8, 2007 – With the Phillies at Coors Field visiting the Rockies, the sky suddenly opened up after the sixth inning. As the grounds crew struggled mightily to get the tarp to stay down amidst heavy winds, the Phillies emerged from their dugout to help get things under control while the home team sat comfortably in their clubhouse. It was a sight to behold. Thankfully, justice was served that day, as the Phillies won. But it’s pretty damn unfair that the Phillies’ season would end on that same field three months later when the Rockies swept them in the playoffs.
Oct. 25 & 26, 2008 – After splitting the first two games of the World Series in Tampa, the Phillies came home for Game 3. Mother Nature did not cooperate. The game didn’t start until 10:06 pm, and it was a grueling affair. 3 hours and 41 minutes later, Carlos Ruiz delivered the ugliest walk off hit in World Series history, and it was all worth it.
July 2 & 3, 1993 – What is it with the Phillies, Padres and doubleheaders? Playing San Diego in a doubleheader scheduled to begin at 3:05 pm, things went off the rails. First, the game’s start was delayed until 4:44 pm, then there were two more delays during the first game alone, leading to the absurd scenario of that game ending at 1:03 am and the second game STARTING at 1:28 am. Finally, at 4:41 am, Mitch Williams drove home the winning run. You can’t make this stuff up.
Oct. 27-29, 2008 – The mother of them all. You know the story. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig literally stepped in and made up a rule so that Game 5 of the World Series was suspended when the conditions turned things unplayable in the middle of the game. The lousy weather continued the next day, pushing the resumption of the action to the night after that. Ultimately, some fifty hours after the first pitch, the Phils were World Champions.
Published July 21, 2018
Things could have been a lot worse for Jake Arrieta and the Phillies last night. The veteran righty endured a horrible first inning that included two walks, a wild pitch and a throwing error that put the Phillies in a 4-0 hole before the offense bailed him out en route to an 11-5 victory.
A win is a win, but the rough start by Arrieta should set off some alarms. The outing pushed his ERA up to 3.47, a mark that is decent but isn’t what we should expect from him.
This is who Jake Arrieta is. His once-in-a-lifetime 2015 Cy Young season aside, he has shown himself to be very good, but ultimately not worth the ridiculous salary the Phillies are paying him this season. In fact, his career ERA outside of that 2015 season is actually pretty close to 4.00. A part of that came while he was toiling through a few years with the Orioles and figuring out how to pitch, but ultimately the mid-3 ERA he is sporting right now is about what we all could have realistically hoped for.
Arrieta had been a lot better in July than he had been in June, and so that’s why his performance against a lackluster San Diego lineup last night is so disheartening. Just when we think he’s figured things out (and we’ve figured out what to expect from him), this happens. It boggles the mind.
Early in the season, things were going great. He stymied the Diamondbacks, Braves and Dodgers to earn wins over those contending clubs. But he’s also had stinkers against the Giants and Marlins. It’s the kind of pattern you would expect from a young guy just going through the league for the first time, not the 32-year old “mentor” you brought in to bolster your pitching staff.
But the bottom line is that Arrieta was still a worthwhile gamble for the Phillies last offseason, as they had money to burn and a huge gap in their rotation. His stats are good enough to validate the signing if you don’t look too much at his salary, although I personally am concerned about his low strikeout total. In a league where everybody seems to strike out better than a hitter per inning, Arrieta is only sitting at about 6.3 K per 9 IP. With his track record and the Phillies’ sometimes suspect defense behind him, it’d be really nice to see that number go up. It’s anybody’s guess if it does.
Overall, though, Arrieta’s other numbers are right in line with realistic expectations that we all should have had for him entering his first season for the Phillies. It’s not going to seem that way because of the uneven season he’s having, but you are who the numbers say you are at the end of the year. And Arrieta is the Phillies’ #2 pitcher, sink or swim. Let’s hope it’s enough.
The Phillies are for real, and they’re in the thick of the playoff race. They have needs elsewhere, but Arrieta’s presence in the rotation is enough so that they shouldn’t have to worry about adding another starter. Time is ticking on Matt Klentak and company to get something done before the trade deadline but maybe, just maybe, adding Arrieta back in March was the club’s biggest move this year. And even with rocky outings like last night, he’s doing what should be expected of him.
Published July 18, 2018
Most people have heard some variation of the lame trivia question by now: What are the only two days of the year where there are no games in any of the major pro sports leagues?
Answer: The day before and the day after the MLB All-Star Game. That was a fun bit of knowledge when you were 11, but it’s old hat now.
Anyway, at least we had the Home Run Derby on Monday night, which was better than usual since Rhys Hoskins had a nice showing. But now, today, we enter the void. Nothing doing today. Even tomorrow, there’s just one MLB game, with the Phillies not back in action until Friday.
Some of you may even be tempted to tune into the ESPYs, the Worldwide Leader in Ruining Sports’ annual self-congratulatory spectacle that hasn’t produced anything memorable since the Jimmy V speech a quarter-century ago that they keep milking for all it’s worth. Do so if you must, but maybe just take a night off to think about what lies ahead in Philadelphia sports in the near future.
