Eagles win in free agency by staying in house

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Eagles win in free agency by staying in house

Sometimes the best players available during free agency arent free agents at all.

The Eagles are doing things a little differently so far this year, focusing on locking up their own proven players in the early days of free agency instead of going out and spending millions on high-risk guys from other teams.

Its only a start, but its a good start.

Were they going to find an offensive tackle on the open market as solid as Todd Herremans? Or a defensive end as dangerous as Trent Cole? Or a wide receiver as explosive as DeSean Jackson?

No chance.

One big lesson we learned last year was that packing the roster with free agents, no matter how good their resumes look, isnt the right way to build a football team.

Ronnie Brown, Steve Smith and Vince Young were all Pro Bowl guys in the not-too-distance past, but they killed the Eagles last year. Brown was one of the main reasons the Eagles lost the 49ers game. Smith was one of the main reasons the Eagles lost the first Giants game. Young was a big reason the Eagles lost the Seattle and New England games.

Brown threw the ball to nowhere. Smith dropped a pass deep in Eagles territory that turned into an interception. Young threw interception after interception.

Devastating moments for Eagles fans. Devastating moments in a nightmarish season.

But none of them ever seemed all that broken up about any of it. The fumbles, the interceptions, the embarrassing and costly mitakes. And why would they? Philly was a stop along the way. Nothing more.

Free agents. You really dont know what youre getting. You might happen to land Cullen Jenkins, who instantly becomes a force on the field and a leader in the locker room. Or you might get guys like Smith, Brown and Young, who were merely biding their time here for a few months on their way to their next contract.

Thats not how you build a team. We all saw that last year. You need talent, sure, but you also need players who are connected to the uniform theyre wearing in a deep and meaningful way.

Guys who want to be Eagles.

Keep Herremans, Cole and Jackson around for the long-term, and you know exactly what youre getting. Weve seen it.

Herremans is a throwback to his former teammates Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas, a battle-tough, old-school lineman who wants to spend his entire career here.

Cole is a camouflaged madman and the best pass rusher weve had here since Reggie and Clyde, and hes carries that title with pride.

Jackson is a good kid who truly wants to do the right thing and had a couple bumps in the road last year, but is only 25 years old and as electrifying as anybody in the game.

Herremans, Cole and Jackson. Each signed a contract in the past couple days because they simply would rather be here than elsewhere. They each want to finish their careers in an Eagles uniform, and those are the kinds of guys any team should want to build on. You trust a guy like that. Down a field goal in the fourth quarter, time running out? You want those guys on your side.

If Im a general manager, I want 53 guys who are here for the right reasons. Fifty-three guys who want to be Eagles for life. Not Pro Bowl guys who are just looking for that next contract on the way to whatevers next.

Thats why this has been such a successful few days for the Eagles. Go shopping in free agency, and you just never know. Youre going to spend a ton of money, but youre never quite sure for what. Keep your own guys, youre own proven, home-grown guys, and youre getting football players who are already respected in the locker room. Who already have relationships with their teammates and coaches. Who know the system, know the scheme, know the playbook, dont need to start from scratch.

You get guys who have something vested in being a Philadelphia Eagle. It means something to them.

This isnt to say the Eagles shouldnt go shopping at all. They have to. We all know what they need. But it really does seem like the teams that hit free agency hard on Day 1 end up struggling and regretting it. Wait a day. Wait another day. Lock up your own guys for the long haul. Be patient. Then shop for value.

Youll notice that Stephen Tulloch, Curtis Lofton and London Fletcher are all still out there. With each passing day, their price goes down. That means more money to address other needs.

The Eagles are on the right track. They cleared cap space by trading Winston Justice. They stabalized both lines for the next few years by re-upping Herremans and Cole. They finally found enough common ground with Jackson to craft a long-term deal. And they still have plenty of cap space available to keep building.

A good start in an off-season where the Eagles had to have a good start.

