Friday, April 24, 2015

Take My Ticket...Please!

Here's one record that's gonna' fall...guaranteed!  The lowest announced paid attendance in the history of Citizens Bank Park saw the Phillies shellacked yesterday by the Miami Marlins, 9-1.

That's a record that will broken numerous times before Phillies fans are put out of their misery next Fall.  Of course, these same fans can avoid the misery by staying away from the stadium in droves. They will.

It says here that by late September, on a dreary day in a meaningless game, the vendors and ushers will outnumber paid admissions 2-1.

You read it here first.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

How Many Games Remain?

Their ace is winless and it's almost May. (He has two losses.)

The one-time phenom has yet to make an appearance and nobody even remembers his name.  (Dom Brown.)

The once-rollicking, always sold-out stadium is half-full now.  (It could get much worse by August.)

Their core players are hitting below the Mendoza line, collectively. (One of them is floating with .100.)

Their manager is living on borrowed time.  (Being in the HOF does not guarantee job success or security.)

Their GM has been silent all Spring.  (What's he gonna' say at this point anyway?!)


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Has-Been Heaven

Look, let's be honest.  I don't give a hoot about pro football.  Oh, sure, I want to see the Eagles win but only so that 6 million fellow citizens in the metropolitan area don't look so glum when they don't.

That said, yesterday's signing of Tim Tebow amused me endlessly.  A washed up football player at 27 whose claim to fame is kneeling and praying is not going to make an iota of difference to the Eagles, reverse curse notwithstanding.  Yet, the hoopla was, to be kind, a little excessive.  Even the Inquirer's esteemed staff weighed in on Tebow's prospects.

I guess Philadelphia has become the place where has-beens go to die.  Jeff Francoeur found a place on the Phillies' roster this year so why shouldn't Tim Tebow find his spot, too.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Grievances

Leave it to Rupert Murdoch's Fox Sports to hire Pete Rose, banned from baseball, as a baseball analyst. They deserve each other.

* * * * * * * *

The prediction was the Phils would not hit.  They haven't.  The prediction was the Phils wouldn't have much starting pitching after Cole Hamels.  They don't have much even with him.  The prediction was Ryan Howard was in steep decline.  The only question now is how will the Phillies rid themselves of him.  His fat contract stays...and stays...and stays....  They said Chase Utley had a poor second half in 2014, cause for worry in 2015.  His slow start in 2015 remains cause for worry.

* * * * * * * *

The only person the Flyers haven't fired in the last several years is Ed Snyder and they can't fire him. This franchise is stuck in loyal soldier mode and until someone other than Snyder calls the ultimate shots it will remain there.

* * * * * * * *

Well, even tanking seems just beyond reach for the Sixers, who are going to need luck to get the top draft pick.  Three years of misery look like they will stretch into at least next year to absolutely no one's credit in the front office.

* * * * * * * *

Let's not leave out the Eagles, who rid themselves of a lot of premiere players and/or healthy ones so that coach Chip Kelly could call this his team.  The bet here is this proprietary attitude will come back to haunt him.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

No Respect

The Phils have won half their games this season.  Who'd have thunk it?

Of course they relied on Aaron Harang, pitching for his eighth team, and Jeff Francoeur, who's been released by four teams in a couple of years, to even their record, but let's not quibble.

And before the Phillies regress to the mean, or at least to the pre-season predictions, let's also note they haven't exactly won the hearts and minds of the local media, quite a feat given hope springs eternal in the first days of the season, even for major league teams that could be expected to struggle to even win the Mexican League championship.

Of what do I write?

The lead article in this morning's Inky was another fluff piece on the Eagles.  Yes, baseball fans, even when it's your turn to shine your football brethren take the prize.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Curmudgeon In Mid-Season Form

One game does not a season make, but who can resist drawing a few conclusions anyway?

Cole Hamels is a premier pitcher and the ace of the Phillies' staff.  Of course, the cynic would argue the latter title is equivalent to being named an admiral in the Swiss Navy, but let's leave that question for another time.

