Monday, April 30, 2007

Draft Post-Mortem

The NFL draft, with the seemingly never ending first round on Saturday, is finally over. Strictly from an Eagles perspective, there were more questions created as a result of this draft than there were questions answered. I went over the Kevin Kolb pick pretty well on Saturday and my opinion has not changed. Today, the pick of a quarterback with such a high pick by the Eagles was on the minds of everybody I talked to at work today about the draft and was spoken about on both sports radio stations in town. The thing to stress here is that people's dissatisfaction really has nothing to do with Kevin Kolb personally. He might become a very good player; even a great one. The problem is that the Eagles seemingly threw up the white flag on this season and possibly next season by saying that they will now begin rebuilding around Kolb, rather than retooling their defense for a Super Bowl run as I, and many Eagle fans, wanted them to do.

The rest of the Eagles picks were as follows:

Round 2 Victor Abiamiri DE NOTRE DAME
Round 3 Stewart Bradley OLB NEBRASKA and Tony Hunt RB PENN STATE
Round 5 C.J. Gaddis DC CLEMSON and Brent Celek TE CINCINNATI
Round 6 Rashad Barksdale CB ALBANY
Round 7 Nate Ilaoa RB HAWAII

Some conclusions:

1.) The Eagles have finally recognized that they never adequately replaced Duce Staley's skillset. The Eagles have not had a tough, between the tackles running back since Duce Staley left. Dorsey Levens had some success in that role, but Levens' best days were clearly behind him. With the drafting of Tony Hunt from Penn State and Nate Ila0a from Hawaii, Andy Reid has signalled a willingness to get a power running back as long as they had other skills to offer. Like Duce Staley, Tony Hunt runs with a low center of gravity and will almost always run between the tackles. Also like Staley, Hunt is an effective pass receiver out of the backfield and will be tough for LBs and DBs to tackle in space. Ilaoa has best been described as a bowling ball with legs. Expect some semblance of the return of the "3 headed monster" running game the Eagles had 4 or 5 years ago. All of this signals perhaps the end of Reno Mahe's and/or Ryan Moats' Eagle careers.

2.) The Eagles recognized they have depth issues on defense. Drafting Bradley, Gaddis, and Barksdale highlights was Eagle fans already knew; that the Eagles lack depth defensively in their back seven. CJ Gaddis has been portrayed as a guy who can play safety and corner. Barksdale's athletic skills are supposed to be off the charts, but it's projected he'll play special teams until he comes up to speed on playing DB in the NFL. The Eagles like LB Stewart Bradley so much, the finally cut LB Dhani Jones, who has infuriated numerous Eagle fans with that bizarre and slightly effeminate banjo/guitar thing he does the few times he does make a play.

3.) The only two players in this draft who will help the team next year are Tony Hunt and Victor Abiamiri. Hunt will absolutely make the RB rotation for the Eagles this fall. DE Victor Abiamiri played on a bad Notre Dame defense, but he stood out not only for his pass rushing (10.5 sacks), but he played the run tough as well. This is a skill the Eagles sorely need out of their DEs. If I'm Jerome McDougle, I would look to update my resume.

Final Conclusion: Grading a team's draft is the average of two grades for me. One grade is given for how the team drafted to help the current incarnation of the Eagles. Another grade is speculative in that how do these players project going forward.

"Help Now" grade: D. Hunt and Abiamiri are the only players who will see the field regularly, and in supporting roles at that. They really squandered an opportunity to help on defense in drafting a QB so early.

"Futures" grade: B. This all depends on Kolb and the defensive depth they drafted. If Kolb turns out to be everything his supporters are saying about him, they this could be an A. Let's call it a B for now.

Overall: C. The Eagles were largely passive observers in this draft and seemed disinterested in helping the team this year.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Eagles Drafted a WHAT??!!??

