Will the Phillies Finish Above or Below .500? The Cases for Each

Will the Phillies Finish Above or Below .500? The Cases for Each

Though obviously it'd be preferable to be a couple games over, I kinda dig that the Phils finished the nominal first half of the baseball season dead even in wins and losses. It's been that kind of season, really--up-and-down, with every positive development seemingly counter-balanced with a negative one and vice versa. For the ledger to be completely balanced come the All-Star Break seems almost too poetic for this bunch.

But where do we go from here? The slate is clean, but does that give the Phils a chance to finally spend some time in the black, or will it only be a couple of games before they're once again fighting to keep their head above water? Let's take a look at the evidence and circumstances and argue the cases for both directions over .500:


1. Doc's coming back (eventually). Remember Roy Halladay? He was a pretty good pitcher for the Blue Jays for a bunch of years, then did OK for the Phils his first couple seasons in Philly as well. But the Doctor has been out for most of the season with shoulder issues, and was obviously less than effective in his first handful of starts trying to pitch through them. Halladay only has to be league-average in his return (maybe sometime late August?) to provide the Phils with greater value than he did in the season's first half, and if he's anything close to 2011 Doc, he could be a bigger boon to the squad than anyone they pick up at the trade deadline.

2. Cole's rounding back into form. After spending the first half of the season as one of the league's biggest disappointments on the mound, racking up double-digit losses before anyone else and hovering around 5.00 in the ERA department, Colbert has started to look more himself in recent weeks. In three July starts, he's given up only four runs over 23 combined innings, striking out 19 and only walking one, generally looking more like the Cole of old than the guy who only won one of his first 12 outings. Cole getting back to consistent ace form helps turn starting pitching again into a strength of this ball club, and could be a big difference in win differential for this team down the stretch.

3. Chase is healthy. No guarantee that he'll stay this way, of course--nor that he'll even be on the team for the rest of the season--but having our best all-around player in the lineup every day is still tremendously key for the Phils, and something we weren't able to have for a month this season as he sat with an oblique injury. Getting to plug him in regularly, and avoiding delving into the Galvises and Hernandezes of the world for the time being, should be worth a couple wins over .500.

4. Jimmy and Chooch have to be better...right? Last year, Carlos Ruiz and Jimmy Rollins finished the season 1-2 on the Phillies roster (with Hunter Pence traded mid-season to San Fran) in homers, with 16 and 23, respectively. This year, both are being OUTSLUGGED BY BEN REVERE, who's never hit a home run in his entire friggin' career. Injury and age are certainly a factor with Chooch and Not-So-Young James, but you have to feel like both are gonna show a little more life over the season's second half, particularly Ruiz, who a year after being the Phils' best all around hitter, is currently slugging an unthinkable .291., with just three extra-base hits in 142 PAs. Any kind of increased contribution from those two mainstays of the Phillies lineup over the second half would be a gigantic help to their over-.500 efforts.


1. No Ryan Howard or Ben Revere for some time. Howard may not be impossible to replace, as callup Darin Ruf has done pretty OK (in extremely limited sample size) of filling in for the big man at first so far, though you have to worry about the league catching up to Babe and Howard's respected slugging reputation being missed over the time out with knee issues. Oddly, it's Revere who should be the truly irreplaceable cog in the Phils lineup, going down with foot surgery just as he'd become the top-of-the-lineup hit machine we'd always hoped we were getting from the Twins, hitting safely in his last ten games with a .422 average over the course of the streak. Without Revere for 6-8 weeks, it's a whole lot of John Mayberry Jr.--not the worst fate, but his speed in center certainly isn't the same, and at the plate we've had about three seasons' worth of evidence that less is really more with JMJ.

2. John Lannan and Jon Pettibone might not keep it up. Our veteran lefty pickup and our young righty callup have both been sneaky productive for the Phils in the fourth and fifth starter slots so far this season, combining for a 7-6 record and both posting ERAs under 4.00. But the warning signs for regression are there for both, neither posting a particularly great strikeout to walk ratio (Lannan's a little over 2:1, Pettibone's a little under) and both being somewhat limited in their exposure, neither starter averaging even six innings a game. Seems pretty likely that both will get hit around a little more in the second half--and possibly third starter Kyle Kendrick as well, whose cracks have also started to show a bit after a strong start to the season, giving up double-digit hits in three of his last six starts.

