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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Philadelphia Eagles: It's Time to Start Cutting

Now that the draft is over and the first mini camp has taken place, it’s time for the Eagles to start purging themselves of players they no longer need. This will stop the team from wasting time on players that will not make the roster come training camp, allow them to focus on and prepare the new arrivals for the upcoming season. Of course I understand that getting rid of these guys so early may lessen the environment of competition within the camp setting, but it will get younger players much needed practice reps so that their game readiness will come all that much faster.

The first guy that comes to mind is the much maligned Reggie Brown, who in three years has gone from a NFL starting wide receiver, to injured backup, to someone who is completely and utterly expendable. Everyone had hope for Reggie coming out of Georgia and he actually looked good with Jeff Garcia throwing him the ball. Unfortunately, he has underperformed at every other point in his game. He is currently behind DeSean Jackson, Kevin Curtis, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, and Hank Baskett on the depth chart. And for a guy who doesn’t play special teams, I think it’s time to say goodbye. As of this past mini camp however, one would think that the Eagles love Brown, having Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg praise him for catching the football during practice. We’ll see how long this lovefest lasts.

The Winston Justice travesty can go on no longer. Once a potential 1st round draft pick out of USC, Justice has been nothing short of a disappointment. The only memory that any Eagle fan will have of Winston Justice is the number of sacks he gave up to the New York Giants’ Osi Umenyiora: Four, all by himself. In that fateful game on the 30th of September in 2007, the Giants sacked the QB a total of 12 times, so it wasn’t just Justice. To Osi, it was like a video game. To Winston, it was the end of a one time promising career. It had been rumored that Justice was being shopped in a potential trade for Anquan Boldin. I can only imagine what the Cardinals thought they were getting.

Why the Eagles traded a fourth round pick for Lorenzo Booker still goes unexplained. The Eagles and Andy Reid say it was because it was like getting a third rounder and there was some value in the trade. I say they really wanted Brian Westbrook-lite. Too bad Booker is more like Ryan Moats-lite. The Eagles have B-West, they have Shady McCoy, and that third RB spot can go to some undrafted rookie like Rashard Mendenhall’s brother, Walter who has 2 inches and twenty pounds on Westbrook. There is absolutely no need for Philly to keep Booker on the roster, unless they put off admitting they were wrong. He wasn’t great on special teams, and he doesn’t add anything to the passing game so….see you later.

These guys could make a team somewhere else, so they should be given that opportunity sooner than later. In fact, I hope that Justice gets a job in the NFC East. They are still under contract with the Birds, to the organization can do what they will with them. Regardless, the writing is on the wall and their names have been removed from their lockers, so let’s forget about the past and move forward, with better players, a better team, for I doubt Eagle fans will be regretting any of them go a year from now.

A-Rod Is Becoming More Like Rodman Every Day

Can Alex Rodriguez become a bigger mess than he has already become? What happened to that pampered phenom that came up through the Mariner organization that made people forget about former Seattle legends like Al Davis, Mark Langston, and Harold Reynolds? I’ll tell you what happened. Dude was weird to begin with. He just hit a ton of home runs so that no one would notice. Now that he’s gone to New York, a little visit to Madonna has become the most normal thing he’s done in years.

There is the steroid issue, the strange photos that include him standing unusually close to himself in the mirror, and now a book has come out about how he really is and all of this stuff just this year. Never mind that A-Rod has distanced himself from his WBC Dominican teammates, or that he apparently can’t handle the Yankee/Red Sox pissing match, or that despite his talent, he has failed to help his team to a championship, A-Rod just can’t seem to be un-ridiculous anymore.

I haven’t read the book that’s recently come out about the slugger, nor do I plan to. I just think that this guy is becoming a mess and that his personal clutter is going to cover up the fact that he is a great ballplayer. Although the fact that there are allegations of him using what are now banned substances, the fact that he is a great ball player has even become tainted to some degree. It’s up to historians to decide whether or not whatever Rodriguez took really enhanced his play. I think it did a little, but I think the guy probably wouldn’t have profited from the stuff as some other last man on the bench type of player.

The worst part of it all is that he is still relatively young. Maybe he will grow out of his eccentricities, but then again maybe they’ll grow. But the guy had to be screwed up to get this ball rolling so perhaps with the use of some top notch state of the art therapy, he can move past the need to become baseball’s Dennis Rodman. That’s where he’s headed, only for a different reason. Dennis realized relatively late in his career that he didn’t have the cash required to retire for life, so he made himself into a spectacle in order to generate some interest in him. If you remember, while Rodman was in San Antonio, he began dying his hair. Then by the time he was playing with MJ he was in full wacko mode. He started slow, and built it up. Kind of like what A-rod has done. And where Alex now? Well, he’s loving his reflection, literally.

At this rate, it is only a matter of time before A-rod throws on a white wedding dress, or starts keeping a pet tiger cub in the locker room, or even better, legally changes his name to A-rod. It’s a real shame though, that his book is gonna make the author dirty rich by making A-rod look real dirty, but I guess that the way it is when you are more than just a pop icon, baseball player superstar who appears to be living a psychedelic and surreal life.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Blow Up The 76ers, Please!

