Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chan Ho Park named the Phillies 5th starter

It's official: Chan Ho Park will take the ball every 5th day for the Phillies. Park beat out J.A. Happ with a solid spring where he had an ERA of 2.53 and struck out 25 batters in 21 and 1/3 innings.

There is no word yet on whether Happ will make the team. Since the Phillies already have two lefties in the pen following the acquisition of lefty Jack Taschner, it appears that Happ will start the season in Lehigh.

With this news and the release of Geoff Jenkins, there is essentially one roster spot left for someone in the bullpen that will likely go to Gary Majewski or Bobby Mosebach. The smart money would be on Majewski. Barring a trade or signing (Sheffield, anyone??), listed below is how the Phillies Opening Day roster will look, except for that one bullpen spot. Keep in mind that J.C. Romero is suspended for the first 50 games so someone will have to removed down the road.

Catchers (2): Carlos Ruiz, Chris Coste

Infielders (7): Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Pedro Feliz, Eric Bruntlett, Greg Dobbs, Miguel Cairo

Outfielders (4): Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez, Matt Stairs

Starting Pitchers (5): Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton, Chan Ho Park

Bullpen (7): Brad Lidge, Ryan Madsen, Chad Durbin, Clay Condrey, Scott Eyre, Jack Taschner, ?????

Geoff Jenkins released, Phillies pursuing Sheffield?

In an effort to make room for Matt Stairs, or to possibly acquire another right handed bat, the Phillies have released outfielder Geoff Jenkins. Jenkins spent one year with the Phils and hit .246 with 9 homers. He was signed last offseason with the thought that he would be a solid platoon partner with Jayson Werth in right but he never really got his bat going. Jenkins will likely be picked up by another team and should have no regrets about his one championship season in Philly.

Releasing Jenkins forces the Phils to eat his 8 million dollar salary. Any team that picks him up would only have to pay him the veteran minimum, which would reduce how much the Phillies have to pay Jenkins. Obviously, the Phils couldn't find any team willing to take on Jenkins' large salary and that is why they were forced to release him.

This move opens up a roster spot for Matt Stairs, who previously looked like the odd man out. Of course, the Phillies could also go out and get another right handed bat to add to the mix and that would force them to drop Stairs. Todd Zolecki of the Zo Zone even discusses the possibility of the Phils adding recently released Gary Sheffield to the roster since he is in the same boat as Jenkins and could be signed to a cheap contract. I'm not sure Sheffield can really play in the field anymore, but if he is willing to be more of a pinch hitter and not a clubhouse cancer, I see now reason why the Phillies wouldn't try to sign him.

Good luck, Geoff Jenkins. Thanks for everything you did, no matter how small, to help the Phillies win the title!

Update: According to Zolecki, the Phillies have been in contact with Sheffield's agent. Things are about to get interesting!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Phillies release Giles, cut Mayberry, Carrasco, 3 others

The Phillies continued trimming down their roster in preparation of Sunday's opener and things are shaping up just as I have predicted. Marcus Giles, who signed with the club in the offseason with the hopes of playing second base until Chase Utley was healthy, was released, likely ending his major league career. Once Utley was deemed ready to play, Giles had to see the writing on the wall.

The Phillies also sent OF John Mayberry and P Carlos Carrasco to the minors and informed P Mike Koplove, OF Jason Ellison and IF Pablo Ozuna that they wouldn't be making the major league club. Mayberry had a decent chance to make the club after a solid March but will be better off getting some seasoning in the minors. Carrasco is still a year away, or maybe more. I could see him taking Jamie Moyer's spot in the rotation when the old man finally retires.

There are still a few moves left for the Phillies to make. They still need to sort out their bench with either Geoff Jenkins, Matt Stairs or Miguel Cairo getting cut or traded. They also have to figure out their 5th starter spot, a move that will dictate who gets the final bullpen spot. If Chan Ho Park is the 5th starter, the Phillies will likely keep Gary Majewski in the bullpen and send lefty J.A. Happ to the minors. If Happ gets the final rotation spot, Park will be in the bullpen.

The next moves the Phillies make could be the most interesting. Don't be surprised if they pull off another trade to clear things up even more.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Eagles work out Boldin (No, not that one!)

According to ProFootballTalk.com, a wide receiver named Boldin has had a private workout with the Eagles. No, it isn't Anquan, but it is his younger brother, D.J. Boldin. D.J. was a wideout for Wake Forest who isn't getting a lot of draft attention but the Eagles invited him in to take a closer look. D.J. figures to be a second day pick, but he is big and strong like his older brother Anquan and he did lead the ACC with 77 catches last year.

Could the Eagles be setting things up for a Boldin brother reunion? If D.J. really plays a lot like Anquan then it would seem pointless to have two receivers that play the same style, but if it makes coming to Philly more enticing for Anquan, I'm all for it!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Projecting the Phillies 25 man roster, version 2.0

With the recent trading of Ronny Paulino for Jack Taschner, the Phillies roster picture has become a lot clearer. With Paulino gone, Chris Coste is now officially the backup catcher. With Taschner brought in, it's safe to say that J.A. Happ will be in the starting rotation. The addition of Taschner also shortens up the bench by one spot as the Phillies go with a 12 man pitching staff. Here is my second attempt at predicting what the Phillies roster will look like come Opening Day. Changes from my previous projection are listed in bold.

Catchers (2): Carlos Ruiz, Chris Coste

Infielders (7): Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Pedro Feliz, Eric Bruntlett, Greg Dobbs, Miguel Cairo

Outfielders (4): Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez, Geoff Jenkins

Starting Pitchers (5): Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ

Bullpen (7): Brad Lidge, Ryan Madsen, Chad Durbin, Clay Condrey, Chan Ho Park, Scott Eyre, Jack Taschner

Will start season suspended: J.C. Romero
50 games for Romero for violating the MLB substance policy. Taschner is the second lefty in the bullpen until Romero is back.

