Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Back To The Future For Iverson and Sixers

Once upon a time in the late 1990s a young guard from Georgetown University was thought to be the future of the hapless Philadelphia 76ers. For a time he was. Things were turbulent and never boring during the Iverson era as, despite numerous personal and professional "issues," the point guard who looked to shoot first and pass fifth actually helped guide the Sixers to the finals against the Lakers in 2001.

And how things went downhill like a runaway train after that: Iverson proved uncoachable and was eventually traded.

Now that Iverson has alienated himself from Denver, Detroit and Memphis, both he and the Sixers have agreed that either a) he still has some alienating left to do in Philly, or b) they'd like to both live in the past and make believe the future is bright, uncertain, exciting, and a return to the N.B.A. Finals is just a few years around the corner. Don't be fooled.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Searching For Clues

Everyone is looking for clues about what the outcome of the Amtrak Series will be. Sabermetricians have pointed to a defensive advantage the Phils have over the Yankees. Who knew Ryan Howard was a better defensive first-baseman than Mark Teixiera in 2009, anyway?

One of the most ridiculous of the so-called indicators thus far, from this home video made by the New York Times, is that the Yankees have never lost a World Series they've played in a year ending in nine. Interesting trivia, yes. But if you believe that nonsense you probably believe the world is ending in 2012 because they Mayans' calendar ends with that year.

Perhaps people are reaching for clues because the three-game preview of the World Series played at the Stadium back in May doesn't offer much. Here are the box scores:

Game 1, Phils won 7-3. Myers threw eight solid innings to get the win and Madson closed out the game with a scoreless ninth in a non-save situation. Myers gave up solo homers to, not surprisingly, Teixiera, A-Rod and Jeter. Rollins hit the overrated A.J. Burnett's first pitch out for a homer and the Phils also got dingers from Ibanez, Werth and Carlos Ruiz. Burnett lost, Wang finished up with three innings of two-run ball and saw his ERA drop to 25.00.

Game 2, Phils lost 5-4. Happ got the start and pitched six solid innings. The Phils got a three-run homer from some guy named John Mayberry, Jr. who played in right for some odd reason. Yes he hit a big homer, but Werth who was moved to left to make room for Mayberry in right, misplayed a ball. Could've been ruled an error but wasn't. Durbin and Madson held the lead till the ninth when Lidge came in and gave up a game-tying two-run homer to A-Rod. Moments later Lidge coughed up the game when Cabrera singled in the winning run.

Game 3, Phils won 4-3 in 11. Hamels gave the Phils a quality start with six innings of two-run ball. Jeter and Cabrera each had three hits for the Yanks; Victorino and Carlos Ruiz each had three hits for the Phils who took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth. Lidge blew another save, but not the game. Condrey came in for two scoreless and Ruiz gave the Phils the lead with an RBI double.

What can be gleaned? Hard fought baseball is in the near future. This is why they play the games.

Game One Tonight

The Phils have been off for a week now and hopefully, if the weather cooperates, their hiatus will end tonight when the first pitch of the 2009 World Series is thrown sometime after 7:30 at Yankee Stadium.

In case you need a bit of priming for the Pinstripe Series, there is an interesting article from the Times's Tyler Kepner that compares Ryan Howard and Alex Rodriguez. The article has some good quotes from Jimmy Rollins and Joe Girardi.

Speaking of Girardi, on Tim Marchman outlines Joe Girardi's propensity to overmanage ballgames. Marchman blasts Girardi for using seven relievers in the first five innings of Game 3 of the ALCS. Then he contrasts Girardi's approach with Manuel's more simple approach to managing a game. Evidently, Marchman wasn't watching Game 2 of the NLCS when Manuel used five pitchers in the eighth inning after having yanked Pedro Martinez, who tossed seven scoreless, two-hit innings. Either way, it's a good piece and makes some salient points about the nuances managing baseball. If the Series comes down to managing, Marchman give the Phils the edge.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rollins Makes World Series Prediction

Normally, there's no reason to tune into NBC's The Jay Leno Show, but last night Jimmy Rollins appeared via satellite from New York. In case you missed it, watch the segment below in which Rollins predicts a Phillies World Series win in five games. Rollins has proven himself quite the prediction virtuoso in recent years, particularly when those predictions involve outlasting teams from New York. Hopefully, the power Rollins has over the Mets will extend to the Bombers, too.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


What's great about this year's draft is that it feels a bit like a bonus for the Birds. They're not rebuilding. They're not desperate. They're filling in holes. They're carefully selecting players than can make a team that by all accounts should once again win its division that little bit better. It's not about stopping the bleeding, it's about stocking up.

