Another Series Win for the Phillies

The Phillies won their 5th series in a row, beating the San Francisco Giants at home, winning 2 out of 3 games. They had a chance for the sweep yesterday, but to be honest, were due for a letdown game, and really did not play well.

The Phillies won game 1 behind a strong performance from Roy Oswalt. The game was not going well, as Oswalt allowed two 1st innings runs, and the Phillies offense got off to a sluggish start against Giants starter Barry Zito. That was until the 5th inning. The Phillies put a 2 spot in both the 5th and 6th innings to take a 4-2 lead. After the Giants got one back in the 7th, the game was tight, and went into the 8th inning seeing the Phillies clinging to a 4-3 lead. In the bottom of the 8th, the Phillies loaded the bases, and arguably the team MVP, Carlos Ruiz, came to the plate. Ruiz ripped a double off the wall, the Phillies would go on to score 5 in the inning to win the game 9-3.

The 2nd game of the series started out much the same. Joe Blanton was on the bump in this game, and has to have the worst 1st inning ERA in the history of baseball. Not surprisingly, Andres Torres led off the game with a mammoth home run into the 2nd deck in right field. Blanton did calm down however, and would only give up 1 more run on a solo home run by Pat Burrell, his 2nd in as many games in the series. The Phillies offense, led by Jimmy Rollins, once again put up numbers. They got to Matt Cain, Jimmy Rollins ended up a double short of the cycle, and Dominic Brown hit a huge home run. The Phillies smashed the ball all game, and ended up with 2 doubles, 3 triples, and 2 home runs, and won the game 8-2.

The Phillies went for the sweep yesterday with Cole Hamels on the mound. The Phillies have not scored for Hamels all season, and that trend would continue. Hamels is usually able to keep the Phillies in games even when they are not scoring for them; unfortunately, this was not one of those nights. Hamels gave up 3 1st inning runs, and Jonathan Sanchez shut down the Phillies, as the Giants avoided the sweep and won the game 5-2. The Phillies 2 runs weren't scored until the 9th inning.

The Phillies have won 5 straight series, and that is really all you can ask for. If the Phillies keep taking 2 of 3 every series, they will be in good shape. Unfortunately, the Braves are playing way over their heads, and currently lead the Phillies by 2.5 games in the NL East. The Phillies do lead the wild card however now by 1 game over the Giants, and 2 games of the Cardinals.

The Phillies sit at 2-1 on this current 10 game homestand, and I really think you need to go 7-3 on this homestand. This means they need to go 5-2 against the Nationals and Astros; this is something they should be able to do against 2 bad teams. The Nationals come to town for a 3 game series starting tonight. Roy Halladay takes the mound tonight for the Phillies.


Phillies Win 4th Series in a Row

The Phillies won a series 2-1 against the Mets for the 2nd time in a little over a week. It was good to bounce back from the first game of the series when Mets knuckle baller R.A. Dickey dominated the Phillies.

There isn't much to say about the first game of the series as R.A. Dickey threw a complete game shutout, outdueling Cole Hamels. Hamels continues his strong play this season, by also throwing a complete game, and only allowing 1 run. The problem was the Phillies offense; it was bad, and the Phillies couldn't even muster a run against Dickey. The Phillies lost the game 1-0.

The 2nd game of the series, and needing a win, Halladay took the mound. All he did was his usual work; threw 8 scoreless innings, and the Phillies won the game 4-0. Again the Phillies offense wasn't great, but was good enough to win... especially with Halladay on the mound.

The rubber match was the ESPN Sunday night game last night, and then Phillies really needed to win this series, and did just that. The Phillies got a quality start from Kyle Kendrick, who only allowed 1 run, and the Phillies played some small ball to take the game 3-1. The Phillies took the series 2-1.

There are some offensive concerns coming out of this series. The Phillies only scored 7 runs in the 3 games. They are just lucky that the Mets have an even worse offense right now. There is some good news, as Chase Utley will probably make his return from the disabled list tomorrow as the Phillies are back home against the Giants this week for a 3 game series. The Phillies are currently tied with the Giants for the wild card lead. The Phillies remain 2 games back of the Braves for first place in the NL East. Ryan Howard is also due off the disabled list tomorrow, but it looks like he will sit out at least another week.

The Phillies definitely need to step up the offensive game. The Phillies are winning games, but it isn't going to last very long if they continue to struggle offensively. The Phillies have not hit a home run in a week. Hopefully the return of Utley, and the soon return of Howard will fix the home run drought.


Eagles Finally Get Some Game Action

After following all the camp stories to death the past couple weeks, it will be nice to finally watch and get to see some of the players in actual game action, even if it is just a meaningless preseason game.

The Eagles play host to the Jaguars in their first preseason game of the season. It's important to remember that the most important outcome of any preseason game is making sure no one is on the injured list after the game.

This is however a meaningful game for a lot of the players trying to make the team. They will be judged a lot on how they perform in game action. Also, the Eagles are counting on a lot of rookies to play big roles this season, and these games are important for those players also to get some live game action under their belts.

Tonight, I will keep a close eye on the 2 starting defensive rookies, Brandon Graham and Nate Allen. 2nd round pick Nate Allen appears to have locked up the starting free safety position. I'm not sure if this is due to the fact that he has outplayed everyone, or just that the Eagles are really hoping that he is the team's free safety of the future. The Eagles are very thin at the safety position in my opinion, as Quintin Demps, and Macho Harris are not starters in my opinion. This means that Allen will have to play a large role in the defense this season. I have concerns that Allen struggles with tackling at time. I have been a big advocate that the Eagles should have chosen Taylor Mays over Nate Allen. Obviously it could be years down the line before that argument is determined, but I have some definite concerns over Nate Allen, and I am hoping I am wrong.

Brandon Graham is the other rookie, the Eagles first round draft pick, who looks like he might be starting by Week 1. All indications from camp are that Graham is a special player, and has been one of, if not the most impressive player in camp thus far. The Eagles have been trying to fill the left defensive end spot opposite Trent Cole for years. I am hoping Graham can be that guy. He is another guy who we will need to keep a close eye on tonight.

On defense, the team appears pretty set. We will see how the strong side linebacker position plays out, as Moise Fokou was the starter entering camp, but Akeem Jordan appears to have taken that starting spot over. I am not a huge Jordan fan, I feel like he is adequate, but a very average player overall. I think Bradley, and Ernie Sims will be beasts this season.

The cornerback spot is another position that I feel is thin. I'm not sure Ellis Hobbs is starting material. And I'm not sure Joselio Hanson is 3rd CB material. I am interested to see how Trevard Lindley plays in the preseason, as I think he could end up being a starter; that is probably a year or two away though.

On offense, the Eagles are very young, but seem to have a lot of skill. Obviously we need to see how new starter Kevin Kolb performs in game action, but luckily he was able to start a couple games last season. On offense, the offensive line is the question mark, along with Kolb. Jason Peters did not play well last season. Todd Herramans is still injured. Stacy Andrews is the starting right guard, which is a concern in itself. And that doesn't even mention the uncertain center position.

At center, Jamaal Jackson is out, and probably won't be back for a while, and shouldn't be rushed back with the ACL injury. Nick Cole took over the center position, but seemed to struggle and also got injured. This moved 3rd year former Pittsburgh Panther, Mike McGlynn, into the starting center position, and he will get the nod tonight at center. Apparently McGlynn has played really well the past week at camp, and is a very big body at the center position.

Either way, it will be nice to see an actual game, and see how some of the young players perform, even if it counts for nothing.

Phillies Take Series Against Dodgers

The Phillies won an amazing game yesterday when it looked like they were about to drop 2 of 3 at home to the Dodgers. Because the Braves won 2 of 3 from the Astros, the Phillies once again remain 2 games back in the NL East, and 1 game back of the Giants in the wild card.

The Phillies lost the first game of the series with Kyle Kendrick getting lit up, and the bullpen doing horribly. Kendrick pitched poorly from the start, which isn't surprising since even though Kendrick has pitched well, he gets lit up a lot. After Kendrick left the game, Antonio Bastardo let up a run, Herndon let up 4, Baez let up 2, and Romero let up 2. Even though Ex-Phillie Vicente Padilla didn't pitch well, he got the win. The Dodgers won the game 15-9. The Phillies couldn't pull out an amazing comeback. More on that topic later.

Game 2 of the series, the Phillies bounced back and got the 2-0 victory behind Roy Oswalt, who picked up his first win as a member of the Phillies. This was exactly how you draw it up from a managing standpoint. Oswalt pitched 7 scoreless innings, followed by Ryan Madson pitching a scoreless 8th, followed by Brad Lidge with a 1-2-3 9th inning to get the save. It didn't matter that the Phillies offense didn't give them much this day, as the pitching was phenomenal.

Game 3 of the series, the Phillies, behind more bad pitching would find themselves down 9-2 going into the bottom of the 8th inning. Blanton continued his first inning struggles by allowing 3 earned runs in the first inning, which always puts the Phillies in a tough hole to get out of. The bullpen was again bad. Chad Durbin this time allowed 2 runs, J.C. Romero allowed 2, but both were unearned, and Jose Contreras allowed 1 run.