Take a good look at the picture I added with this post. This is the next QB of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles, who shocked fans by trading out of the first round with Dallas (of all teams), then completely mortified their entire fanbase by taking a quarterback with their high second round pick obtained from the Cowboys. Many observers, including myself, predicted the Eagles would draft defensive help with this draft in order to make a run at the Super Bowl. Drafting a QB was the last thing on the minds of many of the Eagle faithful. Afterall, this was the one position that most observers felt the Eagles were most secure. McNabb was expected to be back for the season opener, with AJ Feeley and veteran Kelly Holcomb to back him up. Seems like a solid roster of QBs, right? Apparently, Eagle management is not impressed as Andy Reid is already looking at an Eagles future without Donovan McNabb. How will this reverberate through Eagle-dom?

1.) You will hear about the Eagles unexpected pick of a quarterback A LOT from now until the season begins. I cannot stress this enough. Talk radio will get so much mileage out of this, it will make your ears bleed to listen.

2.) How will McNabb take this? Clearly, if past history is to be believed, he'll take it as a slap in the face. He finds disrespect in the smallest of perceived slights. This is not just some perceived swipe at McNabb...this is a blast of cannonade across his bow. I'll bet he'll be cool on the outside, but absolutely apoplectic on the inside. He's probably doing everything in his power to keep Mama McNabb away from her computer so she won't blog about it.

3.) This pick will piss off a fanbase who largely wanted defensive reinforcements to make a Super Bowl run this year. Drafting a QB who will not start this season may signal that Eagle Management has already given up on this season.

4.) Which backup QB will stay with the Eagles? Holcomb or Feeley? Smart money says Feeley.

5.) Lastly, how long will it be before they turn the reins over to this guy? I say two years. By then, McNabb will be 32 years old and have 10 years in the league. It is thought that as much as McNabb has meant to the franchise, he's not getting any younger, and has lost several games over the past 4 seasons to injury. A good example of what McNabb leaving Philly might look like might be to look towards Tennesee, who unceremoniously jettisoned Steve McNair after several years of quality work.

The NFL Draft

The unofficial start of the next football season begins today when the NFL holds it's annual draft of amateur players. I go back a long way with the NFL draft. The NFL did not always hold the draft on a Saturday; it used to be during the week. I can remember faking illness so that I could stay home from school in grammar school in order to watch the draft when ESPN first started carrying it. I always thought the draft was a neat intersection between College Football, which I love, and the NFL, which I love equally. I always went into the draft thinking two thoughts: 1.) Who will the Eagles pick? 2.) Where will the Penn State players go?. I still do the same thing today.

Now the draft is a much bigger deal with a boatload of media coverage, draft publications, and of course, the dreaded group of self-appointed draft experts. The NFL draft is like your favorite dive bar that all of a sudden, remodelled and became so popular that you barely like to go there anymore. Of all of the changes that have swirled around the NFL draft, the proliferation of the "draft expert" is the thing that makes me roll my eyes the most. Mel Kiper should be hitting his knees every night and thanking God that he is able to make a living as a "draft expert" because I doubt he's qualified to do much else. The fact is, sports drafts are mostly a crap shoot. You can no more predict a 22 year old athlete's future than you could the winning lottery numbers. Folks like Kiper may treat these kids like stocks, but the fact is, there is no way of knowing how well a college kid will develop when he goes into the NFL. Will the money go to his head? Did he get by on pure talent in college, but is really dumb as a stone? Does he not test well, but capable of studying what he needs to know to play football? The fact is, you don't know until you see the player suit up in the NFL. If you could predict this stuff, there would be no such thing as a draft day bust.

Some predictions (Penn Staters included):

-JaMarcus Russell will be the first pick.
-Brady Quinn will end up in Cleveland.
-The Eagles will pick Texas CB Aaron Ross. At the very least, they will pick a DB.
-Paul Poszluzny will go to the New England Patriots (1st Round).
-Tony Hunt will end up in Green Bay (4th Round).
-Levi Brown will end up in Miami (1st Round).
-Tim Shaw will end up an Eagle (5th Round).

