Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Phillies' Ownership Group: The Phantom 5

NOTE: I've included a picture of the anger management pyramid for your benefit as a Phillies fan. You may need to understand anger management after reading the article referenced in this post.

I've been asked on several occasions on why I'd want to have season tickets to the Flyers.

Afterall, the NHL is a gate driven league, and to be honest, NHL hockey tickets are a bit overpriced. While I don't always enjoy cutting the check for my share of the tickets, the one thing I am always certain about is that as long as Ed Snider owns the Flyers, he will give a damn about how the team does on the ice.

Contrast this to the current ownership of the Philadelphia Phillies. Did you ever get the impression that they gave a crap about anything, much less winning? Do you know their names? Do you know what they look like?

No? Me neither.

Some stories have been written over the years (Bill Conlin always finds a way to take veiled and unveiled shots at a group he calls the "Teflonics" ), but the fact is, these people could be made up entities for all we know. We've never seen them and you wouldn't know them if you bumped into them at Reading Terminal.

If you are a Phillies fan and have only one magazine article to sit down and read, please either pickup the latest issue of Philadelphia Magazine or read the article here (although I recommend buying it too, as Philly mag editor Larry Platt should be rewarded for having tried to sniff this story out). The article, written by Richard Rhys, makes a valiant attempt to paint a picture of the Phillies ownership group, but it's damned near impossible to paint a picture if the subject you're painting won't cooperate. The picture that Rhys does paint is not a flattering one. The Phils' front office (save outsider GM Pat Gillick) is, according to this article, a self-satisfied, chummy little den of mediocrity.

The names of the owners? 87 year old Claire Betz, the Buck Brothers (Jim, 82; Bill, 78, and Whip, 75), and 53 year old John Middleton. They are certainly not names that roll off of the tongue nor are they in the forefront of the minds of Phils fans. This is because they are fronted by Penn grad Dave Montgomery, whose only role seems to be that of a resident pinata. His job is to simply be the mouthpiece and protect the core ownership group from any media exposure, either positive or negative. It is also Monty's job to maintain the most fucked up sports business model of all time: if the attendence lags, lower payroll.....if attendence is good, raise payroll.

It is bad enough that Dave Montgomery simply just carries water for the ownership group, but he is also portrayed as a syncophant for Commissioner Bud Selig when it comes to holding the line on salaries. Why Montgomery feels the need to satiate Selig's agenda in one of the largest markets in the United States is not explained in any way, but you will form your own opinion after this article.

Essentially, the Phillies franchise boils down to a cash cow for these owners, for whom, "winning would be nice". Winning would be nice? Winning a title should be the only reason why you would want to own a sports franchise. You'd have to be a rank incompetent as a businessman to not make money owning a sports franchise in a city like Philadelphia. Is a "winning would be nice" attitude really the type of ownership we should have in a demanding city such as this one, where the public gave them a ton of money to build a ballpark that has practically given them permission to print money?

Your only hope as a Phils fan? Rhys delves into that question a little bit. Maybe minority owner John Middleton, who has been portrayed as actually caring about winning in an interesting couple of anecdotes and is the youngest member of the group, outlives all of the other minority members and buys them out.

Maybe Pat Croce puts together an ownership group. Maybe.

No, the article will not make you happy, but consider yourself so informed as to why the baseball team's potential has been at much less than optimal since 1981.

Phils Sweep Rockies

The Phils beat the Rockies last night by a score of 6 - 1 to complete the sweep of the team that swept them out of the playoffs last year. Adam Eaton pitched 6 not-horrible innings to collect his first win on the season. The Phils win, coupled with a Marlin loss, drew the Phils within a 1/2 game of the lead in the NL East.

The Phils did the bulk of their scoring in the 5th inning, that saw JRoll and Victorino get on via walks. Chase Utley then deposited a Greg Reynolds pitch into the 2nd deck in right field for a 3-run HR. Three batters later, after a Burrell fly-out and a Howard walk, Geoff Jenkins followed suit with a 2-run homer of his own. The bullpen took over in the 7th inning and preserved the win.

The Phils are off tonite and start a weekend set at home against the first place Marlins. Brett Myers goes on Friday night against former Sixer draft pick Mark Hendrickson.

Did you notice?

- Shane Victorino used his speed very effectively last night, getting on base 3 times via the infield single route. He also stole 2 bases. With Jayson Werth on the shelf, Vicotorino needs to use his speed in order to keep himself in the conversation with respect to playing full time.

- If you are Rockies third base coach Mike Gallego, you can't be feeling good about yourself this morning. The Rockies successfully ran themselves out a few innings last night. Notably, Seth Smith got thrown out at the plate in the 3rd (2nd night in a row Smith was nailed at the plate) and Ryan Spilborghs got thrown out at the plate on an overthrow by Geoff Jenkins in the 7th inning (Jenkins' 2nd error in as many nights) that was ably backed up by Ryan Madson. Toss in Garrett Atkins getting doubled off of first base in the 4th inning and these are the kind of nights that will get you booed if you coached in a city that gave a damn.

- Speaking of the play where Garrett Atkins got doubled off of first, did Ryan Spilborghs try to slap the ball out of Ryan Howards' glove after he lined out? Did I actually see that? Was he serious or just kidding. I need video to confirm it.

- The status of the Phillies' GM position has been the topic of some radio talk and this blog entry by's Buster Olney. Anyone else a little nervous about having Ruben Amaro Jr. as the next Phillies' GM? They've been grooming this guy for the job seemingly forever and if you think they are going to throw that job out there for more qualified applicants, you are kidding yourself. The Phils, under current ownership (more on this tomorrow), believe in stability and promoting from within, which is great if you fall into that category of being part of the "family" but not always a great policy if you have a tradition of losing and stagnation.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Kendrick, Phils Beat Rockies

The Phils continued their offensive prowess yesterday, beating the Rockies by score of 7 - 4 in a rain soaked game at Citizen's Bank ballpark. Kyle Kendrick gave up only 2 ER in 7 1/3 innings of work for his 4th win on the season before giving way to an incredibly shaky Tom Gordon with 1 out in the 8th.

The Phils came out of the gate as on fire as they've been in the past two games, posting all 7 of their runs in the first 2 innings of the game. MVP Jimmy Rollins led the way with 2 hits, scoring 2 runs and stole his 8th base on the season. Greg Dobbs, playing left field for an injured Pat Burrell, had 2 hits and knocked in 2 runs.

The series with the Rockies concludes tonite with winless Adam Eaton taking on Ryan Reynolds at 7:05pm (CSN-TV).

Did you notice?

- Bad call in the first inning, calling Ryan Howard out at the plate in the 1st inning. Unfortunately, when the throw beats a player, the umpire will just call the running out solely on instinct. Another example of why baseball needs instant replay on any play where the score of the game could be affect and NOT just boundary plays. The game of baseball does not have a clock; why not take the opportunity to at least ensure the integrity of plays that could potentially result in runs on the board?

- Speaking of Ryan Howard, apparently no one ever told him that it's impolite to point.

- Great throw by TJ Bohn, getting Seth Smith out at the plate in the 8th.

- From CBS Sportline.....apparently, the Phillies almost traded the entire fanbase. Oh, I get it! It's because we're tough fans! Wow, what a hoot. Never heard that one before. Jackass.

- Another decent start by Kris Benson in an extended spring training game. One step closer to ridding ourselves of Adam Eaton and having camera shots of Anna Benson at Citizen's Bank park.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Phils Can't Stop Scoring

Wasn't it just last week that we were all complaining that the Phils' bats were held silent by the Washington Nationals?

