Monday, June 30, 2008

Running on empty

Are the 2008 Phillies this year's version of the 2007 Mets? One has to ask that question as they are mired in an embarrassing slump. The only question is, how can it be fixed?

The answer to that question is a riddle itself. The Phillies sit in first place, but if they continue to play like they are they will soon be looking up, a familiar position for the losingest franchise in sports history. Just when fans get comfortable thinking that the Phillies' imposing lineup will be enough, they stop hitting.

could never be classified as a team with enough pitching to pull off a championship. The "ace" Brett Myers (based on opening day start) is just awful this season. He's 3-9 with an ERA around 6. He's That would be fine on a team with pitching. But the Phillieswon once since April18. To say he's a rag arm would be derogatory to rags. Couldn't an almost-ready minor league go 3-9 with an ERA around 6? Myers also does all of this for $8.5 million, about $8.49 million too much. Analysis: Major Problem

The real Ace, Cole Hamels (the opening night starter), is definitely a solid pitcher to build around. He's pitched better than his 8-5 record, holding a 3.38 ERA with 103 strikeouts. Opponents are hitting only .212 against him. Hamels is like the anti-Myers, as he wins and makes only $500,000, about $8 million less than he should. The biggest concern is durability. He's already logged 120 innings, and has never pitched more than 183.1 in a major league season. Will he hold up? Analysis: No Problem...Yet

Then there's 45-year-old Jamie Moyer who reminds me of Eddie Harris from the movie Major League. ("Yo, bartender, Jobu needs a refill.") If anyone expected him to be better at this point than 7-6 with a 4.13 ERA they're crazy. The main concern, besides his age, is that after putting together a string of five straight wins from May 16 to June 12, he has collected three consecutive losses since. Analysis: Give Me More Moyers Than Myers

Probably the best surprise, especially if one believes in sophomore slumps, is 23-year-old Kyle Kendrick (pictured). He's 7-3 and has become arguably the most reliable pitcher in the rotation. Kendrick is sporting an ERA of 4.59, but he seems to get good run support. The team is 12-4 in games that Kendrick starts, which shows a lot of confidence in their youngest starter. Analysis: No Problem

Rounding out the starting pitching is the Myers-like dreadful, overpaid Adam Eaton. Eaton didn't get his first decision until his seventh start, and since then he's 2-6 with a 4.86 ERA. He hasn't won since June 3, and the team is 7-9 when Eaton starts. Like I said about Myers, couldn't a rookie from the minor leagues go 2-6 with a 4.89 ERA? Eaton also makes just a hair less than $8 million. Analysis: Major Problem

The Phillies starting staff is a classic example of paying players then getting no production. Between Eaton, Moyer and Myers, the Phillies are shelling out $22,541,666. In return those three have a produced a 12-21 record, with an average ERA of 4.94. Yet Hamels and Kendrick are receiving $500,000 and $445,000 respectively . They've combined to go 15-8 with an average ERA of less than 3.99.

Two possible solutions for Eaton and Myers could be Kris Benson, who was just roughed up in a AAA start, and Brian Mazone, who is 8-6 with a 3.28 ERA for the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Benson is a former Major Leaguer who will likely just collect a paycheck and never perform for the Phils. Mazone will be 32 this month so his clock is running out. Perhaps it's time to move Chad Durbin to the starting rotation.

(Editor's note: since this post was originally published less than 24 hours ago, the Phillies have optioned Brett Myers to the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs. According to, "Likely candidates to fill that rotation spot are reliever Chad Durbin and Minor Leaguers J.A. Happ and Carlos Carrasco." In other updates, Kyle Kendrick, the youngest and least paid pitcher in the rotation, won again. He's now 8-3 overall, and 5-1 on the road.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Back for more?

Looking at the free agent picture for this upcoming summer, and knowing that the 76ers have a new GM who needs to make a splash, could the team possibly go after a dream scenario of bringing back Allen Iverson? Even with Iverson, the Nuggets are not real contenders in the West, and he was much more of a national star playing in Philly. He also has an early termination clause in his contract.

With the emergence of some young players, and a true point guard in Andre Miller, the original AI could be the missing piece to the puzzle. Thaddeus Young and the Andre Iguodala have both come on as threats with their all around games. Add in a dose of a true scoring threat like AI and the Sixers become immediate contenders, and Ed Stefanski makes his splash.

Recently, owner Ed Snider commented how he was surprised to see the 76ers poor numbers at the gate. That's shocking. He's been around sports long enough to know that stars on the court put butts in the seats. It's not a secret formula that should take forever to figure out. The Sixers are putting out a no frills product of emerging players, and the attendance is a direct reflection of that low level of excitement.

Bringing back a star like AI would do the trick at the gate and at the turnstile. But he's not the only potentially available player who can light it up. In Miami, the recently acquired Shawn Marion also has an early termination clause. He is one of the better all around players in the game, and could gel nicely with this bunch. He rebounds, scores (a combo that the Sixers currently lack) and plays with a never ending intensity. At his age (30 in May), he might also be with the Sixers longer term than AI (33 in June) would be.

Stefanski has an important summer coming up. With the draft and free agency, it'll be time to make a splash. Hopefully the end result will help Snider wipe the surprised look of his black & orange skinned face.

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Cap room commeth

New Philadelphia 76ers President Ed Stefanski made his first move on Saturday, sending 3-point threat Kyle Korver and his bloated contract to the Utah Jazz. The trade, which netted the Sixers Gordan Giricek (pictured) and a future draft pick, created the cap room that Stefanski wanted.

In order to make the team competitive, Stefanski will have to strengthen the roster. Giricek is a step in the right direction. Like Korver, he's also a 3-point specialist. The key is that his contract expires at the end of the year. The other reason why this makes sense is that Giricek is also from Europe, a basketball breeding ground badly neglected by the 76ers.