Yes, today is even worse than usual because the Phillies missed out on Manny Machado. That hurts, because it appears they gave it their best shot. But let’s not get too down about the lack of activity, and instead look forward to what awaits us in the coming weeks and months…
In 5 days, Chase Utley comes to town for the final time as the Dodgers begin a 3-game set at Citizens Bank Park. Maybe he’ll be back in the playoffs? Yeah, I guess Machado is gonna be there too. Ugh.
In 7 days, the Eagles report to training camp to begin their title defense, with the first practice being held the following day. Every other year, this is the most overhyped thing in Philadelphia sports, but it is legitimately a big deal this time.
In 13 days, baseball reaches its non-waiver trading deadline and we will know exactly what the Phillies think of their chances this year based on the moves they make by then. Matt Klentak will have to actually converse with other GMs around the league.
In 17 days, Brian Dawkins will take up his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame at the enshrinement ceremony. Terrell Owens will not.
In 22 days, the Eagles host the Steelers to open the preseason. And we all just cross our fingers that nobody gets hurt.
In 32 days, the Phillies play the Mets in Williamsport, PA as part of the Little League World Series festivities. The Mets might as well have the kids suit up for them.
In 50 days, the games start to count. The Eagles will hoist their Super Bowl banner as they take on the Falcons in the annual season-opening Thursday night game. It will be epic, and you’ll probably cry again.
In 69 days, training camp opens for the 76ers. Maybe they’ll have done something to improve the team by then. And hired a GM.
In 74 days, the Phillies play the last game of their regular season, wrapping up a home series with the Braves that potentially has huge implications. Then it’ll be time to get ready for playoff baseball for the first time since 2011.
In 78 days, the Flyers open their regular season when they visit the Western Conference champion Vegas Golden Knights. And that sounds really weird.
In 83 days, the Flyers play their home opener as they welcome the San Jose Sharks. They will attempt not to get booed off the ice like they did after every home playoff game back in April.
In 200 days, the Eagles will win the Super Bowl again, and we get to relive all this awesomeness. Too optimistic? Perhaps. But at least it won’t be the Cowboys.
In 220 days, the Flyers play the Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field, and they will likely drop to 0-4 all-time in outdoor games because that’s just how they do things.
In 364 days, it will be the day after next year’s MLB All-Star Game, and I’ll probably write this same stupid article again.
Remember this guy?
Published July 16, 2018
Rhys Hoskins will take his hacks tonight in baseball’s annual Home Run Derby, that event you loved as a kid but likely don’t care a lick about as an adult. But maybe this year, around these parts, there will be much greater interest because of the local connection, as Hoskins becomes the first Phillies player to compete in nine years.
To recap, the Home Run Derby as we know it began as part of the all-star festivities in 1985, with the Reds’ Dave Parker winning it at the Metrodome. Amazingly, but not surprisingly, the Phillies did not send a representative for twenty years. But once they did, the Phillies had a dog in the fight six years in a row. Did you remember this? I sure didn’t.
Let’s take a look at those appearances.
2004: Jim Thome
Playing in his second season with the Phillies, Big Jim was firing on all cylinders entering the break, with 28 home runs and an unusually high .289 average. He looked like a strong MVP candidate heading into the Derby and ASG. In 2004, MLB was using an 8-batter format for the Derby with the top four advancing to the semifinals. Thome disappointingly hit only four home runs in the first round and failed to move on, although four of the five players who hit more home runs than him would later go on to be linked to PED use. In the second half of the season, Thome’s numbers took a sizable hit, and he would fall short of the output that he had produced the previous year.
2005: Bobby Abreu
Abreu had a sweet swing and was an excellent all-around hitter, however it was a surprise to see him selected to compete at the 2005 Derby in Detroit. He did have 18 home runs to his credit on the season by that point, putting him ahead of the pace for his normal yearly output, but nobody expected what came next. In a power display that came out of nowhere, Abreu hit a record 24 home runs in the first round en route to a grand total of 41 home runs overall in the Derby, which also shattered the record. His unexpected victory was thrilling, but it came at a great cost. In the archetypal example of the Home Run Derby ruining someone’s swing for the rest of the season, Abreu hit only six home runs in the second half and his batting average dropped 47 points. He seemed to think he could hit home runs at will, and it cost him. The 24 homers he ended the season with were a respectable number, but they were disappointing when you consider what could have been. And though he continued to produce for several more years, he never hit more than 20 in a season for the rest of his career. The Derby got him.
2006: Ryan Howard
Howard was having a mammoth power season by the time the Derby came calling in 2006. After one round, the Mets’ David Wright was the clear front-runner, with Howard just barely squeaking into the semifinals. But then the Big Piece turned it on, hitting 10 home runs in the second round to earn a berth in the finals against Wright. It was neck-and-neck, but when the dust settled, Howard came out victorious over the foul-mouthed Wright, whom ESPN had to keep bleeping after virtually every one of his swings. The Phillies had back-to-back Derby champs, and they became the 7th club to have multiple winners overall. Howard would go on a home run binge in the second half of the season, smacking 30 in 75 games to finish with a club-record 58 for the year. Maybe the Derby doesn’t have to ruin you after all.