In the last two games, opposing pitchers have been just battered by Phils hitters to the tune of 35 runs in two games. In the last game of the Houston series, the Phils tacked up 15 runs on the Astros (4 ER on 0 innings of work on Fernando Nieve alone).

Then last night, the Phils hung a 20-spot on the Colorado Rockies, in the first game of a 10 game homestand. The Phils managed 7 runs off of starter Jorge De La Rosa and another 6 off of reliever Josh Newman. It was more than enough run support for Jamie Moyer, who gave up 4 runs in 7 innings of work before giving way to mop-up guy Clay Condrey.

Chase Utley was the main offensive hero for the Phils last night as he homered in his 2nd straight game, giving him 16 homers on the season. Utley added two more hits, in addition to the homer, in chasing home 6 runs. Pedro Feliz and Chris Coste both chipped in with 4 RBI apiece.

The win keeps the Phils tied with Atlanta for 2nd place. Both Atlanta and Philadelphia are 2.5 games behind the division leading Marlins in NL East.

The series with the Rockies resumes today, as Kyle Kendrick faces Ubaldo Jimenez at 7:05pm (CSN-TV).

Sunday, May 25, 2008

2008 Stanley Cup Finals

This clip does a pretty good job in describing what happened to the Pens last night.


Wings in 5

Friday, May 23, 2008

Phils Win! Howard Breaking Out?

The Phils beat Roy Oswalt and the Houston Astros last night by a score of 7 - 5. There were several heroes last night, but the first one that should be discussed is the Big Man, Ryan Howard.

Ryan Howard had 3 hits last night, including an opposite field shot off of Oswalt that was reminiscent of Howard's MVP year, when it seemed everything was hit the opposite way. This game for RyHo is on the heels of the game in Washington on Wednesday night, when Howard jacked 2 homers and really looked confident at the plate for the first time in a long time. A confident Ryan Howard will go a long way as the baseball season heads into the Memorial Day weekend (the unofficial start of Summer).

Also of note for Howard: his average is now above the Mendoza line. Howard's average, after two straight 3-hit games, stands at .207.

Want another hero? How about Pat Burrell? Burrell hit a pinch hit home run that broke a 5 -5 tie in the 8th inning.

Pat Burrell? Are you kidding me?

How bad must Burrell want the one more big contract before he goes on permanent happy hour? Maybe that's a bit cynical, because you'd like to think that Burrell could have done the sorts of things he's done this year with a little more consistency in the past.

Want another hero? How about more than one hero? The Phils bullpen pitched 4 scoreless innings after Phils starter Kyle Kendrick gave up 5 earned runs over 5 innings. Ryan Madson, JC Romero, Chad Durbin (who picked up the win), Tom Gordon, and Brad Lidge all combined to hold the Astros down offensively until the bats could wake up and provide the winning margin. Coming back to Houston and picking up a save in a town where he caught a little heat must have been especially satisfying for Brad Lidge. It was his 12th save on the year, and he lowered his ERA to a microscopic 0.43.

The series against Houston continues tonite at 8:05 (televised by CSN) with Adam Eaton facing Brad Backe.

Did you notice?

- Houston's Lance Berkman went 3 for 5 last night and is probably as dialed-in as any baseball player I've seen on another team this year (Brandon Webb, before his loss the other night, comes to mind). He's hitting .388 and was definitely worthy of the hyperbole being heaped upon him by the Phils announcers last night.

- Michael Bourn is hitting for crap (he struck out 3 times last night to go with his 2 hits, but is only hitting .214, with a tiny .275 OBP), but he stole his 21st base last night. The Phils still haven't replaced his speed on the bench.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Flyers 2008 Post-Mortem

If you have told me that the Flyers would be in the Eastern Conference Finals just one year removed from being the worst team in the NHL, I would probably have tried to buy a quantity of whatever it was you were smoking or taking. To go from a team that couldn't get out of it's own way to advance in the playoffs to the final 4 in the NHL was beyond the expectations of the most stepford of Flyers fans.

But as great as the turnaround was, if you look at the big picture, it still appears as if there is a talent gap between what the Flyers have now and what the two teams going to the Finals have on their rosters.

First and foremost, they need to find a way to build some depth along the blue line. When Timonen and Coburn went down, the Flyers' defense was woefully inadequate for a run at the Cup. Now, not a lot of teams would be well equipped to lose their top two defensemen, but the mobility and talent gap between their top two defensemen and their bottom 4 defensmen was exposed for all to see. Not every player has to be Kimmo Timonen (although that would be great), but you'd like your defensemen to be mobile and good passers such that they can move the puck to the forward moving with speed, rather than the forward standing around and waiting to receive a puck bounced off of the boards with no real purpose.

Secondly, the Flyers need to find out who can play with Danny Briere. Early in the year, Briere and Simon Gagne developed some good chemistry. When Gagne became enmeshed with his concussion issues, Briere struggled with various linemates until the Flyers acquired Vinny Prospal the day before the deadline. The Flyers cannot afford to have a guy like Briere, in whom a ton of money is invested, struggling to find linemates for long stretches of 5-on-5 play. The assumption is that Gagne will come back and be the same player, but after what we've seen after Eric Lindros and Keith Primeau got laid up with concussions, that is not a great assumption.

Finally, I would be more comfortable going forward with this team if they developed a more systemic identity with respect to how they play. Think about it....what is the identity of the Flyers? If you believe the National media and uninformed trolls on message boards, the Flyers are a bunch of untalented goons. While Flyer observers know that is incorrect, what is apparent is that the Flyers don't have an identity they can look to when things aren't going so well in order to baseline their play. Are the Flyers a forechecking attacking team? Are they a trapping team? Are they a counterpunching team? They've been all of those things at certain points of last season and I'm not certain they are good at any one of them such that they could lean on that particular style to get them over in difficult situations.

Breaking down the roster observations by position.....


- Mike Richards is going to be the captain of this team next year whether Jason Smith is here or not (which he probably won't be). Richards made a huge leap as a player and his work in the playoffs only served to further raise his profile. He is to this team what Chase Utley is to the Phillies.

- Jeff Carter will get a big raise as a restricted free agent and probably cemented it with a stretch of dominant games that he had when Mike Richards was out just before the playoff run.

- If Simon Gagne can come back, that would be great, but it would behoove Paul Holmgren to have a plan B in case Gagne gets scatterbrained. Before the playoffs, I was very much in favor of resigning Prospal as that Plan B. Unless the words "surgery" and "Vinny Prospal" appear in the same sentence this week, he will not be getting any faster this offseason, and his lack of speed is probably why he disappeared for long stretches in the playoffs.
- A lot of people believe that RJ Umberger is going to be a big time player, especially after the Montreal series. While I appreciate what Umberger did, I'd be VERY careful if I were Paul Holmgren to not break the bank for this guy. For one thing, he just turned 26; he's not some young kid just out of junior hockey. He doesn't really have a line to call home and I don't see him getting much better than he is right now. He scored 12 goals during the regular season last year; 6 against the Pens alone. If they can keep Umberger for a year or two for a reasonable number that won't kill their cap, I'd be happy with that. But if Umberger holds out for money befitting a top 6 forward, that will be a problem. If that is the case, maybe you think about shopping Umberger, whose value may never be higher.

- Another player who could be moved is Mike Knuble. He is going to be another year older and another year slower. They would be wise to make sure they can replace Knuble's power play prowess, however, before they consider moving him. Sami Kapanen, while slowing down some, can still be a valuable 4th liner and solid soldier in the lockerroom. I suspect the Flyers will leave it up to Kapanen to see if he has another year left. He may just retire and return to Finland as he has threatened to do in the past.

