Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lidge: NL Comeback Player of the Year

Brad Lidge was honored by baseball for his perfect 41 for 41 season and given the NL Comeback Player of the Year award.

Congrats to Brad for shaking the spector of that awful Albert Pujols homer from many moons ago and putting things back together.

NL East Champs: September 2008 By the Numbers

Ok, now is the time to come clean. Did you EVER think this Phillies team would actually cross the finish line this year as the NL East champs back on August 31st?

C'mon.....be truthful.

I mean, the Phils were a game back in the NL East of the Mets, they weren't hitting consistently, and their starting staff was starting to get a little inconsistent. And seemingly, whenever the Phillies were winning, the Mets were winning too.

And then, September happened and the Phils flipped a switch many of us believed this team was not talented enough to have. How much did having the heartless Mets in our division help? Probably quite a bit, but as a Philly fan, I'll take my successes where I can get them.

By the Numbers:


The number of wins the Phils chalked up in the month of September. This was exactly what they needed to do in September, as the Mets, with their bullpen imploding and their key players not hitting with men on base, barely played .500 ball (13 - 12).

That was more of less the difference this year; the Phils got it done when it counted and the Mets did not.


Ryan Howard's OPS for the month of September. If you're not a stat guy, let me just tell you that's about as good as it gets for an offensive player. Howard had an other wordly OBP of .422 and he hit 11 homers and 32 RBI. He carried this team offensively in September and has been garnering a good bit of MVP talk (misguided, though it may be).


The OBP of leadoff man Jimmy Rollins. It has been said many times; the Phillies go as Jimmy Rollins goes. When Rollins is getting on base 41% of the time, this gives Howard and Utley so many opportunities to do damage. While it did not happen as emphatically as last year, Rollins once again came through in September when it mattered.

It was particularly fitting that Rollins made the diving/sliding stab of a grounder that closed out the Nationals last Saturday and gave the Phils the NL East crown. He stood up for his teammates very publicly in a way that could have backfired and held back a lesser player. Rollins did not shrink from the spotlight when he put it on himself by criticizing the fans; the exact opposite occurred.


The BA for Shane Victorino in the month of September. I've never been a Victorino guy, insomuch as, I've never believed he was cut out to be a full-time starter. While he may not be a full-time centerfielder, he certainly proved himself a player that deserves at least 500 ABs regardless of the outfield position.


The combined BA for Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste in the month of September. I understand that these guys have done a pretty decent job in handling the pitching staff, but they have to do a little better than a .172 batting average if the Phils are to make any noise against the Brewers in the playoffs.


The number of wins for 45 year old Jamie Moyer in the month of August. What more can I say about the old man that hasn't already been said? He finished the year with an astounding 16 wins and I see no reason for him not to return next year, barring some sort of offseason physical problem.


The ERA for Chad Durbin for the month of September. The Phillies do not win the NL East without Chad Durbin. Other than Brad Lidge, he's been their best reliever all year and I'd like to think that some of his usage this month was because of the circumstances, but they will need the pre-September Chad Durbin to progress in the playoffs.


Thanks to their first baseman and 45 year old starter, the Phils are once again NL East champs. You could make the argument that these two players represent the co-MVPs of the 2008 Phillies team. You would have to include Brad Lidge in any case for team MVP. He finished the season going 41 for 41 in save opportunities, despite the fact that his last few saves have been of the high wire variety. Contrast that with the Mets who lost Billy Wagner and seemed to never find a replacement closer.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Quick Weekend Review

If there has been a weekend where there was more to see than this past weekend, I can't think of when that weekend took place. For now, this is just a quick overview of the weekend's events, but I'll do a deeper dive on each of the biggies as it pertains to the Philly sports scene.

The Phillies. Wow. Don't make it easy on us or anything. When Lidge was on the mound over the weekend, doing his best Mitch Williams impersonation, I thought for sure I was witnessing a meltdown. Jimmy Rollins' sprawling effort to gain control of a grounder up the middle and his flip to Utley, who turned a game ending double play was as big of a defensive play as you'll see.

The Phils clinched their second consecutive NL East division championship and have earned themselves an NLDS series against the Milwaukee Brewers, who made the wildcard, after battling the choking Metropolitans of New York.

The Eagles. Great game last night, but in losing to the Bears, they definitely left a win out on the field. David Akers can seemingly no longer be counted on over 40 yards out and the red zone woes of last season returned for another night.

The Flyers. Went to the last Spectrum game on Saturday and saw the ceremony. I have some pictures to post when I get around to writing about it. The Flyers did a tremendous job and it was nice to see Bobby Clarke get a nice standing ovation after the way his tenure as GM ended. It would have been nice to see Eric Lindros make it to the ceremony (he was invited), but he had another engagement to attend to, but he did apparently record a video that I'm trying to get a hold of to post.

Penn State. Ranked No. 6 in the country and are especially being viewed differently after USC lost to Oregon State. The Big 10 is theirs to lose right now, if they can survive road trips to Columbus and Madison.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Get to Know The Bears

The Eagles' opponents this week hail from the fine city of Chicago. One of the most storied franchises in the history of the NFL, the Chicago Bears feature one of the toughest defenses in the league. Chicago is also my second favorite city in America after the City of Brotherly Love. The Chicago style hot dog is a work of art, in my opinion, with all of the food groups represented.

What else do you need to know about the Bears and Chicago?

1.) The most famous neck beard in football. One thing the Bears have over the Eagles as they go into their matchup is they have as their QB the owner of the most famous neck beard on the Internet, Kyle Orton. As Eagle fans, we know from neck beards. Remember Koy Detmer?

Honestly, though. Does this look like someone Brian Dawkins and the crew should be concerned with? He looks like a cross between the Unabomber and that guy we all knew in college that drank the bong water.

2.) Cro-Magnon Man is a Linebacker. Now we come to everyone's favorite member of mensa, Brian Urlacher. Don't you just get the feeling that if there wasn't such a sport as football, that Brian Urlacher would be a bouncer at a bar, with the high hopes of owning his own bar someday? He's the kind of guy who would probably look at "Roadhouse" as not so much cheesy entertainment as a career plan.

The guy also needs to be a bit more discriminating with his women. I mean, this is the same guy that "hung out" with Paris Hilton and had a kid out of wedlock with a broad that should be the poster child for why athletes should stay away from groupies. Setting his own dick on fire might be a more expeditious solution to whatever it is he's trying to do himself by being tied to these two cumdumpsters.

Urlacher also has the distinction of an uncanny resemblance to our forebears on this Earth. See the picture below? One is of a violent, monosyllabic creature who procreates indiscriminately and the other is of a model of what scientists figure cro-magnon man look like.

Go ahead, Darwin. Tell'em apart, if you can.

3.) The Lance Briggs Driving School!

Lesson #1: If you've been drinking Irish Car bombs since happy hour, by all means get behind the wheel of your expensive Italian sports car.

Lesson #2: If you wrap it around a pole, just leave the fucker there.

Lesson #3: Lie about how the car got there and because so much time will have passed, you won't get charged with DUI or any other offense you may have been charged with or any other embarassing piece of information that may have come of such an incident.

On the other hand, maybe Lance Briggs lent his car to his little brother who went joy riding with Jeff Spicoli. Yeah, things didn't work out too well for Lincoln High that week, did they? Let's hope Lance is no longer bitter about crashing his car, which I am absolutely sure was done under the most innocent of circumstances.

4.) Team Fight Songs. Did you know the Bears have a fight song? I didn't know before I wrote this piece, but yes, the Bears do have a fight song. It seems a bit more involved and arcane lyrically and it actually looks like work to sing the song. I think the whole "Bear Down" lyric gives the song a bit of a downer quality whereas the Eagles fight song with "Fly Eagles Fly" evokes more a soaring imagery, but hey, judge for yourself:

Not a bad song, but don't you think it's a long? Good to see George Wendt hasn't eaten himself to death. Let's hope we don't hear too much of this song on Sunday, but if you're travelling to the game, I'm sure you'll be subjected to it.

