Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mets Might Sign Kyle Lohse

It looks like the Mets are trying to tie up the NL East in January. ESPN's Jayson Stark is reporting that the Met's acquisition of Johan Santana does not take them out of the running for Kyle Lohse. Mets GM Omar Minaya went on to say that the Mets could "absolutely" afford both Santana and Lohse. If the Mets make the move to sign Lohse, he would probably become their number 4 starter, and probably would ensure that Orlando Hernandez will be playing for a new team next season. Even though the Phillies have little chance to sign Lohse, this move would ensure that they will need to look in the bargain bin for another starting pitcher. Let's hope they have some move up their sleeve to counter all of the Met's deals. The Mets started the offseason with a whimper, but have really stepped up their efforts to be the best team in the National League.

To read Stark's ESPN article, click here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Flyers Tops in the Atlantic Division

The Flyers beat the L.A. Kings 3-2 in overtime, and with a little help from the Penguins defeating the Devils, Philly is now in first place. The Flyers continued their hot play, and got the overtime game winner from their hottest player, Scott Hartnell. Simon Gagne and Braydon Coburn also added goals. It was the fifth game in a row that Coburn had at least one point. The Flyers have won 12 of their last 15.

The Flyers are in first place, and we also need to keep in mind that they have played one less game than the two teams directly behind them, the Penguins and Devils. They look to continue their strong play against the Rangers on Thursday and this weekend they welcome in the defending Stanley Cup Champs, the Ducks.

*Peter Forsberg update:

Things are starting to get interesting on the Peter Forsberg front, as there are two very conflicting updates about him on The first post says the following:

According to my source the team Forsberg would MOST like to play for is the NY Rangers. This is a source that has been VERY solid for quite some time in the past regarding Forsberg and other players as well.

Here is the second update, a few hours later:

A very different story from a source VERY close to Peter in Sweden. Very close. The source said this morning that he believes Peter will announce he is NOT coming back and that Peter has more issues than the foot right now. The source also said he expects Forsberg to announce he is not healthy enough to compete at a proper level in the NHL. The source added that the Flyers were the only team he felt Peter would have returned to.

So, what to make of these two conflicting reports? I say not much. It would be the ultimate punch to the stomach to Flyers fans if Forsberg somehow chooses the Rangers. I really don't see why he would, considering a few weeks ago he said he would only return to a team he thought would be a Stanley Cup contender. The Rangers are currently in last place, and although they certainly aren't out of the playoff hunt, they don't have much of a chance of going far in the playoffs. I would bet that the second update has more validity, as there still might be a chance he isn't healthy enough to come back, but if he does, it will be with the Flyers. Forsberg has a lot of friends on the team and the Flyers are rapidly moving to the top of the Eastern Conference. Let's hope this all happens soon so we can stop having to hear all these outrageous rumors.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Uh Oh, There Goes the Division

In a move that blows the Phillies signing of Pedro Feliz out of the water, the Mets have acquired arguably the best pitcher in baseball, Johan Santana. The Mets mortgaged their future, giving up four prospects (outfielder Carlos Gomez and three pitchers: Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra), but they now have a guarantee that they will be division favorites for as long as Santana stays in New York. There are still two hold-ups to the deal, as Santana must waive his no-trade clause, which he will, and he needs to agree to a multi-year deal with the Mets. Don't hold our breath that it will fall through, though, as it is believed that the Mets wouldn't have agreed to the trade if they didn't think they could work out a deal with Santana.

This move shifts the balance of power in the division back to the Mets. The Mets had a weak off season up until this point, and the Phillies seemed to have done just enough to make them favorites. But the addition of Santana changes everything. As a lefty ace, he is the perfect foil to the Phillies strong left-handed hitting. I can already see Ryan Howard whiffing about 20 times on a Santana breaking ball this year.

Here is the Mets current rotation:

1. Johan Santana
2. John Maine
3. Oliver Perez
4. Pedro Martinez
5. Mike Pelfrey/Orlando Hernandez

Compare that to the Phillies rotation I put up in the previous post, and the Phils are at a clear disadvantage. It's a good thing that Pedro isn't Pedro anymore, or this division would be a cakewalk for the Mets. I would bet they trade El Duque for a prospect and let Pelfrey take over the #5 spot.

This trade puts the onus back on the Phillies to improve their pitching. As bad as it it for teams to be reactionary to what other teams do, the Phillies have to go out and sign Kyle Lohse right now. Signing Lohse would at least cut the gap between the two rotations. I don't care what kind of money it takes, the Phils need to pay up if they want to stay competitive. I am not sure exactly how good the prospects the Mets had to give up were, but it is clear that they want to get back into the playoffs this year, and in the next few years to come. They may have given up too much to get Santana, but they may have also sealed up the NL East. The time is yours, Phillies.

Does Feliz Deal Mean No More Pitching?

I have been hearing mixed opinions as to whether the signing of Pedro Feliz was good or bad for the Phillies. My post yesterday was mostly negative, as I pointed out that he is a poor hitter who makes too many outs. He is also another hitter who can't take a pitch, and at there are already plenty of those types of players in the Phils line-up. Yes, he does have some pop, and we are possibly looking at an infield that will hit 140 home runs, but it feels like adding more of the same kind of player. To me, the positives for Feliz begin and end with his glove, as he is known as one of the better fielding third basemen around.