The Phillies were able to overcome this however, as they put up a 4 spot in both the 8th and 9th innings. The Phillies made it a 9-6 game going into the 9th inning, but still had a lot of work to do. After Polanco was hit by a pitch, Sweeney and Werth walked to load the bases with no outs. Ben Francisco hit a grounder right to 3rd baseman Casey Blake, who let the ball go right through his legs. The Phillies scored 2, and then had runners on 1st and 2nd, with beast Carlos Ruiz coming to the plate. Ruiz ripped a drive deep to left center scoring 2 runs, and winning an unbelievable comeback for the Fightins. It was the biggest comeback victory in Citizens Bank Park history, and allowed the Phillies to keep pace in the National League.

Even though the Phillies won an amazing game, it masks the fact that the bullpen was very bad this series. Almost every member of the bullpen allowed a run in this 3 game series. This cannot continue to happen coming towards the end of the season if the Phillies want to make the playoffs, and go deep in the playoffs.

On the other hand, the offense played well overall, despite the injuries, and Carlos Ruiz continues to be an absolute beast. He is very close to Ryan Howard for the offensive MVP of this team right now. Ruiz seems to come up with every clutch hit that is needed lately for the Phillies. Shane Victorino joined the team last night, and the Phillies sent back down Antonio Bastardo to the minors. Victorino did not start last night, but probably will tonight.

The Phillies travel to New York to play the Mets this weekend in a 3 game series. They just have to keep taking care of business and winning ball games, no matter what the Braves, and other wild card teams are doing.


Phillies Take 2 of 3 From Mets

The Phillies won earlier today, capping off the series win at home against the New York Mets, and winning the series. The Phillies held off the Mets and won the game today 6-5.

Friday night saw a solid start from Joe Blanton, but an offense that struggled, until the 8th inning. The Phillies went into the 8th inning losing 2-1 in the game, but put up a 6 spot in the inning, and held off a late Mets change to win the game 7-5. It is a good sign to see Joe Blanton pitch well, since he is basically the 4th starter on this team, and will need to pitch well late in the season for the Phillies to have success. New Phillie Mike Sweeney got 2 hits in the game, both coming in the 8th inning.

On Saturday, the Phillies lackluster offense continued, only this time it continued throughout the whole game. Again, the Phillies got great starting pitching, this time from Cole Hamels, who should have a much better record than he does. Hamels only allowed 1 run in the game, the only run the Mets would get; too bad it was 1 more than the Phillies would score on this day. The Phillies almost busted the game open again for a 2nd straight game in the 8th inning. They loaded the bases in the 8th inning against K-Rod, only to see Ross Gload ground out.

The Phillies were able to bounce back today behind Roy Halladay and the long ball. The Phillies once again had 1 big inning, scoring 5 runs in the 3rd inning, and knocking R.A. Dickey out of the game early. Halladay went 7 innings and struck out 10, but did allow 5 earned runs. This raised his ERA to 2.34; not too bad. Raul Ibanez hit a 3 run homer for the Phillies, and Jayson Werth also homered and went 3-4 at the plate. Werth's average is now back over .300. Brad Lidge pitched a scoreless 9th, getting the save. It was a good sign, as Lidge gave up a leadoff single, and this is when Lidge usually struggles a lot, with runners on base.

Lidge pitched well this weekend when he came in, however J.C. Romero has been struggling. I am a Romero fan, and still am, but he needs to turn it around and have a good end of the season. I still feel as if the Phillies need a 2nd lefty in the bullpen, and would be in favor of calling up Antonio Bastardo to the bullpen to give the Phillies that 2nd lefty, even if he comes in just to get 1 guy out.

On offense, I would really like to see Jimmy Rollins step his game up, and have a great last 2 months. We have seen what this team is capable of when J-Roll gets hot, and this team is scary good. If Rollins can get on a roll late in the season, and get Utley and Howard back, there is no reason this team shouldn't be as good as the team that went to the World Series the past 2 seasons.


2010 College Football Preseason Rankings

The ESPN/USA Today college football rankings will be finally released tomorrow, so I decided I would come up with my own rankings for the much anticipated upcoming college football season. The AP poll will get released later this month.

TOP 25
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Boise State Broncos
4. TCU Horned Frogs
5. Texas Longhorns
6. Florida Gators
7. Virginia Tech Hokies
8. Nebraska Cornhuskers
9. Oregon Ducks
10. Iowa Hawkeyes
11. Miami Hurricanes
12. Wisconsin Badgers
13. Oklahoma Sooners
14. Pittsburgh Panthers
15. Arkansas Razorbacks
16. USC Trojans
17. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
18. Florida State Seminoles
19. LSU Tigers
20. North Carolina Tar Heels
21. West Virginia Mountaineers
22. Oregon State Beavers
23. Penn State Nittany Lions
24. Georgia Bulldogs
25. Utah Utes

Just Missed
Cincinnati Bearcats
Navy Midshipmen
UConn Huskies
Houston Cougars
Texas A&M Aggies
Stanford Cardinal
California Bears
Washington Huskies
Temple Owls
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders


Carlos Ruiz is a Baller

Carlos Ruiz is the catcher on the Philadelphia Phillies, and is quickly becoming a fan favorite this year as he continues to play solid baseball, and pick up the slack for the Phillies while some of their stars are on the DL.

But beyond that, Ruiz has basically always been the man. Even in previous years, when his offensive numbers were not great, he is a great defensive catcher. He has a cannon arm, and all the pitchers like pitching to him. He controls every pitcher on the staff well, and knows which pitches to call in which situations. Also, combine that with the fact that Ruiz has been one of the best Phillies offensively the past 2 seasons in the playoffs; and it all adds up to Ruiz being an official baller.

Even though we don't get to hear Ruiz too much in interviews since he barely speaks English and is not seen as the star of the team, I am picturing something along the lines of a combination of Dave Chappelle's version of Rick James, and the Dos Equis most interesting man in the world.

You know when Ruiz goes back to his native Panama, he is an absolute baller. He probably parties harder than Pacman Jones and Michael Vick combined. He definitely has his choice of any chick he wants when he is out, and treats them however he wants as well, as his pimp hand is extremely strong. Making it rain pesos is a common occurrence for Carlos when he is out. Chooch, you are the man.


Phillies Lose 2 of 3 to Nationals

The Phillies closed out their series at Washington, and even though they snapped their 8 game winning streak with Roy Oswalt on the mound, they did salvage 1 game yesterday of the 3 game series.

Roy Oswalt made his Phillies debut on Friday to try to extend the Phillies winning streak to 9 games, but didn't fare too well in his debut. The offense didn't do anything either, and the Phillies lost the game by a large margin.

On Saturday, the Phillies didn't get off to a good start, and Ryan Howard got the night off after slumping the past few days. Joe Blanton continued his usual 1st inning performance and allowed 3 runs in the first inning. A Carlos Ruiz solo home run, and a Raul Ibanez 2 run home run made the game tied at 4 going into the 9th inning. Carlos Ruiz then had a 2 out, RBI single, which gave the Phillies the lead going into the bottom of the 9th. On came Brad Lidge. A single, out, walk, and Ryan Zimmerman bomb ended the game, and another blown save for Lidge.

Yesterday, the Phillies were able to salvage a game in the series, and won the game in the 11th inning. Brad Lidge worked a scoreless 1-2-3 bottom of the 9th this time, including putting out Ryan Zimmerman. This game also saw Ryan Howard go down awkwardly, as he rolled his ankle trying to slide back into 2nd base. It doesn't seem to be as bad as it looked, but he might miss a few games with a sprained ankle.

After the series, the Phillies sat exactly where they were before; 2.5 games back of the first place Atlanta Braves. Even though the Phillies lost 2 of 3, they have still won 9 of 11 overall, and travel to Miami for a 3 game series against the Marlins, which will start off with Roy Halladay on the bump.

Unfortunately, Brad Lidge cannot be trusted anymore. He has absolutely no command of any pitch he throws. He can't throw his fastball by anyone anymore, and has to rely on his slider. When Ruiz sets up outside, the pitch may come inside, when he sets up high, the pitch may come low; the point is, Lidge has no command, and his pitches really could go anywhere at this point.

The problem is there really isn't any other option. Ruben Amaro was too busy patting himself on the back and doing any interview possible talking about how amazing he has been to acquire Lee, Halladay, and Oswalt in about a year's time to address the bullpen issue that the Phillies currently have, and have had all season long.

Ryan Madson has not pitched very well this year, and even when he does pitch well, he has struggled in save situations when given the chance. I still think his still is better than Lidge's though. Jose Contreras has been good this season, and seems to have really good stuff, but not sure if he would be able to be the closer. J.C. Romero has also been very good, and while he can go up against righties, he is more in there to get lefties out, and has never closed before. David Herndon and Danys Baez have no business still being on this roster.

Another option to close is the Phillies triple A closer, Scott Mathieson. Mathieson has played with the big club before, but the Phillies seem retisant to bring him up for a long period of time for some reason. Mathieson has closer stuff, and an overpowering fastball, and could be the closer of the future for the Phillies.

For more bullpen help, the Yankees just designated Chan Ho Park for assignment, and I don't think there is any reason the Phillies should not go after him, because he would obviously be more welcome on the roster than Baez. Also, along with Mathieson, the Phillies have 2 other triple A bullpen pitchers currently that I think would be much better on the roster than Baez or Herndon. Antonio Bastardo would be that 2nd lefty in the bullpen, and was actually on the playoff roster last season, and I think would be very good as a guy who can get lefties out in big situations. Vance Worley is another guy who I feel like should be in the Phillies bullpen currently, as he can get the job done.