Players on the bubble:

IF: Marcus Giles, Pablo Ozuna
A few weeks ago it appeared that Giles had the inside track in getting the utility infielder role, now it looks like Cairo is the guy due to his versatility. Giles is really just a second baseman, and with the return of Chase Utley, his role would be greatly diminished. Ozuna was always a longshot at best.

OF: Matt Stairs, John Mayberry
Matt Stairs now becomes a victim of the numbers game. The Phillies already have a left handed hitting outfielder in Geoff Jenkins so keeping Stairs around would be redundant. Miguel Cairo appears closer to making the team simply because of his right handed bat and his versatility. If the Phils found someone willing to take Jenkins' salary off their hands, they would be able to keep their postseason hero, Stairs, around. Mayberry has certainly earned a spot with a strong spring but if Stairs can't make the team then there is definitely no room for Mayberry. Let him get his at-bats in the minors so he can continue to develop.

P: Carlos Carrasco, Gary Majewski, Mike Koplove
Carrasco is still a year or two away from making the club. Majewski and Koplove were always longshots to make the team and the acquisition of Taschner makes it impossible for them to start the year in the majors.

That's the team as I see it. Did I leave anyone off? Who should or shouldn't make it from this group?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Phillies acquire lefty Jack Taschner for Ronny Paulino, roster looks to be taking shape

Well, that didn't take long! Two days after the Phillies announced that they were looking to trade catcher Ronny Paulino, they found a taker: the San Francisco Giants acquired Paulino from the Phils for lefty reliever Jack Taschner. The trade of Paulino officially makes Chris Coste the backup catcher for this season, or until Lou Marson is ready. The acquisition of Taschner will have a domino affect on the final Opening Day roster spots and also tells us who will win the 5th starter spot.

Taschner, 31, will be the Phillies second lefty option out of the pen after Scott Eyre. Taschner lost his spot in the Giants bullpen seemingly the moment they brought in Jeremy Affeldt in the offseason, so he became expendable. He hasn't put up great numbers in the past, including a career ERA over 5, so I wouldn't expect him to start mowing hitters down now. He is likely expected to hold down his spot for about 50 games, or until J.C. Romero is back from suspension.

This trade gives the Phillies 12 pitching spots for their Opening Day roster and it likely means that J.A. Happ has won the 5th starter spot and Chan Ho Park will start the season in the bullpen. If Happ was going to be starting the year in the bullpen, the Phils would have no reason to go out and get another lefty.

This move also means that the Phillies will have one less bat for their bench, meaning either Matt Stairs or Miguel Cairo has to go. The smart money right now would be on Cairo winning the spot because the Phillies need another right handed bat, but it's still tough seeing Stairs getting cut. The Phils could always trade Geoff Jenkins and keep Stairs around, although I doubt anyone would want to take on Jenkins' salary.

Ronny Paulino was acquired from the Pirates in the offseason for catcher Jason Jaramillo, so this trade essentially works out as Jaramillo for Taschner. While Taschner is nothing special, he will fill a specific role that the Phillies really needed.

In all, a nice move by GM Ruben Amaro but nothing to get too excited about.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Flyers sign goaltender Johan Backlund

In an effort to bring in more depth to the organization, and to possibly replace Martin Biron or Antero Niittymaki, both free agents after this season, the Flyers have signed Johan Backlund, a 27 year old netminder from Sweden. Backlund, who signed a one year deal with the Flyers, had played 5 seasons in the Swedish Elite league and has a career 2.54 goals against average in 287 games. He has no NHL experience, but Backlund was the starting goaltender for Team Sweden at the 2007 World Championships, leading the team to a 4th place finish.

The signing looks like a move to bring in a possible backup goalie for next season. With the way Biron is playing right now, the Flyers would be smart to try to sign him to a new deal and let Niittymaki, who will also be a free agent, sign elsewhere. Niittymaki will surely be looking for starter money in free agency, something the Flyers, who are already close to the salary cap, could never afford. Backlund represents a cheap option for a backup goalie who won't be expected to challenge for the starting role.

This is a no-risk signing for the Flyers. Backlund signed a one year deal for likely a small amount of money, so if he can't cut it in the NHL, the Flyers can send him packing after a year. If he somehow emerges as a legitimate NHL player, the Flyers would then have quite a bargain on their hands.

Flyers dominate TSN's Top 10 Goalies Gone Wild

In honor of the recent flip-out of Bruins minor league goalie Tuukka Rask, TSN counted down the Top 10 Goalies Gone Wild moments in NHL history. Needless to say, the list is dominated by the Flyers, with Ron Hextall (#2, #8) and Garth Snow (#5) making an appearance, along with Phantoms goaltender Neil Little (#3) flying his way onto the countdown:

Of course, the real stars of those clips are Patrick Roy and Roy Emery, quite possibly the craziest goalies ever.

Video via Puck Daddy

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Phillies looking to trade Paulino, Coste will be backup catcher

Despite struggling through Spring Training as he dealt with injuries, Chris Coste will once again be the backup catcher for the Phillies. Coste appears to have won the spot behind Carlos Ruiz now that the Phillies have begun shopping the other contender for the spot, Ronny Paulino. According to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, the Phillies have let other teams know that Paulino can be had in a trade.

Paulino was acquired by the Phillies this offseason from the Pirates for catcher Jason Jaramillo. He hit a mere .185 in Spring Training and the Phils feel he doesn't bring enough to the table to keep over Coste. If the Phillies can't find a taker for Paulino, they could send him down to Lehigh, although he would serve as a backup there to Lou Marson.

