Phillly March Madness: (2) Charles Barkley vs. (15) Pat Burrell

Phillly March Madness: (2) Charles Barkley vs. (15) Pat Burrell

Over the next few weeks at The700Level, we'll be posting poll       matchups as part of our Philly March Madness competition.                  Examine the       cases of the two fine Philadelphia       athletes     below,    and     cast     your  vote at  the bottom as  to      which you     think should    advance to         the next   round.  And      as always,   feel   free to explain    your     selection        and/or     debate the   choices    in the comments  section.


(2) Charles Barkley

Some players let their game do all the talking. That's never been  Charles Barkley's style. One of the most outspoken professional athletes  we've ever seen, Chuck is as demonstrative a figure as there is in  sports. Today, fans know him for his often hilarious color commentating  and other media appearances, but before he became must-see TV, he was  The Round Mound of Rebound. The 76ers selected Barkley fifth overall out  of Auburn in 1984, playing in 82 games and making the NBA's All-Rookie  team his first season. As uncommon a personality as he is, he was an  even more uncommon power forward. At 6'6", he was shorter than normal  for the position, and at 252 lbs., he didn't seem to be making up for it  with any sheer athletic ability. However, those limitations didn't stop  him from becoming one of the premiere rebounders in the league. In his  third season, Barkley led all players averaging 14.6 boards per game,  and made the first of 11 All Star games. He was a scorer as well,  averaging over 20 points per game in seven of eight seasons with the  Sixers. As great as he was, Chuck would not spend the entirety of his  prime in Philadelphia. The core that won an NBA Championship in 1983 was  gone, and Barkley's antics made him a ticking time bomb in some eyes. A  fight with Bill Laimbeer drew record fines in 1990, and in 1991, he  mistakenly spit on a young girl during a game, the loogie intended for a  heckler in the crowd. At season's end, Barkley was shipped to Phoenix  in a lopsided deal that brought Philly Jeff Hornacek, Tim Perry, and  Andrew Lang. Sir Charles went on to win an MVP award and appear in the  Finals, then win gold medals in the '92 and '96 Olympics, while the  Sixers slipped into a period known to some as the Dark Ages. -Kulp



(15) Pat Burrell

Few professional athletes have experienced the Philadelphia fan roller  coaster quite like Pat Burrell. The first overall pick in the 1998 draft  out of Miami, expectations couldn't have been much higher for this  first baseman turned left fielder. Along with Scott Rolen, Burrell would  restore the Phillies to prominence... except that isn't exactly how it  turned out. Pat the Bat reached the Majors in 2000 to great  expectations, and by 2002 it appeared he would meet them, batting .282  with 37 home runs and a 116 RBIs during a career year. Everything looked  up for the young Burrell, but it would come crashing down the following  season. Struggling under the weight of being "the man," he hit an  abysmal .209 and drove in only 64 runs. Even though it was the only such  terrible season for The Machine, his image never quite recovered. From  '04 through '08, he would go on batting north of .250, usually belting  around 30 homers and close to 100 RBIs, but it wasn't until his final  season as a Phillie where appreciation truly began to set in. As a lame  duck in 2008, Burrell made it known he wanted to stay in Philadelphia,  but the front office didn't see him as part of the formula. Still, he  was an integral part of that World Championship team. After struggling  through much of the World Series, it was his long double that eventually  resulted in the clinching run coming across the plate. When it was all  said and done, he had finally reached the top after he led the Phillies  parade down Broad Street. -Kulp

    Who should advance to the next round?customer surveys

Results So Far:

East Bracket:

(1) Julius Erving (91.8%) over (16) Von Hayes (8.2%)
(8) Simon     Gagne (77.9%) over (9) Seth Joyner (22.1%)
(5) Eric Lindros (70.3%)     over (12) Eric Allen (29.7%)
(4) Randall Cunningham (77.6%) over   (13)   Shane Victorino (23.4%)
(11) Cole Hamels (82.1%) over (6) Mark     Recchi (17.9%)
(14) Tug McGraw (51.1%) over (3) Moses Malone   (48.9%)
(7)   Darren Daulton (74.0%) over (10) Andrew Toney (26.0%)
(2)   Chase   Utley (93.5%) over (15) Andre Waters (6.5%)