- Whatever problems John Stevens has with Scottie Upshall (healthy scratch at time during the season), hopefully Upshall's playoff performance has swung the coach. More Upshall in the lineup, please.

- Steve Downie needs to work on his skating as well as his self-discipline. He will also need the benefit of the doubt from Stevens to some extent; Downie will not improve by sitting in the press box.

- Will Claude Giroux (QMJHL MVP) make the team out of camp next year? Alot of folks are assuming this without figuring out where, exactly, he would play. You can't put this guy on the 4th line. A little time on the Phantoms wouldn't hurt.


- It was amazing to watch the development of Braydon Coburn over the course of the year. He has truly developed into a top notch NHL defenseman.

- I've written this before, but Kimmo Timonen is an absolute beast. He is better than was advertised when the Flyers signed him.

- Randy Jones probably made himself some money with a really solid playoff. He is a restricted free agent and I have no problem with the Flyers bringing him back in a role no better than the 4 or 5 defenseman.
- Don't be surprised to see Lasse Kukkonen traded. I just don't think Stevens likes him.

- Youngster Ryan Parent, obtained in the Peter Forsberg deal, probably earned himself a spot on the team starting out of camp with a stellar effort under fire in the playoffs. I still don't understand, though, how a guy that skates as well as Parent has absolutely no discernible offensive skills.

- Now this is where things get a little tougher. Jason Smith was the perfect captain for this team, but his injuries (from what I read today, BOTH shoulders were seperated) and lack of foot speed kept him from performing optimally. Derian Hatcher practically had his knee drained every day and is fighting age (he's 35) and lack of foot speed. I think the Flyers can afford to have one of these slower, more physical defensemen back, but NOT both.

The thing to be aware of is that you can't simply jettison both of these guys without replacing their physicality. Both can fight and both are a bitch to go up against in the corners and along the boards. There were rumors about Smith wanting to go back to New Jersey (where he originally was drafted) for reasons I cannot possibly fathom (who would want to live in North Jersey?). Hatcher? He may retire or get bought out (he makes about $3.5 million). Regardless of the outcome of the situation with these two similar defensemen, the Flyers will need to replace those skills that they did bring to the table.

- Young Flyers defensemen to look for next year? "Nasty" Nate Guenin could supply toughness from the blueline next year (146 PIMs for the Phantoms last year). Guenin is probably the first call-up in case of injury. Oskars Bartulis is a rangy, smooth skating defensemen with offensive skills. Michael Ratchuk is an offensive minded defenseman that played with the Phantoms in the Calder Cup playoffs for 5 games and should be a big time player on the Phantoms next year.


- Martin Biron is the undisputed starting goaltending on this team right now. Whether it was the right thing to do or not to shuffle him in and out of the lineup during the regular season, this is Biron's team now.

- Antero Niittymaki will probably be back. He will be under contract in the coming year, but at what point do you actually start grooming a young(er) successor to Marty Biron? Biron is 30 and is not the biggest guy in the world. Biron cannot play as many games as say, Martin Brodeur. Niitty will suffice next year as a safety net, but I wouldn't give Niitty another contract, unless it is understood that he is the backup.

- Dovetailing off of the previous point, the Flyers definitely need to identify a young, up and coming goaltender to foster in their system in the next year or two. Phantoms goalies Scott Munroe, Martin Houle, and Michael Teslak are middling prospects at best.


- There is a big movement to give John Stevens a long term extension. Not so fast, in my opinion. Stevens is a good, young coach, but I worry about his ability to shape the identity of this team. He was almost fired back in March and was publicly called out by Paul Holmgren to step up. I would wait until December, to see how the team comes out of the gate before I start awarding Stevens with a long term deal. Stevens might be the right guy now, in that he is a young, player-empathetic coach, but this team may need more of a task master to get to the next level.

Available Free Agents Who Could Help

- The cap will go up a bit, and barring some huge move to free up a ton of cap space, I'm not sure the Flyers will be huge players in the free agent, unlike last year where they scored Briere, Timonen, and Hartnell.

The obvious free agent who would help immediately is Brian Campbell, former Sabre defenseman. There are other, cheaper options for a puck rushing/moving defenseman. Namely, Colorado's John Michael-Liles, Ottawa's Wade Redden, and Montreal's Mark Streit.

Cole Hamels Brilliant (again); Phils win.....

Cole Hamels doesn't seem like the type to lack in confidence under ordinary circumstances. How confident must Hamels be now after the game he pitched last night, where he went 7 shutout innings last night after pitching a complete game shutout against the Braves last Friday?

Hamels pretty much mowed through the Washington Nationals last night for a 1 - 0 win as the Phils finally figured out a way to score a run in the Nationals' new ballpark. CMH only gave up 4 runs, walking 2, and struck out 11, and amazingly, he didn't even get the win. The reason for that is that the Phillies offense was flummoxed by the pitching prowess of Jason Bergmann for the Nats. Bergmann matched Hamels as he tossed 7 innings of shutout ball.

The Phils got their run off of substitute closer Jon Rauch in the 9th inning. Pedro Feliz laced a lead off double (then lifted for PR Eric Bruntlett), was sacrificed to third by Carlos Ruiz, and was knocked in by a timely pinch hit single from the bat of Greg "The Natural" Dobbs. If not for a tremendous block of the plate by Nats catcher Jesus Flores, the Phils could have gotten the insurance run (as Dobbs eventually came around on a Shane Victorino hit), but Brad Lidge came in and pitched a scoreless 9th inning to save it for 8th inning pitcher Tom Gordon.

The series against Washington concludes tonite at 7:10, with Jamie Moyer going up against Matt Chico. The game should be on locally on CSN.

Did you notice?

- Ryan Howard; 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts. Sigh.....

- This is only the 2nd win against 4 losses against the Nats for the Phils this season and the run they scored broke a 17 inning scoreless streak in Washington.

- Further supporting the Phils' ineptitude against the Nationals, the Phils have a team OPS of .673 against the Nationals. The Phils, against the rest of the league, hold a .765 OPS. Clearly, someone is doing a good job of scouting for Washington (as announcer Chris Wheeler appropriately observed last night).

Programming Note: Flyers post-mortem tomorrow (barring a Jamie Moyer no-hitter).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sixers Rumors: Mo Cheeks, Zach Randolph

I planned on starting in on the Phillies this AM (Tim Redding? Again??!!?), but I was reading Peter Vecsey's column this AM (via and found a couple of juicy, somewhat unrelated Sixers rumors that warranted their own post.

1.) Apparently, there is a unsubstantiated rumor claiming that the Chicago Bulls requested permission to speak to Mo Cheeks about their coaching opening. According to Vecsey, GM Ed Stefanski received no phone calls from Chicago on Cheeks. This rumor was probably more wishful thinking on the part of the Bulls; Cheeks' coaching stock has never been higher. The Sixers extended Cheeks into next year during last season and it is believed (though I'm not certain) that a longer extension is in the works.

2.) Vecsey, in the same article, goes on to speculate that Cheeks may ask Ed Stefanski to find a way to get Zach Randolph from the Knicks. Apparently, according to Vecsey, Randolph and Cheeks got on well when they were both in Portland.

Plenty to consider with this rumor (and by "rumor", I mean "item that Peter Vecsey probably made up himself"):

First of all, the Knicks would probably like nothing more than to get from under what is an incredibly onerous contract. Do the Sixers really want to help a divisional rival out of a bind like this? Who would they send to New York in return? Don't even think the trade could work, salary cap wise and since I have a day job, I have no intention of going on the NBA trade machine to find out.