Making a catcher available opens up the possibility of the Phillies getting a second lefty for the bullpen in return, although I am not sure many teams would be interested in Paulino. After all, how much demand could there be for a light-hitting backup catcher?

The bigger story here is the fact that Chris Coste will continue to have a job with the Phillies. While the Phils could get more for him in a trade, they realize that Coste brings a lot to the team with both his bat and his leadership. Of course, it's really only a matter of time before Lou Marson is ready and Coste will find himself out of a job.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Projecting the Phillies 25 man roster, version 1.0

With the recent demotions of Kyle Kendrick and infielder Jason Donald, the Phillies Opening Day roster is beginning to take shape. There are still a few battles left to be decided, like who will take the ball every 5th day and who will get the last spot on the bench, but let's take a look at my projection for who will make the Phillies roster. Players who are locks to make the roster are in bold.

Catchers (2): Carlos Ruiz, Chris Coste

Infielders (7): Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Pedro Feliz, Eric Bruntlett, Greg Dobbs, Miguel Cairo

Outfielders (5): Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez, Geoff Jenkins, Matt Stairs

Starting Pitchers (5): Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ

Bullpen (6): Brad Lidge, Ryan Madsen, Chad Durbin, Clay Condrey, Chan Ho Park, Scott Eyre

Will start season suspended: J.C. Romero
50 games for Romero for violating the MLB substance policy. Barring a late free agent signing, the Phillies will be one lefty short in the bullpen until then.

Players on the bubble:

C: Ronny Paulino
There is only room for one backup catcher between Coste and Paulino. Paulino has put up the better numbers this spring while Coste has fought his way back from an injury, but his experience in the organization gives him an inside edge. Should Coste falter or get injured at any point, Paulino will get his shot.

IF: Marcus Giles, Pablo Ozuna
A few weeks ago it appeared that Giles had the inside track in getting the utility infielder role, now it looks like Cairo is the guy due to his versatility. Giles is really just a second baseman, and with the return of Chase Utley, his role would be greatly diminished. Ozuna was always a longhot at best.

OF: John Mayberry
The Phillies may yet find a way to keep Mayberry on the roster, but with veteran Matt Stairs around, it will be difficult. Mayberry has certainly earned a spot with a strong spring, and it would be nice to have another right handed bat on the bench. The Phillies could still keep him if they move Jenkins or Stairs.

P: Carlos Carrasco, Gary Majewski, Mike Koplove
Carrasco is still a year or two away from making the club. Majewski and Koplove were always longshots to make the team, although one could sneak on the roster if the Phillies choose to keep 12 pitchers.

That's the team as I see it. Did I leave anyone off? Who should or shouldn't make it from this group?

Monday, March 23, 2009

A healthy Briere leads Flyers past Devils

(AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)
The Flyers are playing their best hockey of the season at just the right time. With just a handful of games left in the season and playoff positioning on the line, the Flyers played two of their most inspiring games of hockey in the last two days. First, the Flyers downed Sidney Crosby and the Penguins on Sunday, then Monday they took care of Martin Brodeur and the Devils.

Lead by the resurgent Danny Briere (5 points in his last 3 games), who had a goal and an assist, and Simon Gagne, who had a goal and two assists, the Flyers defeated the Devils 4-2. Briere set the tone for the game with a nice deflection goal in the first period and a beautiful pass to Mike Knuble to set up the Flyers second goal. Claude Giroux also had a superb game, highlighted by his sick no-look pass to Gagne for a goal in the 3rd period. Jeff Carter also added his 40th goal of the season, hopefully the first of many 40-goal seasons for the young forward.

The Flyers looked especially good on special teams, where they scored 3 power play goals and allowed the Devils to score only once with the man advantage despite taking a number of penalties and having long stretches of penalties to kill. The Flyers still commit way too many penalties, and better offensive teams will burn them, but their penalty killing units looked strong tonight.

Also looking strong in the game was Marty Biron, who out-dueled the other Marty on the ice. Biron stopped 32 of 34 shots and has long since made everyone forget that there was ever a goaltender controversy in Philly (Antero who?). With the way Biron is playing, they are going to have to get him signed to a deal and not allow him to leave via free agency in the offseason.

With the win, the Flyers stay in the 4th spot in the East and move within 7 points of the Devils for the 2nd spot. With 10 games left to play, it will take a monumental collapse by New Jersey for the Flyers to move any higher, but their stranglehold on the 4th spot is only getting stronger.

Phils send Kendrick, two others to the minors

And the race for the Phillies 5th starter is down to two: the Phillies have demoted pitcher Kyle Kendrick. Kendrick, who has an ERA over 9 in Spring Training, was optioned to Lehigh Valley along with catcher Lou Marson and infielder Brad Harman. The demotion leaves J.A. Happ and Chan Ho Park as the remaining candidates for the Phillies 5th starter.

Kendrick, despite being 21-13 in his career, has fallen like a rock since his rookie season. Last season, he was 11-9 but had an ERA of 5.49 and a 1.61 WHIP before being pulled from the rotation late in the year for Happ. The Phillies want Kendrick to start every 5th day at Lehigh with the hopes that he can learn how to get batters out again. He might not be a regular starter in the major leagues again, but he could be a useful long reliever out of the bullpen.

As for Marson and Harman, neither should be surprised about being demoted. Both ended the season last year with the big club, but Marson is still a few years away from being part of the Phillies plans and Harman may end up being a career minor leaguer.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Flyers turn Penguins aside, solidify playoff position

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
In a possible preview of the first round of the playoffs, the Flyers had a nice all-around effort as they downed the Penguins 3-1. It was a big win for the Flyers on National TV as they further solidified their hold on the 4th spot in the Eastern Conference. They are now up 2 points on the Pens with 3 games in hand.