2007: Ryan Howard
Howard’s encore performance was a dud as he took aim at McCovey Cove at San Francisco’s AT&T Park. He hit only three home runs in the first round and failed to advance. In fact, all three lefthanded hitters in the Derby that year (Howard, Prince Fielder, Justin Morneau) were eliminated in the first round, suggesting the environment was as much to blame as a bad performance on Howard’s part. To Howard’s credit, he once again had a better second half of the season, not letting the Derby experience affect him.
2008: Chase Utley
Nobody has ever thought of Utley as strictly a power hitter, but his eye-popping 25 longballs at the break in 2008 were enough to make him part of the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium. Unfortunately, it was another first round exit for a Phillie, with Chase hitting five home runs, finishing next-to-last in the 8-man field and failing to advance. After the break, Utley hit only eight more home runs in 65 games. But don’t feel too bad, 2008 turned out OK for him.
2009: Ryan Howard
Howard’s final Derby appearance fell in between the result of his first two. He didn’t win, but he also didn’t get eliminated in the first round. And even though he had the highest total in the second round, his “subtotal” was just behind the pace of Nelson Cruz and Prince Fielder, so he failed to qualify for the final. Once again, Howard put up better numbers that season in the second half, with more HR and RBI in fewer games played, plus an average that went up 48 points from pre-break to post-break. And that’s the last we’ve seen of a Phillies player in the Home Run Derby until tonight.
So, not that it matters, but how will Rhys Hoskins do? MLB’s straight-up, head-to-head format, introduced in 2015, has him facing the Brewers’ Jesus Aguilar in the first round. I’m going to call a victory here for Rhys, and then another win over whoever advances between Kyle Schwarber and Alex Bregman. My prediction is that he ultimately loses in the final to Bryce Harper, who may actually put an effort in tonight since it’s at his home ballpark and this is his only chance to win anything as a National.
It should also be noted that Hoskins accepted an invite to take part in the Derby even though he is not an all-star this season. Good for him. Let’s all hope that he has a solid showing to introduce himself on a national stage. Good luck, Rhys.
Published July 14, 2018
Friday the 13th came and went, and while nobody got slaughtered at Camp Crystal Lake, we did get the sad albeit inevitable news that Chase Utley has decided to call it a career once the 2018 season comes to an end.
It’s been a couple years since Chase last played for the Phillies, but it feels like he never left. His influence on the franchise and his immense contributions will echo for generations among the fans in this town, regardless of whether his ultimate destination ends up being in Cooperstown or not.
Still, with Chase now saying that he is done after this year, his career is about 97% in the books. And so we can start to draw some conclusions as we work down the list and try to figure out whether or not he has a legitimate shot to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame, starting in 2024 when he is first eligible.
He has some things working for him, but numerous obstacles to overcome as well. Let’s take a look.
First, and most notably, is a lack of raw numbers. Chase is going to fall short of even 2000 hits in his career, which puts him well below the totals of Hall of Fame second basemen from the last few decades like Roberto Alomar, Craig Biggio and (ugh) Ryne Sandberg. He does place among the top 300 hitters all-time in both RBI and runs scored, which isn’t as impressive as it sounds. By the time the year is out, he will probably have scraped into the top 200 in all-time home runs, although he’ll probably get knocked down quite a few slots in the years between his retirement and his Hall eligibility.
But you also have to isolate the second base position, and when you examine Chase within that context, his case gains some momentum. Other than catcher, second base has probably had the least amount of impact offensive players throughout MLB’s history, and so any standout like Utley has to merit a long look from the selection committee.
His home run total, while not staggering, still places him 7th all-time at the position. And from 2005 through 2009, he was indisputably the best second baseman in the league. Being top dog at your position for half a decade has to count for something, and it wasn’t a cheap win by any means. He averaged 29 home runs, 101 RBI and, most impressively, 111 runs scored for those five seasons, hitting .301 over that time frame. Any major leaguer would take that, regardless of position.
He was voted as a starter to five straight All-Star Games and earned six selections overall. Only two second basemen have ever had more and aren’t in the Hall of Fame, one of whom is Robinson Cano who seemed like he was heading there until he got banged for PEDs and was suspended this year.
Advanced stats also seem to be in Utley’s corner. The ever-popular WAR has him just below the career average of the 20 second basemen who are already in the Hall of Fame, though he is ahead of Biggio. “WAR7”, which focuses on the best seven seasons of a player’s career rather than just rewarding someone who racked up stats over a very long time, is even more favorable for Utley. It pegs him as being even better than Alomar, Biggio and Sandberg in this area, and on par with Hall of Famer Rod Carew. This shows that, at his very best, Utley was indeed Hall-worthy for those seven years.
And so the question becomes, did he do it for long enough?
Utley got a late start, making his major league debut at age 24 and only becoming an everyday player when he was 26. As he began to assert his dominance a decade ago, I was saying even then that the Phillies may have very well ruined his Hall of Fame chances already. Imagine what two more full seasons of a young Utley could have accomplished.
And though he remained in good health during his superb five-year stretch from ’05-’09, he missed a boatload of games between 2010 and 2013, docking him about a full season’s worth of numbers that he could have used to build his resume. The end result is that Chase will finish his career at about 1940 games played, which is significantly less than the majority of Hall of Fame second basemen. Will the voting committee penalize him simply for having a shorter career? Time will tell.