For my money, the Bears fight song has WAY too many lyrics to remember when you're at the game and you're hammered. I'm convinced, however, that the composer of the Eagles fight song took that into account when writing the lyrics. Honestly, I'm not sure I've ever sung the Eagles fight song sober.

5.) Chicago is Bi-Polar. Did you know there was a North Side and South Side to Chicago? It's true. While both sides of town seem united behind the Bears, I think it's important to know that each side of town has different tastes with respect to the baseball teams they root. The following video demonstrates the sort of debating one usually only finds during an Eagles-Cowboys game. Notice the eloquence of the guy in the Jim Thome jersey.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Phils Drop Series to Braves; Mets Lose too

This Phillies team does not want to make it easy on themselves or their fans.

The Phils dropped the rubber match of their final 3 game set with their personal whipping boys, the Atlanta Braves, by a score of 10 - 4. But because the Mets lost to the Cubs last night, the Phils' magic number managed to get down to 3.

It was obvious from the first inning that starter Brett Myers did not have his best stuff. He gave up 2 early runs and struggled with the location of his fastball through his entire time on the mound. He did not make it through the 5th inning, and ultimately, he was charged with 6 runs, 2 of which were not earned because of a throwing error by....wait for it.....Ryan Howard.

The bullpen was not of much help last night either. Chad Durbin was only able to get one out last night and Scott Eyre came in and gave up a 3-run bomb to Chipper Jones.

Offensively, the Phils hung in the ballgame until that fateful fifth inning. They got on the board after being down 2 - 0 on a Pedro Feliz RBI single. Down 3 - 1, the Phils got solo homers from Chase Utley in the 3rd inning and Ryan Howard in the 4th inning to even the score at 3. The Phils got an excuse-me run late in the game, when Pat Burrell scored from 3rd on a passed ball.

The Phils have an off day today to think about how they are driving the entire Delaware Valley to drink and start with their last series of the year against the Washington Nationals.

Pitching Matchups:

Friday: Joe Blanton vs. John Lannan
Saturday: Jamie Moyer vs. Odalis Perez
Sunday: Cole Hamels vs. Shairon Martis (hopefully, they don't need to win this game and they can rest Hamels)


- Anyone hear that in-game interview with Davey Lopes? Tom McCarthy, Sarge, and Davey Lopes were talking about Shane Victorino's outfield defense and Lopes intimated that the Phils would bring in a centerfielder in the offseason and move Victorino to right field and Jayson Werth to left field. You might recall that Pat Burrell is the current left fielder and a free agent at year's end. Did Lopes just tip the Phillies hand for this offseason last night or was he just speculating?

- There was a gathering of players late in the ballgame in the 8th inning, when Shane Victorino was leading off of 3rd and, because of a defensive shift, no one was holding Victorino on. Braves reliever Julian Tavarez, obviously not bright, decided with a 6 run lead, to chase Victorino back to third base himself. Victorino said something to Taverez (probably questioning his intelligence in that situation) and the benches cleared and players milled about for a few minutes before order was restored. Despite his diminutive stature, doesn't Victorino strike you as one of those little guys you just wouldn't really want to eff with?

Photo: Yahoo.com....(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Flyers Enter 2008 Exhibition Schedule

The Flyers started training camp last weekend and even had their 1st preseason game last night. I didn't watch it, because it wasn't on TV, but the Flyers did attempt to webcast it.

For whatever reason, I couldn't get it to work, but I applaud the idea and hope they can get the kinks worked out of televising NHL games over the internet.

Just off of the top of my head, here are 10 storylines to monitor as the Flyers progress through their camp and preseason schedule:

1.) How will Simon Gagne play as he gets back into the grind of the NHL schedule? Will he play tentatively, or will he come back as the 40+ goal scorer we've seen in the past?

2.) How will Mike Richards adjust to the burden of the captaincy?

3.) Will Jeff Carter earn his new contract? You can argue he is slightly overpaid right now, but might be a bargain by year 3 of his deal if his upside is what everyone believes it to be.

4.) Which young Flyer prospect will make the team out of camp? Steve Downie or Claude Giroux?

5.) Can Scott Upshall stay out of John Stevens' doghouse?

6.) Of the gaggle of defensemen that GM Paul Holmgren acquired during the off-season, which ones will make the team?

7.) Can Braydon Coburn build off of his success from last year?

8.) Which goaltender is Martin Biron? The one benched in favor of Antero Niittymaki during stretches of the regular season or the one that practically stole a playoff series from Montreal all by himself?

9.) How much will the Flyers miss assistant coach Terry Murray, who did a great job with the defensemen last year? Murray has moved on to become head coach of the LA Kings.

10.) This team could very easily have missed the playoffs last year and it would have probably resulted in John Stevens' firing. If the Flyers struggle in the first half of the year, will the Flyers fire Stevens?

One more important item: Tim Panaccio, formerly the Flyers beat writer for the Inquirer, is now blogging over at HockeyBuzz.com. According to what I read over there, Panaccio took a buyout from the Inky. Panaccio was always one of my favorite writers (even when he covered the Eagles beat for the Inky), so I'll look forward to checking out his work over at HockeyBuzz.

Phils Magic Number at 4

Phils rookie JA Happ pitched another fantastic game and Pat Burrell provided late inning fireworks, as the Phils beat the Braves by a score of 6 - 2. Since the Mets lost (again) last night, the Phils now own a 2 1/2 game lead in the NL East with 5 games left in their regular season (the Mets have 6 games left).

JA Happ pitched 6 2/3 innings, giving up only 2 runs, with the big blow being a Kelly Johnson homer. If you watched the game, it was apparent that Happ was going to have a tough inning. After putting 2 men on in the fifth, but wriggling out of trouble, Happ walked Martin Prado on 4 straight pitches. The next batter, Kelly Johnson, crushed a ball to right field, tying the score at 2. Happ went on to allow one more basehit to Jeff Francoeur before getting Casey Kotchman to fly out to deep right field on a ball that made me glad the athletic Jayson Werth was in right. Werth had to track the ball to the wall and did a little half leap, having a sort of controlled collision with the right field wall while making the catch.

Offensively, the Phils busted the game open in the 8th inning. Leading 3 - 2, Pat Burrell sent a 3 - 1 pitch over the left field wall for a 3-run homer, giving the Phillies the final margin of victory.

The series with the Braves continues tonite, with Cole Hamels facing Jo-Jo Reyes. As a side note, Johan Santana is going tonite for the Mets against the Cubs.


- Chase Utley collected his 100th RBI last night. After watching him in April and May, I would have never guessed it would have taken him this long to get to this point.

- Scott Eyre collected his 5th win last night coming on in relief. It was his 3rd win since he arrived from Chicago on August 7th.

Monday, September 22, 2008

MRI: Westbrook Has Ankle Strain

According to an AP story (linked here from ESPN.com), an MRI showed that Brian Westbrook has an ankle strain, with no ligament damage.

That's about the best possible scenario after watching Westbrook land awkwardly on his ankle as he tried to avoid stepping all over a prone Tra Thomas.

According to the report, Westbrook is listed as day-to-day, but I still wouldn't be surprised to see him sitting this weekend.

Eagles Bludgeon Steelers

In a defensive performance reminiscent of the Buddy Ryan defenses of the late 80's, the Eagles beat the cross-state rival Steelers by a score of 15 - 6.

The Eagles sacked Steeler quarterbacks 9 times and forced 3 turnovers, all 3 of which came from Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger. Even the sacks and turnovers don't tell the real story; Roethlisberger was harrassed and harried the entire time he was in the game and the Eagles simply beat him up. Eventually, Roethlisberger injured his throwing hand, and came out of the game to be replaced by Byron Leftwich.

Offensively, the Eagles moved the ball easily during the 1st half, only to be undone by mistakes such as a Tony Hunt fumble or the McNabb interception towards the end of the first half. The Eagles did manage to punch the ball into the end zone during the 2nd quarter on a pass from Donovan McNabb to Correll Buckhalter.