The Phillies will probably wait to waivers to address the bullpen situation, but they will need to not only add a body to the bullpen, but also possibly figure out what they want to do in the 9th inning with a 1 run lead; or there will be more and more heart attacks in the Philadelphia area the more Brad Lidge comes running out of the bullpen.


Eagles Acquire J.J. Arrington from Broncos

The Eagles made a trade yesterday acquiring J.J. Arrington from the denver Broncos, while giving up linebacker Joe Mays. Arrington did not play last season at all with knee problems, and will still need to pass a physical today.

Arrington was a 2nd round draft pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 2005, but never really had abreakout season. Arrington's career high in yards was his rookie year when he ran for 370 yards and 3 TD's.

Joe Mays was a 6th round draft pick by the Eagles in 2008 out of North Dakota State. The Eagles had high hopes for Mays, and made him a starter last season at the middle linebacker position at one point in place of Stewart Bradley, but Mays struggled as a starter, and never ended up getting into games very much. It was tough to imagine a spot for Mays getting much time this season at the linebacker spot with a crowded situation.

If J.J. Arrington does not make the team, the Eagles will receive a 6th round draft pick in 2012, which might end up being the case.


Phillies Win 8th Straight

The Phillies have been on a tear lately, and a lot has been going on down at Citizens Bank Park, as the Phillies try to catch up to the Atlanta Braves.

The Phillies gained another game on the Braves today with their 8th win in a row tonight. They did it in walk off style to sweep the Diamondbacks, on an 11th inning RBI single from Wilson Valdez. How many people when the season started would have thought the Phillies would be winning a big game in late July on a walk off hit by Wilson Valdez, scoring Cody Ransom. Well tonight, the 6-7-8 hitters were huge, as Ransom, Ruiz, and Valdez all had good games. Ruiz has been ripping the cover off the ball the past few games.

This all comes the day after yesterday's 7-1 win... also known as the debut of Domonic Brown. Brown had a huge debut, going 2-3 with a double, a single, 2 RBI's, and 2 runs scored. Brown took his first at bat and almost went deep, taking a pitch and going off the top of the fence in right field. Brown is a 5 tool player who looks like he is the real deal. Roy Halladay's starts rarely go unnoticed, but when Domonic Brown was doing what he was doing, not many people noticed Halladay quietly dominating, as he has basically done all year long.

This is all being done as the Phillies are still missing key players in the lineup. Chase Utley remains out of the lineup, and will probably be out for another 3 weeks or so. Jimmy Rollins fouled a ball off his foot, and missed the last 3 games, but hopefully will return to the lineup. Shane Victorino strained his oblique in Tuesday night's game, which is why Domonic Brown is in the lineup. As much as I rip of Victorino, I don't like both him and Rollins being out of the lineup, as they are our 2 fastest players on the team.

With all the injuries, Ryan Howard has been a rock in the lineup. I believe there should start being some Ryan Howard MVP talk. Howard has struggled the past 2 days, but is batting .295 currently, and has been above .300 a lot of the season. He has 23 home runs, and leads the NL in RBI's by a long shot. Howard is probably around 2nd or 3rd in the current NL MVP pecking order but if the Phillies make the playoffs, Ryan Howard has to be strongly considered to win the award. Guys like Joey Votto, Adrian Gonzalez, and Albert Pujols are probably also in the mix.

Not only has Howard put up solid numbers all year long, he has been the guy who has stayed healthy. I am not blaming the guys who have been injured, but at any point if we lost Howard along with a Rollins, or Victorino, or especially Utley, the lineup would struggle big time. Howard has been the rock in the lineup, and there is no replacing him as the clean up hitter. Placido Polanco has been the only other guy who has been healthy and not gone into any type of slump.

Any way you look at it, the Phillies are playing great baseball right now, and hopefully will keep it up with Roy Oswalt joining the squad. The Phillies go on the road now, and start with a 3 game series in Washington. Roy Oswalt will be on the bump tomorrow night for the Phillies. The Phillies currently sit 2.5 games back of the first place Atlanta Braves, and it feels like they were about 7 games back a week ago.
Even though we were very frustrated as of recently, it is nice to have an enjoyable Phillies team to watch, and have a team to root for going into August and September, and then hopefully into the playoffs.

Phillies Trade for Roy Oswalt

For the 2nd straight year, the Phillies have acquired a top pitcher at the trade deadline. Today, the Phillies traded with their old friend Ed Wade, and got pitcher Roy Oswalt in a deal. In the trade, the Phillies gave up J.A. Happ, and minor leaguers Anthony Gose and Jonathan Villar.

All things considered, this seems like a really good trade for the Phillies. While maybe a little overrated, Roy Oswalt is still an elite pitcher in this league, and Ruben Amaro really got the best of this trade. The Phillies do not have to pick up the club option in the 3rd year of Oswalt's deal, which means his deal will only go through next season, and the Astros are paying $11 million of Oswalt's $23 million that he is owed through the next 2 seasons.

Oswalt initially seemed hesitant to want to come play in Philly for the next couple years because he is from the south, but I guess when some other teams, mainly the Cardinals, backed off the deal, Oswalt seemed like he would rather have a chance at contending with the Phillies than staying in Houston.

The Phillies not only now have 3 very good pitchers, they also didn't have to give up on their best hitting prospect, Jonathan Singleton, who is in Single A. J.A. Happ is a good pitcher, but he isn't anything special.

Ruben Amaro seems like he actually got this deal right. Unfortunately, it wouldn't even have needed to be done if Amaro got rid of Cliff Lee in the offseason for a few crappy prospects. Without Amaro saying it, this deal kind of admits that he made a mistake getting rid of Cliff Lee, which the fans have been saying since that deal was done. It still hurts not having Cliff Lee on the team, but Roy Oswalt should slide into the #3 spot in the rotation nicely. Oswalt is 6-12 with a 3.42 ERA this season.

Unfortunately, this probably means that the Phillies can't re-sign Jayson Werth unless they greatly increase their payroll next season, or they are able to trade Raul Ibanez or Shane Victorino. Getting a trade done for Raul Ibanez would be optimal, but it probably won't be able to be done. Another horrible move by Amaro was giving Ibanez a 3 year deal. I would have no problem trading Victorino this offseason if it means keeping Werth and sliding him to center field, and playing Domonic Brown in right field.

Either way, this was a very good trade, and it definitely makes the Phillies a much better team than before the trade, and they didn't seem like they had to give up much to do it.


Brandon Graham Signs With Birds

The Eagles locked up first round pick Brandon Graham tonight, agreeing to terms on a 5 year deal. It's nice to have him in camp, as he seems like the type of guy who really wanted to be here the whole time.

It shouldn't really be a big deal that Graham has missed a couple of days, especially because the whole team hasn't been at camp as of yet. Graham actually signed earlier than most first round picks, as there are still only a hand full of first round picks signed.

Brandon Graham is expected to compete for the starting job at the defensive end position opposite Trent Cole, and hopefully he can win that job and be successful, since nobody else has really been able to take over that spot.


Jameel Poteat Commits to Pitt

The University of Pittsburgh finally got the verbal they were looking for from star running back Jameel Poteat.

Poteat took over the running back position vacated at Bishop McDevitt high school in Harrisburg from Shady McCoy after McCoy went to Pitt, and now it looks like Poteat will follow in McCoy's footsteps again to the Pitt Panthers. According to various recruiting sites, Poteat is ranked anywhere from 18th to top 10 among running backs in the 2011 class. Poteat had offers from many other schools, and this is a great get for Pitt, as if Poteat lives up to his potential, it looks like Pitt will continue to have strong play from the running back position.

Eagles Sign Nate Allen

The Eagles signed 2nd round draft pick Nate Allen from South Florida yesterday, which is important, especially because Nate Allen is technically the starting strong safety. Allen signing means that only 1st round pick Brandon Graham is unsigned with the Eagles. It is sort of good news for all the teams and 1st round draft picks as the 2nd first round draft pick signed today, so at least that is some progress. Hopefully Allen can use his time in camp to start the season at the free safety position.

Domonic Brown to Make Phillies Debut

Domonic Brown will make his Phillies debut tonight as the Phillies ride their 6 game winning streak into another matchup against the Diamondbacks.

Brown's arrival is sort of overdue, and the only reason he was called up now is due to an injury to Shane Victorino. Victorino was placed on the 15 day DL today with a strained oblique, and it opens the door for Domonic Brown to make his debut. Jayson Werth will slide over to center field, and Domonic Brown will play his familiar position of right field. Domonic Brown is due to bat 6th in the order tonight.

As much as I rip Victorino, it is never good when both Victorino and Jimmy Rollins are not in the lineup. J. Roll is only expected to miss tonight's game and maybe tomorrows, but is still is tough without the 2 fastest players on the team, especially when you are already missing Chase Utley.

It will be exciting to check out Domonic Brown tonight, and hopefully he has a solid debut. Tonight's matchup is also a matchup of 2 pitchers who have thrown no hitters this season. Roy Halladay threw a perfect game earlier in the year, and Diamondbacks pitcher Edwin Jackson threw a no hitter against the Rays.