Looking way way ahead, the potential class of 2024 appears like a weak field overall, which could be a big plus for Chase. Even if he doesn’t get in on the first ballot, which isn’t very likely anyway, a lack of other strong candidates could translate into a solid initial showing in his first year, allowing him to stay around the discussion for a while and maybe eventually get selected shortly thereafter.
Ichiro Suzuki and/or Adrian Beltre could be on the ballot that year and would probably overshadow him. Again, it depends on whether or not they call it quits this year or not. Among pitchers, only CC Sabathia MIGHT retire after this year and would have a strong enough case for a high vote total, unless you think Bartolo Colon should be in that discussion as well.
Long story short (too late), Chase may have picked a really good year to retire. It will be fascinating to see how he stacks up against Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, who will both be in their third years of eligibility then, assuming neither has made it yet.
Finally, one can only hope that any backlash over Chase’s supposed dirty slide that brought about the “Chase Utley Rule” a couple years ago will not be any kind of impediment for him to get into Cooperstown. You’d like to think that one borderline play won’t influence the voters that much, but people get bent out of shape about the dumbest things, so you never really can tell.
In conclusion, my heart says “yes”, but my head says “no”. I could totally see Chase Utley making the Hall of Fame in his fourth or fifth year of eligibility, but if you held a gun to my head, I’d say that he won’t. Still, it wouldn’t diminish what he did for the Phillies or their fans. He’ll always be “the man” in this town. I hope I’m wrong about the end result, so feel free to criticize me and remind me of my prediction in seven or eight years. I’ll take it.
Chase in 2024?
Published July 12, 2018
Twenty years ago this week, the Flyers were in need of a goaltender through free agency. No, really. I know that’s hard to believe. Sean Burke, for whom the Flyers had traded at the 1998 trade deadline, had become a free agent, so only a past-his-prime Ron Hextall remained on the roster.
It was widely believed that they would be signing Curtis Joseph, the top goalie available. But in the end, they went with a cheaper option and signed John Vanbiesbrouck, with Joseph going to Toronto instead. I was a teenage kid at the time, and even I knew it wouldn’t work. Everyone did. They screwed up.
The Flyers weren’t exactly a bastion of sterling goaltending before that, but this move kicked off a generation of poor decisions, bad luck and subpar performance in the Flyers’ crease. Let’s enjoy the chronology of error that followed.
In the 1999 NHL draft, the Flyers used their first round pick on Maxime Ouellet, who was the first goalie off the board that year. The hope was that he could be the team’s #1 guy for years to come. But he would appear in just two games for the team before being traded along with draft picks in 2002 to Washington for Adam Oates, a future Hall of Famer who had nothing left in the tank. Thankfully, Ouellet never amounted to anything.
Oates and the rest of the Flyers fizzled in the playoffs that year, scoring only two total goals in a five-game first round loss to Ottawa. Incumbent Flyers starting goalie and all-around weirdo Roman Cechmanek criticized his teammates’ performance in front of him, at which point they started shooting at his head in practice. Because that’s exactly what you need to do when the goalie is the only guy playing well.
Cechmanek, lest we forget, was pretty sensational in his time with the Flyers. He stuck around for one more year after the 2002 debacle, but the Flyers decided a shakeup was needed and traded him to the Kings. In came Jeff Hackett via free agency. Another disaster.
Hackett lasted all of 27 games in a Flyers uniform before coming down with vertigo and then retiring before the season was even over. Robert Esche became the de facto starter, and to fill the void left by Hackett, the team traded for Sean Burke. Yes, the same Sean Burke that they had traded for six years before.
After several seasons of intermittently solid yet unspectacular goaltending by the likes of Esche, Antero Niittymaki and Martin Biron that continued to leave the team Cupless, the Flyers found themselves at a crossroads in 2009. And so they decided to gamble on Ray Emery, who had previously shown flashes of brilliance with the Senators but had been forced to play the previous season in Russia’s KHL after wearing out his welcome in Ottawa.
Emery got off to a sizzling start as a Flyer, winning 10 of his first 14 games. But he too would eventually be felled by injury, as he was diagnosed with a degenerative hip issue similar to what had ended the career of two-sport star Bo Jackson. After 29 games, his season was over, and perhaps his career as well.
The Flyers were then forced to go with a platoon of Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton. And although they somehow managed to go all the way to the Stanley Cup Final that 2010 season, we all know how it ultimately turned out.
There was a new man between the pipes the following season in rookie Sergei Bobrovsky. He was pretty solid, and Boucher posted similar numbers backing him up throughout the year. But when a rough second-round playoff loss to Boston put a serious dent in the goaltending, Flyers management decided they had had enough and made a bold decision.
They’d clear cap space in the offseason by trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, paving the way to sign big-ticket free agent goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. And I could probably stop right here. But I’ll continue on. His wildly erratic play (and demeanor) didn’t do the Flyers any favors, and it also seemed to stunt the growth of Bobrovsky, who the team clearly did not view as any kind of long-term solution in goal. The Flyers again got to the second round of the playoffs, but no further.
During that 2012 offseason, the Flyers traded Bobrovsky for virtually nothing to Columbus, where he has gone on to become one of the best goaltenders in the league. The team then decided just to ride Bryzgalov into the ground for the lockout-shortened season that followed. He started 36 of the team’s first 38 games before the team went out and got the guy who Bobrovsky had just stolen the starting job from in Columbus, Steve Mason. Needless to say, they missed the playoffs for just the second time since 1994.