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

Pete Mackanin: Like Chicago Italian beef, Freddy Galvis is the best

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Pete Mackanin: Like Chicago Italian beef, Freddy Galvis is the best

CHICAGO – Other than the Italian beef sandwiches from Portillo’s that he loves so much, Pete Mackanin hasn’t had much to feel good about during his trip to his hometown.
 
Mackanin’s rebuilding Phillies have been bulldozed by the powerful Chicago Cubs two days in a row (see game story) and have lost four of five games on a road trip that ends with one more in Wrigley Field on Sunday afternoon.
 
As difficult as it was to see his club get roughed up on Saturday, Mackanin was able to find a sliver of something good in the rubble of a 4-1 defeat.
 
“The highlight of the day was Freddy Galvis -- all day,” Mackanin said.
 
Mackanin listed all the things his 26-year-old shortstop did, from a tremendous relay throw to the plate to stop a run from scoring, to his two hustle plays that led to the Phillies’ only run in the ninth.
 
Galvis, who made several outstanding plays in the field on Friday, vowed to cut down on his errors after making 17 last season. He has just one in 48 games this season and Mackanin is more than impressed with the improvement.
 
“He’s making every play there is,” Mackanin said. “To me, if he’s not the best shortstop in the league, I’d like to see the guy that’s playing as consistent defense as he is.
 
“I’m thrilled with the way he’s playing. He’s playing hard and kind of taken a leadership role just with the way he goes about his business.”
 
Galvis has improved his defense by committing himself to concentrating for 27 outs and not getting careless on routine plays.
 
“I’ve been working with Larry Bowa on trying to set my feet and make the routine plays,” he said. “Don’t try to do too much. Just throw the ball, catch the ball and that’s it. So far, so good.”
 
Mackanin has made it clear that he expects his players to play hard and hustle. He made a huge statement to that effect when he benched his best player, Odubel Herrera, for not running out a ground ball in Detroit on Monday night.
 
So it was not surprising to see Mackanin heap praise on Galvis for his hustle in the top of ninth inning Saturday.
 
Galvis led off the inning with a pop up to right field. Outfielder Jason Heyward and second baseman Ben Zobrist got their signals crossed and the ball fell in. Galvis, running hard the whole way, ended up on second with a fluke double.
 
“That was huge the way he ran that out,” Mackanin said.
 
Galvis then moved to third on a ground ball and scored the Phillies’ only run on a risky base running play. Ryan Howard whiffed on a dropped third strike. As catcher Miguel Montero threw to first to complete the out, Galvis sprinted down the line and slid safely into home. He was able to get a huge jump because the Cubs shifted Howard and left third uncovered. Had Galvis been out at the plate, the game would have been over and it would have gone down as a bad play. But he made it and Mackanin loved it. 
 
“He hustled on a routine fly ball that turned into a double, advanced and scored on the throw to first after the strikeout – it made my whole day,” Mackanin said. “It burnt the shutout. I like to see a guy like that play with that kind of energy.”
 
Earlier in the game, Galvis was hit by a pitch on the right ankle. The pitch got him good and he hobbled to first base. But his dash for home in the ninth inning proved he was OK. Still, he wore an ice pack on the leg after the game. It was a noticeable enough ice pack that Galvis had to be asked whether he expected to play on Sunday.
 
“(Bleep) yeah,” he said.

Once again, Phillies can't measure up to rampaging Cubs

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Once again, Phillies can't measure up to rampaging Cubs

CHICAGO –- For those who called this a measuring stick series, well, you’re going to need a bigger ruler.

The Phillies are still miles upon miles from being able to match up consistently with baseball’s elite clubs.

They’ve encountered one of them the last two days and the results haven’t been pretty: Two losses to the Chicago Cubs by a combined score of 10-3. The Cubbies have pounded nine extra-base hits in the two games and four have been home runs. The Phillies have just three extra-base hits, all doubles, and one was a pop-up that dropped in because of a communication breakdown in the Cubs’ outfield.