Ultimately, however, injuries also played a part in the Eagles' offensive woes as they lost all-World RB Brian Westbrook towards the end of the 1st quarter to what appeared to be an ankle sprain (post-game X-rays ruled out a break).

The injury bug bit the Eagles coming out of halftime as well, as Donovan McNabb did not come out with the team to start the 2nd half for what was reported as a chest injury. Kevin Kolb came on and, after having a ball tipped for an interception on his first attempt, settled down and looked Ok, going 2 of 3 for 18 yards.

When McNabb did come back, it was to loud cheers and he replaced Kolb at around the 10:00 minute mark in the 3rd quarter.

The special teams also played a significant role in the second half, in the form of the punting of Sav Rocca. Rocca punted the Eagles out of a hole from deep in their own territory at the start of the 4th quarter, effectively, reversing the field position on a 64 yard effort from his own 11 yard line.

Rocca also nailed two punts that pinned the Steelers to within their own 10 yard line. The fruits of Rocca's labor was realized when the Eagles induced Ben Roethlisberger into an intentional grounding in the end zone, resulting in a safety. While the intentional grounding call itself may have been questionable (Roethlisberger appeared to be outside the tackle box), replay did show that Roethlisberger was actually tackled down in the endzone before he threw the ball anyway.

Next week, the Eagles face another tough defense, when they travel to Chicago to face the Bears. In the meantime, the entire city will be focused on Brian Westbrook's MRI to determine how long he will be out.

Photo: Yahoo.com (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

And now McNabb.....

McNabb is NOT coming out for the 2nd half against the Steelers. Preliminary reports are that he injured his chest. Possibly an injured rib?

UPDATE: McNabb did come back. That would have been horrible had he been out for the game.


Westbrook limped off during the 2nd quarter of the Steeler game after coming down awkwardly on his ankle.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Welcome Yinzers!

I would like to be the official welcome wagon for all of you Stiller fans coming to the City of Brotherly Love and Lincoln Financial Field to see your Stillers face our Iggles. After all, we're from the same state. Here's photographic proof:

I feel I am very qualified to give you a bit of an orientation to our fine city. I am an alumni of THE Pennsylvania State University, so I have hung around with my fair share of denizens of the 'Burgh such that I feel I can adequately translate things you'll see in Philadelphia with those things you might already be familiar with and maybe some things you may not be familiar with.

If there is one thing I have learned about native Pittsburghers is that you folks are very proud of Pittsburgh. Huzzah for you! As such, I would like to provide a little primer on some of the things we are proud of and relating them to your Western Pennsylvania experience.

History/Identity. Philadelphia is one of the oldest cities in America and is full of history. The signing of the Declaration of Independence. The Constitution was written here. The home of Ben Franklin. Basically, Philadelphia is the cradle of liberty, if you will. Much like Pittsburgh, the city has undergone changes from industrial powerhouse to center of finance, healthcare, and communication.

Pittsburgh does not have near the history of Philadelphia, but is now counted amongst the best places to live by magazines such as Forbes and Money magazine.

Of course, these were the same magazines that were saying things in 2007, such as "Merrill Lynch is in damned good shape!" and "AIG is a stock to buy now!", so I'm quite sure those livability rankings are nothing short of iron-clad.

Fresh Air. I know all about Picksburgh, n'at. Learned it from Sienna Miller. She sent me the following picture taken, no doubt, from her high powered Hollywood camera:

Wow, that picture looks like the city of LA farted on top of the Monoghehela.

So, feel free to enjoy the fresh air here in Philadelphia, as it appears that Pittsburgh has the worst air quality in the USA according to the American Lung Assocation. Philadelphia may have one of the highest murder rates in the country, but at least you don't have to worry about the air you breathe while you're here.

Transportation. I've seen the movie "Witness". I know you Western Pennsylvanians travel a little differently than we do.

So, just to let you know, my Yinzer friend, we have the sort of transportation you don't have to feed oats to; as a matter of fact, we have a state funded organization that will take you to the game for a small fee using a mode of transportation that is futuristic and such. Like, George Jetson futuristic. Enjoy the ride! Afterall, SEPTA is a good example of your Western PA tax dollars at work!

Baseball. There is this whole other sport called "baseball", where a guy standing 60 feet from another guy tries to use a round bat to hit a round ball that one guy throws at the other. Pretty cool sport. Our local team, the Phillies, are in a pennant race right.

Just thought I'd bring you up to speed on this, because I'm fairly certain you guys don't have a baseball team anymore.

Current Pop Culture. Philadelphia has a long pop culture history, ranging from the early days of rock and roll, with Bill Haley and the Comets getting their start here all the way to current times, with Actor Will Smith and Director M. Night Shyamalan hailing from Philly. The FX show "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" has proven to be very popular and seems to be getting stronger with each season. And, of course, there are the "Rocky" movies.

I'm sure you, the native 'Burgher, can relate to this rich and deep pop history, with movies based in Pittsburgh such as "The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh" and TV shows such as "Queer as Folk".

Musically, Donnie Iris heads up the Pittsburgh hit parade and I can only guess that the Village People are from Pittsburgh, based on the obvious homage to that 70's supergroup from your hometown Stillers:

You see? We're not so much different, my Yinzer friend. I hope that this little guide has helped you, my Iron City drinking amigo become a little more familiar with our fair city. Who knows? Maybe the next Governor of PA will like you guys as much as the current Governor likes Philadelphia.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Flyers Sign Backup Goalie

Hockey posts two days in a row, sportsfans. Must mean training camp is around the corner.

The Flyers signed a backup goaltender to Martin Biron today, when they inked Jean-Sebastian Aubin to a one-year deal.

Why do they need a backup you ask?

Because Antero Niittymaki will be out of commission for up to 6 weeks to have some more work done on his hip. Heard this one before with Nitty? Don't forget in 2006-2007, he had torn his left hip labrum and was so bad as he tried to play through it, the organization (but NOT John Stevens) lost confidence in the goaltender and brought in Marty Biron.

Hopefully, fixing this injury now will allow Niittymaki to somehow regain the early momentum he had in his career when he led Finland to a Silver medal in the 2006 Olympics.

Phils Happ-y to be in 1st

The Phils, behind early offense and the starting pitching of JA Happ, beat the Braves by a score of 6 - 1. The win allows the Phils to remain in first place in NL East, as the Mets also won (albeit they made it interesting on their fans, winning 9 - 7 over the Nationals).

The Phils jumped on a wild Jair Jurrjens early, scoring 4 runs in the 1st inning on run scoring singles from Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz. Jayson Werth scored on a stolen base, and a throwing error from catcher Brian McCann.

Phils starter JA Happ, substituting for an ineffective Kyle Kendrick, made those 4 runs stand up, pitching 6 strong innings. He gave up only 3 hits, walked 1, and struck out 2. All in all, a performance that should at least earn Happ one more start.

The bullpen held down the fort the rest of the way, and the Phils tacked on a couple of excuse me runs late, in the form of a Matt Stairs PH home run and a Pedro Feliz RBI single to round out the scoring.

The series concludes tonight with Cole Hamels going against Mike Hampton.


- Shane Victorino just wears the Braves out. He was 3 for 4 last night, and for the year, he's hitting .339, with 6 steals, and an OPS of 1.010.

- And by the way, Victorino was safe on that infield single he beat out in the 6th inning after taking a ball off of his thumb while at the plate. The ump got that one right, IMO.

- Has anyone heard Chris Wheeler mention that the Phillies don't have a lot of speed in their lineup? He's said this before, and I don't understand why he says it. Victorino, Rollins, Utley, and Jayson Werth can all run really well. The stolen base figures:

Rollins 43
Victorino 33
Werth 18
Utley 12

Three of these 4 players play "up the middle" and the fourth is a corner outfielder. Has anyone heard why Wheeler thinks the Phillies don't have a lot of speed? I'm not saying they are the '85 Cardinals, but they have as much speed as anyone and probably use it better than anyone, thanks to Davey Lopes' tutelage.