But Mason showed enough in a brief stint following the trade that the Flyers decided to move forward with him, buying out Bryzgalov’s contract in a move that will still be costing the team for another decade. They at least deserved credit for moving on from something that wasn’t working, although they really didn’t have a choice by that point.
The Flyers then put in a call to their old pal Ray Emery, coming back from his major medical issue, to act as Mason’s backup for 2013-14. It worked well enough and the team returned to the playoffs, but they lost in the first round.
Mason was even better in 2014-15, but Emery sagged and the team lost a staggering 18 games in overtime/shootouts and missed the playoffs by a decent margin. Emery was finally done once and for all, and Michael Neuvirth became the next backup du jour in town.
The tandem was effective and even helped drag the team into the playoffs despite a subpar offense. Then, in Game 2 of their first round series vs. Washington, disaster struck.
With the team down a goal early in the second period, Mason allowed a puck to coast from the other end of the ice through his legs for a back-breaking goal, perhaps the worst ever allowed in the NHL given the situation. The Flyers lost that game and then got bombed in the next one. Neuvirth finally supplanted Mason for Game 4 and promptly stood on his head to win two games and get the Flyers back into the series. A 1-0 loss in Game 6 finally ended things, and it put the Flyers’ goaltending hierarchy into serious question.
But Neuvirth’s chronic injuries popped up the next season, and neither he nor Mason were as good as they had been the previous year, leading to another playoff miss. With Mason’s contract up, the Flyers allowed him to walk, signing free agent Brian Elliott to replace him.
Elliott and Neuvirth both battled injuries in 2017-18, forcing the team’s hand into trading for Petr Mrazek from Detroit, with rookie Alex Lyon also seeing time. All played well for stretches, even though nobody’s final numbers ending up being all that good. In the end, it was still enough to take the team to the playoffs.
Once again in the postseason, the netminders were not up to snuff, with everyone getting blasted by Pittsburgh’s offense. And so we sit here today, Mrazek gone, with Elliott and Neuvirth still the tandem. The ultimate hope is that 2016 draftee Carter Hart will develop, come up soon, and be “the guy” for years to come.
The law of averages says that someone eventually will stabilize the position for the franchise, but by this point, who the hell knows? The Flyers tend to defy logic in every way. Maybe one of these days, hope will give way to reality. But we’ll all have to just believe it when we see it.
Published July 8, 2018
Some thoughts on the Phillies…
So how about that bullpen, huh? After looking like Seranthony Dominguez was the only reliable arm in the bullpen, suddenly a few other guys have emerged and look legitimate. Victor Arano has not been scored upon in his last six outings, and he registered a pair of saves this week. On Wednesday, he struck out three batters in two innings to cap off a win, and then followed that up with yesterday’s more-traditional 3-out save.
We probably all forgot how good Edubray Ramos looked prior to hitting the DL. Gabe Kapler didn’t do him any favors in his first outing back, throwing him into the bottom of the 5th on Friday night with the Phillies up by a run but Pittsburgh threatening with a man on third and one out. Ramos got two outs to preserve the lead and was eventually credited with the win in the Phils’ 17-5 laugher. But it was close when Ramos did his work, so it was encouraging.
Pat Neshek has been getting eased back into things after missing three months with an injury, and early results have been encouraging. Even Tommy Hunter has looked better, with three scoreless appearances so far this month. Add it all up, and maybe the bullpen is rounding into form and showing its true colors. But bringing in an arm via trade would still be a welcome addition. Brad Hand or Zach Britton would be great acquisitions, just saying.
Off the field, the big news is that the Phillies are reportedly out of the Manny Machado sweepstakes. I’m guessing they are just biding their time to make a run at him in the offseason, but I just hope this doesn’t come back to bite them if he ends up with another National League contender like Arizona, LA or Atlanta, which is the worst-case scenario.
Machado coming over to the NL could shift the balance of power. The Phillies have the long game in mind, and that’s their prerogative, but it will be a tough pill to swallow if Machado has a direct hand in eliminating them and/or takes his new team to the World Series.
Because it seems like a Machado trade somewhere else is pretty imminent, the Phillies had better speed things up if they want to acquire Mike Moustakas, whose asking price will only go up once Machado is off the market. That Adrian Beltre talk from last week seems like it was baseless and that he wants to stay in Texas, so Moustakas would be the best third base option after Machado if the Phillies are actually serious about it.
The Phillies are also now linked to Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield, and I have no idea why. The guy is a nice player, but he doesn’t seem to fit what the Phillies need at the moment. The Phils are getting many of the same things that Merrifield brings to the table from Cesar Hernandez already. Merrifield is cheaper and is under team control for longer, but that just serves to make any potential asking price even higher.
Would the plan be to bring Merrifield in as insurance in case of a Hernandez injury or a slump from rookies JP Crawford or Scott Kingery? If they were to shift Merrifield to third, there would be a real dearth of power in the team’s infield. Anyhow, there are more questions than answers, so I’d rather not see any of this come to fruition.
