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 June 30, 2018
For the uninitiated, July 1 has been the start of free agency in the NHL for a number of years. There is a several day-long “window” preceding it where teams can talk to unrestricted free agents, but no signings can officially happen until noon on July 1. And I have to say, I’m concerned that I haven’t heard the Flyers even MENTIONED in conversations regarding any of the top free agents.
I didn’t expect them to make a run at John Tavares or anything, and apparently he didn’t even want to entertain the idea of coming to Philadelphia. And while I don’t want the team to overpay for some other free agent that doesn’t fit just because they have the money to do it, I’m left wondering if the Flyers are simply an unappealing destination for players to come to.
It didn’t used to be this way, of course. Ed Snider would throw money at literally everyone back in the pre-salary cap era where the Flyers were always one of the three or four highest-spending teams. But everybody has had to play by the same rules for a while now, and so things frequently come down to where a player wants to go since the money tends to be roughly equal across the board.
The Flyers have been an also-ran for half a decade now, and this raises the classic “chicken and the egg” scenario: Do they have to get good and show some progress so that players want to come play here? Or do they have to go out and get players first so that they can then achieve success? Obviously, GM Ron Hextall is banking heavily on the former, as his slow-burn approach over the last few years has shown us. And maybe it’s actually wise for the Flyers to sit things out on July 1, because an examination of their “opening day of free agency” moves since the lockout of 2004-05 reveals that they don’t have much to show for their forays into that market.
Here’s a list of their “biggest moves” since 2006 and a ranking on a scale of 1 to 10 of how much of an impact they had…
2006 – Nolan Baumgartner
The Flyers gave a depth defenseman a 2-year, $2.4 million contract. He was terrible. They sent him to the Phantoms after six games. Later in the season, they waived him. This was notably one of the last signings that Bob Clarke made, as he stepped down as GM during the disastrous season that followed. Impact: 0
2007 – Danny Briere
The Flyers broke the bank to land coveted free agent Briere, along with some other big moves, in the summer of 2007. The team went from last overall to the Eastern Conference Finals in Briere’s first season, so obviously it worked to some degree. Briere was also stellar in the team’s run to the Cup Final two years later. In six seasons with the team, he put up good, not great numbers. Impact: 7
2008 – Ossi Vaananan, Glen Metropolit
The Flyers signed a slew of spare parts, most notably these two guys. Both were waived before the season ended, oddly due in large part to Danny Briere. When a player is injured, as Briere was for much of that season, his salary does not count against the NHL’s cap. But when he returned, the Flyers had to slash money to get back under the maximum, and these guys were two casualties. Impact: 1
2009 – Brian Boucher, Ian Laperriere
The Flyers brought back Boucher after a seven-year separation, and he would go on to play an unexpected key part in the team’s long playoff run that year. He would of course have 37 other stints as a Flyer. “Lappy” provided the typical toughness the Flyers have always coveted, but saw his career end when he took a slapshot to the head in the playoffs. Impact: 5
2010 – Sean O’Donnell, Jody Shelley
A 38-year old defenseman with 1700 career penalty minutes and a 34-year old goon winger with over 1300 penalty minutes. I think you know how this turned out. Impact: 1
2011 – Jaromir Jagr, Max Talbot
Jagr was very good when healthy in his lone season as a Flyer, while Talbot was a nice depth forward addition who stuck around for a few more years. Impact: 4
2012, 2013 – No outside free agents signed on July 1
2014 – Ray Emery, Rob Zepp, Blair Jones
This one is notable because it was the first foray into free agency for Ron Hextall, who was elevated to the GM position a few weeks earlier. Emery was technically being re-signed after playing the previous year with the Flyers. He was awful. Zepp played 10 games in goal for the Flyers that year and was iffy. Jones played a grand total of four games. Impact: 1
2015 – Michal Neuvirth
This is probably a win overall for Hextall and the Flyers, but injuries and platoon situations have limited Neuvirth to just 88 combined regular season and playoff games in three years to this point. Impact: 4
2016 – Dale Weise
Along with some other stiffs the Flyers signed at the beginning of free agency that season for some reason, they brought in Weise. He has been nearly invisible for two years, netting a total of 23 points in 110 games. Fail. Impact: 1
2017 – Brian Elliott
The next #1 goalie on the carousel, Elliott was a reasonable signing. It looks like the Flyers are going to run with him and Neuvirth again this year. Let’s just hope there are more ups than downs. Impact: 3
So there you have it. Not every signing can be a home run, but the cupboard has been really bare for a decade now, although a lot of that was due to bad contracts and salary cap constraints that Hextall and the Flyers are just now extricating themselves from.
You can’t really blame them for being cautious and not wanting to put themselves in a tight spot again with a terrible signing, but it feels like they’re sitting on their hands. They don’t have the recent success of division rivals Pittsburgh and Washington that will attract free agents. Hell, they don’t even have the cache of San Jose and Nashville right now. Players aren’t jumping out of their skates to play here.
So, I fully expect that the Flyers won’t do anything big on July 1 (or the days following). They’ll probably just add some depth pieces, throw orange sweaters on them, and hope it all pans out.
But Hextall, like Phillies GM Matt Klentak, has to know that a splash is needed at some point. Let’s just hope he’s picking his spot and has a specific strategy that will pay off. The sooner the better.
The Flyers have made a mess of free agency in the past. I don’t long for those days, but at least it felt like they were trying to make the team better, no matter how misguided a move might have been. Let’s be smart about it, but something has to happen to bring some excitement back into this franchise and its fanbase.
Published June 27, 2018
I’m not saying that I want the Phillies to get smoked by the Yankees again. But maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen.
Because the last two nights have shown that they still have a ways to go. Yes, the baseball season is interminably long and “anybody can beat anybody”, but you didn’t need to see very much of the last two nights to realize that the Phillies are lacking. It’s been a successful first half, but it’s starting to feel like the slide is coming.
So before things get out of hand, maybe Matt Klentak can do something.
The Phillies’ GM has taken a laissez faire approach to general managing that any of us could have done over the last two and a half seasons. Now, with the team actually seeing some success and in need of help from upstairs, he has yet to do anything to supplement a core put together almost exclusively by Ruben Amaro Jr.
Yes, Ruben Amaro Jr. is getting credit here. Now let’s move on.
Other than giving someone else’s money to Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta, which didn’t take much legwork or brain power, Klentak has really soaked it in and taken his sweet old time. Maybe a big move is right around the corner and he’ll wow us, but I doubt it. Really, all the guy needs to do is read my article from last week about how the Phillies need Manny Machado immediately.
But without delving back into all of that, the facts is that the Phillies have a real chance to do something in the National League this year. The Dodgers, Cubs and Nationals all seem mortal, and nobody is really scared by the Braves or Brewers. Get hot at the right time and who knows what could happen.
Theoretically, the Phillies’ “championship window” is just opening. And they should, emphasis on “should”, be major players in the free agency market after this season. But it feels an awful lot like management will be happy if this team merely hangs around the playoff race but then ultimately finishes a few games out with something like 84 wins. They’ll call it progress, and they’re right. But it will have been a missed opportunity. A big one.
The time to make trades is now, not a month from now with the deadline looming and widespread demand for certain players driving prices up higher. Hopefully, analytics will agree with this and Klentak will step up and do something.
The Phillies have some obvious shortcomings, and they can’t all be addressed with in-season moves. But a GM is at least supposed to try and make his team better, right? At this point, Klentak has done even less than Flyers GM Ron Hextall. He’ll get his own article soon enough, don’t worry.
So, let’s not be happy with mere progress this season. Future success isn’t guaranteed; the team needs to at least take a shot this year. Klentak owes it to the team and its fans to do his job. I hope he gets on it soon.
What, Me GM?