What I have argued in the past is that Hamels, excellent as he is, does not have the fear co-efficient associated with his name.  When opposing teams see him on the schedule they don't start having nightmares about his high inside hard one like they used to do with, say, Randy Johnson.  Heck, they don't even fear Hamels' out pitch, his change, like they did Johnson's sweeping breaking stuff that moved AWAY from the batter.  (Of course it moved away after sweeping across his body and appearing to aim right for the batter's knees.)

Cole just doesn't strike fear.

He also perennially gets off to a slow start.

Yesterday he had nothing against the Red Sox, reportedly one of his suitors in the off-season.  If yesterday's game is any indicator, and it is early, the Red Sox are probably just as glad they didn't bite.

Someone will, however, because Cole is going to get vocal about the lack of support he receives this season.  Yesterday the Phils managed three hits altogether, a harbinger of things to come.  Cole will be grow increasingly unhappy after losing a lot of 3-0 and 2-1 games and the Phils will have to move him just to keep the peace.  Who knows?  If the Sox are in the thick of a tight race they may still covet him, especially since they also know it's early.

* * * * * * * *

Speaking of the Red Sox, did I mention I detest interleague play!?  Did I also mention that as much as I hate interleague play I especially loathe seeing National League teams open their season against American League clubs!?

Spoiler alert!!

Here comes the curmudgeon paragraph.

Baseball loves to remind fans how tradition-bound in the best sense the game is.  When it suits them.

In my youth the leagues never met except during the All Star game and World Series.  Televised games were also few and far between so one rarely saw players from the other league except during the aforementioned special occasions.

Some time in the sixties or seventies (I am too lazy to look it up, another by-product of being a curmudgeon) the alleged brain trust running MLB even tried holding two All Star games one or two seasons.  Talk about greed and stupidity!  Even THEY realized how stupid a move that was.

The point I am slowly making here is that the separation of the leagues was near absolute so when they did come together arguments over which was the better league were hot and furious and fun.

Then came the DH in the AL.  Then came Saturday games of the week.  Then came ESPN.  They came Saturday and Thursday games of the week.  Then came Sunday night baseball.  Then came interleague play.   (We might as well throw in free agency, which meant more movement of players between the leagues.)

Now, who cares?  The Leagues are fungible save the DH difference.  The All Star game is a television special like the ones Dean Martin might have hosted.  All fluff and partying.

* * * * * * * *

J-Roll sure knows when that red light is on and what better place to prove it than Hollywood?  Jimmy hit a three-run homer in his Dodger debut to lead his team to victory.  I'll bet he was having such a good time he forgot to look at the box score of his former mates.

I'll bet they looked at his, though.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Waiting For The Season To Begin

This headline from the Phillies' website caught my eye:

Scott Palmer gets the breakdown from Freddy Galvis on what's so special about the shortstop's bat

My reaction?  Nothing!

You're kidding, right?  No, there really is a video on the site under that heading.  I declined to watch it.

* * * * * * * *

So, Dom Brown isn't going to be ready for the beginning of the season because of tendinitis in the Achilles tendon.  I guess the off-season didn't provide sufficient time for Dom to get in shape.  Let's give him the benefit of the doubt:  maybe he just has a chronic condition that no amount of rest is going to completely correct.

OK.

So, let's look at this another way:  Dom is never going to be ready in the larger sense.  He's been a top prospect, a bust, a first-half sensation, then a bust again, then a real big bust.  Dom has used up his nine baseball lives.  Maybe his mother just should have tossed him completely in the River Styx.

* * * * * * * *

Then there is J-Roll, the West Coast edition.  Jimmy should have kept his trap shut and just put on that Dodgers uniform and thanked his lucky stars he'd escaped the disaster that is the Phillies, but, no, that wouldn't be Jimmy.  He had to take a few shots at the Phans.  It's a national past time and Jimmy couldn't resist.  It does him little credit and will likely increase the percentage of boos when he returns.  Then he can say I told you so. 

* * * * * * * *

The Phils have precious little pitching.  They have even less hitting.  Their defense isn't going to make anyone feel better about their prospects either.  If they win 63 games it will be a miracle.  So, how does the brain trust that runs the show react?  They still force season ticket holders to purchase plans that include the meaningless Spring Training game that takes place at Citizens Bank Park after the club heads north.  No amount of fan appreciation days is going to compensate for that insult.


Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Pepper

If it's Spring Training time we must be talking Chase Utley's health.

* * * * * * * *

The Sixers may have a plan but no one including their GM can predict how draft picks turn out.  Just remember Shawn Bradley and Leo Rautins.

* * * * * * * *

Could Ron Hextall finally be ending the Flyers' streak of terrible deals and signings?  The last few days would suggest so.

* * * * * * * *

Let's hope Cole Hamels, always a slow starter, comes out of the gate healthy and strong.  If he isn't gone by Opening Day, he will be by the July trade deadline.  The worse case scenario for the Phils would be he suffers an injury.  The best case scenario is that a contender with plenty of elite prospects to trade sees Hamels as the key to getting into the post season.

* * * * * * * *

The stories coming out of the Eagles' front office this off-season are hardly reassuring they will begin the process of filling their many holes come the draft and free agent market.  Let there be no mistake the Eagles weren't close to an elite team last year.  They have too many holes to fill to contend with the best of the NFL.

* * * * * * * *

Speaking of the Eagles, a good friend recently pointed out the biggest disadvantage to Chip Kelly's hurry-up offense is that with 3 and outs the defense is back on the field that much quicker.

* * * * * * * *

Mike Schmidt can work all he wants with Domonic Brown regarding his swing.  When you've been in professional ball this long you deserve the swing you've got!

* * * * * * * *

Go ahead, name five players on the Sixers team.

* * * * * * * *

I watched the last ten minutes the other night as the Flyers held off the Rangers to win 4-2 (the final goal coming on an empty net).  Steve Mason was brilliant.  The defense was decent.  The offense hardly mounted any offense those final ten minutes.  Mason was the entire difference.  The Flyers scoring difficulties will keep them out of the playoffs for another year.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

You're Kidding, Right!?

The Sixers signed a new power forward on Monday, name of Furkan Aldemir.

On Friday they announced his plantar fasciitis is worse than previously believed.

They're kidding, right!?

You mean the Sixers signed yet another big man who is injured?  Are  they really telling us that after all the miserable experiences of the last few years signing or acquiring big men who could not and/or did not play, the Sixers did it again?


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Just The Facts

After the Sixers lost yet another game to a lousy team, bowing to the 8-14 Boston Celtics by 18 points, their coach had this to say:

"It's a fact that you do lay an egg from time to time in the NBA over 82 games.  And tonight we laid an egg."

An egg?  Did you say "an egg"?  Are we talkin' "an egg"?

How about an entire Tortilla Espanola, Brett?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sunday, December 07, 2014

That's It!! I've Had It!!!

OK, Sixers, enough already.  You already ruined the only reason to check the scoreboard.  Now, you've gone and won another game...in OT no less!!

That's it.  I ain't gonna' check Yahoo Sportacular on my phone any more.  No, better than that, I'm gonna' delete the Sixers from my Favorites so I don't even have to avoid looking.

That's what you get for ruining the only drama around these parts by winning not one but two games in one week.

Just be forewarned, if you guys with the NBA championship, I'm not going to the parade.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Why'd They Wanna' Go 'N Runeit?

Aw, Jeez, why did the Sixers want to go an spoil the only excitement of the season by winning a game???!!!!

And why, oh why, did the Timberwolves tank by playing without three starters and their reserve center?

Now there's nothing to look forward to during the long winter months.

Thanks, Sixers!  And thanks to you, too, Wolves!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

$39.25

$39.25.  That's the average price for a ticket to see your Philadelphia 76ers.

There have been too many articles to count whose subject is the impatience of the average Philadelphia sports fan.  There have been even more articles (including a NYT sports section page one item) concerning the 76ers "plan" to build a winner through patient (management version) drafting and [unstated but hardly a secret] tanking in order to secure high draft picks.

The Sixers have acquired or drafted three big men in the last few years one of whom never played a minute in Philadelphia, one of whom missed his entire rookie year recuperating from an injury, and a third who is also likely to miss his entire rookie year because of injury.