The Flyers got two goals on the power play, one by Simon Gagne and the other by Scott Hartnell, and Darroll Powe later added an empty net goal. Marty Biron also continued his strong play of late by stopping 27 of 28 shots. He is certainly rounding back into the form he showed in last years playoff run.

Even more notable for the Flyers was their defensive effort. While the Flyers were outshot 28-20, the didn't allow a shot on goal by either of the Pens star players, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. While that's probably a bit of a stasticial anomaly and may never happen again, the Flyers did a good job of keeping two top scorers in the league from getting inside and firing away.

If the season ended today, the Flyers would face these same Penguins in the first round. Barring a late season dive, Philly appears pretty locked in to the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference. With three teams within two points of one another, there will be a battle for the 5th spot between the Pens, Hurricanes and Rangers. As much as I would love watching an early Keystone State series in the playoffs, I think I speak for most Flyers fans when I say that I hope the Pens take a dive and Philly gets to play anyone else in the first round. A battle with Pittsburgh would be fun, but it would be an actual battle with a ton of attrition for whichever team manages to survive into the second round. A nice easy series against someone like the Rangers is a much better way to start a nice, long playoff run.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Eagles sign coveted fullback Leonard Weaver

Who needs a wide receiver when you can sign a fullback! The Eagles have signed free agent fullback Leonard Weaver to a one year deal worth up to 2.5 million dollars. Weaver was being pursued by several teams as he looked for a big money contract, but apparently he wasn't getting the offers he wanted so he settled for a smaller one year deal with a team he felt he fit in with.

Weaver, a Pro Bowler last year, has spent his entire career with the Seattle Seahawks. He is a good blocker and, having caught 60 passes in 46 career games, has good hands out of the backfield. He isn't a great runner but he will certainly be a good option for the Eagles in short yardage situations.

Considering how little the Eagles use a fullback in their offense, it's unclear what the team plans to do with a fullback as good as Weaver. I would expect the Eagles to try to get him involved in the passing game but he will play much fewer snaps than he is used to. At the very least, the signing of Weaver ensures the Eagles that they don't have to start the season with a non-fullback like Tony Hunt at the position.

It will be interesting to see how the Eagles utilize Weaver. It's probably the reason they only offered a one year deal for Weaver considering they may not know what to do with a fullback who can actually block and catch passes. Despite the Eagles being 30+ million dollars under the cap, I think we can safely assume they are done making free agent acquisitions this offseason.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Flyers roll out new lines in practice

Just got a Tweet (follow allthingsphilly on Twitter!) straight from the Philadelphia Flyers about some new line combinations they tried out in practice today:

Gagne - Giroux - Knuble
Carcillo - Richards - Lupul
Hartnell - Carter - Briere
Cote - Powe - Asham

The move was likely made to get Briere back up onto a scoring line since he has been playing on the 4th line as he returns to full health. While initially I don't like the idea of demoting Richards and breaking up the Lupul/Carter/Hartnell line, I do see the logic behind these new lines. The Flyers have incredible balance and scoring depth at forward and these new lines speak to that. In fact, I'm not sure I can even tell which of the lines is the "first line". Each of the top three lines features a goal scorer (Gagne, Lupul, Carter), a playmaker (Giroux, Richards, Briere) and a big bruiser (Knuble, Carcillo, Hartnell), while the fourth line remains the checking/tough guy line.

There is no confirmation yet if the Flyers will use these lines in their next game, but you can expect the Flyers to tinker with their deep group of forwards until they find the best combination.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Video: Iggy beats Lakers at the buzzer!

Wow! What a win! Andre Iguodala hit a game-winning three pointer at the buzzer to knock off the Lakers, 94-93. The shot capped off a Sixers rally that erased a 14 point deficit in the 4th quarter. It was the best moment a Philly team has had against L.A. since Matt Stairs homered against the Dodgers in the NLCS.

The Sixers are now riding a 4 game winning streak and are firmly in position to make the playoffs. They have no chance at advancing to the second round, but that's not the point.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

20 years and counting: the Flyers still can't win in Detroit

Don't blame Marty Biron for this one.

The Flyers were seemingly in total control against the Red Wings, leading 2-0 late in the second period and cruising despite being badly outshot by the defending champs. Biron was at his best, stopping everything the Wings threw at him, and eventually made 45 saves on the night. Unfortunately, the Wings ended up with 48 shots, nearly twice as many as the Flyers (26) had, and ended up winning the game 3-2.

A late second period goal started the Red Wing rally, and they later added two more that were 1:30 apart midway through the third period and held on to win. The Flyers showed some fight at the end to try to salvage a point but they couldn't muster the same fire they had earlier in the game.

The Flyers blew a golden opportunity to win for the first time in Detroit since 1988. I looked at this game against the Red Wings as a real measuring stick for the Flyers. They have been sitting in the middle of the Eastern Conference for most of the season and they needed this test to see how far they are from being an elite team. They learned tonight that two quality periods aren't enough, it is going to take a full 60 minutes of maximum effort to beat a team like the Wings. No matter how good the guy is in net, the Flyers also need to stay on the throttle and put teams away. If you let a team as good as the Red Wings hang around, eventually they will make you pay.

Good game, Marty Biron. Hopefully next time the rest of the team will hold up their end.

Sigh of relief: No structural damage for Hamels

Those of you who have been holding your breath for the last 24 hours may now exhale. Cole Hamels went back to Philadelphia to get a sore elbow checked out yesterday and today the results are out and the news is good: doctors found no structural damage in his left elbow.

While this news doesn't necessarily mean that Hamels will be ready for Opening Day, it does mean that he has no serious issues with his arm. In fact, I hope the Phillies take their time with Hamels and don't bother rushing him back for the start of the season. Let him take a few weeks or a month off at the start of the year, the Phils don't need Hamels in April nearly as much as they need him in September. Given his injury history, let King Cole take all the time he needs.