More importantly, does this deal mean that the Phillies are done signing players this off season? If that is the case, then I think they have failed to accomplish what they set out to do: get more pitching. The hitting was not a problem last year, as the Phils led the NL in runs scored. It was their pitching that held them back. Their only significant off season pitching acquisitions were Brad Lidge and Chad Durbin. The Phillies lost Geoff Geary, Kyle Lohse, Jon Leiber, Freddy Garcia, Jose Mesa and Antonio Alfonseca. While not all of those players were very useful, that is still a lot of depth that is leaving the organization. The trade for Lidge was huge, because it gives the Phillies a closer and allows Myers to move back into the starting rotation, but the team is still left one starter short. And anyone that thinks Chad Durbin is going to be that starter is mistaken, he is only going to be a long relief guy. The bullpen appears to be set, and actually might be quite good if Tom Gordon returns to form, so that leaves the rotation as the main worry.

Here is the current Phillies rotation:
1. Cole Hamels
2. Brett Myers
3. Kyle Kendrick
4. Jamie Moyer
5. Adam Eaton

That is a decent group, but the Phillies failed to add a fifth starter that could either push Eaton or replace him completely. If the Phillies used the money they used to signed Feliz on someone like Kyle Lohse, the rotation would look a lot stronger. We all know that the Phillies work on some kind of invisible salary cap, so let's hope that have a little bit more money left to spend on one more starting pitcher. If not, we could be looking at a lot more 10-8 and 12-7 games.

Update on Feliz Contract

Here are some of the terms of the Pedro Feliz deal, per ESPN/AP:

The Phillies have agreed to a two-year deal with free-agent third baseman Pedro Feliz, pending a physical. The deal includes a team option for 2010. Feliz will earn about $8.5 million from the contract, according to the AP. With the option and performance bonuses, the contract could be worth up to $15 million over three years.

My Thoughts:
My first thought is that it's surprising to me that the Phillies had to go 2 years with an option for a 3rd. After all, it's not like there were that many teams after the guy. If that was the case he would have been signed already. Get used to seeing him at the hot corner, Phillies fans, he's gonna be here a while. The amount of money seems okay, around 4 million a year for a solid fielder and #7 hitter seems like a good use of money.

Next up for the Phillies should be to rid themselves of Wes Helms, because he is now redundant. They don't need two right-handed 3rd basemen, unless they want to use Helms strictly as a pinch hitter. I don't think he is a good enough hitter to fill that role. Perhaps the Phillies will go back to the Marlins and beg for whatever relievers they were willing to part with for Helms before.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Chris Webber Signs with Warriors

In a move that has been rumored for days, the Golden State Warriors signed former Sixer Chris Webber. Philly fans are still pissed at Webber after the way he dogged it in his last season with the Sixers and some how magically became effective again when he signed on with the Pistons. My only question about this signing is how does a gimpy-legged Chris Webber fit into the Warriors run-and-gun system of play? The Warriors like to run, and Webber can barely do that.

C-Webb returns to the first NBA team he played for and his first coach, Don Nelson. Webber lasted only one season before he clashed with Nelson and the Warriors shipped him off to Washington. Good luck, Webber, have fun trying to keep up!

More info here.

Phillies Sign Pedro Feliz

In a move that won't impress anyone, the Phillies filled their hole at 3B with the former Giant Pedro Feliz. Feliz hit 20 home runs last year, but hit just .253. He will surely hit more home runs in Citizens Bank Park, but he's exactly what the Phillies don't need: another guy who strikes out too much and rarely gets on base. Feliz has never seen a pitch he didn't want to swing at. One positive from this signing is they needed another right-handed bat to break up all the lefties in the line-up. Feliz will probably end up playing 120 games at third, and probably will hit 6th or 7th in the line-up. He will create another platoon situation for the Phillies, as Greg Dobbs should still play some 3B against right-handed pitching. Feliz also is known as a great defensive player at 3B, and he is versatile enough to play in the outfield and even could fill in at shortstop if he had to. Giants coaches last year thought that Feliz should have won the Gold Glove at third, so that is the true value he will bring to the club. At the very least we know he won't need a late inning defensive sub.

There is no word yet on how much he signed for, but we do know he signed a two year deal pending a physical. My initial reaction is a negative one, but it really depends on how much he signed for. I doubt the Phillies got great value for him, though. The Phillies line-up is really turning into an all-or-nothing group, with tons of sluggers who either hit it out of the park or miss completely.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Fixing the NHL All-Star Game

As I sit here and watch the Eastern Conference pile up the first period goals, I am left wondering what the NHL can do to fix it's All-Star game. The Saturday Skills Competition is way more entertaining than the Sunday no-hit, no-save, shot-fest. One of the main problems with the game is that no pure hockey fan really enjoys it because there isn't any intensity, and the casual hockey fan probably doesn't even know it is on. This really could be the best All-Star game of any sport, I mean when was the last time you watched more than a quarter of the Pro Bowl? Here are some ways to fix the NHL All-Star Game:

*Move the game outdoors. We all saw how awesome the Penguins/Sabres game on January 1st was. The weather conditions and how good it looked in HD helped make it the most watched regular season game in years. If the NHL moved the All-Star game to an outdoor location in a cold weather city, thousands more fans will tune in just to see if it is snowing. Of course, I doubt the players would want to play an exhibition game in the cold and snow because of injury risks, so this idea may not be very likely. It would be an instant fix if they ever convinced the players to do it.