Secondly, Randolph has not exactly been a choir boy. Could some of this just be circumstances? After all, he broke into the league with Portland during a time they were known as the "Jailblazers". From that bad situation, he went into a worse situation in New York, with the Isiah Thomas-led Knicks. Is he really a bad guy or has he just been in bad circumstances? Not sure, but he sure does have a funny way of grieving a loss according to this report from Fanhouse.

Third, despite his checkered personal history, he does provide a low post offensive presence that the Sixers do not currently have. Randolph averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds on just a horrible Knicks team. He plays almost no defense from I can ascertain, but that is what Sam Dalembert is for.

Don't know if I would approve of a Sixers deal for Randolph strictly on face value without some very good assurances that he won't screw up the rest of the team and that the Sixers could swing a cap-friendly deal.

Otherwise, this is one move I wouldn't want the Sixers to make despite the Sixers' need for a guy with Randolph's offensive talents.

Monday, May 19, 2008

100 Consecutive Seasons....

SI decided to regale those outside of our fine metropolis about our recent sports heartbreak. And by "recent", I really mean "the past 25 years". They have come out with a list of the top 100 heartbreaking moments from the past 25 years. It reminds those of us that love the local Philly teams why we are often right when we become pessimistic.

It also reminds me of why we can get so cantankerous as fans.

The author, Bryan Armen Graham, is a Philadelphian and did an excellent job of detailing some of the sports woes we've experienced in the past 25 years (which means, there is nary a Santa reference to be found).

There were one error and a couple minor points of contention I had with this article:

1.) Item 97: Rod Brind'Amour was not the team captain. That was one Eric Lindros. And I'm not 100% sure this should be on the list. Keith Primeau turned in one of the all-time great playoff runs in 2004. Primeau was the unquestioned leader of the Flyers to the point where he got Flyer legend Bill Barber fired. We all know Brindy eventually won the Cup, but don't think this trade belongs on this list.

2.) Item 95: You could make the case that the Bobby Abreu trade was addition by subtraction. We got rid of his salary and his blaise attitude. The Phils truly become Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley's team when Abreu was shipped out.

3.) Item 88: I'm sorry, but the recent Pens series just doesn't rank on this list. The Flyers were the worst team in the league the year before. The Pens were favored; they were supposed to win. Don't know how this makes the list, other than it's the most recent loss.

4.) Item 31: Say what you want about how Eric Lindros' time in Philly went, but you can't argue that he made the franchise relevant again when he came here. As the Sports Guy would say, this topic is it's own column. Lindros is indirectly responsible for getting the Wachovia Center (born the Corestates Center) built. I can't say this was a good trade for the Flyers in hindsight, but it wasn't like the Flyers didn't benefit. This trade probably deserves to be on the list, but maybe not this high.

5.) Item 17: That 2002 NFC Championship game wasn't as close as the final score would indicate. Yes, the Eagles lost and it sucked, but didn't you have the feeling that the Rams were the better team and that the Eagles would eventually get their Championship?

6.) Item 12: You can't underestimate how far back the Sixers were set back, as a franchise, by picking Shawn Bradley. This could be a top 5 selection on this list, bumping the 2001 Sixers from the top 5 (when in reality, the 2001 Sixers were just not going to beat the Lakers).

Check out the entire article here.

Pens Eliminate Flyers

This could be an article that contains perspective on how the Flyers went from a last place team to the Eastern Conference Finals. This could be an article with analysis on what the team needs in the future in order to compete for the Stanley Cup. It could be an article that ends on an optimistic note.

Not today. Not this post.

The Flyers lost an embarassing 6 - 0 game against a Penguin team that simply willed itself to the Stanley Cup finals. The win gave the Penguins the series and the opportunity to meet the winner of the Western Conference (which might be decided this evening if Detroit can finish the job).

The game started off well enough, until the Penguins went up on the power play. The Pens immediately capitalized when they scored on (wait for it.....), a deflection goal off of the skate of Ryan Malone.

Malone had a part in the second goal as well, when he interfered with Martin Biron, when Biron came out of crease behind the net to play the puck. Malone held up Biron briefly to the point where Biron lost his stick, but the move was subtle enough to go uncalled. As a result, Biron went back into the net, and was out of sorts when Evegeni Malkin (who became the invisible man as this series went along) stuffed home the Pens' second goal.

Even after being down 2 - 0, the Flyers could have climbed back into the game, as they were awarded a power play as the 1st period wound down. The were even given a power play to start the second period. The Flyers could not capitalize on any of these Penguin mistakes. They simply could not match the Penguins' intensity.

The Pens, meanwhile, capitalized on everything the Flyers did wrong, with the Pens' forwards practically willing them to victory. The rest of the game went predictably; the Flyers fumbled the puck around, with the Pens eventually putting the puck past Martin Biron repeatedly.

Did You Notice?

- Kimmo Timonen returned to action and was a -2 on the game. I didn't think Timonen was skating fluidly until the 3rd period, when things were far out of hand.

- Jeff Carter was a -3 and won only 35% of his faceoffs. Jeff Carter was not the reason they lost, but he's got to be a more consistent player if he's going to live up to the contract he will almost certainly get this summer.

- This will not be a game that Martin Biron will put in his career highlight reel. To pull off the win, they needed the Martin Biron from the Montreal series. He didn't show up yesterday.

- Despite being a -2, Ryan Parent acquitted himself well for the most part with the playing time he received. Expect Parent to start with the big club next year.

I'll do a Flyers 2007-2008 post-mortem on Wednesday.

Picture: (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Werth Hits 3 HR; Scott Rolen Still A Jerk

The Phils trounced the Toronto Blue Jays last night at Citizens Bank Ballpark by a score of 10 - 3. The game featured 3 home runs by CF Jayson Werth, including a grand slam in the 3rd inning. Jamie Moyer pitched into the 7th inning before giving way to the bullpen and he picked up his 3rd win on the season against 3 losses.

It is refreshing to see how Charlie Manual is finding interesting ways of getting Jayson Werth into the lineup. You could see there wasn't much of a defensive dropoff with the athletic Werth in CF as opposed to the speedy Shane Victorino from when Victorino was injured. Furthermore, Victorino was considered a top notch defensive right fielder when he played there last year, because of his arm and ability to track balls. Neither player seems to mind the position switch so much according to an article from PDN's David Murphy, and I actually hope it turns in to a platoon-like situation, with Victorino, Werth, Jenkins, and Dobbs all getting their starts in those outfield positions when the time comes for their particular skills to be employed. I especially applaud the extended play of Werth, who, throughout his young career has displayed good skills, but has had a hard time staying out of the trainer's room.

Also of note in last night's game was Ryan Howard getting another hit to bring his average to .188. The series against Toronto continues today with Adam Eaton going against ex-Marlin AJ Burnett.

Scott Rolen Still Hates Us

As you may be aware, the Toronto Blue Jays are the latest stop for diva 3B Scott Rolen. This is after he annoyed Tony LaRussa in what Rolen called "baseball heaven" to the point where the Cardinals probably accepted a lesser player in trade in Troy Glaus. After 5 or so years have passed, you think Rolen might have matured to the point where he can wax philosophically about how his time ended here in Philadelphia in such a way that maybe the fans can understand things a little better and maybe get over the circumstances of how Rolen left town altogether.

Not a chance.