If any team is doomed to stay in the NBA’s version of eternal purgatory, it is the Philadelphia 76ers. For two years, they have succeeded, yet failed and are destined to repeat this outcome year after year for the foreseeable future. They have made the playoffs two years in a row, and got bounced in the first round. They have talent, yet no stars. They have a coach, yet they don’t. They are in essence good enough only not to be bad. And now, after years of consecutive success and failure, it appears that they are spinning the wheels of mediocrity and will continue to do so until something drastic occurs. That time is now.

Andre Miller (right) wants to be gone. Fine. Samuel Dalembert wants out too. Better. In fact, anyone who wants to leave, go ahead and good luck. Most of the guys on the roster, with the exception of Miller would either have a hard time finding a role on their team or finding playing time ‘cause they stink. Andre Miller is a good point guard for a team who can convince him that he doesn’t need to shoot the ball. He hadn’t requested a trade, probably because he wanted to see how things would turn out in Philly. Now he can predict that the opportunity for him to win is most likely elsewhere. Samuel Dalembert anyway, could even get a job with the Canadian National Team, so I don’t know who’ll take a big stiff with no heart with a bigger contract and lesser skill.

The rest of the team is a rabble of athletic guys who are more of a mish-mosh of talent than a solid team. Andre Iguodala, although young, is not a guy who is ever going to develop into a go-to, take the last shot, star. He hit a big shot against Orlando this year, but no one would have been even slightly surprised if that ball rimmed out. Thaddeus Young (left) I like a lot, but he doesn’t really have a position to call his own. Since Iggy can’t play the two guard, the whole team gets screwed up trying to put Andre and Young on the court at the same time. Either Thaddeus gets stuck behind Andre at the three or he is forced to play the small four. It doesn’t help the team in either case. One has got to go, either one, but whoever it is…make sure they take Willie Green with them.

Then there is the case of Louis Williams (right), who was drafted out of what seems like junior high school. He is one of those tweeners, half point, half shooting guard who can look promising or compromising depending on who he is matched up against. He is still young, but guess what, in five years he’s going to be the exact same player and not so young. Better see where he can be moved in order to get a bona fide point guard now that Miller is on his way out.

The last main piece of the debacle called the Sixers is Elton Brand. All I will say about him is that he makes the Sixers look more like the Clippers every day he is on the roster.

So, let’s take stock. We get rid of Dalembert, Iguodala or Young, Willie Green, and Lou Williams, Miller walks as does anyone else on a one year deal. That’s four starters, so yep, that constitutes a blow up. Whoever the coach is going to be, whether it’s Tony DiLeo or some new guy, shouldn’t they be given the opportunity to have a team that they can lead into the second round of the playoffs before getting their ticket home? Please, at least for the fan’s sake, let make it happen.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Mets Are Losers: Plain and Simple

Going into tonights game with the Philadelphia Phillies, the New York Mets are 9-12 and 4.5 games behind the Florida Marlins. This must be a disappointment to Mets fans as the bullpen was viewed as the anchor that took the team down and out of contention last year. It appears that even with the addition of two solid relief pitchers in K-Rod and JJ Putz, that the problem wasn't relief pitching.
The Mets have stars on the team, that there is no doubt. David Wright is a great third baseman who can put up numbers that will rival the greats of the game. Delgado, Reyes, and Beltran are all bonifide hitters although Jose is over-rated and streaky at best. What these four cannot seem to do is get their team to win due to lack of heart.

Unlike their opponents this evening, these great yet gutless players in the Mets lineup are, for lack of a better word, losers. The Phillies' Jimmy Rollins willed his team to the playoffs in 2007, while Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are clear leaders for their club. And no matter what the Mets try to do to improve, whether its spending a ton of cash for a starting pitcher or using the manager as the scapegoat for the team's lack of winners, they will fail.

This weekend, all should be revealed. The Phillies do not have their best pitchers on the mound and they won't need to. The Phillies have the Mets' number and by the time the Mets leave Philly, that number will be 0, as in the number of wins they will have against the Phils. New York, since 1986 anyway, has been wannabes. They have had some mild success, but only due to a weak division. Now that their rivals have gotten better, they can be seen for what they are: a sub-.500 team that will fall short when the going gets tough.

Thank you and have a nice day.

What Will Jeremy Maclin Look Like?

Snapshot of what Jeremy Maclin will look like in an Eagles uniform in the upcoming 2010 edition of Madden Football.

The Philadelphia Eagles: Sticking With McNabb?

The Philadelphia Eagles are consistently moving forward, or at least that is what they’d like us to believe. Last weekend’s draft may have been an indication that they are doing just that, but not in the way that would make Philly fans particularly happy. It could be very well possible that the Eagles are gearing up for the post-McNabb era by drafting young players that will be well ingrained in the system when they turn the reigns over to Kevin Kolb. Or maybe the Eagles are willing to let McNabb remain in control and are simply surrounding him with more offensive options. In either case, one of the two QBs will probably be on another roster come the 2010 season.

