Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bastardo to the DL, Phillies acquire Mazone

The Phillies have made a series of minor moves in the last 24 hours.

First, as expected, the Phillies placed Antonio Bastardo on the 15 day disabled list. To take his place on the roster, but not in the rotation, the Phils called up Sergio Escalona. Escalona figures to be with the team until they need to call up another starter to take Bastardo's turn in the rotation.

That day will be Friday, when the Phillies play the Mets. The Phils moved J.A. Happ from Friday's start to Thursday, meaning they have an open spot for Friday's game. Possible candidates include Drew Carpenter, Carlos Carrasco and Rodrigo Lopez, all of whom pitch for Lehigh Valley. There is also an outside chance the Phillies could make a trade by Friday and plug the new pitcher into the rotation. Let's hope it isn't Chien-Ming Wang of the Yankees, like some of the rumors I've heard.

The Phillies also made a move today that will allow them to replace whoever they call up from Lehigh: they acquired Brian Mazone from the Dodgers. Mazone is a former Phillie farmhand who is strictly a minor league pitcher, there is no chance he will be called up to pitch for the Big Club.

I would expect the Phillies to keep tinkering with their roster over the next few days. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Your 2009/2010 Flyers, as of now

It's time to move on, whether you thought they gave up too much or not, Chris Pronger is a Flyer. So, what's the next move for the Orange and Black? NHL free agency starts on July 1st, but don't expect the Flyers to be too active. According to GM Paul Holmgren, the Flyers have about 5 million dollars under the cap, and they will have to stretch that money to fill the remaining holes on their roster. The Flyers currently have 11 forwards, 6 defensemen and 1 goaltender under contract for next year, so they essentially need at least one player from each position.

So, what players might fill those remaining spots? The Flyers are talking with free agent Mike Knuble about the possibility of bringing him back for next year, but it would likely need to be for a hometown discount because the Flyers still have to bring in a backup goaltender and possibly a 7th defenseman. There have also been rumors that the Flyers will seek a new 4th line center, someone to remove Darroll Powe from that role. James van Riemsdyk also figures to be in the mix to make the roster, although the Flyers have yet to make it clear if they think he will need more seasoning in the AHL.

Here is the Flyers roster as of now. Listed for each position are the possible players that would fill out the roster if the season started today. You can see that there is still some tinkering to be done.

Forwards (11): Danny Briere, Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, Jeff Carter, Scott Hartnell, Daniel Carcillo, Andreas Nodl, Claude Giroux, Arron Asham, Riley Cote, Darroll Powe Possible 12th forward: James van Riemsdyk, Jonathon Kalinski

Defensemen (6): Chris Pronger, Braydon Coburn, Kimmo Timonen, Randy Jones, Ryan Parent, Matt Carle Possible 7th defenseman: Danny Syvret

Goalies (1): Ray Emery Possible back-up: Johan Backlund

By the way, Robert Esche, who the Flyers reportedly were interested in bringing back to Philly, has decided to remain in Russia for another season. Scratch him off the list of possible backup goaltenders.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

J.C. Romero involved in fan altercation

J.C. Romero, fresh off a 50 game suspension for using a banned substance, has found himself in some more hot water. Romero allegedly got into an altercation with a fan on Thursday night when the Phillies where in Tampa Bay playing the Rays. Apparently the fan, Robert Eaton, made some comments to Romero about using steroids that J.C. did not appreciate. Romero allegedly grabbed Eaton by the neck and pushed him. Eaton later filed a police report, so Romero could be dealing with more than just some discipline from the MLB.

While we here at ATPS do not condone the use of violence, it's hard to be too angry with Romero for attacking the fan. Let's hope this situation resolves itself quickly, whether it's just a short suspension or a fine, and Romero can just get back to playing baseball.

For more on the story, click here for the Philly.com write-up.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Flyers acquire defenseman Chris Pronger

It was pretty well known that the Flyers wanted to bring in a defenseman this offseason to shore up their blueline, and it looks like they have succeeded in doing just that. The Flyers, who were thought to be heavy on the trail of Jay Bouwmeester of the Florida Panthers, changed gears and instead have traded for Chris Pronger of the Anaheim Ducks, getting him for Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa and two first round draft picks ('09 and '10).

Pronger, 34, is a 15 year NHL veteran and an elite-level defenseman. Pronger, a former MVP and Norris Trophy winner, is getting up there in years, but he huge and is an extremely good checker who still produced last season for the Ducks. He is under contract for one more season, set to make 6.25 million dollars. Given what it took to get him, the Flyers will likely try to re-sign Pronger for a few more years.

The Flyers paid a big price to get Pronger, possibly too much. Losing Lupul isn't a huge blow, although he is only 25 and his best years are ahead of him. Lupul was also going to make 4.25 million dollars for the next 4 seasons, a pretty big price for a guy who will get about 25 goals for you. Trading Luca Sbisa is a big gamble, since he is only 19 and showed some definite promise last season. Sbisa still has a long way to go, but if he develops into a star NHL player, this deal will not look good down the road. Losing the first round picks also hurt, but they will both likely be late in the first and the NHL Draft can be such a crapshoot, anyway.

