Monday, March 31, 2014

Opening Day!


Opening Day, is here at last, after the winter that seemed as if it would never end. The joy that usually accompanies this annual rite of spring is somewhat tempered by the doom and gloom forecast for this 2014 edition of the Phillies. Most prognosticators are picking the Phillies to finish 4th, with some going so far as to pick them dead last, below even the lowly Marlins.  This forecast is likely going to be accurate, but, being of an optimistic nature, I’m going to go the other way. I think the Phillies, despite their age, are going to be healthy. And if they are healthy, they have the potential to be quite formidable. If the core four of Howard, Utley, Rollins, and Ruiz can play 130 games each, and can perform at 80% of their best, they form a strong lineup. Couple that with Marlon Byrd, who seemed to put it all together last year, an experienced Domonic Brown, who won’t be expected to carry the offense this year, and young players Ben Revere and Cody Asche and the offense could be much stronger than anyone anticipates. 

The rotation with Lee, Hamels, and Burnett , has three starters that match up with anyone, while Kendrick and Hernandez in the four and five spots are equivalent to most other teams fourth and fifth starters. They also have Jeff Manship and Jonathan Pettitbone waiting in the wings should anyone falter.

The bullpen could actually be a strength for the Phillies this year as some of the promising young arms that were baptized by fire the last couple of years seem to have benefited from the experience, having shown signs of putting it all together in spring training.

                The bench is still week, the rotation a little thin, and, if the injury bug strikes again the Phillies aren’t deep enough to replace their stars, but if they remain healthy, they could be stronger than anyone thinks, perhaps even strong enough to prop that fabled window of opportunity open one last time.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

First Spring Game..at last!

The Phils lost their spring training opener to the Toronto Blue Jays...but it matters not. Baseball is here, an despite all appearances that winter will never end, it will. For the Phils, hope springs eternal, and, despite absolutely no love from the national press, the Phils have a chance, if everything goes right, that is. Unfortunately, when relying on a team full of aging players, chances of everything going right and everyone remaining healthy are slim.  Ruben Amaro had very little choice, however.  Essentially, the entire team (with a few exceptions for the younger players and Cole Hamels)  has contracts due to expire by the end of the 2015 season. Tied into the core 4 of Howard, Utley, Rollins and Ruiz, it made sense to sign aging but still productive players such as Marlon Byrd and A.J. Burnett to two year deals, by the end of which the core four will be all but gone, and, hopefully, Ruben will have young talent ready to step in plus dollars available to attract free agents to replace the expiring contracts. At least i hope that's the plan.   As always with baseball, the truth will out in the end.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Say it ain't so


Two outs, two on in bottom of the ninth, Phils trail by a run, Utley at the plate....

 

"He really wants to get a hit here..."

 

How will we live without insights like that? Bye, Sarge.

(I think I'm the only guy who liked Wheels, he gave a lot of details that I appreciated, real inside the game stuff...though it took me over 30 years to like him)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Save the anger and say Thanks


As a Penn State grad I was initially angry when I heard Bill O’Brien was considering leaving Happy Valley for The NFL’s Houston Texans. How could he abandon all those kids who stuck with the program through all the sanctions, especially now that those sanctions were being lifted?  On further reflection, that’s exactly why he can leave.  He guided the team through the most difficult period, kept the players together though overwhelming negativity, made the team relevant and a destination for recruits.  Certainly, in so doing, he polished his own resume, going from a relatively obscure offensive coordinator on the New England Patriots, a person known in coaching circles but not considered to be a prime head coaching candidate, to someone who became the frontrunner for the best available NFL coaching vacancy. The Texans are a team most people consider likely to rebound into the playoff contender they were expected to be during this injury ravaged season, where everything that could go wrong did, with the first pick in the draft in their back pocket to boot.
            Meanwhile, Penn State is considered a prime job again, the scandal receding, the available scholarships increasing, the character of the players impressive. The list of potential coaching candidates contains the cream of the crop, something that would have been unthinkable two years ago when O’Brien arrived.  Penn State’s football program is on solid ground and should remain so in the future and we have Bill O’Brien to thank, so instead of being angry, be thankful and optimistic, both Penn State and Bill O’Brien have brighter futures thanks to their pairing over the last two years.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Quite the Turnaround


            The Eagles turnaround from worst to first was impressive for several reasons, the fact that so many of the key players on the current roster were the same players who came in last in 2012, the fact that an entirely new defensive scheme was introduced, a bend-but-don’t break 3-4  that was almost 180 degrees opposite from the previous regime’s blitz-heavy 4-3, the fact that a new head coach with no NFL experience was bringing all sorts of new philosophies (quick tempo, different practice schedule, a reliance on sports science) to a team full of jaded NFL veterans who were likely to rebel against this college coaches ideas, and, perhaps most impressively, the team’s ability to gel despite the potentially fractious nature of the Riley Cooper fiasco makes this division title all the more remarkable. 

            After losing their first four home games of the season the Eagles now have a home playoff game, against the offensively prolific Saints, a tough matchup, but one that should be easier for the Eagles to play in the cold of Philadelphia rather than the Superdome in New Orleans where the Saints are almost unstoppable.  Win or lose, it has been an incredible season for Chip Kelly and the Eagles. The game Saturday night should continue this incredibly entertaining season , one made even more so in comparison with the desultory 2012.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The “Blizzard Game’ shows difference between Kelly & Reid


I love snow gams in the NFL , but for a while it looked like it was really going to kill the Eagles in their game against the Lions. The Eagles did nothing in the first half offensively. The passing game was non-existent and it looked like Shady McCoy wouldn’t be able to employ his patented jump cuts and direction changes with the footing so uncertain.  I even wanted them to play Polk with his power running style instead of LeSean (good thing I'm not coaching).  Kelly made adjustments at halftime, however, changing to a running McCoy between the tackles and even taking advice from a defensive back who suggested long post patterns, assuming correctly, that if he couldn’t turn and run with a receiver their defenders wouldn’t be able to do so either. Reid, for all his strengths, and his greatest was meticulous planning, was unable to adjust quickly. Convinced his detailed gameplan was the right way to attack a team, he stubbornly refused to adjust when the opponent provided evidence to the contrary. Kelly,  on the other hand, really seems to understand how to use his offensive personnel, and it appears he lets the defensive coaches run the defense...imagine that!  He's improving on his game management as well (his early troubles seem to be from inexperience with the pro-game (understandable) and because he was focusing on teaching his schemes to the players (also understandable). Things bode well for the future, and they should be able to concentrate on the defense in the draft (they are not terrible by any means, but some more athletic secondary players would be nice). Of course, if Johnny Manziel is there (he won't be), you still grab him. As good as Foles has been playing, Manziel looks perfect for Kelly’s offense. I'd plan on keeping Foles the starter going into 2014. If he falters next year, Oregon QB Marcus Mariota should be coming out in 2015 and the Eagles we can try for him.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Chooch!


Can Pedro Feliz be far behind? How 'bout Burrell? (Shane is stuck winning championships in Boston, poor guy).

I'm seriously very glad to have Ruiz back, he made the most sense for the Phils, and he can mentor whichever young catcher they bring along. He may not be able to catch 135 games any longer, but if he can catch 90 and , say Tommy Joseph can handle the other 72 while learning from the master the Phillies will be in fine shape. Ruiz' workload should diminish over the life of his 3 year deal, but he's well worth the cost in clubhouse leadership, fan support, and loyalty alone.

Glad to have you here, Chooch.