Finally, it’s not all sunshine in the Phillies’ rotation, as Nick Pivetta has seen his ERA rise by more than a run in the last month. As we’ve learned time and time again, you can never have too deep of a rotation, so maybe it’s time to have an informal competition between Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin. Matt Klentak should be placing a call to the Rangers so that Cole Hamels can take the spot of the last-place finisher. It almost makes too much sense.
More than likely, the Phillies end up making a move for someone who isn’t even mentioned here. Regardless, something has to be done, because this team is too good for management to stand pat. The right move could make all the difference.
Published July 5, 2018
First and foremost, the unexpectedly outstanding starting pitching that the Phillies have received this season continues to be the #1 reason that they find themselves in a playoff spot more than halfway through their schedule. But there has to be a little more to it than that.
So I took a look at the offense, which has shown some spurts but remains maddeningly inconsistent. Digging into some expanded stats hoping to find some hidden gem that explains how they have been able to get the job done, there wasn’t much there. The Phillies’ offense is middle-of-the-pack in just about everything, and maybe that makes sense. Outstanding pitching + average offense = 9th best record in baseball, right?
But there was one thing that stood out. The saving grace for the Phillies’ offense has been their ability to work the count and force opposing pitchers to throw as many pitches as possible. It leads to long games and a product that isn’t always the most entertaining thing. But this is exactly the way that Gabe Kapler wants it to be, and it’s paying off.
The last Phillies player to walk 100 times in a season was Pat Burrell, wayyyy back in 2008. In the decade since then, Jayson Werth had a couple seasons with 80+ free passes, but nobody else has hit that number. In the last five years especially, the team’s walk totals have been embarrassingly low. No, fans aren’t clamoring to see this stuff, but it’s the kind of thing that wins ballgames. And this year, the Phillies will have two, and possibly even three, players reach the century mark for bases on balls.
Carlos Santana, despite a slow start and a batting average that even now sits at a less than ideal .223, has shown tremendous value with his ability to take pitches, work the count and ultimately get on base. His 65 walks are third in the NL behind only Bryce Harper and Joey Votto, and it bumps his on-base % up into a range with a group of players whose batting average is 40 to 50 points higher than him.
The steadying influence of Cesar Hernandez also can’t be overstated. He’s walked 57 times and has seen 1644 pitches this year, tops in the National League. Hernandez faces an uncertain future in the Phillies’ plans, but has done himself a big favor with his play this year.
Santana ranks fifth in the NL in number of pitches seen, and Rhys Hoskins also places fairly high as well, sitting at 16th despite his time on the DL last month.
All three of these guys are in the top 10 in walks among National League hitters and, as mentioned, may very well hit the 100-walk mark for the season. Nobody is going to throw a big party when any of them reach that plateau, but it would be an impressive achievement nonetheless for an offense to execute its manager’s strategy so efficiently. There probably won’t be more than about twelve players in all of baseball reach 100 walks this season, so the Phillies are succeeding greatly in this area.
One player who actually does not walk very much but still sees a ton of pitches is our good buddy Odubel Herrera, who might be the biggest enigma in baseball. He’s scorching for a week, and then goes hitless in 24 at bats. He makes an incredible play, and then loafs to first base on a dropped third strike. By this point, let’s just accept him for who he is and what he brings to the table. This looks like his finest season yet, and the Phillies are getting tremendous value in relation to his salary.
The Phillies need to keep winning games by attrition, with their offense wearing down opposing pitchers by taking pitches and fouling balls off. It’s simplistic. It’s boring. But it’s working.
The team lived through its gauntlet of difficult games, and now it will hopefully feast on some subpar opponents. The two-game sweep of Baltimore was a good start, and it needs to continue its approach at the plate to keep things going.
Good pitching doesn’t hurt either.
Carlos Santana is better at taking than hitting.
Published July 3, 2018
In the Phillies’ last game on Sunday, Andrew Knapp played the hero with a walk-off home run in the 13th inning. It was great to see, especially coming from a player who is…not that good. So, we here at Philly Sports Complex (me) went back to find out what other unlikely, and often subpar, Phils have walked things off with home runs going back to 2004, the first season of Citizens Bank Park.
Doug Glanville (4/18/04)
The Phillies’ first ever walk-off win of any kind at Citizens Bank Park came when Doug Glanville led off the bottom of the 9th with a home run against Rocky Biddle to beat the Expos. And that sounded like the fakest sentence in the history of baseball.
Tomas Perez (5/28/04)
Harry Kalas called him “the greatest utility player of all time” or something like that, meaning that he’s about the 11,000th best player ever. But on this day, he had to cream pie himself (um) after hitting a game-winning dinger against future Phillie Antonio “El Pulpo” Alfonseca, whose twelve fingers and twelve toes weren’t enough to keep Perez in the yard.
Placido Polanco (8/28/04)
Polanco was a good hitter who didn’t put balls in the seats all too frequently. But facing another future Phillie in Mike Adams on this particular Saturday night, he capped off a Phillies comeback with the long ball. This would be the Phillies’ final walk-off win of any kind in their inaugural year at CBP.
Brian Schneider (7/8/10)
The Phillies went a good long time without any unlikely HR heroes, as all of their walk-offs came from Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and the like for a few years. And so it was really surprising to see backup catcher Brian Schneider, who had eight homers in three seasons with the team, win this one for the Phils in the opening game of a series against the Reds. It ended up being the first of three straight walk-off wins for the team that series.
