Tuesday, November 26, 2013

This And That

The baseball HOF ballot has been announced and at least one, possibly two, players seem likely to be voted in immediately:  Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.

Timing, of course, is everything, so the unluckiest names on the ballot are Mike Mussina and Frank Thomas. Mussina won 270 games and had a career ERA of 3.46, but here's betting he won't be voted in.  Not easy to be that good and fail to get in.  Indeed, a lot of pitchers with less gaudy numbers have been voted in.

Frank Thomas is my candidate for least good player to get in.  Thomas had a career batting average over .300 and smacked 521 home runs, but many fans and maybe even a writer or two will say, "Who'd he play for?"

Lastly, there is the cheaters' division led by Barry Bonds.  He ain't getting in because the baseball world is still pissed off at him.

* * * * * * * *

If football were a 45 minute game, or even a 59 minute game, Temple might be ranked number two or three in the nation.  Unfortunately, it is still a 60 minute game.  Temple has lost more big leads and late than any team I can ever remember.  Is their problem one of conditioning or is their defense easy to figure out after about 30 minutes exposure?

* * * * * * * *

The 2008 Phillies never died.  You can see most of them again this coming April at a stadium near you.

* * * * * * * *

The Flyers struggled mightily to get back to .500 after their disastrous first month and when they finally got there they went to Florida and blew it against a mediocre team.  Afterwards, one of their veteran players and their new coach said aloud the team didn't seem ready to play last night.  Seems a little late for that kind of sentiment, eh?

* * * * * * * *

The Eagles have defied a lot of pundits and sit tied atop the NFL East division.  Of course, theirs is the weakest division in football.  The next several weeks they play a number of teams who could prove the pundits really do know what they are talking about, but it has been entertaining lately to watch Nick Foles mature into a starting quarterback....at least for this season and next.  The Eagles are still going to try and draft a franchise quarterback.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Heading Nowhere....Fast

Bob Ford, the Inquirer's last regularly appearing sports columnist who can actually write, had a wonderful line in today's paper.  He began citing a series of jokes making the rounds about the age of the Phillies' roster.  My bet is most if not all of them were made up by Ford himself, which only gives more credence to my earlier statement.   The one that brought a chuckle was that Matthew Brady would be taking the team photo in 2014.

Yes, fans, your 2014 Phillies are old.  Yesterday the re-signed Chooch Ruiz to a 3-year, $26 million contract pending a physical.  Was that one too many years and nearly $8 too much money?  Absolutely.  In Chooch's case, however, I prefer to think of his deal as making up for having underpaid him for so long.  I don't have a problem with being generous to a guy who has arguably been one of the leaders of this team.

I am not so magnanimous about other deals.

 Of course the most outrageous one the Phillies alleged brain trust, headed by Ruben Amaro, made still must be Ryan Howard's $125 contract, which still has several years to run.  That albatross is followed closely by the $50 million deal offered to Jonathan Papelbon two years ago.  Pap is not only running out of gas, he has used at least 7 of his nine lives in this town, where he bashes his teammates every other outing.  The fans in this town don't take kindly to players blaming teammates.

Most observers have already noted the questionable deal Amaro made a week ago, signing Marlon Byrd to a heft 2-year contract.  The Phils need to improve in a lot of areas most notably the outfield.  Of course they needed to improve the outfield this time last year, too, and did not.

In the end the biggest change the Phils need to make is the GM.  Amaro inherited a good team and has slowly saddled it with bad contracts, questionable signings and the near-total depletion of the minor league system.

Amaro is over his head.  The only thing that bails him out has been the years of sell-outs which, of course, abruptly ended at the end of 2012 and continued through 2013, and huge television contracts.  At some point the owners, who will unload this franchise one day at a huge premium, will also get tired of the string of mistakes and errors of judgement emanating from the GM's office and do something about it.  They will be too late, however, to set their ship on the right course for many years to come.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

You Must Be Joking

I read the news coming out of the Hot Stove League and mutter to myself...repeatedly...."you must be joking!"

The Braves, never a huge draw in Atlanta even during their glorious run in the '90's, announced they will be leaving Turner Field for greener pastures.  Hmm, I thought, isn't Turner Field relatively new?  Yes indeedy! Seventeen years old.  In a nation known to tear down its architectural heritage, good, bad and indifferent, abandoning a stadium after less than a two decades residency has to be some kind of record.  Are you listening, Guinness?  Category:  fastest team to leave a new stadium, baseball division.