Monday, March 16, 2009

No surprises amongst Phillies first cuts

The Phillies made 12 cuts today as they begin the paring down of the roster for Opening Day. All of the following players were basically sent down to the minor league camp:

Pitchers Antonio Bastardo, Drew Carpenter, Sergio Escalona, Drew Naylor, Blaine Neal and Scott Nestor, Catchers Tuffy Gosewisch and Paul Hoover, Infielders Mike Cervenak, J.J. Furmaniak, Andy Tracy and Jorge Velandia.

A few names are familiar (Cervenak, Tracy), others are not, but none of these players were in competition for a major role on the team so none of them came as a surprise. They will still be a part of the Phillies organization and aren't exposed to other teams. The cutting of four infielders really speaks to the depth of utility players the Phils have in camp this year.

Not good: Hamels returning to Philly to have arm examined

Uh, oh, this can't be good news: Cole Hamels is returning to Philadelphia to have his arm examined. He's apparently been complaining of soreness and the Phillies were already treating him with kid gloves this Spring Training.

The Phils were lucky to get 227 innings out of Hamels last year but they could pay the price this season. Let's prepare for the worst but hope it's nothing!

The Phillie Phanatic shows up on the Simpsons!

The best mascot in sports was on one of the best shows in television history tonight:
The Simpsons isn't quite as good as it used to be, but at least they know who is the Best. Mascot. Ever. It's good to be the Champs!

Hat tip to 700Level for the image.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Penalties, Sean Avery are downfall of Flyers

After playing an inspiring game of hockey in a playoff-like atmosphere at the Wachovia Center Saturday, the Flyers let their emotions get the best of them in a rematch against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. The Flyers lost 4-1 and couldn't stay out of the penalty box all game. They finished with 34 minutes of penalties, including 15 of them when Braydon Coburn was tossed from the game for high sticking Nik Antropov in the face. While Coburn was retaliating for an earlier cheap shot by Antropov, it was dumb penalties like that that gave the Rangers a string of power play chances and all four of their goals came on the man advantage.

The Flyers march to the penalty box was aided by the antics of Sean Avery, who is back to his usual tricks to get under opponents skin. Avery also added two goals in the game, so needless to say, the Flyers saw more of Avery than they wanted to. The Madison Square Garden loved his every move, however.

It also now appears that the Flyers goaltender battle is over. Antero Niittymaki started in net for the Flyers and gave up 4 goals, and even though they were all on the powerplay, his performance paled in comparison to what Martin Biron did yesterday against the Rangers. The Flyers would be wise to ride out Biron for the rest of the season and hope he gots hot like he was in the playoffs last year.

So, the Flyers end up splitting the home and home series with the Rangers. While things could have been worse, if the Flyers had stopped their parade to the penalty box, they might have actually has a chance to sweep the series. With a game against the Red Wings looming on Tuesday, it would have been nice to leave New York with a little more confidence and a little less Sean Avery.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Thaddeus Young helps Sixers close out the Spectrum with a win

I think Thaddeus Young wouldn't mind keeping the Spectrum open for a while longer. Young exploded for a career-high 31 points as the Sixers beat the Bulls, 104-101, in the final Sixers game at the Spectrum, which will be torn down later this year.

Also playing well for the Sixers were Andre Iguodala, who had 25 points, 6 boards and 5 assists, Samuel Dalembert, who grabbed 19 rebounds, and Andre Miller, who had 13 points to go with 13 assists. Despite the solid effort by Young, who also had 5 boards, the Sixers still barely squeaked by the lowly Bulls, although they led for pretty much the entire second half until a late charge by the Bulls made it close.

So ends the Sixers era in the Spectrum. They first played in the Spectrum in 1967 and recently moved over to the Wachovia Center in 1996. The Spectrum will still be used by the Phantoms for the remainder of their season, but after that it will be torn down to make room for a restaurant and shopping complex that will hopefully rejuvenate the area around the stadiums.

For a kid who saw his first basketball game in the Spectrum in the mid-80's, I will certainly have fond memories of the stadium, but I'm not going to get emotional when it gets torn down. Stepping into the Spectrum now feels like going back in time. We won't ever forget the championships won at the Spectrum, of course, but hopefully we can make some new memories of titles over at the Wachovia Center.

So long, Spectrum!

Rams release Holt, your move Eagles

Wide receiver Torry Holt, who was previously rumored to be traded to the Eagles, was released today by the St. Louis Rams. Holt is a 7 time Pro Bowler but he is 32 and the move saves the Rams 8 million dollars.

Let the speculation for him signing with the Eagles begin. Expect the Giants and the Titans, who almost traded for Holt, also to be in the mix.

The question now for Eagles fans is who would you rather the Birds signed, Holt or Marvin Harrison? My money is on neither being an Eagle but I would rather have Holt because he is 4 years younger and has been much healthier. It also doesn't hurt that he doesn't have any legal troubles.

Of course, I would much rather have Anquan Boldin than either of these guys.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It could really happen: the Cardinals are shopping Anquan Boldin

Good news, Eagles fans: according to ProFootballTalk.com, the Cardinals have begun shopping wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Up until now, all of the news about Boldin has been that he wants out of Arizona if he doesn't get a new deal. Apparently, the Cardinals aren't willing to give him that deal and have begun looking for a trading partner. Boldin will want a new contract from whichever team trades for him and he is looking for about 9 million dollars a year.

Hmm, I wonder what team has a lot of room for a big salary and has a few first day draft picks that would entice the Cardinals? The Eagles better be on the horn right now hammering out a deal. The only other team rumored to be in the mix right now is the Giants, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Cowboys jumped in now that T.O. is out of town.

