Monday, March 31, 2008

It could be a long season: Phillies bullpen shelled in Opener

Boy, the Phillies really know how to suck the excitement out of Opening Day. The Phillies Achilles heel, their pitching, reared its ugly head today as the Phils lost to the Nationals 11-6. The Phillies seemed in control of the game through the first four innings, as Brett Myers coasted and the offense put up two runs. Myers imploded in the 5th, when he loaded the bases on two singles and a hit batter. He ended up giving up 4 runs to allow the Nationals to take a 4-2 lead. Ryan Madsen pitched the 6th inning and gave up a two-run blast to Lastings Milledge to help the Nats expand their lead to 6-2.

The Phillies offense then took control, with homers by Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins to give the Phils a tie heading into the 9th inning. Then, Charlie Manuel made his first questionable call of the season and sent interim closer Tom Gordon out in a tie game. J.C. Romero had thrown only 12 pitches in the 8th, striking out two Nationals, and he seemed like the logical choice to go back out to the mound. Instead, Gordon was rocked, giving up 4 hits and 5 runs while only getting one out. The Phils offense was shut out in the bottom of the 9th, and Gordon took the loss to go with his 135.00 ERA.

This was not the start the Phillies were hoping for. The offense did its part, but the pitching looked like it did all spring: pathetic. Only Romero and Chad Durbin looked effective on the mound. Obviously, it's still very early in the season, so there is no need to panic, but it's sickening to see the one problem the Phillies have cost them the first game of the season.

The Phillies have an off-day tomorrow, and will look to bounce back against the Nationals on Wednesday with Cole Hamels facing off against Tim Redding.

Highlights of the game, from Comcast SportsNet:

It's Opening Day!

After Opening Night's thrilling victory by the Nationals, it's great to see a full slate of games today, including the Phillies taking on those same Nationals this afternoon in their home opener. Brett Myers will take the mound as the Phillies look to defend their National League East crown. Matt Chico will pitch for the Nationals, with first pitch coming at 3:05. The Phillies aren't getting a lot of love from the national media, so let's see if they can prove them wrong again.

In the meantime, be sure to read my predictions for the AL, NL and for the individual Phillie players.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

LeBron too much for Sixers

LeBron James proved to be too much for the Sixers to contain as he nearly singlehandedly led the Cavaliers to a 91-88 victory. James, who finished with 26 points, 9 boards and 9 assists, broke an 88-88 tie in the final seconds with a driving shot. Andre Iguodala missed a shot at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime. The loss likely ends any hope the Sixers had of climbing all the way up into the 4th seed in the East, but with Toronto also losing today, Philly will still be in the hunt to improve their playoff seeding.

James was dominant all game, as was his teammate Delonte West. West hit several key shots down the stretch, including two big threes to tie the game up in the fourth quarter. West finished with 18 points, 11 assists and 6 rebounds. For the Sixers, Andre Iguodala led them in scoring with 19, but Andre Miller had the better all around game, netting 16 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds and 5 steals.

The Sixers had several large leads in the game, but couldn't stop LeBron when the game was on the line. Their schedule lightens up this week, with a game against the Nets and two against the Hawks. The Sixers will need to stop this slide and make a quick turnaround if they want to avoid playing the Pistons in the first round. Judging by the way the Sixers couldn't slow LeBron down, it might be ideal if the Sixers finished with the 6th seed, where they can take a crack at Dwight Howard and the Magic. With 8 games left, the season definitely remains interesting for the Sixers.

Highlights of the game, from ESPN News:

2008 Phillies Predictions

Yesterday, I made my predictions for the AL and NL. Today, I will take a more in-depth look at the Phillies and make predictions for each individual player. I'll make predictions for players on their Opening Day roster only, plus Brad Lidge and Kris Benson.

Phillies Overall Record: 89-73 (Wild Card Winner, Lose in the NLDS)

Pitchers: (W-L, ERA, Saves)

Kris Benson: 9-7, 4.36
Makes his debut in June, initially for an injured Cole Hamels and eventually replacing Adam Eaton, and will do an adequate job.

Clay Condrey: 1-4, 5.21
Another split year between AAA and the Philies. Wouldn't be on most the Opening Day rosters of most contending teams.

Chad Durbin: 4-3, 4.63
Will get a few spot starts when Hamels inevitably goes on the DL, but will be relegated to mop-up duty whenever Eaton starts.

Adam Eaton: 5-9, 6.54
Will have a phantom injury that will keep him on the DL for the second half of the season.

Tom Gordon: 2-1, 4.55, 7 saves
Will do fine in the closers role temporarily and will team with J.C. Romero to make a formidable 8th inning combo.


Cole Hamels: 17-6, 3.45
Will be effective when healthy. Will have at least two short DL stints.

Kyle Kendrick: 12-13, 4.31
Expect growing pains. He will start the season slowly, but pick it up by the end.

Tim Lahey: 1-1, 5,43
Won't be with the team for long, he will be sent back to the Twins.

Brad Lidge: 2-3, 3.86, 38 saves.
Once healthy, Lidge will have a great season closing out games.

Ryan Madsen: 3-3, 3.45, 2 saves
Will finally develop into a reliable 7th inning option when he puts together a healthy full season.

Jamie Moyer: 11-12, 5.33
Old Man Moyer will struggle in his final year, but should be good for a few solid starts.

Brett Myers: 18-9, 3.22
Will flourish as a starter again. Will be looked at to win the big games.

J.C. Romero: 4-2, 2.99
Will have a good follow-up to last years lights out performance.

Hitters (AVG, HR's, RBI's)

Catchers

Chris Coste: .263, 4, 18
Unfortunately I think Coste will get supplanted as the backup catcher by Jason Jaramillo by mid-season.

Carlos Ruiz: .268, 11, 66
Adds a little more power, continues to call a good game behind the plate.

Infielders

Eric Bruntlett: .244, 1, 12
Won't play much since there is no longer a need for a defensive replacement late in games.

Greg Dobbs: .268, 8, 44
A decline in playing time means a decline in production.

Pedro Feliz: .253, 28, 77
Great year defensively and great power numbers.

Wes Helms: .233, 4, 13
Hopefully gone by June in a trade that nets the Phils a reliever

Ryan Howard: .270, 51, 144
The power numbers should go back up if he stays healthy all season. Will be in consideration for the MVP

Jimmy Rollins: .286, 24, 79
Can't possibly repeat last years production, but will be his usual consistent self and clubhouse leader.

Chase Utley: .322, 35, 128
MVP! MVP! Those numbers should get it done.

Outfielders
Pat Burrell: .252, 31, 101
Another streaky year from Burrell, probably his last with the Phillies.

Geoff Jenkins: .279, 20, 69
His average will be higher than last years because he will primarily face righties.

So Taguchi: .285, 1, 18
Won't see too many at-bats as a replacement for Burrell in late innings.

Shane Victorino: .277, 8, 44
His numbers will drop slightly, but should steal about 45 bases.

Jayson Werth: .280, 6, 38
Won't be as good as last year, and will see a big reduction in playing time.