ESPN 950's Dan Schwartzman attempted to interview Rolen last night and Rolen, despite his polite demeanor, wanted nothing to do with talking about his time in Philly. Rolen was described as "wagging his finger" everytime the topic of his time in Philly came up. It's sort of frustrating for Philly fans because we all wanted to like Rolen, but apparently, Rolen doesn't now, nor has he ever, felt compelled to talk about things through the media to enable fans to understand him a little better.

As ESPN 950 plays that interview all weekend, Rolen can expect to be booed for the remainder of the weekend.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Flyers Beat Pens; Keep Season Alive!

The Flyers, apparently with no overwhelming desire to hit the golf course, enjoyed their best game of the series so far and beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 of their best of 7 series by a score of 4 - 2. They now trail by a count of 3 games to 1 as the series now swings back to Pittsburgh for a Game 5.

I'm not suggesting that the Flyers can definitely pull off the impossible, historical feat of coming back from a 3 - 0 deficit. I am suggesting, though, that if the Pens thought they could take their foot off the gas pedal and just put it back down again in Pittsburgh in Game 5 that they are making a mistake.

The Flyers have been hitting these guys pretty good, even in the games they lost. Last night looked like the first time that maybe the Pens' composure is breaking down a bit. Now, the Flyers will probably have Braydon Coburn back by Sunday for Game 5. You wonder if the Flyers planted the seeds of doubt amongst the Pens and now, they may be getting back their biggest, fastest, and tallest defenseman and change the dynamic of things.

Flyer goals last night were scored by Joffrey Lupul (two, including the empty netter), Jeff Carter, and Danny Briere. It's important to note that both Carter and Briere's goals were scored right in front of the net, where it is believed that the Penguin defense is weakest.

Martin Biron also enjoyed a strong game last night en route to the victory. He did not let up a bunch of cheap rebounds, but the Pens did enjoy another of their famous lucky bounce goals on their first goal. They have scored a goal deflected off of a Flyer player in every game of this series to date.

Did You Notice?

- I'm glad to see that Ryan Malone knows what Derian Hatcher's fist sweat tastes like. Malone picked a fight with Hatcher and got his ass handed to him.

- Wow, why did Pittsburgh have Crosby on the ice with 10 seconds left and 2 goals down? Richards did the right thing and scrummed with Crosby, getting in his face a bit. Doubt Penguin coach Michel Therrien will make that mistake again.

- Another strong game by Scottie Hartnell, who hit everything that moved and had 3 assists.

- The line change that Stevens made before this game seemed to work out well, although, I wish he had come to that conclusion during the course of Game 3, where it could have made a difference. Briere and Richards, with their speed and skill on one line, seemed to free up room for each other.

Photo: (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Brett Myers: WTF?

There is a list of folks Brett Myers should consider sending "Thank You" cards to:

1.) Ryan Howard
2.) The Flyers Organization
3.) The Sixers Organization

He should send the Flyers and Sixers the "Thank You" cards because both Winter teams made the playoffs such that a segment of the Philadelphia fan population was more drawn in by the playoff stylings of those teams rather than following baseball religiously for the first 6 weeks of the season.

He should thank Ryan Howard because the struggles of the former MVP have been so epic and monumental, that his struggles have drawn the lion's share of the early season Phillies analysis. The Howard Slump has drawn every conclusion from trading RyHo to sending him to the minors. I don't think it's out of line to state that the struggles of Ryan Howard has been one of the biggest Phillies stories of the early going.

These other things have given Brett Myers a ton of cover under which to work through his early season struggles without having the judgemental glare of the fanbase on his every move. Does anyone remember the story earlier this year where pitching coach Rich Dubee felt that Myers' arm wasn't strong enough because he doesn't "long toss"?

Well, Brett, as it appears the end for the Flyers is upon us, and you have until your next start to get your head on straight. Howard may be seeing light at the end of the tunnel, as he hit a homer last night (his 8th) and has hit in each of his last 6 games.

So by the time that Brett Myers pitches again, it is very likely the spotlight will by on Myers to perform up to standards or have this situation blow up to the point where it becomes a bigger deal in the media and amongst fans.

As for last night, it was more of the same for Brett Myers: 4.1 IP, 8R, 6 ER

It was bad from the start; Myers gave up two first inning home runs and proceeded to give up runs in the first 3 innings, before finally, mercifully, getting pulled in the 5th inning.

When Myers left the game, the Phils were down 8 - 0. Because the Phils seem to have the most resilient offense in the league, they were able to put 6 runs up on the board to make the final score 8 - 6, but the fact remains that Myers never even gave this team a chance to be in the game. The scary part? No one, especially Myers, seems to know what the problem is.

There is the whole "bullpen" theory. The guy was a starter his whole career last year until he got talked into closing last year. Could that have messed him up? Possibly. They talked during the telecast about how John Smoltz mentioning that he prepared more rigorously, from a physical aspect, when he knew he was starting. Did Myers come into the season out of shape? He doesn't exactly look like a physcial speciman, so you could almost agree with that assessment.

Regardless, Myers better have a salad or two, because by the next time he starts, it's very likely the Phils will be the only game in town.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Flyers Lose Again; In 0 - 3 Hole

The Flyers dropped a home playoff game last night to the Pens by a score of 4 - 1, going down 0 - 3 against the Atlantic Division champions.

The game resembled less a "new" NHL-style game and looked more like something ripped out of the playbook of the trapping 1995 New Jersey Devils. Once Pittsburgh got the lead, they clogged the neutral zone and the front of the net in such a way that the only threats the Flyers could make from that point, were occasional forays on the rush.

RJ Umberger scored the lone Flyer goal. It was assisted by Vinny Prospal and Danny Briere, who recorded their only points of the series so far.

The first period had the same look and feel of Game 2, where the play was sort of helter skelter and the Pens opened the scoring on the power play (on another questionable Hatcher call) on a lucky bounce off of a skate. The Pens subsequently scored again; this time off of a rush where Marian Hossa was given entirely too much room at the blue line (Lasse Kukkonen) and he whipped a shot past Martin Brion for the 2 - 0 lead.

The Flyers cut the lead in half on Umberger's goal and the game then settled into an "old" style NHL affair. While the Flyers didn't do much offensively in the 2nd period, they didn't give up anything either.

The matter wasn't really settled until midway through the 3rd period, when Steve Downie turned the puck over trying to make a difficult cross-ice pass in traffic. Evgeni Malkin intercepted the puck and drove down the ice. Eventually, the puck ended up on Petr Sykora's stick, who passed to Ryan Malone. Malone backhanded the puck past Biron to go up 2 goals and you could feel the air leave the Wachovia Center from your living room. Marian Hossa added an empty netter to close out the scoring.

Did You Notice?

- This was the second straight game where Downie had a high profile turnover. Why was the fourth line even on the ice at that point of the game? Down one goal midway through the 3rd period in a game where you haven't generated much offense doesn't seem the time to roll your lines.

- Speaking of the forward lines; if the Prospal-Briere-Hartnell line wasn't getting it done, why not switch out the lines at that point? Putting Richards with Briere wouldn't have helped? Really? Being down in the 3rd period of a playoff game sometimes requires some out-of-box thinking that was not evident coming from Coach Stevens last night. Despite his obvious passion as a coach, he seemed content to fall on the sword of his own game plan.

- Nice hit by Hartnell on Jarko Ruutu in the 2nd period. Hartnell has forechecked about as hard as I've seen him forecheck all year.

- The lack of puck moving, skating defensemen was real evident as the game marched along. When the Flyers did manage a cycle in the offensive zone, the Pens had almost no respect for whoever was at the point for the Flyers. The Timonen and Coburn injuries have definitely been telling.