Please, Eagles, save this offseason and get this thing done. It will make us get over the Brian Dawkins situation a whole lot faster.

UPDATE: Cardinals GM Rod Graves is denying that Boldin is on the market. What else would you expect him to say?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Here we go again: more Boldin to the Eagles rumors

The rumor that just won't go away has resurfaced yet again. According to Peter King of Sports Illustrated, Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin will be traded by July and the Eagles are the most likely destination.

King does not give a reason why he believes Boldin will be traded, but it stems from his contract issues with the team. Simply put, Boldin wants to get paid and the Cardinals aren't willing to restructure his current contract. The relationship between the 3 time Pro Bowler and his team has gotten so bad that Boldin wants out.

According to King, the top two teams in the mix for Boldin are the Eagles and the Giants. King goes on to say that the Eagles are the frontrunners: "Philly has (draft picks) 21, 28 and 53, the Giants 29, 45 and 60. I find it hard to believe the Eagles won't trade for Boldin. Very hard. He's a perfect fit, and they've got the cap room to sign him."

As we have learned, just because the Eagles have cap room doesn't mean they are actually going to use it. The draft picks they have to offer should be enticing to the Cardinals but the Eagles have to be willing to restructure Boldin's deal and give him the money he wants.

As I have said all along, if Boldin is at all available, the Eagles have to pursue him. He is a perfect fit for the team and would be a great weapon for Donovan McNabb. Let's just hope the Cardinals are foolish enough to shop him before we start buying our Boldin jerseys.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Will Eagles pursue recently released Orlando Pace?

Now that Tra Thomas has signed with the Jaguars, the Eagles have a hole to fill on their offensive line. If you look at their depth chart on their official website, Winston Justice is listed as the first string left tackle. Even though there is little chance that Justice would ever start a game for the Birds, the team will have to bring in someone else to either start at left tackle or move Todd Herremans or Shawn Andrews out there. The way I see it, the Eagles have three options: they could make a trade, they could wait and address the open slot at the draft, or they could sign a 7-time Pro Bowler who has recently become available.

The Rams have released left tackle Orlando Pace in a move that saves the team 6 million dollars in salary cap space. The move was a no-brainer for the Rams since they couldn't find anyone willing to trade for Pace and they figure to draft a tackle with the number two pick in the draft. While Pace has struggled with injuries over the last few seasons and is 33 years old, he can still play at a high level when he's healthy.

The question now is whether the Eagles choose to pursue Pace. The Birds will never give him a long-term contract, but at the right price for one or two years, Pace would make a lot of sense. The Eagles could plug Pace in as the starter and still draft a left tackle that could learn the position and wouldn't need to be thrust right into the lineup. Then, if (or when) Pace gets hurt, the Eagles can turn to their rookie tackle who should have learned a lot watching the veteran tackle do his thing.

For the right price and a short contract, Orlando Pace would be great for the Eagles. Unfortunately, this will likely be the last contract Pace ever signs, so the chances of him actually settling for a cheap deal are slim. The Eagles would still be smart to reach out to Pace and see if he wants to finish out his career making less money but playing for a winner after so many losing seasons in St. Louis. The chances are slim, but it can't hurt to ask.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Another Eagle moves on: Tra Thomas signs with the Jaguars

While it certainly won't have the impact of the departure of Brian Dawkins, the Eagles have lost another veteran leader today. Tra Thomas, who had been an Eagle since 1998, signed a three year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Thomas went to Florida State and is a native of Florida so the move will be a homecoming for him.

The writing had been on the wall for a while on this one. The Eagles essentially broke off talks with Thomas at the beginning of free agency and were clearly ready to let their left tackle move on. Thomas is still an effective football player, but at age 34, his skills are only going to degrade. The Birds were never going to give Thomas a 3 year deal at that age, so he was smart to look elsewhere.

The Eagles now have a hole on their offensive line. Who will play left tackle? There is some though that Todd Herremans or Shawn Andrews could move into that role. Of course, the Eagles could also address the tackle position at the draft, but there is no guarantee anyone they draft will be ready to play right away.

The Birds continue to lose veteran leaders on the offense and the defense. With Dawkins and Thomas already gone and Jon Runyan not likely back, the team will have a serious void of quality leadership. It will be up to the young guys to step up as the Eagles move into another phase of development.

With the Eagles so quick to drop veteran players when they get just past their prime, one also has to wonder how soon they will ship Donovan McNabb out of town.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The cancer known as T.O. will now infect Buffalo

That really didn't take long, did it? After more than half the NFL made it known that they wouldn't sign recently released Terrell Owens, all it took was a few days for T.O. to find a new home. I guess it only takes one desperate team, which the Buffalo Bills certainly are. T.O. signed a one year deal with the Bills worth 6.5 million dollars. In all likelihood, Owens will use this one year to prove that he can still be a solid citizen and a contributing member to an NFL team before he looks for a bigger contract. Buffalo was smart to give him no more than one year because this signing could easily blow up in their faces.

So, T.O. will now be a part of an offense that features Trent Edwards at quarterback. If he had issues with Pro Bowl QB's like Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo, you can imagine what kind of problems are going to arise in Buffalo. It should be fun to watch T.O. blow up another team, too bad it's not another rival of the Eagles.

Flyers avoid Briere scare, rescind trade

Watching Danny Briere get injured is becoming an all too familiar sight. Not only did the Flyers get beat down by the Calgary Flames on Thursday, but Briere re-injured his groin. There was some thought on Friday that Briere could be out for weeks or even months, fortunately the injury doesn't look serious and he could be back as early as next week. Of course, since he is dealing with an injury that has been bothering him nearly all season, he could be out longer. For now, though, the man the Flyers re-shuffled their whole roster for doesn't appear to have a major injury.