So that's what I think will happen this season. Agree or disagree with my predictions? Want to make your own? Include your thoughts in the comment section.

ProFootballTalk.com: Lito Deal Likely to Happen

This certainly doesn't seem like new information, but ProFootballTalk.com put a post up today reminding everyone that Lito Sheppard is still likely to be traded in the near future. There is speculation that the reason the deal hasn't gone down yet is because the Eagles want more for Lito than teams are offering. Shutdown corner Deangelo Hall was traded from the Falcons to the Raiders, and the Falcons received a 2nd and 5th round draft picks. The Eagles would likely use that compensation as a starting point for Lito. We can likely forget about getting an impact receiver in any trade involving Lito.

With the way the Eagles shelled out the huge money to bring in Asante Samuel, it has appeared Lito Sheppard's days with the Eagles have been numbered. Hopefully the Eagles are holding out for a good deal, and they won't just unload him for whatever they can get. If the Eagles can't find what they want, then I hope they hold on to Lito, because if he teams up with Samuel and Sheldon Brown it would make for a scary-good secondary. I would still bet that a deal happens sometime between now and the draft.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Flyers Defeat Islanders in Shootout

Although it took a shootout to make it happen, the Flyers continued their dominance over the New York Islanders by defeating them 4-3. The Flyers were down most of the game, but kept rallying back, and a late goal by Mike Richards forced the game into overtime. After no one scored in OT, Danny Briere scored a spectacular goal to win the shootout.

The Flyers peppered Islanders goaltender Wade Dubielwicz with a season-high 54 shots, but the Islanders goalie was sharp enough to keep his team in the game. Antero Niitymaki, who started in goal despite Martin Biron's ownage of the Islanders, also played well, stopping 27 of the 30 shots he faced, including several big saves in overtime.

The Flyers featured a well-rounded offensive attack tonight, with four different players scoring goals. Richards added an assist to his one goal, and also fired 11 shots on net.

The win temporarily moves the Flyers into a tie with the Rangers for the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference, but the Rangers have played two less games than Philly. The Bruins could also pass the Flyers if they win their next game. The Flyers have three tough games remaining, two with the Penguins and one with the Devils.

Highlights of the game, from Comcast SportsNet:

National League Predictions

Earlier today, I made my American League predictions, where I predicted the Indians would make the World Series. Now it's time to find out who I think they will be playing in my National League Predictions. Can the Phillies overcome their pitching and be a serious threat?

NL East
1. Mets
As much as I don't want to pick them, the addition of Johan Santana puts them over the top. Santana is the best pitcher in baseball, and he posted an ERA of 3.33 last year in the AL. That may dip below 3 now that he gets to face pitchers instead of DH's. The Mets lineup is also one of the best in the NL, although they have weaknesses at catcher and at the corner outfield positions. Jose Reyes is overrated, but he will still steal 70 bases and score a bunch of runs. David Wright is only going to get better, and their bullpen is adequate. It pains me to pick the Mets, but they won't win the division by much.

2. Phillies (Wild Card)
The best lineup in the National League will only be held back by suspect pitching. The rotation has too many question marks to be counted on: Will Jamie Moyer be able to keep it up at age 70? Is Kyle Kendrick going to have a sophomore slump? And, are they really going to pitch Adam Eaton every fifth day? If everyone is healthy, then the bullpen appears to be set. But, at what point will the bullpen be healthy? Brad Lidge is hurt, and Tom Gordon is one sneeze away from landing on the DL. At least we know the bats will produce. There are potentially 5 players that can hit 30 home runs in Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell and Pedro Feliz. Four of them could reach 100 RBI's. Rollins and Shane Victorino could each steal 40 bases. The only negative is there are too many outs at the bottom of the order. Of the players that will play most days, none of them hitting in the 5-8 spots in the lineup hit above .260 last year. The lineup will score a ton of runs, but there are too many all-or-nothing hitters. The Phillies will remain in contention all year, but finish a couple of games behind the Mets.

3. Braves
Everyone's favorite sleeper pick for the East is the Braves. Their offense should be good, with possibly the best 3-4-5 combination of hitters in the league with Chipper Jones, Mark Teixeira and Jeff Francoeur, all potentially 30 homer/100 RBI guys in the middle of the order. But, like the Phillies, their pitching is suspect. John Smoltz and Tim Hudson are a great 1-2 punch, but after that there are a ton of question marks that are similar to the Phillies' issues. Will Tom Glavine be able to keep it up at age 60? Can Mike Hampton bounce back from injuries to be effective? And, who the heck is Jair Jurrjens and can he really be counted on as the 5th starter? In the bullpen, they will be turning the closer duties over to Rafael Soriano, and he should be effective in that role. On the offensive side, they will be relying on Mark Kotsay to stay off the disabled list and play center field every day. Good luck with that. The Braves are good, but they will finish a few games behind the Phillies and out of the playoffs.

4. Nationals
It was tough to pick who will come in 4th in this division, as neither Washington or Florida looks to be any good. I'll go with the Nationals in 4th because at least they have a semblance of a pitching staff. Odalis Perez will be the Opening Day starter, which is a little scary, but they have some quality young pitchers after him, including Jason Bergmann and Shawn Hill. They even have an actual quality closer in Chad Cordero, although he should have been traded for prospects long ago. They don't have much offensively, although Ryan Zimmerman is a future star and Lastings Milledge should be fun to watch. They won't lose 100 games, but they won't come close to .500 either.

5. Marlins
Coming in last by only a few games will be the Marlins. They simply don't have the pitching to be a competitive team. Mark Hendrickson, who won all of 4 games last year, will be the Opening Day starter. Scott Olsen is the only name anyone recognizes from the rotation, and even he will be hard pressed to win 10 games. In the bullpen, Kevin Gregg will once again be the closer, but beyond him there isn't much. Offensively, it will revolve around the top of the order, Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla. Uggla amazingly hit 31 home runs last year, but his average dipped all the way down to .245. Ramirez is the real deal, and will be the best shortstop in the division this year. He can hit for power and average and steal a ton of bases. Look for him to carry the offense on most nights. He may be the only bright spot in a long year for Florida fans.

NL Central
1. Cubs

The Cubs are well-rounded, with solid hitting and pitching. Their rotation goes 6 deep, with Jon Leiber starting the year in the pen. Phillies fans will remember how good Leiber did in that role last year, but the Cubs rotation will nevertheless be good. When Rich Hill is the 4th starter, you know your team is going to contend. In the bullpen, they will hope that Kerry Wood can stay healthy enough to close a few games, but look for Carlos Marmol to get his chance as soon as Wood lands on the DL. The offense is good, but not great. Alfonso Soriano, Derek Lee and Aramis Ramirez make a potent middle of the order, but they are relying on a number of unproven players at the bottom. Who knows what they will get from Kosuke Fukodome, Geovany Soto has promise but is unproven and Felix Pie is nothing worth getting excited about. The Cubs will win the Central because they have the best balance of offense and defense.