*Change the format to Stanley Cup Champs vs. All Stars. The idea of the Eastern Conference playing the Western Conference is boring. There are no rivals across the conferences, and who really cares who wins? The whole idea is flawed from a fans perspective. As a Flyer fan, I root for the Flyers in the game, not the Eastern Conference as a whole. Why would I want to root for the Devils and Rangers players to do well when I hate them? Instead, let's have the previous years Cup winner play against a team of all stars made up of the best player on each team. The Ducks might not love having to play an extra game, but it's better than forcing them to open their season in London (nice call, NHL). Some might argue that the All Star team would blow out the defending champs, but I would disagree. The defending champs have played 40+ games together, while an All-Star team is slapped together for one game. I also like the idea of having just one representative from each team, so that way we don't have 15 Red Wings players.

*Get it on a real network in the US. Versus is just an awful network. I am shocked that this game isn't on NBC. This one is out of the NHL's hands, but they need to be doing everything to beg ESPN to start showing hockey games again. The coverage on Versus is lame, and if I have to sit through one more hunting commercial during a hockey game, I think I'm gonna be sick.

*Have the players wear their team jerseys. Figuring out which player is which is nearly impossible when the only thing that signifies what team a player plays for is a small patch on their right shoulder. Sometimes the players wear different jersey numbers, too. Get these guys in their regular jerseys, having one team in white and the other in their darks. The players are smart enough to figure out who is on what team. The average fan will give up watching the game when they can't tell who the players are.

*Don't play in Atlanta. Stop playing these games in dead markets in warm weather cities. Keep to the Northeast and Canadian cities if you want fans in the stands that actually care about the game.

So those are my ideas for a more interesting All-Star game. Obviously, the first idea about playing the game outside would really be the most interesting, but the NHL probably would never go for it. Let's hope they make some changes to make this game more watchable. Any other ideas about what the NHL could do?

The Next Philly Sports Champ?

It's on the minds and in the hearts of every Philadelphia sports fan. No major Philadelphia sports franchise has won a championship since 1983. The 4 major sports teams have all been to the finals 7 times since '83, with no titles to show for it. The Flyers have been in the Stanley Cup Finals 3 times, the Sixers have been in the NBA Finals once, the Phillies have been to the World Series twice and the Eagles made the Super Bowl once and all came up short. The "loser" tag has been placed on all of the Philladelphia sports teams, not only by fans of our rivals, but by Philly fans themselves. It is the final argument that all Cowboys, Rangers, Celtics and Mets fans have made: how many championships have you won in the last 10/15/20 years? Right now it's been zero for 24 years and counting.

So, which Philadelphia team will be the first to break through and give this town it's parade down Broad Street? And, the better question, how long will it be until it happens? This is a topic that has been brought up numerous times over the last decade, but with 3 of the clubs selling off superstars (Allen Iverson, Peter Forsberg, Bobby Abreu) and the other club coming to a crossroads with their superstar, the dynamics have been changing. In this column I have ranked the four major teams based on their shot to win a title. I count them down from least likely to most likely:

(One note: the years listed here are not predictions at to when these team will win titles. They are the soonest that these teams can be considered an elite, finals worthy team if everything breaks right for them)

4. Sixers
I think everyone can agree that they won't be winning anything anytime soon. I made this comment a few posts ago, but really the only starter that they have who would be a starter on nearly any team would be Andre Iguodala. The rest of their starters range from bad to mediocre. The Sixers really only have two things going for them right now. One would be they have a ton of young players who seem to be getting better every game. Thaddeus Young and Louis Williams will be a couple of solid players for them for many years to come. The only other thing positive about this team is their new GM, Ed Stefanski. He has come into town and quickly won the confidence of the fans. He's a Philly guy who makes himself available to the masses and seems competent, unlike the disposed Billy King. In Ed we trust, and Sixers fans think he will make the right decisions to turn this franchise around. He already started with one solid move, trading Kyle Korver for an expiring contract. That will free up money for a quality free agent to come into town.

Sixers earliest possible title chance: 2015. If all the drafting and free agent signings go well, I give them two years until they can make the playoffs, and then two more before they can get out of the first round, and then three more after that until they can compete for a title. That's assuming everything goes perfectly.