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Here and There...

- Charlie Manual's decision to move Brett Myers to the bullpen is either one of two things: A desperate move by a manager desperate to keep his job or an ordered demotion from Pat Gillick to showcase Jon Lieber for potential trade partners. I think it is more the latter than the former. Do you think Gillick would allow Manual to pull a stunt like this if it didn't have his blessing? They just gave Myers a huge 3 year contract extension, so I doubt very seriously if anyone in the Phillies really thinks Myers is the Phillies long term answer in the bullpen. I think Gillick has Charlie Manual on a short leash and the fact is, Lieber is a tradeable asset in need of a market. If Lieber pitches well (which he did against the Reds on Friday), then perhaps he will be moved for the bullpen assets we need sooner rather than later.

- Speaking of Uncle Charlie, the NY Times did an article on the trials and tribulations of the skipper (thanks to for bringing to their readers' attention). It provides a credible description of why Uncle Charlie has so many problems here in Philly. The writer, Jere Longman, is a former Inquirer writer and currently lives in Philly, so the writer is not speaking with a detached viewpoint.

I do have a couple of issues with the article. The first issue I have with the article is that the writer plays the "poor old country boy getting picked on in the big city" angle just a little bit too much for my taste at the if, we only pick on Charlie Manual because of his country accent.

Actually, we pick on Charlie Manual because he's not a credible major league manager.

The writer additionally underplays the fact the fact that Manual was hired instead of Jim Leyland, who took a brutal Tigers team to the World Series last year. It is disconcerting that Charlie Manual was chosen over the more accomplished and seasoned Jim Leyland. After his hiring, Charlie Manual, especially on talk radio, was viewed as they guy that was hired because he would be a good company man as opposed to the more outspoken and blunt Jim Leyland. The Phillies fan base has been so alienated over the years, with how cheap and short-sighted the organization is, that a man like Leyland would have not only provided competent management from the bench, but would tell the front office what they needed to hear instead of what they wanted to hear. To many Phillies fans, Manual's hiring represents just another in a long line of hirings and signings by the Phillies that showed that they are not interested in winning...only in not rocking their boat, both financially and organizationally speaking.

- It was sad yesterday to hear of the passing of author David Halberstam in a car accident in Menlo Park, California. I have a relationship with his writing going all the way back to freshman year in college when I read "Summer of '49" about the Red Sox and Yankee rivalry that year. I've also read "Breaks of the Game" about the time he spent with the 1978 Portland Trailblazers and I recently finished "Education of a Coach" about the rise of Bill Belichick to "genius coach". His writing kept you interested in the topic and you left the book with the idea that you were actually there or that you initimately knew the person or persons about whom he was writing. I don't know that there is a credible individual out there that writes that way. I highly recommend you pick up any of the books I describe above written by Halberstam. I've also heard good things about the Michael Jordan book he wrote in 1999 ("Michael Jordan and the World he made") that I look forward to reading.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Eagles 2007 Schedule

The 2007 Eagles Schedule is out and I, like most Eagle fans, feel the irrational need to try to predict what will happen to an NFL team during the Fall in the month of April. Need I remind you we still have the draft and all of the mini-camps, training camp, and 4 preseason games until we will really know what the 2007 Eagles (along with the rest of the NFL) will really look like? But that won't stop us from peering into our crystal ball....

Sun. Sept. 9 - at Green Bay.....this is a Win. Green Bay was average in a bad division last year and Brett Favre is returning. This means irrational decisions followed by spates of brilliance. Record: 1 - 0.

Mon. Sept. 17 - vs. Washington......this is a win. Monday night. The home opener. A dreadful Redskin team with a young QB. Win. Record: 2 - 0.

Sun. Sept. 23 - vs. Detroit.....this is a win, although not an easy one, coming off an emotional win versus a division rival. I think Detroit will be better than people think. I think Rod Marinelli is a good coach who can turn them around provided Matt Millen doesn't screw up their draft again. Record: 3- 0.