Photo: Yahoo.com...... REUTERS/Tami Chappell (UNITED STATES)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Flyers Name Richards Captain

In the most anti-climactic news of the Flyers offseason, Ed Moran of the Daily News is reporting that Mike Richards will be named the next captain of the Flyers.

Richards was the obvious choice for the role, given his unselfish game and team-first attitude. Not that there weren't other alternatives, such as Kimmo Timonen or even Simon Gagne, but given the Flyers' history of employing a captain with sandpaper to their game and the sheer magnitude of his contract (12 years, $69 million), Richards seemed to be a natural to follow into the role.

Howard Hauls Phils into Phirst

Ryan Howard is seemingly dragging this team on his back offensively right now.

Trailing by a score of 7 - 4, Howard hit a triple to knock in a run in the 6th inning and hit a 2-run bomb in the 7th inning to lead the Phillies to an 8 - 7 win. The win, coupled with a Mets loss to the Nats, pushed the Phils into first place in NL East by a 1/2 game.

Starting pitcher Jamie Moyer struggled to get through 5 2/3 innings. Moyer lacked command on his pitches; most notably in the 3rd inning, where he hit one batter, walked another, and generally ran some deep counts en route to giving up 3 runs on 3 hits in the inning. He settled down in the 4th and 5th inning, but had problems in the 6th inning that he was unable to overcome when he loaded the bases on a couple of walks and a single. Chad Durbin was of little help, in allowing Moyer's inherited runners to score and giving up a run of his own.

In addition to Howard's heroics, Jayson Werth continued his amazing season by going 3 for 4 with 3 runs scored and 2 RBI. Werth hit his 23rd homer in the 3rd inning to give the Phils what was, at the time, a 3 - 0 lead. Shane Victorino (single), Chase Utley (double), and Carlos Ruiz (homer) also knocked in runs for the Phils.

The series continues tonite, with JA Happ taking Kyle Kendrick's spot in the rotation against the Braves' Jair Jurrjens.


- Rollins dropped a throw from Carlos Ruiz in the 3rd when the Phillies had Josh Anderson dead to rights at second base. Anderson, naturally, went on to score.

- Speaking of that 3rd inning, the Phillies seemingly had about 10 mound conferences. It was obvious that Moyer did not have his best junk last night.

- In the month of September to date, Ryan Howard is hitting .354 and slugging an astounding .917. And yes, he continues to lead the NL in both HR and RBI.

- Pat Burrell....0 for 5 with 5 strikeouts. Should. Be. Platooned.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cowboys Outlast Eagles

A late Donovan McNabb fumble while the Eagles had the ball in Dallas territory proved to be the pivotal play in a wild, back and forth Monday Night Football game that the Eagles dropped to the Cowboys by a score of 41 - 37.

When McNabb fumbled, the Eagles were leading by 3, and had just had a long kickoff return from rookie Quinton Demps put the ball into Dallas territory. Just as it looked like the Eagles were poised to at least put up another field goal, a botched handoff lay on the turf to be picked up by the Cowboy defense.

The Cowboys then took possession and drove the ball right down the field, eventually scoring the winning touchdown on a 1 yd Marion Barber run.

This game between 2 bitter rivals started out innocently enough, with the Eagles taking the ball and driving for a field goal, and then got goofy on the next possession where Tony Romo hit Terrell Owens with a 72 yd bomb to put the Cowboys ahead 7 - 3.

After another Akers field goal, the Cowboys returned the subsequent kickoff for a touchdown as rookie Felix Jones took it to the house to make it 14 - 6 Dallas.

Late in the 1st quarter, the Eagles benefitted from Asante Samuel's first Eagle interception as well as a fluky pass interference penalty to give the Eagles the ball at the 1, where, after a false start, Brian Westbrook caught a 6 yd pass from Donovan McNabb to pull within 1.

The next possession, after a botched Dallas kickoff return that pinned the Cowboys deep in their own territory, Tony Romo somehow managed to drop the football all on his own in his own endzone. Romo gathered the ball in his own endzone and was looking at his options, when Brian Dawkins busted in and knocked the ball away from Romo, causing a fumble ultimately recovered in the end zone by Chris Cocong for a touchdown and a 20 - 14 Eagles lead.

The next possession, the Cowboys methodically drove the ball down the field for yet another Terrell Owens touchdown, this time from 4 yds out to go up by a point.

The following possession by the Eagles could have been one of the most controversial ones of the year had they not scored on it. Eagles' rookie DeSean Jackson gathered in a Donovan McNabb pass and was coasting in for a touchdown, when, he inadvertantly flipped the ball before he went into the endzone. The ruling by the officials gave the Eagles the ball at the 1 yd line where Brian Westbrook took Jackson off of the hook, by punching the ball into the endzone for a 27 - 21 Eagles lead.

The two teams traded field goals as the half ended, with Eagles leading 30 - 24.

After an exchange of punts to open the 2nd half, the Cowboys struck first on a 17 yd pass from Tony Romo to Marion Barber. Barber earlier had a 20 yard burst to go with a Trent Cole roughing penalty that put the Cowboys in position in Eagle territory. The Eagles answered with a drive of their own that culminated in another Brian Westbrook touchdown as the 3rd quarter was ending to make the score 37 - 31 Eagles.

After the Cowboys drove and settled for a field goal to start the 4th quarter, the Eagles could have really salted the game away with another touchdown. Instead, we got the McNabb fumble and a hearty handshake.


- Yup, still hate TO.

- Brian Dawkins....burnt on the TO slant for a TD and again on a post route from Jason Witten on the winning Cowboy drive.

- Sean Considine.....bit HARD on the Tony Romo shoulder fake on the 72 yd bomb.

- Speaking of the TO bomb....hey LEE-toe...what happened?

- Donovan....please learn to throw the ball away a little sooner. This indecision twice cost them on their final drive.

- DeSean Jackson....we love you and all, but don't EVER pull that stunt again.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Phils Sweep Brewers

The Phillies swept a day-night doubleheader from the Brewers yesterday and in doing so, moved into a tie for the Wildcard lead with the Brewers. Additionally, the Mets ended up losing to the Braves yesterday, which means the Phils are now 1 game back of the Mets for the lead in NL East.

Game 1 of the doubleheader saw the Brewers jump out to an early 2 - 0 lead on Phillies starter Joe Blanton in the first inning. Blanton did manage to settle down and allowed only 3 runs over 7 innings of work.

The Phillies overcame a 3 - 1 deficit when, the sixth inning, Ryan Howard hit a 2-run homer to tie the game. They went on to take the lead for good in the 8th inning on a Pat Burrell single and a Shane Victorino 3-run homer to make score 7 - 3, which the bullpen made stand up.

Game 2 was the Brett Myers show. Carlos Zambrano's no-hitter was (rightfully) the top baseball story yesterday, but Brett Myers pitched pretty well in his own right. Myers gave up only two hits en route to a 6 - 1 complete game to finish the series and doubleheader sweep of the Brewers.

Offensively, the Phillies jumped on the Brewers early, scoring 1 in the 1st and 3 in the 2nd inning. One of the run scoring hits was by Brett Myers himself, who singled to score Pat Burrell.

Jimmy Rollins was on base in all 5 plate appearances in this game, going 2 for 2, with a single, double and 2 walks. Shane Victorino also contributed 4 hits and Pat Burrell hit his 31st homer of the year.

The Phils now go on to play the Atlanta Braves in a series that starts on Tuesday.


- Chase Utley was hit (again) with a pitched ball in game 1, making it 26 on the year. This needs to be addressed next year.

- Jimmy Rollins was caught stealing in game 2 for only the 3rd time all year.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Phils Chug Brew; Gain Ground

The Phillies jumped on the Brewers early and captured a 7 - 3 win in front of 45,000 folks at Citizens Bank Ballpark. The win, coupled with a Mets loss to the Braves, puts the Phils 2 1/2 games behind the Mets in NL East and only 2 games behind the Brewers in the Wild Card race.

