Trade deadline day is one of my favorite days of the year. I love the team building, the planning for the future, the balancing of current needs against the need to be competitive down the road. Today, the Phillies, quite unlike the previous five years, have become sellers, not buyers. The real goal is to position themselves to rebound in 2013, to make 2012 a one year aberration, not the start of a downward slide. The Phillies have enough core talent to be contenders next year, but they have myriad holes. One of their biggest issues, at least to my eyes, is complacency. The core is used to winning, are they too comfortable and perhaps not putting forth the effort displayed in previous years? The constants, the players whose dedication is never questioned, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay, have been injured. Others, are not displaying the same drive seen in years past, Rollins, Victorino. Despite being fond links to the Phillies glorious recent past, a shakeup may be in order. (As of this writing, Victorino is almost certainly gone, traded to the Dodgers for a middle reliever). It will be fascinating to see how general manger Ruben Amaro responds, who he decides to build around, will he incorporate some of the remaining Phillies prospects, looking to see if their youthful enthusiasm and real opportunity to win a job provide a spark, and a springboard into next year? Further tuning will be required in the offseason, but the rest of this year will help determine whether it is a refurbishment or an extreme makeover.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Once again, the Flyers are the Broad Street Bullies in the NHL, if not on the ice, then certainly in the offseason. More appropriately, they are acting like the New York Yankees, buying the best available players by structuring offers in such a manner that smaller market teams cannot match them. Unlike the Yankees, this strategy has yet to pay dividends in the form of a Stanley Cup championship (the drought is 37 years and counting). The offer in question is to arguably the best all-around defenseman in the NHL, Shea Weber, the small market team that will be hard-pressed to match is the Nashville Predators, who have already lost premier defenseman Ryan Suter(on whom the Flyers also bid) to the Minnesota Wild. As a Flyers fan, I’m always impressed by the Flyers constantly swinging for the fences, going all-out to win the ultimate hockey prize, the Stanley Cup. But, I can’t help but feel that pilfering the small market teams , teams in regions where hockey is trying to get established, build a fan base, is not good business for the NHL as a whole. On the other hand, baseball’s small market teams have proven that a well run organization in a small market (the Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins, and this year even the Pittsburgh Pirates), can still be relevant. So my feelings are mixed, I’d love to have Weber in orange and black, love the fact that the Flyers are always trying to win it all, but, as a fan of the sport as a whole, I’d like to see the smaller market teams throughout the league have a chance, give their fans a thrill rather than the constant feeling of hopelessness (a thrill the league-owned Phoenix Coyotes gave their fans this year in making the Western conference Finals before losing to the eventual champion L.A. Kings) that must result when your star players are always pilfered by the leagues “Bullies”.
Thursday, July 5, 2012
I know, it’s just one game, but yesterday’s 9-2 win over the Mets, a victory credited to Cliff Lee, his first in 13 starts this season, had plenty of hopeful signs. The first was Chase Utley , displaying his vaunted drive to win by putting the team on his shoulders and hitting the tying home run. Carlos Ruiz continued his season long brilliance by putting the Phillies in the lead, hitting his second back to back home run combo with Utley , who has been back in the lineup less than a week. Cliff Lee, who had pitched competently in this game through six innings, then took it to another level, as Mets catcher Mike Nickeas said "Once they took the lead, we saw a different side of him," . The Phillies kept pouring it on, scoring three runs in each of the last three innings, a killer instinct that had been missing much of the season. My favorite example was slow-footed Ty Wigginton hustling home from second on Hunter Pence's single off shortstop Ruben Tejada's glove in the eighth, the kind of aggressive baserunning that can force the other team into errors. Hopefully, this is the start of a return to the type of baseball we’ve been privileged to see in Philadelphia over the last few seasons, and the impending return of Howard and Halladay from the disabled list can only help if this season is to be resurrected. The Phillies must start now, to paraphrase the great Yogi Berra, “it’s gotten late early around here”.