Midwest Bracket:

(1) Mark Howe (60.2%) over (16) David Akers (39.8%)
(9) Rod     Brind'Amour (73.6%) over (8) Rick Tocchet (26.4%)
(5) Brian Westbrook    (93.3%) over (12) Jayson Werth (6.7%)
(4) Mike Richards (85.1%)   over  (13) Trent Cole (14.9%)
(6) John LeClair (89.2%) over (11)   Clyde  Simmons (10.8%)
(3) Jimmy Rollins (75.8%) over (14) John Kruk   (24.2%)
(7) Lenny Dykstra (51.9%) over (10) Dave Poulin (48.1%)
(2) Allen Iverson (83.1%) over (15) Jeremiah Trotter (16.9%)

West Bracket:

(1) Mike Schmidt (96.9%) over (16) Keith Byars (3.1%)
(9) Wilbert Montgomery (59.4%) over (8) Jeff Carter (40.6%)
(5) Ron Jaworski (83.5%) over (12) Bobby Abreu (16.5%)
(4) Ron Hextall (94.1%) over (13) Andre Iguodala (5.9%)
(6) Mike Quick (59.8%) over (11) Hugh Douglas (40.2%)
(3) Brian Dawkins (98.3%) over (14) Scott Rolen (1.7%)
(7) Maurice Cheeks (51.9%) over (10) Eric Desjardins (48.1%)
(15) Carlos Ruiz (58.9%) over (2) Tim Kerr (41.1%)

South Bracket:

(1) Reggie White (97.1%) over (16) Hersey Hawkins (2.9%)
(9) Troy Vincent (51.8%) over (8) Curt Schilling (48.2%)
(5) Pete Rose (85.2%) over (12) Peter Zezel (14.8%)
(4) Ryan Howard (86.3%) over (13) Jon Runyan (13.7%)
(6) Pelle Lindbergh (51.0%) over (11) Keith Primeau (49%)
(3) Donovan McNabb (84.5%) over (14) Bobby Jones (15.5%)

Today's lineup: Jorge Alfaro makes second straight start

Today's lineup: Jorge Alfaro makes second straight start

Catcher Jorge Alfaro is making his second straight start after Saturday's 10-8 win.

Alfaro, the Phillies' top catching prospect, has gone 0 for 11 with a walk in his three career starts, all coming in the last two weeks since he was called up. Alfaro was acquired in the Cole Hamels trade last July and is 1 for 13 with a walk in five games. 

The 23-year-old will catch Jake Thompson in a game that means a lot more to the Mets (1:10/CSN).

Giving Alfaro playing time allows Phillies fans the chance to get a glimpse of the future. Roman Quinn has received plentiful playing time after was called up in the mid-September and Alfaro, like Quinn, is trying to leave an impression on the Phillies' brass before spring training.

Quinn is not in the lineup on Sunday as Aaron Altherr and Cody Asche man the corner outfield spots. Freddy Galvis moved up to second in the lineup after staying in the bottom half of the lineup in recent games.

Ryan Howard will bat fifth, playing likely his final game at Citi Field with the Phillies. While he has batted just .203 in 52 career games at Citi Field, he alos has 11 home runs there after smashing 12 homers at Shea Stadium, the Mets' previous stadium.

Here's the full lineup that will oppose Robert Gsellman and the Mets.