2. Brewers
The Brewers have so much young talent, they are a lock to be Central division contenders for the next decade. Rickie Weeks has a surprising amount of pop and tremendous speed and if he can improve his average he will be a star. Prince Fielder is another Ryan Howard, a huge lefty with tremendous power. Ryan Braun, while he is terrible in the field, put together an amazing rookie season, belting 34 homers and hitting .324. Corey Hart, Bill Hall and J.J. Hardy are all young up and comers who have the potential to hit 20 home runs. So why won't they win the division? Pitching. Besides Ben Sheets and Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers lack the starters to compete with the Cubs. They will need to win games 10-9 when guys like Jeff Suppan and Dave Bush are on the mound. And, are they really counting on Eric Gagne to close out games? Did they not watch him implode in Boston last year? With their young offensive firepower, the Brewers could win the NL Central for about a decade straight, but they need just one more year of seasoning.

3. Reds
Another popular sleeper pick to win the division, another team with too many holes to compete. Aaron Harang is the definition of underrated, and Johnny Cueto looks special, but the rest of their pitching staff is too inexperienced or ineffective to get the job done. Offensively, they feature the lousy Corey Patterson in the lead-off role, and continue to employ offensive stalwart Dave Ross. The middle of the order has a ton of power, with Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn and Brandon Phillips all capable of hitting another 30+ homers this year. Their bullpen was also solidified with the acquisition of Francisco Cordero, so while I do think this team is improving, they just won't challenge for the division title.

4. Astros
What were they thinking hiring Ed Wade? Did they watch him destroy the Phillies with a series of boneheaded moves? He certainly made a ton of moves this offseason, including bringing in a cleaned up Miguel Tejada and former Phillie Michael Bourn, but the Astros will be lucky to sniff .500. The fact that they have Bourn penciled in at the leadoff spot is evidence enough that this team isn't any good. They have some serious power with Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and Miguel Tejada, but those three are not getting any younger. Hunter Pence should be fun to watch, and he should score a ton of runs hitting ahead of the big boppers. Ed Wade completely re-worked the Astros bullpen, jettisoning long-time closer Brad Lidge and replacing him with Jose Valverde, but he did nothing to improve their weak rotation. Roy Oswalt is a force, but the rest of the starters are below average. Of course, Wade's dumbest move of all could have been signing Kazuo Matsui to a 16.5 million dollar contract.

5. Cardinals
Someone has to come in 5th place, so I guess the Cardinals will avoid the cellar. The Cardinals look shockingly bad on paper, with nothing on offense besides Albert Pujols, and no star pitchers besides Jason Isringhausen. Everyone else on the team is mediocre at best. Only three hitters hit as many as 20 home runs last year (Pujols, Troy Glaus, Chris Duncan), and they return only one pitcher with an ERA below 4.33, Adam Wainright. Their offense will feature Rick Ankiel hitting cleanup, and the always dangerous Skip Schumaker leading off. And can someone tell me how trading Scott Rolen for Troy Glaus straight-up is a smart move? I know they had to get rid of Rolen, but Glaus is a stiff at this point in his career. I feel bad for Cardinals fans, probably the best there are, that they have to watch this team all summer. Pujols should be furious that the team is wasting one of his prime years.

6. Pirates
We know they are awful, but how could they make no roster changes after winning 68 games last year? They didn't even try to bring anyone in or make any significant moves? Are they just hoping the team will get magically better? The sad thing is, the only reason this team has a chance to win 70 games is because they are in such a bad division. Imagine if they were in the AL East, they would be lucky to win 40 games. Jason Bay is their whole offense, and he hit .247 last year. They do have some interesting young pitchers, but few of them would make the rotation of any other team. Steelers season will come sooner than you think, Pirates fans.

NL West
1. Diamondbacks
This division was the toughest to predict, but Arizona will edge out the rest with their tremendous rotation. They feature the best 1-2 punch in the majors with Brandon Webb and Dan Haren, and at the back end they have the ancient Randy Johnson who still can bring the heat and has something to prove. They have a strange offense; their lead-off hitter led the teams in homers (Chris Young, 32), while their cleanup hitter led the team in stolen bases (Eric Byrnes, 50), but they have just enough firepower to win a bunch of 3-2 games. Look for Conor Jackson to break out and raise his average above .300 and hit 20+ bombs. The D'backs will win the division on the basis of their stud arms, but only by a small margin.

2. Rockies
Don't expect another miracle out of the Rockies. This is a team on the rise, but last seasons run to the World Series was more a mirage than a trend. Their lineup remains potent, with MVP candidate Matt Holliday leading the way. The club has a good mix of players, with young stars Garrett Atkins and Troy Tulowitzki countered by grizzled veterans like Todd Helton. Their pitching is underrated, with a number of quality young arms carrying the load. Jeff Francis will continue to anchor the staff, and he should once again be a threat to win 20 games. They do have questions at closer, but between Manny Corpas and Brian Fuentes, they should be fine. The Rockies are a solid up-and-coming team, but they are a few pieces away from being a perennial favorite.

3. Padres
Just like Arizona, the Padres feature a stellar one-two punch in their rotation, with Jake Peavy and Chris Young coming off great years. From there, though, there is a big drop-off. Greg Maddux is the third starter, and he is solid but unspectacular. Two former Phillies, Randy Wolf and Justin Germano round out the rotation, but neither is anything to get excited about. Offensively, the Padres don't put up a ton of runs, not that it's possible in their park anyway. Adrian Gonzalez might be the only guy to hit 30 homers and drive in 100 runs that no one has ever heard of, and Khalil Greene also had a strong, under-the-radar year. They feature another former Phillie at second base, Tadahito Iguchi, who should continue to be an average player. Their outfield is weak, with two aging stars, Brian Giles and Jim Edmonds, attempting to avoid injuries and father time. With their pitching, they will finish slightly above .500, but they won't be a serious threat to win the division.

4. Dodgers
What are they thinking giving Andruw Jones that huge salary? Do they realize he hit .222 last year and covers about half the ground in the outfield that he used to? The Dodgers don't have any major weaknesses, unless you count the fact they have no third baseman, but there really isn't anything special about this team either. Their pitching seems good enough, with Brad Penny and Derek Lowe, but are they really counting on Esteban Loaiza? Offensively, Russell Martin could be the best catcher of our time, but what are they thinking keeping Juan Pierre playing every day? They are an average team, and should finish around .500.

5. Giants
If not for the Orioles, this would be the worst team in baseball. Why in the world did Aaron Rowand actually choose to play for this team? Oh, right, they offered him a ton of money. I like Rowand and all, but when he is being counted on to be your cleanup hitter, you aren't a very good team. The team still features a cast of players that should have retired long ago dragging them down. Seriously, Rich Aurilia is going to play every day? At least they have some amazing young pitchers, like Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, otherwise this team would be a total waste. Kind of like all the money they gave to Barry Zito.

NLDS:
Cubs over Phillies
Mets over Diamonbacks

NLCS:
Cubs over Mets

World Series:
Cubs over Indians
The Curse is finally over for the Cubs.

MVP: Chase Utley
He will continue the streak of Phillie MVP's.

