Posted tagged ‘philatude’

Flyers Win 2 on the Road

October 5, 2009
Flyers Mike Richards, Simon Gagne and Matt Carle (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Flyers Mike Richards, Simon Gagne and Matt Carle (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

The Flyers started off their season with 2 big wins on the road.  The Flyers shut-out Carolina on Friday night and clearly beat-up the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night.  The team got great play from most players, including excellent goaltending from Ray Emery.  The only disappointing part of both wins was the exorbitant amount of penalties the Flyers took.  They had to kill 8 penalties on Friday, including a 2 minute 5 on 3 power-play for the Carolina Hurricanes.

Of course, one could question how good are the Hurricanes and Devils?  Last season, the Devils finished the season with 107 points and the Hurricanes made it to the Eastern Conference finals.  Both of these teams have their nucleus back, so there shouldn’t have been any drop off in play.  For the Flyers to come out and win both of those games on the road should help the Flyers with their confidence and hockey instinct.  

The Flyers open their home portion of the season, tomorrow night against the Washington Capitals and then follow-up with the Penguins on Thursday.  These two games will be a real test to this surging Flyers team.  However, if the Flyers continue to get passionate play from their fourth line, especially Blair Betts and Ian Lapierrerre and excellent goaltending from Ray Emery, these two games this week could catapult the Flyers season or send the Flyers back to the drawing board on how to beat the two top teams in the Eastern Conference.

Phillies Clinch

October 2, 2009
Philadelphia Phillies Clinch the N.L. East

Philadelphia Phillies Clinch the N.L. East

It should feel great that the Phillies clinched another playoff birth.  Though, for some reason, I’m just a little anxious.  I guess the only thing that would make me feel great is if I was confident in the Phillies winning a playoff series.

I have significant questions about the Phillies, specifically, their starting pitching and closer slot.  The Phillies boast a solid roster of starting pitchers, especially on paper.  However, the likes of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Pedro Martinez aren’t really pumping out the dominating performances we need to get over the playoff hump.  Lee has been mediocre at best since his strong start here in Philadelphia.  Hamels is wildly inconsistent and hasn’t gotten any run support.  Pedro has pitched ok, but he doesn’t have the ability anymore to crush opponents and win games on his own.  Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ both have looked good, but aren’t top of the rotation guys right now.  In fact, Happ is battling a little bit of the injury bug.  Further complicating things is that the old stand-by, usually good for a solid start and long relief, Jamie Moyer is done for the season with some groin and hamstring issues.  They key to this situation is that the starters need to pull it together.  We need the dominating performances out Lee and Hamels.  Pedro and Blanton need to step it up.  There is nothing else that can be done.  We have to rely on our starting pitching.  If these guys want it bad enough and they should, I think that Lee, Hamels and the crew will prove they are capable of providing dominating playoff performances.

Even scarier is the closer situation.  Brad Lidge, Tyler Walker, Ryan Madson and even Brett Myers will be on the post-season roster.  Yet, we’re not sure who will show up as the closer.  As discussed in previous posts, we think Ryan Madson should be handed the role and be able to prepare like the closer.  Keep Lidge off the post-season roster and let Walker and Myers battle it out for the set-up role.  Whatever happens, the Phillies post-season relies on the bullpen, specifically the closer role.

As I look forward to the playoffs and the determination of the match-ups, I sit and wonder – which Phillies pitching staff will show up for the defense of the World Series title?

Trotter in for a Workout?

September 25, 2009
Jeremiah Trotter, last seen in an Eagles Uniform in 2006

Jeremiah Trotter, last seen in an Eagles Uniform in 2006

I was shocked to see the late afternoon blog headlines on philly.com yesterday proclaiming that Jeremiah Trotter worked out for Coach Andy Reid.  Really?  Jeremiah Trotter was cut during training camp two seasons ago.  He went on to play for Tampa Bay in a reserve roll and then was entirely out of football last season.  I don’t get it.

However, we all know that Eagles are having problems at the middle linebacker spot since Stewart Bradley went down with an injury.  Trotter manned the position successfully over two stints for the Eagles.  With Trotter’s knee issues – the reason he has been out of football – I don’t think he could come back in and contribute at a top level.  Trotter claims he had been working out with a trainer and with some of his former teammates, while continuing his current gig as a sports personality at 610 WIP.  Also, he has been in contact with Coach Reid since Bradley went down with an injury, so from Trotter’s perspective, the workout wasn’t entirely out of the blue.