Welcome to the Flyers, Chris Pronger. He will instantly become a fan favorite by the way he plays. He is a big hitter who drop the gloves when needed. Let's hope he is worth the big price the Flyers had to pay to get him.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sixers draft point guard Jrue Holiday

The 2009 NBA Draft has gone just as expected, with Blake Griffin going first overall to the Clippers and things shaking out pretty predictably after that. Most of the surprises of the day have come in the form of trades, with Vince Carter heading to Orlando and of course the Shaq trade that became official this morning.

The Sixers also didn't break the mold with their pick, selecting point guard Jrue Holiday from UCLA. Even if the Sixers end up re-signing Andre Miller, they needed a point guard of the future, so the Sixers selected the point with the most talent in Holiday. Only one of the mock drafts I looked at pointed to the Sixers taking Holiday, but that was because most thought he wouldn't fall all the way to the 17th pick. Holiday has a ton of potential, but he will need some time to develop into a solid NBA player. Many think Holiday isn't even a true point guard, but he has the passing ability and the court sense to one day be a floor general.

Here is Holiday's profile on NBA.com and his profile on DraftExpress.com.

Sixers GM Ed Stefanski still has some work to do this offseason. Barring a trade back into the draft, the Sixers are done for the day. The team now has 10 players on their roster for the upcoming season and a few decisions left to make about which free agents they should pursue. Stefanski would be smart to assume that Andre Miller won't be back next season, meaning he needs a contingency plan for who will start at point guard until Holiday is ready.

Here is the breakdown of how the Sixers roster looks right now:

Jrue Holiday
Andre Iguodala
Willie Green
Lou Williams

Elton Brand
Thaddeus Young
Jason Kapono
Marreese Speights
Jason Smith

Samuel Dalembert

Welcome back, Lidge!

A few weeks ago, this blogger made a mistake. I called for Brad Lidge to step down as closer for the Phillies, to be replaced by Ryan Madson. I stand by my statements that Lidge needed some time off, possibly with an "injury", but 2 blown saves and a loss later, I realize that Madson was not the answer. So, with that in mind, I welcome Brad Lidge back to his closer role. Hopefully the time off has given him a chance to clear his head and nurse his injured knee and he will be ready to be the dominant closer that he was last season. He can't be any worse than Madson, right?

To make room for Lidge on the roster, the Phillies sent Sergio Escalona back down to the minors. Escalona has been up and down all season long, so you can bet we are only an injury or overused pitcher away from seeing him again.

Here are the updated bullpen roles. With Lidge back, everyone seems to slide back into more comfortable roles, although the Phillies are without a true lefty specialist at the moment.

Long relief:
Chan Ho Park
Chad Durbin

Lefty who can go multiple innings:
Jack Taschner

6th inning:
Tyler Walker

7th inning:
Chad Durbin

8th inning:
J.C. Romero
Ryan Madson

Brad Lidge

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

2009 NBA Mock Draft Round-up: Who will the Sixers draft?

The NBA Draft is Thursday, so it's time to take a closer look at who the Sixers might be adding to their team. The Sixers have just one pick in the draft, the 17th selection of the first round, and are expected to take the best available point guard with the pick. Philly is weak in the backcourt, with just three guards on the roster and only one player, Lou Williams, who has extended experience as an NBA point guard. With each day that passes, it looks less and less likely that the Sixers will be able to bring back Andre Miller, so they basically have to address that position in the draft. This is a deep point guard draft class this year, so while Ricky Rubio figures to be take early, there are a number of other quality point guards to be had, meaning the Sixers should walk away with someone who can contribute right away. Here is a roundup of some various mock drafts from around the internet to get a good idea of who the Sixers might select:

Ian Thomsen, SI.com:
Austin Daye, SF, Gonzaga
Their take: They'll have to be patient, but the Sixers need as much perimeter shooting as they can get -- and they'll love it from a player who also provides length and athleticism. In two or three years, he could fit nicely with their up-tempo rotation.

Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina
Their take: True point guard who might be the quickest end to end player in college basketball. A master at igniting fast-breaks after made baskets. Has excellent strength, ball-handling skills, footwork and body control, and is especially impressive in transition. Gets to the basket extremely well, and uses his strength to score even with contact. Court vision is solid and assist to turnover ratio is off the charts. Has improved his perimeter stroke considerably. Loses focus and is still inconsistent as a floor general in the half-court. Only plays at one speed and appears to have an average IQ. Possesses poor shooting mechanics shooting off the dribble, and no real mid-range game. Gets in the passing lanes defensively, but lack of size and effort hurts his NBA potential on this end of the floor.

Darren Collison, PG, UCLA
Their take: Collison is a much better than advertised perimeter shooter and he changes the equation defensively. I don't see much of a difference between Collison and Ty Lawson offensively and there is a significant gap defensively.