CY Young: Johan Santana
Will find the NL much easier and dominate the league.

Agree or disagree with my predictions? Want to make your own? Include your thoughts in the comment section. Check back tomorrow for my Phillies individual player projections.

American League Predictions

With the official Opening Day tomorrow night (I refuse to count those games in Japan), I figured it was time to go on record with my predictions for the 2008 baseball season. I will start with the American League in this post, and then later today I will post my predictions for the National League. Finally, tomorrow, I will make predictions for each player on the Phillies, plus go more in-depth with the National League East. Let's get started with the AL.


AL East
1. Red Sox
The defending Champs lose no one of significance from their roster, except an old Curt Schilling. Don't underestimate how good Manny Ramirez is going to be in his walk year. They still have a great blend of youth (Ellsbury, Pedroia) coupled with veterans who can still get it done (Lowell, Varitek), the only thing that could hold them back is if Josh Beckett continues to have injury issues.

2. Yankees
I'm not as high on this team as most people. They have so little pitching that if one or both of Andy Pettite or Mike Mussina finally breaks down, this team is dead. They are relying on Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, who haven't proven anything yet, in the back end of the rotation, and Joba Chamberlain is good, but overrated. The lineup is great, as always, but they are going to lose a lot of 8-7 games.

3. Blue Jays
Toronto could have been a threat for second place before they had a slew of injuries, including our old friend Scott Rolen, who will miss a month. Their lineup has some good mashers, but they could have found a better leadoff hitter than David Eckstein. Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett keep this team around .500.

4. Rays
The gap between the Blue Jays and Rays is closing. Tampa Bay has three good, young pitchers in Scott Kazmir, James Shields and Matt Garza, and their lineup is a good combination of speed (Carl Crawford) and power (Carlos Pena). I still can't believe Pena hit 46 home runs last year. The Rays would be even better if they let Evan Longoria start the season in the majors, but they are trying to save money by keeping him in AAA. This team will approach .500 for the season, but fall just short.

5. Orioles
The worst team in baseball. Quick, name an Oriole besides Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts. Better yet, name their Opening Day starting pitcher. If you answered Jeremy Guthrie, sadly, you are correct. The only thing Orioles fans have to look forward to is watching Adam Jones, who the O's got for Erik Bedard, blossom into a star player. This team will likely lose 100 games, especially with Kevin Millar as their cleanup hitter.

AL Central
1. Indians
People seem to forget that this team was one win away from the World Series last year. Everyone of importance returns to the team that has the best balance of pitching and hitting of any team in the American League. Their rotation goes 4 deep with guys that can win 15+ games (Sabathia, Carmona, Westbrook, Byrd), and there are 6 guys in their lineup who will hit 20+ home runs (Sizemore, Hafner, Martinez, Peralta, Garko, Blake). While everyone is talking about the Tigers and their great offseason, the Indians quietly stood pat and are hoping another year of experience will help their young guys reach their full potential.

2. Tigers (Wild Card)
The lineup is amazing. To put it in perspective, they will have former MVP Ivan Rodriquez, while he isn't the star player he once was, batting 9th! This team will easily score 1000 runs. However, they will also give up a ton of runs. Their pitching staff is suspect at best. Everyone talks about the addition of Dontrelle Willis, but do you realize he had an ERA of 5.17 in the National League last year? How high will his ERA be now that he has to pitch to DH's? And, are they really going to count on Todd Jones as their closer again? Lastly, don't underestimate the short-term impact Curtis Granderson's injury will have on the offense. Not having him setting the table for the big bats will slow the offense down.

3. White Sox
This team just isn't that good. I wanted to put them lower, but the Twins and Royals are even worse. This will probably be the year that Ozzie Guillen implodes trying to will this mediocre them to victory. The lineup is still pretty good, and Nick Swisher will make a solid impact hitting if he ends up hitting in the #6 spot (he's not a leadoff hitter), but this team is too old (Jose Contreras has to be at least 60) and didn't do enough to improve their pitching in the offseason (Gavin Floyd is their #5 starter!). They will finish below .500.

4. Twins
The Twins are a tough team to gauge because they are always better on the field than they look on paper. Losing Johan Santana and having Francisco Liriano start the season in the minors would kill most team’s pitching, but expect Scott Baker and Boof Bonser to be adequate replacements. Their hitting doesn't look that strong, either, but I bet Delmon Young has a big year. If speedy Carlos Gomez, a prospect the got from the Mets, can learn to hit a little, this team should remain competitive and will finish only slightly behind the White Sox.

5. Royals
Many publications are predicting the Royals emerge from the AL Central cellar, but I'm not buying it. What do they have? Pitching? Nope, Gil Meche is their best starter. Hitting? Forget it, Jose Guillen is their cleanup hitter. If all of the young guys actually produce they have a chance to rise from the cellar, but when has anything gone right for the Royals?

AL West
1. Mariners

Seattle quietly had a really good offseason. With the addition of Erik Bedard, the rotation is deep, and the always underrated Brad Wilkerson will add a lot to an already solid lineup. This team just doesn't have any holes. They have Ichiro for speed, Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre for power, solid catching with Kenji Johjima, and an ace closer in J.J. Putz. They will squeak by the injury-riddled Angels to win the division this year.

2. Angels
Two weeks ago I would have picked them to win the division without even thinking twice. Now, with the possibly career-ending injury to 18-game winner Kelvin Escobar and 19-game winner John Lackey out for about a month, the pitching looks incredibly weak. It'll be Jon Garland, unproven Ervin Santana, streaky Jered Weaver and not much else in their rotation. The hitters will do their thing, and they will feature a really good defensive outfield (Matthews Jr., Hunter and Vlad), but you don't win without pitching. After a slow start, they will come on late in the season but miss the playoffs by a few games.

3. A's
This team is better than you think. They traded away a slew of talent, some great (Dan Haren), some old (Mark Kotsay) and some overrated (Nick Swisher), but they still have some pieces left. Catcher Kurt Suzuki is great behind the plate, although he needs to learn how to hit major league pitching. First baseman Daric Barton and center fielder Chris Denorfia are good young hitters who will do some damage. Plus, the pitching staff isn't totally decimated, with Joe Blanton and Rich Harden leading the way. There is a decent mix of youth and veterans on this team, and as long as Billy Beane doesn't trade everyone away, they will be competitive. Look at their first two games against the Red Sox. They would have won both if usually reliable Huston Street hadn't blown the first game. Expect them to flirt with .500 but fall short by the end of the year.

4. Rangers
This team has no pitching. Kevin Millwood, who had a 5.16 ERA is their "ace". Former Phillie Vicente Padilla, whose ERA approached 6 last year, is their #2. Their closer is C.J. Wilson. They brought in Eddie Guardado to be their setup guy. They could easily give up 1000 runs. Their hitting isn't that great, either, especially when they are relying on crazy Milton Bradley to hit in the middle of their order. Feel bad for Michael Young, their talented second baseman. It's going to be a long year in Texas.

ALDS:
Red Sox over Tigers
Indians over Mariners

ALCS:
Indians over Red Sox
This time the Indians won't choke.