Here is the PhilaTude take:

Coach Reid brought Trotter in for a workout to almost “threaten” Joe Mays and Omar Gaither to get their acts together.  I don’t think there is any intent to sign Trotter.  Also, Coach Reid brought in Trotter for the workout to appease, what I think is repeated requests, Trotter’s insistence to Coach Reid that he can still play football.  This workout turned out to be a motivator for the current linebackers and a wake-up call to Trotter that his on the field football career is probably over.

Phillies Bullpen Woes

September 25, 2009
Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson

Brad Lidge, the perfect closer from last season, has 11 blown saves.  Yet, Charlie Manuel keeps giving him opportunities to regain his form, because there isn’t anyone else to fulfill the role.  Ryan Madson has thrived as a set-up man last season and currently.  Brett Myers isn’t healthy enough to perform the closer role that he successfully manned a few years back.  Tyler Walker, a former Giants closer, could hold down the fort, but I really haven’t seen him close a game or pitch a tight inning since he has been with the Phillies.  None of the other relievers on the roster have the mentality or the power to close out games.  In fact, there is a rumor flying around that J.A. Happ could be the closer.  I’m sure Happ can close games, but a promising starting pitcher with some nagging injuries doesn’t the mental games that being a closer would bring. The hole at the closer position is going to be a huge problem come playoff time.

Quite frankly, the pressure is now heavily upon the starting pitching to provide at least 7 full innings of work.  Also, the offense will feel the pressure to provide significant run support for the starting pitching knowing that their bullpen is faltering.  Conversely, the opposing teams will do everything they can to get to the much maligned Phillies bullpen.  Having this glaring weakness on this Phillies team could not only be an issue dealt with each game, but could be extremely detrimental to entire psyche and mental state of this Phillies baseball team.

A simple solution, that I am not sure is the right one, would be to install Madson as the closer.  I think he could easily handle this duty if he is afforded the opportunity to prepare like a closer from the physical to mental aspects of the game.  Each game the Phillies go out and play without a designated closer, it supports each member of the bullpen to NOT have the mentality to close a game.  By designating Madson the closer, he’ll know and the rest of the team will know that Madson is their guy and each player can prepare for their roles appropriately.  Will it happen?  I doubt, I think we are stuck with some significant bullpen issues heading into a tough playoff field.

Phillies Get Two More Wins

September 17, 2009
Jayson Werth's Grand Slam (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Jayson Werth's Grand Slam (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

On Tuesday night, the Phillies, led by a complete game from Cliff Lee, shut out the Washington Nationals.  Last night, led by an impressive performance from Joe Blanton and a grand slam from Jayson Werth, the Phillies again defeated the Nationals.  Of course, the only real coverage of this game was the little girl who threw the foul ball back.  It was cute. 

While it’s important to note that the Nationals are a terrible baseball team, the Phillies still played very well.  They scored runs and got great pitching from two starters and a host of bullpen arms.  It’s good to see the Phillies win games they are supposed to, especially while putting up runs and getting strong pitching.  Hopefully, this will continue into tonight’s game and the 20 or so games remaining in the season.

I am concerned that the Phillies might clinch the playoffs soon and potentially take the rest of the season “off.”  I’ve read a few different opinions regarding teams that cruise into the playoffs have a tougher time winning their first round series.  In fact, teams who have to struggle to make the playoffs have fared much better.  I think this makes sense.  It is important for a team to get to the playoffs while in their stride and playing top level baseball.  If the Phillies were to clinch and rest their big time players and pitchers, I would be concerned that they would have a hard time staying in a focused, game playing mentality.  While I hope the Phillies clinch and guarantee their spot, I want them to be able play real and focused baseball in the remaining games as a primer for the playoffs.  Charlie Manuel needs to ensure his players understand the importance of routine and consistency – otherwise, I worry about a repeat performance against the Colorado Rockies from 2 years ago.