- How was Marian Hossa not one of the game's three stars (Crosby-Fleury-Umberger)? If he had played like that back when Ottawa was making all of their playoff runs, they would have never traded him to Atlanta to begin with.

- It will be interesting on Thursday to see how the fans act at the Wachovia Center. I plan on looking at Thursday not so much as the potential end of the season, but another chance to watch the Flyers. Hopefully, the team AND the fans both show up on Thursday night.

- For someone that is supposed to skate so well, Ryan Parent seems to have little offense in his game. His development will be watched, because he will be in the defensive rotation next year.
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What to do with Ryan Howard?

That's really the $10 million dollar question in Phillie land right now. Despite getting hits in 5 of the 7 games on the West Coast swing, Ryan Howard takes a .171 batting average into their series tonight against division rival Atlanta. He really has almost no shot at all at reaching his career average of .280 and it will be a mighty climb to get to .250.

Bill Conlin summarizes the sort of speculation that goes on amongst the fanbase in his column in the Daily News today by relaying a story about how Branch Rickey taught Duke Snider what the strike zone looked like.

I wouldn't advocate that sort of approach, because one thing Conlin doesn't mention is that Snider had only 40 games under his belt when Rickey took him aside (I read "Duke of Flatbush" last summer, so the story is fresh in my mind). He hadn't even come close at that stage of his career to acheiving what Ryan Howard has acheived in his time in the Majors. Howard has over 120 homers and has won an NL MVP. The same tricks you teach a rookie wouldn't work with guys who have won the MVP.

No, what Howard needs is to be moved in the batting order. The manager has certain levers at his disposal and at this point, it has to be about what is right for the team, not Ryan Howard. Not when the Phils are 25% of the way through the season. If Howard looks real bad in this series against the Braves, Manual will have no choice but to actively tinker with the lineup in order to put Howard in a position to succeed. While it is still early, the division is too tightly coupled to be giving away series to Atlanta and New York in May.

Drop Howard to the 5 hole. It can't hurt anymore than what we are seeing right now. If he can "figure it out himself" as Mitch Williams believes, he can also certainly figure out and resolve a lineup position move for himself.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Flyers Down 2 Games to Pens

The Game 1 loss almost seemed like a Kimmo Timonen hangover.

The Game 2 loss is a little more vexing, only because I feel like if the Flyers got as many breaks as the Pens got last night, the series could be even. And while they did lose 4 - 2 and are down 2 games to none in this best of 7 series, I certainly do not believe that the Flyers are out of this series by any stretch of the imagination.

Losing Braydon Coburn in the opening minutes of the game last night was just a crushing loss to a team already missing their best defenseman. It really impeded any sort of momentum the team had in terms of how they had planned to come at the Pens. I don't know what the hit totals were, but I did feel that the Flyers were doing a good job at taking a more physical approach to the game. If this were the regular season, I wouldn't bat an eye at how the team played last night, because I thought they played well. They just didn't play well enough and certainly did not get any bounces offensively. I think if they can keep up this level of play, they Pens can almost certainly be had.

As for the particulars of the games from the weekend, what more can be said of Mike Richards? He scored both goals on Friday night and scored on a beautiful shorthanded breakaway that tied the game for the Flyers near the end of the 2nd period and gave them momentum. He's been hitting, winning faceoffs (63% last night) and I wouldn't be surprised if it was Richards that actually sewed up Braydon Coburn in the dressing room after he got hit in the eye.

The one thing that has concerned me in the two playoff games so far is that Danny Briere and Vinny Prospal have almost been non-entities in this series. We cannot have Danny Briere get outplayed by Jordan Staal (the line Briere seems to be matched up against) and have any expectation of success

Did you notice?

- Happy that Steve Downie got in the game last night. Sad that he gave up the turnover on the game winner. This is not the last we'll hear of Steve Downie.

- Huge hit, by the way, from Downie on Kris Letang.

- For all of Tyler Kennedy's wild flailing, I'm not sure he made contact with Scottie Upshall's face once. While Kennedy was the busier fighter, Upshall landed a couple solid ones in their first period fight. What a bunch of fake tough guys on the Pens. The Pens are better off when they shy away from the rough stuff.

- The two penalties that were called on Derian Hatcher were two of the most bogus calls I had seen in all of the playoffs. The alleged hooking call, where Hatcher made was simply a real good defensive play on Malkin, was just the worst call of the playoffs. If they made that call both ways, the Flyers would have had far more power play time than they had.
(Picture: (AFP/Getty Images/Jim Mcisaac))

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Flyers-Pens Eastern Conference Finals Preview

The Eastern Conference Finals begin tonite with two Atlantic Division foes that have already squared off in 7 nasty, brutal contests during the regular season and 1 game at the end of the season that you may or may not think was a bit fishy.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, the winner of the Atlantic Division during the regular season, have fashioned themselves into quite a rival for their downstate rivals. After years of the Flyers just stomping all over the Penguins historically (including 3 playoff series), the Penguins came through the Atlantic Division in 2006-2007 and handed the Flyers their lunch, winning all 8 contests last year. The first of these contests is etched in the minds of a lot of Flyer and Pen fans in that it was the game that Derian Hatcher smacked Sidney Crosby up high and did some impromptu dental work on the young face of the NHL. After that game, Crosby seemed to make it his personal mission to make the Flyers pay, playing with a lot of passion and grit in the remaining games of that season.

On the other hand, alot of teams had their way with the Flyers last year....not just the Pens.

Entering into this season, with much of the same young nucleus still intact from the beatings the Flyers took the year before, the Flyers opened the season series with the Pens winning 4 straight, including an 8 - 2 asskicking complete with one of our players (Ben Eager, no longer with the Flyers) calling Penguin coach Michel Therrien a "joke". All of these games seemed like blood feuds with all sorts of fights and penalties of aggression. This all seemed appropriate payback to a team that had revelled in it's domination of the Flyers the year before.

The tide turned as the calender flipped to February of this year, as the Penguins began to warm to the task of playing their brethern from the Southeastern part of the state on a more level ice surface. The Pens won the following 3 games that featured just as much bad blood as the previous games. The Pens even paid the Flyers back for their earlier blowout win, by humiliating the Flyers by a score of 7 -1 on a nationally televised game. Reports were starting to come out of the media that Flyer coach John Stevens was going to be fired as a result of the Flyers' poor effort in that particular game.

The game that is on some people's minds, however, is the 2 - 0 Flyers win that closed out the regular season for both teams. While the game had some bite to it, it was hardly the two-sided blood feud that previous games had been. The Pens had decided to rest Sidney Crosby, who had played in the Pens' previous game, which also happened to be against the Flyers. The Flyers huffed and puffed their way to the win despite giving the Penguins 8 power plays. It was also a game that had many fans believing that maybe Martin Biron can be the goaltender the franchise has been missing as the Pens did have some great opportunities to score.

It was a game where many believed that the Penguins tanked the game so that they didn't have to face the Flyers early in the playoffs such that they would possibly incur injuries in a long, hard playoff series against a well-known foe.

Well, one thing I do know is that last game can say only one of two things, but not both:
1.) The Pens are scared of the Flyers.

2.) The Flyers are plenty good enough to compete with the Pens when they are diligent defensively.

I don't believe that the Pens are scared of the Flyers, but I also believe that the Pens thought they had nothing to gain by playing Crosby in that particular game. I also believed that the Pens did not play recklessly in that particular game because they were perhaps concerned with getting injured going into the playoffs (very valid concern). So the answer I'm going to give for that imfamous 8th game is that the Flyers are good enough to compete with and beat the Pens when they play the right way.