MVP: Alex Rodriguez
Simply the best player in baseball, he'll hit 50 bombs and drive in 150 again.

CY Young: C.C. Sabathia
Another repeat winner, but expect 20+ wins before he becomes a free agent at seasons end.

Agree or disagree with my predictions? Want to make your own? Include your thoughts in the comment section. Check back later for my National League predictions.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Devils down Flyers in Shootout

The Flyers just can't win in New Jersey. It took a shootout, but the Devils won their 12th straight home game against the Flyers, 5-4. The Flyers did well to come back from a 3-1 deficit to earn the point, but couldn't earn the all important second point in the shootout. The point pulls the Flyers past the idle Boston Bruins into the 7th seed in the East, but they remain two points behind the Rangers, who have played one less game.

The Flyers featured a well-balanced attack, with 4 different players scoring. Mike Knuble scored the game tying goal late in the third period following a sweet pass by Mike Richards. Danny Briere and Vinny Prospal continued to show their on-ice chemistry on the first goal of the game, where Briere slid the puck to Prospal who blasted it home. For the Devils, Johnny Oduya scored two goals, and Jamie Langenbrunner notched the clinching shootout goal.

The game also featured a spirited fight between Randy Jones, who just returned from an injury, and Mike Mottau in the first period. The fight seemed pretty even, and both players received fighting majors and matching minors, with Mottau's minor being an unsportsmanlike conduct for pulling Jones' hair.

The Flyers have four games left, the next one against the Islanders tomorrow, and then a pair of games against the Penguins next week with the Devils sandwiched in between. The Flyers appear to be a solid bet to make the playoffs, unfortunately it will likely be in the 7th or 8th seed, meaning an early playoff exit might be inevitable.

Highlights of the game, from Comcast SportsNet:

Sixers handed a dose of reality by the Suns

Well, the good times weren't going to last forever for the Sixers. The Suns gave them a little dose of reality, beating them 107-93. The Sixers fell behind early when they missed their first 13 shots, and made numerous efforts to get back in the game, but the Suns proved to be too good. At one point, the Sixers were down by 24, but they managed to pull within 10 in the third quarter before the Suns went on a run to widen their lead again. The loss, coupled with the Raptors beating the Knicks, pushes the Sixers down into the 7th seed in the East.

Andre Iguodala had an off night, shooting 3 of 12 from the field and finishing with only 13 points, although he did have a highlight dunk, which you can watch below, in the third quarter. Andre Miller had a solid game on paper, finishing with 16 points and 10 assists, but he also shot poorly from the field, making 6 of 17 shots. The Suns had a balanced attack, with 5 players finishing with double digits in points. Steve Nash had only 5 points, but he was still solid distributing the ball and finished with 10 assists.

The Sixers next game is Sunday against possible first round opponent Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The schedule lightens up after that game, with a game against the Nets and a home and home with the Hawks on tap for next week.

The lone highlight of the game, another amazing dunk by Andre Iguodala, this time over the helpless Grant Hill:

Phillies claim Tim Lahey, sign Chris Woodward

The Phillies made a flurry of minor moves today, none of which will get Phillies fans too excited.

Tim Lahey, a righthander, was claimed off waivers of the Chicago Cubs and placed on the 25 man roster. Lahey, who had been with the Minnesota Twins, was selected by the Cubs in the Rule 5 draft last winter. Lahey is 26 and has never pitched in the majors, making this a questionable move. He spent most of last season in Double A, where he had an 8-4 record with a 3.45 ERA.

Is Lahey really the final piece to a championship puzzle? Rotoworld.com calls him a "weak choice" for the Phillies bullpen, and they go on to speculate that he will likely end up back with the Twins. Lahey had a mediocre spring, pitching 11 innings and posting an ERA of 6.55. It's a curious move, seeing as how the Phillies were saying all along they wanted another lefthanded pitcher, and Aaron Fultz, Mike Stanton and Rudy Seanez were all recently made available.

To make room for Lahey, the Phillies outrighted J.D. Durbin, Chris Snelling, and Ray Olmedo to the minors. Durbin and Snelling were recently waived, so they both must have cleared waivers, otherwise they couldn't have been sent down. Barring any other moves, this means that the Phillies will go with 11 pitchers on Opening Day, and Wes Helms will be on the roster. When Brad Lidge comes back, Helms, or even possibly Lahey, would be the first to go.

The Phillies also signed infielder Chris Woodward to a minor league deal. Woodward is a nine-year veteran who spent last season with the Atlanta Braves. He played for the Yankees this spring, and hit a solid .393 in 28 at bats. Woodward is a career .243 hitter who is the very definition of a utility player, having played every position except pitcher and catcher. Woodward is very similar to Eric Bruntlett, and outside of injuries or trades, he is likely to spend the entire season in the minors. He could just be a depth signing, or the Phillies could be close to moving Helms or Bruntlett.

Barring trades, the Phillies appear to be set for Opening Day. The acquisition of Tim Lahey looks disappointing, so let's hope Pat Gillick has something else up his sleeve.

Two Big Games Tonight

It's been a good week for Philly fans. The Sixers and Flyers have both been on a roll lately, with neither team losing since last Friday, March 21st. Both teams have gone a long way to solidifying their playoff positions, with the Sixers becoming near locks to see postseason action. Both teams have tough games tonight, however, with the Flyers traveling to New Jersey to take on their nemesis the Devils, while the Sixers welcome in Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns.

The Flyers, despite winning 4 games in a row, will need to finish strong if they want to make the playoffs. With 5 games left, they are currently tied for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference with the Boston Bruins, and they are only two points ahead of the Washington Capitals. There is still room for the Flyers to move up, as a win tonight would put them only one point behind the Devils, who currently are sitting in the 5th seed. Of course, winning tonight is no easy task, as the Flyers haven't won in New Jersey in four years. For a great preview of tonights game, take a look at Bill Meltzer's write up at Hockeybuzz.com.

If the Flyers want to do any damage in the playoffs, they will need to finish with the 6th seed or better. Finishing 7th or 8th would give them a first round matchup with either the Canadiens or Penguins, two teams they don't match up well with.

The Sixers are in better standing after winning 11 of their last 13 games. They currently have the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference, a half game behind the Washington Wizards for the 5th seed. The Sixers are nearly assured of a playoff spot, as they are 5 1/2 games ahead of the Hawks, the 8th seeded team in the East, with 10 games left to play. The Sixers also have room to move up, although it is unlikely, as they sit 3 games behind Cleveland for the 4th seed.

The Suns have come a long way since they lost to the Sixers back on March 1st. Shaquille O'Neal has acclimated himself to the offense, and they have won 7 of their last 9 games. However, they have lost two in a row to the Celtics and Pistons, two teams the Sixers have beaten recently. Either way, it should be a highly entertaining game, as both teams like to push the ball. Expect the winning team to score at least 120 points. The Sixers are a better defensive team than the Suns, but the question will be whether they can keep pace with them offensively.