I don't know the details of the financing, but if all goes according to modern sports franchise tradition, the Braves are going to ask the public to fork over a big chunk of the costs.  Now, if the good ole folks of Georgia, a red state by any reckoning, want to carp about big government, they can begin by saying no to taxpayer financing of this move.  Oh, sure, the Braves will threaten to move somewhere if they don't get what they want from the public coffers, but would many people outside the Chamber of Commerce in Fulton County notice?  Wait, they would be moving to Kolb County.  Maybe less than half the folks there were actually born in Georgia.  Maybe Kolb Co. is really Minnesota in disguise!

Anyway, the Braves apparently want a retro stadium that seats about 45.000 so the empty seats don't outnumber the filled ones on any given night.  Management talked about better access for the fans, but I always thought you had to make the effort to go somewhere to gain access.

Just when I thought nothing else could surprise me about baseball executives and their greed and stupidity, I read the Phillies alleged brain trust was about to re-sign Marlon Byrd to a two-year $16 contract.  Byrd, as you no doubt recall, started his career here some time around the turn of the century.  Along the way he's played for a variety of teams in North America (yes, sports fans, that includes Mexico), been suspended for substance abuse and turned 36 years old before our eyes.  So, desperate for a right-handed bat and an outfielder, Ruben Amaro succumbed to Philareacquaitis (pronounced Phila reacqua itis) , a disease that though rarely fatal causes General Managers to reacquire players whom they previously traded.  Presumably, Paul Holmgren likes this deal.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

If This Be Tanking....

Picked by nearly everyone in the civilized and uncivilized world to finish dead last in the NBA this year, and in the process challenge the all-time record for losses in a single season held, incidentally, by an earlier iteration of the same team, the Sixers have charged out of the starting gate and won their first three games.

No one, not even those prone to place a $2 bet on the longest of long-shots, saw this coming.  In his heart of hearts, new coach Brett Brown probably didn't either.

It isn't likely to last, but if these guys don't re-read the script soon, they're going to blow it and win too many games to enter the record books not to mention gather enough bouncing ping-pong balls to land the top choice in next year's draft.  Rumor had it the Sixers planned to tank this season to insure the balls literally bounced their way.  So, what's going on?

Can't nobody get it right around these parts?

* * * * * * * *

Well, as a matter of fact, some teams do know their place.

The Flyers have gotten off to an astonishingly dreadful start thanks in no small part to the inept GM Paul Holmgren, who fired his coach after three games and then made one of the trades that has become his trademark, that is, the re-acquisition of a player previously traded.  Steve Downie was described by his new coach as the kind of player "every team needs", which begs the question why has he been traded three times in seven years???!!!!

Downie, a goon who can skate and score (erratically), began his second stint with the Flyers by getting pummeled in his first game back, suffering a concussion in the process.  I guess coach Berube should have added "...needs in the lineup."

Holmgren leads this team by panic and rash moves.  He is quick to fire, reacquire and rationalize.  His owner, Ed Snider, bristles at any suggestion this franchise has lost its way, but the sad truth is the Flyers are becoming also-rans who overspend and don't develop their own players.

* * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, the Eagles are perhaps the most surprising team currently engaged in activity at the moment. New coach Chip Kelly was supposed to be an offensive "genius", but his team has scored exactly three points in two games, the defense having outscored the offense by recovering a fumble for a touchdown last week against the Giants, the only other points of the time in question.

NFL games are analyzed more closely and ad nauseum than any other human activity of the Fall and Winter in these United States including general elections and the stupidity and venality of Republicans.  Everyone and his cousin has an explanation for the Eagles' ineptness, including injuries to the mediocre corps of quarterbacks, the loss of split end Jeremy Maclin in training camp, a new offensive scheme, a new defensive scheme, the lack of quality cornerbacks and safeties, etc..  In other words, where to begin?

Whatever else you say, the offensive is boring.  Their so-called hurry-up pace hasn't phased any defenses as far as I can tell.  It probably confuses the offense more.

Chip Kelly may indeed turn out to be a genius, but for right now all his has been is living proof that a coach is as successful as his players, and right now he doesn't have many good ones.