The Phils wasted little time in this one, sprinting out to a 3 - 0 lead in the first inning on the strength of run-scoring hits by Chase Utley, Jayson Werth, and Shane Victorino. They struck again in the 2nd inning on a Ryan Howard 2-run single, giving Cole Hamels an early 5 - 0 lead.

Cole Hamels, while not dominant, pitched more than well enough. He had baserunners on in every inning but the 2nd and the 6th, but managed to strand most of the men he put on base. The 2 runs he did give were ultimately preventable, in that the ball that Jason Kendall hit to left to score the first 2 Brewer runs should have been caught by Pat Burrell. Burrell misjudged the fly ball, took a bad angle, and allowed the ball to get over his head.

Hamels ultimately gave way to the bullpen in the 7th inning.

Offensively, the Phillies were led by their catalyst, Jimmy Rollins. Rollins, in addition to getting on base and scoring in both the 1st and 2nd inning, hit a 2-run homer to put the game out of reach in the 6th inning, when it looked like Hamels was tiring a little and the Brewers seemed to be getting a little frisky. Chase Utley also went 2 for 4 with 2 runs scored.

As a result of Friday's rainout, the Phils and Brewers will play a day-night doubleheader. For the Phils, it's their second Sunday in a row playing a doubleheader and for a Philly fan, it's just as well as the Eagles don't play till tomorrow night anyway.

Pitching matchups:

Day game: Joe Blanton vs. Dave Bush
Night game: Brett Myers vs. Jeff Suppan


- I was critical of Cole Hamels when he lost that game against the Mets on 3 days rest; this game is probably the biggest game that Hamels has won in his young career. Contrary to what I read in some outlets describing Hamels as "sharp", I would contend that Hamels can pitch much better. All in all, though, the outing was a positive step in Hamels' development as a big game pitcher.

- With Pat Burrell's struggles, there is no way he should be batting 5th as he did yesterday. Right now, I'd put him no higher than 6th. I'd even rather see Pedro Feliz or Victorino batting 5th right now. Burrell and Ruiz were the only starters to not get basehits yesterday.

Photo from Yahoo.com....REUTERS/Tim Shaffer (UNITED STATES)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Phils Rained Out; More Urgency, Please.....

The Phils were rained out last night and hopefully, the time off last night allowed some of the players on this team some time for some introspection. This is specifically required after 45-year old Jamie Moyer turned in 5 2/3 innings of gutty pitching on 3 days rest against the Brewers the other night. I don't know how vocal Moyer is behind closed doors, but if a 45-year old man can pull that sort of effort out of his aged body, some of the younger guys on this team who make considerably more money than Moyer need to start selling out on the field a little more.

While I'm not outright suggesting that some players are somehow jaking it, this team would benefit greatly from playing with a greater sense of urgency. It is this lack of urgency offensively, as much as anything, that will be blamed as much as anything in this coming offseason should the Phils fail to make it to the playoffs. Every month, starting in June, when the Phils started sliding off the map offensively, all of the pundits (and losery bloggers like myself included) always felt the offense would come along as the summer proceeded along and into September. Well, we're still waiting for some sort of consistency offensively and it's now September 13th. I'm not saying it can't happen, but time is slowly running out on this team.

As for the makeup of last night's game, it will be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader tomorrow. Pitching matchups the rest of the Brewers series:

Today: Cole Hamels vs. Manny Parra, 3:55pm
Game 1 Tomorrow: Joe Blanton vs. Dave Bush, 1:35pm
Game 2 Tomorrow: Brett Myers vs. Jeff Suppan, 7:35pm

Friday, September 12, 2008

Dallas Week: I can FEEL your ANGER!

The NFL, in it's infinite wisdom, has given us a gift from the scheduling gods on Week 2 this year. A Monday night tilt between our Eagles and the hated Dallas Cowboys.

Furthering this gift? The fact that some on the Cowboys, such as Pacman Jones and Terrell Owens cannot keep their mouths shut and are feeding the Eagles and their fans some good bulletin board material. Not helping matters, is Tony Romo's girlfriend, who informed an Eagles fan in a live performance for "Good Morning America" that the Cowboys would kick the Eagles' butts next week.

Yes, Eagle fans......Let the hatred flow! This is "Cowboy Week"! It's practically a local city ordinance to actively hate the self-styled "Ammurica's Team" this week.

For those of you that are new, "Cowboy Week" is the week leading up to the game versus the hated Dallas Cowboys. It features a build-up of all the vitriol Eagle fans have held for the team of guys who wear stars on their helmets. This hatred of the Cowboys can go all the way back to the sixties for the long time fan. The most oft-quoted incident from the old-timers? The 1967 incident when Cowboy Lee Roy Jordan smashed Eagle halfback Timmy Brown's face with a forearm shiver, causing him to lose his teeth and the Eagles to lose their best weapon and the game.

As an Eagle fan growing up, I had a dislike for the Cowboys team, but it was more of something you just were supposed to do; kind of like the peer pressure of drinking your first beer. You just did it. After all, when I was coming of age following sports, in the late 70s, early 80s, the Eagles had begun beating the Cowboys. There was the Monday night game when Tony Franklin kicked the 59 yard field goal, the glorious 1980 NFC Championship game, and with Dick Vermeil holding down the fort, you could rest assured that the Eagles would not get kicked around by the Cowboys.

When Vermeil left, so did the recipe for beating Dallas, apparently. Until James "Buddy" Ryan came to town. Buddy was smart enough to tap into our insecurity about the Cowboys....he made it his number 1 priority to humiliate the Cowboys and we ate it up.

It is during this period, I can trace back to when my Dallas hatred became most vivid. It was during the 1987 NFL players strike, of all things. Buddy Ryan had no love for replacement football; he openly disdained it. That was a good "attytood" to have in a blue collar, union town like Philadelphia. It helped galvanize that 1987 team into becoming division winners in 1988.

During the course of the strike, several players, realizing they couldn't make due without the paycheck, began crossing the picket line. None on the Eagles, mind you. But on the hated Dallas Cowboys, many of their star players such as Danny White, Tony Dorsett, Too Tall Jones, and Randy White crossed the picket line and played in an October 11, 1987 replacement game against a team of replacement Eagles. As you could imagine, the Scott Tinsley-led Eagles were no match for the Scab Cowboys led by their regular stars and they lost 41 - 22. Losing to Dallas never goes over well here. Losing to a handful of Dallas stars while the Eagles fielded all replacement players took the insult to another level entirely. This was my personal ground zero for Cowboy hating.

Apparently, I wasn't the only one that didn't like it.

Buddy Ryan did not forget this indignity.

When the real players came back that year, the Eagles played the Cowboys their first week back on October 25, 1987. They were beating the Cowboys late in the game by a score of 30 - 20 and simply running out the clock, when suddenly, instead of taking a knee, QB Randall Cunningham attempted a long pass to Mike Quick that drew a pass interference call with very little time left. The Eagles went on to score on the next play and you knew that Buddy enjoyed pissing off Tom Landry as much, if not more, than we did.

Thanks to the following sources for refreshing my memory on some details: "The Great Philadelphia Fanbook" by Glen Macnow and Anthony Gargano and "The Eagles Encyclopedia" by Ray Didinger.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Marlins Take Series From Phils

In a game that strangely started when we were all trying to escape from the hell that is work, the Phils dropped a game, and the series, to the Florida Marlins by a score of 7 - 3. These two losses in a row have managed to drop the Phillies to 3 1/2 games back of the Mets in NL East with 16 games to play.

The Phils were flummoxed by the pitching of Ricky Nolasco, who in 3 outings against the Phils, has a 2.75 ERA with a .197 batting average against him. Nolasco went 7 1/3 innings in this game to give the Marlins all they needed off of the mound.

Brett Myers went for the Phils and while he pitched into the 8th inning, he did manage to give up 4 runs, including a 3rd inning 2-run shot to the corpse of Luis Gonzalez.