Published June 25, 2018
Man, and just when we were all starting to feel really good about the Phillies. And it was the bullpen, again.
By no means should Sunday night’s collapse in an 8-6 loss on national TV (in front of probably about 200 people that were still watching) put a damper on the way the team played by and large against the Nationals this weekend, but timing is everything. And to end the series on such a sour note stings.
This time it was the suddenly very hittable Seranthony Dominguez surrendering the lead on a night where the bullpen gave up six runs in five innings after it had allowed just a lone run in seven innings over the series’ first two games. It looked like they were working things out, but it wasn’t the case.
Still, let’s not let the offense off the hook either, as they were held scoreless after the fifth inning, managing only two hits in the process. Rhys Hoskins, Odubel Herrera and Nick Williams all had big hits earlier in the game, but the team came up dry when the Nats made their charge.
The pluses ultimately outweigh the minuses from the series, but Sunday night should serve as a wakeup call that there is work yet to be done and that the Nationals are still in it for the long haul. This is likely to be a three team race with Atlanta well into September. And the Phillies have to get better at kicking teams when they're down.
The Phillies were fortunate to avoid Max Scherzer and Gio Gonzalez in this series (not to mention the injured Stephen Strasburg), but they won’t be so lucky when the teams meet again in Philadelphia later this week. Those guys will present a much bigger challenge than the unproven starters who trotted out there this weekend for the Nationals. So, kudos to the Phillies for largely exploiting Washington’s starting pitching in the series, but a bigger test lurks in a few days.
Let’s also hope that last night’s three-double performance by Bryce Harper didn’t ignite a spark in him after he had been looking lost at the plate recently. Time will tell.
But, all in all, the Phillies showed that they can go toe-to-toe with the Nationals. The teams have split their first six meetings this year, all in DC, and will meet THIRTEEN more times still, ten of which are in Philadelphia. We all have to feel good about that.
Last night, while annoying, can ultimately be a blip on the radar. The Phillies have already shown the ability to put bad losses behind them this season. Of course, we’d all rather they not happen in the first place, but maybe Gabe Kapler is some kind of expert at making them into learning experiences. I have no idea.
Bottom line, the team is 41-34, and none of us expected that. You’re a liar if you say otherwise. A 10-game homestand starts tonight and is an excellent opportunity for the team to begin to separate themselves from the pack. If they keep playing the way they have been, and get a little more help from their bullpen, they’ll continue to be a factor in the playoff race.
Published June 21, 2018
Every NBA general manager is playing poker right now. And no matter how much time each GM spends studying the possibilities or looking at the cards they’ve been dealt, Lady Luck will still play a sizable part in the outcome.
The goal should be to get at least one impact player every draft. That could be by using a draft pick, by trading for a drafted player, or by trading for an NBA veteran. To borrow a baseball phrase, you should try to hit singles and doubles as opposed to going for the home run all the time and striking out a ton. Many general managers often swing for the fences and sometimes it works out great down the road when that player develops into something special (see: Joel Embiid or Giannis Antetokounmpo). But often times that risk backfires and it gets you fired (see: Greg Oden over Kevin Durant; Michael Olowakandi; the Timberwolves picking Ricky Rubio AND Johnny Flynn in front of Steph Curry, etc.).
On a scale of Ace to Joker, here’s my ranking of the best possible draft outcomes for the Sixers this week.
The Ace in the Hole: Kawhi Leonard - Via Trade
Kawhi turns only 27 next week on June 29th and apparently he wants a new team and city for his birthday present. On paper, he would fit in extremely well in Philadelphia for many reasons. He is a relentless hard-worker who doesn’t care much about the spotlight and just wants to improve his game by going out and dominating on both ends of the floor. He rarely grants interviews and is a very soft-spoken guy. That’s part of the reason why the rumors about him going to Los Angeles don’t make much sense. Yes, he grew up in Southern California and went to San Diego State but when you think about the bright lights of Hollywood you do NOT think Kawhi Leonard. His personality fits way better with the hard-working stereotype of Philadelphians.
Kawhi would also fit in extremely well in the Sixers system. Pair him with Embiid and Ben Simmons and that is a scary trio on both sides of the floor. He is a 2-time Defensive Player of the Year and the 2014 NBA Finals MVP. He has already shown the ability to stifle the other team’s best player on defense while doubling as the number-one scoring option on the other end of the floor.
The Spurs would also get the bonus of sending Leonard out of the Western Conference and would have to get some type of combination of the 10th overall pick, the 26th pick, Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric and/or Robert Covington to start a rebuild. (Note: I’d like to keep Saric but the Spurs aren’t going to just give Kawhi away). Oh and Kawhi’s been injured a lot this past year but he’s an All-NBA player when healthy - so clearly he would fit right in with the Sixers. Not sure if Philly does this without a contract extension ironed out but it might be worth it to wine and dine Kawhi for a year with the culture Brown has cultivated. #KawhiNot?
King James: LeBron Via Trade
This is probably a pipe dream but it would be a way for James to stay in the East, join Embiid and his buddy Simmons (who has the same representation as LeBron), and fade into the sunset with a couple more NBA Finals appearances against the Warriors as the grizzled old veteran.
Before you start freaking out about how insane I am to put LeBron under Kawhi in my rankings, allow me to remind you about two things. First, Lebron is 33 years old, Kawhi is turning 27, and Father Time is undefeated. I believe LeBron’s best years are behind him and this would be a classic move that looks better on paper as opposed to reality. I’d rather have Kawhi in his prime for five or six years than a past-his-prime LeBron for two or three (although I realize most of us would gladly flip a coin, buckle our seat belts and take either to be honest). Secondly, LeBron will bring the national media circus with him while Kawhi isn’t that talkative in general.
Queen Of The Chessboard: Luka Doncic – Guard – Real Madrid (Slovenia)
Full disclosure - I believe Doncic is the best player in this draft. Philly would need to do a deal either with the Kings at 2 or more likely the Grizzlies at 4. They would probably have to give up multiple draft picks, Fultz and at least one more player you don’t want them to send away, BUT Doncic would fit in well with the Sixers and supply much needed scoring and playmaking ability. The 19-year-old has drawn comparisons to James Harden and Manu Ginobili and was dominating overseas against good competition. He would be the latest international character to blend with the Sixers unique chemistry in Brett Brown’s continuing quest to create Spurs-East. My only concern would be that he would have to play off the ball more with Simmons running point and Doncic strikes me as a guy that usually runs the show. But wouldn’t you rather have two guys fully capable of that like the Warriors and Rockets do? Harden and CP3 did just fine. Simmons would basically be the point forward like LeBron and Draymond are when Doncic brings the ball up, and Simmons can head to the post a little bit more when matchups dictate. The Kings don’t have their first round pick next year so they might want to pick up extra selections to help rebuild their team, and the Grizz are still recovering from the Chandler Parsons Project. Philly may have to eat Parsons' ridiculous salary but they’re one of the handful of teams that could actually do that. I don’t see this as a likely outcome either but stranger things have happened.
Jack-ed Up: Kevin Knox – Forward – Kentucky
He’s drawing some comparisons to Jayson Tatum in both his physical stature and actual style of play. Similar to Tatum, the 6’9" Wildcat can attack the rim, stretch the defense from the outside and create off the dribble. Last year, I likened Tatum to a leaner, junior version of Carmelo Anthony as a scoring combo forward. Not expecting Knox to be as good as Tatum was during his rookie campaign, but the Sixers have had Knox in twice for workouts and I think he’s one of their main targets. John Calipari gets his guys to the NBA and most of them stick. You could field a pretty good squad with John Wall, Devin Booker and Anthony Davis leading an all-NBA Kentucky Wildcats team. They’d be better than the Suns or Kings that’s for sure. And yes, I have actually tried to do that in NBA 2K17 and the Kentucky Suns still stink.
