Nationals, Braves Numbers 1 and 2 in SI Offseason Power Rankings, Phillies 16th

Nationals, Braves Numbers 1 and 2 in SI Offseason Power Rankings, Phillies 16th

One of the big arguments we keep hearing as to why the
Phillies have been such a disappointment this offseason is, “Look how much
better the rest of the NL East got,” specifically the Washington Nationals and
Atlanta Braves. Sports Illustrated clearly believes there’s something to that.

According to SI’s offseason power rankings, the Nationals
and Braves are the two top teams in Major League Baseball this


CF Denard Span, RP Rafael Soriano, SP Dan Haren, RP Bill Bray, RP Zack Duke

Subtractions: SP Edwin Jackson, 1B/OF Michael Morse, RP Sean
Burnett, SP John Lannan, RP Tom Gorzelanny, Util. Mark DeRosa, RP Mike Gonzalez

Last year's major league leader in
wins, with 98, ought to be even better a year later. The addition of Span gives
Washington the true centerfielder and leadoff hitter it has craved, while Haren
reasonably can be expected to pick up where Jackson left off and Soriano
deepens an already strong bullpen. The core players are mostly young with the
potential for growth (especially Bryce Harper) and remember that three of that
number -- ace Stephen Strasburg, reliever Drew Storen and catcher Wilson Ramos
-- missed time last year either with injuries or the fear thereof.


OF Justin Upton, OF B.J. Upton, RP Jordan Walden, 3B Chris Johnson, C Gerald

Subtractions: 3B/OF Martin Prado, SP Tommy Hanson, SP Randall
Delgado, C David Ross, OF Eric Hinske, OF Michael Bourn*, 3B Chipper Jones*

Atlanta's production from its
righthanded hitters (49 HRs and a .671 OPS) was the worst in the NL. That's a
huge reason the Braves gave B.J. Upton the largest free-agent contract in team
history (five years, $75.25 million) and traded five players for his brother,
Justin. Jones retired but manager Fredi Gonzalez believes Justin Upton can be
the same middle-of-the-order presence for this young team on the rise. Atlanta
did, after all, win the same number of regular-season games as the champion
Giants (94) and did so with a slightly better staff ERA (3.42 for Atlanta, 3.68
for SF).

I’m still on the fence about just how “improved” Atlanta
really is. Sure, they will get more production from righthanders, but there is
plenty of overall production there to replace. I wouldn’t describe them as
being a vastly better team, and certainly not the runner-up for best team in baseball after the completion of this offseason,
but that’s me.

Hard to argue with the Nationals in the top spot though,
strengthening a core that won 98 games last season.

As for the Phillies…


3B Michael Young, RP Mike Adams, OF Ben Revere, SP John Lannan, OF Delmon Young

Subtractions: SP Vance Worley, 3B Placido Polanco, RP David
Herndon, Util Ty Wigginton, RP Josh Lindblom

The rotation is still headlined by
Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay -- though not in that order -- and
that's an encouraging start to any team, but Philadelphia's offensive
production (both total runs scored and league rank) has dipped three straight
seasons. On Opening Day the Phillies' four infielders and catcher will all be 33
or older, and the only player in that group who hasn't shown signs of decline
-- catcher Carlos Ruiz -- is suspended the first 25 games of the season for a
failed PED test. Adams and Jonathan Papelbon form a dominant back end of the
bullpen, which had been missing in Philadelphia.

First of all, 16th is hardly the disaster the Phils’
offseason has often been made out to be. As I wrote last week, the Phillies
didn’t necessarily need to make tremendous improvements seeing as they won 102
in 2011, and posted a .587 winning percentage in the second half last season
once they got healthy. True, they are relying on aging core, but they still appear
to be much better off in the bullpen (what about Chad Durbin, bro?) and at
third base at least.

In fact, some might argue this ranking is a little low.

We’ll see soon enough though, because baseball is right
around the corner. Pitchers and catchers report next week, and it won’t be long
after that before things start to get interesting.

>> Nationals, Braves lead NL quartet atop offseason Power Rankings [SI]

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Instant Replay: Coyotes 5, Flyers 4

Associated Press

Instant Replay: Coyotes 5, Flyers 4


Two bizarre goals less than two minutes apart ruined a special night for the Flyers on Thursday at Wells Fargo Center.
Martin Hanzal scored a tie-breaking goal simultaneously while teammate Jakob Chychrun was being pounded in a fight with Brayden Schenn during a 2-2 game.
Then, rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov tackled Brad Richardson, who fell into goalie Steve Mason for a shorthanded goal that counted after review for interference.
That’s one way of losing as hockey game, 5-4.
Notable goals
Brandon Manning, who has been outstanding on both sides of the puck, tried an ill-advised clearing pass up the high slot and it was picked off by pinching defenseman Oliver Edkman-Larsson for a quick turnaround shot to make it a 2-0 lead.
Goalie report
A huge save on Anthony Duclair in the first period by Mason after a turnover from Andrew MacDonald. Mason didn’t look great on the fifth goal. Rushes to the net were a problem in front of him.
Power play
The Flyers scored three against Buffalo. In this one, they had five scattered shots over their first three power plays. That's not going to get it done. But they did get it done on their fifth power play with Schenn diving with his stick extended hit the ice as he tipped Shayne Gostisbehere’s point shot home to tie the game, 2-2. The Flyers were 2 for 8 on the power play.
Power-play points
Claude Giroux leads with six overall.
Penalty kill
There was no Boyd Gordon in this one to take PK draws. That went to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Roman Lyubimov had a nice shorthanded move for a possible scoring chance but couldn’t complete it.
Big hit
You've got to like Sean Couturier upending Duclair during the opening minutes of play along the left boards. Duclair later had a fine assist on Jamie McGinn’s goal that gave the 'Yotes a 1-0 lead.
Ryan White had a goal that made it 5-3 late in the game.
Third line
The new third line with Nick Cousins centering Schenn and Dale Weise scored in the second period. All three picked up a point with Cousins banging home the Schenn rebound to make it a 2-1 game.
Chychrun lost to Schenn, who had sent Michael Stone to the boards hard with a legal shoulder check. Stone still assisted on Hanzal's goal that began the madness that saw Arizona get two quickies.
Injured: Forwards Scott Laughton (knee) and Michael Raffl (abdominal pull), defenseman Michael Del Zotto (knee). Healthy: forward Gordon and defenseman Nick Schultz.
Up next
The Flyers will practice Friday at Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J., and host the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Report: Sixers exec Jason Wiley led meeting on national anthem issue

Report: Sixers exec Jason Wiley led meeting on national anthem issue

The Sixers' meeting on Thursday to address the national anthem situation on opening night was led by VP of Content and Integrated Marketing Jason Wiley, John Gonzalez reported.

Wiley and team executives decided not to have Sevyn Streeter perform the national anthem because she wore a "We Matter" shirt, according to the report. The team had concerns Streeter would have further protests. 

A member of the Sixers' dance team performed in her place.

Wiley helped book Streeter, according to the report, and had previously worked for Bad Boy Records and had music industry contacts.

CBS3 reported Thursday that Streeter had signed a contract that barred her from making a political statement during the performance (see story).

The Sixers discussed the incident and are considering options on how to address it (see story).

“I think the team, not only do we want to speak up on the matter that happened yesterday, but I feel like we’re now starting to push, like it’s not just about saying something, it’s about making a difference,” Nik Stauskas said. “It’s about going out there and doing something. So we don’t really know what we’re going to do yet, but I know a lot of guys on this team are eager to go out there and make a difference one way or another.”