When Myers gave way in the 8th inning, reliever Chad Durbin was uncharacteristically unable to shut the door, allowing a 2 run double to Josh Willingham in the 8th (both were Myers' baserunners that scored). There were more bullpen shenanigans in the 9th inning where Durbin gave up a lead off single, only to intentionally walk Hanley Ramirez (why did we walk Hanley Ramirez again?) . JC Romero came in the game and gave up a 2-run double to Dan Uggla that essentially broke open the game and clearly angered Chris Coste, who could be seen bickering with Romero.

Offensively, the Phils were paced by Ryan Howard's 42nd homer of the year and by Chris Coste, whose 5th inning double cut a Marlin lead to 3 - 2, before scoring on a Jayson Werth single to tie the game at 3 going into the 6th inning.

From here, the Phils take on the Milwaukee Brewers in a 4 game series. The game plan is to pitch a couple of guys (notably, Jamie Moyer and probably Brett Myers) on 3 days rest. This is the most desperate move the team has made all season in a season where desperation was required in the Summer months, when the Phils forgot how to swing the bats.


- Didn't write on Tuesday's game, but I'm done with Kyle Kendrick for the year. I like him as a pitcher, but they can't afford another outing where he doesn't get out of the early innings. I'd rather see Happ at this point than Kendrick.

- Pat Burrell was in the lineup and did manage a basehit and a walk in 4 plate appearances.

- From the bickering between Coste and Romero to the lack of hitting on this team right now, the season is palpably slipping away from these guys right now. Anything less than a split with the Brewers and you can put a fork in the 2008 Phillies.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Phils Filet Fish

Jimmy Rollins had 3 hits and 3 steals and provided the offensive spark needed to drive the Phils to an 8 - 6 win over the Florida Marlins. The win put the Phils within 1 1/2 games of the Mets in NL East.

Joe Blanton had the ball last night for the Phils and was not very good in his 5 innings of work. He gave up 4 earned runs during the start, but he seemed all over the strike zone. He had real control problems in the 2nd inning, walking the first two batters, both of whom went on to score. The frustrating part of this is that the Phillies had just tacked two runs up on the Marlins and Blanton's lack of control put the Phils right back to square one.

After the Phillies put up 3 more runs in the 2nd inning (one of them thanks to a Joe Blanton SF), Blanton walked Hanley Ramirez to lead off the 3rd and was made to pay for that walk when Mike Jacobs hit a big fly to cut the Phils lead to 5 - 4. Blanton was eventually lifted after 5 innings for Chad Durbin, who turned in his usual stellar effort.

Offensively, the Phils were paced by their leadoff man, Jimmy Rollins, who knocked in a run and scored 2 more runs to go with his 3 hits and 3 steals. Jayson Werth hit a 3-run bomb that gave the Phils an 8 - 4 lead that they would not relinquish.

The Marlins did manage to get 2 runs off of JC Romero before Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge closed them out.

The series continues today with Chris Volstad facing Kyle Kendrick.


- Pat Burrell was not in the lineup last night, nor should he be. He's got 8 strikeouts in his last 22 ABs and he's hitting .222 over that stretch. A pennant race is no time for being sensitive to a players feelings; Werth is playing well right now, so he has to be in the lineup.

- You could tell by watching JC Romero that he was going to give up that homer to Cody Ross. Anytime Romero nibbles around the plate with his pitches, you can tell he's not confident. Romero needs to pound the strikezone to be successful.

- The 6th inning was closed out by the Phils with a pretty 3 - 6- 1 double play, with Durbin covering first base.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Phils Split With Mets

As if the real "opening day" of the NFL wasn't enough for sportsfans yesterday, Phillies fans were treated to a day-night doubleheader yesterday because of tropical storm Hanna cancelling out Saturday's Phils game.

The Phils managed to split the day-night doubleheader with the Mets and in doing so, took 2 of 3 from the Mets and now trail them by 2 games in NL East.

The Phils took Game 1 of the day night doubleheader by a score of 6 - 2.

The Phils were paced by the brilliant pitching of Jamie Moyer, who went 7 innings and gave up a scant 2 hits in boring the living hell out of the local patrons at Shea Stadium.

Once again, the Phils' offense was paced by supersub Greg Dobbs. Dobbs, who on Friday hit a 2-run homer to nudge the Phils to victory, hit a 3-run homer in this contest off of Pedro Martinez to put the Phils ahead by a score of 5-0.

The Phils jumped out to a 2 - 0 lead in the 2nd inning on a Matt Stairs sacrifice fly and a Carlos Ruiz single. Ruiz had a nice day offensively, going 3 for 4, knocking in a run and scoring another.

Game 2 saw Cole Hamels and Johan Santana match up in what was supposed to be a pitching duel between two of the best lefties in the game today.

Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell Cole Hamels.

The Phils dropped game 2 of the doubleheader by a score of 6 - 3.

Hamels got knocked around pretty much from the beginning. Hamels had to have his hand held just to get through 5 innings and apparently, he doesn't have a pitch that can get Carlos Delgado out. Delgado hit approximately 900 feet of home run off of Hamels, in going 3 for 3, with 2 homers and 4 RBI.

Johan Santana, on the other hand, wasn't his usual dominant self, but was good enough to go 7 1/3 innings in giving up only 2 runs. The bulk of the Phillies offense was provided by Ryan Howard, who had an RBI single in the first and hit a solo shot off of Santana in the 3rd.

Next up for the Phils: The Florida Marlins and a healthy dose of scoreboard watching.


- Look, I like Cole Hamels as much as the next Phillies fan, but the next time Hamels opens his mouth about his contract, the fans, or a needing a chiropractor, he should be reminded about how small he came up, not only in the game last night, but in the playoffs last year against Colorado. Please, Cole....do your defenders a favor....when you go into your next prima donna rant on whatever is on your mind, at least have one clutch win under your belt when you do so.

McNabb, DJax Batter Rams

The Eagles jumped on the Rams from the opening possession and never looked back in beating the Rams by a score of 38 - 3.

The game featured a return to form for Donovan McNabb, who hit 7 different receivers en route to a 21 for 33 day, good for 361 yards and 3 touchdowns. The game was also something of a coming out party for the rookie receiver out of Cal, DeSean Jackson. Jackson caught 6 balls for 106 yards and made his presence felt on special teams with a couple of good punt returns.

The Eagles opened the scoring on the first drive of the game on a 1 yd shovel pass from McNabb to Brian Westbrook. That drive took 6 plays to go 80 yards and the Eagles made it look easy. After a subsequent Rams possession and punt, the Eagles scored again, this time on an 11 play, 52 yard drive that culminated in a 5 yd TD pass from McNabb to LJ Smith. These two scoring plays accounted for all of the scoring in a crisply played 1st quarter for the home team.

The 2nd quarter featured possessions on both sides, where the teams just traded punts. It was difficult to tell if the Rams were that bad offensively or if the Eagles played that well defensively. The Eagles got the lone TD of the 2nd quarter on a 90 yard catch and run by WR Hank Baskett. The score took place with about a minute to go in the half and the Eagles took a 21 - 0 lead into halftime.

The 3rd quarter opened and was all Eagles. Tony Hunt scored on a 1 yard plunge culminating a 9 play, 56 yard drive that was keyed by a 25 yard pass down the right sideline from McNabb to DeSean Jackson.

Jackson was also prominently involved in the Eagles' next scoring, when he returned a punt 60 yards to the Rams' 9 yard line. Unfortunately, the Eagles could not punch it in and had to settle for a 23 yd Akers field goal.

The scoring continued in the 4th quarter with a Brian Westbrook 6 yard run that finished a 7 play, 76 yard drive to make the score 38 - 0. From this point, the Eagles put in the 2nd team to finish up the game.

While the offensive exploits will grab all of the headlines, the defense compiled some pretty good numbers. They allowed only 8 first downs and 166 yards of total offense. They did not force any turnovers, but did manage to sack Mark Bulger 4 times. MLB Stew Bradley was active throughout the game, with 8 tackles and a sack.