3. Eagles
Two years ago, this team would have easily been the first choice on the list. It's hard not to think the window of opportunity is closed for this team. They had their run of four straight NFC Championships and the Super Bowl appearance, but does anyone think they can get back there with the current group? Andy Reid is going through a bunch of personal problems, Donovan McNabb might not be back next year, they are losing assistant coaches to other teams, and Brian Westbrook isn't always going to be this good. I think they are going to look at the 2008 season as their last chance. They will bring McNabb back and sign a few cheap veterans and try to make one last run. If it doesn't work, then it will be a new system, coach and QB1 in 2009. Does anyone really think the 8-8 team from last year can all of the sudden get 11-12 wins? This entire off-season they will try to sell to us that they were a few bounces away from winning 10 games. Well, a few of the games they won could have easily gone the other way, so I don't buy that logic. They were an 8-8 team because they were an average football team. They had an average offense, an above average defense, and below average special teams. Sounds like a recipe for .500 to me.

Eagles earliest possible title chance: 2013. They will start the rebuilding process after next season's first round playoff exit. Luckily, in the NFL, teams can turn things around quickly. The Eagles do have some young guys to build around on both the offensive and defensive lines, so a lot of it hinges on how good Kevin Kolb is. If Kolb isn't a solid quarterback, their chances get pushed back 5 years.

2. Flyers
Talk about a fast turnaround. This team was awful last year, and if this list was made then, they would be battling for the bottom spot with the Sixers. Since that time, the Flyers have made all the right moves. The have added youth, speed and toughness to the team through trades and free agency. It's amazing how good the young guys are on this team, considering the Flyers have always been competitive, except for last year, which meant they never had a top five pick. This whole turnaround started at last years trade deadline, where they moved Peter Forsberg to Nashville for a bushel of talent and draft picks, and then acquired Martin Biron to be their No. 1 goalie. While Biron has not completely stepped in and established himself as The Man in goal, he has been steady. The Flyers were later able to make another trade with Nashville using one of their extra first round picks that they originally got from them to acquire Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen, two more key pieces. Their other off-season move was to sign Danny Briere, a top playmaker. All of the sudden, the awful Flyers from last year turned into a really fun team to watch and a really good team. They will almost certainly make the playoffs this year, and even could win the Atlantic Division. Of course, the Peter Forsberg situation looms, and his decision could sway the Flyers one way or the other.

Flyers earliest possible title chance: 2010. Even with Forsberg this year, I don't think they will win the Cup. I see them getting to the second round and then falling to a team like New Jersey or Ottawa. Their real weakness right now might be on the defensive end, where they are probably one or two d-men away from having a great defense. Of all of these teams, though, this one has the best chance of winning multiple titles, because the core of the team is so young and talented. The sky is the limit for this group as soon as they get more playoff experience under their belts.

1. Phillies
The only Philly team to make the playoffs in their previous season, this team clearly has the best chance of them all. There are four reasons why the Phillies will be a great team for the next five seasons: Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. Assuming they keep all four players (cross your fingers with the Howard situation), this team will always be at or atop the NL East. This team is currently constructed to win now, although they do have a few holes that could keep them from a title. The vacancies at third base and at #5 starter are worrisome, but I think this team has more than enough offense to overcome those deficiencies. The Brad Lidge acquisition did two things for this team: gave them a top flight closer in Lidge, and gave them the #2 starting pitching they desperately needed in former closer Brett Myers. Even though Myers doesn't like it, he is much more valuable to the team pitching 7 innings every fifth game than he was pitching 5 innings a week.

So, despite a few shortcomings, the Phillies are poised to repeat as NL East Champions. In baseball, half the battle is simply making the postseason, and once you get there it is any one's title (See the Cardinals of two years ago). The rest of the division hasn't done anything to make the Phils nervous, although the Mets could change that by landing Johan Santana. If they do that, it could set the Phillies back a few years. With this core group of players who are still young, including the best infield in baseball, the Phillies window of opportunity is just starting to open.

Phillies earliest possible title chance: 2008. The Phillies are ready to be contenders now. Only pitching can keep them from being in the mix. If the Phillies acquire a top pitcher, they move from contenders to the favorite. The National League is wide open, so the Phils have as good a shot as anyone this year. Beating the American League representative might be a taller order, with the Red Sox poised to repeat and the Tigers lineup looking scary good.

The four teams in Philadelphia all are at different stages. The team with the best chance to host the next parade is the Phillies, who are ready to win now. The Flyers seem to have the beginnings of something that could be great in a few years. The Eagles are on their way down, and the Sixers are a long way off from even contending for a playoff spot. All of these teams need a few breaks to go their way to get into contention. If the Phillies or Flyers run into bad luck or injuries, it could be a great while longer before we can celebrate. Let's hope it's not another 24 years.

Who do you think will be the next team to win it all? Post your thoughts below.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sixers Win!

The Sixers finally found an opponent crummy enough for them to snap their losing streak. It took a 33 point effort from Andre Iguodala for the Sixers to defeat the Bobcats 103-96. Andre Miller also had 23 points and 9 assists. Not much else to note here, although I think Mo Cheeks might have taken my advice. On the last post I had about the Knicks game, I noted that Reggie Evans might be the worst starter in the NBA. So what does Cheeks do? He instead starts Thaddeus Young! Okay, so Evans still ended up playing more minutes than Young, but he still only had 2 points in 23 minutes. Up next for the Sixers is the Bucks, another struggling team that could be a winnable game for them.

