The Phanatic, Mike Trout and a Philly Dilemma For the Ages

The Phanatic, Mike Trout and a Philly Dilemma For the Ages

Last Thursday morning, the WIP Morning Show featured one of those deep, philosophical discussions that's long been synonymous with that show. Angelo asked the question that has dominated the sports discussion in Philadelphia, at the ballpark and at Memorial Day barbecues:

Would you trade the Phillie Phanatic for Mike Trout?

These are the questions that try men's souls. Obviously, we all want Trout. He's a 22-year-old outfielder who can do it all, on offense and defense. And even better, he's a hometown guy, who grew up in South Jersey, a mere 40 miles away from Citizen's Bank Park. Unfortunately, he's signed with the Angels until 2020, so we can't have him until then.

Unless, that is…. we surrender the big green guy.

Would you do it? Tempting as it is… I wouldn't. The Phanatic has two World Series rings, two more than Trout (and indeed, more than any Phillies player ever.) His contract is much more favorable. In all, the Phanatic is more indispensable than any player. Who's going to be the mascot in his place? Swoop? Phil E. Moose?

And worst of all, would you like to be the guy who has to tell the Phanatic he's going to Anaheim? I know I wouldn't.

In a trade for Trout, I'm willing to give up Ben Revere, John Mayberry, and possibly even Cody Asche. But not the Phanatic. No way.

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I know it's not entirely on him, but I can't help but vent my disappointment at Sam Hinkie, as the Sixers were only able to come up with the #3 pick in the NBA Draft Lottery. Clearly, they should have tanked more, or at least tanked smarter. Even worse, Hinkie once again refused to answer questions from the media after the lottery. Why can't Hinkie tell us, right now, who he's planning to draft? I think we're entitled as fans to that information.

You know why we got #3? Because the Sixers sent Dr. J, and not Allen Iverson, to represent them. The last time the Sixers got the #1 pick? It was Iverson. Plus, the after-party would have been way more fun.

I'm not sure who the Sixers will draft, but I think it's up to us fans to help them make their choice. So some of us- 30 or so- should get a bus up to New York, go to the draft, and sort of nudge the Sixers in the right direction. I see no downside to doing this.

Anyway, Charles Barkley said this week that he plans to retire from TV in two years and wants to be a GM. Do the right thing, Sixers- fire Hinkie, hire Barkley. Because at least you know he'll talk to the media.

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You know, now that I've thought about it, maybe we should try the Halladay/Lee thing: Trade the Phanatic for Trout and then, a year from now, re-sign the Phanatic as a free agent for six years and $126 million, and hope his elbow holds up. All right, sounds like a plan.

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Jon Stewart last week became the latest member of the national media to commit an anti-Philadelphia hate crime, making fun of our fans, cheesesteaks and (yes) even the Phanatic on his show.

I'd like to hear Stewart make those jokes while standing at the 50-yard line of the Linc during an Eagles game. Not so tough now, huh Jon?

Speaking of late night TV, The Tonight Show recently aired a segment in which Yankee fans were told to boo a life-sized cutout of ex-Yankee Robinson Cano, until the real Cano came out, and they all immediately back-tracked and hugged him. Please. Try that bit in Philly, with, oh, Bryzgalov or Andrew Bynum, and we'll keep right on booing the guy to his face.

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Okay, hypothetically, if we do this Trout/Phanatic deal- will the Angels take Papelbon's contract too?

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Also on the subject of vicious national media attacks on Philadelphia and its teams- can you believe the Sporting News named Ruben Amaro the worst general manager in baseball? Shame on them- calling him out as the worst general manager in baseball is OUR job.

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Okay, fine. Trade the Phanatic for Trout. I'll bite the bullet. Now, if we can just convince the Angels to trade the best player in the game for another team's mascot…

Other Philly sports takes:

- I was excited to hear the Phillies are planning to move Cody Asche to the outfield in 2015. Nobody likes to switch around players' positions, but if you're dealing with a once-in-a-lifetime talent like Asche, you've just got to find a way to keep his bat in the lineup.

- The Phillies are missing on-field intensity and killer instinct. That's what they get, for failing to invite Mitch Williams as a spring training instructor.

- I can't believe the Mets, in 2014, signed Bobby Abreu. How stupid can a team be?

- Connor Barwin of the Eagles said on the morning show a few weeks ago that he'll soon host an indie rock concert, to be attended by several of his teammates. If I were them I'd tell Riley Cooper the wrong night.

- It's hard to believe the Phils got no-hit, with Cesar Hernandez and Ben Revere in the lineup. Besides the no-hitter, the mysterious Cliff Lee injury, and the general, ever-present air of doom and gloom present every day at the ballpark, I'm actually feeling not so bad about this Phillies season.

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Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

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USA Today Images

Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

BOX SCORE

NEW ORLEANS -- Joel Embiid shot just 5 for 15 from the field and the Sixers … wait … the Sixers won. 

Surprising? Actually, that’s just how the Sixers envision finding success.

It’s not about Embiid having a relatively quiet night on offense with 14 points, especially going 0 for 5 from three. It’s about other players getting involved and taking the burden off the rookie. Embiid has proved he can do a lot of things, but carrying a team each night in his first season isn’t what the Sixers have in mind. 