The Phillies need to keep this winning streak going, especially being at home, and playing against a bad Diamondbacks team. They are still 3.5 games back in the NL East of the first place Braves.


Eagles Open Camp

The Philadelphia Eagles opened camp today as all rookies, and selected veterans reported to Lehigh University to begin another grueling few weeks in the heat.

Neither 1st round pick Brandon Graham or 2nd round pick Nate Allen are signed as of yet. According to Andy Reid at his press conference, the team is fairly close to signing Nate Allen, but not necessarily Brandon Graham. Only 1 first round pick is currently signed, and it is Dallas Cowboy, Dez Bryant.

Normally it wouldn't be a big deal for any rookie to miss some time at camp, especially these first few days, but both Allen and Graham could be starting for this team this season from the start. With the injury to Marlin Jackson, Nate Allen is currently penciled in as the starting free safety. And with the free safety play the Eagles got last season after the departure of Brian Dawkins, Nate Allen will need to get in all the work and practices possible.

Graham fills another position that the Eagles have not gotten much out of in recent years; the left defensive end spot, opposite Trent Cole. Even though there are a lot of candidates to fill this spot, Graham could see a lot of time this season, and thus like Allen, would benefit from being at camp as soon as possible.

Other than that, no practices actually took place today, just Michael Vick and Andy Reid at the podium. Reid didn't give anybody any information, and was annoyed by all the Michael Vick questions, and let it be known, as is usually the case since he is a pompous ass. One possible piece of good news coming out of Reid's press conference was a softball lobbed to him by Merrill Reese. Does this possibly mean that kiss ass Dave Spadaro was not present? If this is true, this is obviously a good thing... for everyone. The less Dave Spadaro this season, the better.

Camp stories will be a little more interesting starting later in the week when they roll out the red carpet for all the rest of the players to arrive.


Lots of Camp Battles Expected for Eagles

The Eagles rookies and selected veterans report to training camp on Monday, July 26. The rest of the team will report on July 29, and there figure to be a lot of training camp position battles this year.

On offense, Kevin Kolb is obviously the starter at quarterback going into the season. Unfortunately, we have a backup quarterback who is going to have the cameras on him all throughout training camp. It will be interesting to see how the Eagles utilize Vick this season. At running back, LeSean "Shady" McCoy is the starter, and I expect him to have a very good season, and quickly establish himself as an elite running back. Mike Bell backs McCoy up for now, and the 3rd RB battle will between Eldra Buckley, and rookie draft pick from LSU, Charles Scott. At fullback, Leonard Weaver has a lock on that spot, and is one of the best in the game.

At wide receiver, the Eagles are very young, and will have DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin as the top 2 receivers. The 3rd receiver in the slot will be Jason Avant, who seems to get better every year. He will be counted on to have a bigger role this year. The battle for the 4th and 5th wide receivers looks like it will be between Hank Baskett and rookie Riley Cooper. At tight end, Brent Celek is coming off a great year, and can hopefully continue to improve on that. Cornelius Ingram should be able to win the backup job, assuming he can stay healthy. I am very interested to see what Ingram can bring to the table, as I had high hopes for him when the Eagles drafted him.

On the offensive line, there are a few battles that will look to take place. Winston Justice and Jason Peters are the tackles. Winston Justice needs to show he can continue to improve upon his solid season last season. At the one guard position, Todd Herramans is the starter, assuming he is healthy. At the other guard, it could be a battle between Stacy Andrews, and Max Jean-Gilles. Neither player showed much last season. At center, Jamaal Jackson will start the season injured, and it looks like Nick Cole has the edge to start the season at center. I think Mike McGlynn should get a serious look to start at center, and could outplay Nick Cole in training camp.

On the defensive side of the ball, there will be even more position battles. The Eagles really struggled last season on defense, and need to bounce back this year. Up front, the defensive tackles will be the same - Broderick Bunkley and Mike Patterson - both solid players, but both of whom struggled at times against the run up the middle. Pro bowler Trent Cole has been solid ever since being drafted by the Eagles. Unfortunately, he has never had any help from the opposite defensive end. This could all change with first round draft pick Brandon Graham from Michigan. Graham could end up starting at the opposite end. However, Graham, like every other 1st round pick is unsigned, so he will need to get into camp as soon as possible if he wants to battle for the starting end spot. Darryl Tapp, the acquired free agent from Seattle, Victor Abiamiri, and Juqua Parker will also get a look to start. This left defensive end position looks to be one of the better camp battles to keep an eye on.

At linebacker, the Eagles appear like they are set. Obviously Stewart Bradley holds down the middle linebacker position, if healthy. The outside linebacker spots look to be held down by Ernie Sims, acquired in the offseason from the Detroit Lions, and 2nd year player Moise Fokou. Fokou will need to improve on a somewhat disappointing rookie season, but the Eagles appear to really like him.

The secondary is a large concern in my opinion, and a lot thinner than most people are talking about. At the cornerback position, the Eagle are no longer with Sheldon Brown, who will be replaced by Ellis Hobbs it looks like. Asante Samuel has the other cornerback spot locked up. Hobbs is good, but I'm not sure can step in and be a 2nd cornerback. This also means Joselio Hanson will step in to be the 3rd cornerback possibly, which I'm not sure I like either. Look for rookie Trevard Lindley to get a strong look this camp also.

At safety, Quintin Mikell is the starting strong safety. He will need to improve on his play last season, as he really struggled without Brian Dawkins. The Eagles brought in Marlin Jackson, but he already is out for the season. This means that rookie 2nd round draft pick Nate Allen is the starter right now at the free safety position. Nate Allen is also unsigned currently. The Eagles got absolutely nothing from the free safety position last season, and never adequately replaced Brian Dawkins. Hopefully Nate Allen is that player, but I'm not so sure he is. Quintin Demps should also get a look here, but never looked very good when he was in the game. Macho Harris was just terrible last season.

The Eagles are counting on their top 2 rookie picks this year to play big roles on defense, and need to get both guys signed and in camp, as they need to contribute right away. Either way, training camp should be interesting this season to see how all of these battles play out.

Phillies Need a Lot of Help

The Phillies right now have a lot of issues, and will need a lot of help to not only try to win the division, but even get the wild card in the National League.

With the trade deadline a little over a week away, it looks like the Phillies have targeted an elite starter to attempt to acquire. Roy Oswalt is the name that has been mentioned most in this situation. It seems kind of stupid that the Phillies need to acquire a starting pitcher at the trade deadline this season when they had Cliff Lee on the team signed through the season. It's actually beyond stupid; it's moronic; it's asinine; and the series of moves that Ruben Amaro has made since taking over are basically all moronic, and they leave the Phillies in a horrible position as it stands right now.

Since the Phillies got rid of 7 of their top 10 prospects in the Lee and Halladay deals respectively, and since I would imagine Domonic Brown will not be traded, the Phillies don't have many prospects right now, and almost all the ones that they do are at the single A level. This means that the Phillies might have to include Jayson Werth and J.A. Happ in a trade. Since Werth is a free agent in the offseason, it makes sense to trade him; however, trading Werth really puts the already struggling lineup in an even tougher position.

If you trade Werth, you can replace him in the field with top prospect Domonic Brown, who is a natural right fielder. That is fine, as Domonic Brown is overdue to join the major leagues in my opinion. However, Jayson Werth, even though he is struggling, fills the #5 hole in the Phillies batting order, and is the right handed bat there. Batting behind Ryan Howard is not as easy thing to do. Domonic Brown is a lefty, and will join and already lefty heavy Phillies batting order. Also, you can't expect Domonic Brown to jump into the #5 hole behind Utley and Howard, as a lefty.

This means that you would have to probably put Rollins or Victorino in the #5 hole, both of whom are switch hitters, and unfortunately, both of whom are struggling at the plate. Rollins can hopefully turn it around and have a good end to the season; Shane Victorino just flat out sucks. If you put Rollins there, he can swing away like he always wants to anyways, but you then have Victorino at the leadoff spot, popping up the first pitch he sees every at bat. Either decision is not optimal.

Bottom line, the lineup right now isn't good enough to make the playoffs. In fact, the offense has been so bad that the Phillies fired hitting coach Milt Thompson tonight. Thompson will be replaced with Greg Gross, who has already been the Phillies hitting coach. The offense is flat out bad no matter who is the hitting coach right now, and I can't even remember the last time I said that about the Phillies. Chase Utley coming back obviously can't hurt, but I don't think it will do enough to revive the offense. Utley isn't going to fire anybody up with his personality, and Utley wasn't even hitting the ball anyways before he got injured.

Therefore, if the Phillies do make a trade, it will need to be for a pitcher, and this is what will need to carry the Phillies into the playoffs; because it sure isn't going to be the hitting.


Jabaal Sheard Suspended

Pitt Panthers defensive end Jabaal Sheard was has bene suspended indefinitely after being arrested early Sunday morning for throwing another man through a glass window of an art gallery on Pittsburgh's South Side.

Sheard's suspension is technically indefinitely, but that could mean a lot of different things. The preliminary hearing in the case is July 28th, and until the suspension is lifted, Sheard cannot even participate in any team activities.

