Previewing the Phillies-Cubs Series with ESPNChicago's Jon Greenberg

Previewing the Phillies-Cubs Series with ESPNChicago's Jon Greenberg

With the lowly Cubs coming to town this evening to take on our first place Phillies, we reached out to a Chicago writer who we read frequently cracking jokes at the Cubs expense on Twitter. Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com and is the author of such pieces as "The wreck at Wrigley is tough to watch." We've heard things were bad, but we thought we'd ask him just how bad. I've also had beers with Jon in the past at Wrigley, so I asked him to feel free to have some fun at the Cubs expense. Our conversation below.

Enrico: We tend to get tunnel vision a bit here in Philadelphia and focus only on our Phillies, but it's hard not to notice when a guy on the Cubs blasts off about how "We stinks." As a guy who covers the Cubs closely, are things as really as bad in Wrigleyville as Carlos Zambrano seems to think?

Jon Greenberg: Yes, yes, yes. Personally, I think "We Stinks" should become the team's rallying cry, and if there isn't a bootleg T-shirt with that slogan on it by Monday night's game, I'm going to blame the economy or something.

A large section of Cubs fans are really disappointed in the direction of the franchise, which has really nosedived since the 2008 playoff exit. The fans and the franchise just hasn't recovered from that sweep by Los Angeles. I mean, Jim Hendry gave Milton Bradley a multi-year deal months after that! It should have been revoked by reason of insanity.

But a lot of Cubs fans like to be mired in the misery of this team. They won't admit it, but they do. So maybe they're secretly delighted by the admission the team stinks.

I didn't really answer the question, but yeah the team sucks. There are too many Triple-A call-ups on the roster right now, none of whom with any whiff of power. The defense is atrocious and the pitching staff is missing an experienced Major League coach and lacks any semblance of depth.

Also, attendance is down.

Enrico: But at least they're not as bad as the Astros!?!

Things are quite different in Philadelphia. We're riding the most success we've seen out of the Phillies franchise in most of our lifetimes (if not ever?), but a certain segment of fans have turned into over-reactionaries. The Phils are in first place, but do certainly have plenty of weaknesses. The offense has lost a lot of its pop, perhaps due to age, and struggles to put up big runs on a consistent basis.

They've also been playing down to their opponents lately. Struggling against lesser quality teams like Washington and Pittsburgh. They've seem to lack that killer instinct to be able to put teams away when they should.

Which leads me to believe a series with the Cubs won't be as easy as the two teams records may indicate. Any chance the younger Cubs players step up against a championship contender? Although you can't like having to run up against Halladay, Lee, and Oswalt in three of the four games here.

Jon Greenberg: You're right Enrico Pallazo, the Cubs are better than the Astros. A whopping game-and-a-half after the Cubs' 4-1 win over the Reds on Wednesday afternoon, breaking an eight-game losing streak.

Can the Cubs win a game off Philly? Sure. It's baseball, right? (Fill in your favorite baseball cliche here.) Maybe Zambrano and Garza throw back-to-back no-hitters. Sure. Maybe Doug Davis, ah forget it.

But these Cubs hitters against Halladay, Lee and Oswalt? It's going to get ugly. Have you even heard of half the team right now? Marlon Byrd and Soriano are on the DL, remember. It's amazing how good of a staff the Phillies have, and fans should revel in it.

Phillies fans have it good, but they have every right to be nervous. Baseball's meat grinder of a season is guaranteed to cause perpetual worry. In 2008, Cubs fans rode the entire season on a wave of good vibes and look how that ended up.

Enrico: Not going to lie, it's quite enjoyable to listen to you talk about how awful our competition is.

We'll end with this: how about one or two of the younger Cubs players we'll see over the next few days that have shown some real potential?We saw the Dodgers this week playing former Phillies closer Tom Gordon's kid at shortstop for the first time ever. Kid had ridiculous speed. Real fun to watch.

Anyone young and exciting to look out for on the Cubs?

Jon Greenberg: Well, even you East Coast elites have probably heard of Starlin Castro, right? He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated the other week. Even though he's still erratic on defense, he's an exciting player with All-Star potential. Not Pirates' All-Star potential (Jack Wilson, Carlos Garcia), but Jimmy Rollins' type ish.

Pint-sized CF Tony Campana (pictured right) would be a fan favorite in Philly. He's small, white, presumably Italian, wears his hat cocked to the side and flies around like Aaron Rowand's kid brother. He's kind of like Sam Fuld, whom the Cubs traded in the Matt Garza deal.

Second baseman Darwin Barney is having a very good first full season in the majors. He's got the most multi-hit games of any rookie (24, I think) and isn't an idiot, which is refreshing. He told me playing baseball is "like blackjack. You love it and you hate it."

That's fitting for this series. The Cubs hate baseball right now while the Phillies love it.

On verge of Super Bowl, Eric Rowe responds to Eagles, Roseman

On verge of Super Bowl, Eric Rowe responds to Eagles, Roseman

The Eagles' season ended a few weeks ago with a 7-9 record. 

In a couple weeks, Eric Rowe might be playing in the Super Bowl. 