Brandon Jennings, PG, Lottomatica Roma

Steve Alexander, NBCSports.com:
Eric Maynor, PG, VCU
Their take: Andre Miller is as good as gone. Time to plan for the future at point guard. This is a point-guard heavy draft, and Maynor is the best one left. The 76ers would love to see Lawson available here.

Aran Smith, FOXSports.com:
Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina
Their take: Philly played its best basketball after Brand went down, as the racehorses were able to get out on the break and run. Lawson fits in very well with their speed and athleticism. Unfortunately, Brand doesn't. Philly will likely have a number of PGs to select from, but Lawson is said to be a guy they like.

Jeff Teague, PG/SG, Wake Forest

Jru Holliday, PG/SG, UCLA
Their take: Didn't have a great freshman year in college, but is coming out because NBA scouts like his upside. A combo guard who still has a lot of improving to do.

My Take: Since 7 of the 8 picks here are guards, it's pretty clear the Sixers will take a guard. There isn't a lot of consensus as to who the Sixers will take because there really isn't much known about what the teams ahead of them will do. We pretty much know that Blake Griffin is going first overall to the Clippers, but after that it's all up in the air. The best player out of this group to me is Eric Maynor, he has good size and speed, although his shot isn't anything special. Ty Lawson would also be a solid pick for the Sixers, although he's barely 6 feet tall, making it hard for him to match-up on a lot of point guards in the NBA. I don't think the Sixers can go wrong with either one, or with taking whoever the best available point guard is at their pick in the draft.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Flyers vs. Bruins in 2010 Winter Classic

The rumors have proven to be true: the Flyers will be in the 2010 Winter Classic. In a game that will be played on January 1st, 2010 at Fenway Park, the Flyers will square off against the Boston Bruins in the 3rd annual Winter Classic.

The Flyers are an interesting choice to play in this game considering they aren't really a rival of the Bruins. It has been known for a while that Fenway would be the site of the next Winter Classic, and apparently the Flyers beat out the Washington Capitals as the opponent for the Bruins. Rumors have been circulating that the NHL wanted to promote Alex Ovechkin in the game but NBC, who will televise the game, wants the big Philadelphia hockey market watching the game for maximum ratings.

The Winter Classic should feature two division rival teams duking it out in the snow, so I would have preferred the Flyers playing the Penguins or Rangers for their first Winter Classic, but I can't complain. Seeing the Flyers playing outdoors in a game that will be watched by every hockey fan and even some casual sports fans will be great. I just hope we get a nice helping of snow as the backdrop for an exciting game.

Sixers unveil new (old) logo

It's time to throw out all of your current Sixers gear and pull out the old stuff. The Sixers announced today that their team logo will go from this:
Back to this:Yep, that's the same logo the Sixers had when they last won a championship. The team is also expected to unveil new uniforms that look much like the throwbacks they wore this past season:It's a welcome change back, if you ask me. This classic look brings back the original red, white and blue team colors and gets away from the black uniforms that never quite looked right. It's a smart move by the Sixers to bring back the look from their most successful teams, now let's hope they can start playing like the successful teams of the past.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Who needs relievers? Clay Condrey to the DL

It had been four days since they sent a player to the disabled list so you knew the Phillies were due. According to ESPN, Clay Condrey will be placed on the DL tomorrow with an oblique strain, to be replaced by lefty Sergio Escalona on the roster. Condrey joins fellow bullpen arms Brad Lidge and Scott Eyre, along with Raul Ibanez and of course Brett Myers, on the ever-growing list of injured Phillies. Don't forget to also add to that list Ryan Howard, who is iffy to play tomorrow as he recovers from being sick.

The Phillies bullpen is now stretched completely thin, as they are without their closer, lefty specialist and now their most reliable arm in Condrey. Condrey doesn't have amazing stuff, but he has gotten the job done time and time again this season. His loss on its own wouldn't be that big of a deal, but when you couple it with the rest of the walking wounded, the Phillies bullpen is certainly running on empty now.

Maybe the Phillies just want to keep things interesting on their reality show, "The Pen"? Perhaps they want to get as many pitchers in their system a chance to be on television as possible.

As always, I have updated the roles for the Phillies bullpen. This is just my best guess as to how these guys will be used, at this point several relievers are going to be used in situations that they are not best suited for. Durbin is versatile so I listed him twice.

Long relief:
Chan Ho Park
Chad Durbin

Lefty who can go multiple innings:
Jack Taschner

Lefty specialist:
Sergio Escalona

7th inning:
Tyler Walker

8th inning:
J.C. Romero
Chad Durbin

Ryan Madson

Get lost, Phillies, and don't come back until you are ready to win at home

On the road, they are the best team in baseball. At home, they are as bad as the Nationals. That's your 2009 Phillies, everyone.

Since lamenting in my post last week about their home woes, the Phillies proceeded to lose four more games at home, bringing their home record to 13-22, the second worst home record in baseball. On the road, the Phillies are still a remarkable 23-9, far and away the best in the league away from home.