Sheard is the Panthers starting left defensive end, and plays opposite Greg Romeus, who is a possible 1st round draft pick next year. It will hurt the entire defense if Sheard misses any time, as the Panthers rely heavily on their pass rush for their defense to be successful. If you had to pick a weakness of Pitt's defense, it is the secondary, and without Sheard in the lineup, you are missing a vital part of the pass rush, and allowing opposing quarterbacks to have time to pick apart the Panthers secondary. This also will probably bring more double teams to Romeus' side of the ball for any game(s) that Sheard misses.

Unfortunately, even missing 1 game is a big deal, as the Panthers actually schedule real teams on their non-conference schedule - something Penn State knows nothing about - and open the season at Utah. The 2nd game of the season is against D-1AA New Hampshire, and Game 3 is against Miami. So, seems easy enough to me. Continue to state that we are looking into this issue, and doing our due diligence on that matter until after Sheard plays in Week 1 at Utah, then suspend him for the New Hampshire game, and then bring him back to play Miami.


Phillies Need a Wake Up Call - Badly

The Phillies are in much need of a wake up call. The 2nd half of the season has gotten underway, and the Phillies have not yet started to play. They are a very easy Geovany Soto mishandled hop away from starting out the 2nd half 0-5.

The Phillies need someone on the team or on the coaching staff to get in the players faces, throw some chairs around, and start benching players. The Phillies are flat out a bad team right now, and since no one on the team is man enough to get in the other players faces, I will do my best to do it here.

Shane Victorino - You are playing like complete shit. In the top of the 7th tonight, with 2 on and 2 out, Shane Victorino came up and popped up the first pitch to the catcher. Sadly, we have seen Victorino and his stupid uppercut swing do this way too many times. Victorino is one of the dumbest baseball players I have ever seen, and actually had the audacity to sort of blame the fans for some of the Phillies struggles for not picking the Phillies up. You're right Shane, I forgot. It is our job as fans to pay money to come see you, and even though you make millions, it is our job to pick you up and cheer you on, and say go get 'em next time as you pop up first pitches. What is this, freakin little league? Should we have cheered, and said "nice try" as Shane jogged back to the dugout? Maybe Victorino should stay in St. Louis, where fans actually might do that. Just as an aside, Shane Victorino has 69 at bats this month, and has walked a grand total of 1 time. 1 time he took a walk.

This article was supposed to destroy a lot of players on the team, but I can't see to get past how bad Shane Victorino is. Let's try to move on. Jimmy Rollins is batting like .140 since he came back from the DL for good, which clearly isn't good from the leadoff spot. Since Rollins also never walks, the Phillies are getting from the leadoff spot. Jayson Werth is completely lost right now, and strikes out way too much. Werth actually has as many strikeouts as Ryan Howard does this year, and in about 50 fewer at bats. Not good.

Raul Ibanez is actually playing a little better the past month, but is well past his prime overall. I guess Ruben Amaro should be blamed for that more so than Ibanez, but he needs to step up his game also. I'm not going to blame Wilson Valdez, who shouldn't really be in a any position to be the man to try to jump start this pathetic offense.

Ryan Howard, Placido Polanco, and Carlos Ruiz have been solid all season. You can usually say that about Chase Utley, and even though he is on the injured list, he was not playing very well before he was on the injured list. If he continues to struggle down the stretch when he comes off the DL, Utley needs to be blamed as much as anyone for the Phillies season.

As for the pitching, the Phillies really only have 2 good starters, and everyone knew this coming into the season. Halladay has done everything he can do, and Cole Hamels has been better than most people actually thought he would be, including myself. Joe Blanton, Kyle Kendrick, and Jaime Moyer are jokes, and below average pitchers, and that is 60% of our starting staff. Cliff Lee would look real good right now, huh?

Also, Ruben Amaro deserves some of the blame as well. I don't need to re-hash the worst trade in Philadelphia sports that he pulled off, and the fact that Domonic Brown is still in the minors, destroying every level, as Raul Ibanez bats .250 in left field. You need to do everything you can to trade Ibanez. If not, I have been on record that you shouldn't trade Jayson Werth, but I wasn't expecting the Phillies to possibly be sellers at the deadline, and if the Phillies continue this free fall, they should try to trade Werth I think to get what they can, as he definitely will not be back next season.

Either way, the Phillies need some type of wake up call. I really hope one of the players steps up to the plate - not on the field - but instead in the locker room, to rustle a few feathers, and get in some players faces, to hopefully turn this season around.

Simon Gagne No Longer a Flyer

The Flyers traded Simon Gagne today to the Tampa Bay Lightning, which ends Gagne's time as the longest tenured Flyer. The Flyers traded Gagne to the Lightning in exchange for defenseman Matt Walker and a 4th round draft pick.

The move was not necessarily done to bring is equal talent value, but was done to get rid of the contract of Simon Gagne. The Flyers needed to and were able to make this move after they signed Nikolai Zherdev last week. Zherdev is the man who will take Gagne's spot at the forward spot. By getting rid of Gagne, they Flyers are able to get back under the salary cap. Gagne was owed $5.25 million this season, and was under contract for 1 more season.

Even though Gagne was oft-injured, and appears to be older than his current age of 30, Gagne still will be missed simply because he has been on the Flyers for 10 years. Gagne was a former first round pick of the Flyers in 1998. And in today's sports, it is rare to see a player stay on the same team for even close to that amount of time. In fact, only David Akers can claim he was on a Philadelphia team for longer than Gagne currently up until today.
Gagne leaves the Flyers ranked 10th in both career games played for the Flyers, and 10th in career points for the Flyers. Even though it just happened very recently, Gagne will always be remembered as scoring one of the best goals in Flyers history - the Game 7 goal against the Boston Bruins that put the Flyers ahead 4-3 in the game, capping off the 3-0 series and 3-0 in game deficit.


76ers Lineup Shaping Up

The Sixers lineup is shaping up now that the draft is concluded, and the Sixers signed Evan Turner.

I still would like to see the Sixers make one offseason move; that move would be to get rid of Andre Iguodala, obviously via trade. Iguodala makes a lot of money, a bad signing by Ed Stefanski, but still is a good player, just not a #1 option. I think Iguodala makes a lot of sense for certain teams, including the Chicago Bulls, who missed out of signing LeBron. If you can unload Iguodala, it will open up room for Thaddeus Young to start at the #3.

This is the year you need to find out if Thaddeus Young can play or not. Young looked good and showed flashes early in his career, but struggled for the most part last season. This is the year you need to find out in Young can be a starter in this league, or if he is just a serviceable player. In this scenario, Jrue Holiday would start at the point, and Evan Turner at shooting guard. With Thaddeus Young at the small forward, this would give the Sixers maybe the tallest 1, 2, 3 combo in the league. Holiday is big for a point guard, Turner is big for a shooting guard, and Young is big for a small forward. This would allow the Sixers to create a lot of matchup problems for any other team.

If Iguodala stays on the roster, which is probably likely, then Iguodala will probably start at the small forward position, and Thaddeus Young will come off the bench. The Sixers have tried putting Iguodala at the 2, and Young at the 3, but that didn't really work, and Iguodala has said he feels more comfortable at the small forward position.

As for the big men, the Sixers are not great up front. Elton Brand is a natural power forward, but as we have seen the last 2 seasons, is well past his prime, but locked into starting with all the money they are paying him. He is also unfortunately sort of blocking the process of Marreese Speights, who has shown a lot of skill when in the game. He is another guy the Sixers need to see if he can be a long term starter in this league.

Finally, the Sixers do not have to run out Samuel Dalembert at center. It wasn't a very significant trade, but just getting rid of Dalembert is one of the best trades in Sixers history. Basically the opposite of the Cliff Lee trade. In return, the Sixers received Spencer Hawes and Andres Nocioni. Hawes will probably be penciled in as the starting center. Hawes isn't great, but has size, and is decent, and still young.

If the Sixers want to play around, they can put Thaddeus Young at the 4 from time to time, or Speights, and Elton Brand can play center. Jason Smith will also get some time up front this year to see if he can show us something.

Lou Williams will probably be one of the first players off the bench, and even though Williams didn't show much last year as the starting point guard, he can still play, and is a solid backup to Jrue Holiday. Throw in the fact that the Sixers now have a respectable coach in Doug Collins who can help groom the young players, and will make the guys work hard, and the Sixers should at the very least have more wins than last season.

Phillies Begin 2nd Half of Season

The All-Star break is over, and the Phillies begin the 2nd half of their season tonight with a 4 game series in Chicago to play the Cubs.

The Phillies unfortunately with their poor play over the past month and a half leave them with a lot of work to do in the 2nd half of the season. The Phillies are perenially a very good 2nd half team recently, but you hate to have to rely on that in order to make the playoffs. The Phillies currently sit 4.5 games back of the NL East leading Atlanta Braves. The Mets are in 2nd place, 4 games behind the Braves.

The Phillies have had their injury issues, but you don't want to blame all of their problems on the injuries. Bottom line, the Phillies offense the first half of the season is the worst it has been in a long time. Sitting out parts of the first half of the season were Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Chase Utley, and Carlos Ruiz. The Phillies still are without Polanco, who is due back possibly this weekend, and Chase Utley, who will probably be out for another month. Ryan Howard has been the only real consistent bat in the lineup, as he had an all-star first half of the season, and is almost batting .300.