Congratulations Mr. Stefanski on your first move. It was smart and truly in the direction of moving forward.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Stefanski's first move?

When Ed Stefanski was brought in to resuscitate the Philadelphia 76ers about three weeks ago, there was a sigh of relief among Sixers fans. Sine then, though, there has been little news. The team is playing to the best of their ability (12-16), and they are impressing some people who had them pegged to finish dead last.

Rumors, however, have begun to fly that Stefanski is about to make his first move. Andre Miller (pictured), who is averaging over 16 points and six assists per game, may soon be suiting up for another franchise. ESPN is reporting the team that covets the services of Miller, a point guard in his ninth year out of Utah, is the defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

The deal that ESPN rumors would net the Sixers little for Miller, and might not be the best offer out there. Drew Gooden, Cedric Simmons and Ira Newble would be the bounty. Gooden is the only one of the lot that I would think can contribute to the team effectively.

Stefanski denies the deal will take place, but if he wants to right the ship sent listing by Billy King, he needs to make some personnel changes soon. No matter how good or bad a front office is, teams need talent on the court. Did King seriously think that Kyle Korver and Samuel Dalembert deserved bloated contracts? They're role players, not building blocks.

With two months of the season nearly complete, the Ed Stefanski era needs to lift off soon.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Ding Dong the Dingbat's Gone

Fans are rejoicing on Broad Street once again. The man who has almost single-handedly destroyed the Philadelphia 76ers, Billy King, has finally been given his pink slip. To call him a lame duck GM would be a disgrace to lame ducks everywhere. King was a boil on the neck of the Sixers, allowed to fester as ownership concentrated more on hockey than basketball.

With the Flyers erasing the memory of last year’s dismal run, Ed Snider and the powers of Comcast have finally looked to make the Sixers competitive. Normally when a team loses a remarkable amount of games, a coach is the scapegoat for poor performance. But in the case of the 76ers, how could you blame a guy for not winning when given a roster full of players who would be at best a third option anywhere else? When he came back to Philly as a head coach, I’m sure Maurice Cheeks was expecting a little help from the front office. Seemingly, the opposite kept happening.

Chris Webber loafed his way into a buyout, and Allen Iverson was traded for less than his value. Undeserving, bloated contracts were also handed to Samuel Dalembert (the Haitian Sedation), Willie Green and Kyle Korver. The latter of the three is the only one who would even hold a little trade value as he shoots the three phenomenally…at times. Dalembert could have some trade value if his contract wasn’t bigger than he plays. Let’s not even get into the long list of King’s draft day duds. Hey Billy, there’s some great talent overseas you might have wanted to analyze.

Ed Stefanski, now the former GM of the New Jersey Nets, will replace Billy King. I don’t know if it’s such a great thing to hire someone who was so readily available from a division rival, but maybe he knows how to win a little. Either way, he helped take the Nets from perennial bottom feeders to division overlords almost overnight.

To Billy King I say good riddance. To Ed Stefanski I say good luck. Unlike in East Rutherford where the stands are half empty for a playoff team, in Philly the fans have passion. Our stands are half full for a cellar dweller.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Rollins: A.K.A. "The Best"

Jimmy Rollins is the man. Not because he won the NL MVP award on Tuesday, but because he walks the walk. As September rolled around, a bold prediction made last offseason seemed nothing more than wasted ink on some paper long ago sent to the recycling center.

Rollins, unquestionably the best shortstop in the NL, said that the Phils were the team to beat in the NL East. Down and seemingly out of the playoff hunt with less than a month to go, Rollins willed the team back to an improbable division crown.

Things like this don't happen often in Philly, so it was a sweet ride watching the Phillies handle their business when it counted. Rollins had help, but he was the leader. Congratulations Jimmy!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Blink and it's gone

The MLB playoffs were actually in Philadelphia this year. Did you blink? Cause if you did, you might have missed it. With two beatings starting before 5th graders got out of school, followed by a prime time exit, the Phillies just looked like they were boys playing with men.

The playoffs began with optimism, with the thinking that the Phillies had overcome some great mountain and were about to grind it out in the playoffs. Yet, it became clear enough after the first two games that the team had already made their October plans, and playing baseball wasn't part of the deal.

The franchise mindset of accepted losing snuck back into the players minds, but is it their fault? Pitching is a commodity in baseball because it is so important in the playoffs. The Phillies brass didn't plan on a playoff team. They went out and picked up two starters, Freddy Garcia and Adam Eaton, who they thought would pan out. Eaton was a bum before and a bust now. Garcia is nothing more than a shell of himself who gets more than 10 mil a year. That leaves the oft-injured Cole Hamels as the only true weapon in the starting rotation. (Jamie Moyer is great, for his age. Kyle Kendrick will be good, and did better than most thought he would. Kyle Lohse, well, please stop trying to act like this was a good pick-up.)

In the playoffs, a staff of Hamels, Kendrick, Moyer and Lohse is just pathetic. Now I know what you're thinking, Kendrick and Moyer did well, but the competition only gets tougher as the playoffs continue. Hamels had an off inning, which was the difference in Game 1. There is one more problem, the Phillies bullpen has a huge hole in it if you are going to take a starter out before the 7th inning. Uncle Charlie did just that.

Yet I still focus on the starting pitching, and surprisingly enough on Hamels. What I am left struggling to swallow is not how he played (looking disgruntled that he was forced to play in October by the great Mets collapse), but what he said before Game 3. He went on TV and explained that the Phillies goal all season was just to make the playoffs. Hey, just like the Army - Mission Accomplished!