The real question is: Can the Flyers play the "right way" in a 7-game series against the Pens?


The forwards for the Pens will combine the offensive styles that the Flyers had seen in the previous two rounds. The Pens have the offensive-minded bull analagous to Alexander Ovechkin in MVP-candidate Evgeni Malkin. They also have the player, whom many pundits consider the face of the new NHL in Sidney Crosby. Crosby, since he was a kid, has been compared to Wayne Gretzky for his playmaking ability and vision on the ice. It's been amazing to see how Crosby has practically flown under the radar of folks since he incurred that high ankle injury and Malkin just exploded through the NHL. Most of the talk you see about Crosby now is about how he dives to draw penalties.

I would consider Malkin the bigger concern as the Flyers had no answer for him at all during the regular season. As mentioned previously, Crosby has been hobbled by a high ankle sprain for most of the 2nd half of the season, and I believe it has been partially limiting his explosiveness (much like has been the case for the Flyers' Joffrey Lupul).

In addition to having two of the premier forwards in the game, the Pens have snipers Marian Hossa and Petr Sykora. Sykora has been a Flyer-killer his whole career, dating back to his days with the New Jersey Devils. These two "second-tier" players can kill you if the Pens' frontline players don't. Follow these players up with Ryan Malone (27 goals), penalty killer Jordan Staal, and pest Jarko Ruutu, and it's obvious that the Pens have a very imposing set of forwards.

The Flyers have been led in the playoffs by Danny Briere, who has 14 points in 12 games. RJ Umberger had a "Keith Primeau"-like run through the Montreal series as he scored an astounding 8 goals in 5 games. Umberger also happened to score half of his regular season goal total (12) against the Pens, the team he grew up rooting for (BTW: I am SO tired of hearing and typing that Umberger was a Pens fan growing up). Mike Richards and Jeff Carter both have 4 goals in the playoffs, with Carter sporting a +6 rating, which is best amongst Flyer forwards. It will be the job of Carter and Richards to clamp down on Malkin and Crosby defensively; it remains to be seen if they can handle the assignment on this stage. Edge: Pittsburgh


The Pens have some pretty mobile defensemen, led by Sergei Gonchar (12 goals) and Ryan Whitney (12 goals), both of whom scored double-digit goals this year from the blueline. Defensively, however, I don't believe either Gonchar or Whitney would win a Norris trophy for play in their own zone. Smooth skating Kris Letang also provides offensive punch from the blue line, but whose defensive skills are similar to Whitney's. While Whitney and Letang are relative neophytes to playoff hockey, Gonchar has over 60 playoff games of experience under his belt.
The Pens also have a few big, physical defensemen in the form of Hal Gill and Brooks Orpik. Gill has a long reach, but skates like Derian Hatcher. Brooks Orpik has been bad at points during this season on the blueline, such that he was a healthy scratch. He got back into the lineup when Mark Eaton went down for the year. Michel Therrien has also used him as a 4th line winger. Stay-at-home defenseman Rob Scuderi rounds out a unit that I believe is top heavy in offensive talent and is very average in their own zone. As a matter of fact, in Pen games I've watched since the beginning of the season until now, it looks to me like they are playing a more defensive style as a team to mask some of the weaknesses they have on their blueline.

The analysis of the Flyers' defensemen was a little rosier when it was thought that Kimmo Timonen would participate in the playoffs. The news of Kimmo Timonen's blood clot seared through Flyer Nation and the tone amongst fans is grim. Before the Timonen injury, I thought that the underrated story for the Flyers this playoff season has been the play of their defensemen. If Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn haven't been the best defensive pairing in the playoffs so far, then I'd like to see who has been the best. Taking Timonen's place with be either veteran Jaroslav Modry or rookie Ryan Parent. Neither of those player can replicate Timonen's contributions.

Jason Smith had a rough go of things in the Washington series, but looked much better against Montreal. On the other hand, Derian Hatcher looked great against Washington, but less so against Montreal. It is vitally important for Hatcher to be on his game as he and the (surprisingly good ) Randy Jones will be matched against Crosby's line.

One real good thing about the layoff between the Montreal series and this one is the rest it gives to vets like Hatcher and Jason Smith. Both Hatcher and Smith have been injured during the season, so a week or so off can't possibly hurt. Both play physical and have a ton of playoff experience (Hatcher has about 120+ games of playoff experience) that will serve them well.

Edge: Pens (only because of the Timonen injury)


Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury is one of the several very high draft picks that Pittsburgh has garnered over the years because of how bad they were. As a matter of fact, he was the first pick of the entire draft in 2003. His lateral movement is lightning quick, but he languished behind crappy Penguins defensive schemes early in his career, possibly hurting his confidence somewhat. He has been playing very well of late.

What else can be said about Martin Biron? He made all of the big saves in the series against Montreal and has been publicly credited by coach John Stevens for stealing a game or two.

While Fleury has played well, he hasn't been tested the way Biron has been tested. Can't give the Flyers the advantage here, because of Fleury's pedigree, but I could make a case for the Flyers having a small advantage in goal because of Biron's play under fire in the previous rounds. Even.

Pens coach Michel Therrien had coached in the NHL before the Penguin job, coaching the Montreal Canadiens to a playoff berth in 2001-2002, but was mostly disliked by his players. He was so beloved for his work in Montreal, he was fired 46 games into the next season. There have been rumblings from hockey writers that Therrien is probably not the right coach for this team right now because of the defensive style he coaches and his abrasive nature, but the fact is, the Pens have improved under Therrien, like it or not.

John Stevens was a whisker away from losing his job after a blow out loss to Pittsburgh earlier this year. He probably would have been fired if the team didn't make the playoffs. But Stevens' players seem to like him, for the most part. He has used some dopey (changing around the lockerroom during a losing streak) and clever (making players create their own scouting reports of a player) motivational techniques to drive his players. The team has also gained a bit of a counter-punching identity over the past 6 weeks that they hadn't had previously. He doesn't appear to get emotional and remains steady under fire. Even.

Intangibles/Conspiracy theories:

Don't think for a second the league wouldn't want a Detroit - Pittsburgh final. The Pens are known divers, so expect them to get most of the calls in this series. Can any of the Flyer defensemen step up in Timonen's absence? Or better yet, can the Flyers get a short term emotional life knowing their best defenseman is out? Sometimes, when a key player is hurt, the team steps up it's play emotionally.
How will Pittsburgh react if faced with a little adversity? Pressure in this series is really on the Pens, who finished higher and have higher expectations; the Flyers are almost playing with house money at this point. Even.

The Prediction:

Even before the news of Timonen's injury hit, I had Pittsburgh winning this series, if only because I'm worried about the ability of the Flyers to stay out of the penalty box as much as I am worried about the ability of the officials to know a dive when they see one. But with the news of Timonen's injury, the Flyers will be hardpressed to win this series.

The key for the Flyers will be Martin Biron maintaining his level of play that he acheived against Montreal and Timonen's replacement stepping up and giving the Flyers a heroic effort. They almost need something along the lines of Andy Delmore's hat-trick from back in 2000, where a defenseman came out of nowhere and became a hero. They need to stay out of the penalty box. If they get all of these things, they do have a shot to pull off the upset.

The action in this series will be intense. Pittsburgh may come out of this series, but it won't be without having lost a little blood. Pittsburgh in Six.