The pitching staff has been up and down, but better than expected. The only reason the Phillies are even 4.5 games back is due to the pitching, which has picked up the hitting. In fact, the final 2 games before the all-star break, the Phillies won consecutive games 1-0, behind solid starting pitching from Roy Halladay, and Cole Hamels. Halladay has been everything he was brought in to be. Cole Hamels has been solid this year so far. Kyle Kendrick and Jaime Moyer have been very up and down, and Joe Blanton has been flat out bad.

I hate to keep bringing up the worst trade in Philadelphia sports in my lifetime, but trading away Cliff Lee was a horrible mistake by Ruben Amaro, Jr. People say get over the trade and stop talking about it; however, the trade is significant and applicable to how the Phillies are playing now. If you want to agree with Amaro and say the Phillies couldn't spend the money, then you can blame Amaro for giving Moyer a 2 year deal, and not trading Joe Blanton, although there wasn't much demand for Blanton. Also, if you want to agree with Amaro and say the Phillies needed to replenish the farm system, this is just untrue, because if the Phillies had kept Cliff Lee this year and then let him walk, they would receive 2 first round draft picks as compensation. You could easily argue that these 2 first round picks would be much better than the prospects that the Phillies did get.

Also, Ruben Amaro needs to make the correct decision and try to trade Raul Ibanez. Ibanez is having a bad year, which you kind of had to expect, as Ibanez is up there in age. If no one wants Ibanez, most people feel like the Phillies should trade Jayson Werth. I do not however. You need Werth in the lineup, as he is one of the positives in a poor lineup, and is the only power right handed bat. Bottom line, Dominic Brown absolutely needs to be a starter on this Phillies team, like yesterday. According to Ruben Amaro, Brown can't replace Ibanez because Brown isn't a left fielder. Ohh right, I forgot Ibanez is an outfield covering gold glover out there. Brown technically is a right fielder, but I have to imagine can fill in left field for the rest of the season. Dominic Brown was recently listed as the #1 prospect currently not in MLB by ESPN.com. He can definitely give a jolt to the lineup.

Either way, the Phillies need to step up their game, and have a solid 2nd half if they want to make the playoffs. Luckily, this is nothing new for the Phillies, as they usually do have very good 2nd halves.


Flyers Fall Short as Blackhawks Win Cup

The Flyers lost to the Blackhawks last night and thus ended their amazing run at the Stanley Cup, and had to watch Chicago celebrate their Stanley Cup victory on our home ice.

Much like the rest of this postseason, the Flyers did everything they could to win this game, and left it all out on the ice; but in the end, it wasn’t enough. The Flyers were outplayed from the start of the game early, and Michael Leighton had to keep the Flyers in the game early. The end of the first period saw a 1-1 score. The Flyers got on the board first in the 2nd period, when Danny Briere continued his great postseason and roofed a shot over Niemi. However, the Blackhawks responded with 2 in the period to take a 3-2 2nd period intermission lead.

The Flyers really dominated the 3rd period, as they needed to in order to stay in the game. Finally, the Flyers were able to beat Niemi with about 4 minutes left in the game, as Scott Hartnell notched his 2nd goal of the game. Once again, the Hartnell-Briere-Leino line was easily the best line on the team, and was the most effective line of the postseason.

Once overtime started, the Flyers had the momentum and were outplaying the Blackhawks, getting most of the scoring chances at this point. However, all it takes is 1 shot on net, and Patrick Kane provided just that. On a very innocent looking play in the Flyers zone, Kane had the puck on the side, and really nowhere to go with it. He made a couple moves, got some room past Kimmo Timonen, and sent a puck towards Leighton, who was covering the post. The puck somehow snuck through Leighton, and into the net to give the Blackhawks their first Stanley Cup since 1961. It was a pretty weak goal to be honest, but that is also what great players do; they score big goals when it doesn’t look like they have anything or anywhere to go with the puck.

The Blackhawks were probably the better team, I would say overall they probably had more chances than the Flyers, especially in 5 on 5 situations, and when the game was tied. The Blackhawks seemed to come out at the start of games and really outplay the Flyers. The Flyers seemed to play their best hockey when they were down in games. That isn’t to say the Flyers didn’t play well or Chicago dominated the series, because I don’t think either of those are even close to true; it just seems like the better team overall won. Not the better team by much, but the better team nonetheless. If the Flyers had been able to steal 1 of the first 2 games in Chicago, it would have been a completely different series, and probably a different outcome. As the road team, you have to win 1 of those first 2 games.

Either way, it was a great season and everything. Even though the Flyers disappointed at points, and were very up and down, they still made it to the Stanley Cup Finals which can’t be considered a disappointment as a season. It is disappointing, and will be going forward, but the season as a whole is not a disappointment. Even before the season when the Flyers were considered one of the top teams in the East, you still would have put them behind the Penguins and Capitals in the pecking order.

We did get to see some unbelievable moments. The final regular season game win in the shootout. Beating up on the Devils handily, who routinely beat up on the Flyers the past 2 decades. Coming from 3-0 down against the Bruins – not only in the series – but also in Game 7, to advance. Watching Brian Boucher play great hockey, getting injured, and then watching Michael Leighton pick up right where Boucher left off. Whooping up on the Canadiens, while collecting 3 shutouts in the Eastern Conference Finals. And then finally hitting the wall and losing in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Flyers did their best, and managed to not fold when they got down 2-0 in the series, and make it a series at least.

Most of the team will be back next year to try to make a run at another Stanley Cup appearance. It will be much tougher next season, as we still will go into the season behind the Penguins and Capitals, as teams expected to win the Eastern Conference. Either way, it was a great season, with a disappointing end, and we can look forward to hopefully winning it all next season.


Now a Best of 3 Series

The Flyers won Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals in front of a crazy home crowd at the Wachovia Center to take even up the series at 2, and now it becomes a best of 3 series.

The Flyers jumped all over the Blackhawks in this game in the first period, and even though things got close at the end, the Flyers held off the Hawks to win the game 5-3. The Flyers got a great solo effort from Mike Richards to get on the board early in the first period. Shortly after, Matt Carle kept a Blackhawks clearing attempt in the zone and fired a puck into the open net. Carle's goal went as unassisted, but James van Riemsdyk played a big role on that play, bringing the puck around behind the net and getting it out in front. After a Blackhawks Patrick Sharp goal, Claude Giroux snuck behind the defense, and Kimmo Timonen found him with a great pass, and the Flyers took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.

After a scoreless 2nd period, Ville Leino banked a shot off a Blackhawks defender and passed Antti Niemi and gave the Flyers a 4-1 lead halfway through the 3rd. The Blackhawks would not go away however, and scored 2 quick goals to make it 4-3, and then had plenty of good opportunities down the stretch to tie it, but Jeff Carter put the game away with an easy empty netter, and give the Flyers a 5-3 victory. Ville Leino's goal allowed him to become the all-time leading Flyers postseason scorer for a rookie passing Brian Propp.

5 different Flyers had goals, and no one had more than 1 assist either. The top line that needed to step up, ehh sort of stepped up. Richards goal was on the power play, so it was not with his linemates, and was a solo effort anyways. Carter's goal was an empty netter that hopped over Blackhawks defender Duncan Keith's stick and gave him an easy breakaway goal. The top line did play better though, and Carter, although I still don't think he had a good game, did play better than Game 3. The top line really needs to get going though, and win a game in Chicago.

The Flyers did do what they should have and replaced Daniel Carcillo with van Riemsdyk, and although van Riemsdyk made some mistakes, he also has an assist, and a great play on the Matt Carle goal. van Riemsdyk solidified his spot, and should play on the Giroux, Asham line the rest of the postseason.

Michael "Lights Out" Leighton turned the lights out on the Blackhawks, and made 31 saves in the game. Leighton played very well, and there wasn't much he could have done on any of the 3 Blackhawks goals. The first one was deflected, again off a Flyers played, as Braydon Coburn deflected the puck into the net. The 2nd one was on a 5-on-3 advantage, so it's hard to do anything on that one. And the 3rd one was kind of fluky and just a matter of the Blackhawks sending the puck towards the net, and the puck kind of rid on Timonen and Toews going towards the net and went in. Leighton really has played well, and needs to do it on the road now to steal a game.
Chris Pronger has been fantastic this Stanley Cup shutting down the first line of Kane-Towes-Byfuglien. He has the Blackhawks players all complaining about his play, and he is pushing these 3 players around, and having his way. Pronger did not have a point last night, and actually only played 28 minutes, which is less than usual for him, but he always has an impact on the game, and in this postseason, it has been a very positive impact.

Now... there is still a lot of work to do. The Flyers do have the momentum, but all that momentum might stop come Game 5 when the puck drops in front of the Chicago crowd. The series is now a best of 3 series, and the Blackhawks have 2 home games to the Flyers 1. The Flyers need to find a way to steal a game in Chicago, and it really needs to be Game 5 since the Flyers do have the momentum. The Flyers do not want to let Chicago go up 3-2, and have to win 2 in a row, with the final one being in Chicago. The Flyers really need to come out and try to win Game 5. The top line has the capability of having a big game, and stealing a game. Michael Leighton has the capability to steal a game. The team needs to step up for Game 5, and come back to Philly with a win, a 3-2 series lead, and a chance to win the Stanley Cup Finals on home ice in Game 6. Of course, that is much easier said than done.


Flyers Face Another Must Win Tonight

The Flyers play the Blackhawks tonight in a must win game 4 at the Wachovia Center tonight. The Flyers took back some momentum and should have plenty of confidence going into tonight's game.