Rowe, of course was the Eagles second-round pick in 2015 and went on to have a promising rookie season. But in 2016, the change of head coaches brought a new defensive coordinator and a new scheme, which Rowe apparently didn't fit. So a few days before the season began, he was dealt to the New England, where he has become a big part of their defense. 

In his after-the-season press conference on Jan. 4, Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman was asked about the trade and gave a somewhat curious answer. He said the team made the move because the front office had already determined they were not going to give Rowe an extension, even though he wouldn't have been eligible for two more seasons. 

If that sounded weird to Eagles fans, they weren't alone. It sounded weird to Rowe too, when the Wilmington News Journal's Martin Frank caught up with him this week. 

“That’s a long time away," Rowe said. "If that’s the reason, that’s really, really weird. You know, it’s whatever. If he thinks that, then I guess that’s what it was. They’re thinking way down the line.” 

Rowe, 24, ended up starting seven games during this regular season for New England, but played just 43 percent of the Patriots' defensive snaps. If Rowe played 50 percent of defensive snaps in 2016 or if he does it in 2017, the fourth-round pick the Eagles get back in the trade will turn into a third-rounder, so there's still a chance next year. 

While a third-round pick wouldn't be bad, the Eagles gave up on a young, talented corner just a year after drafting him because he didn't fit what they wanted to do. 

Shortly after the trade, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz called Rowe a good cover corner but cited the development of Jalen Mills as a reason why Rowe became expendable. Schwartz said he appreciated Rowe, but the personnel staff "decided to use him as an asset, and as coaches, we just deal with that and keep playing." 

It was pretty clear during training camp that Rowe had fallen out of favor with the Eagles. He was buried behind Mills and others on the depth chart, so maybe the trade was the best thing for him. 

"That was frustrating, just kind of like thinking, 'What am I doing wrong?'" Rowe said to the Wilmington News Journal. "Yeah, I made mistakes, but everybody makes mistakes. I'm not making bad mistakes. I'm making plays. Why am I sliding down? That was frustrating times. I would just go home and my girlfriend's there, and I'm telling her all this stuff. I'd tell my parents, and they're like, 'Just keep your head up, just keep working because you never know. Then boom, the trade comes up." 

And now he might get a chance to play in the Super Bowl, while the Eagles desperately need to fix their cornerback position before next season. 

Sixers-Trail Blazers 5 things: Streaking Sixers meet tough stretch

Sixers-Trail Blazers 5 things: Streaking Sixers meet tough stretch

Sixers vs. Trail Blazers
7 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30

Coming off of an impressive win over the Raptors Wednesday, the Sixers (14-26) welcome the Trail Blazers (18-26) to the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night for the first game of a back-to-back. 

Here’s what to watch for the matchup:

1.  Streaking Sixers
What a new year it’s been for the Sixers.

Winning seven of their last nine games has Joel Embiid thinking playoffs. The Sixers are 5½ games out of the eighth seed in the East, and should get even better if (or when) Ben Simmons makes his debut.

With five teams ahead of them, it seems unlikely the Sixers get in, but why not enjoy the streak while it lasts and give Embiid and the youngsters a taste of their first success in the NBA?

2. Heating up
Speaking of enjoying the streak while it lasts, the schedule gets tougher from here on out.

With five sets of back-to-backs over the next two weeks, the team will be forced to play at least five games without Embiid. And the difference with "The Process" on the floor and off is staggering. The Sixers are 12-17 with Embiid, but a putrid 2-9 without the rookie sensation. Much of that can be attributed to Embiid’s stellar defense and Jahlil Okafor’s um, less than stellar, whatever he calls what he does on the defensive end.

3. Super Dario
Dario Saric’s improved play has been another catalyst for the hot streak. Saric has elevated his game during the 7-2 run, raising his numbers in points and rebounds, giving the Sixers a solid second unit. In fact, Saric is second (behind Embiid) among rookies in points (9.7) and rebounds (5.9) per game. 

“If Joel Embiid weren’t in the league, you’d have to talk about him in consideration for Rookie of the Year,” head coach Brett Brown said after Wednesday’s win.

4. Another one
After slowing the Raptors' All-Star backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry on Wednesday, the Sixers face another dynamic backcourt in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The duo averages a combined 49.5 points per game, nearly half (46 percent) of the Blazers' total points per game.

Luckily for the Sixers, the Blazers are an abysmal 7-17 on the road this year, including 5-10 vs. the Eastern Conference. 

5. This and that
• The Blazers have given up an average of 114 points over their three-game losing streak. The Sixers have scored 114 or more points in five of their 30 games this season. 

• The Sixers are 3-4 in the first game of back-to-backs and 1-6 in the second leg. The Sixers face the Hawks Saturday.

• After signing a four-year, $70 million contract with the Blazers in the offseason, former Sixer Evan Turner is averaging 9.4 points, 3.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game, all down from his four-year average while with the Sixers. 

• Nearly every Sixer received a player vote for the All-Star Game: Embiid (43), Sergio Rodriguez (8), T.J. McConnell (4), Okafor (4), Simmons (3), Jerryd Bayless (2), Robert Covington (2), Nerlens Noel (2), Gerald Henderson (1), Ersan Ilyasova (1), Richaun Holmes (1), Timothe Luwawu-Cabbarot (1), Saric (1).