“I think that’s when we’re at our best,” Nik Stauskas said after the Sixers beat the Pelicans 99-88 (see Instant Replay). “Obviously there are a few guys in the NBA like a LeBron (James), KD (Kevin Durant) or Steph (Curry) that can single-handedly win a game throughout the entire season. But most of the teams are going to rely on bench players to step up and make shots and make plays. I think that’s when we’re most effective.”

Embiid entered Thursday night averaging 24.3 points and shooting 48.9 percent in Sixers wins (three games played). His 14 points against the Pelicans were his fewest in a victory this season. He also grabbed seven boards with four blocks and three steals. Embiid was a game-high plus-27, which Brett Brown called "massive."

Instead of being powered offensively by their centerpiece, the Sixers received solid efforts from the starters and reserves. Ersan Ilyasova scored 23 points (along with eight rebounds) for the second straight game. Sergio Rodriguez chipped in 16 points and eight assists. Off the bench,  Stauskas hit three treys en route to 14 points while Dario Saric scored 10 points with five rebounds as the team snapped an overall eight-game losing skid and a 23-game road losing streak. 

Embiid’s teammates attribute their success to the fact he is such a focal point of the opponents’ defense. In comparison to the beginning of the season when Embiid was getting stifled by double-teams, he has been learning how to pass out of them. Embiid expects to see two defenders every game and has been making adjustments to create opportunities for others to shoot rather than committing turnovers. 

“We’re not standing around a lot and just focusing on what Jo can do,” Robert Covington said. “Jo is making great moves to find guys that are open. He’s willing to pass. We’re starting to build the chemistry that everyone’s been looking for.”

Ilyasova has noticed a change in the flow of the offense and has capitalized on defensive mismatches when opponents swarm Embiid. 

“We just share the ball well,” Ilyasova said. “I find myself open. Obviously Joel does a great job of as far as when there is a double-team, just kicking out. When I see the open look, I try to knock that shot down.” 

This style of play is mutually beneficial for both Embiid and his teammates. Just because Embiid is passing out doesn't mean he's not getting his looks. Oftentimes, dishing out of a double-team allows him to get a better look on the next touch. 

“It’s a team effort," Covington said. "We’re doing so much as a unit that we’re not just focusing on just get Jo the ball and let him do his thing. He’s getting the ball, he’s surveying the floor and then he’s making his moves. He’s reading the defense really well. He’s doing a lot of [kicking out]. Then we find him a lot of re-posts and finding the open shot and making it easy for him to find the easy bucket.” 

Embiid is capable of scoring 20-plus in spite of his 28-minute restriction. The Sixers are making strides, though, by finding ways to win when he isn’t the running up the scoreboard. 

“I think there’s no doubt Jo is our best player and our offense is going to revolve around him most of the time,” Stauskas said. “But we’re playing our best when he’s posting up and kicking out to guys and they’re hitting threes or we’re taking pressure off him by making plays and the defense can’t just be solely focused on him. In a game like tonight, that’s kind of what you saw.”

Connor McDavid: Brandon Manning made 'classless' comments about injury

Connor McDavid: Brandon Manning made 'classless' comments about injury

Connor McDavid scored his first power-play goal of the season in the second period during the Flyers' 6-5 win on Thursday night (see Instant Replay). After his 12th goal of the year, McDavid made a point to stare down and exchange words with Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning.

In the first period, Manning and McDavid were in the middle of a scrum after the whistle, chirping each other (see 10 observations). The battle between the two roots back to when Manning broke the rising superstar’s collarbone November 2015 during a play against the boards in Edmonton.

“You know what, I did all I could defending him last year in the media," McDavid said after Thursday's game. "I didn’t want to make a big deal saying he did it on purpose.

"He wanted to make some comments today about what went on last year and I thought it was one of the classless things I’ve ever seen on the ice. He said some things and our guys responded accordingly.

"We can put the whole 'he did it on purpose' thing to rest, because what he said out there confirmed that. It shows what kind of guy he is, how he doesn’t step up and fight some of our guys.”

Manning received death threats from Edmonton fans last season, and responded after the game Thursday, reiterating the play that injured McDavid was an accident.

"I think anybody who knows me or who has played with or against me along the road here," Manning said, "knows that I am not that kind of player. I am not out there intentionally trying to hurt people. I'm a guy who plays the game hard and I take pride in that.

"I think going back to last year, it was a total accident. I mean, there were three players involved and there was never any intention of hurting anyone."

The injury ended up costing McDavid a few months, and a year later, the tension is still high between him and Manning.

As the second period moved along, McDavid continued to make plays for the Oilers. At the 4:35 mark in the second period, he took the puck away from the Flyers and then helped set up Andrej Sekera for a shorthanded goal that tied the game, 3-3.

The shorthanded goal helped give the Oilers momentum at the end of the period, but they could not carry it over to the third. The loss Thursday is the second night in a row in which Edmonton lost a game it looked like it was going to win.

“I’m not too sure what it is but I think we will figure it out,” McDavid said. "I’m not too sure what it is, like I said before. Something we need to figure out real fast here.”