I'll once again ask the same question I asked last week: is this a real trend or just a statistical anomaly? The teams that the Phillies have played at home and on the road are just about equally as good, so you can't blame it on a harder home schedule. Injuries, while they are a lame excuse because every team deals with them, still play a part in the current losing streak. I defy any team to lose their top hitter, their second best pitcher and their closer and keep winning consistently. Add on top of that the sickness that kept Ryan Howard out yesterday, and the Phillies can blame some of their current woes on injuries.

But, injuries don't explain why the Phillies still make average starters like Rich Hill and Scott Richmond look like All Stars. And, injuries don't explain what has happened to Jimmy Rollins, who is hitting an atrocious .217 and has a .261 on base percentage. How is a team supposed to win when their leadoff hitter never gets on base? I think it's time once again for Charlie Manuel to drop Rollins to 6th in lineup. Shane Victorino and his .304 average and .365 OBP deserves to be at the top of the order.

Luckily for the Phillies, they get to leave Philadelphia for a 9 game road trip, heading to Tampa Bay, Toronto and Atlanta. Hopefully the Phils will hit the road and leave all of their home woes behind. I have never seen a team be so backwards, to be this bad at home and relish playing on the road. I've also rarely seen a team keep its slim lead atop a division after losing 6 straight games, but that shows just how bad the rest of the NL East has been. If the Phillies want to stay in first, however, they need to right themselves at home. You simply can't win a division if you can't win at home.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mike Richards fails to win the Selke Trophy

By all accounts, the Flyers had a disappointing season this year. After reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in the previous season, the Flyers were supposed to take the next step in the 08/09 season and at least get to the Stanley Cup Finals. Unfortunately, the Pittsburgh Penguins stood in their way, again, and sent the Flyers packing in the first round.

While they were disappointing as a team, the Flyers had several players who put together solid individual efforts. Simon Gagne had an excellent bounce-back year as he netted 34 goals and proved he was fully recovered from his concussions. Jeff Carter also excelled, finishing second in the league in goals with 46. However, the best effort by any Flyer came from Mike Richards, who had 80 points, a plus/minus of 22 and led all forwards on the team in minutes played. Richards did everything for the Flyers from killing penalties to quarterbacking the powerplay, proving he was an excellent player on both ends of the ice. He was all over the ice, netting a league-leading 7 shorthanded goals and getting into his fair share of scraps. He was simply the best all-around player on the ice for the Flyers, and as we learned after the season, he did it all while fighting through a shoulder injury.

The NHL agreed that Richards was an excellent all-around player, making him a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, given to the forward who "best excels in the defensive aspects of the game". Unfortunately, Richards did not take home the award, instead Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings was deemed the best defensive forward.

Congratulations to Mike Richards for being a finalist for the award. I am sure that Richards would have been happy to win, although he certainly wouldn't have been satisfied with just a Selke Trophy. He wants the Stanley Cup, and he will do whatever it takes to bring it home next season, even if it means hurting both his shoulders.

UPDATE: Richards lost the vote 945-942 to Datsyuk, the closest Selke vote ever. I demand a recount!

From bad to worse: Ibanez to the DL

For a team that has been in first place for most of the year, the Phillies haven't exactly been full of good news this season, especially when it comes to injuries. First, the Phillies lost Brett Myers for the season, then Brad Lidge and Scott Eyre were sent to the disabled list. Now, their hottest hitter, Raul Ibanez, will join them.

Ibanez was placed on the 15 day DL today with a strained left groin. He is going to have an MRI on the strain to see if there is any extensive damage, and early word from Ruben Amaro is that Ibanez could be out for more than two weeks. Replacing Ibanez on the roster is John Mayberry, who swung the bat pretty well for the Phillies when he was up last month.

Obviously, losing Ibanez, who was on pace for 60 homers this season, is a big blow to the Phillies, who have already been swinging cold bats lately. We can only hope that the MRI will not turn up even more bad news. Hurry back, Raaauuuulll!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why can't the Phillies win at home?

(AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)
All right, this is getting ridiculous. After watching the Phillies in a soggy 7-1 loss at home to the Blue Jays on Wednesday night, I have finally hit my breaking point with them. Why are they so bad at home? After tonight's loss, the Phillies are 13-18 at home on the season. Contrast that with a 23-9 record on the road, and you have a really confounding situation.

Why are the Phillies so bad at home? Is it just bad luck and a small sample size? Possibly. Are they playing tougher teams at home than on the road? Not really. Are they simply tight at home and carefree on the road? I wish I could answer that.

Looking at the rest of their records in other situations, the Phillies don't have any other statistical anomalies:
Day: 12-7
Night: 24-19
Extra Inning Games: 6-4
vs. NL East: 19-12
vs. NL Central: 5-3
vs. NL West: 9-7
vs. AL: 3-5
vs. RHP: 21-19
vs. LHP: 15-8

The only record in there that is below .500 is in Interleaugue play, but they've only played 8 games and most have been against the best teams in the AL, the Red Sox and Yankees.