Will Peter Forsberg be a Flyer?

The rumors have been heating up the last few weeks as to where Peter Forsberg will play this year if/when he comes back. Those rumors have mentioned the teams he has played for in the past, Colorado and Philadelphia, as well as Detroit. Today on, this piece of information was posted by Eklund:

Forsberg: "Really feeling well and looking full of life," I was told this morning in an email from Sweden. And I am also hearing that Philly is 80% his destination. Foppa felt like Philly treated him very well, there is unfinished buisiness, and he also made some strong relationships in the area. It should also be noted that Scott Hartnell and Forsberg were very close during his time in Nashville.

First of all, I should say that Eklund is not always right. He makes a lot of crazy trade claims that do not come close to happening, so take this information with a grain of salt. But, I do agree that Forsberg probably feels like he has something to prove in Philly, although I wonder if he is willing to play at a discounted rate, because I doubt the Flyers can pay him much. Let's say the Flyers make an offer that he is willing to accept, then the next question should be whether we really want him back. Here are the two statements I keep hearing:

*Forsberg will cause problems in the locker room. Any time a star player comes into a locker room, there will be some changes in the dynamics, but will they be negative changes? I really don't see how, considering Forsberg knows a lot of the guys from last year. Also, the Flyers will soon be entering the home stretch and they might possibly make a Stanley Cup run, and adding a guy with a ton of playoff experience and 2 Stanley Cups can only benefit a team filled with youth and very playoff experience.

*Forsberg will disrupt on-ice chemistry. This is a genuine concern, because the Flyers, with the exception of the Devils game, have been red hot. And, barring a trade, the Flyers already have a pretty loaded set of forward lines. When Joffrey Lupul comes back, the lines might look like this:


So where would Forsberg fit in? Either Jim Dowd or Sami Kapanen would be the logical player to be scratched, but you can't put a guy like Forsberg on the fourth line. The Flyers really need to keep Steve Downie up on the second line, because that has been their best group of late. Forsberg has had great chemistry with Simon Gagne in the past, so it would be best to put them back together. A line of Forsberg, Gagne and Briere would be amazing to watch, with Foppa and Briere both trying to set up Gagne on every play. Gagne would be a goal scoring machine with those two. So, it would then be a question as to which one moves over to the wing, and my first guess would be that it is Forsberg. Finally, Lupul would have to move down to the third line, which would probably move Scottie Upshall down into the fourth line and Kapanen out. Here is what it would look like:


Wow, that is four stacked lines. That group should get at least four goals a game.

So, if the Flyers do end up with Peter Forsberg, will they be a better team? As long as the guy is at least 80% healthy, I don't see how he can't help. The guy is one of the best players in NHL history, and if the Flyers can give him 18 minutes a night, he will generate a lot more offense. That first line I proposed of Gagne, Briere and Forsberg would be scary good, and if you put them on the first powerplay unit with Richards and Timonen, one of the leagues best units just gets even better. The final piece to this team might be one more solid defenseman, and maybe they could use their sudden glut of forwards to make a move there. I would bet that Dowd, Upshall, Kapanen or Cote could be moved, although I am not sure anyone would want those guys.

Adding Peter Forsberg to the mix would make the Flyers one of the highest scoring teams in the leauge, and if they can get consistent goaltending, it would push the Flyers into the favorites to take the Atlantic division, and make them serious cup contenders.
Have any thoughts on whether Forsberg should be added? Any ideas on possible lines? Post your comments below.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sixers Reach New Low

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for the Philadelphia 76ers, they go and lose to the lowly New York Knicks, 89-81. This season had some promise a few weeks ago when the Sixers were actually hovering around .500, but now they clearly are going to be in the battle for the worst team in the league, as they have lost 11 of their last 13. Reasons for the slide are many, but I will name a few here:

*No Talent. This is the obvious one. Just ask yourself, besides the Andre's, how many of these guys could be starters on any Western Conference team? Even Andre Miller would be a sixth man at best on most of the playoff teams in the West.

*Reggie Evans. Seriously, I know the guy can rebound, but he has to be amongst the worst starters on any team in the league. He played 31 minutes tonight and scored 2 points. For a big-time rebounder, shouldn't he be getting more easy put-backs? And to think, the Sixers traded two players to get him.

*No 3-point shooters. Since the trade of Kyle Korver, the best 3-point shooter on the team has been Andre Iguodala. If you have ever watched AI2 try to shoot from the outside, you know that's a bad thing. I will still support the Sixers decision to trade Korver to free up money in the offseason, but the team has a real hole here. They are going to have to use that extra money on another shooter.

*Bad Drafting. When was the last time these guys got a real steal in the draft? Iguodala was a great selection, but other than that, the Sixers have made few if any impact picks in the first rounds of drafts. Rodney Carney was acquired in a trade at the 2006 draft, and he has been pretty lousy. Louis Williams and Thaddeus Young look like decent selections, but in the last few years that have not hit a home run with any selection.