The Flyers won an amazing game on Wednesday night 4-3 in overtime. Claude Giroux put in the game winner about 6 minutes into overtime to give the Flyers the needed win. This Flyers team, as we know, had lived on the edge a lot in this postseason, and Game 3 was no different.
The Flyers did really control most of the game, including basically all of the 3rd period. However, the Flyers still found themselves down in the 3rd period after Patrick Kane put in his first goal of the series on a breakaway. The Flyers could have really packed it in at this point, and given up. They did just the opposite. The Flyers scored just 20 seconds later, as Ville Leino had the pick bounce to him with a wide open net.

The 2nd line continued their unbelievable play this postseason. Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere, and Ville Leino were a solid line again, as all 3 players scored goals. Hartnell, who I have been very critical of, was one of the best players on the ice in Game 3, and had an unbelievable assist on the Briere goal. Matt Carle, Chris Pronger, and Claude Giroux also had very strong games.

The top line, mostly Jeff Carter, and Daniel Carcillo did not have good games. The top line has yet to show up this series, and Richards, Carter, and Gagne need to step up their games. Carter played one of the worst games I've ever seen anyone play. He looked horrible out on the ice, and there is no reason that Carter, at 6'4", 220 should be as soft as he is. That top line needs to step it up if the Flyers want to win this series, and if they do step it up, the Flyers could definitely win the Stanley Cup. I hate to seem like I am ripping Jeff Carter, because he is probably still somewhat injured, but if he plays well, that first line can succeed, and that would go a long way.

Daniel Carcillo is a guy who you really like to have on your team. He gets in opposing player's heads, he can fight, and is an annoying guy to face when you are on the other team. All of that said, he isn't very good at hockey. Carcillo needs to be scratched again, and go back to James van Riemsdyk. van Riemsdyk is young, and untested, and may never live up to his #2 overall pick status, but he still has a lot of skill, much more than Carcillo. Giroux has been playing on a line with Carcillo and Asham, and Giroux's skill level is somewhat lost with those 2 on his line. JVR hasn't put up many points this postseason, but he has a lot of speed, and puck handling skills, and needs to be out there. The team actually knows that Carcillo doesn't give them much, since Carcillo has yet to play in either of the last 2 games 3rd period. And these are 2 periods that the Flyers have dominated.

In fact, my sources are telling me that JVR will suit up, but I am not sure who will not play in his place. The only person who makes sense would be Carcillo.


Flyers Drop Game 1

...Well I guess that is not how things were drawn up before the game by either team. The Flyers lost game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals 6-5 to go down in the series 1-0. The game was a crazy game to say the least, and each team had multiple leads during the contest.

The Flyers got on the board early and often in Game 1. Unfortunately for them, so did the Blackhawks. The Flyers could never seem to get any momentum going, as once the Flyers would score, it seemed like the Blackhawks wasted no time getting the goal back. The Flyers opened the scoring in the 1st period, as Ville Leino fired a puck towards the net that went off a defenseman and made its way in. The Blackhawks came right back and score 1 minute later. The Blackhawks scored again a few minutes after that, but the Flyers answered with 2 more before the period was over, goals from Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere, to make it a 3-2 Flyers lead at the first intermission.

If you flipped over to Comcast at this point, you could see Roy Halladay complete the 20th perfect game in MLB history. Maybe this would be a good sign for a great Philadelphia sports night.

Unfortunately, the Blackhawks scored 1 minute into the 2nd period on a 2 on 1, and the game was tied at 3. About 7 minutes into the period, Blair Betts scored a goal, but again, the Blackhawks had an answer; the Blackhawks scored 2 minutes after Blair's tally to make it 4-4, and then scored again 5 minutes after that. Michael Leighton was yanked after this goal, a move I did not agree with. For the 2nd straight period, the Flyers scored in the final minute and a half of the period, with Arron Asham scoring in his 2nd straight game to make the score 5-5 going into the 3rd.

Michael Leighton was clearly not playing well, and I understand getting him out of the game in a game he is playing poorly, and tryint to re-fresh for Game 2. However, the Flyers were only down 1 goal at the time Leighton was pulled, and the game was tied going into the 3rd period. I would have rather had Leighton in the net for the 3rd period of a winnable game than Brian Boucher. The only reason to me to pull a goalie is when a goalie is playing poorly, and you have basically conceded that the game would be lost. This would have been a fine situation if the score were 5-1 or 5-2. However, the Flyers were only down 1 goal, and you want to keep the goalie out there who gives you the best shot at winning or getting on a hot streak - and to me that is Leighton. I'm not defending Leighton's play last night, because it was subpar, but I still would have kept him out there.

The 3rd period slowed down and calmed down a little bit, and Antti Niemi, the Blackhawks goalie, who had been struggling all game, along with Leighton, turned his game around and shut down the Flyers. I believe Leighton could have done the same if he was out there. The Blackhawks scored what would be the game winning goal 8 minutes in, on a fairly weak goal where Boucher bit on a shot fake and was out of position for the shot. The Blackhawks then clamped down on defense, and the Flyers never got any great chances towards the end of the game, and only finished the 3rd period with 6 shots in the period. Before the 3rd period, the Flyers were outshooting and outchancing the Blackhawks.

Either way, the Blackhawks really had to win this game more than the Flyers did. The Flyers really need to try to get Game 2 now, and come back home with the series tied 1-1. The Flyers got this crazy game out of the way; they now need to re-focus, relax, and play some better hockey all around. The Flyers seem to be able to play well playing fast, or slow hockey, but I think the Flyers need to try to slow the pace down a little bit. The Flyers need to do a better job in the neutral zone of not allowing the Blackhawks to come through and gain entry to the Flyers zone so easily. If the Flyers can win Game 2, they have still accomplished their goal of splitting in Chicago.

Micahel Leighton needs to step up his game, and show that he can look comfortable in between the pipes, because he never got into a rhythm. Also, the Flyers need to show they can hold onto a lead because blowing 3 leads in the game in unacceptable, even if they are only 1 goal leads, and early in the game. After they take the lead, if they do in Game 2, they need to do a better job on defense of not giving up shots in the slot, and just taking advantage of whatever scoring chances they get, much like Game 4 in Montreal.
Game 2 is not necessarily a must win, but if they do not take it, it makes both Game 3 and Game 4 at home must win games for the Flyers. A win in Game 2 would also allow the Flyers to calm down a little bit, and play their game coming back home for Games 3 and 4. They now just need to re-group, and execute Peter Laviolette's game plan for Game 2.

Halladay Completes Perfect Game

While the Flyers were in the midst of a crazy Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Roy Halladay was doing something that had only been done 19 times before him, and once in Phillies history - pitch a perfect game.

Halladay was perfect against the Marlins, retiring all 27 batters he faced, and striking out 11 en route to the perfect game. And the perfect game was basically needed just to get the win, since the Phillies offense is one of the worse in the league, the Phillies could only muster up an unearned run in this outing. This might be the most unwatched perfect game among Phillies fans, as it was on the road, and came during a night when the Flyers kicked off the Stanley Cup Finals.

Halladay never showed any emotion during the game, and if just looking at Halladay, you would have never known what was at stake. In the 9th inning, Ronny Paulino grounded out to 3rd to end the game, and complete the perfect game. Paulino's grounded initially looked like it was going to be a weak hit between 3rd and short, but it was hit softly enough to field by Castro, who was playing 3rd. I can't even imagine how nervous it must be to have the last ball hit to you in a perfect game situation.

Roy Halladay has never pitched a perfect game before or a no hitter. This is the 20th perfect game in MLB history, and the Phillies have now become the first team to throw 2 perfect games; the other being Jim Bunning in 1964.


Flyers Advance to Stanley Cup Finals

The Flyers put down the Canadiens on Monday night to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. This will be the Flyers first Stanley Cup appearance since 1997, when they were swept by the Red Wings, and the Russian 5. The Flyers haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1975 when the Broad Street Bullies were around, and have been to the Stanley Cup 5 times since then, and lost all 5.

This version of the Broad Street Bullies enters the Stanley Cup playing their best hockey all season. They defeated the Canadiens, who were playing great hockey coming into the series, 4-2, to eliminate Montreal. The Flyers advanced, and will face the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals, who swept the #1 seeded San Jose Sharks.

Eliminating the Canadiens in Game 5 is exactly what the Flyers needed to do. You didn’t want to have to go back to Montreal for a Game 6, or give them any momentum. The game didn’t start out exactly as planned, as Montreal scored 59 seconds into the game. They then went on the power play, and had an opportunity to take a 2-0 lead in the game.

They didn’t, and that particular Canadiens power play was the start of the Mike Richards show for the night. Richards plowed through a Canadiens player at the point setting up a shorthanded odd man rush that resulted in a good scoring chance for Braydon Coburn. About 30 seconds later, Claude Giroux cleared the puck out of the Flyers zone, and Richards chased after it. The puck slid into the Montreal zone, and Richards was in a race with Canadiens defenseman Roman Hamrlik to be the first to the puck. Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak then decided he wanted to be first to the puck and skated after it. What resulted was a 3 person sliding collision which sent Richards, the puck, and Halak’s goalie stick towards the net. Richards got up, avoided Halak’s stick, and put the puck into the back of the net.

