Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Phil's Approach Pales in Comparison to Sixers

The Phillies have been trying to hang on to their glory years, keeping their well beyond their prime stars after having devastated their farm system in the attempt to stay on top after their 2008 World Series Victory.  Their recent signings have been older players such as A.J. Burnett and Marlon Byrd, players whose contacts will expire at approximately the same time as the core 4 of Utley, Rollins, Howard, and Ruiz (along with Lee and Papelbon). At that time, the cupboard will be bare. The farm system has failed to produce viable replacements, with such disappointments as Domonic Brown,  Freddy Galvis, and Cesar Hernandez, and utter failures such as Sebastian Valle, Tyson Gillies, and Tommy Joseph.  Only Cody Asche and a few of the bullpen arms (Justin DeFratus, Jake Diekman, Mario Hollands, and Ken Giles) show promise.  The farm system was also devastated by high risk/high reward draft picks the Phillies made when they were drafting low in the order thanks to all their first division finishes. Few of these panned out, others are years away, leaving the cupboard bare at the upper levels. Recent drafts have focused on more major league ready players, but no one ready to step in to help today, or even tomorrow.

Additionally, the training in the system has to be questioned, when so few prospects appear to be major league ready when they do arrive, some, such as Domonic Brown, display a shocking lack of knowledge of how to play the game, running poor routs in the outfield, swinging at the first pitch after the opposing pitcher has walked three in a row, etc.

The Phillies are in a bind.  Other teams are locking up young stars before they become free agents, and trades are difficult with nothing to send back except high contracts. The only real solution is the long route, draft well, focus on development, and perhaps step up international scouting and signing. Unlike the Sixers, the Phillies future is not so rosy, even for a few years down the road.

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Tale of Two Approaches

                In Philadelphia, two of the 4 “major” sports franchises are in rebuilding mode, the main difference is only one will admit to being in such a state. The Sixers are flat out admitting they are rebuilding, all their energies are focused on the future. The Phillies are in denial, insisting they are trying to win now with the aging remnants of their 2008 World Series champions.  Both are losing (or expect to lose once the season starts) games at a rapid pace. The difference? The Sixers have told the fans what they are attempting, and so far, their actions have been in support of their words.  Last season amounted to an extended tryout of young players, (not a tanking of the season as many in the media have called it) many of whom had been first round draft picks of other teams (usually draft picks of good teams that picked well after the lottery picks). These players had trouble cracking the starting lineup of their playoff contending teams, but they were first round picks for a reason. The Sixers may have found a few keepers amidst all the losing, players such a s Tony Wroten, Hollis Thompson, Henry Sims, and James Anderson, players who may never be stars but still be valuable role players.  Additionally, last year they  had two lottery picks in the draft, one of whom, Michael Carter-Williams was rookie of the year, and one, who most likely would have been the number one pick in the draft if he hadn’t been injured, Nerlens Noel. The Sixers provide Noel an entire season to heal and develop his game, without the pressure of having to win now.

Al the losing pushed them into the draft lottery again, of course, once again, with two picks. This time, they again selected the player expected to go number one but for an injury, Joel Embiid, and once again will likely give him an entire season to recover. Additionally, they shrewdly selected a point guard coveted by another team, then traded him for a more talented forward plus an additional future first round pick. This forward, Dario Saric. like Embiid, will likely not play for the team this year, preferring to hone his game in Turkey before joining the NBA. 

The Sixers, despite having Noel for this season, will likely continue losing without help from this year’s draft, landing them in the lottery once again.   Next year, they should have Carter-Williams, Noel, Embiid, their 2015 fist round pick, and perhaps holder Thaddeus Young in their lineup, with Saric due from Turkey the year after that, just as these high picks start to become veteran NBA players, and hopefully stars.   The pain of losing now is paving eh way to a bright future. Tomorrow, I’ll contrast that with the Phillies approach

Friday, May 9, 2014

Eagles Trade First Round pick for two Third Rounders

I'm not sure trading a first round pick for two third round picks was the best idea. Okay, Okay, I know technically Marcus Smith was a first rounder, but almost no one had him rated higher than a second rounder. I wanted Marqise Lee at 22, when he was still there at 26 I thought they were brilliant, then I, heard the commissioner say Marc...wait...what? Who?

So much for taking the best available player and not reaching for need (yes, a pass rusher was a need). It was just this kind of drafting, the we're smarter than everyone else mindset,  that ended the Andy Reid era.

Let's hope the Eagles are right and everyone else is wrong, but somehow, I don't think so.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

This is how the season ends, not with a bang, but a whimper...

Well, perhaps not a whimper, but a horrible second period. the Flyers started game seven against the Rangers strong, flying around, forechecking like demons, finishing checks, so strong in fact, that it appeared to be only a matter of time before they pushed on past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundquist. Unfortunately, they were unable to do so, and this failure seemed to leave them dispirited. they came out so flat in the second period, were so sloppy and so disorganized that only the stellar play of goalie Steve Mason kept it from being 5 or 6 to 0 entering the third instead of the actual score of 2-0.
The Flyers came back in the third, carrying play for most of the period, but were only able to push one goal past Lundquist, and that was that, time for the season ending handshakes.

Every year, I root for the Flyers to win the Stanley Cup, and failing that, I root for whoever knocks out the Rangers (this year, I may be in the unhappy position of rooting for Sydney Crosby and the Penguins).
At least it appears the Flyers may have found their answer to their never ending goalie problems in Steve Mason. Let's hope so as they retool in the offseason once again.

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 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.