In other injury news, the Flyers have nullified one of their trade deadline deals. Unfortunately, it wasn't the deal that sent Scottie Upshall to Phoenix: defenseman Kyle McLaren failed his physical and will be sent back to the San Jose Sharks, meaning the Flyers will get their 6th round pick back. This won't be a huge loss for the Flyers, although it nullifies the only positive move they made at the trade deadline and makes them even thinner along the blue line.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Eagles sign replacement for Brian Dawkins

The Eagles have finally dipped back into the free agent pool and pulled in another player. Don't get too excited, however.

The Birds signed safety Sean Jones, who played for the Cleveland Browns for the last five years, to a one year contract worth 3 million dollars. Jones has played more strong safety than free safety in the NFL, but the Eagles figure to at least give him a shot to take over for the departed Brian Dawkins.

I don't know much about Jones as a player other than the fact that he has an impressive 14 interceptions and 286 tackles in 60 career games. He is clearly a playmaker who has a nose for the football.

Jones missed weeks 2-6 of last season after he had surgery on his right knee. His injury made it so few teams showed interest in Jones, and that is exactly why he wanted to sign a one year contract. Jones thinks he can put together one good season and then re-visit the free agent market to try to get a bigger contract. For that very reason, the Eagles and Jones make a good match. The Eagles already have safety Quintin Demps on the roster but they feel he might not be ready to start in 2009. Jones can hold on to the starting position until Demps beats him out, and since it's a one year contract, even if Jones loses the job in Week One, the Eagles won't lose much on their investment.

That may be it for the Eagles in free agency. They definitely won't be going after T.O. and there really isn't much else out there, so everything else the Eagles add will have to be at the draft.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Eagles trade Greg Lewis to Patriots

And the roster makeover continues: the Eagles have traded wide receiver Greg Lewis to the Patriots for a 5th round pick. The Pats recently lost Jabar Gaffney and could be looking to use Lewis as a 3rd wideout behind Randy Moss and Wes Welker, although that's a tall order for a mediocre wideout like Lewis.

Lewis spent 6 years with the Eagles and rarely put up big numbers but he had a knack for making the big catches. He only caught 19 passes last season and was more valuable to the Eagles on special teams in recent years.

The moving of Lewis could be a presursor to the Eagles bringing in another wide receiver. Of course, it could also just be done to shed a player with little use to them.

Cowboys release T.O., move along Eagles fans

There's a new number one receiver on the market for Eagles fans to drool over. Unfortunately, it's one that we are all too familiar with.

The Cowboys finally came to their senses and realized Terrell Owens is a cancer to their team and released the controversial wideout. The release will cost the Cowboys 9 million dollars against the cap, so you can be sure they really wanted T.O. out. He spent three years with the Cowboys and had at least 1000 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns in each season. He is coming off his worst full season since 1999 in terms of on-field production and the Cowboys must have realized it wasn't worth the aggravation of putting up with the mouthy, over-rated wide receiver.

The Eagles have been linked to every possibly available number one receiver in the league, so you can bet speculation has already begun that this very available receiver is coming back to Philly. Don't count on that happening, however. Even though T.O. has seemingly mended his relationship with Donovan McNabb, the Eagles have numerous reasons why they won't even think about bringing him back. From a locker room perspective, the Birds have already lived through the disruptions this guy causes. From a P.R. perspective, the Eagles just let their most beloved player go so you can bet there is no way they would bring in a player that every fan hates. Finally, from an on-the-field perspective, T.O. just doesn't have it anymore and wouldn't be much of an upgrade over what the Eagles already have.

In conclusion, don't worry about our receivers anymore, Eagles fans, it could be worse. We could have Roy Williams as our number one wideout.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Flyers trade Upshall, get worse at the Deadline

Most contending teams in the NHL use the Trade Deadline as a time to improve their team by adding players that can help them make a run at the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are usually one of the more aggressive teams at the Deadline but this season they were hindered because they were right up against the salary cap. Philly still made a couple of moves, unfortunately, it leaves the team worse than they were a day before.

The Flyers made a pair of trades today: they acquired winger Dan Carcillo from the Phoenix Coyotes for Scottie Upshall and a 2nd round pick and they also acquired defenseman Kyle McLaren from the Sharks for a 6th round pick. Both moves are head scratchers and make it seem like the Flyers had another deal in the works that didn't pan out.

The Upshall trade is especially frustrating. While not a top line player, Scottie Upshall is a ball of energy on the ice and he's a perfect third line player. Carcillo is also a hard-nosed player, but he is much slower than Upshall and is pretty much just a hockey goon who leads the NHL in penalty minutes with 174. At first glance, this trade is ridiculous because the Flyers essentially traded a 3rd line player for a 4th line player, and threw in a 2nd round pick on top of that.

However, there was more behind this move than that. By moving Upshall, who makes 1.2 million, and getting Carcillo, who makes 900,000, the Flyers freed up some cap space so they can have some wiggle room to move players up and down when injuries occur. This move keeps the Flyers from having to send Claude Giroux down again if they need another defenseman.

On top of creating more cap space, the Flyers were also happy to get anything for Upshall, who is a restricted free agent at the end of the year and was likely to sign elsewhere. The Flyers wouldn't have had enough cap space to give Upshall a decent contract offer.

The second move of the day for the Flyers also raises more questions. McLaren is a big, strong defenseman who was a good player in his prime. Unfortunately, he has spent the entire season in the AHL and has a 2.5 million dollar contract. The Flyers will have McLaren report to the Phantoms and it's very likely that he will never play a game with the big club. If the Flyers do choose to call up McLaren at some point, he would have to pass through waivers and then the team would have to figure out a way to shed some salary. McLaren could be on the Flyers playoff roster, but he is essentially emergency depth should one of the top 6 defenseman go down.