Picture of Briere: (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

Phillies April 2008 By The Numbers

The month of April for the Phils wrapped up a week ago, but in the spirit of turning away from my NBA basketball mistress and finding my MLB baseball girlfriend, I feel like this review can help you catch up if you have been caught up in the relative success of the Winter sports teams.

Even though the Phils started off slow last year and were able to come back to win the division, conventional wisdom was such that it was not a good idea to start off slow again. After all, slow starts killed the Phillies in previous years, and it was probably unreasonable to count on the Mets choking every year (although, it would be a whole lot cooler if they did).

With that said, let's take a look at the Phils by the numbers for April 2008....


The number of wins accumulated by the Phils in the month of April. This is 4 wins over what they did in April of last year, but more importantly, the Phils avoided digging a big hole early for themselves as they've done in the past few years. They finished the month 2 games over .500 and a mere 1/2 game out of first place behind the upstart Marlins and the hated Mets.

What is even more remarkable about their position in the standings is the fact they have accomplished it without the help of MVP SS Jimmy Rollins. Rollins injured his ankle on April 9th and has been on the DL since April 21st with an ankle sprain that probably should have landed him on the DL sooner than it actually did. No one will probably ever know who screwed the diagnosis up, but I can't help but wonder if Rollins undersold the injury to trainers to get back on the field quicker.


The number of RBI by Pat Burrell in the month of April. This eclipsed the previous high for RBI in the month of April by a Phillie set previously by Von "The Stick" Hayes in 1989. Overall, Burrell started off incredibly fast, hitting .326 for the month, with an OPS of 1.136 (.450 OBP, .685 slugging pct.). For the month of April, Burrell was 3rd in MLB in RBI and 2nd in MLB in HR with 8.

Clearly, Burrell, the early "bird", is doing everything he can to get his worm (read: next contract).


The batting average of one Ryan James Howard. I have never seen Howard look more lost at the plate than he does right now. He led all of MLB in strikeouts for the month with 37 and I have to say, I'm not sure there is an end in sight. Manager Charlie Manual sat Howard for a few games so that maybe he could get his head together, but I'm not sure how much it's helped. You have to wonder when Manual will start tinkering with his batting order in order to enable Howard to see some better pitches to get his confidence back, because it can only be confidence that is holding Howard back right now as he does not appear to be injured.


The number of home runs hit by Chase Utley in the month of April. Pat Burrell has definitely been the offensive motor, but the driver of the offensive car since JRoll has been out has definitely been Chase Utley. Utley led all major leaguers in April with 10 homers to go with his 21 RBI and an otherworldly 1.168 OPS (.427 OBP, .741 SP) and shows no sign of letting up through the first week of May. It's been a lot of fun to watch Utley and Burrell step up and take control, offensively, with Jimmy Rollins on the shelf.


The ERA for "staff ace" Brett Myers. Look, I'm a huge Brett Myers fan. I was never happy with the decision for him to go to the bullpen because I looked at him as a young Curt Schilling that just needed time to develop.

But I have no answers for what is currently up with Brett Myers and his flagging ERA. He has definitely lost some velocity on his fastball, but according to reports, it's because Myers is not diligent in his "long tossing".

I've always felt that Myers had the ability to be the best starting pitcher on this staff (that includes Hamels); I'm just waiting for him to finally show everyone.


The April ERA for one Juan Carlos "JC" Romero. In 13 appearances, he gave up zero runs and opponents are hitting only .233 off of Romero. So far, his new contract looks like money well spent.


If you had told me that the Phillies were going to be without Jimmy Rollins for an extended stretch of April, I would have predicted a disaster, given the Phils' recent history with getting off to slow starts. But to leave the month with a record above .500 and still hanging around in the thick of things in the NL East, it bodes well for the Phillies, who seem to play better as the weather gets warmer.

Some stories to watch out for:

- Will Shane Victorino see less time in the lineup after starting off slow (.239/0/2) and being hurt for most of the month of April? Jayson Werth did a great job in his stead hitting .276 with 5 homers for the month of April. Werth is athletic and did not look out of place in CF at all.

- How long before we have to bring someone up or make a trade before Adam Eaton (5.08 ERA in April) implodes?

- Will Jimmy Rollins' running game suffer when he returns from his ankle sprain?

- Can Shane Victorino be a top of the lineup hitter?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Guess Flyers-Pens Was Nasty This Year

Funny thing is, many of the combatants in this video are no longer with their teams (Ben Eager, Colby Armstrong) or have greatly reduced roles (Gary Roberts has been fourth line player for Pittsburgh in the playoffs).

Gavin Floyd Almost Throws Another No Hitter

You'll recall we gave up Gavin Floyd, a former first round pick, in the Freddy Garcia deal. Just typing Freddy Garcia's name makes me want to regurgitate last night's meat loaf. He beat the Twins 7 - 1 last night, giving up the only hit in the ninth inning to Joe Mauer.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Odds and Ends

For a variety of reasons, I haven't been able to write as I've alternately been sick or have been watching my son as my wife has been travelling. So, needless to say, I'm exhausted even today, but at least I'm feeling much better and am almost done being the sole care giver of my son.

Needless to say, I've gained a new appreciation of the parent who stays home with the kids; that's a lot of work and don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise. Take care of your mom this Mother's day and your Dad next month for Father's Day. Sure, they're Hallmark holidays, but the fact is, taking care of kids (especially, young ones) is hard damn work.

Now, back to the local teams making me nuts:

- I've done almost no baseball, but I have been following the Phils, albeit a bit more passively than normal. I'm working on a "by the numbers" article for the Phils in the month of April. Also: When will Uncle Cholly move Ryan Howard around in the batting order? We're six weeks into the season; I think RyHo has been given plenty of leeway here.

- Sure, I'm proud of what the Sixers did this year as getting to the playoffs was most unexpected. But did anyone feel a teensy bit pissed about the way the Sixers seemed to sort of rollover for the Pistons in Game 6? Just a little?

- Lito Sheppard: Still an Eagle. Don't think this will end well.

- Finally, onto to the Flyers, who have advanced to the finals of the Eastern Conference to face the Pittsburgh Penguins. A couple of things immediately come to mind. One is that you will get Crosby and Malkin force fed down your throat for the next two to three weeks; especially on national telecasts. This is going to be annoying on several levels, but mostly because we already played this team 8 times and will play them a minimum of 4 more times. We've heard all of the stories, so it's going to make us hate them even more as fans.

The second thing that we're going to have to get used to as fans is the complete lack of respect for this Flyers team. The fact that they are the Eastern Conference finalists after almost missing the playoffs (remember, it wasn't a lock going into the final two games of the year) has been a fantastic ride. But, if you've read the stories after the Flyers snuffed Montreal in 5 games, you'd think the Flyers cheated or did something unseemly to keep the stately and graceful Montreal Canadiens away from the playoffs. Want proof? Check out this Scott Burnside article, where he analyzes (correctly) where Montreal went wrong in this series, but one thing he fails to do is to point out the things the Flyers did right. Remember; this series was over in 5 games. Has a team, like the Flyers, ever disposed of the regular season conference champion in 5 games and been given so little respect? Fact is, this is just a preview of what you, as a fan, can expect from the media in the coming weeks.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Fictional T.O. is Greatly Concerned

From the Onion: T.O. talks about his new teammate, Pacman Jones.

"I don't want to hear anyone talking bad about Jones," Owens said, his voice breaking as tears streamed down his face. "That's my teammate. That's my cornerback. Mine. Mine. Mine."

Admit it: There is a small part of you, the Eagle fan, that totally misses this guy and makes you pine for crazy-ass Ocho Cinco.