Should be a great night of games, with even the Phillies playing a game at Citizens Bank against the Blue Jays. Also, don't forget that there are more college basketball games tonight, with Villanova looking to knock off Kansas. Have your remote ready and prepare for some great action.

In the meantime, be sure to vote in the polls to the right. How do you think the Sixers and Flyers will finish out their seasons?

Snelling on waivers, Phillies interested in Freel?

Another roster move, and a confusing rumor as we approach Opening Day:

*Chris Snelling placed on waivers It appears that Wes Helms has won the last bench spot over Chris Snelling, who was subsequently waived. Snelling can't be sent to the minors until he clears waivers, so right now he is up for grabs. There are plenty of teams that are looking for outfield depth, so I would expect Snelling to get claimed.

*Phillies interested in Ryan Freel? Here is a rumor that makes very little sense, from MLBTraderumors.com. The Reds have been shopping Ryan Freel all spring, and it appears that the Phillies, along with the Twins, are showing interest in acquiring the versatile Freel, who can play second, third and all three outfield positions. I would be all for the Phillies getting Freel, a hustle guy who steals a ton of bases. Unfortunately, there is nowhere for him to play. The Phillies are set in the infield, and they just waived Snelling, which still leaves them with five outfielders. Freel would be an upgrade over someone like So Taguchi, but I just can't see Pat Gillick making a move for a player that has no position to play. Also, the Reds likely want pitching for Freel, and the Phils aren't exactly stacked in that department.

There are still rumors circulating that the Phillies are trying to find a taker for Wes Helms, with the Giants still in the mix. I don't have high hopes that Gillick will find a taker.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Eaton, Gordon in midseason form

With only a handful of exhibition games left before Opening Day on Monday, the Phillies should be rounding into form. The hitters should be kicking it into high gear, and the pitchers should no longer be looking to "make their pitches", but instead looking for results. Someone forgot to tell Adam Eaton and Tom Gordon that the season starts next week, because both players got rocked today in the Phillies 14-5 loss to the Tigers.

Eaton, the Phils 5th starter by default, pitched 4 2/3 innings and gave up 6 earned runs, upping his spring ERA to 7.41. Flash Gordon, the closer until Brad Lidge is healthy enough to return, gave up 6 earned runs in 1/3 of an inning to bring his ERA to 12.38. They were facing a scary-good Tigers team with no easy outs in their lineup, but there is no excuse to be getting shelled like that so close to the season. We've come to expect this kind of outing from Eaton, but the Phils are relying on Gordon to hold down the 9th until Lidge comes back. Even after Lidge returns, Gordon is supposed to be the setup guy, but he doesn't appear ready for any high leverage situations.

The only positive thing to happen today for the Phillies was a 3-run homerun by new third baseman Pedro Feliz. It was Feliz's 5th homer of the spring, and he looks like he will be a potent addition to the bottom of the lineup. He's going to hit about .250, but he will also hit 25-30 homeruns.

Here are "highlights" from today's ugly game, courtesy of Comcast SportsNet:

ESPN Writers don't believe in the Phillies

ESPN has been making their baseball predictions this week, and they have given very little love to the Phillies. Here is the predicted order of finish for the big three teams in the NL East, according to these five ESPN experts:

Jayson Stark: Braves, Mets, Phillies
Tim Kurkjian: Mets, Phillies, Braves
Buster Olney: Braves, Mets, Phillies
Keith Law: Mets, Braves, Phillies
Steve Phillips: Mets, Braves, Phillies

Everyone agrees that the Mets, Phillies and Braves will be battling all season for the top of the division, but not one of them thinks the Phillies will actually repeat as NL East Champs? Plus, only Kurkjian thinks the Phils will even be the Wild Card winner. At least they all agree that the Phillies have the best lineup in the National League, but we all knew that already.

Good thing none of these preseason predictions mean anything.

Chase Utley for MVP!

Here is a cool piece that Jayson Stark and ESPN put together discussing Chase Utley and his chances of getting the NL MVP award this season. It includes interviews with Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Utley himself, and plenty of references to Utley's game face.

J. D. Durbin placed on waivers, Blackley clears

A few more minor moves today as the Phillies prepare for Opening Day next week.

*J. D. Durbin waived Looks like the Phillies finally got fed up with J.D. Durbin's 12.33 spring ERA, because they placed him on waivers today. This move was a long time coming given how terrible he has looked this spring. This also means the Phillies roster is down to 10 pitchers who will be available Opening Day, with Brad Lidge being #11 when he is ready about a week into the season. Seems pretty likely that the Phils will try to bring in someone, whether its through a trade or through waivers, to fill that last bullpen spot. They should easily be able to find someone better than Durbin.

There is still a chance we will see Durbin pitch again for the Phillies. Durbin has bounced around between so many teams already, chances are very few are still interested in his "potential". Durbin is only 26, and has already been a part of the Twins, Diamondbacks, Red Sox and Phillies organizations. If Durbin clears waivers, the Phillies will send him down to AAA, which is probably where he belonged all along.

If Durbin is really done as a Phillie, his highlight has to be the shutout he pitched against the San Diego Padres last July. Of course, he will more likely be remembered for his Myspace page and his incredibly ironic nickname, "Real Deal" Durbin.

*Travis Blackley clears waivers On Tuesday, Travis Blackley was placed on waivers, and today we learn that he has cleared and has been outrighted to AAA Lehigh Valley. Blackley was originally selected in the Rule 5 draft from the San Francisco Giants, who chose not to claim him back, allowing him to return to the Phillies. Blackley is a lefty and he is only 25, so he could still have a future as a major leaguer, although probably in the bullpen.

Simon Gagne making progress, could return if Flyers make Stanley Cup Finals

Simon Gagne, who has been out since February 10th with lingering concussion symptoms, has been making progress in his return to the ice. He has been advised to sit out the remainder of the season, but Gagne believes that he could return to the ice in the unlikely event that the Flyers make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.

In other words, we should expect to see Gagne sometime next fall. If the Flyers somehow do make it to the Finals this season, I would hope that Gagne is kept far away from the ice. One more big hit could end his career, and the last thing he should be doing is trying to make his comeback in an intense Stanley Cup game.

There is still a chance that Gagne will be able to return to his 40-goal form if he is fully healthy again. His career is quickly heading down the Eric Lindros path, where he unfortunately might become the next promising player whose career was cut short. Gagne should learn from Lindros and not rush his return to the ice.

After all, we painfully remember what happened when Eric Lindros tried to make his comeback in the Stanley Cup playoffs in May 2000:

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sixers Dominate Bulls

The Sixers did something tonight that good teams are supposed to do: beat up on the bad teams. The Sixers completely dominated the Bulls in every facet of the game, winning 121-99. It was a great overall team effort, with good defensive plays leading to tons of fast break points. There was no one hero tonight, as several guys stepped up and had good games. Andre Miller was awesome again, nearly getting a triple double with 9 points, 8 boards and a whopping 18 assists. Andre Iguodala also had a solid game, picking up 9 assists, 4 steals and 21 points, including this monster dunk. Louis Williams led the team in scoring with 23 points, and Thaddeus Young also netted 20.