Saturday’s 4-1 loss was the Phillies’ sixth defeat in the last eight games and fourth in five games on this challenging trip that started in Detroit (see Instant Replay). Like the Cubs, the Tigers can mash the baseball. The Phillies can’t and it’s catching up with them. They are averaging just 3.22 runs per game, second-worst in baseball. Saturday’s loss marked the 18th time they’ve been held to two or fewer runs in their 49 games. It’s a tribute to their pitching that they’re still three games over .500.

Something must be done to spark the offense. Management has basically said it wants to take more time to evaluate the team and its place in the standings before it decides whether to pursue a bat in the trade market. And even if club officials decide to pursue a bat, they won’t compromise the rebuild — i.e. trade away the prospects it has worked to accumulate — to get one.

So what you’re looking at in the short-term is more of Tommy Joseph — that’s a move that has to be made as Ryan Howard is down to a .154 batting average— and maybe Cody Asche, who could join the club during the coming homestand.

Not too long ago, the Cubs were a rebuilding team, just like these Phillies. Now, they are baseball’s best club, leading the majors with 33 wins and outscoring opponents by 126 runs. (The Phillies, by the way, have a run differential of minus-38.) The Cubs have one goal for this season: Snap their 108-year World Series drought. Anything less will be a disappointment.

There’s more to this Cubs team than offense, though. The Phillies have seen that over the last two days. Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs two starting pitchers, have allowed just two earned runs in 15 1/3 innings.

Hendricks came within one out of a shutout Saturday. The right-hander was not overpowering, but he threw a lot of strikes and the Phillies did nothing with them. He scattered five hits, did not walk a batter and struck out seven. The middle of the Phillies' order — Maikel Franco, Howard and Cameron Rupp — went 0 for 12 with four strikeouts.

Manager Pete Mackanin tipped his hat to Hendricks.

Sort of.

“Let me say this,” Mackanin said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Hendricks because he’s a damn good pitcher and I like him a lot, but I feel like we took pitches we should have hit and we swung at pitches we shouldn’t have swung at. He gave us just enough, not a lot, but just enough, pitches out over the plate to hit and we didn’t capitalize. We took too many pitches that were hittable. That being said, I really like the kid. But I think we should have been more aggressive early in the count.”

Why weren’t the Phils more aggressive?

“Who knows?” Mackanin said. “They just didn’t look aggressive at the plate.”

The Cubs, in turn, were aggressive. They came out of the gate pounding baseballs. Leadoff man Dexter Fowler homered in the first inning against Jerad Eickhoff and Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist both had doubles as the Cubs took an early 2-0 lead.

Eickhoff got better and gave the club six innings, but the bats couldn’t bail him out.

“Eickhoff started off real shaky and didn’t show command,” Mackanin said. “The ball was up in the zone and it looked like it might get ugly when they scored early. But after the second inning, he settled down and pitched well, the way we’ve seen him pitch, using all his pitches.”

Said Eickhoff: “They’re a good team, but all good teams can be manipulated and controlled. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that.”

Vince Velasquez gets a chance to try to control the rampaging Cubs on Sunday.

Andrew Bynum's new hairdo will haunt your dreams

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The Associated Press

Andrew Bynum's new hairdo will haunt your dreams

Of all the questionable decisions in Andrew Bynum’s career, this might just take the cake as the worst. No, it definitely does. 

Just look at that hair. What was he thinking? Was he even thinking at all?  

Bynum, who is no stranger to bad — I mean really bad — hair, looks to be enjoying his retirement. But let’s dig a bit deeper. Put on your polarized sunglasses and look past that bright yellow hair, because there is much more going on in this picture.

Forget his time as a member of the Sixers, smiling in a picture with a Penguins’ fan might be the biggest travesty Bynum has committed against the city.

And where was this picture taken? It appears to be a casino or arcade. Wherever it is, for the sake of Bynum’s precious knees, let’s hope it’s not a bowling alley