Happy Festivus: The700Level Airs its Grievances

Happy Festivus: The700Level Airs its Grievances

"I got a lot of problems with you people, and now you're gonna hear about them!"

Not that you—our loyal readers and commenters—need any extra encouragement when it comes to the airing of grievances, but today is as good as any to let your friends and family members absolutely "have it."

A reminder also that Festivus will not be over for those on staff until Nick can manage to pin Enrico during the "feats of strength" later this evening.

And now, in honor of this the Day of our Pole, we submit to you the ways in which we have been disappointed by those whom we have so supported over the last year.

Let's rumble.
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Rev:
I’ll get into my Festivus-inspired Philly sports disappointment in a moment. Let me first admire my completely unadorned Festivus aluminum pole. Allow me a moment to marvel at the strength-to-weight ratio of it. It is beautifully cold and devoid of even a hint of commercialization.

Ok, on to my disappointment. I’ll take a bit of a different tact here and not select a local player, coach, general manager, or owner. No, my disappointment relates to a disturbing trend that has developed over the last few years.

I am disappointed that our local teams keep on losing to the eventual champion. The last three World Series Champions? The Cardinals, the Giants, and the Yankees. The last three teams to knock the Phillies out of playoffs? The Cardinals, the Giants, and the Yankees.
The last three Stanley Cup Champions? The Bruins, the Blackhawks, and the Penguins. The last three teams to knock the Flyers out of the playoffs? The Bruins, the Blackhawks, and the Penguins.

This disappointing trend extended to the NFL this past season when the Packers beat the Eagles en route to claiming yet another Lombardi Trophy.

I don’t know how much more of this I can take.

Yes, I understand that some people take solace in the fact that our teams lost to the eventual winner. To some extent I can see the logic in that. I suppose it could soften the blow just a bit, in a “yeah, we lost, but at least we lost to the best team” sort of way.

Me? Mostly I just find it disappointing in a “had we beaten them we could’ve won the whole thing” sort of way. Ending this run of championships at our expense would be a Festivus miracle.

Now where’s my checkbook? I need to make a donation to The Human Fund.

Enrico:
Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS had all the makings of a perfect Philadelphia sports memory. It was a decisive playoff game and we had one of the greatest pitchers of his generation on the mound pitching for the Phillies. I scored tickets to sit with my dad in almost the exact same spot our 17-game partial plan tickets are located during the regular season. We were in our comfort zone. We expected an epic Friday night that would be a story we could tell for decades to come -- the night the Phillies kept their World Series run alive.

I could air my grievance with Rafael Furcal or Skip Schumaker for generating the one and only run of the game, but they were just doing their job. Can't really get overly angry at a guy for simply doing his job. So the same can be said for Chris Carpenter. I actually admire the guy's effort.

The Phillies bats certainly caused severe disappointment, but I found it hard to be angry at them after such an enjoyable ride up to that point. I don't really think you can have a grievance for being disappointed. Perhaps you can, but that's not my style.

My grievance is with the Baseball Gods on October 7th, 2011. It was supposed to be a night to remember. It was supposed to be epic. It was supposed to be up there with Shane Victorino's grand slam off of C.C. Sabathia or Chooch's dribbler in Game 3 of the 2008 World Series. Instead, I walked out of Citizens Bank Park as depressed as I've ever been about a sporting event.

You let me down, Baseball Gods. That night truly sucked. Now you owe me one.

Kulp:
It's funny sometimes who gets a pass and who doesn't from the fans.
Cliff Lee is absolutely adored in Philadelphia, and for good reason, but
only a smattering of people seemed to dwell on his collapse in Game 2
of the NLDS -- arguably the game that cost the Phillies the series. A
pitcher of Lee's caliber needs to lock down a post-season game when he's
given a four-run lead after the second inning, but the Cardinals came
roaring back with three in the fourth, one in the sixth, and the game
winner in the seventh. If the Phils win that game, they likely go on to
take the series, then perhaps the whole damn thing. There certainly is
plenty of blame to go around -- it's a team sport, after all -- but
where was Cliff Lee's killer instinct?

Nick:
I've been working on a theory to explain my level of disappointment as related to the performance of one Nnamdi Asmougha. I mean, how could someone go (seemingly overnight) from being so apparently excellent to looking so stupefyingly overwhelmed by the likes of a Victor Cruz—a receiver I once confused for a New York Mets minor league prospect?

Anyway, here's the theory: whoever the hell was playing in the rest of the secondary with Nnamdi in Oakland was just so bad that no one ever bothered to throw at him because all the options were just that much better. This theory is, of course, intended as a joke (I think...)