I will leave it at that. There are dozens of other reasons, like their inability to rebound, bad trades and contracts by Billy King and mediocre coaching. All we have to look forward to now is the 2008 draft, where the Sixers are sure to have a high pick. Go here for a list of the top ten prospects in the upcoming draft. I think Roy Hibbert could be a great building block for this team if they end up with a pick around 6-8. Let's Hope Ed Stefanski makes the right selection.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Flyers Beat Penguins 4-3

The Flyers needed to bounce back after Tuesday's miserable game against the Devils, and they did so in a big way. They defeated the Penguins 4-3 to move into a first place tie with the Devils. It was a total team effort again, as the Flyers continue to reverse last years trend of losing every game against the Penguins. They are now 4-0 this season against their cross-state rivals. Some other notes from the game:

*R. J. Umberger owns the Penguins. The Pittsburgh native loves going home, as he picked up a goal and two assists in the game. He was also First Star of the game.

*Steve Downie is the MAN. Dirty Penguins forward Georges Laraque hit Downie from behind, forcing Downie to slam head first into the boards. He was clearly knocked out from the hit. Downie then came back later in the game and scrapped with Ryan Stone before getting tossed from the game. He is everything Flyers fans should love, and all guts guy who leaves everything on the ice. He gets knocked out, and not only goes back into the game, but gets into a fight. Laraque better watch his back next time he plays the Flyers. If he isn't still suspended for tonights cheap shot.

*The Flyers power play is red hot. They have scored a power play goal in 10 straight games. This is one of the main reasons for this seasons huge turnaround.

*Scott Hartnell continues his solid play. Watch the highlights of this game and watch the pass he made to set up the third Flyers goal. When the Flyers acquired him in the offseason I had no idea how good this guy was. He had an assist earlier in the game to continue his hot streak.

The Flyers got a big win heading into the all-star break. Their next game is next Tuesday against the Kings. Should be a fun second half of hockey

Watch the highlights here.

Weighing in on McNabb

It seems that everyone has an opinion about the future of Donovan McNabb with the Eagles. Should he stay or should he be sent packing? You have heard the rumors, that the Vikings and Bears are interested, and that the Eagles want at least three first round picks. The Eagles have seemingly already drafted their next quarterback, Kevin Kolb, so it's only a matter of time before he steps into the starting role. So what should the Eagles do with McNabb this offseason? Let's weigh the pros and cons of this situation.

Reasons to keep McNabb:

*He finished the year strong. The Eagles finished the season on a 3 game winning streak, and McNabb put up pretty good numbers in those three games, throwing 5 touchdowns, 1 interception and averaging 272 yards passing. He had the team playing as good as any NFC playoff team at the end of the season.

*McNabb is healthy. He seems to have finally recovered from his ACL injury of 2006. It has often been said that it takes about two years to get back to where you were before an ACL injury, so he should be 100% at the start of next year. He started to look more mobile at the end of the 2007 season, putting up 90 rushing yards combined in the Cowboys and Saints victories.

*Kolb isn't ready. Does anyone actually think that Kevin Kolb is going to step in and be a better quarterback than McNabb in 2008 or 2009? It's going to take him a few years to get the system down and to really become an effective player. The Eagles would probably need to acquire a veteran quarterback for at least the beginning of 2008 if they move McNabb because Kolb won't be ready, and A.J. Feeley might not, and shouldn't, be on the team next year.

*Brian Westbrook isn't getting any younger. Westbrook is one of the elite playmakers in the game, and he is still in his prime, but how many more good years does Westbrook have? Running backs really start to slow down when they hit 30, and Westbrook will turn 29 at the beginning of next season. If the Eagles want to make another run at the Super Bowl during the prime years of one of the best players in their history, they need to have a quarterback in place that can keep them competitive. If McNabb leaves, then the Eagles will be in full-on rebuilding mode. They might as well move Westbrook in that case, because they won't challenge for a playoff spot for at least two years.

Reasons to dump McNabb:

*He's injury prone. A few paragraphs ago, I talked about how he was finally healthy, but McNabb is always one play away from his next injury. He missed two full games and part of another last season with ankle and thumb injuries. McNabb has only played a full 16 game season 3 times in his 9 year NFL career. The last time he played all 16 games was in 2003, although he didn't get injured in the Super Bowl season of 2004 and played in 15 games. If he gets hurt next season, which is very likely, Kevin Kolb will be forced into duty whether he is ready or not.

*He is a pain in the ass. His comments about losses not being all his fault and his cries for more playmakers on the team, while not too hard to argue with, are not the kinds of things you want a leader of your football team to be saying. McNabb definitely needs to learn to keep his mouth shut, and it is only a matter of time before he says something that gets him permanently run out of town. I think we can all agree now that the whole situation with Terrell Owens a few years back was at least partly McNabb's fault.