Did You Notice?

- 3 Eagles receivers with 100 yards games (Jackson 106 yds, G. Lewis 104 yds, Baskett 102 yds).

- Sheldon Brown CRUSHED Stephen Jackson on a pass that Jackson caught down the seam in the 2nd quarter. Jackson lost his helmet on the play and danced around like he scored a touchdown, but make no mistake, Jackson felt every bit of that shot.

- DeSean Jackson's first career catch: 47 yards. Remember when we thought that Jackson wouldn't make much difference as a receiver his rookie year? Remember?

- Speaking of Jackson, he almost took a punt to the house at the 10:28 mark in the 3rd quarter. A shoestring tackle was all that was between Jackson and a punt return TD. He almost had another TD later in the 3rd quarter at the 3:26 mark when he turned in a 60 yard return to set the Eagles up with 1st and goal at the Rams' 9 yardline.

- That interference call against Quinton Mikell in the 2nd quarter, with the Rams backed down to their 2 yard line, was a ridiculous call.

- Asante Samuel should have had a pick 6 on the Rams' second possession in the 2nd half.

- Mark Bulger looks like a QB waiting to get hit as he sits in the pocket. If he's your fantasy football QB, go ahead and feel free to drop him.

- On the drive that the Eagles settled for a field goal, McNabb had an opportunity to run the ball in for a TD, but tried a shovel pass that (obviously) did not work. I suspect if the score were closer, McNabb would have run that ball.

- The Eagles ran (sort of) a jumbo backfield with both Tony Hunt and Dan Klecko in the backfield when they scored their 4th TD.

- Kevin Kolb doesn't look half-bad in doing some mopup work. This game definitely had the feel of a 5th preseason game, so I guess it was appropriate that Kolb spelled McNabb at the end.

Photo...yahoo.com (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Eagles Preview 2008

After this season, we will have seen a full decade of the Andy Reid era in football here in Philadelphia. Every one of those years, Andy Reid has been tied at the hip with one Donovan Jamal McNabb.

Last season, McNabb endured one of his tougher seasons. He was slow to return to form after ACL surgery and offseason rehab during a year where he endured his first threat on the depth chart since he arrived in 1999 in the form of 2007 2nd round pick QB Kevin Kolb. McNabb also missed two games due to a sprained ankle and a bad thumb. Sprinkle in last season's injury woes to those of 2002 (broken leg), 2005 (sports hernia), and 2006 (torn ACL) in addition to a bright eyed new QB on the roster and it gets people whispering.

Will this be the last year of the Reid-McNabb partnership?

The Eagles enter this season in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL and if they are going to be successful, they are going to have to overcome playing the Super Bowl champions and the team everyone is predicting to go to the Super Bowl (the hated Cowboys) a total of 4 times.

They made a couple of acquisitions during the offseason to bolster the offense, but they never did what the fanbase wanted: a trade for a marquee wide receiver. For their part, the Eagles almost seem defiant in their stance that they indeed added playmakers, in signing CB Asante Samuel and DE Chris Clemons to contracts to help the defense to get back to it's glory from the NFC Championship years.

Samuel and Clemons aside, the Eagles seem to be counting on one big addition this year: a healthy Donovan McNabb.

Positional Breakdown

QB: As previously stated, the Eagles' offensive hopes are more or less pinned to a healthy and successful season from starting QB Donovan McNabb. The Eagles felt confidence enough in QB-in-waiting Kevin Kolb to make him the #2 QB this year. While Kolb did look better than his rookie year in preseason action, I don't think anyone believes he's quite ready for the starting job. AJ Feeley returns as the 3rd stringer and probably still pulls prime time poon from the Olde City bars.

RB: The only injury that might come close to crippling the Eagles offense as much as losing McNabb would be to lose Brian Westbrook for an extended period of time. Westbrook was rewarded with a re-structured contract that helped in making Westbrook somewhat whole financially for being one of the top 3 or 4 backs in the league in the past 3 years.

The Eagles also added Lorenzo Booker into the mix from Miami in a draft day trade in a move that should allow the team to spell Westbrook every now and again. And yes, Correll Buckhalter is still around. In a slightly dubious move, the team is attempting to turn Tony Hunt into a fullback. In fairness, however, the Eagles haven't had a significant fullback in their offense since Jon Ritchie.

WR/TE: A lot of contention here. Given that this team passed the ball 60% of the time last year, one would think that the team would invest time and energy into either acquiring an elite receiver or developing one on their own. They have been either unsuccessful in attempting the former (they flirted with Randy Moss during his contract negotiations with the Pats) and have been historically unable to do the latter.

One could make the case that Reggie Brown went backwards last year, and despite Kevin Curtis' good numbers, he is probably better suited lining up in the slot. No matter what you think of Curtis' work, you won't even have Curtis to kick around in the immediate future, as he will be out with a sports hernia (seemingly, the injury of choice for the Eagles). Couple this with Brown fighting a bad hamstring, and this leaves the Eagles incredibly thin at WR as they enter the season.

Enter rookie DeSean Jackson, whom many believed would not make an impact at receiver his rookie year. Now, with the dearth of good health at the WR position, there is no choice but to rely on him. The Eagles will need Jackson to carry his preseason success (16 rec., 189 yds) into the regular season for the passing game to be successful. Hank Baskett and Greg Lewis will be around for another year, showing off their utter mediocrity.

Underacheiving TE LJ Smith (yeah, I said it) will be back this year, in a contract year, fully healed from a sports hernia that hindered him last season. He has looked downright spry in preseason action and I look to him fulfilling his potential this season. Brent Celek will look to spell Smith and looks to be a good prospect.

OL: Only one of two ways for the tackles on this unit to go. They will either be praised for their continuity if they are good or they will be criticized for their age if they are bad. Tra Thomas (yes, he's Tra again; he confused too many people changing his name to "William Thomas") and Jon Runyan are back for another season at the tackle positions. It was probably hoped by now that Winston Justice would provide a credible challenge at either of these positions, but he has been unable to do so and you wonder if he'll ever shake off the effects of the "Osi Umenyioura Game" last year, where Umenyioura had 6 sacks, a few while Justice was (attempting to) block him.

It was an eventful offseason for All-Pro guard Shawn Andrews, who publicly battled depression and missed time at camp. It is thought that this should not affect Andrews' play, but that remains to be seen. Todd Herremans is probably better suited to tackle than guard. Max Jean Gilles is probably ready to start in one of the guard positions if needed.

DL: The DTs, Mike Patterson and Broderick Bunkley, were solid, if unspectacular last season. Look for Bunkley to build on his sophmore season, where he seemed to finally "get it".

The top dog at DE is none other than Trent Cole, who compiled 12.5 sacks last year, building on his 8 sack season in 2006. With the underacheiving Jevon Kearse now gone, Juqua Parker (formerly Juqua Thomas) will take the other starting DE nod. Parker is probably holding this spot until injured 2nd year man Victor Abiamiri comes back from a wrist injury, possibly this season.

FA acquisition Dan Klecko, rookie Trevor Laws, and veteran Darren Howard round out the DT rotation.

LB: In my opinion, there is some misplaced optimism about this group. MLB Stew Bradley parlayed two starts in his rookie year into a starting job on the team. Not only is he starting, but he's calling defensive signals. You wonder if it's too much for the 2nd year guy out of Nebraska.

And are we really ready to consider Chris Gocong a success? Gocong had a passable year last year, but certainly not world beating. I think Gocong was just stunned to be on the field and healthy.

The only sure thing on this unit is the move of Omar Gaither from the middle to the weak side, where he can use his speed a bit more than he could at MLB, where he was undersized.