Let’s first look briefly at what they have done this offseason. They replaced the two offensive tackles on the offensive line. They added a much needed fullback. They picked up a safety to replace a local legend. They added a wideout, a running back, and potentially a decent tight end through the draft in addition to picking up an established cornerback through a trade. One might say that the Eagles addressed their needs, but didn’t go all out to go for it all. This is a valid point considering that they could have had Tony Gonzalez and/or Anquan Boldin on the squad for a couple draft picks. The fact that they didn’t leads fans to believe that the team is getting ready to move on without McNabb.

But are the Eagles really ready to give up on winning with McNabb and give the ball to a guy who has played virtually the same amount of NFL football as my grandmother? That would be one of the biggest leaps of faith any franchise could take. It’s not even clear if it’s worked out in Packerland with Aaron Rodgers. So if the Eagles are looking to go that direction, 2010 ain’t lookin’ so good. First of all, Kolb’s contract is going to be up and they’ll have to give him a new deal, with starter’s money. He won’t get the 100 million dollar contract, but either way, he may not be worth whatever salary they’ll pay him.
The additions of Maclin & McCoy surely points to a youth movement, but I think they will end up with McNabb as their guy in the end. The Eagles need the experience and the skill to put up as many W’s as possible, and Kolb can’t do that for them. So the Birds add to what may be a more defined running game, the throw in a guy that can only enhance the receiving corps and at the same time take some pressure off the team’s new star in DeSean Jackson, and they address the issues that possibly held them back last year. Should it happen again, they probably won’t have Quintin Demps trying to cover Larry Fitzgerald.

This isn’t rocket science, or brain surgery. It’s even easier than trying to manage the salary cap. This is all simple common sense. The Eagles want to at least compete and maybe, just maybe, even win. They’re not going to blow things up, even though at some point they should. Instead they want to transition. They want to go from Westbrook to McCoy (right), McNabb to Kolb, just like they’ve done with the linebackers and defensive backs in the past. The problem with the current plan though is that McNabb and B-West might still be too good to transition away from. So what do you do in the meantime? Do you resign Kolb and let him sit or do you let him go and draft a replacement later on? McCoy we know will at least get some playing time and Brian knows that it is his job to keep LeSean off the field.

Regardless what the Eagles’ plans are, it won’t change much this year. McNabb and Westbrook will both be the starters and McCoy and Maclin (left) will play their roles, whatever they might be. Kolb, though will be lucky if he gets any meaningful snaps and might be looking to find a job he can really compete for. But should he stick around we might end up having a Philly style Montana-out-Young-in, albeit a poor man’s version.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Have the Phillies Started Their Engines Yet?

After a few questionable weeks of the 2009 baseball season, it looks as though the Phillies are finally getting down to business after a weekend sweep of the division leading Florida Marlins. The last game, the team exploded for 13 runs as the get their record over the .500 mark and within a game and a half of the top. The main point here being if they can maintain a little bit of this momentum and finish the month with more wins than losses.

In the beginning, it looked as if Raul Ibanez was going to have 170 RBI, but he has cooled. At the same time other guys like Chase Utley and Shane Victorino have picked it up and helping them win these much needed early games. Ryan Howard, who has been relatively quiet with only three home runs to date, has at least kept his average respectable at .290. Luckily for the Phils, as the weather gets hotter, so typically does Howard.

The starting pitching on the other hand is surely not indicative of a team even close to even in the standing department. Of all the starters, Brett Myers has the lowest ERA, and that is 4.91. Jamie Moyer just picked up his third win, so maybe he is getting back to his 46 year old form. Cole Hamels, well, we’ll have to see whether that shot he took to his arm last week will actually affect his game. He said he wouldn’t miss a start, so I can at least be hopeful.

The Phillies are not supposed to count on the Mets collapsing and the Marlins and Braves withering away at the end of the year. They cannot rely on winning eighty percent of their games the last two weeks of the season. They must take control now, while they can, and get into first place. From that point they can work on staying there and building a lead that they won’t have to worry about surrendering once the last month of the season rolls around. But in order to do this they must start their engines and keep them in high gear for as long as possible and barring multiple injuries, they should be able to simply maintain.

Right as of this moment, they are 9-8, which can easily turn into 9-11 if they are not conscious of the fact that last year was the first winning April that the franchise has had in years. And what happened last year? That’s right, a championship. If they come out ahead this month, then staying ahead should be easier when they guys that start slow start coming out of their slow starts. Hopefully, the pitching will bring itself together so that the offense doesn’t need to score thirteen runs a game although it would be nice.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

In the 2009 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles Select...