Staying Put At 10: - Mikal Bridges – Forward – Villanova
The storyline is almost too perfect. Local guy from a local high school wins the NCAA title at a local university while his mother works for the local NBA franchise. Then that franchise drafts said local player who helps his childhood team win its first NBA title in over 35 years. I really want the Sixers to pick this Bridges, but my gut is that he won’t be there at 10. The Knicks and Cavs appear interested as well and they pick right before Philly. Bottom line is Mikal is a 3-and-D guy who improved every season under Jay Wright at Villanova and reminds me of a glue player in a similar mold to Shane Battier. Would be a great fit in Philly.
Number 9… Number 9… Number 9: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Forward - Kentucky
In this case, SGA doesn’t stand for Student Government Association. It stands for a guy who does three things really well on the court. SGA picks pockets, runs the floor well and can use his left-hand deceptively to score around the basket. Not sold on his shooting range but he can contribute defensively right away. I don’t think the Sixers will get him, but the Wells Fargo Center would go nuts every time he forced a steal by playing the passing lanes. He and Embiid would be quite a defensive tandem. Word is the Raptors love him and are trying to trade up to bring him back to his hometown of Toronto. I think the Knicks might grab him though at 9 if Trae Young and Mikal Bridges are already off the board.
Crazy Eight: Miles Bridges – Forward – Michigan State
Okay it’s confession time. I am a huge fan of Michigan State forwards who develop under Tom Izzo. But for every Draymond Green there’s an Adrian Payne. This Bridges would be a sneaky good pick and I believe he is way too low on most mock drafts I’ve seen. I think he’s an impact rotation player right away with potential to grow into a legit NBA starter. Another glue guy in the mold of Tobias Harris who could be a - wait for it - bridge to a championship team.
Lucky Seven: Chandler Hutchison – Forward – Boise State
Sometimes the Mountain West gets a bad rap as being a subpar league. Other times NBA teams get lucky and find guys that develop like Kawhi Leonard (SDSU) and Larry Nance Jr. (Wyoming). Hutchison is a 6’7” swingman who loves to let it fly and projects as a 3-and-D guy. He averaged over 20 points per contest and moved with a certain smoothness on the floor. His athleticism will have many teams drooling. He’s not afraid to shoot but I think being more of a role player on a good team will actually make things easier on him as opposed to forcing shots and trying to carry the entire offense like he did in Boise. The Sixers, Blazers, or Jazz would be a great landing spot for him.
Former Six-er Connection: Aaron Holiday – Guard –UCLA
The younger brother of former Sixers guard Jrue Holiday would be an interesting fit in Philly. He can rain threes from long distance which would help out immediately and he can do so in a variety of ways whether it’s off the dribble or coming off a screen. He averaged close to 20 points and six assists as a junior on a subpar Bruins team, and his passing ability might attract interim-GM Brett Brown. Something tells me the Sixers will pick Holiday if they trade back in the draft, especially if Knox and both Bridges are gone in the first nine selections.
High Five: Donte DiVincenzo – Guard – Villanova
Jay Wright called him “the Michael Jordan of Delaware.” Gus Johnson called him “the Big Ragu.” There’s been a lot of hype but I still call him a late first round steal if you can get him in the 20s, but lets not get too crazy. He had an unreal performance in the 2018 National Championship game, coming off the bench to score 18 of Villanova’s first 32 points, came up with two huge blocks and hit five treys on his way to a game-high 31 points. It was the most points scored in a title game since Arizona’s Miles Simon in 1997. Okay that’s pretty legit.
We know he can shoot the three, and we know he can shine on the big stage. I mean, that scoring bonanza wasn’t just One Shining Moment – he averaged 13 points and five rebounds per game this past year and shot 40 percent from downtown. His free throw shooting is surprisingly suspect (only 71%) but he has cajones, if you know what I mean. He’s not afraid of the big shot. I think he projects as a Jamal Crawford type - which would translate into a fine pro career and lots of high fives to go around.
Four-itude: Javon Carter – Guard – West Virginia
This guy is the next Patrick Beverley. An absolute pest for ball-handlers with an endless motor would give the Sixers a completely different type of guard compared to Simmons and McConnell (I’m sorry I’m not counting on anything from Fultz). Carter worked his way from being an unranked high school recruit to an All-American under the one-and-only Bob Huggins at “Press Virginia.” You need someone to change the dynamic of a game when the Sixers are in a slump on some random night in Atlanta in November? Throw in Carter and he’ll force a couple turnovers and give your squad a boost. Bonus points if he makes some baskets – which he can. He shot 39 percent from behind the arc and averaged 17 points per game in the Big 12 while excelling in making solid pick-and-roll decisions. I’d gladly take him 26th overall.
Three-Cola: Trae Young – Guard – Oklahoma
Let’s get one thing straight. There will never be another Steph Curry. Unless Steve Nash and Reggie Miller have a baby or if “Star Wars: Episode 72 - Attack of the Basketball Clones” gets released in theaters. So Trae Young is not Steph Curry. I don’t think he’s even Seth Curry. He might actually be more like Eddie House which means he’s basically a sixth man off the bench who can get hot and score buckets but will be a defensive liability. Loved him in college and I want to see him succeed, but I don’t think he will do that well in the league. Ironically, he might actually fit on the Sixers as an off-the-bench scorer who can play five minutes at a time and give the second unit a lift while his teammates help back him up on defense. But in the playoffs he would be close to unplayable. He would need to make a shot every trip down to justify getting roasted BBQ-chicken style on the defensive end. I liked Jimmer Fredette a lot too out of college and that might be the best comparison.
Deuces are Wild: Grayson Allen – Guard - Duke
Allen can shoot but also struggles on defense and can be the whipping boy for opposing fan bases. If he winds up on the Celtics or Lakers, I bet he’ll be good and super annoying, but if he lands on the Sixers, I’d be more worried about him tripping teammates in practice, which will surely help team chemistry. Get ready for one of the NBA’s new villains even if it’s in a minor role off the bench for a middling franchise (hopefully not based in the City of Brotherly Love).
Joker: What if the Sixers brass changes its mind and decides to bring back Bryan Colangelo as general manager? I envision Screaming A. Smith freaking out on national television, followed by Adrian Wojnarowski dropping a WojBomb that BC has promptly traded the 10th overall pick to the Warriors for two meaningless future second round picks. Minutes later, Adam Silver announces Philadelphia is forced to forfeit the 26th overall pick, because Colangelo’s 76th burner account has been identified as “@B4BC_Had2_RustTheProcess.” Colangelo of course tweeted out that the Sixers were infatuated with adding free agent Zaza Pachulia to the roster for some reason. Undeterred, Colangelo hires Markelle Fultz’s sister Shauntese as an assistant shot doctor to “unlock” her brother’s untapped potential. He then signs Pachulia anyway who later accidentally steps on Embiid’s right foot in the first practice of the season, causing Embiid to miss the entire upcoming season. Just kidding (I hope).
Published June 20, 2018
Phillies third baseman/guy they don’t know what to do with JP Crawford got hit by a pitch and broke his hand last night, and he’s now expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Presumably, Maikel Franco will regain a full-time job at the hot corner in his stead as the Phillies try to keep pace with Atlanta and Washington in the NL East while also dealing with other teams in the pursuit of a potential wild card berth.
Crawford’s absence from the lineup can hardly be viewed as devastating thanks to his .194 average so far this season and the fact that the Phillies already carried on without him for a month earlier in the year. But it’s yet another snag in his development, and the lost time could cost the Phillies dearly as it further thins out their lineup and forces a player, Franco, who clearly has fallen out of favor with his manager into everyday duty.
The answer is simple. Trade for Manny Machado. ASAP. I didn’t say it would be easy to do, but it’s clear as day that he is exactly what the team needs, now and going forward.