DB: This is probably the strength of the defense. When the QB called for the organization to sign some playmakers, I don't think the signing of CB Asante Samuel to a 6-year deal was quite what DMac had in mind. You would think that this signing would make the oft-injured Lito Sheppard expendable in trade to shore up another area of weakness on the team or would perhaps allow the team to facilitate a move of the physical Sheldon Brown to safety, but apparently, the game plan is that Samuel and Brown are the starters and Sheppard is the nickel corner.

Making things even more complicated is the fact that Sheppard was displeased with his contract status BEFORE the Eagles made the move to acquire Samuel. Now that he has not been traded to a team willing to re-do his deal AND been displaced from his starting job, he and his agent Drew Rosenhaus have taken to carping either directly to the press or via YouTube as witnessed below:

It would probably behoove Sheppard to play out the season and see how things work out, but with the influence of Drew Rosenhaus, this situation could become toxic in short order. Note that Rosenhaus, only recently hired by Sheppard, only gets paid when his client gets a new deal.

The safety position is one that could use a bounce back year. Brian Dawkins' 2007 season began in personal turmoil, with Dawkins dealing with complications over the birth of his twin daughters. He also battled age and a variety of injuries causing BDawk to miss 6 games. He did not seem himself last year even when he did play, but with Dawkins' daughters' problems behind him and a new year to begin with a relative clean slate, health-wise, look for Weapon X to make a comeback this year.

When Dawkins was unavailable last year, Quentin Mikell took his spot and performed reasonably well. Mikell has been around seemingly forever and he'll slide over to the strong safety position this season, that was held down by a combination of Sean Considine and JR Reed last season. Both Considine and Reed will be backing up this year, which is a far more appropriate role for both players.

Special Teams: This area of the team cost the Eagles the first game of the year against the Packers, when various players, miscast as return men, dropped a couple of punts handing the ball (and the win) over to the Packers. The situation with punt returners got so bad they had to re-sign Reno Mahe off of the street just to get a guy that could secure the football on a punt. Mahe, a middling talent in the best of circumstances, has never really been a field changer as a return man.

Enter rookies DeSean Jackson and Quinton Demps; both of whom returned kicks in the preseason. Look for the return game to be energized by the emergence of these two players on special teams.

Kicker David Akers, once considered one of the premier kickers in football, fell off of the map a little bit last year. Akers was still steady from within 40 yards, but outside of 40 yards, his percentage of FGs made fell off from 75% (6 for 8) in 2006 to 20% (2 for 10) in 2007. This could be attributed to a new holder, punter Sav Rocca, but some could be due to a tangible decline. The Eagles did not have a kicker in camp who gave Akers a serious run for his money, so the Eagles are clearly counting on a bounce-back year from Akers.

Punter Sav Rocca performed capably during his inaugural year in American Football, after starring for years in Austrailian Rules football. He needs to be a bit more consistent, but otherwise, he seems to have a real strong leg.

Coaching: I'll be the first to admit it; I'm not an Andy Reid fan. I know he's the most successful coach (in terms of wins) in the history of the Eagles, but his recent inability to incorporate better talent in the draft and his stubbornness with respect to the offensive play calling make me want to wretch. As de-facto GM of the team, he seems stubborn with respect to his ideas on his "system" being so good, it seems he believes he can just plug any player into his vaunted "system" and they should suceed.

As an offensive coach, his predilection towards the forward pass seemed to cool down last year, but the Eagles still pass the ball around 60 percent of the time. I'd personally like to see more balance in the offense. And before you remind me that Marty Mornhinweg is the offensive coordinator on this team and needs to shoulder that blame, please hold your breath. Andy Reid still calls plays occasionally and if you think he doesn't have significant input into the offensive game plan, you're kidding yourself.

Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is still a pretty good coach. Not nearly enough is made of the fact that his disciple Steve Spagnuolo went on to be the defensive coordinator of the Giants and won the Super Bowl using most of Jim Johnson's blueprints (but with better personnel).

The special teams have fallen off under coach Rory Segrest, but that has as much to do with personnel as it does with anything else. Segrest suffers from comparison with former Eagle special teams coach John Harbaugh, whose special teams always were highly ranked and contributed regularly to the success of the team those years where the Eagles were going to the NFC Championship with regularity.

Schedule: The schedule this year is pretty much middle of the road. The average 2007 winning percentage of the teams they are playing this year was about .520, good for 15th in the league in terms of toughest schedules.

Outlook and Prediction: The Eagles have tough September matchups against Pittsburgh, Dallas, and Chicago. October brings the bye week and 3 weaker opponents (Washington, SF, and Atlanta). By the end of October, the Eagles should be no worse than 5 - 2.

November will be their toughest month of the year, with having to travel to Seattle and back-to-back road matchups against Cincinnati and Baltimore. Mix in a home games against the Champion Giants and the high powered offense of Arizona. I don't think it's unreasonable for this team to be 7 - 5 after this stretch of matchups.

December brings matchups against each of their NFC East opponents and the Cleveland Browns. These matchups feel like a split to me.

2008 Prediction: 9 - 7 and a Wild Card playoff berth.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Phils Drop Series to Nats

The Phillies, allegedly girding themselves for a run at the NL East lead, dropped a series they easily could have won last night by losing to the Nationals by a score of 9 - 7.

The game got off to a good start, with the Phils posting 2 runs in the top of the first on a home run from Ryan Howard. But starter Joe Blanton, who only lasted 4 innings last night, gave those 2 runs back in addition to 2 more runs before giving way to Ryan Madson and bullpen in the fifth inning.

The bullpen, led by Chad Durbin, has been one of the most reliable parts of the Phillies this season. Not last night. Durbin came in during the 7th inning and gave up a bomb to straightaway centerfield to Ryan Zimmerman. He combined with JC Romero to give up more runs in the 8th inning allowing the Nats to salt the game away, despite the Phils scoring 2 in the top of the ninth.

Offensively, the Phils were led by Ryan Howard's 2 homers and Chase Utley's 2 RBI.

The Phils begin probably their most important series of the season this Friday at Shea Stadium when they take on the Mets. According to various reports, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is looking to move up Cole Hamels' start so he gets the opportunity to face the Mets in what will be his first start against them this year. Anything less than taking 2 of 3 and the Phils are putting themselves in a mighty big hole down the stretch.

Probable Starters:

Friday: Myers vs. Pelfrey
Saturday: Moyer vs. Martinez
Sunday: Hamels vs. Santana.


- The whole business with the Nationals having to make sure they got their pound of flesh from Chase Utley for bowling over their catcher was astounding. For one thing, Utley never went at the guy's head; it was a shoulder to shoulder hit. Secondly, let's not forget it was Nationals starter John Lannan who hit Utley with a pitched ball last year, shelving Utley for period of time down the stretch last year. So if any team should have had a beef, it should have been the Phillies.

Back to last night....Utley was hit by a pitched ball from Odalis Perez and was upended on a hard (clean) take out slide by Lastings Milledge. Hmmmm......

Let's add on that Chase Utley leads the league in being hit by pitched balls and frankly, I think it's now time for the Phillies pitchers to begin protecting the All-Star second baseman. Interestingly, Washington comes to Philly for the last series of the year. If the Phils are out of the race by then, things could get nasty.

Photo: Yahoo.com....(AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Post-Labor Day Musings

- I need a vacation from my labor day weekend. Between the family BBQs and Fantasy Football drafts (3 of them on consecutive days), I'm spent.

- Speaking of Fantasy Football, a couple of observations from the 3 drafts I participated in:

1.) Nobody trusts Earnest Graham to be a big time back yet;
2.) Nobody trusts Eli Manning, despite winning a Super Bowl;
3.) During a draft, it's always easy to tell the guys that don't know the NFL very well, as they almost always fall back to take someone from their favorite team when they are stuck. I love being in leagues with these people.
4.) I had one draft where LaDainian Tomlinson fell to the 6th pick. No one could believe it, but the first 6 in that draft went: 1.)AP, 2.) Westbrook, 3.) Brady, 4.) Moss, 5.) Romo, 6.) Tomlinson.

And no, no one was drunk (at least at that point).

Eagles preview stuff all week starting later today/tonite