Monday, June 27, 2011

Are the Flyers, the Yankees of the NHL?

You have to give the Flyers credit. They never rest on their laurels (even if those laurels are looking a little wilted after 36 years) and wait for something good to happen. They are always pushing to enhance their chances of winning the Stanley Cup, and they, more than any other Philadelphia team, reflect the fan base, aggressively focused on winning, occasionally to their own detriment, jettisoning young talent when a little patience would serve  them better (remember Patrick Sharp, Joni Pitkanen, Dainius Zubrus?).  Similar to the Yankees in the 80’s, they bring in fading stars who excite the fans, but whose best years are behind them, players such as Paul Coffey,  Adam Oates,  Tony Amonte, Petr Nedved, and  goalies such as John Vanbiesbrouck and  Sean Burke (twice). Well, they’ve done it again, jettisoning young captain Mike Richards and leading scorer Jeff Carter to sign productive, but aging (31) goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine year contract.  Bryzgalov almost certainly has a few highly productive years remaining..but nine?  And what happens to last year’s goalie of the future,  Sergei Bobrovsky. Obviously, the future came and went for the 22 year old.   The Flyers brought in quite a haul of talented but unproven players in the Richards and Carter deals, but will they be allowed to develop, or will they too become victims of Ed Snider’s Steinbrenner like impatience?  Of course, if Bryzgalov leads them to the Cup that they’ve been single-mindedly chasing since 1975, no one will care.  The Flyers are always trying, and for that, credit must be given where credit is due.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Take that Home Run Ball and …

I was at the  Phillies game last week when Ryan Madson blew his first save of the year against the Cubs.  He allowed Geovanny Soto to hit the tying home run in the ninth inning of a game the Phillies would go on to lose in the 11th.  Madson very nearly gave up the winning run when the next batter, Tyler Colvin, hit an apparent go ahead home run putting the Phillies behind 4-3.  Charlie Manual requested a review and the umpires overturned the ruling, determining a fan had reached over the wall to pull the home run ball in. Colvin was awarded a ground rule double, Madson closed the door and the game went into extra innings. What struck me was not that replay worked (and I didn’t see the replay until I got home and watched on TV due to the ballparks restriction on showing close plays on the big scoreboard), but that the fan reached over the wall to grab the ball, potentially costing the Phillies the game, only to throw the ball back!  I understand wanting a souvenir and a home run ball is quite a prize, but throwing it back? This has long been a tradition in Chicago, but is relatively new in Philadelphia where it has only been the norm for the last few years.  What really bugs me is…we had to steal a tradition from the Cubs?   Their track record of success is that strong that we thought we’d emulate them? (Though, to be sure, until 2008 they’d won twice as many World Series as the Phils, so goat or no goat, what do they have to complain about)?  I know, if I ever catch a homerun ball hit by the opposition (a negligible prospect given that my seats are behind third base), there is no chance that ball isn’t going home with me…no matter what the peer pressure.  Let’s keep our own traditions, ringing the “Liberty Bell” for home runs, Harry Kalas singing High Hopes after victories, Kate Smith’s  God Bless America before key Flyers games, even the awful Fly Eagles Fly after touchdowns (it does pull you in at the Linc, its so bad, its good!) So, denizens of the outfield seats of Citizen’s Bank park, “Take that Home Run Ball and …Keep It!”

Monday, June 13, 2011

Are Phils offensive enough?

Okay, not really offensive, but do they have enough offense to support their stellar pitching staff? The notoriously impatient fanbase doesn’t think so, openly clambering for GM Ruben Amaro to trade for an established bat.  But, money matters aside (and they can never really be put aside), who would they get and where would he play?  Realistically, all the infield spots, catcher, and centerfield are locked in with well established, and well-beloved players.  Rightfield is the province of phenom Domonic Brown who has hardly been given the chance to prove or disprove the hype so…we are left with leftfield, currently manned be Raul Ibanez, whose high salary and advanced years make him practically untradeable. Additionally, after a horrendous start, Raul has produced steady, if unspectacular, numbers, in fact, numbers that are quite similar to those produced by any of the available “names” that have been bandied about, names such as Michael Cuddyer of the Twins or Carlos Quentin of the White Sox.  Personally, I’d rather see them platoon Raul with current Iron Pig John Mayberry. Each has holes in his swing, but is capable of more than adequate major league production if used properly.   Mayberry just kills lefthanded fastball pitchers and can handle lefty breaking ballers, which are currently giving Ibanez fits. Plus, he provides far superior speed and defense than any Phillie outfielder this side of Victorino.  Ibanez, while aging, can still be productive if placed in positions he is more likely to succeed. Best of all, both are here already. Mayberry can be recalled by eliminating the "finished" human walk machine, J.C. Romero and going with 11 pitchers ( a twelfth is really unnecessary with this starting staff and, of course, secret weapon Wilson Valdez), or, if the twelfth is a must, then returning versatile, if overmatched, Michael Martinez to the Nationals. Players like him are a dime a dozen, and with the current lack of offense, can be sacrificed on the altar of production.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Raiders Baseball has a Bright Future

Despite Twin Valley’s recent defeat in the quarterfinals of the state baseball tournament at the hands of Blue Mountain, the future is indeed bright for the team that calls the windblown field on top of the hill home.   Most key performers are returning, with the exception of graduating rightfielder Brandin Snyder, including standouts Jared Price, Izzack Albright, Billy Reardon, Matt McInaw and Jeremy Rahn.  Hopefully, the Raiders will use the experience gained through advancing to the state quarterfinals for the third straight year to avoid the “one bad inning” syndrome that seemed to plague them this year.  Coach Matt Royer won’t allow the Raiders to think they can just throw their gloves on the field and expect their opponents to cower in terror. I, for one, don’t expect that to happen either. This is a hardworking group of kids who will use their loss this year as motivation to come back even more prepared next season. As one hit wonders Timbuk3 once (many years ago)  proclaimed….Their Future’s so Bright They Gotta Wear Shades!