With that out on the table, my broader grievance is with, as you might be able to tell, the front office of the Philadelphia Eagles. From the Desean Jackson fiasco to the triple cornerback monster to the firing of Sean McDermott and the hiring of Juan Castillo, the organization has bungled far too many of its major personnel decisions.

This, to borrow from a previously unpopular phrase, which by no coincidence will actually work to further my point, is not fantasy football. Not only are professional athletes actual people with actual concerns and actual feelings, but they're also individuals with widely different skill sets.

In the first case, shame on Andy, Howie, Joe(y) and Jeffrey for not acknowledging the inevitable problems that would come from not paying nor dealing Desean Jackson and for retaining an all-too-unhappy-to-be-on-borrowed-time Asante Samuel. I'm plenty sympathetic to the position that athletes sign contracts and should act in accordance with the deals to which they agreed, but that doesn't mean it isn't on the front office to anticipate plainly obvious problems stemming from the mental and emotional baggage that comes with each member of team.

In the second case, just as these players are not robots between their ears, neither are they random parts capable of being inserted into just any scheme. Sure, I absolutely concede that, over time, a player like Nnamdi can adapt and fit in to a different style of play, and that the fault is potentially on us—the fans—for thinking Super Bowl before it was perhaps time; but, I also maintain that the Eagles' front office has not been as attentive as it should in treating its players as a diverse group of individuals. For them, each Eagle is just another cog in the system, save, of course, for the head coach. That guy doesn't seem so easily replaceable.

Andrew:
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Sixers coach Doug Collins and do-almost-everything swingman Andre Iguodala were on about their 17th "try, try" when it came down to the final minute of the Ballers' '10-'11 season, down three against the Heat in Miami. The entire season, the Sixers had experienced crushing defeats in the closing seconds of games due to their inability to put ball in basket when the game hung in the balance. Despite essentially going 0-fer the season in such moments, Coach Collins continued to trust Andre Iguodala with the ball in his hands at the top of the key at crunch time, resulting in a lot of clanged jumpers, thwarted layup drives and confused turnovers. Even in Utah, when 'Dre had a 14-point 4th to seemingly put the game out of reach, the Sixers still missed some free throws, the Jazz tied it up, and Iguodala missed a jumper that could've ended it in regulation. (Needless to say, the team lost in OT.)

When the situation came up again in Game Five against Miami, and once again, 'Dre put up a brick (which would've only cut the lead to one, anyway), I wasn't even mad. They were going to lose to the Heat in time anyway, and it may as well have been in a way representative of the season up until that point. But this upcoming season, I will not be so forgiving—at this point, I'd rather our final possession be a play designed to get Tony Battie a clear look at a corner three than another clear-out iso for 'Dre. At least defenses will never see the Battie Three coming.

Matt (We saved Matt for the end because decided to just go to town on everybody):
Phillies—We still have blue balls in December for your feeble folding in
October. We were assured you hadn't lost that passion to win, but the
Cardinals had way more of it, and that was pretty disappointing. Can you
regain that in 2012?

Flyers—Hard to go negative on a team currently in first place, but
that's in this half of 2011. Mother of Festivus did you crap the bed in
the first half of this cursed year. We've had to endure lifetimes of
criticisms from other NHL teams' fans over your annual packing it in
early, but this year might have set a new mark for collapse. Over the
summer, you made it apparent that you'd aired your own grievances
though, blowing up the team, and so far, with fairly good results, so
we're OK.

Sixers—Made national headlines for two reasons—a promising new direction
under new ownership, and... laughably poor mascot choices. I have high
hopes for a new regime that seems very much on the right track in terms
of energizing a dormant fan base. But this is about grievances, and
those mascots made me wonder about your future choices in personnel.
Yes, I am that shallow.

Eagles—You likely pissed away an incredibly winnable division. There's a
lot of blame to go around, but today, I'm picking the offensive skill
players not named Shady McCoy. Your turnovers, more than anything,
likely cost us the playoffs, but they also highlighted the away game I
went to this year (Buffalo). Second grievance (and you're lucky there
are only two from me)—I've never seen better weather for the home
schedule. Nearly every week was picture perfect in the lots before the
game, and the Birds were the favorite as we entered the gates. Then you
lost almost every one of them.

Union—An overall impressive season couldn't obscure the frequently
maddening lineup choices of Peter Nowak. I love the coach, and he can
put a great team together, but seemed to struggle putting the ideal 11
on the pitch.