The Sixers have been losing at a prodigious rate for two years and have begun the current year 0-11.

Every single article on the Sixers in the Inquirer contains citations of statistics for the franchise's worst start and the NBA record for worst start.

Ah, but the worst was yet to come...until today.

A former Kentucky player was quoted as saying his college team could beat the Sixers in a series with the latter winning perhaps a game.

So, what's with you impatient Sixers' fans, eh?  Why can't you shell out an average of $39.25 to see one of the worst teams in NBA history?  And, by the way, that $39.25 doesn't include transportation to the game, parking if applicable, food and (just kidding on this next one) souvenirs.  On second thought, some people might be hoarding souvenirs for these losers because, you guessed it, they might be valuable artifacts of a record-setting team.

Boy, you Philadelphia fans sure are impatient!!!

Friday, November 14, 2014

How Low Can You Go?

In case you were wondering just how low the Phillies could go, here's a hint:

They signed Jeff Francoeur.

Now, if that ain't the bottom, folks, it must be nearby.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

It's Been A While....

Wake up, dear readers (all three of you).

I haven't watched a single pitch of the World Series, but that doesn't stop me from opining.

The Giants are one win away from winning their third title in five years.  Normally, that would constitute a dynasty, but go ahead, name four or five players on the Giants team.  I don't know if their run is the result of luck, poor opposition, the dilution of major league talent in general or they just know how to peak at the right time.

The Giants have had good pitching and timely hitting, but there aren't names like Jeter, Bench, Brooks and Frank Robinson et al.  The Giants remind me most of the great Oakland teams of the early to mid '70's.  Few Hall of Famers but a lot of solid players who always peaked at the right time.

The Phillies, meanwhile, are going to be on the outside looking in for a very long time.

* * * * * * * *

The Sixers are going to be on the outside looking in for a long time, too.  Go ahead, name more than two players on the team.  Take all the time you want.

They have a strategy, or at least that's what we continue to hear, but by the time they can see if it worked there will be more ushers in the stands than paying customers.

The NBA probably rejected any changes to the lottery system, at least for next year, because the Sixers, who will benefit from the current setup, must have told the powers-that-be that the franchise would have to move in a few years if the system changed because no one in Philadelphia would listen to chicken little any longer.

* * * * * * * *

The Flyers started out this year like last year, that is, losing.  They looked set to dig themselves another 1-7 hole, especially with a tough road trip coming on the heels of their winless start, but, lo and behold, they beat some damn good teams, returned home and beat Detroit, and now they are back at even though down in the standings.

Meanwhile, Steve Mason, who was allegedly going to break out this year, has stunk and Ray Emery, his backup, who stunk last year, is the guy who's been in the next for this admittedly very mini winning streak.

As for their defense, well, it was suspect to begin the year, worsened due to injuries and was so depleted the Flyers brought up their top prospect on defense after saying he had to get more seasoning as a pro before they would let me make his NHL debut.

Who knows with this team?!

* * * * * * * *

And then there are the Eagles.  They began the season with Nick Foles at quarterback.  The debate as to his true value was intense.  He did well when he came on last season, his first as a starter (at the midpoint of the season) but worries persisted he wasn't ever going to be a franchise quarterback. When the Eagles won five of their first six games, several by hanging on for dear life, his legions of detractors howled that Foles looked shaky at best and his supporters, many of them in the same locker room, said, "Hey, we're 5-1 and he's had something to do with it!"

Well, they lost their next game, which they led with less than two minutes remaining on the road and were driving as time expired, and the headlines said Foles bore much of the responsibility.

So, what should we conclude?  Foles could win most of his starts for the second half of the season, the Eagles could make the playoffs but bow out early, then the alleged brain trust would make noises about needing this defensive back or that one and when the draft rolls around grab the first quality QB available.

For you see, Nick really isn't a franchise QB.

* * * * * * * *

For many of my 35 years in Philadelphia, Penn had been a power in Ivy League football and basketball.  The basketball team has been lousy for a few years running but the football team was still among the elite until this year.  Penn is 1-5, their only win coming against perennial doormat Columbia.  I guess as the schools intellectual reputation has risen even higher over the last many years, its athletic prowess has moved in the other direction.