I have previously stated that I would not be doing a mock draft, and that is still the case. There is something about part-time bloggers, wannabe know-it-alls, and self-proclaimed experts putting stuff out there like its gospel when in actuality it ends up being more wrong than right. So I won’t bore you with some uninformed information about what the Miami Dolphins are going to do in the draft because I don’t follow Miami, or Chicago, or the New York Giants. I don’t write about those teams normally and won’t pretend that I have any clue as to what their going to do this Saturday. What I will do is, based on the picks they have now, go through the players that I think would fit the Eagles best in a given round. I will do my best in keeping it real of course, because things will change probably before they even use their first pick. Today, here are the first three rounds of picks. Next week (hopefully I’ll remember), I will revisit these selections to see just how far off I am.

First Round (Pick 21): Although the Eagles may have to trade up to get him, Georgia’s Knowshon Moreno is the best pick in the draft for their team. He is easily the best running back prospect available and will help the Birds’ offense almost immediately, just as long as he understands the playbook a little. The selection of Moreno makes the most sense, particularly with new bookends whose strengths are run blocking. It will also mean some relief to Brian Westbrook, who coming off a knee injury could use some help in the backfield. If the Eagles come out of the first round with Moreno and Jason Peters, then Philly fans should be more than satisfied. On another note, the Eagles haven’t drafted a running back in the first round since Keith Byars in 1986. Should there be no way to get Knowshon, either by trading up or otherwise, the next best pick at that position would be Tight End Brandon Pettigrew out of OK State. There is always the possibility that they trade this pick too, possibly even for Anquan Boldin.

Second Round (Pick 53): Should the Eagles get Moreno and answer their backfield issue they will then need to turn to address the tight end position. Pettigrew is long gone at this point and the next batch of talent isn’t as solid to be sure. Either Southern Miss’s Shawn Nelson or South Carolina’s Jared Cook (right) should be there unless there is a run on them earlier in the round. Offensively, both are sound, but neither are particularly good blockers. Cook has the best speed of the group, which to me puts him ahead of Nelson, but then again, I’m not in the Eagles’ war room. People have Cornelius Ingram out of rated pretty high on the TE list, but I expect him to be gone by pick 53. Philly could go defensive end here, but for the value of the pick based on their needs, tight end is the way to go.

Round Three (Pick 85): If West Virginia’s Pat White (left) is available they take him otherwise, they take the best defensive end on the board. They love guys that can do more than one thing well, and although he wants to be a QB in the NFL, White will probably have to wait to really get that chance anywhere he goes. In Philly, he will give the gadget-play loving Coach Andy any number of options, most importantly a Wildcat formation. As far as defensive ends go, the Eagles would love six feet six inch Michael Johnson from Georgia Tech, if he’s there. More likely than not though, he’ll be gone and they will chose from either Michael Bennett or Brandon Williams from Texas A&M and Tech respectively.

Tomorrow, will (should) be rounds four through seven. It should be exciting, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

To Anquan or Not To Anquan

Should the Eagles trade their remaining first round pick for Arizona’s Anquan Boldin? A good number of Birds fans would say yes. I say hold on there Sparky. Boldin would most certainly improve the wide receiving corps, that I have no doubt. But I feel that he wouldn’t really improve the team overall, especially when you have no one to back up Brian Westbrook in the backfield. No, leave Anquan out West. Work with what you have on the outside, which isn’t all that bad by the way, and go out and get what you really need…a running back.

Just imagine if you will…You have Anquan Boldin on one side, DeSean Jackson on the other and Kevin Curtis fitting perfectly in the slot. Brian Westbrook is in the backfield. McNabb takes the snap, goes play action faking the handoff. Westbrook takes off only to be met at the line and on the tackle gets his knee twisted. Oh no! He’s hurt. In comes his backup, not Knowshon Moreno or Beanie Wells, but the wonderful and talented Lorenzo Booker! Can you see the dropoff yet? Now you can say that there is a loss of talent between the first and second string of receivers, but when your big weapon, and B-West is still your big weapon, goes down, the offense begins to look a whole lot less scary.

The 21st pick isn’t even guaranteed to get you Anquan straight up. A 3rd or 4th rounder would almost certainly have to be included as well, so it is unlikely that after the Jason Peters trade, that the Eagles will give up one pick let alone a couple. They have holes and depth that needs to be addressed. Take safety for instance. Right now there’s Jones, Mikell, Demps, and maybe J.R. Reed, but really, using a 3rd round pick for this position would be a good idea.

Some would say that you could throw in a player. Really? Like who? Sheldon Brown plus the 21st pick is too much. And I can tell you now that there isn’t much of a market for Reggie Brown or Hank Baskett, not when the guy involved is better than those two guys combined. The first round draft pick is really the only chip the Eagles can dangle in front of the Cardinals. It is unlikely they’ll take a player the Eagles are willing to give up.

So I’ll say to Eagles fans, you must live without Anquan Boldin, and (I hate to say it this way) make due with what we have at the moment, which isn’t Thrash/Pinkston (pictured) or Johnson/Small. For once in a long time, receiver isn’t our biggest need; it may be a need, but not our biggest one. We need a complimentary back, we need a tight end, and we need a defensive end, all before we need a receiver. And while it might be flashy, with some razzle dazzle pop, adding Boldin will not necessarily be the answer.