Eagles Flurry of Roster Moves

September 17, 2009
Jeff Garcia playing for the Eagles in 2006.  He'll wear #9 in 2009.  (Rusty Kennedy/Associated Press)

Jeff Garcia playing for the Eagles in 2006. He'll wear #9 in 2009. (Rusty Kennedy/Associated Press)

Usually, the end of pre-season is the most hectic in terms of roster moves.  Well, after an impressive week 1 win and an injury to Donovan McNabb, the Eagles made some significant roster moves to solidify their team heading into week 2 against the Saints.  First, the Eagles announced the signing of Jeff Garcia.  Second to make room for Garcia, the Eagles placed Shawn Andrews on IR (as discussed in an earlier post).  Third, the Eagles activated Michael Vick so he can practice.  Finally, to make room on the active roster for Vick, the Eagles cut Hank Baskett.

Jeff Garcia will provide the Eagles some insurance at the quarterback position this weekend.  Kevin Kolb in unproven and quite frankly, looks terrible in game situations – pre-season and regular season.  Kolb will be given all the first team repetitions this week in practice and will have every chance to lead the Eagles offense.  However, I think he may have a short leash as the Eagles should be able to put up points against a weak New Orleans Saints defense.  Detroit scored 27 points against the Saints last week.  If Kolb doesn’t perform well, I expect the Eagles to replace him with Garcia in this game and then the following week’s starter will be up in the air.  There is some precedent here.  Koy Detmer played amazing in his one start after McNabb was hurt.  Unfortunately, he shredded his elbow in that game.  A.J. Feeley, now with Carolina, has made many starts to help the Eagles team and won a few games.  Also, Jeff Garcia led the Eagles to a 5-1 record after McNabb tore his ACL.  However, Mike McMahon started a few games and was just awful.  We’ll see how Kolb does, but I have very low expectations.

With Michael Vick practicing, my assumption is that Coach Reid wants to have Vick on the field for the week 3 game against the Chiefs.  Depending on McNabb’s health and the play of Kevin Kolb, will really dictate how much Vick will play.  I am hoping for a healthy McNabb – none of the other QB’s on the roster really excites me.  

Hank Baskett was caught up in the numbers game and contract situations of the wide receivers on the team.  I was hoping the team would trade Baskett, but no trade partner became apparent – most likely due to the money Baskett would be owed.  So, the Eagles released him.  He passed through waivers, as no one wanted to pick up his salary, and was subsequently signed as a free agent with Indianapolis Colts.  Basket is a good blocker and decent special teams player, but hasn’t seen much action as a receiver, nor on special teams with this year’s version of the Eagles.  While we like Baskett as a football player, he wasn’t anything special and his contributions to the team will be picked up by other players.  I guess the question is – what are the Eagles going to do with Reggie Brown?  I think they will keep him.  He is good insurance in case the Eagles suffer an injury to the receiver position.  Besides, his contract is slightly prohibitive, so it makes sense.  I think he can still play.

Even with all of these moves, I expect a few more, especially along the offensive line.  Andrews is on the IR and Todd Herremans is still having foot issues – he might not be back until the end of October.  Nick Cole and Winston Justice are filling in admirably, however, the depth is extremely questionable.

Shawn Andrews to the IR

September 15, 2009

In the most bizarre set of circumstances, Shawn Andrews was place on the injured reserve list ending his season with the Eagles.  Last season, we all knew about Andrews’ depression and back injury.  He missed all but two games.  This year, he apparently spent the off-season healing and getting in shape.  He doesn’t practice at training camp because he hurt his back doing wind sprints.  He practices with the team for a few days and then abruptly his back flared up and he was ruled out the of the season opener.  Just like that, he was placed on IR and his season is done.  The Eagles needed the roster spot for the addition of Jeff Garcia.

At this point, it is unclear if this is injury related or non-football related.  Could Andrews be suffering from depression that is impeding his recovery from the back injury or is the back injury that severe that he needs another year to have it heal?  Whatever the situation, Andrews is done for the year and Winston Justice will play for time-being in his place.  

Justice played well against the Panthers, but had a lot of tight end help.  Also, the Eagles dominated, so he wasn’t able to really show how far he has come as a NFL player.  The Eagles did run the ball to his side and he proved capable in run blocking.  My concern will be when it is time to throw the ball or play from behind if Justice can handle an end one on one.  Regardless, Justice is in and Andrews is done.  I guess the question is – will the Eagles bring in another tackle?  Jon Runyan is still available.