* * * * * * * *

Temple, meanwhile, started off like a ball of fire but has cooled considerably since then.  It seems like we are always waiting for Temple to put it all together.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Go Figure

Given up for dead, and rightfully so, in this space and elsewhere, the Phillies have mildly surprised the faithful by winning three straight series from teams likely to make the post-season.

Don't get your hopes up, faithful.

This modest streak comes on the heels of the following developments:

1.  Their number two pitcher is lost for the remainder of the season by July.
2.  Their number one slugger is flirting with the Mendoza line.
3.  Their manager has angered rookies and veterans alike by his quick hook or lack of playing time.
4.  Their GM only recently allowed for the possibility that his team, on a pace to lose 90 games, would not make the post-season.

Make no mistake about it, this modest streak will be halted shortly (perhaps as early as tonight) when the Phils start losing to teams with losing records.

More than a few pundits who get paid to write about the Phillies have raised alarm bells about the discontent simmering in the clubhouse.  When rookies and under-performers complained about the manager, some of this pundits advised the youngsters to shut up and put up, not necessarily in that order.  When veteran star Cole Hamels stormed off the mound, however, these same pundits began wondering whether or not the problem rested in the manager's office.

It's difficult to really measure Ryne Sandberg's performance given the crappy team his was furnished, but one conclusion is emerging:  a player who gave his all and made the Hall of Fame as a result is not likely to be impressed by or care much for anything but what happens between the lines.  Show him the performance, and then and only then can we assign some blame.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Breaking It Gently

Spoiler alert!!!

I want to break this to you loyal readers (all three of you) as gently as possible.  Ruben Amaro has announced he thinks it unlikely the Phillies will make the playoffs this year.

There.  I've said and I hope I didn't upset you.

I know.  I know.  It's a bitter pill to swallow.  Heck, all they have to do is jump four teams ahead of them in the standings...in their own division.  We won't even speculate about the Wild Card. Who knows, they could run off a winning streak of, say, twenty-six straight games beginning tonight on the West Coast in San Francisco, where they are always at the top of their game.  Piece of cake.

But, no, Rube dashed our hopes.  He looked at our aging veterans, most of whom are hitting twenty to forty points below their career averages, and just couldn't figure out how these guys could make the post-season. He signed a starting pitcher last week who'd already been let go by two other lousy teams this season.  He had Roy Halladay throw out the first pitch of a game last week.  I think it was a strike, but I wasn't there. He inducted Charlie Manual into the Wall of Fame after canning the winningest manager in Phillies history late in last season, which was probably going to be his last anyway.

He actually began the season convinced this team would contend even though the trend, sabremetrically and old-school-wise, continued its steady decline.

Rube's gotta' believe.

Frankly, Rube's gotta' go and if this announcement doesn't convince the alleged brain trust of the Phillies, nothing will.

I

Sunday, August 10, 2014

On And Off The Field

Last night at Citizens Bank Park nearly everything wrong with the Phillies was prominently displayed.

On the field, the bats were silent again wasting another fine outing by Cole Hamels, the only reliable starter on the staff.  For the second time in a week Hamels' mates were AWOL as he stifled the opposition.  Hamels has two no-decisions to show for his outstanding efforts.

Also on the field, the Phillies celebrated the induction of former manager Charlie Manual into the teams Wall of Fame.  It was all folksy and joyful as befitted the inductee.

Off the field, we can look at the events cited above and find nothing to celebrate with the Phillies' alleged brain trust.  Indeed, Hamels' plight can be laid directly at the feet of GM Ruben Amaro and whichever of the myriad owners actually has a say in the day-to-day operations.  Amaro took over a squad that was at its peak and tried to squeeze a few more titles out of it while emptying his farm system.  Injuries and age undermined his goal, but not nearly as much as his ruinous trades, reckless contracts, and general inability to judge talent did.  Until as recently as two months ago Amaro insisted the Phillies could be competitive.  Right now they are...as long as the Houston Astros provide the opposition.