Horrid Pitching by the Phils

Monday night’s Phillies game was called due to rain, and that might have been a good thing. The pitching has been horrid, inconsistent, and resembling nothing like the staff that took the mound last year, despite coming into the year looking like the strength of the team. Instead, from Cole Hamels to Brad Lidge, Phil’s fans have watched this team put up good offensive numbers, only to hover just shy of .500 ball. And despite his claim to the blame, it all can’t fall on ole Cole.

Hidden by this dark shadow of underperforming hurlers are a couple of bright spots that have undoubtedly helped this team avoid pure freefall. Raul Ibanez has put up a couple weeks of play by batting .386, leading the team in dingers and driving in 12 runs. More that what could have been expected from Pat the Bat, he has taken his spot in the lineup and just about eliminated the whole too many left handed bats cries. He still may not be worth the money he’s getting, especially when compared to Burrell’s deal with the Rays, but come season’s end, his consistency and overall ability to hurt the baseball, early naysayers might be speaking in a different tongue.

Should he keep it up for the next week and a half, Ryan Howard is having his best April since his MVP year in ’06. Gone could be the days where Ryan hits below his weight, as he came into the season in great shape. Whatever he did in the offseason certainly seems to have worked, and although he hasn’t put up crazy power numbers, he is holding his own batting .341. And when his power does switch on, and it will, watch out. I would even be willing to say that if he hits six home runs in April, he’ll hit fifty for the year, easily. In the meantime, he needs to simply maintain.

A third bright spot in the young Phillies season is the apparent return to health for Chase Utley. Many, including me, were unsure just how he would do following the hip injury, but obviously he’s fine. Batting .366 and what looks like to be well on his way to another All-Star caliber season. Chase is possibly the most important member of the team as he has the ability to carry a team when he is healthy. Where Jimmy Rollins is who provides the energy, or fuel to make this team go, Utley is the guy who keeps the team on track.

My hope is that the pitching comes together, that Brad Lidge doesn’t implode, Jamie Moyer turns fifty overnight, and that Cole isn’t a heartbeat away from arm trouble. It is the pitching that must pull through, because no matter how many runs Raul, Chase, and Ryan drive in, it won’t be enough to keep up with the runs given up. Right now, it’s early, a month from now there will still be time. Two months though, it may be getting to the brink when if the pitching hasn’t turned itself around, the chances of repeating would have shrunken as if they were in fifty degree seawater.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Eagles Bring Some Intrigue to Their NFL Draft

The Philadelphia Eagles have made the upcoming NFL Draft a bit intriguing for Philly fans. Nearly everyone in America knew that they were going to pick an offensive lineman with one of their two first round picks, and in essence they did with trading the 28th pick in the draft to the Bills for 2-time All-Pro Jason Peters. It won’t be know until the season starts whether Peters is the solid replacement to Tra Thomas that the Eagles organization thinks that he is or the guy who gave up the 11+ sacks last year, at least according to some stat geeks. Regardless though, this trade with Buffalo only increases a great deal of speculation on what will happen with their 21st pick.

At this point, I have no clue, but I suspect that they will draft a defensive lineman. I would be happily surprised if they picked a running back like Knowshon Moreno (left) or Beanie Wells (right) to complement Bryan Westbrook, but my gut tells me that they will leave that for the second or third round and get a second tier back. My eyebrows will also be raised a bit if they pick up Brandon Pettigrew (below) should he fall that far. No, look for the Birds to go ho-hum and select Tyson Jackson out of LSU and stick him in a rotation with Victor Abiamiri.
But what if….what if the Eagles see what’s coming down the road…an aging Westbrook, a young QB entering his third year, a dynamic wideout that makes defensive backs buckle. What if they see the opportunity to pick up that third piece to the offensive puzzle? A guy that will create a reason for safeties to move up and play the run, or a tight end that needs double coverage. This pick could be the one guy who will take us truly to the next generation of Philadelphia Eagles, the post McNabb, post Westbrook, and reluctantly, the post Dawkins Eagles.

To me, either Moreno or Wells will do, for that matter you can add Pettigrew too, but I would rather see one of the two top RBs in an Eagles uniform next season. Philadelphia replaced both of their offensive tackles with guys who are arguably better at run blocking than pass blocking, but that might not mean much since that was the case with Thomas and Jon Runyan. We will know just what they will do this Saturday. Perhaps this Eagles regime has seen the light, or perhaps not. Maybe they will finally understand what the fans mean when they say “playmaker,” or maybe they’ll risk ruining the franchise just to prove that their philosophy is right.

The other option they have of course is to trade their pick. I won’t give them the ability to trade out of the first round, but instead send it to Arizona for Anquan Boldin. That will enable the Eagles to slide Kevin Curtis inside where he belongs and solidify what will be the best receiving group, dare I say it, in the NFL. It wasn’t too long ago when Eagle fans had to bear witness to James Thrash and Todd Pinkston, but now on the precipice of what could be the last chance for Donovan and Andy Reid to make it back to the Super Bowl together, the Eagles might be prepared to go all out offensively, not unlike they did with T.O., only without all the drama.