Or at least that's how it feels.

Still, other teams -- some of them quite good -- will undoubtedly make aggressive gains in the draft, and the Eagles can't waste the chance to get ahead.




Being a Pitt man and a fan of local players, I'm holding out hope that Pittsburgh Panther Darrelle Revis will be available when the Eagles take the stage. Revis put together 11 starts as a true freshman in 2004, and got himself named a freshman All-American. In 2005, he took All-Big East honors with 41 total tackles, one tackle for loss, four interceptions, nine pass breakups, two fumble recoveries, and one blocked kick, then went All-Big East again the next year. On the side, he does some serious special teams work in the form of punt returns.

Who else? Michigan's Leon Hall, and -- maybe the most likely pick of all -- Texas's Aaron Ross. I believe any of these dynamic DBacks would have a serious chance of improving the Birds D in big ways.


Picking up Takeo Spikes was a huge step in the right direction, but the Eagles could benefit in a big way from a young stud linebacker ready to develop into a lean green wrecking machine. Sticking with my penchant for guys from close to home, I'm keeping fingers crossed the Birds get a shot at Penn State's Paul Posluszny. This guy has been called the greatest linebacker ever to play at Penn State. I think that's about all I need to say on the subject.

Running Back

I'm not a gambling man, but something tells me there is huge upside to be found in taking a chance on Louisville's Michael Bush. Yes, he broke his leg. Yes, he missed this entire past season. But the talent was more than obvious the year before, and the size! 6'2", 247! Remember when the New York Football Giants tried to sell Tiki and Dayne as Lightning and Thunder, but really it was more like Lightning and A Slow Bag of Gardening Manure? Imagine really having that kind of double threat, with Westbrook and Bush. And imagine not having to watch Donovan risk injury every time the Eagles get inside the 5-yard-line.


Another offensive lineman.

Another mediocre wide receiver.

A player with an outsized sense of his own importance, or behavioral problems that will inspire the NFL to sit him down for a year or two. Which, I guess, is another way of saying, "Any Miami Hurricane."


The Eagles are coming off a good draft, and the potential is there for another. Still, we all know that you never, never know. I for one will be tuning in Saturday.

Monday, April 23, 2007

NYC Council Move Not Rational


New York City Council banned aluminum bats starting next school year in an overwhelming vote today. The group claims that they are trying to reduce risk to players getting injured or dying because young players "have less time to react" to batted balls. According to the article linked above, there is no statistical proof that balls hit with a wooden bat are safer than those hit with an aluminum bat.

This decision is wrong. It is not the government's place to run Little League and NYC high school baseball. All this decision will do is increase the cost to play baseball in New York. Wooden bats cost more to buy and must be replaced much more often.

Any thoughts on this topic?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Hamels K's 15!

Cole Hamels dominated the Cincinnati Reds tonight, leading the Phillies to a much-needed victory. Hamels' performance was so over-powering not even Charlie Manuel could figure out a way to screw things up and lead the beleaguered team to another loss. The Phils even managed to turn a triple play, the first time the Phillies have done so since 1999.

Speaking of things the Phils haven't done in a while, tonight was the first time a Phillies pitcher struck out 15 or more in a game since April 5th, 1998 when Curt Schilling fanned 15 against the Atlanta Braves and defeated Greg Maddux, 2-1. I can't believe it's been that long. Hamels had a performance very similar to Schilling's that night: he threw 115 total pitches, 82 of them strikes. Schilling tossed 128 in that game, 87 of them strikes. Throwing strikes--what a novel idea...still works even nine years later.