*His inability to lead the offense to more touchdowns last year. The Eagles offense seemed to move the ball pretty well last season, but it often sputtered when it reached the red zone. Besides the huge offensive games against the lousy defenses of the Lions and Saints, the Eagles only cracked the 20 point barrier 4 times in 14 games. They averaged 17.3 points in those 14 games. The Eagles defense has always been good, so they can still win some games when the offense isn't clicking, but something was definitely wrong in 2007. There were many instances this season where the offense would march down the field on the opening drive and get some points, but then sputter for the rest of the game. Maybe the offense needs more playmakers, as McNabb has suggested, but McNabb had one of the top playmakers in the game in Westbrook and still couldn't find the end zone more.

*His trade value may never be higher. If McNabb stays with the Eagles next year and has an average season or even gets injured again, the Eagles would have a hard time getting much for him in a trade. Right now McNabb still has a lot of value around the NFL, mostly for how strong he finished the 2007 season. If the Eagles want to maximize what they get for him, they better move him now because he isn't getting any younger.
My Conclusions:
So there you have it. Four reasons to keep him and four reasons to move on. In my opinion, the Eagles need to keep McNabb for at least one more year while Kolb develops. I think they could have one more run in them, and with the NFC being so weak, the Super Bowl is never that remote of a possibility. The Eagles would probably need to bring in another solid receiver and a pass-catching tight end, but I think they owe it to McNabb to give him one more shot to lead them. As much as the fans might be ready to move on, Kolb shouldn't be rushed into starting. If he really is the future of this team, putting him in before he is ready could do more damage than good. Let's give McNabb one more chance to improve his legacy in Philadelphia and lead the Eagles to the promised land.

Sixers Help Out Those in Need

Struggling NBA teams must love seeing the Sixers on their schedule. The Pistons came into the Wachovia Center on a three game losing streak, and barely broke a sweat in defeating the Sixers 86-78. The game never really seemed that close, as the Sixers could not take advatage of a Pistons team that went cold for stretches of the game. Detroit has owned Philly lately, winning 13 of their last 15 games against them. Rasheed Wallace stated the obvious about the Sixers after the game: "They definitely need some help, I guess it's all on management now and what they're going to do." Thanks, 'Sheed. When even he knows your team needs major help, you know your team is in trouble.
Andre Iguodala had another strong all-around game, getting 15 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. No Sixer broke the 20 point barrier.
Highlights/lowlights of the game are here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Devils Deal With Flyers

The Devils, the team the Flyers just haven't been able to figure out for what seems like a decade, ripped the Flyers 7-3 yesterday. The Devils took over sole possession of first place with the win. The game actually started out competitive, with the Flyers getting an early powerplay goal from Danny Briere. The first period was pretty entertaining, with five total goals scored and two fights. From there, the game was ugly. The Devils dominated the Flyers in the last two periods, out-shooting and out-hitting them while trapping their way to victory. Antero Niittymaki looked normal again, so it looks like it's time for Marty Biron to step back into the No. 1 goaltending job.

The most entertaining thing in yesterday's game watching Steve Downie mix it up. He was caught a few times on microphone swearing and taunting at the Devils. He fought David Clarkson in the first period and taunted him the whole time. Downie has been a really nice surprise this season. We knew he could goon it up after hearing about all of his antics in the minors, but his play on the offensive end has been strong. He has teamed up with Scott Hartnell and Mike Richards to form the most potent line on the the team in the last few games. I hope Downie plays with these guys for the rest of the season, even when Joffrey Lupul comes back, and if/when Peter Forsberg is added.

Other than Downie, not much else went right. The Flyers look to bounce back and stay in the mix for the top spot in the Atlantic when they play the Penguins on Thursday. The Pens are without Sidney Crosby, so the time to strike is now.

Highlights of the Devils game here.

*In other Flyers news, Winger Jesse Boulerice has served his 25 game suspension and is ready to play again. He was a healthy scratch yesterday. To make room, the Flyers sent Denis Tolpeko down to the Phantoms. Boulerice should add some more grit to the fourth line, and probably will replace Riley Cote as the team goon.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Spectrum Could Go the Way Of the Vet

The stadium where the last Philadelphia sports franchise to win a championship played their home games could be demolished to make room for an entertainment complex dubbed "Philly Live!" The Sixers and Flyers both played in the Spectrum for about 30 years until moving into their current home, the Wachovia Center in 1996. The Spectrum currently hosts Philadelphia Phantoms minor league hockey.

Philly Live! seems a lot like the harbor area in Baltimore, with shops and restaurants and it will probably feature some kind of ESPN Zone or Philly Fan Zone of some kind. It could revitatalize an area of South Philly that is really just industry and sports stadiums. It seems like a decent idea that could draw some people and money into the city, but is it worth the loss of the Spectrum?

Having seen my first professional basketball game in the Spectrum in the mid-80's, I have a few great memories of the old place. How could I possibly forget the hobbling Mike Gminski dropping 25 on the Altanta Hawks? I don't think it holds the same prestige and nostalgic qualities that Veterans Stadium had, but it is always sad to see a piece of the city's history get taken down. After all, there were more Championships won in that building than in the Vet.

For the immediate future, the Flyers may need to find a new place for their minor league affiliate to play. It was always very convenient for the Flyers to have the Phantoms close by so they could call up and send down guys any time they wanted without placing too much of a burden on the player in terms of travelling. The Flyers literally could ask Phantoms players to come across the parking lot to come and play for the big club. The Flyers will have to search the surrounding area for a new place for the Phantoms to play.