But the night really revolved around Manual.  After leading the Phillies out of the wasteland and to consecutive World Series appearances and one win, Manual was saddled with these aging, injured and overpriced players and could no longer work miracles.  Was Manual a genius?  Hardly.  He had his issues with in-game strategies and was less than impressive as a judge of pitchers.  But Manuel was a players' manager and was successful in getting the most out of those players while he could.  So, what was his ultimate reward (Walls of Fame notwithstanding)?  He was fired late in the season with a little over a month or two to go.  Instead of telling Charlie they were going to let him go at the end of the season, they fired him with time remaining.  It was a decision not only lacking in class, it sent a message that this alleged brain trust had little regard for its valuable employees.

We should not forget Dallas Green here.  Green was no genius.  On top of that, he was a loud-mouthed jerk.  But he won a World Series after an even longer period of wandering the wilderness and was rewarded with a lifetime job, even after he left briefly to head the Chicago Cubs and succeeded in fleecing his former employers by wrangling Ryne Sandberg from them.  What goes around.....   Sandberg had a Hall of Fame career in Chicago and then returned to the Phillies organization only to become the manager who succeeded, you guessed it, Charlie Manual.  Meanwhile, Green has some senior advisory role with the Phillies, possible Loud Mouth For Life.

I'm not quite finished.

In addition to firing Manual instead of seeing him gracefully retire, the Phillies also fired long-time television and radio commentator Chris Wheeler.  In Wheeler's case the Phillies allowed him to finish the season, but after signing a huge new deal with Comcast, the alleged brain trust decided to unceremoniously cut Wheeler loose.  Wheeler had his detractors.  He made the phrases "middle in" and "no doubles defense" raise more than a few hackles among listeners; but, he was informed and passionate and devoted.  For this he was dumped very unceremoniously and replaced by two media neophytes, Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs, who are charitably the worst commentators in the booth this viewer has ever endured.  I haven't tried this duo as the cure for my chronic insomnia but I might force myself to tune in late one night for a trial dose.

So, there you have it.  The Phillies' alleged brain trust has screwed up the product on and off the field, and they have done it without apology.  They aren't good at their jobs and they have no class in the process.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Suicide Watch

The July trade deadline passed quietly in Philadelphia.  Very quietly.  The only momentous event of the day came later that evening when a few unnamed clubs who'd possibly been considering acquiring Cliff Lee breathed huge sighs of relief when the veteran left-hander left the game in the third inning with a recurrence of the elbow strain that had already sidelined him for two months of the season.  Lee is done for the year if not career and his trade value is nil.

Indeed, nil was the watchword in Philadelphia.  The Phils had nothing especially valuable to trade and potential partners had even less they were willing to offer.  The Phillies' alleged brain trust has finally come to the conclusion reached unanimously elsewhere that the rebuilding must begin.  The trouble is a team cannot rebuild overnight, especially not these days when free agency isn't what it once was with most teams locking up potential free agents with lucrative long-term deals.  The Phils are going to have to rebuild slowly the old-fashioned way, by developing players.  They did it within recent memory, developing Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz, but they didn't do it after that bumper crop and now the farm system is bare.

The danger that looms, and thus the watch noted above, is the Phillies will make an especially desperate move and trade Cole Hamels for prospects.  To be sure, these prospects will be highly touted, but prospects are prospects, for all that, as Robert Burns never said.  Without Hamels, the Phils will not have one certified front line pitcher.

The counter argument is that Hamels will be the lone member of a pitiful staff come next year and will find even less run support from the cast of has-beens and never-weres surrounding him than he has the past two seasons.  Hamels soldiers on, but he has allowed in public he isn't thrilled with the Phillies' offense.  It won't get better in the foreseeable future.  How much losing can Hamels endure?  For his sake, I hope he is traded to a winning team.  For our sakes I hope he remains; as Matt Gelb pointed out the other day, at least every fifth day should provide some hope with Hamels on the team.

Ruben Amaro has shown a strong willingness to overspend for and misjudge talent, so one can hardly be sanguine about the prospects he would acquire by trading Hamels or any other commodity of value on the current roster.  Some in town are giving him credit for not panicking last week and making some bad deals.  If these people want to keep score, Amaro's sudden caution hardly evened his ledger.