The suspense is building and we might end up with something exciting or horribly disappointing. I am trying to think positive and believe that they will pick someone who will make the immediate impact and will help make the enigma that is DeSean Jackson, better. If only I could will them to select someone other than a lineman and to stimulate the fan base. Although they haven’t acknowledged that they are rebuilding, the letting go of Brian Dawkins, Tra Thomas, and realistically Jon Runyan strikes another chord. Let’s make it official and draft the replacement to the guy who has been most important player on the team for the last couple of years, and get the best running back available to take over the reigns for B-West.

In other news regarding the Philadelphia Eagles….Cornerback Sheldon Brown wants out, especially after Joselio Hanson’s new contract. Brown has been the most consistent DB since the departure of Troy Vincent. Also, does anyone get the feeling that the Eagles are scared that Shawn Andrews might leave the game? Andrews missed all of last year and it was questionable whether or not he still wanted to play football. To try to ensure that he comes back the Birds signed his brother Stacy at the opening of free agency. Now they trade for his college roommate in Peters. Stay tuned, Philly might be signing two of his uncles, a second cousin, and his 3rd grade crush, just to make sure he’s back on the O-Line in ’09.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Phillies Vs. The Month of April

The Phillies cannot afford their typical April. Unlike last year, when they finished the first month of the season 15-13 as opposed to the 11-14, 10-14 they finished with in April of 2007 and 2006 respectively. Some believe that their first over .500 start in years and years helped propel them to a position to contend for the division title, and eventually overtake the Choke and Slide Mets. Going off on a quick tangent…They should call the Mets the New York Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches….My father used to call (and now I call) PB&Js, choke and slides because you would choke on the PB, and the jelly would help is slide down the throat. Here the Mets choke on the field, and slide down the standings. In any case, let’s stay focused.
It’s no secret that the past two seasons have yielded some exciting September baseball in Philadelphia, and this season may prove to be the same way. It is unknown just where the Phils will stand come playoff judgment day and even though we would like to think that they’ll be headed into postseason play, there are no guarantees. So despite the fact that this is a long season, April becomes August very quickly and it is absolutely vital that they get as many wins under their belts as possible, regardless of the month.

The Phillies could rely on the Mets being in it and then falling apart at the end and that would be safe bet. However, there is no need for all the drama, no matter how captivating it might be. In reality, it might hinge on the bullpens. Last year the Mets had to be rescued from the walking blown save, Billy Wagner, while the Phillies got the most consistent guy in the majors, Brad Lidge, (for two fringe players) and took full advantage of him all the way through the World Series. Can he be Light’s Out Lidge again? Maybe. The Mets pen certainly got better with an overrated K-Rod and the guy who should be closing, Putz.

Then again, it could be the rotation that defines the winner. Or, for arguments sake, another upstart Marlins team could play spoiler. There could be injuries too. If either Cole Hamels or Johan Santana go down for any real amount of time, their respective pitching staffs become iffy.

That is why the Phillies have to be as far above .500 as possible by the end of April. Another start with fourteen or fifteen in the loss column and not only will they need guys like Chase, J-Roll, and Ryan Howard clicking on all cylinders, but the pitching staff will need to be closer to perfect. Needing Jamie Moyer to haul in another 16 wins is not what Philadelphia fans want to see. So while I am not scared after three games and a 1-2 record, I am cautiously nervous because I have seen this Philadelphia Phillies team do some great things, but I have also seen them very flat. And I fear, that this year, the season will go as April goes.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ocho Cinco on the Eagles? That's Craziness

Ocho Cinco on the Philadelphia Eagles is craziness. I mean, c’mon! How many receivers in this league have been tied to the Birds this offseason, something like six. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Marvin Harrison, T.O (again), Anquan Boldin, Braylon Edwards, and now Chad Johnson were all Philly bound at some point. And it is only a matter of time before Plaxico, Jerry Rice, and Steve Largent find their way to the rumor mill as future Eagles. It is getting a bit ridiculous. The Eagles are always looking for players that will upgrade a position and they have, according to media reports at least, been inquiring about wideouts. But I will put the chance of the Eagles obtaining Chad somewhere between slim and the space between Coach Andy’s cheeks…the ones in the rear.

First of all, Ocho Cinco is T.O.-lite, and there is no way that the Eagles are taking that big of a risk. They would take on an ego, especially if the talent and possibly more important, the salary outweighed the potential risk of discord and Johnson has shown that he can bring discord. Johnson is not so much an ego, but rather he is an honest to goodness leggo my eggo loon that could help the Eagles win, as long as he was happy. If not, who knows? The difference between Chad and Terrell is that Chad is a bit more fun, particularly from the standpoint of the fans. Legally changing his name to his Spanish nickname is fine by me, just down throw your teammates under the bus.