Sun. Sept.30 - at NYG.....this is a tricky one. Not sure how the Giants will look this year. Whether or not the Giants can get past losing Tiki Barber largely depends on how much Eli Manning will have developed over the course of the off-season. He is no where near where he should be considering he was the first pick of the draft. I do think the Giants picked up a good running back in Reuben Droughns, but I wonder what that means for Brandon Jacobs? There doesn't seem a whole lot of difference between the type of runner Droughns is and the type of runner that Jacobs is (or is to become). I think this is a loss going into the Bye week. Record: 3 - 1.

Oct. 7 - BYE. If it wasn't for the rise in Fantasy Football, this would be the worst week of the year. Some fans like the bye week because it affords an opportunity for their liver levels to go back to normal for one week. I used to hate the bye week before fantasy football. With fantasy football, EVERY game is important.

Oct. 14 - At NYJ.......This is a win. There is no way they drop 2 in a row at Giants stadium. The Jets went to the playoffs last year, but they had a soft schedule down the stretch last year, so it may have been a mirage. Chad Pennington's arm might have fallen off by this point in the season. Record: 4 - 1.

Oct. 21 - vs. Chicago........This is a loss. Chicago's defense is tougher than nails and I don't see the potential loss of Lance Briggs slowing them down. If Rex Grossman is still their QB, do not take the "over" in this game. I see this game ending in a score of 14 - 10 or something very low scoring. Record: 4 - 2.

Oct. 28 - at Minnesota........Win. Who is playing QB for Minnesota? I don't know and don't know if it matters. They lost their defensive coordinator, Mike Tomlin, to the Steelers, so there is no telling how that will work out for them. I doubt Vikings head coach (and playcaller) Brad Childress will be able to surprise Eagle defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, as the two were colleagues with the Eagles for several years. Record: 5 - 2.

Nov. 4 - vs. Dallas.......Win. This is a game on Sunday night, in primetime, at home. I see the Eagles winning this game in emotional fashion. No one knows for sure what the Cowboys will be like with Wade Phillips as coach and Tony Romo starting right from the beginning. Record: 6 - 2.

Nov. 11 - at Washington......Win. The drums will be beating for the sainted Joe Gibbs' head by this point in the season. Record: 7 - 2.

Nov. 18 - vs. Miami........Win. Not sure what Miami will look like this year. They have a good defense, but who will be the QB? Does it matter? How do we know if former San Diego offensive coordinator and new Dolphin head coach Cam Cameron is a good coach. I could look like a good coach when you have LaDainian Tomlinson as your running back. Record: 8 - 2.

Nov. 25 - at NE.......Loss. Bill Belichick did a tremendous job in getting players in free agency this year. Furthermore, I believe he could out-coach Andy Reid with one playbook tied behind his back. Record: 8 - 3.

Dec. 2 - vs. Seattle........Loss. Too much Shaun Alexander coupled with getting physically beaten by New England. The Eagles will need to prove they can stop the run again this year. This will be a difficult game for them to win, despite Seattle travelling cross-country to face the Birds. I just don't think the Eagles match up well against Seattle. Record: 8 - 4.

Dec. 9 - vs. NYG........Win. There is no way they get swept by New York. By now, the players could be forming a lynch mob for Tom Coughlin. Record: 9 - 4.

Dec. 16 - at Dallas........Loss. Going on the road after a tough home game against the Giants always makes the Eagles look a little vulnerable the week after. Record: 9 - 5.

Dec. 23 - at New Orleans......Bad loss. Again....playing New Orleans in their dome. Again. Sean Payton is a good coach who clearly has Eagle defensive coordinator Jim Johnson's number. Record: 9 - 6.

Dec. 3o - vs. Buffalo......Win. They will beat a rudderless Bills team to go 10 - 6....good enough for the NFC East crown once again.