The starting pitching has given you more than you could possibly have expected, so there’s no improving upon it at this moment. And I won’t even get into the shortcomings of the bullpen. Maybe Pat Neshek coming back is the key. Maybe guys like Tommy Hunter will figure it out. Or maybe this will continue, and this all turns out to be an exercise in futility, a solid 70-game start to a season all for naught.
But the Phillies owe it to themselves and to their fans to go out and get the one guy who can have the most impact on the team’s offense so that they don’t squander a chance to make noise this year. Plus, by trading for Machado now (and then presumably locking him up long-term since his contract is up after this year) they avoid the risk of another team swooping in during the offseason and stealing a player that they clearly covet.
Let’s not forget that Andy MacPhail and Matt Klentak were the ones who drafted Machado in Baltimore in 2010. They love him, and hopefully the feeling is mutual. This needs to happen now. Yes, it will cost them some assets in return instead of just getting him for the price of his contract in the offseason, but the smart guys running the Phillies should see in their fancy cost/benefit analysis that it’s worth it.
If Klentak and company play it safe, as they have been painfully apt to do, then there stands a very high probability that the Orioles trade Machado to a team that the Phillies ARE DIRECTLY COMPETING WITH FOR A PLAYOFF SPOT. That’s a two-Machado swing! And then maybe he likes it in his new place, goes on a playoff run, and decides to stick around. The Phillies never even get to kick the tires on a contract for him this offseason.
You’re nodding because you know this is what’s going to happen.
So, instead, let’s just nip it in the bud. Phillies, trade for this guy today. You’ll have to put together a package you won’t want to part with, but you’ll show the fans that you’re serious about winning this year. Gabe Kapler even said it at the beginning of the season. Don’t make your manager look like a fool and/or a liar.
It’s not my job to determine what to give up in any potential Machado trade, but clearly Franco can go the other way. And I think that Jerad Eickhoff would be a nice piece to include as well. He may not pitch this season, but the Orioles are terrible and can wait. Let’s not forget he was the Phillies’ most consistent starter two years ago; he has some value. Maybe the Orioles ask for something stupid like Scott Kingery and Rhys Hoskins. But I think they can be swayed with some prospects instead.
Perhaps this is all a bit too simplistic of me, but the fact remains that the Phillies need to get this done. Get Machado, and he becomes your shortstop for a very long time. Move Kingery over to third base for a bit until you can free up second base for him. The Phillies can’t afford to wait until the offseason before becoming major players for Machado.
They need to bet on him. Now.
Published June 18, 2018
School’s out and the final grades are in, but we still have a long way to go in the baseball season. But with the midpoint within sight (less than two weeks away), we at least have enough of a sample size to issue some midseason report cards.
The Phillies have played 69 (tee hee) games, meaning that each of the starting pitchers in their rotation has just two or three starts until their campaigns are halfway over. To be sure, that’s enough time for a grade to be swayed, but I’m going out on a limb and saying we won’t see any Phillies pitcher throw a perfect game or give up twelve runs (I hope) over the next couple days.
As a whole, the rotation has been very good, bordering on excellent at times. It has carried this team to its current 37-32 record. Before the season, we all would have taken such a record at this point. So let’s give credit where credit is due and grade out the hurlers.
Aaron Nola: Of course I would write this on the day after Nola’s shortest start of the season. That aside, he has been fantastic and looks like he is developing (or already has) into everything the Phillies could have hoped. Right now he’s probably #3 in the NL Cy Young race behind Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, and he should earn his first career all-star nod in the coming weeks. He has allowed one run or fewer in more than half of his starts, and his 8-2 record should be even better than it is. Simply put, he’s an ace, and unless injury rears its ugly head, the Phillies are set for a decade.
Jake Arrieta: I thought the Phillies made a great move when they brought Arrieta in to ostensibly co-lead the rotation and mentor Aaron Nola. And through his first ten starts, he was 5-2 with a 2.16 ERA. Everything was peachy. But starting with the game in San Francisco that got away from him a few weeks ago and prompted his “horsebleep” tirade, he has had three straight poor starts. Let’s just say he’ll be glad not to face the Brewers again, who tuned him up in both of his games against them. Arrieta’s numbers are probably right where you’d expect them to be at this juncture of the season, but his strikeouts are way down, which is somewhat alarming. More balls in play means the potential of something bad happening. Arrieta may be playing with fire. Do his recent bad performances mean his luck is running out? Hopefully that’s not the case.
Nick Pivetta: Pivetta has to be labeled as a pleasant surprise for his efforts over the past 2+ months, because I for one didn’t expect much from him. His debut in 2017 showed intriguing talent, but his 6.02 ERA showed that he had a lot of work left to do. So far in 2018, he sits at a record of 4-6 with a 4.25 ERA, which has risen almost a full run over his last three starts. I guess he fell into the same pit that Arrieta did. Still, you have to accept that he’ll be a bit erratic at this point of his career, and a team could do way worse for a #4 starter. But as a #3 starter? Either he or the next guy on our report card will have to seriously step up over the next month, or the Phillies will have a decision to make regarding how serious they are about contending this year and pulling the trigger to bring in another arm.
Vincent Velasquez: Speaking of erratic…On the plus side, Valasquez has taken the ball every fifth day this season as the Phillies continue to enjoy nearly unprecedented health within their rotation. Kiss of death right there. And Vinny has thrown some good games, striking out twelve Giants in a start last month and also beating the likes of St. Louis and Washington this season. We can throw away his 10-run bombing by Milwaukee last week as an extreme outlier, but of most concern is that he is 0-4 in his four starts vs. Atlanta. Not to put everything on his shoulders, but the Phillies are four games behind Atlanta right now. You do the math. So, let’s credit Velasquez for staying healthy and beating some quality opponents, but we continue to deduct points for the way he throws too many pitches to go deep into ballgames and hasn’t throw his best game in a clutch spot. Yet.
Zach Eflin: A smaller sample to work with here, as Eflin only took hold of a rotation spot on May 1 after Ben Lively completely flamed out and/or suffered a mystery injury, depending on who you talk to. After five starts, Eflin was mediocre. But, unlike his rotation-mates, his stock has been rising over his last three starts. First, he had a fantastic effort in Chicago to defeat the Cubs. Then, he beat those pesky Brewers in back-to-back starts, allowing a total of three earned runs over 11 innings. Yes, the same Brewers that were putting up double digits against everyone else. We’ll need to see him do it for a much longer period of time, but so far so good.
Published June 16, 2018
I’m going to a wedding today. And while I certainly wish my friend and his betrothed all the best, my mind can’t help but wander to the times that people simply drift apart.
Sports are no exception, especially in this town.
The relationships between players, coaches, owners and the organization as a whole function as types of marriages, replete with all the ups and downs. And sometimes they end just as bitterly. Philadelphia in particular has seen no shortage of such situations, and so here now are the top 10 acrimonious splits of the last 20 years…
10. Bryan Colangelo and the 76ers
Date of Divorce: June 7, 2018
We’ll start with the most recent entry on the list, and we all know the Twittergate story by now. Either Colangelo was culpable in publicly bad-mouthing his own players or (if you believe him) he was unaware of what was going on under his own roof and his wife did it all on her own. Either way, he betrayed the trust of the organization and its players, so he had to go. Now all that remains to be seen is how badly he may have hurt the franchise long-term.
9. Andy Ashby and the Phillies
Date of Divorce: July 12, 2000
Cause: Unrealistic Expectations
Ashby’s awful 2000 season for the Phillies was indicative of the team as a whole. He was brought in to be the team’s ace, but he was terrible for three months before the Phillies mercifully traded him to Atlanta. It also didn’t help his cause that he flipped the bird to a bunch of fans who booed him from the mound to the dugout when he was removed from one particularly ugly outing. Few have failed as spectacularly in as short a time in Philadelphia as Ashby did.