Freddy Galvis (5/19/13)
Based on the situation, this is probably the unlikeliest of the home runs on this list. With the Phillies trailing the Reds 2-1 entering the bottom of the 9th, in came Reds fireballer Aroldis Chapman, the most dominant relief pitcher of the decade. Delmon Young (remember him?) led off the inning with a walk. He was then pinch run for by Cliff Lee, who got picked off! What? But then Erik Kratz homered to tie the game, and Galvis followed it by doinking one off the left field foul pole for the win. Crazy stuff.
John Mayberry Jr. (6/4/13)
The Phillies crammed Mayberry down our throats for parts of SIX seasons, believe it or not. This particular night qualified as one of the very few highlights. Entering the game as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 10th with the Phillies down 3-2, Mayberry homered to tie the game. An inning later, he hit a walk-off grand slam for the win. So that’s 5 RBI in extra innings in a game where he didn’t even start. That has to be some kind of record, and I’m declaring it as such.
Kevin Frandsen (6/22/13)
Before his days in the Phillies’ radio booth, Frandsen hit his only career walk-off home run on this date, and in pinch hit fashion no less, to beat the Mets. It made an undeserving winner out of Jonathan Papelbon, who had pissed away a 2-run lead in the top of the 9th.
Reid Brignac (6/11/14)
Do you remember this guy appearing in 37 games for the Phillies in 2014? Of course you don’t. At least he made his only home run as a Phil count, nailing a 3-run home run deep to right field in the bottom of the 9th of a previously scoreless game vs. San Diego.
Cody Asche (9/12/14 & 9/12/15)
Amazingly, Asche walked things off on September 12 two years in a row with 2-run shots each time. They are the only two walk-off homers of his career so far. And in case you’re wondering, on September 12, 2016, he went 1 for 2 but did not homer in an easy Phils win. Also, he stinks.
Published July 2, 2018
The NBA and NHL free agent frenzies kicked off Sunday with an absurd number of contracts being handed out. One of those contacts was a 5-year, $35 million-dollar deal given to former Flyer James van Riemsdyk. For those of you who forgot who JVR was, google the 2007 NHL draft and look at the name underneath 3-time Stanley Cup winner and future Hall of Famer Patrick Kane. All done? Great, now let’s get into why this signing does little to improve the Flyers.
Anyone who was brave enough to endure the agony of watching the Flyers/Penguins series this past April quickly realized that the Flyers had a multitude of issues. Sid and company exposed the orange and black’s terrible penalty killing units, porous defense, lack of secondary scoring and abysmal goaltending.
So, what does General Manager Ron Hextall go out and do during the first day of free agency? He signs a power forward to a 5-year deal. Are you kidding me?
This is the masterful move that is going to get the Flyers over the hump, giving a contract to a player that marginally helps the team’s forward depth? This is not a bad deal for a top-6 player, it’s just not needed.
The job of a general manager is one that is supposed to assess areas of need and fill in those gaps. The Flyers already have a top-6 power forward in Wayne Simmonds and one on the rise in Oskar Lindblom. I’m not sure what Hextall was thinking with this signing, but he clearly did not think to fill in any areas of need. With JVR in the fold, let’s take a look at the potential Flyers 2018-2019 opening day forward lines:
Konecny – Couturier – Giroux
van Riemsdyk – Patrick – Voracek
Raffl – Laughton – Simmonds
Weal - Lehtera – Leier
The one glaring omission in this lineup is Lindblom. Since he is a developing young player, there is no reason for him to play on the fourth line and get less than 10 minutes a night. He is better suited to go back to Lehigh Valley and continue to work on his game. Had JVR not been signed, I would have slotted him in on the second line, as a Lindblom-Patrick-Voracek line would be a solid second unit.
Considering the Flyers had around $22.6 million to spend, here is how Hextall should have used this money to improve this lineup:
Konecny – Couturier – Giroux
Simmonds – Patrick – Voracek
Nash – Stastny – Grabner
Weal - Laughton – Leier
Now, this lineup is purely a fantasy with Stastny and Grabner, given that both players have signed elsewhere. Hexy should have given Paul Stastny 3 years for $21 million ($7 million per year), Mikael Grabner 3 years for $7.5 million ($2.5 million per year) and Rick Nash 2 years for $5 million ($2.5 million per year), totaling $12 million per year.
All of these contracts are three years or less, which is critical for two reasons. First, the Flyers have an abundance of young, talented forwards and defensemen that are going to get paid sooner rather than later. This bridges the gap until these players are ready to come up, as their contracts will expire by the time the Flyers need the cap space to re-sign the younger guys to long term deals. Secondly, by the time Seattle’s expansion draft comes around in 2020, the Flyers have the option to leave any of these players exposed if they are not living up to their contracts.
The addition of these three players would have filled many holes in the Flyers’ lineup. It gives them a 1-2-3 punch down the middle, helping them compete with the likes of the Pens, Caps, Lightning and now Leafs.
Grabner adds a bit of scoring on the third line and drastically improves their penalty kill, something the Flyers needed to improve if they are going to become a serious Cup contender. This also bolsters their second power play unit, which was a monumental drop off from their first unit.