So, anyone have an answer? Is it only at home when their below average starting pitching, taxed bullpen and leadoff hitter who can't get on base actually keeps them from winning games? Are the "meanest fans in baseball" being too mean to them at home? It's getting to the point where we should root for them to be the NL Wild Card team because then they would never have home field advantage in the playoffs.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

David Wright taunted by a Phillies fan

In case you missed it, and I hope you did, Joe Buck's new show, creatively titled "The Joe Buck Show", debuted last night on HBO. While it was mostly an abomination, there was one moment that all Phillie fans have to see. Buck was interviewing Mets third baseman David Wright in a New York restaurant when a Phillies fan walked by and taunted Wright, pointing to his Phils jersey and the finger that the World Champs wear their rings on:

Classic. I am sure David Wright is used to that by now, though.
Thanks to the Fightins.com for uploading the video.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Royal Ivey declines a second season with the Sixers

Now that the Lakers have brought home the title, the NBA offseason has officially begun. For the Sixers, the offseason is already in full swing as they made a deal just a few days ago for a shooter in Jason Kapono, and they have now learned that guard Royal Ivey won't be returning to the team. Ivey declined his option for the 09/10 season, walking away from a contract that would have paid him slightly less than a million bucks. Ivey wasn't much of a contributor for the Sixers this past season, playing about a dozen minutes a game and averaging three points while playing solid defense. Ivey likely thinks he can be a bigger contributor to another team, so he opted out to get more playing time elsewhere.

Losing Ivey isn't a big loss for the Sixers. Ivey could play both guard positions but he was a more natual shooting guard, and with Willie Green, Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala all under contract, he simply wasn't going to get much playing time. Losing him doesn't change their number one priority this offseason: getting a point guard. Whether they bring back Andre Miller or find someone in the draft, the Sixers have to bring someone in to run the show.

With the loss of Royal Ivey, the possible loss of Andre Miller and the impending departures of Donyell Marshall, Theo Ratliff and Kareem Rush, the Sixers currently have 9 players under contract for next season. Looking at their roster below, it is clear they are loaded with forwards and they will need to sign a pair of point guards and bring in a backup center.

Andre Iguodala
Willie Green
Lou Williams

Elton Brand
Thaddeus Young
Jason Kapono
Marreese Speights
Jason Smith

Samuel Dalembert

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Phillies bullpen roulette continues: Walker up, Escalona down

Extra inning games, rain delays, injuries and general ineffectiveness have taken their toll on the Phillies bullpen, so they are forced to once again call on reinforcements. First, Kyle Kendrick had a shot, but he got sent down after reminding us just how bad a pitcher he really is. Next up was Sergio Escalona, who had previously not given up any runs in his big league appearances. After giving up three hits, walking two and giving up a pair of runs yesterday, Escalona has also been sent back the minors.

Enter Tyler Walker. The Phillies called up the 33 year old veteran who last pitched in the majors with the Giants in 2008 and posted a 4.56 ERA in 53 innings. He was the Giants 8th inning setup guy for most of last year, but figures to be in much more low-leverage situations with the Phillies. Still, Walker is a veteran pitcher who could stick if he is effective.

I figured I might as well update the bullpen roles since they are changing daily! The Phillies seem to be missing a lefty specialist now, since Taschner is more likely to pitch multiple innings than to just one batter. I've listed Chad Durbin twice because he has shown he can fill either role.

Long relief:
Chan Ho Park
Chad Durbin

Lefty who can go multiple innings:
Jack Taschner

7th inning:
Clay Condrey
Tyler Walker

8th inning:
J.C. Romero
Chad Durbin

Ryan Madson

Saturday, June 13, 2009

That was quick: Kendrick sent down, Escalona called up

And just like that, Kyle Kendrick is gone again. After getting called up yesterday, pitching two innings and reminding us all why he isn't in the Phillies starting rotation, Kendrick was sent back down to Triple A today. Sergio Escalona was called up to replace Kendrick. Escalona has pitched 2 and a third innings this year for the Phils and has yet to give up a run. He also allows a little flexibility as he gives the team another lefty out of the pen since Scott Eyre is on the DL.

I hope that's the last we see of Kyle Kendrick this season. If the Phillies actually call on him again, they would have to be really desperate.

Updating my post from the other day, here are the new bullpen roles as I seem them:

Long relief:
Chan Ho Park

Lefty who can go multiple innings:
Jack Taschner

Lefty specialist:
Sergio Escalona

7th inning:
Clay Condrey

8th inning:
J.C. Romero
Chad Durbin

Ryan Madson

Friday, June 12, 2009

Flyers scraping the bottom of the goalie barrel: Robert Esche is on their radar

No, that article title isn't an error. And, no, All Things Philly Sports hasn't crashed and reverted back to a blog post from 2005. The Flyers are really interested in bringing back goaltender Robert Esche.