8. Brian Dawkins and the Eagles
Date of Divorce: February 28, 2009
The insanely popular Dawkins still had some gas left in the tank, even at age 35, but the Eagles cheaped out and let him sign with Denver. Apparently the Eagles thought that Sean Jones, coming over from the Browns, was an upgrade. He wasn’t. Dawkins would play three years in Denver, and while he did eventually turn mortal and break down, he should have been an Eagle for life. Thankfully he has gone on to work within the Eagles’ organization in recent years, so any hard feelings seemingly are gone. This year he assumes his rightful place in the Hall of Fame, and we’ll all forget that he ever played anywhere other than in Philadelphia.
7. Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and the Flyers
Date of Divorce: June 23, 2011
These guys were previously thought untradeable, but the Flyers sent their two most productive players out of town in separate trades on the same day in order to clear salary cap space so that they could sign goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, of all people. Richards and Carter both had monster contracts and their reported hard-partying ways were seen as a disruption to the Flyers’ delicate team chemistry. And so the franchise was altered in a single day, with fans not knowing what to think. The Flyers didn’t exactly get chopped liver in return, as some of the players they traded for are still key parts of the roster. But the mere fact that Carter, who the Flyers traded to Columbus, ended up joining Richards in Los Angeles later that season and immediately won the Stanley Cup still rankles Flyers fans. They added another Cup two years later while the Flyers spun their wheels, due in no small part to Bryzgalov’s leaky goaltending. Of all the “divorces” on this list, this one was the most surprising. And maybe the most regrettable.
6. Scott Rolen and the Phillies
Date of Divorce: July 29, 2002
Cause: Irreconcilable differences
Everybody involved in the organization and every Phillies fan across the globe was done with this baby by the time he was finally traded to St. Louis. Never suited to the pressures of Philadelphia and always sulking about an injury or some perceived slight by the media, Rolen eventually got what he wanted in a ticket out of town. All that being said, he was still a very good player at the time, and so the Phillies’ return in the trade was woefully inadequate relative to what they were giving up. But sometimes you just have to rip off the band-aid. This was it.
5. Chip Kelly and the Eagles
Date of Divorce: December 29, 2015
Cause: Lack of Communication
After strong-arming his way to total control after two years as Eagles head coach, Kelly plunged the team straight down the toilet with his personnel decisions and, even worse, looked severely overmatched on the playing field as well. The move to cut ties with him was still a bit surprising, but it was refreshing to see Jeff Lurie finally grow a pair, admit a mistake, and take back control of his team. The reins were handed back over to Howie Roseman, who turned the Eagles into Super Bowl champions two seasons later. Kelly went on to coach the 49ers for a season, where he went 2-14. He was fired again and went back to college football with his tail between his legs. Put this divorce in the win column for Philadelphia
4. Jonathan Papelbon and the Phillies
Date of Divorce: July 28, 2015
Cause: Irretrievable Breakdown
To be fair, this was a marriage the Phillies never should have entered into in the first place. Papelbon, while still largely effective, never endeared himself to the team or Phillies fans. Plus, save chances got to be few and far between, as the aging Phillies’ downward slide bred even more discontent in Papelbon. His personality was grating, his performance was starting to dwindle, and the Phillies really had no more need for him. Finally, in year #4 of this nightmare, the Phillies lucked out when the Nationals inexplicably took him off their hands in a trade. Papelbon went on to derail his new team’s season by bringing his vitriol to DC and even trying to choke superstar teammate Bryce Harper at one point. It was a hilarious postscript to an era that we all wish we could forget. What a mistake.
Didn't want to show up on this list
3. Roger Neilson and the Flyers
Date of Divorce: June 8, 2000
This was ugly. The Flyers’ head coach had to step aside from the team in February of 2000 when he was diagnosed with bone cancer. When assistant Craig Ramsay took over in his place, the team went on a run to end the regular season and then started making noise in the playoffs. Around that time, with Neilson saying that he was ready to return and pushing to come back, Flyers GM Bob Clarke told him in no uncertain terms that things would be staying the way they were and that they would not let him come back that season. Things would, of course, end in disaster with a Game 7 loss to New Jersey in the Eastern Conference Finals that featured Scott Stevens delivering “The Hit” on Eric Lindros (more on that later). But even with this bitter ending, the Flyers confirmed that Ramsay would be their guy going forward and officially dismissed Neilson, with Clarke famously saying a few months later “The Neilson situation – Roger got cancer – that wasn’t our fault. We didn’t tell him to go get cancer. It’s too bad that he did. We feel sorry for him, but then he went goofy on us”. Ouch.
2. Terrell Owens and the Eagles
Date of Divorce: November 7, 2005
Cause: Unreasonable Behavior
How do you go from Super Bowl hero who single-handedly ALMOST won it all for your team to being kicked off said team about nine months later? T.O. might be the only guy who could possibly pull it off. But that he did, just partway through his second season as an Eagle. A diva to the max, his childishness and selfish attitude unbecoming of a team environment triggered a massive fall from grace and gave Andy Reid an excuse to boot him off the team. These days, T.O. is headed to the Hall of Fame, which he deserves. But he just announced that he won’t be attending the ceremony. Why? Because T.O. is just “that guy”. There’s no changing him. The Eagles probably should have known that, but it doesn’t excuse him acting the way that he did back then and still continues to do today.
1. Eric Lindros and the Flyers
Date of Divorce: August 20, 2001
Cause: Literally everything
One for the ages here, as everything between the Flyers and their star player, the guy who was supposed to save the franchise, became poisonous. Things were finally ripped out by the nerve endings when the team dealt him to the Rangers after Lindros had sat out an entire season following “The Hit” from Scott Stevens in the 2000 playoffs. The feuding between Lindros, his agent, and his whole family with the Flyers organization (especially Bob Clarke, again) had been going on for years. It was frankly surprising that it took as long as it did. Blindly faithful Flyers fans largely sided with the team and accused Lindros of being “soft” for not being able to play through his myriad injuries, most notably the many concussions he had sustained. But in the years since, we have learned so much about things like brain trauma and CTE that we know now that Lindros was validated in his concerns. It took over a decade, but Lindros and the team have largely made amends, proving that even divorced couples can be civil and get along for the good of the kids i.e. long-suffering Flyers fans. We’re still waiting on that Cup, though.
This still hurts
Published June 8, 2018
We’ll start with the Sixers since the whole Bryan Colangelo/Twitter fiasco has been the top story all week. Things finally climaxed yesterday when he “resigned” his position as GM. We had guest columns from Mike Brown and Ben Rosehart on PSC this week about this mess, and they both agreed that Colangelo should not have lasted this long. But what happened yesterday was best for the team, even if it came too late.
On his way out the door, Colangelo felt the need to blame his wife for everything short of the McKinley assassination and New Coke, and he continued to admit no wrongdoing. So he wasn’t devious, just oblivious? Not sure that’s a whole lot better, Bryan.
Now, with the Sixers expected to be major players for LeBron and/or other top players this offseason, they scramble to figure out what to do. And since it’s the Sixers, you can be sure they’re going to screw it up.
The only team playing games this week probably would have been better off if they hadn’t. Following the pathetic sweep in San Fran and Jake Arrieta calling “HS”, they responded well with a solid win at the Cubs on Tuesday night. But then with a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the 9th on Wednesday, Gabe Kapler made dumb decision #358 this year when he lifted Seranthony Dominguez for Adam Morgan.
One Jason Heyward grand slam later, the Phils lost 7-5. It was another one of those potential season-ruining losses. The Phillies lent that notion further credence in a 4-3 loss at Wrigley yesterday, the ultimate winning run for the Cubs scoring on an overturned call on a play at the plate. Thanks again to Buster Posey’s ankle snapping five years ago for baseball changing the plate block rule. Whatever.