While this does not fix their defense or goaltending, it would give them more depth and greater offensive firepower while adding more veteran presence. Once again, this is a move that knocks Lindblom back to the minors for the next one to two years, but the benefit of him refining his game can be a blessing in disguise.
This is the first time Hextall had major money to spend in free agency, and he mismanaged it. This team is marginally better than the one that got obliterated by the Pens in 6 games, getting booed off the ice for all three home playoff games. With major players off the board and more dominos falling by the second, here is what Hextall needs to do to salvage this offseason:
Konecny – Couturier – Giroux
van Riemsdyk – Patrick – Voracek
Rick Nash – Riley Nash – Simmonds
Duclair - Laughton – Leier
Provorov – Gostisbehere
Sanheim - Enstrom
Gudas – Hagg
Elliott – Neuvirth
Signing Rick Nash 2 years for $5 million ($2.5 million annual), Riley Nash 3 years for $6 million ($2 million annual), Anthony Duclair 2 years for $1.5 million ($750k annual) and Tobias Enstrom 2 years for $4 million ($2 million annual).
The total cost per year for these players is $7.25 million. Coupling that with JVR’s contract, the Flyers will have spent $14.25 million out of the $22.6 million available, but they gained valuable assets. Adding Rick Nash on a third line with Simmonds is downright scary, even with Nash on the decline. If he can still manage to score 20 goals per season for two years, that’s great value.
Riley Nash had a breakout year for Boston last season and, being only 27, he’s worth the gamble. Duclair was a top prospect for the Rangers just four years ago and could use a fresh start after bouncing around from New York to Arizona to Chicago.
Adding defensive depth with the oft-injured Enstrom is a bit of a risk, but when he is in the lineup, he brings speed, playmaking ability and a veteran presence that the Flyers youth’ could use. With these signings, a few veteran Flyers players get moved around in the shuffle. Andrew MacDonald becomes the 7th defenseman, Michael Raffl and Jori Lehtera move to depth forward roles, and Weal, Weise and Lindblom are relegated back to the minors.
With Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Travis Konecny and Scott Laughton all RFA’s next year, it will be prudent for Hextall to use some of the remaining cap space to re-sign a few of them, before their value soars next offseason.
With day 2 of free agency looming ahead, it will be interesting to see which dominos fall next. We can only hope Hextall has a plan, because if this is his only signing, Flyers fans are in for another season of suffering.
Editor’s Note: Riley Nash has signed a 3-year, $8.25 million contract with Columbus.
Published July 1, 2018
It’s not totally official yet, but all indications are that the Flyers will be bringing left wing James van Riemsdyk back to town on a 5-year contract, ostensibly reversing the 2012 turd of a trade where they shipped him to Toronto for dud defenseman Luke Schenn.
So we can all polish off our old JVR jerseys, although I have to believe that he’ll wear #25 this time around after donning it the last few seasons in Toronto. Scott Laughton, while not exactly setting the world on fire, probably has too much seniority under his belt by now to be forced to give up van Riemsdyk’s old #21, although I guess a deal can always be struck.
More importantly, let’s examine his impact on the ice.
They are certainly paying him first line money, but the top unit in theory should remain Giroux-Couturier-Konecny. So I’d like to see him slotted in on the de facto “second line” with Nolan Patrick and Jakub Voracek. This gives the Flyers a formidable top six forward group.
JVR’s presence probably most directly affects Wayne Simmonds in terms of quality of linemates and time on the power play. Simmonds has been a good soldier for the Flyers, but this upcoming season very well may be his last with the team. He’s only a year older than van Riemsdyk, but he has some hard miles on him, and he seems to be regressing while JVR is (hopefully) settling into peak performance years. Relying less on Simmonds seems like the right way to go, although he can probably still punch in 20 goals in a reduced role with reasonable health.
Speaking of performance, it’s likely that the Flyers will be overpaying JVR for the last year or two of his contract. But they’re banking on him earning every bit of his reported $7 million salary in the first few years because, man, do they really need the net presence and finishing ability that he showed in his six years in Toronto.
Strangely, van Riemsdyk was able to post two of his three highest goal-scoring seasons in the last two years despite a decrease in ice time. In fact, his average of 14:54 per game last year was less than the 15:10 he managed in his final season as a Flyer the first time around, when he was a third-year NHL player.
Toronto has developed an explosive young group of forwards in the last couple years, which partly explains his cut in ice time. But you have to wonder what Leafs coach Mike Babcock was thinking by giving a 36-goal man less than 15 minutes per game when players like Leo Komarov (7 goals), Tyler Bozak (11) and Connor Brown (14) were receiving more than that. At any rate, Toronto’s loss is the Flyers’ gain, and you can expect him to get 18 minutes a night with regularity, including ample time on the power play.
You really have to like this move and give Ron Hextall some credit. Yes, the dollar value is steep, but the Flyers have the cap room now. And when the salary cap (presumably) goes up over the next few years, the fixed dollar value of JVR’s contract will take up a smaller percentage of the amount they can spend.
This move makes them better and deeper. Now it’s time to hand things over to Carter Hart in net. And patch up the defense; it reminds me too much of the Phillies’ bullpen.