By the way, the '98 Phils finished 75-87, third in the NL East.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


The question is not, “Should the Phillies fire Charlie Manuel?” Phillie fans have answered that question and the answer is, uh, yeah.

The question is not, “When should the Phillies fire Charlie Manuel?” Phillie fans have addressed that one, too, and the answer is, uh, now.

The question is, “Who should the Phillies hire to replace Charlie Manuel?”

In figuring out what traits his replacement should possess, it’s important to ask one more question: “What’s the worst thing about Charlie Manuel?” I know, it’s a tough one. It’s kind of like saying, "What was worst day during the Siege of Stalingrad?" Or, “What was your least favorite thing about the Great Depression?” Or, “What’s the most annoying thing about watching an NBA game announced by Bill Walton?” But, considering the team he’s managing, I think I’ve figured out what Manuel is most obviously lacking: the ability to mentally prepare a squad for competition. In more colloquial terms, a little get up and go.

Think of the Eagles.

I know, it’s nice to do that, isn’t it?

Anyway, think of the Eagles. Is Andy Reid a tough guy, like Bill Parcells? Is he a manic football head, like John Gruden? Is he a nutty professor, like Bill Belichick? No, of course he’s none of these things. He’s a likable and level-headed football coach who seems to get along with any football player not named Terrell. And he wins. The point is, the Eagles don’t need a disciplinarian. They don’t need a hothead, and they don’t need an eccentric. Even under the seemingly gentle leadership of a guy like Reid, they’re ready to play. There’s a complex answer to why, I’m sure, but I’ll give you the simple answer: Brian Dawkins. He’s not the only Eagle who knows how to get excited for a game, but there is no player in professional sports who can set a tone more authoritatively than BDawk.

Do the Phillies have a similar player?

I love the way he talked trash before this season, and I love the way he’s playing right now, but unfortunately JRoll is not BDawk. Jimmy Rollins’s words and actions—as good as they are—are simply not heating the team up. For all of his get up and go, the team ain’t getting, and the team ain’t going, and they haven't done so in the early part of any season since Charlie Manuel came to town.

Ryan Howard is a huge talent, one of the biggest in the Major Leagues, but so far in his career he seems a quiet guy who likes to do what he does. Chase Utley has a bright future ahead of him, but at least on the field he doesn’t exhibit much leadership drive. And let’s not even worry about the arms; except for an old warrior named Flash Gordon, that’s an entire pitching staff praying for more days off.

And what happens if you do exhibit actual, impressive leadership qualities while playing for the Phils? You get shipped off to Siberia. I’m sorry, I mean Ottawa. (Phillies caps off to the guys at We Should Be GMs for their recent column on the sad-nay, tragic-status of short-lived city legend Chris Coste:

The Phils need somebody who can walk into that clubhouse and put some fear into these guys when that’s what’s called for, and some confidence into these guys when that’s what’s needed. Vince Lombardi once said, “There are other coaches who know more about X’s and O’s. But I’ve got an edge. I know more about football players than they do.” And what a huge part of any coach’s job that is—to know your players. To know how to motivate them. To know how to help them become the best players they can become.

Charlie Manuel seems like a fine guy to me. If I met him, I’m sure I’d like him. (Hell, who among us hasn't been tempted to challenge Howard Eskin to a brawl?) But after all of the Phillies slow starts, all of the moments of indecision and confusion exhibited on the field (let alone what must go on in the locker room), I have to assume Charlie just doesn’t know his team.

Keep in mind that Manuel was brought in for one reason: to make an experienced veteran named Jim Thome feel comfortable. Well, he’s not dealing with a team of Jim Thomes-or, anymore, even one of them. He's dealing with a dugout full of guys who by and large have not witnessed all that much winning in the bigs-a dugout full of guys who to some serious degree need to be taught how it's done. Some teams need a brilliant skipper, some need a drill sergeant. This team needs a motivator, and that doesn't seem to be Charlie's role.

Manuel’s biggest problem isn’t necessarily that he’s an idiot. Teams coached by idiots have won before, and they will win again. His biggest problem is that he’s the wrong kind of idiot for this team.