There you have it. The meaningless April prediction of 10 - 6, which will be good enough for the NFC East crown.

As I see it, the keys for the Eagles this season are as follows:

1.) Donovan McNabb MUST be ready by the opener. If AJ Feeley or Kelly Holcomb's services are required for anything more than a game or two, and the Eagles will be lucky to get the wild card.
2.) The Eagles must address some defensive deficiencies (depth at DB, LB) at the draft.
3.) Defensive tackles Broderick Bunkly and Mike Patterson need to be significant contributors. Especially the highly touted Bunkly.
4.) Darren Howard and Jevon Kearse need to return from injury to play like their former selves.

Notice I did not include wide receiver as an issue here? There is no single, more overrated issue in Eagle-land, than the position of wide receiver. People were upset over the Eagles' not retaining Donte Stallworth, but they also forget that Donte Stallworth missed 3 games with a bad hamstring. Furthermore, he did show an inability to stay healthy when he played in New Orleans. I don't think Kevin Curtis can replace Donte Stallworth, but I do think Reggie Brown is ready to be a number 1 receiver in this league and Curtis is almost certainly equipped to be a good number 2 receiver. Hank Baskett should also progress and there is also the draft if they still feel short at WR.

Further making the WR issue a moot point is the fact that the Eagles, after the success late in the season with Jeff Garcia at QB, will almost certainly run the ball more. The win at Dallas last year, where they essentially ran it down the Cowboys throats to the tune of 204 yards on 42 carries was exactly what long time Eagle fans had hoped for: a legitimate running attack. Hopefully, it was an epiphany for Andy Reid as well, as he must have seen the good effect the improved running game had on not only his offense, but it allowed his defense to rest as well. I certainly don't think Reid will become Bill Cowher overnight or anything, but a balanced offense will allow other holes (i.e.--the inability of the recent Eagle teams to stop the run) to not be such glaring holes.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Why Do the Phillies Hate Us?

I really want to do a post on the Eagles (still in the works), but the recent play of the Phillies demands comment. I can sum it up in 3 words:

What. The. Fuck.

After just a brutal winter for Philly sports fans, the promising Phillies came along with their MVP in Ryan Howard, the improved starting rotation, and a comparable lineup to the reigning NL East champion Mets. The team unexpectedly surged towards a playoff spot last year only to be rebuffed at the end of the year. Jimmy Rollins, the de-facto leader of this bunch, even called out the Mets in the press stating that the Phillies were the team to beat. I mean, the Phillies could not have teased us more with their potential than they have teased us in the last 9 months.

Then this baseball season began. Now this. One and Six to start the season.

I simply do not understand how a group of players such as this, who have been together for a few years now, do not seem to understand the importance of starting the season on a winning note (or at the very least, remaining even). Let's review the recent history of slow starts:

2004: Started 1 and 6. Finished 86-76, 2nd in NL East
2005: Started 3 and 6. Finished 88-74, 2nd in NL East
2006: Started 1 and 6. Finished 85-77, 2nd in NL East
2007: Started 1 and 6. Finished: ?????

Notice the trend? Slow start = looking up some other team's skirt. It's not too difficult to figure out.

You know what's worse? The way they dropped their 6th loss, by giving up 7 runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to the despised New York Mets. The sight of the Mets and their douche bag fans celebrating at the Phillies expense is both nauseating and frustrating. If the Phillies want to spare themselves some grief from the home fans when they return from this road trip, they better take the next 2 games at Shea Stadium. Otherwise, this overly sensitive bunch of Phillies players will know what real fan anger sounds like.