This was just the beginning of Mike Richards playing the “I’m not going to let this team lose this game” role. That is what a captain should do in a big game like this, and Richards was up to the task. The Flyers added 2 goals in the 2nd, one on a nice pass by Matt Carle, which left Arron Asham in front of the net by himself. He made a nice move, and beat Halak. Just over a minute later, the Flyers showed great puck movement, including an unreal behind the net pass from Richards to Jeff Carter, who put a shot over Halak’s shoulder.

Of course the game had to be nerve racking though, as Montreal scored just 7 minutes into the 3rd period, and the Flyers had to hold off a desperate Canadiens team for most of the rest of the game. They did just that, as the defense played well, and Michael Leighton played well down the stretch, and another fabulous Mike Richards play led to a Jeff Carter empty net goal. Mike Richards played his best game in a while, and it was especially important for him to do this in such a big game. Richards is the captain of the team, and the leader, and he showed why on Monday. He was not going to let the Flyers lose that game, and was a beast on almost every shift of his.

Richards had a solid game, Arron Asham had a number of chances, and the defense and Leighton was solid. The first goal was a little bit of lazy defense, but also a goal that Michael Leighton could have saved. After this point though, Leighton was solid. The fans were amazing as always, as Philadelphia fans always are, and were rewarded with getting to watch the Flyers celebrate a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. If the Flyers can win this Stanley Cup, it would be one of the more memorable seasons in Philadelphia sports history, and one of the best coaching performances by Peter Laviolette in these playoffs.

This was a great win, but the goal is to win the Stanley Cup, so there is still plenty of work to be done. As good as the Flyers are playing right now, which they are, the Blackhawks have been a great team wire to wire. They were the #2 seed in the Western Conference, which is a stronger conference than the East, and could have easily been the #1 seed. Instead, they took it to the #1 seeded Sharks in the Western Conference Finals. The Blackhawks feature 3 solid lines, come at you in waves, have star players on offense and defense, and also have a hot goaltender, much like the Flyers. It will not be easy, but it should be a very good Stanley Cup Finals.


Flyers Win Game 4

The Flyers bounced back from their disappointing Game 3 loss and won Game 4 in hostile Montreal to take a 3 games to 1 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Flyers did exactly what they needed to do going into Montreal for 2 games. They needed to just win 1 of those games and come back home with a 3-1 series lead. After the Flyers disappointing Game 3, they needed to step it up and take Game 4, so that the Canadiens would not have all the momentum and a series tied at 2.

The Flyers locked it down defensively, and Michael Leighton bounced back from Game 3, and recorded his 3rd shutout in 4 games of the series, as the Flyers won 3-0 in Game 4. The first period was a defensive battle with not many scoring chances, which I thought was a good thing for the Flyers, so the crowd would get slightly bored and restless. In period #2, the Flyers took over. Claude Giroux made an unbelievable solo play and beat the Montreal defense to put the Flyers on the board early in the 2nd period.

Later in the 2nd period, Chris Pronger made a great pass to Ville Leino, allowing Leino go move in on a breakaway, and Leino beat Halak to put the Flyers up 2-0 after 2 periods. In the 3rd, the Canadiens did put a lot of pressure on, but Leighton and the defense were up to the task. The Flyers had to kill off 2 power plays in the 3rd period, and then after doing so, Claude Giroux put in his 2nd goal of the game into the back of the net from his knees into the empty net to end the game.

The Flyers hardly allowed Montreal any good chances, and the Canadiens only ended up with 17 shots, after outshooting the Flyers in all 3 games thus far. Give a lot of credit to Peter Laviolette for regrouping the team in between games, and setting up the game plan, and allowing the Flyers to execute. Also, credit Matt Carle, and Chris Pronger, both of whom were really bad in Game 3, and both of whom really played well in Game 4.

Ian Laperriere and Jeff Carter both returned from injury to give the Flyers a needed boost. Jeff Carter moved onto the first line with Mike Richards and Simon Gagne, as Daniel Carcillo was a healthy scratch. I was calling for mostly Arron Asham to get scratched, but if it wasn't him, I would say Carcillo was the next guy who should have been scratched. Carter played almost 14 minutes, including a couple on the power play, and had 4 shots on goal, which is good. Laperriere replaced Andreas Nodl in the lineup, and played a little over 9 minutes, including a short period of time on the penalty kill. Blair Betts and Darrol Powe did a great job on the penalty kill. Laperriere is mostly known for his penalty killing and leadership as being a great locker room guy.

Again, the Flyers accomplished their task of taking 1 of 2 in Montreal, and now go back home for Game 5 with a 3-1 series lead. You really would love to close out this series in Game 5, so you don't give the Canadiens any life, and don't have to go back to the crappy city that is Monreal, and deal with their annoying fans. Game 5 is Monday night at 7:00.


Flyers Brought Back Down to Earth

The Flyers lost last night in Montreal 5-1, but still hold a 2-1 series advantage in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Well, I guess it was wishful thinking to think the Flyers would never allow another goal in the playoffs, and just win every game on their way to their first Stanley Cup since the 1970s. The Flyers lost against a motivated, and spunky Montreal Canadiens teams, in front of a raucous/annoying crowd of French Canadians singing soccer chants.

The Canadiens took control from the beginning of the game, and never looked back. In the first 5 minutes of the game, the Flyers actually had 2-3 decent chances to score, including a power play, but Halak made a few nice saves, and kept the score tied at 0. Montreal got on the board halfway through the first, when Mike Cammalleri put in a rebound off the back boards to break Michael Leighton's shutout streak, and finally give the Canadiens some momentum, and their first lead of the series. The Canadiens put in 3 more, before the Flyers were able to get a goal in the 3rd period to avoid the shutout. And in classic Broad Street Bullies fashion, the Flyers just beat the crap out of the Canadiens at the end of the game. Simon Gagne continued his hot scoring streak, and scored the lone goal for the Flyers.

The Flyers defense really was the reason they lost this game, and it was most notably Matt Carle, and Chris Pronger. Quite frankly, Carle, and Pronger were horrible in this game. Carle and Pronger were both guilt of defensive let downs, turnovers, and not picking up guys going to the net all game long. It is hard to blame Leighton for most of the Canadiens goals, the Canadiens just flat out outplayed the Flyers all game long.

The Canadiens also outshot the Flyers for the 3rd straight game, which is disconcerting. The Flyers need to do a better job of keeping the play in the Canadiens end, and doing a better job cycling in the offensive zone. If the defense can play better, and the Flyers can cycle the puck and keep it down low, they should be more effective in Game 4.

A loss in this situation isn't necessarily the worst thing that could happen. The Flyers weren't going to sweep through everyone. You knew they were going to lose a game at some point, and it happened on Thursday night. Losses are not always necessarily the worst thing that can happen. The Flyers can not re-group, move on from their solid 6 game winning streak, go back to the drawing board, and pretend that this series is tied going into Game 4. If the Flyers can win Game 4 in Montreal, they still will be in command of this series.

76ers Name Doug Collins Head Coach

The Philadelphia 76ers finally ended their coaching search today by officially naming current NBA analyst, Doug Collins, their head coach.

Doug Collins has been an NBA analyst for better part of the decade, after last coaching the Washington Wizards in 2002-2003. Collins has coached 8 seasons, coaching the Bulls, Pistons, and Wizards and compiling a 332-287 overall record. Collins does have some Philadelphia ties, as he was the #1 overall draft pick in the 1973 draft.

It's hard to say whether Collins is the right guy for this job. It's even harder to say why Collins would want this job. Collins clearly has a very good basketball mind, and is a guy who knows the game well, and is extremely intelligent. It isn't so clear if he will be able to succeed with this group of players. The Sixers, last time I checked are not a very good team, and have a bunch of bad contracts, which doesn't allow them to go after any players, and makes it harder to unload the current bad contracts. This probably means that the Sixers will not be very good for a few years, even with a solid young guy in Jrue Holiday, and the #2 overall pick this year.

Collins always had success where he went, but always also seemed to slightly underachieve. Collins was the Chicago Bulls coach from the middle to the late 80s, and consistently made the playoffs with Michael Jordan leading the team, but the Bulls never took off until Collins was replaced with Phil Jackson. Collins took some time off, and then coached the Pistons in the mid to late 90s, and which point he was fired from that job. He then took some more time off and coached the Washington Wizards for a couple seasons, and was fired again. In between all the coaching jobs, Collins worked as an analyst for NBA games for TNT, and is considered one of the better analysts.

Doug Collins name has surfaced for multiple coaching positions after his final coaching job with the Wizards, but he has never been hired until now. Like I said, I do respect Doug Collins' knowledge for the game, and think he knows his stuff, I am just not sure he is the guy to be the long term coach of the 76ers. The 76ers will not be good for a few years, and Doug Collins tendencies are to get sort of burned out after coaching for a few years. If the Sixers continue to be a bad team for the next few years, I hope that Collins stays motivated to coach the team, and does not bail after a couple of poor seasons.

This Sixers coaching job is not a very good one right now. Due to all the bad contracts, it is not easy to bring in players, and the team is basically handicapped and stuck with the guys who are currently on the team. However, in a couple years, when the Sixers do have some wiggle room, this could a very good coaching job to have. We will just have to see if Doug Collins sticks around long enough, and is able to keep the team motivated, which in today's NBA, is not an easy thing to do.