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And now, with our grievances aired, we turn to the rest of you at our Festivus dinner table. What say you people? Who and what has disappointed you in the last year?

We have the feeling that avoiding some incidents will require nothing short of a Festivus miracle.

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH --- Vince Velasquez wasn’t able to stand the heat Sunday afternoon.

The game-time temperature was 89 degrees with humidity to match at PNC Park. The Phillies' right-hander admitted he didn’t handle the weather well.

"You're going to go through various conditions, and it's something that you've got to really take into consideration -- to really lock in, stay hydrated because it can mentally drain you,” Velasquez said. “It kind of took a toll on me but I have to make the best of what I've got.”

Velasquez wound up pitching six innings in the blistering heat but did not factor in the decision as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 5-4 on pinch-hitter Adam Frazier’s leadoff home run in the seventh inning, his first in the major leagues, off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos (see Instant Replay).

Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, allowing four runs and seven hits while walking four and striking out five. He threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

“Just looking at his body language, he showed that he was struggling to find the strike zone,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He didn't have his best location. He did a good job; he just made a couple bad pitches when they scored the two runs. Obviously, he wasn't at his best, but he kept us in the game.”

While that kind of outing can breed confidence in a 24-year-old pitcher, Velasquez took no consolation in it. He was bothered about not being able to hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up a tying two-run home run to Matt Joyce.

“I knew it was my last inning when I went out there and I have to be able to close it out there,” Velasquez said. “I’m disappointed in that. I need to be better in that situation.”

Joyce’s blast came on pitch after Starling Marte doubled on an 0-2 pitch. That, too, annoyed Velasquez.

“That's just a matter of finishing at-bats,” Velasquez said. “You've got to lock in on 0-2 counts when you're ahead. You've got to finish the at-bat. Knowing that that was my last inning, that's where you have to bear down and give it all you've got.”

Ramos then gave up the game-winning homer to Frazier an inning later, the first long ball given up by the 23-year-old right-hander in 14 career outings. The Phillies wound up losing two of three games in the series and are 3-7 since the All-Star break to drop to 10 games under .500 at 45-55 through 100 games.

“It’s a game we should have won but I put us in position to lose it,” Velasquez said.

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

KINGMAN, Ariz. -- Four people were killed Sunday when bus carrying Dallas Cowboys staffers but no players collided with a van on a northwestern Arizona highway.

The fatalities were passengers in the van, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr said. But the bus occupants emerged uninjured.

"All on the bus came through OK with some bumps and bruises," Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple (DAHL'-rimp-ul) said in an email.

Dalrymple said the bus was only carrying members of the franchise's staff but would not say how many. There were no players on board.

The two vehicles collided in the afternoon on U.S. 93, about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman, according to DPS.

The crash shut down at least one lane of the highway that serves as the main route between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The bus was on its way to a Dallas Cowboys fan event in Las Vegas. Charles Cooper, manager of GameWorks entertainment center in Vegas, said the session with 50 to 75 fans was scheduled for 3 p.m. PDT. People were already waiting when the president of a Las Vegas Cowboys fan club called to relay news of the accident. The event was subsequently canceled. Cooper says the team mascot was supposed to appear.

After the Las Vegas stop, the bus was scheduled to go on to Oxnard, California for the team's training camp. Members of the organization typically take a bus two weeks before the camp starts and make stops along the way.

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Jeremy Hellickson may be staying in the NL East past the trade deadline. 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Phillies are scouting the Marlins' minor league teams in advance of a possible Hellickson deal. 

This comes on the heels of a report from a radio host in Miami that Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen may need Tommy John surgery. Chen left with an elbow sprain during Wednesday's loss to the Phillies and was placed on the disabled list. Ironically, Chen was starting against Hellickson, who will face Jarred Cosart in place of Chen on Monday.

Hellickson's value rebounded significantly this season after struggling in Arizona and Tampa Bay the last few seasons. After dealing with a shoulder injury, Hellickson pitched to ERAs above 4.50 in each season from 2013-15, leading to the Diamondbacks trading him to the Phillies for limited value. 

However, in 20 starts, Hellickson, who will be a free agent after the year, has anchored the Phillies' rotation, bringing a 3.84 ERA over 119 ⅔ innings into Monday's scheduled start. He also has a nearly career-best strikeout rate and has regained his signature command that made him a strong performer with the Rays.

The Phillies are aided this trade deadline by a lack of starting pitching options available on the market. With many teams in contention looking for an additional starter, Hellickson is an attractive piece who could help a team in a pennant race.