And do the Eagles even need Chad Johnson? I don’t know. They could use a guy like that to completely open the field, but the damage he would do to DeSean Jackson would be immeasurable. Jackson has an ego all his own, and sometimes his football smarts take a time out ala the play of him running down the field and releasing the ball just prior to passing the goal line. Jackson has a good work ethic, he picked up the offense well, and his potential at this very moment may not be has high as his mentor, the immortal Rice, but in the least Steve Smith. I must note that I have no idea how Boldin or Edwards would affect Jackson, but I don’t think either will suggest that DeSean changes his name simply to Diez (and that’s the number ten in Spanish for those not in the know).

I say no to Ocho Cinco, let him rot in Cincinnati. He does nothing for me in terms of helping the Eagles advance further into the playoffs and I don’t think that he could catch those McNabb passes to his feet any better than Kevin Curtis. There will be many Birds fans that that will want his skill, but few that want his character. Perhaps if there was a way to somehow convince that brain of Johnson and turn it into the boring, humdrumness that is the career of Hank Baskett, then the balance of what is and what should never be will be maintained in the realm of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ryan Howard Will Win the 2009 NL MVP...Book It!

The 2009 Philadelphia Phillies have had some questions going into the season. Not so much in the form of who will be on the roster, or the moves they’ve made, but regarding the guys they have, their stars in fact. Will Jimmy Rollins have a resurgence year after an average 2008? Is Chase Utley fully recovered from his hip injury? But neither of those questions is as big as Ryan Howard and how the best power hitter in the game today will do after a big contract, after the World Series?
Not that his skills will really be called into question, because we all know what he can do (hit home runs) and can’t do (field worth a lick), but his desire to lead this team back into the playoffs to defend their title, the first time any Philadelphia player has had to since 1984. Well, to start the answer off we’ll look at the Phillies Spring Training. Howard came into camp in the best shape ever and it showed on the diamond, knocking in 10 home runs in the month of March. And, in my simpleton opinion, this should be only a prelude for what people can expect in April. Even though he has struggled during the early months in previous years he is ready to put together the most complete season of his still young major league career.
A 0 for 4 with 2Ks performance in the first game of the year is not a great start but it’s too early to assume the worst. That being said, his performances that last few years have indicated that his offensive prowess is unmatched save one, Albert Pujols. I think that the Pujols MVP last year bothered Ryan. That he forced his will upon his opponents in order to take the Phillies to the top of the NL East, and not winning was a quiet but personal disappointment.
After his first MVP award in 2006, Howard was battling contract issues every offseason and these were distractions that took away from his conditioning. He became less disciplined at the plate and his production actually dropped in 2007 and 2008, in comparison to his MVP year anyway. Yet despite this, he was still among the most valuable players in the league, finishing 5th in voting in 2007 when the award went to Jimmy Rollins, and 2nd to Albert Pujols in 2008. And last year, it was most likely his .251 average that tipped the scales to the Cardinal.
Pujols remains is main competition but you may also consider Manny and Hanley Ramirez to be in the mix as well. This does not include Ryan’s teammates, who have collected their own share of MVP votes. But, barring injury, it will be Howard who prevails in ’09 as he and Albert go at each other in the statistics. Back in mid-Feb I predicted that he was going to hit a mere .252/48/144, and I’ll stick with the power numbers, but expect a thirty to forty point jump in the batting average as he sends the ball into the stratosphere nearly fifty times this season. Think I’m wrong…..I don’t think so. Ryan Howard will be the 2009 NL MVP….you can book it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Congratulations to Penn State...but not really

Congratulations to the Penn State Nittany Lions Basketball team for winning the NIT over Baylor last night at MSG. You are the top team of all the teams not considered as top teams by NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. By winning all of those high stressed tournament games, you have proven that not only can you beat good teams not wanting to be there, that you can do so without anyone noticing. All that you managed to do was prolong the inevitable, ending the season out of the Tournament. Fifty or sixty years ago, the National Invitational Tournament meant a great deal, unfortunately you are fifty or sixty years too late. No one will remember that the Nittanies beat George Mason in OT, or that you crushed Notre Dame. In fact, no one will remember who won the NIT in 2009 by the time July rolls around, let alone remember next year. Think of it this way, you are not the runner up to Miss America, you were runner up to the chick who went to the pageant to become runner up.

It’s shameful, I know, but despite you 27-11 record, how many Penn State basketball fans can deem this season a success? Winning the NIT may get you a banner to hang in the Bryce Jordan Center, but the fact that the team failed to add to its lowly eight appearances in the big dance diminishes the value of the season on the whole. But what can you do? You play the schedule you have, and you have to win the games you can. But now that win against NJIT is wasted, and as a matter of fact, that win probably didn’t help, particularly in the RPI. Needless to say, all of the patsies that Penn State beat got them no closer to the big dance than that win against Final Four participant Michigan State did. And Penn State is not the only one. A bunch of teams play walkovers at the beginning of the season in an effort to prepare for conference play and to enhance the record. And if you were in the Big East, you wouldn’t have gotten a sniff of a whiff of tourney consideration. Overall, the Lions probably didn’t deserve to make it to the big dance and probably shouldn’t celebrate the NIT win either. To win a consolation bracket is hardly to have won at all.