There were rumors after the deadline that the Flyers had another trade in the works, but it looks like those talks fell through. It seems like GM Paul Holmgren took a step to clear away some salary for another trade but couldn't quite pull it off. There was plenty of speculation about Jay Bouwmeester coming to Philly, but it never materialized.

The sad fact now is that the Flyers team that takes the ice for the next game isn't as good as the Flyers team that played against Boston on Tuesday. Philly was forced to make a move to give the team more flexibility, it's just too bad that it had to take losing a solid player. While you can't fault Holmgren for making these moves today, you can blame Homer for getting the Flyers in this salary mess in the first place. He tried to play a game with the salary cap and he failed. That's especially clear when you look at the list of Flyers that have been jettisoned since the return of Daniel Briere: Glen Metropolit, Ossi Vaananen and Scottie Upshall. Essentially, those three players were traded for Dan Carcillo, and that's depressing. While none of those guys are top line players, you need some of those bit players to help the team when you make a Stanley Cup run.

The Flyers were fortunate to be able to keep their core of young players on the team but only time will tell if they will get enough support from the few remaining role players to make another run deep into the playoffs.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Giroux back up with the suddenly healthy Flyers

Much to the delight of Flyers fans, Claude Giroux's trip to the minors was short-lived. With Kimmo Timonen returning to the ice tonight, the Flyers were able to send down defenseman Nate Guenin, along with forward Jared Ross, and re-call Giroux from the Phantoms. Giroux was sent down just a few days ago because the team needed to clear cap space to call up Guenin to replace Timonen in the lineup.

These moves show just how close the Flyers are to the cap and how this whole cap situation has robbed them of having any depth. GM Paul Holmgren has done a masterful job assembling the key pieces to this Flyers team but he has made some mistakes in terms of handling the cap. Losing Glen Metropolit for nothing was one of the first real blunders that Homer has made.

On the bright side, the Flyers will now take the ice with a fully healthy roster for the first time in months. With Danny Briere back in the lineup, the team will finally be able to roll out 3 quality scoring lines. The defense isn't too shabby, either, although the Flyers are still looking to upgrade the blueline at the trade deadline.

Here are the Flyers lines for tonight:

Gagne - Richards - Knuble
Hartnell - Carter - Lupul
Upshall - Briere - Giroux
Cote - Powe - Asham

Timonen - Parent
Coburn - Carle
Alberts - Jones

It will be interesting to see if the Flyers keep Briere on the 3rd line or if they bump him up to be a winger on the 1st or 2nd line. The 3rd line listed above appears to be a little undersized, although it will have a ton of speed and playmaking ability.

The team that we hoped to see from the beginning of the season is finally taking the ice tonight. Depending on what happens at the trade deadline tomorrow, though, this could be the only time you get to see it.

Monday, March 2, 2009

With Houshmandzadeh and Ward signed, Eagles continue to be free agency spectators

As two more players the Eagles were rumored to be interested in get signed, you begin to wonder what exactly the Birds plan to spend their money on. All the reports out there say the Eagles have over 40 million dollars to work with under the cap, yet the Eagles continue to sit on their hands as all the quality free agents get snatched up.

Not that the Eagles should necessarily pursue some of these players given the prices some teams are paying. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, a receiver who would have looked nice in an Eagles uniform but wouldn't have been the playmaker Donovan McNabb wanted, signed with the Seahawks for 5 years and 40 million dollars. Derrick Ward, who the Eagles could have used as a backup to Brian Westbrook, signed with the Bucs for 4 years and 17 million dollars. Both teams overpayed, especially the Seahawks. Housh is a quality recevier but he is already 32 years old and never had much speed to begin with. Ward would have been a solid backup with the Eagles, but not at that price. He will get a chance to start in Tampa and could excel.

So, what does that leave for the Eagles, who were never really all that interested in Housh or Ward? With the departure of Brian Dawkins, the Eagles could look at bringing in another safety, like former Raven Jim Leonhard. The rest of the defense appears set, so the Eagles could also look to upgrade their offensive line and get a backup running back. Then again, they may just look to get those players in the draft and save their money. Of course, there is always that pipe dream that the Eagles can bring in a top wide receiver, but that will have to happen in a trade and there has been little talk about Anquan Boldin recently. Marvin Harrison is probably the best available free agent wideout but if the Eagles really wanted him they would have signed him already.

So what will the Eagles do with their extra money? Probably nothing, which makes the idea that they couldn't find the money to pay Brian Dawkins that much more frustrating. As Eagles fans, though, we should be used to all of this by now.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Good riddance: Adam Eaton is an Oriole

Philadelphia has lost another beloved sports figure! No, wait, it's just Adam Eaton.

Lost in all the news about the Eagles was a move the Phillies made on Friday when they finally got rid of Adam Eaton. Despite owing him another 9 million dollars, the Phils chose to eat salary and waived Eaton, ending his illustrious Philadelphia career. Eaton spent two years with the Phils and finished 14-18 with an ERA in the high 5's. He played absolutely no role in the Phillies championship run.

Shockingly, another major league club was willing to pick up Eaton. The Baltimore Orioles, obviously desperate for pitching help, signed Eaton to a minor league deal. The Orioles invited him to Spring Training and even expect Eaton to compete for a spot in the starting rotation. If he makes the team at all, the Orioles will officially be the worst team in baseball.

The Phillies will still be on the hook to pay Eaton for this season but they have to look at it as addition by subtraction. Eaton may go down as one of the worst free agent signings in not only Phillies history but also in the entire history of baseball. I guess 24 million doesn't buy what it used to.