The win helps the Sixers temporarily move into a virtual tie for the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference with the Washington Wizards, who will break the tie when they play the Sonics later tonight. The win was also important for the Sixers because it keeps them just ahead of the Raptors, who knocked off the Pistons tonight.

In the coming week, the Sixers schedule gets tougher, including their next two games against the Suns and Cavaliers. This team is for real, folks, so expect them to step up and continue to give these top teams a challenge.

Highlights of the win, from Comcast SportsNet:

Iguodala with another huge dunk!

It's halftime in the Bulls/Sixers game, and the Sixers appear to be in control. Andre Iguodala is having another great game, highlighted by this massive dunk:

Myers Blanks Yanks to Continue His Strong Spring; Benson Staying

Converted closer Brett Myers seems to be enjoying his return to being a starter. In Grapefruit League play today, Myers pitched 5 shutout innings, giving up only 2 hits and striking out 3, to lead the Phillies over the Yankees, 4-0. Drew Carpenter, a second round pick by the Phillies back in 2006, completed the shutout by pitching 4 scoreless innings, striking out 6 batters. Jimmy Rollins led the offense for the Phils with 2 RBI's.

Myers, with an ERA of 1.13, has been by far the best Phillies pitcher this spring, proving he was the right choice to be the Opening Day starter. Despite giving up 13 runs Monday to the Yankees, the Phillies pitching has turned things around lately. The only starter that seems to still be struggling is Kyle Kendrick, who gave up 5 runs in 5 innings in his last start.

In other pitching news, Kris Benson has decided to remain with the team despite the fact the Phillies decided not to add him to their 40 man roster. Benson had a short window when he could have opted out of his contract and tried to join another team, but instead he chose to stay, citing his comfort level with his manager and pitching coach. Benson remains several weeks away from returning, but he will be a nice insurance option whenever he finally gets healthy.

Who is Kris Wilson?

The answer: likely the newest Eagle. Kris Wilson is visiting the Eagles today, and the team has announced they will hold a press conference at 3 pm today, where they will likely discuss their signing of the free agent. According to PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Wilson is a tight end, H-back and fullback. He is a local kid, from Lancaster, who spent the last four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. He is coming off his best season in 2007, where he started 12 games, and caught 24 passes for 180 yards. He played a lot of fullback last season for the Chiefs and even had 3 carries for 7 yards. He also has 4 career touchdown receptions.

So where will Wilson fit in with the Eagles? Is he being brought in as a third string tight end, or as competition for the recently signed Dan Klecko for fullback? Likely he will compete for both spots, and he will make the team if he shows he can be a useful special teamer. The Eagles already have L.J. Smith and Brent Celek entrenched into the top two tight end spots, so Wilson would have to compete with Matt Schobel for the third tight end spot.

The Eagles roster is rounding out nicely. With the recent signing of Rocky Boiman, they seem set on the defensive side of the ball, and the signing of Kris Wilson would help to solidify the offense. There are still a few more needs, like another running back and a top flight receiver, but those can always be addressed with the draft.

The Eagles are making a good showing this off-season, starting with the big splash of Asante Samuel and then finishing with lots of smaller, necessary depth players. Hopefully this all translates into a return to the playoffs.

Here is a short highlight of Wilson plowing through the Titans defense to score a touchdown.

UPDATE: Wilson has reportedly signed with the Eagles to a three year deal.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Chris Webber to Retire

Former Sixer Chris Webber, who returned to the NBA just a few short months ago with the Golden State Warriors, is about to call it a career. Webber, citing more problems with his injured knees, will announce his retirement at a press conference tomorrow afternoon. Webber hadn't played for three weeks, contemplating his future while struggling with his knee. Webber only played 9 games with the Warriors in his comeback attempt this season, and looked out of place in the Warriors run-and-gun offense, averaging only 3.9 points and 3.5 boards per game.

Webber's retirement will not cause Philly fans to shed a tear for the former Sixer who spent portions of 3 seasons in Philadelphia. Webber was brought over from Sacramento to be the complementary player that Allen Iverson never had, and instead he was a terrible teammate who quit on the team, causing the Sixers to buy him out. When he re-emerged in Detroit later that same season, Webber all of the sudden found his form again, playing a key role for a contending Pistons team. Sixers fans will never forgive Webber for his lack of effort and the way he forced himself out of town. It's safe to say he won't get a reception anything like AI's if he shows up at the Wachovia Center.

As Webber's career comes to a close, it's unfortunate that the man who never won a championship will always be remembered for calling a timeout his team didn't have.

Flyers Edge Rangers in Overtime

As the season is winding down, the Flyers continue to play solid hockey at just the right time. They won their 4th straight game tonight, 2-1 over the Rangers in overtime. The win helps the Flyers to stay ahead of Boston and in the 7th seed, and pulls them to within one point of the Rangers for the 6th seed in the East.

The story of the game, once again, was the play of Martin Biron. Biron was sharp all night, making numerous big saves to keep the Flyers in the game. The Rangers scored early on a Jaromir Jagr goal, and then Biron shut the door for the rest of the game. The Flyers offense looked stagnant throughout, until Danny Briere and Vinny Prospal showed some of their brilliant chemistry on a sweet give-and-go goal to force overtime. The Flyers completely dominated the play in overtime, getting several chances until Jason Smith fed Mike Richards up ice, and Richards slid the puck past Henrik Lundqvist for the game winner.

The Flyers have started their tough final stretch off on the right foot, winning the first three of their final eight games against Atlantic Division foes. Of course, the Flyers still have four more games against the two best teams in the Atlantic, the Devils and the Penguins. If they can continue their solid play, the playoffs are a certainty, with the 6th seed an outside possibility.

Highlights of the game, via ComcastSportsNet:

Sports Illustrated: No Playoffs for Phillies

Predicting what's going to happen in a 162 game baseball season is nearly impossible, but basically every major sports publication takes a stab at it this time of year. Sports Illustrated is the latest to make their predictions, and there are a few eyebrow raisers.

The Phillies were picked to finish in second in the NL East, 5 games behind the Mets and 1 game ahead of the Braves. The Phils also were picked to finish 2 games behind the Diamondbacks for the Wild Card, meaning they would be sitting out the postseason.

The rest of the National League goes the way most expect it to, with the Rockies and Cubs winning their divisions. In the playoffs, SI believes the Cubs will make it all the way to the World Series. Seems reasonable, although the Mets are the better team on paper.

The Yankees are the surprise pick to have the best record in baseball, and win their division, forcing the Red Sox to be the Wild Card team. Has SI looked at the Yankees pitchers lately? If you thought the Phillies had bad pitching, take one look at the Yankees staff and be glad we don't have to rely on two old, decrepit pitchers like Mike Mussina and Andy Pettite. SI sees the rest of the AL shaping up much like most experts do, with the Tigers and Angels winning their divisions. They picked the Tigers to not only win the AL, but the World Series. With that lineup, the Tigers should be the prohibitive favorite.