Now the Phillies welcome the NL-best Brewers to town tonight for a crucial series. They are fading fast and need wins badly after a 3-7 road trip. Will they respond, or is this the beginning of the end?
The Super Bowl champs were supposed to go to the White House this week, but since so many players declined to go, they were uninvited by the head honcho. To the surprise of absolutely no one, Trump then made the whole thing about himself saying that the Eagles lost their invite because they “disagreed with their President”. You know, because the constitution says we absolutely have to agree with everything the president (lowercase “p”) says and does.
No word on how much help he needed from that little paper clip in the bottom right corner to compose his short statement in Microsoft Word.
The whole thing was just another reminder that politics and the media that covers them basically ruin everything. Three months till football season.
For the third straight year, the orange and black saw a division rival hoist the Stanley Cup. As I wrote a few weeks ago, it was the lesser of two evils, because Vegas winning would have been too much to stomach. Still, this is getting old fast. Ron Hextall is now entering his fifth year as GM, so it’s about time he put up or shut up.
The NHL draft and then the start of free agency are just a few weeks away. And the Flyers may be well-advised to take a long look at two players who lifted the Cup last night.
First, defenseman John Carlson. This guy picked the right year to have the best season of his career. A legitimate #1 right-handed defenseman, he is exactly what the Flyers need. But will they dig deep enough to give him the type of contract he’ll want? My guess would be “no” unfortunately, but we’ll see.
Secondly, backup goalie Philipp Grubauer is due for a new contract, and the Capitals would be best served trading him because they have top prospect Ilya Samsonov ready to come to the NHL to back up Braden Holtby. Could the Flyers look to Grubauer to solve their crease mess? I think it’s worth a shot since Carter Hart is a year or two away.
We’ll have a look at the Flyers’ draft/free agency later this summer.
Published June 6, 2018
Short answer: Yes. Long Answer: No.
Scott Kingery is a victim of his own success.
His superb 2017 season, split between AA Reading and AAA Lehigh Valley, put him solidly on the radar for a job with the Phillies this year. Still, most people expected he would be called up a few weeks into the season so that the team could retain his rights for an extra year under baseball’s sketchy “super 2” rule.
Then, to everyone’s surprise, the Phillies not only gave him a roster spot out of spring training, but they signed him to a long-term contract as well. They were gambling on a player without an inning of major league experience, but they viewed it as the “cost of doing business”. Their hope was that he might turn out to be one of the biggest bargains in the league in a few short years. Suddenly, there was a lot of pressure on Kingery right out of the gate.
Now, with Kingery 54 games into a hopefully lengthy MLB career, he is hitting just .215 and striking out almost a quarter of the time. Needless to say, at this early juncture, things aren’t going as planned. So is it simple underperformance, or is there more to it than that?
Certainly, Kingery’s overall numbers should be better right now, and he is looking lost at the plate too often. He didn’t have an RBI between April 22 and May 18, and he’s approaching two months without a home run. Guys will go through runs of bad luck in this game, but we are definitely past that point here. It seems like he’s putting up “1 for 4”s in the box score every night.
Perhaps way too much was put on his shoulders at once, because the early talk around here from some people was that he would immediately turn into a Chase Utley-type player. I’m just hoping he realizes his true potential, whatever it is, and isn’t permanently affected by these early difficulties.
The hope here is that it is just an adjustment and learning period, as most first-time major leaguer hitters have to deal with. That’s probably the case, and his 2017 season was so tantalizing that it raised the bar too much.
He deserves the benefit of the doubt, but by virtue of the fact that so many of his teammates are also having lackluster seasons at the plate, there is simply not enough doubt to go around. Kingery has to be better. Nobody expects all-star numbers right now, but the Phillies made an investment and he hasn’t shown enough yet to give a hint of justification. It’s on him to produce.
Now, switching gears…
All of that sounded harsh, but I’m NOT saying he needs to be written off or that he should be viewed as a failure already. So, what to do with him?
The minor league option does exist, but that would probably do more harm than good. Instead, the Phillies have to stick with him. They NEED to stick with him for the sake of their own investment and Kingery’s psyche. The Phillies backed a truck full of money up Kingery’s driveway, so it’s on them to give him every chance to succeed.
And therein lies the rub.
While Kingery has been given a good amount of playing time, the Phillies will ultimately need to pick a position for him and stick with it. With JP Crawford out with an injury for the last month, Kingery has been the everyday shortstop. He hasn’t looked out of place, and in fact has turned in several fine plays, but he played a grand total of 18 innings at short in the minors. This isn’t ideal.
He’s there right now because the team has no better options, but it’s an unfair ask of a guy with less than 200 at bats in the majors who is still trying to find his footing. The extra effort required for Kingery to play a less familiar position can do nothing but hurt his focus at the plate. Look no further than Rhys Hoskins and how his positional switch is affecting him at the plate this year (or was before he got hurt).
Coincidences on both counts? Maybe, but the only guys who want to play all over the diamond are utility players who aren’t good enough to hold down a position full-time. Kingery is not Tomas Perez. Crawford will be back soon, and that will probably result in Kingery getting shuffled around at second, short, third, and the two corner outfield positions. Again, it’s not setting him up for success.
And so Gabe Kapler will try find a place for him in order to get his bat in the lineup. But for his bat to stay hot enough to merit a lineup spot, I believe he needs regular playing time at one position. It’s a “chicken and the egg” state of affairs with no clear answer at this time.
Ultimately the solution is probably to trade Cesar Hernandez, which is a shame because he’s been a nice player for this team. But with Hernandez eligible for arbitration after this year, why would the Phillies pay him and create a roadblock for either Kingery or Crawford? They owe both of them enough of a chance to prove themselves.
In an ideal situation, Kingery and Crawford both find their games and establish themselves as the Phils’ middle infield duo for years to come. They might not be Utley and Rollins, but one can dream. Having Manny Machado at third would complete the scenario.
And if Machado insists on playing short, then moving Crawford over to third in that case would be the only acceptable situation where either he or Kingery strays from the middle infield because neither carries the kind of power bat you want at third typically. Having Machado at short would ease the burden.
Circling back to the main issue of Kingery, he simply needs more time and we can’t be too disappointed at the returns so far. The Phillies have made a lengthy commitment to him, so it is incumbent upon them to keep him in even when he struggles and to stop moving him between five different positions. You don’t do that with players you view as long-term pieces of your team.
This year has largely been a positive one and has the chance to be very fun. But, realistically, are the Phillies going on a long playoff run this season? No, but maybe as soon as a year or two from now, and so Kingery needs the playing time and learning experiences in 2018 so that he is ready to make a difference on a contending ballclub soon and for years to come.
Even if he’s not hitting the desired numbers, the Phillies can’t go putting him on the bench for any prolonged period and just trying to “restart” with him next season. It would be detrimental to his growth. They didn’t have to give him a big contract up front, but they did, and they’d be doing everyone a disservice by cutting into his playing time, tempting though it may be if he continues to lack results at the plate.
Stick with the kid, the hits will come, and he’ll turn into the player that we all hope he is.
Or he won’t and the Phillies will have wasted a ton of money. Only one way to find out.
No half measures.
Published June 5, 2018
-Saturday April 29, 2017-
After 5 long days in the hospital caring for my wife and newborn daughter after a C-section, we arrive home late at night and put on the TV.
To my delight the Phillies game is still airing live as it was a West coast series against the Dodgers. We are all so numb from exhaustion at this point that it feels like we’re dreaming.
“The Phillies might actually pull off a win in LA on our daughter’s first night home!”, I said to my wife.