The Flyers recently signed Ray Emery, and while I made it pretty clear that I was against the move, they were smart to save money and get a goalie who could be as good, if not better, than Martin Biron, who would have cost several million dollars more. The latest news on who the Flyers want to back up Emery is ridiculous, however, and really speaks to just how cheap the Flyers really want to be with their goalies. According to TSN, the team is believed to be in pursuit of Robert Esche, who last played for the Flyers in the 2006-2007 season, to be their backup goaltender. Esche left the Flyers in 2007 to go play in Russia and hasn't been back to the NHL since. At 31, Esche isn't that old, and he did put up a sub-2.00 goals against average in the KHL last season, but the Flyers are really grasping at straws with this one.

Signing Esche for a million bucks to be their backup goaltender may sound good on paper, and it will make nostalgic fans happy, but how insane would the Flyers have to be to think they can enter a season with a pair of goaltenders who have been out of the league for the past few seasons? When/if Ray Emery implodes, do the Flyers really feel confident that Esche can step into the crease and be the same goalie that led them to the Eastern Conference Finals the year before the lockout? Do they not remember that the last time Esche played goal in the NHL he had a goals against average over 4?

Signing a pair of former NHL goaltenders from Russia for around a million bucks each is a pretty crazy strategy. If it somehow works, GM Paul Holmgren and the Flyers will look like geniuses. If it fails, they could be the laughingstock of the NHL. This Flyers team is on the cusp of being an elite NHL team and skimping on goaltending isn't the thing that will bump them up to the top. I understand that if they save on goalies, they can get a better group of defensemen on the roster, but what good are better defensemen if the guy behind them can't stop the puck?

Phillies bullpen re-modeling: Eyre down with injury, Kendrick up

The injury bug is starting to sweep the Phillies bullpen. First Brad Lidge went on the DL with an "injury", either to his knee or to his psyche. Now, Scott Eyre, lefty specialist extraordinaire, is joining Lidge on the sidelines. Eyre has a right calf strain, so the Phils placed him on the 15 day disabled list. Early indications are that he will be back with the team as soon as the 15 days are up.

To replace Eyre, the Phillies called up former rookie sensation Kyle Kendrick. Last we saw Kendrick, he was getting knocked around last September as a starting pitcher. This time around, he figures to contribute to the team as a long reliever.

As the Phillies bullpen continues to get re-shaped by recent injuries, they continue to lose some of their depth. Losing Lidge doesn't affect the closer role because Ryan Madson can close just as well. It instead effects the 8th inning setup role, where they have to juggle J.C. Romero and Chad Durbin. Losing Eyre means that Jack Taschner steps in as the primary lefty specialist, a role that he hasn't really filled too well. Romero also now becomes the only other lefty option.

Here are the roles for the Phillies bullpen as I see them:

Long relief:
Chan Ho Park
Kyle Kendrick

Lefty specialist:
Jack Taschner

7th inning:
Clay Condrey

8th inning:
J.C. Romero
Chad Durbin

Ryan Madson

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Eagles, McNabb officially agree on restructured contract

The rumors have been out there for the last few days, and now it is official. The Eagles and Donovan McNabb have restructured the star quarterback's contract, giving him a raise from the 19.2 million he would have earned over the last two years of his deal. No word has come out yet as to how much more he will make, but you can bet it will place McNabb amongst the highest paid quarterbacks in the league.

To be clear, this deal is not an extension, just a re-working of McNabb's current deal. I obviously think this is a smart move for the Eagles, they have plenty of space under the salary cap so they might as well take care of their best player. There is no reason not to keep the star player happy, right? Of course, now the Lito Sheppard's and Sheldon Brown's of the world will complain even more about not getting their deals re-done, but too bad for them. McNabb deserves the extra money just for all the crap we have put him through here in Philly.

Update: McNabb will make 24.5 million in the final two years of his deal, with the possibility of 1 million more in incentives. A nice 5 million dollar raise for Donovan.

No PED's here: Ibanez's homer leads Phillies to victory

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Couldn't have picked a better guy to be the hero for the Phillies tonight. Raul Ibanez, who had his name smeared by some blogger earlier in the week, was the perfect choice to lead the Phillies to a victory over the Mets. Ibanez broke a 3-3 tie in the top of the 10th inning by crushing a 3 run homer that carried the Phils to a 6-3 win and a series victory over the Mets in New York.

Ibanez has been all over the media this week, with his strong backlash against all of the allegations that he could be using performance-enhancing drugs. His game-winning shot tonight won't keep him out of the news, but at least now he will be talked about for the right reasons. By the way, for those keeping track at home, Ibanez now has 21 homers on the season, just 12 away from his career high. He is on pace for 59 homers and 162 RBI for the season, numbers that would easily win him an MVP award and would absolutely demolish his career highs. PED's or not, and I firmly believe NOT, those are some crazy numbers.

One more thing to note from the game: Ryan Madson saved his second game in a row after a near-perfect bottom of the 10th inning. If he keeps mowing down hitters like this, I see no reason for the Phillies to rush back Brad Lidge. If the Phils can get some steady work from Scott Eyre, J.C. Romero and Chad Durbin in the 8th inning, then they won't miss Lidge at all.