Take all of these predictions with a grain of salt, but most "experts" predict the Phillies will be on the outside looking in come playoff time. The Phils have mostly been picked second or third in their division with everyone having qualms about their pitching staff. I am not sure how those same people can be so confident that the Mets aging starters and lousy corner outfielders will get the job done, but we won't have to wait long to find out.

Only 6 more days 'til the Phillies season starts!

Phillies Roster Cut Down to 27

The Phillies made three more player moves today, cutting their camp roster down to 27 players. Pitcher Travis Blackley, a Rule 5 pick, was placed on waivers. Vic Darensbourg and Gary Knotts, a pair of journeymen relievers, were reassigned to the minor league camp. None of these moves comes as a surprise, although there had been some rumblings at Beerleaguer.com that Darensbourg was deserving of a roster spot. Blackley has done nothing to prove he belongs in the majors, with a 7.27 ERA and a WHIP of 1.73 this spring.

According to Todd Zolecki of the The Phillies Zone, here is the Phillies current roster:

Pitchers (11):
Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, Kyle Kendrick, Adam Eaton, Tom Gordon, J.C. Romero, Ryan Madson, Chad Durbin, Clay Condrey and J.D. Durbin.

Catchers (2):
Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste.

Infielders (8):
Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Pedro Feliz, Greg Dobbs, Eric Bruntlett, Wes Helms and Ray Olmedo.

Outfielders (6):
Pat Burrell, Shane Victorino, Geoff Jenkins, Jayson Werth, So Taguchi and Chris Snelling.

The Phillies will need to part with at least two more of these players before Opening Day on Tuesday. One likely cut will be Ray Olmedo, but the other will be either Chris Snelling or Wes Helms. It's surprising that J.D. Durbin still has a spot on the roster, given his terrible spring. Zolecki speculates that if the Phillies add another pitcher, Durbin will be shipped down to the minors. I am definitely glad to see the Phillies keep only 11 pitchers instead of carrying a 12th pitcher who has little business being in the majors. The extra bench player, whether it's Helms or Snelling, will come in handy in extra inning games or in big pinch-hitting situations.

It will be interesting to see what the Phillies do with their final two moves, and if they can pull off a trade before the season starts. It's very unlikely that the Phils will be able to acquire an impact player at this time, but there are plenty of useful players available that can be small pieces to the puzzle.

Phillies Not Interested in Fultz, Zagurski's Season May be Over

Just a couple of quick Phillies news items as we close in on Opening Day:

*Phillies don't want Fultz
Following up on yesterday's story, Aaron Fultz was released by the Cleveland Indians, but, according to assistant GM Ruben Amaro, the Phillies aren't interested in adding the former Phillie to the bullpen. It seems like the perfect fit: a lefty who would basically cost the Phillies nothing. They must have someone else in their plans.

*Zagurski may need surgery It may be a while before we see former fan favorite Mike Zagurski pitching for the Phillies again. According to Phillies.com, Zagurski may need Tommy John surgery, meaning he would miss all of the 2008 season and wouldn't be able to pitch again for at least a year. Zagurski has been having trouble with his elbow during the spring, and is currently on the DL. Zagurski didn't figure to be a big part of the bullpen this year, but it he could have developed into a solid bullpen option down the road. This surgery will be a huge setback for his develpment.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Andre Iguodala Throws it Down!

Great win tonight over the Celtics. Great game by Andre Iguodala, including this monster dunk:

Sixers Stun Celtics With Huge Comeback Win

In a game that looked lost, the Sixers went on an improbable 19-0 fourth quarter run to knock off the team with the best record in the NBA, the Boston Celtics, 95-90. The Celtics looked in control pretty much the whole way, leading by as much as 11 points, until they went cold in the fourth quarter and missed 11 straight field goals. Andre Iguodala led the way for the Sixers with 28 points, including 10 straight during their 19 point run. Iguodala is looking more and more like the star we all hoped he would become.

This game was a combination of the Celtics playing terrible down the stretch and the Sixers playing their best ball of the season. Every shot by the Celtics was contested, and they went nearly 7 minutes without scoring. It was the Sixers most impressive win of the season: a huge comeback on the road against the best team in the NBA.

The win moved the Sixers past the idle Toronto Raptors into the 6th spot in the Eastern Conference. They still remain one game behind the Wizards for the 5th seed. Next up for the surging Sixers are the slumping Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, a game they should be able to win to continue their playoff drive.

Revisiting the Abreu Trade

The Hardball Times posted a great article today that looks back on the Phillies trade of Bobby Abreu to the Yankees back in July 2006. Now that 20 months have passed since the trade, the article weighs in on the impact for both teams and comes to the conclusion that there was no real winner. While the Yankees got the better players (don't forget the late Cory Lidle was part of the deal), the Phillies got rid of Abreu's salary and his lackadaisical attitude. It was no coincidence the team made a major turnaround immediately after Abreu was shipped out. His removal allowed new leaders to emerge, like Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, who had a passion for winning, unlike the nonchalant Abreu.

While it would have been nice for the Phillies to have gotten something of value for Abreu, few Phillies fans would want him back in Philadelphia. It's just too bad the four players they got from the Yankees, Matt Smith, C.J. Henry, Carlos Monasterios and Jesus Sanchez, have no major league future. Henry isn't even with the Phillies anymore, having "retired" and then subsequently returning to play with the Yankees.

Abreu did help the Yankees reach the postseason the last two years, but there is no way the Phillies would have made the run they did last season with Abreu still on the team, so both teams come out looking pretty good in this deal.

Brad Lidge Placed on DL

The Phillies were hopeful that Brad Lidge would start the season healthy enough to contribute right away, but it's not going to happen. Lidge was placed on the 15 day disabled list, retroactive to March 21st, meaning the first day he could be activated would be for the sixth game of the season, April 6th against the Reds. Lidge is still dealing with knee issues, and he hasn't regained his form and velocity quite yet.

This move isn't that suprising, despite Lidge's insistence that he would be ready for Opening Day. With Lidge out, Tom Gordon will start the season as the Phillies closer. While it's nice to have Flash to fall back on, let's hope Lidge can make a return sooner rather than later. It's a long season and Lidge will only miss a few games, but this team needs to start quick this season, and a few blown saves by Gordon would really set them back.

By the way, this makes four Phillies pitchers on the disabled list.

Eagles Sign Rocky!

The Eagles made a move in free agency today, signing yet another defensive player who happens to have the perfect name for a Philadelphia player. Rocky Boiman, a linebacker with 6 years of NFL experience with the Titans and the Colts, signed a one-year deal with the Eagles. Boiman had his best season last year with the Colts, starting a career high seven games, recording 64 tackles and picking off two passes.

Boiman is being brought in to add depth and experience to the Eagles linebacking group. He immediately becomes the oldest player amongst the Eagles linebackers and has won a Super Bowl with the Colts, so he should be a solid veteran addition. Boiman will also play a lot of special teams.

This is a good depth signing. Boiman won't light the world on fire, but he should make a few plays this season and gives insurance should one of the young linebackers take a step back or get injured. The value of the contract was not announced, but you can bet the Eagles got a good deal on this one.

Besides, with a name like Rocky, he belongs in Philly.