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.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
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 Hockeybuzz.com. 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
2. John Maine
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.
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 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.
Monday, January 28, 2008
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.
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
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)
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.
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.
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.
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
Friday, January 25, 2008
Thursday, January 24, 2008
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:
*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.
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
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
Monday, January 21, 2008
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.