Eagles have only 2 rookies left to sign: Maclin and McCoy

While rumors continue to circulate about the Eagles re-working Donovan McNabb's contract, the team is still busy signing their rookie draft picks. The Birds drafted 8 players and have now signed all but 2 of them. Of course, the two unsigned players are top picks Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy, who are both likely waiting to see what the market looks like for other rookies before they sign their deals.

Here is a complete list of Eagles draft picks and their contract status:
Jeremy Maclin, WR: No contract yet
LeSean McCoy, RB: No contract yet
Cornelius Ingram, TE: 4 years, 1.9 million, $183,000 signing bonus
Victor "Macho" Harris, CB: 4 years, 1.93 million, $180,000 signing bonus
Fenuki Tupou, OT: 4 years
Brandon Gibson, WR: 4 years
Paul Fanaika, OG: 4 years
Moise Fokou, LB: 4 years, 1.8 million, $47,000 signing bonus

I was unable to find the contract values for Tupou, Gibson and Fanaika, but you can assume, based on the pattern above, that it's in the 1.8-1.9 million dollar range, with a signing bonus above 47,000 and below 180,000.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sixers get a shooter: Jason Kapono

Ever since he traded away Kyle Korver, GM Ed Stefanski has made it his mission to get a shooter on the Sixers roster. He was able to acquire one today, getting a player who can really do nothing but shoot the ball.

The Sixers have acquired former three point contest winner Jason Kapono from the Toronto Raptors for Reggie Evans. Kapono is a 6-year veteran who has played for five different teams, averaging 7.5 points per game in his career. He is essentially a three point shooter and nothing more, hitting 45% from the three point line for his career while averaging about one assist and two rebounds per game from the small forward position. Kapono is pretty much a defensive liability, so his role will be limited to being a shooter off the bench.

To get Kapono, the Sixers had to give up a hustle guy in Reggie Evans. Evans didn't really have much talent, but he was always willing to work hard and was a great character guy. With both Elton Brand and Jason Smith returning from injury, Evans was likely going to get phased out anyway.

This was a solid move for the Sixers. A player like Kapono won't bring them a championship, but he gives the team a threat to actually hit an open shot, something the Sixers have lacked the past few years.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

I've had enough: Ryan Madson for closer

I'm a patient baseball fan. I don't make rash decisions about the value of a player after one good performance or one bad performance. Players shouldn't be traded after an 0 for 5 night and they shouldn't be put in the Hall of Fame for pitching a complete game shutout. I understand that baseball is about trends, and you can't take any one game too hard.

With that said, it's time for Brad Lidge to step away from the closer role for the Phillies. The Phillies entered Friday night's contest against the Dodgers, the best team in baseball, riding a 7 game winning streak and were ready to prove that they were still the World F'n Champions. Enter Brad Lidge in the 9th inning with a lead on both Friday and Saturday, and exit the Phillies with two bad losses. Instead of putting a further stranglehold on the NL East and cementing themselves as baseball's best team, the Phillies took two bad losses and have fallen back towards the pack.

That's why Brad Lidge and his 6 blown saves in 19 tries needs to be removed as closer. The Phillies are too good to let Lidge ruin a shot at repeating as World Champs. The best part about removing Lidge is the fact that they have the perfect in-house candidate in Ryan Madson. Let's make a quick comparison between Lidge and Madson:

Brad Lidge: 26 IP, 7 HR allowed, 14 BB, 28 K's, 6 BS, 1.81 WHIP, 7.27 ERA
Ryan Madson: 27.1 IP, 0 HR allowed, 9 BB, 29 K's, 1.06 WHIP, 2.30 ERA

I don't care if he fakes an injury and goes on the DL or they send him to the minors to "find himself", the Phillies need to make the change. NOW.

Go on Twitter and join the movement! Let's see if we can make #ryanmadsonforcloser a trending topic!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

NBA Playoff Predictions: The Finals

It was supposed to be inevitable, Kobe and LeBron were going to square off in the NBA Finals. Nike certainly thought it, as did most NBA experts and even many bloggers like myself. Well, funny thing happened along the way, the Orlando Magic turned out to be the best team in the Eastern Conference. The Magic exposed nearly every weakness the Cavs had and would have even swept the Eastern Finals if LeBron hadn't made that miraculous shot in Game 2.

So, now we are left with an NBA Finals that doesn't feature the best two players in the game, but it does feature two teams playing their best basketball at the right time. The Lakers finally pulled it together near the end of their series against the Nuggets, and the Magic, after barely squeaking past the Sixers in the First Round, have kicked it up a gear. It may not be the matchup everyone wanted, but this could still turn into a great series.