To me, the following should be considered fair game to be on GM Pat Gillick's mind right now:

1.) Make Charlie Manual the sacrificial lamb. It's not like this is all Manual's fault, although I do believe he is overmatched as a manager in every way (i.e.--on and off the field dealing with the media). These players like Manual too much and acquiescing to them by firing Larry Bowa a few years back did not help them as their record has been rather consistent since. Firing Manual will remind them that the bar has been raised and the safety wheels of a doddering Grandpa-like manager have been removed. This team has weaknesses in the lineup and in the bullpen that will take longer to fix, but their little comfort zone with Manual should be removed and soon. The manager can be fired now and replaced with either Jimy Williams or Davy Lopes with little ill-effect.

2.) Turn Jon Lieber into bullpen help. This is obvious, but it needs to be done. That said, I understand it needs to be done in it's own time so we get full market value for Lieber, which is exactly how "Stand" Pat Gillick will approach it. Eventually, a good team (my bet is one of the teams that is going through these snow postponements) will lose a starter for a prolonged period of time and will be desperate for an experienced starter. Or we may lose a starter for a prolonged period of time and need an experienced starter.

3.) Figure out if Michael Bourn can play. He's made the roster out of spring training, so obviously someone likes him. Then ask: "Is he better than either Shane Victorino or Aaron Rowand?". If not, then Bourn should have his roster spot cleared by sending him to AAA and a veteran bat with some pop off the bench should be acquired. If he is better than either of them, then either Victorino or Rowand should be moved. To me, Victorino and Bourn are the same guys with no pop in their bat. Rowand does have a bit of pop and his grittiness is definitely welcome.

Who knows? Maybe today's day off will help. Somehow, I doubt it.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Odds and Ends

- No sooner do I write a flattering post about Ryan Madson than does he give up not one, but two back breaking home runs in the late innings of the first two games of the season. Thanks, Ryan. Thanks a lot!

- Speaking of Ryan Madson, he claims that he didn't make a bad pitch the whole night during the game last night against the Braves where he gave up the winning homerun in the top of the 11th inning. Memo to Ryan Madson: Anytime you give up the winning homerun.....THAT'S a bad pitch.

- I know Mike York scored a goal the other night for the Flyers to tie their game with Toronto, but he has no business playing in the NHL from what I can tell. He has the reputation for being a good energy player, but he has no discernible skills and has seemed to lack energy since he's been with the Flyers. He looks very weak on the puck and easy for opposing defenders to push around. The fact that we traded a serviceable center like Randy Robitaille for this guy does not make that trade look good at all. Even if you want to argue that he's an NHL calibre player going through a rough year, I don't want him on the Flyers next year.

- I haven't said much about the Eagles because frankly, I think it's premature to comment on an NFL team during the free agent period and before the draft takes place. Now that it looks like the Eagles are done in free agency (they had Mike Doss in for a visit, but he signed with the Vikings) my next article will concentrate on the Eagles and their comings and goings.

- The Sixers beat the Knicks last night, but the bigger news is that with the spate of success the Sixers have enjoyed lately, they are tied with the 8th worst record in the NBA. Clearly, they are not in Greg Oden contention anymore, but hopefully, a good big man like Florida's Al Horford can fall to the Sixers with the 8th pick.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Take Me Out to the Ballgame.....

Today is opening day of the baseball season....a day of promise, new hopes and dreams, and the start of a new series of disappointments for the Philadelphia sports fan.

No franchise (not even the Eagles) can so incense the Delaware Valley as do the Philadelphia Phillies. It is the franchise that has been in Philadelphia the longest, it is the sport that runs the longest during the course of a calendar year, and also has the most vexing ownership group of any team in the city. It is also one of the losingest franchise in all of professional sports, closing in on 10,000 losses (10,000!). Yet hope springs eternal every year for the Philadelphia Nine, our beloved Phigtin' Phils.

My thoughts for the opening of a new Phillies season are many and varied. On paper, they are alot like the weather forecast today: Sunny with a high of 73, absolutely beautiful. Why do I get the feeling they are going to be more like what the weather today really turned out to be: Overcast and cool, with a high of 61 degrees. I believe that ultimately the Phillies will make the playoffs. I would really like them to beat out the Mets for the NL East crown, but I fear that that will not happen. I would really not be surprised by anything that happens with the Phillies this year. As such, I have 5 reasons why they'll stink and 5 reasons why they'll make and suceed in the playoffs.