Hector Neris was on the mound going for the save, with the days of Jeanmar Gomez behind, and the Phillies up 5-2. “Should we turn off the TV and know they’ve got this?”, I thought. “Nah, let’s watch just to be safe.”
Puig…Boom! Bellinger…Smash! Turner…Crack!
3 ridiculous home runs and a weak little ground ball walk-off single a bit later, the game is over, the Phillies lose, and I tell my daughter, “Well, this is what it’s like to be a Phillies fan. Welcome home!” After starting an unexpected 11-9 that season, the Dodgers series started a 6-26 stretch forming a hole for the Phils that they’d clearly never be able to dig themselves out of.
Fast forward a year and some change.
-Sunday June 3, 2018-
A day game starting at 4:05. My daughter gets to “watch” some of the game with us as it conveniently falls between her nap time and bedtime. The Phillies are coming off of two consecutive shutout losses to the Giants in San Fran to start the weekend series in which the offense has looked absolutely pathetic, mustering a total of nine hits, just two for extra bases.
In the top of the first, Carlos Santana hits a blooper down the line. It’s literally in the air for 9 hours. The ball lands just fair, and I’m cheering and anticipating his appearance jogging into second. “Where the hell is he?!”, I shouted. He’s at first base. What the actual bleep just happened?
Replays show he’s basically still in the batter’s box with his bat still in hand, watching the ball as it hits the ground, then has to sprint just to make it to first. This basically summarizes their West Coast woes and how they can be extremely detrimental to a season.
Later in the game, Phils’ pitcher Jake Arrieta hits a home run for their only tally of the entire series, and I couldn’t even get excited as I knew they’d end up losing. As Jake Arrieta called it after the game – a “horses--t series” – he couldn’t have put it any better.
Somehow the Phils pulled off 2 wins in LA during a 4-game series prior to this, although one probably shouldn’t have even happened since Maikel Franco was credited with scoring a run in a 2-1 victory after his foot came about 2 feet from actually touching the plate. I’m pretty sure he thought he was out himself jogging back to the dugout.
After all this absurdity of the last week, I decided it’s time to delve into just how atrocious the Phils have been on their NL West trips since the start of 2012, the first of the non-glory years. From 2012 to the present, here are the Phils’ records in each of the NL West parks:
@ Arizona 11-9 (.550)
@ Colorado 9-11 (.450)
@ LA Dodgers 9-16 (.360)
@ San Diego 10-10 (.500)
@ San Francisco 7-15 (.318)
Totals: 46-61 (.430)
This doesn’t even include any interleague action out west, which would more than likely make this even sadder.
So, as it had seemed to be, the Phillies have been God-awful in recent history vs. the NL West. And it turns out it’s been by far the worst against the two teams they just played, the Dodgers and Giants.
Blame it on the different time zones, blame it on the longer travel time, blame it on the Henny… but not even Cliff Lee pitching 10 shutout innings in San Francisco (in a game the Phillies would eventually lose in 2012) or pitchers hitting home runs could help get them out of this.
I’m afraid the Phils’ above average start this season was simply based on their ease of schedule. Phillies Nation just really hopes another 6-26 skid isn’t on the horizon.
Published June 4, 2018
The Sixers are at a fork in the road. And two very different drivers helped them get to this point of their journey.
Bryan Colangelo has served as Philadelphia’s general manager since 2016 but his tenure could be coming to a quick end after Tweet-Gate gets fully investigated by the organization.
Sam Hinkie drove the Philadelphia bus from 2013 to 2016 before he was abruptly thrown out the door in the same fashion Uncle Phil would regularly toss DJ Jazzy Jeff to the curb. Somehow, Hinkie was able to write a memorable final thesis instead of smashing analytics computers Office Space-style. I mean this is the guy who actually DID come in to work on Saturday – and on Sunday - in the hopes of unearthing the next TJ McConnell. And actually the real TJ McConnell, too.
Unlike his predecessor, Colangelo’s strengths have been plucking key veterans to add to Philly’s young roster. The J.J. Redick idea was fantastic and one of the best three-point shooters in the league is interested in returning next year. Scooping up Ersan Ilyasova and Marco “Pull-Up!” Belinelli mid-season helped space the floor and surrounded Joe Embiid with competent three-point shooters. The Jerryd Bayless signing backfired and Amir Johnson and Trevor Booker were basically placeholders until Jonah Bolden arrives next year (I’ll get into the Bolden addition later this off-season). But overall, Colangelo’s plus/minus on veteran moves should be considered a positive.
At the same time, Colangelo has not really hit on any draft picks since he took over except for the obvious one. But let’s be real here. My five year-old niece could have picked Ben Simmons first if I told her he was the best player and arranged all the top prospects that year in a NBA-draft version of Guess Who. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot regressed this season after showing tiny flashes his rookie year, and Furkan Korkmaz has barely come off the bench in his red-shirt season. Still too early to see if either can earn spots in the rotation but as of right now it doesn’t look promising.
In his most egregious error, Colangelo looked like a stormtrooper getting Jedi-mind tricked by Danny Ainge when he unloaded a future first round draft pick to take (cringing) Markelle Fultz in last year’s draft.
Sam Hinkie never would have traded the third overall pick and an extra first rounder for the number one selection. He would never have traded two lottery tickets for one lottery ticket. Hinkie was all about acquiring extra assets.
And this is the part that many people are forgetting.
That trade is the reason Colangelo should be fired. Not Tweet-gate.
I arrived at this epiphany the moment ESPN started showing graphics mentioning Boston post-season scoring records with Larry Bird statistics on one side and Jayson Tatum statistics on the other side. That’s when Colangelo should’ve gone on the hot seat.
And the moment Tatum dunked on LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Finals is when Colangelo should’ve been fired.
The Fultz-and-a-first rounder for Jayson “I-Just-Dunked-On-LeBron-James” Tatum deal looks worse and worse every day. Fultz saw the floor during the Sixers-Celtics series but he only viewed it from the bench. He never actually played a minute in the series. This is the same guy you traded up to get with the first overall pick and who somehow tallied a triple-double in a meaningless regular season game just a couple weeks prior to the Celtics series. If he was really that good, he would’ve been playing against Boston instead of staring into space like a high school freshman daydreaming in the middle of history class.
So I ask you: If the Sixers general manager job opens up again in the next few days who should they hire?
What if the franchise decided to do a 180 and pulled another about-face that nobody saw coming.
What if the Sixers next general manager was Sam Hinkie - again? #TrustTheProcessPartTwo.
This may seem unlikely – but as the great Kevin Garnett once screamed on national television in a torrential downpour of confetti – “Anything is poss-uh-bullllllll.”
Before you scream Garnett’s last syllable back in my face, take a minute to consider this:
In the past three years alone, we’ve seen the Chicago Cubs win a World Series, the Patriots erase a 28-3 deficit to win the first Super Bowl that went to overtime, and the San Diego Chargers decide to become the Clippers of the NFL. Former Sacramento King Scot Pollard even ended up on a season of Survivor.
Just in the time since I got married last summer, the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES WON THE SUPER BOWL, Villanova won its second NCAA basketball championship in three years and somehow Marvin Lewis is still coaching the Bengals. Oh and the Browns kept coach Hue Jackson who owns a 1-31 record the past two seasons. And that one win came against the Chargers – when they still played home games in San Diego. That’s right, Jackson has won ONE more game the past two years than you and I have.
ANYTHING is possible.
Colangelo has proved he can make keen moves with free agents.
Hinkie proved he can dupe rival executives and collect extra lottery tickets.
Which is more valuable? And ultimately – which style is better suited for building and keeping a contending team for the long haul?
The draft is not an exact science. For every Richaun Holmes you find in the second round, there is a J.P. Tokoto. Which is why Hinkie’s painful method of tanking for a better future through extra lottery tickets was actually the correct way to go.