After going 1 for 2 in my Conference Finals predictions, here is my pick for the NBA Finals:

NBA Finals
Lakers vs. Magic

Lakers in 6
I know that this is the safe pick, the pick that nearly everyone is going with, but it also makes the most sense. The Lakers are simply better than Orlando in nearly every facet of the game, except three point shooting. L.A. is better defensively, which they will need to be when they try to guard Dwight Howard, who figures to average 20 points and 20 boards this series. The Lakers also have much better complimentary players to their superstar, as Kobe Bryant has been routinely getting help from Pau Gasol and even Lamar Odom pitched in a good game or two. Besides, who for the Magic will even have a chance at slowing Kobe down?

As much as I really don't like the Lakers or Kobe Bryant, they are the better team in this series. Kobe will make it his personal mission to win this series and prove that he doesn't need Shaq to win a title. I see the Lakers winning the first two games, then the Magic winning Games 3 and 5 before the Lakers close things out in Game 6. It should be a nice ending to a very entertaining NBA Playoffs.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Brian Westbrook to have surgery, but you can relax

As you have no doubt heard by now, Brian Westbrook will be going under the knife for the second time this offseason. Westbrook previously had surgery on his left knee and now will have a minor procedure to clear out some bone spurs in his ankle. There is no known timetable for his return, but some have speculated he could miss the entire training camp, although no one is saying he will miss any regular season games.

Cue the panic attacks from Eagles fans. Look, we all know that Brian Westbrook is the Eagles offense, when he's on, the Birds puts up a ton of points, but this news isn't something you should spend your time worrying about. Westbrook is so perpetually banged up, it would be bigger news if he came out and said he was 100% healthy. It's also funny to see all the stories about how LeSean McCoy needs to get ready because he is going to need to step up in Westbrook's absence, and that the Eagles should go out and get another veteran running back to fill the void. No one is saying that Westbrook is going to miss any regular season games, so at what point was McCoy going to step up? In the meaningless exhibition games that Westbrook might possibly miss, which he never plays in anyway?

Brian Westbrook is having surgery and will need some time to recover. Big deal, we've all been through this before. There is no need to panic: when the bell rings and the games count, you can bet Westbrook will be ready to play.

Goodbye, Marty: Flyers to sign Ray Emery

Well, the Flyers didn't take my advice. Back in May, rumors began to surface that the Flyers were in discussions with goaltender Ray Emery about being the starter in net for the Flyers next season. Emery is a headcase who has been essentially banished to Russia, so I advised the Flyers to stay away from Emery and his poor attitude. Unfortunately they didn't listen to me, and it appears that Emery is headed to Philadelphia, which means we can say goodbye to both free agent goalies Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki.

According to Tim Panaccio, word has spread around the NHL that the Flyers are deep in discussions with Emery and, barring a last-minute breakdown, will sign the goalie when free agency opens in July. Emery last played for a team in the KHL, a Russian League, after being waived by the Ottawa Senators in 2008 for his poor off-ice behavior. He led the Senators to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007, so he has the ability, it's simply a question of whether he can straighten up and play his best and not be a distraction.

This move could easily turn out to be a coup for the Flyers, or it could blow up in their face. I would guess that Emery is willing to play for less than the Flyers would have had to sign Marty Biron for, so they will save some money to be used on other players. But, if Emery should be the distraction he was in Ottawa, the Flyers will be left with no one to step in, since the backup is likely going to be Johan Backlund, also signed away from a non-NHL team.

The Flyers are employing an interesting, although backwards, strategy with their goaltenders. The signing of Emery screams of a move to save salary by signing someone out of the league, and that gives them two goaltenders for next year that are relatively cheap. The Flyers are choosing to spend as little money as possible on goaltending, which just so happens to be the most important position in hockey. If this gamble pays off, they will look like geniuses. If it doesn't, Paul Holmgren should be fired.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Eagles talking contract with McNabb

Looks like it may actually be possible for an Eagle to get his contract re-worked. Where Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown have failed, it looks like Donovan McNabb is going to succeed in getting a new deal, at least according to Derrick Gunn of Comcast Sportsnet. I guess if you are named to 5 Pro Bowls and lead the team to numerous NFC Championship Games, the Eagles are willing to open up their wallets for you.

According to Gunn, the Eagles are working on a deal with McNabb that wouldn't extend his deal past its current two-year span, instead it would give him a raise over the 9.2 million he would earn for this year and the 10 million he would earn in 2010. It appears that the Eagles want to give McNabb what he is worth, something maybe closer to 12 to 15 million per year.

While it's curious why the Eagles and McNabb aren't talking about extending his contract past the next two years, I don't really see anything wrong with keeping McNabb happy and paying him what he is worth. Of course, a move like this will piss off all the other Eagles who have tried tactics like holding out and raising a stink through the media to get more money, but maybe this is a message to the team that working hard coupled with a little success is the way to get what you want. Of course, McNabb has done his own complaining to the media about plenty of things about the Eagles, but his leadership and play on the field has apparently overshadowed all of that.

Keeping Donovan McNabb happy is always a good thing to me. Not only will the star QB going to play better, but it will also continue to push the dreaded Kevin Kolb era back.