Breaking Down the NL East: Relief Pitching

Thirty years ago the use of relief pitchers was normally reserved for the eighth and ninth innings and even then those guys were hardly considered specialists as they could pitch 5 or 6 innings themselves. There weren’t the 7th inning setup guys to the 8th inning setup guys. There were relief pitchers and closers, and even then I can’t recall the term closer being used. But that was back when starters would pitch twenty complete games a year. Now, through a crack in the game’s evolution, starting pitchers are accustomed to believing that five innings means a quality start; the back four being left to the relief. And guys now make a good living pitching one inning, and sometimes one batter, every other game, making their roles on the team vital to its success. For my evaluation of the relief pitchers I took into consideration wins and saves versus ERA, WHIP, and Losses. I didn’t go into blown saves or holds since if a closer blows a save, they probably may have gotten a loss and that’s worse, plus blown saves in the seventh or eighth innings is plain stupid. Holds, on the other hand are a decent enough stat, ERA and WHIP will indicate just how they do well enough.
First (Score 3.55): The Philadelphia Phillies historically have had iffy relief pitching at best. Sure they’ve had bright spots here and there like Steve Bedrock Bedrosian, but generally guys like Roberto Horrendous Hernandez come to mind. Last year was a different story though, Brad Lidge was lights out, J.C. Romero and Ryan Madson at the end of the year was nearly as good. The role players of Scott Eyre, Clay Condrey, and Chad Durbin each played a major part in the team’s success. Right off the bat in 2009 Romero is on a fifty game suspension however his absence will hopefully be minimized with the addition of Jack Tascher, a replacement lefty if you will. No one expect Lidge to go perfect again this year, but he should be far off. The Phillies have a good group and if there aren’t any injuries, they shouldn’t lose more than a dozen games for the team.
Second (2.37): If I were going on last year alone I would have put the New York Mets relief staff at the bottom of the list and I don’t think there would be many complaints. Their relievers, especially loud-mouthed Billy Wagner is a big reason they’ve missed the post season. The addition of K-Rod is not a big as the addition of J.J. Putz who, in my opinion is a better closer, but who will be relegated to the setup role unless Rodriguez melts down. Keep in mind that K-Rod did blow nine saves (not calculated into the score), so Putz might be the closer at season’s end. The rest of the riff raff including Pedro Feliciano and guys named Sean Green, Brian Stokes, and Carlos Muniz will have to hold down the fort until the late innings when the real players can come in to pitch. Hopefully for the Mets they can get into the eighth with a lead.
Third (0.76): As a complete shock to me, the Washington Nationals ranks third in relief pitching. This is due to young pitchers last year doing a good job, unnoticed by nearly everyone in baseball, plus the addition of a solid vet Joe Beimel. Joel Hanrahan, who had nine saves last year, gets the closers job it would appear, by default. Saul Rivera, Steven Shell, Garrett Mock, and Julian Tavarez round out the rest of the core relievers on this Nationals’ team. Shell and Mock were rookies last year, looking to make a living in the major leagues. In order to do that, they will have to ensure that any lead (however rare) they have when the come into pitch, stays that way when they hand the ball over to Hanrahan. Washington won’t win many games on merit, so the relief pitching has to be adequate enough not to lose any leads they get.
Fourth (0.66): It has been my contention for years that Mike Gonzalez is an underrated closer. He has been stuck on win anemic teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates where save opportunities were not real forthcoming. Last year on the Braves, no one could lock down that closer role, and much like Hanrahan in D.C., Gonzalez will have the closer’s job by lack of competition. Manny Acosta, Blaine Boyer, Jeff Bennett, Buddy Carlyle, and Boone Logan make up the bulk of the rest of the squad, none of whom had an ERA under 3.50 last year. If they can keep the runs from scoring, then Gonzalez should have a career year in 2009. If the Braves are lucky, their pitching staff might get them a sniff of a possible postseason run.
Fifth (0.43) The Florida Marlins have found a way to remain somewhat competitive despite having guys with names you’ve never heard of, who have nothing real special to mention about them, and who may not make a roster elsewhere. Matt Lindstrom had five saves in 2008 and is the Fish’s closer. Kiko Calero, not to be confused with Kiki Vandeweghe was picked up from Oakland, and will provide some nice experience in the bullpen. The combination of Leo Nunez, Logan Kensing, Renyel Pinto, and Rick VandenHurk, who were a combined 10-8 with 0 saves, will be responsible for maintaining whatever leads the starting staff drops in their laps. Regardless, I can imagine them helping the Marlins to anything better than third place in the division.
Well, that’s it for this series. Thanks everyone for view, reading, and for the one or two comments I got from them. I hope I wrote without too much bias, even though I know some was blatant. It should be a great season, particularly if you are a Phillies fan like me, so it goes without saying….

Let’s look alive out there!