More darts to throw at the dartboard is how you hit on bulls-eyes like Simmons, Embiid, and Dario Saric because you’re bound to land on busts like Jahlil Okafor and Michael Carter-Williams too.
This coming draft the Sixers own the 10th overall pick and the 26th overall pick.
They also bring four second-round picks to the table.
I don’t know about you but I’d trust Hinkie way more with those six selections and his hypnotism skills as opposed to Colangelo and his “To-Tweet-or-not-to-Tweet” drama.
You need a competent driver to get to the destination. And you don’t need a driver looking down on his phone reading tweets while he’s at the wheel.
I mean if Grover Cleveland and Joe Gibbs can come back for a second term, well, just remember what KG told us before he was beamed over to Area 21.
“Anything is poss-uh-bullllllll.”
Published June 2, 2018
Let’s talk about Bryan Colangelo.
Specifically, let's talk about why this debacle comes at the worst time, Colangelo’s culpability, and what can be done to fix this situation.
By now, mostly everyone has heard about the allegations that Colangelo (or someone close to him) has been operating upwards of five Twitter “burner” accounts. This revelation, reported by The Ringer’s Ben Detrick, is somehow at the same time both hilarious and ominous for Philadelphia sports fans. Several friends of mine have texted me in the past few days, asking me questions along the lines of “Can you believe this?” Yes, I can absolutely believe it. Because we can’t have nice things.
On the heels of city’s first Super Bowl victory, the Eagles look poised to repeat with most of the team’s core intact and a (GOD ALMIGHTY PLEASE) healthy Carson Wentz ready to resume his ascendance into MVP-level playmakers. The Phillies, who for the last several years have taken us on a 90-loss slog through the summer, actually look entertaining most nights. We aren’t going to talk about the Flyers here (apologies to the editor). That brings us to the Sixers.
With an impressive season that most were not expecting, a young core of players including one of the game's best on-court duos, and a large amount of cap space, the Sixers are poised to actually bring in a top-tier free agent. That final piece that everyone has been talking about since the team’s defeat at the hands of the Celtics. That final piece that could complete The Process.
The reality before was that the Sixers were going to get someone. Everyone has their sights set on LeBron James. As they should. But Paul George would be a great consolation prize if LeBron decided not to bring his transcendent skills to the Wells Fargo Center.
Again, that was the reality before.
Do you think George, James, or any free agent talented enough to fill the role the Sixers need is going to take the them seriously? Can Colangelo be trusted? Forget free agents; Colangelo’s own players were criticized rather harshly, particularly Joel Embiid. Losing the trust of your own team doesn’t bode well for someone trying to reel in top talent.
What if it wasn’t him? What if it was Colangelo’s wife, as has been surmised by Twitter sleuths since The Ringer article was released? Even if Colangelo didn’t run the accounts and it was indeed his wife, the common denominator is Colangelo himself.
Most people talk about work with their spouses. It’s a thing. Even some things that you probably shouldn’t talk about. I don’t blame Colangelo for discussing sensitive team information with his wife. Anyone who doesn't is either in the CIA or leading a double life (or both).
What is inexcusable is the aftermath of the pillow talk, no matter which form it takes. If Colangelo knew his wife was disclosing team information, he should have stopped revealing it to her or made her stop.
This is not an opinion rooted in chauvinism. I argue that if you are pulling in millions of dollars to support the family (no matter if you are the man or the woman), then you should have authority over some your spouse’s actions, particularly if said actions affect your job. On the other hand, if Colangelo didn’t know his wife was operating the accounts, then I would call into question his situational awareness. Either way, he is untrustable at this point and so are the Sixers until they cut ties.
The question at this point isn’t whether Colangelo, his wife, or an unknown conspirator (not likely, or in other words, about the same likelihood of the Flyers finding a reliable starting goaltender) is the culprit. That doesn’t matter.
What everyone should be wondering is when Colangelo is going to resign. There is no recovering from this, even if it wasn’t him. The best option right now is for Colangelo to resign, with the reasoning that he doesn’t want this drama to be a distraction to the organization (too late). If he chooses to deny the allegations and stand pat, the Sixers have absolutely no choice but to fire him.
This isn’t a decision that can be made over time with careful thinking and a lengthy process to replace and transition his position. This has to happen now. Like this week. The sooner Colangelo is gone from the organization, the sooner a new general manager can come in and try to repair the damage this has done to the team.
The draft is fast approaching and soon after is free agency. If the Sixers have any prayer of signing LeBron, George, or even if all else fails bringing back J.J. Reddick on a ridiculous contract, Colangelo has to go sooner rather than later.
Published June 1, 2018
Is it already time to knight Seranthony? Bad pun, sorry.
It was six Dodgers up and six Dodgers down last night for the fireballer from the Dominican Republic, as he recorded a 2-inning save to earn the Phillies a split of their 4-game series in LA. Full marks to manager Gabe Kapler for letting him pitch a second inning after he got through the eighth in just 10 pitches. With the 2-3-4 hitters due up for the Dodgers in the ninth, it was the right call.
And, oh yeah, Aaron Nola was really good too. But we’ll discuss him another time.
Dominguez was clearly feeling it, and you weren’t going to get anything better from anyone else in the Phils’ unsteady bullpen. The Dodgers did make decent contact a couple times, but thanks to a nice running grab by Aaron Altherr and a stellar play by Scott Kingery at shortstop, the result was two clean frames and a much-needed win for the Phillies.
Dominguez…actually, his first name is so cool, we’ll just go with that…Seranthony topped out at 99 miles per hour with an average of 98. He threw fastballs on 18 of his 23 pitches, along with 3 changeups (91 mph average!) and a pair of sliders.
It seems he has just enough in his arsenal to keep hitters from looking fastball at all times. And even then, the movement on it is causing hitters fits. Just ask Joc Pederson, who took two straight on the outside corner (the umpire got the second one right) to strike out looking to end the eighth inning last night.
Seranthony packs a lot of power in his 6’1”, 185-pound frame, and the results so far have been astounding. He has allowed just two baserunners (2 hits and one HBP) in 13.2 innings pitched. 15 strikeouts and no walks. He has not allowed any of his 7 inherited runners to score. In his last 9 appearances, he has 6 holds, 2 saves and a win. The guy is simply getting it done.
At 23 years old, Seranthony may also be mature enough already so that we can expect minimal growing pains. He will hit the inevitable slump, but all signs point to him being able to work out of it quickly. And again, Kapler is letting the situations dictate his usage, which is the absolutely correct call.
As an avid fantasy baseball player, I can tell you that one of the most frustrating aspects of it is when teams employ a “closer-by-committee” strategy. I want there to be one guy pitching the 9th inning for each team so I don’t have to speculate on who might be getting the next save opportunity. As a reference point for those who only play fantasy football, it’s similar to the way that some teams employ their running backs. Your guy gets 15 carries one week and then three the next. Aggravating.
But in real life, I want what is best for the Phillies. And what’s best is using Seranthony when the other team sends its top hitters up and has its best chance to tie the game or go ahead.
It looks like there could be very big things in this young man’s future. We’re still working with a small sample size, but the Phillies and their fans are loving it and riding the wave.
The fact that he was a complete unknown makes it even more satisfying. Seranthony was signed by the Phillies when he was 16 years old, and they are reaping the benefits nearly 7 years later. On a larger scale, maybe it’s a sign that the Phillies’ scouting department has finally figured out what they’re doing in Latin America, a place where they have a miserable track record. Next up: Sixto Sanchez?
So let’s all raise a glass to Ruben Amaro Jr. on this one. Much the same way that Ed Wade’s leftovers were largely responsible for that 2008 World Series, maybe Ruben did more than we thought to leave the franchise in good shape. Seranthony can’t possibly keep up this torrid of a pace, but he looks to be a gem.