5 Reasons why the Phillies make and suceed in the playoffs:

1.) Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are the two most exciting young position players in the game today. They will be the cornerstones of this franchise for years to come.

2.) The starting pitching is probably as good as there is in the National League, with Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Freddy Garcia, Adam Eaton, and Jamie Moyer. It far outstrips the Mets starters and is comparable (or better than) to the Braves and Cardinals.

3.) The return of Ryan Madson to the bullpen. Madson was lights out in the bullpen, before he requested to be tried out in the starting rotation to ill effect to the team. Sorry Ryan, you're just not a starter.

4.) The Phils' catching situation is the best it's been since the early to mid 90s when the Phils had good defensive catchers who could handle pitchers like Daulton, Santiago, and a young Mike Lieberthal (who still had a pulse back then). I am more confident with Rod Barajas and Carlos Ruiz (with Chris Coste not far) behind the plate than I have been since those halcyon days of the early 90s.

5.) Love the additions to the coaching staff of Jimy Williams and Davey Lopes. They'll bring both technical baseball acumen and fire to a team desperately in need of both since John Vukovich was bumped upstairs because of his illness.

5 reasons why the Phillies will stink:

1.) There are potential health issues with 3/5ths of the starting pitching staff. Garcia is starting the season on the DL and Hamels and Eaton always seem to be nursing some injury. I am especially worried about Hamels, who has never had a full season of health in his professional career. The health and consistency of the starting rotation will be the single biggest factor in how this team performs this season.

2.) Tom Gordon is a DL trip waiting to happen. Gillick must acquire a "back-up" closer by converting either Aaron Rowand or Jon Lieber into bullpen help.

3.) Pat Burrell is a malcontent who could potentially singlehandedly sink this offense with another crappy performance. He needs to cut down on his strikeouts and fulfill at least some of the promise that he had when he was drafted first overall in 1998.

4.) Anyone else nervous about Shane Victorino starting full-time? I'd be more comfortable if the Phils had a power bat to platoon with the energetic, but slap-hitting Victorino.

5.) Wes Helms is not an adequate fielding third baseman. Hopefully, Rollins can cover alot of ground to his right.

So there you have it.....ultimately, I believe they will make the playoffs (but we'll see).

Other baseball predictions:

1.) The Mets will trade Lastings Milledge for starting pitching when Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez either don't effectively come back from injuries or are simply ineffective.

2.) Diasuke Matsuzaka will be barely above .500 for the season. My prediction: 14 - 12. He'll start with a handful of wins and a lot of hype and will come back down to Earth (like most pitchers that come over from the Japanese Leagues). Certainly, not worth what the Red Sox paid.....

3.) Bobby Abreu will have a big year with the Yanks, fueling endless talk on Philadelphia sports radio (most of it angry-talk).

4.) NL MVP: Albert Pujols; AL MVP: Vlad Guerrero

5.) Roger Clemens will come back with whatever AL-East team is leading in July (either New York, Boston, or Toronto).

6.) The Angels will win the World Series. Not sure why....I just like how their team is set up.

7.) There will be at least one time during the year where Steinbrenner attempts to fire Joe Torre. He'll get talked out of it by Cashman and Torre will retire at year's end.

8.) Despite the presence of Alfonso Soriano, the Cubs will still stink.

9.) Derek Jeter and David Ortiz will be on the cover of Sports Illustrated AT LEAST once this baseball season. Sports Illustrated has forgotten that baseball is played in cities other than New York or Boston.

10.) Randy Wolf will have a 15 win year in LA.

11.) Barry Bonds will break Henry Aaron's home run record. Sammy Sosa will crack the 600 homer mark in his comeback season.

12.) AL Cy Young: Jered Weaver; NL Cy Young: Brett Myers