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cody Asche, LF
7. Aaron Altherr, RF
8. Jorge Alfaro, C
9. Jake Thompson, P

For more on today's game, check out Steven Tydings' game notes

Phillies-Mets 5 things: All the pressure on Mets, Gsellman

Phillies-Mets 5 things: All the pressure on Mets, Gsellman

Phillies (70-85) at Mets (82-73)
1:10 p.m. on CSN

After two rough losses for the Phillies and their pitching staff, the offense picked them up and came through with a 10-8 win. 22-year-old Jake Thompson takes the hill this afternoon while Robert Gsellman starts a crucial game for the Mets.

Here are five things to watch on Sunday.

1. All the pressure on New York, Gsellman
The Mets remain 0.5 games up on the final National League playoff spot. 

While their pitching staff was falling apart at the seams going into (and during) this series, the one saving grace for New York was its soft schedule, facing the Phillies seven times in its last 10. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals have to deal with the MLB best Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants end the year vs. the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

However, a loss on Saturday (thanks in part to Noah Syndergaard getting scratched with strep throat) puts the Mets in a precarious position. They're tied in the loss column with the Cards and Giants while fighting for one of two playoff spots and their rotation most closely resembles their Triple A team from Opening Day. 

Gsellman is one of those pitchers who started the year never having tasted the major leagues. In fact, he started the year in Double A. His first career start came at Citi Field last month against the Phillies and resulted in his first career loss after he allowed four runs in six innings. 

He's been better since that start, carrying a 3.13 ERA into Sunday. The 23-year-old righty will likely start vs. the Phillies again next weekend, meaning the Mets' season rides in part on a rookie with just 31 2/3 innings in the majors. 

2. Young man on a roll
While Gsellman lost his last start, Thompson has won his last two starts. The young righty is on a hot streak as his season nears an end.

Thompson's ERA has goe down in each of his last five starts, a stat made less impressive by the fact that he began that run with a 9.78 ERA. He has gone at least five innings in his last eight starts and has shown glimpses of why he was such a valued prospects.

In September, Thompson is 2-1 with a 3.09 ERA over four starts. He's still allowed 33 baserunners in 23 1/3 innings during that span, but it's been much better than his lackluster August.

While Thompson is in line to start next weekend against the Mets as well, today could be his final start of the season. He has already set a career-high in innings and the Phillies may not want to extend him one more start.

3. What to look for in the season's final week
Including Sunday, the Phillies have just seven games left in their season. They're eliminated from playoff contention, but there's still plenty to watch as the Phils take on Braves and Mets.

Ryan Howard's final fairwell: With his five-year, $125 million deal coming to a close this year, Howard is almost certainly playing his final games in Philadelphia next week. He'll get plenty of starts and may even face the Mets' Bartolo Colon, who he's smacked three home runs off of in his career.

Playing spoiler: As mentioned above, the Mets have everything on the line both today and next weekend in Philadelphia. There are few better ways to end a postseason-less season than knocking a rival out of playoff contention.

More looks at the kids: Roman Quinn's emergence over the last two weeks has been fun to watch and Jorge Alfaro may get more chances in the last seven games. Beyond them, Thompson, Tommy Joseph and others close out a nice first season. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Maikel Franco has looked more like his 2015 self over the last few weeks. He's batting .310 in September with three home runs, matching his August total. His 15 RBI this month are his most in a month other than July. 

Mets: Asdrubal Cabrera has been on fire this month as well. After battting .405 in August, he's batting .333 and has five home runs, including the walk-off homer on Thursday. He's slugging .628 this month after putting up a .786 slugging percentage in August. 

5. This and that
• In Gsellman's August start vs. the Phillies, he only allowed one run while he was in the game. However, he left the bases loaded in the 7th with no outs before A.J. Ellis knocked in the decisive two-run double to give the Phils a lead they would not relinquish.

• Six different Phillies batters had hits off Gsellman, including Jimmy Paredes who went 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI. 

• Despite pitching injuries, the Mets have the eighth-best team ERA in September with a 3.64 average. The Phillies are 15th in baseball with a 4.10 ERA this month.

• The Phillies are 6-9 against the Mets this year. They're already ensured of a better finish than last year's 5-14 mark vs. New York.

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