In Philadelphia, all of the major sports teams are lucky that they play in fairly new, state-of-the-art stadiums. Citizens Bank and the Linc are two of the finest stadiums MLB and the NFL have to offer. The Wachovia Center is older, but seems to be aging well. We just shouldn't forget where these teams came from and all of the history that was had in these old buildings as they are turned into dust before our very eyes.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Crappy Sixers Lose to Equally Crappy Pacers

Normally I won't discuss every Sixers game, since they are barely relevant this year, but this loss is pretty low considering the Pacers don't even have Jermaine O'Neal in the lineup right now. The Pacers were led by Kareem Rush (huh?) who had his season high in points with 25. The Sixers started slow in this game and never really recovered. Andre Iguodala led the team with 23 points, but shot just 5 of 16 from the field.

The Sixers and their fans just need to gut it out this season. There is a lot of youth on this team that is really playing well, like Louis Williams and Thaddeus Young. After this season they will have some extra cap space, thanks to the wise move of parting with Kyle Korver, so they hopefully can attract a quality player to Philly. Of course, I am not sure many top players would want to play for this team. What good is extra cap space if it isn't used wisely on top talent? This summer is when we will find out what new GM Ed Stefanski is made of.

Trouble Brewing With Howard Contract Squabble

Ryan Howard is looking to get paid. The slugger made $900,000 last year, an absolute steal considering his 47 home runs and 136 RBI's. That's $19,148 per home run! Consider that the league leader in home runs, Alex Rodriguez, made about $460,000 per home run, and you get the idea of just how underpaid Howard was.
He has entered arbitration with the Phillies, and reportedly the Phillies have offered him 7 million and he is asking for 10 million. It is now in the hands of the arbitors to figure out what he is worth. This could turn into a dicey situation, because now the Phillies have to present the case as to why Howard doesn't deserve 10 million to the arbitors. The first things they will mention will be his major league record in strikeouts last season and his poor defensive play. Howard will counter with his Rookie of the Year, MVP and his major league record for most home runs in his first 1000 at-bats.

Howard is under the Phils control for the next few years, so this same situation is going to keep coming up until they offer him a long term deal. Chase Utley got his deal, will Howard get his? I can see why the Phillies are holding out, they want to see whether he becomes a better all-around hitter, or if he turns into an all-or-nothing swing-for-the-fences slugger.

What do I think Howard should get? For all he has done, 10 million seems fair to me for next season, but it's not my money. Will he end up getting his money? It's doubtful. Will he be happy with that? Probably not, although I think no matter what he ends up getting, he will still be upset with what the Phillies are putting him through. And we all know what happens when superstars get upset in Philadelphia. Ask Allen Iverson, Charles Barkley, Scott Rolen and the rest. They get shown the door in trades that net Philadelphia teams next to nothing.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Flyers dominate Senators 6-1

The Flyers continued their red hot play by beating the best team in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers scored early and often, and Antero Nittymaki made 25 stops to secure the win. It continues to be a team effort, as the Flyers got goals from all four lines. They got goals from unlikely sources like Sami Kapanen and Braydon Coburn, and also got another goal from the Gretzky-esque Scott Hartnell. Hartnell now has 10 goals in his last 7 games. Philadelphia has now reached a three-way tie for first place with New Jersey and Pittsburgh, and have a game in hand on the Devils and Pens. Up next this week for the Flyers: huge games against the Devils and Penguins on Tuesday and Thursday of this week. Now is the time for the Flyers to lay claim to first place in the Atlantic.

Super Bowl 42: Giants vs. Patriots

The Giants edged the Packers 23-20 to win the right to be the Patriots fodder in the Super Bowl. Giants Kicker Lawrence Tynes missed two field goals in the fourth quarter and then redeemed himself in overtime with a 47 yarder. It was the longest field goal ever in Lambeau Field playoff history. Brett Favre returned to his gunslinger ways and threw into coverage numerous times at the end of the game, getting picked off in overtime by Corey Webster to set up the Giants winning score. As a Philly fan, I can't stand the Giants, but I hate the Patriots even more, so I will be forced to root for Little Eli and the rest of the G-men.

Patriots. UGH

This is not directly related to Philly sports, but the f'n Patriots are going to be in the Super Bowl. Again. The Chargers actually kept it closer than most people thought, but their inability to actually put the ball in the end zone did them in. Mr. Perfect Tom Brady threw three interceptions, so that gives hope to the Packers/Giants in two weeks. If I have to see another image like the one on the right, it's gonna "make me want to puke", a la Mike Gundy.

Flyers Game Preview: Flyers vs. Senators

The red hot Flyers welcome the visiting Ottawa Senators for tonights tilt. The Flyers have been surging lately, mostly due to strong goaltending and Scott Hartnell. Hartnell has had hat tricks in two of the last five, and has had 13 points in the last nine. The Flyers will likely start Antero Niitymaki tonight after Martin Biron played yesterday, so they need him to continue to stop the puck against a high powered Senators attack.