3. The trade deadline looms. Just try to find a trade deadline preview out there in which the Phillies are not the most frequently mentioned team. Unless the Phils win 10 of their first 12 coming out of the break, and possibly even if they do, the vultures will be circling looking to pick the team's bones, with offers coming in for Cliff Lee, Chase Utley, Jonathan Paplebon, Michael Young, perhaps even Jimmy and Chooch if they start looking like half-decent pros again. One trade will likely lead to others, and before long, it could suddenly turn into a rebuilding year for the Fightins. It's a lot harder to win games with Tyler Cloyd starting, Freddy Galvis playing second and Antonio Bastardo closing, obvs.

4. Run differential says we should have been way under .500 all along. In case you haven't noticed on Yahoo! Sports' MLB Standings page, the Phils' run differential--the stat that subtracts the number of total runs allowed from the number of total runs scored by a team over the course of the season--has us at a pretty sucky -45. That's not just a sub-.500 run differential, it's the fourth-worst in the entire NL, 18 runs worse than even the woeful Mets. Teams who play above their run differentials tend to eventually regress to them, so gravity will not be on the Phillies' side this second half.

You know what? I'm betting they finish at .500 for the second straight season. It's the only thing that seems fitting with this team, and the only way that RAJ can continue to play it down the middle with this team, sorta rebuilding but also sorta keeping out hope that One Last Run with the team's core in tact can still be a possibility. Depressing, but also kinda beautiful.

Ex-Penn State coach Tom Bradley recalls learning of Jerry Sandusky complaint

The Associated Press

Ex-Penn State coach Tom Bradley recalls learning of Jerry Sandusky complaint

BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- Jurors heard Thursday that a former Penn State head football coach testified that Mike McQueary told him years before Jerry Sandusky's arrest that he had made a complaint about Sandusky to university administrators.

The deposition by Tom Bradley was read during the fourth day of trial in McQueary's defamation and whistleblower lawsuit against the university over his treatment after Sandusky's 2011 child molestation arrest.

Bradley said he fielded a rumor that made him approach McQueary, a fellow assistant under Paterno, in 2004 or 2005.

"I'm not sure how this happened, but somebody said something and I asked Mike about it. He said there was an incident," Bradley said in May 2015. "I don't know his exact words."

Bradley said he asked McQueary what he did.

"He said, `I turned it in to Joe and Curley and Schultz,'" Bradley said, references to then-head coach Joe Paterno, then-athletic director Tim Curley and then-vice president Gary Schultz.

He said he did not remember if McQueary used the word, "sexual."

"It was not a long, detailed description, if that's what you're asking me," Bradley sad

Bradley also said he believes the school mistreated McQueary, citing a bowl game bonus McQueary wasn't given at the end of the 2011 season. Bradley was briefly the school's head coach after university trustees fired Paterno, in part over his handling of the McQueary complaint.

Bradley said he never discussed the McQueary incident with Sandusky, although he would occasionally see him in team facilities after Sandusky retired in 1999.

Questions about whether rumors regarding Sandusky had cropped up before the investigation that produced charges have long hung over the Penn State football program.

A lawyer for Bradley, now UCLA's defensive coordinator, told The Associated Press this summer he never witnessed any inappropriate behavior and had no knowledge of alleged incidents in the 1980s and 1990s.

The lawyer, Brett Senior, said Thursday he was not aware the testimony was being read. "I think whatever's been said is old and stale," Senior said.

Outside the courthouse after Thursday's session, McQueary declined comment about Bradley's deposition.

McQueary has testified he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a team shower one evening in 2001 and reported it the next day to Paterno. He then met with Curley and Schultz about the incident a few days later.

Nothing happened in the matter for more than a decade, when authorities investigating another complaint about Sandusky got a tip suggesting they contact McQueary.

McQueary testified against Sandusky at the 2012 criminal trial that resulted in a 45-count conviction.

In the civil case, McQueary is seeking more than $4 million in lost wages and other claims.

The school maintains it did not retaliate against McQueary and that he was damaged in the public's eye by questions about why he didn't physically intervene to help the boy or call police.

Earlier Thursday, former Penn State President Graham Spanier testified that he issued a statement the day Curley and Schultz, two of his top lieutenants, were charged, calling the allegations groundless because he trusted them and believed they were honest people.

McQueary's lawsuit against the university alleges Spanier's statement made it appear McQueary was a liar.

Spanier said he came to trust Curley and Schultz after working closely with them for many years. They were charged with perjury and failure to properly report suspected child abuse.

"This was an unbelievable injustice, that these two guys, who are like Boy Scouts, would be charged with a crime," Spanier said. "And that's what was in my head as I was giving this opinion."

Spanier began drafting the statement about a week earlier. He said that's when the school's then-general counsel got a tip through the attorney general's office that Sandusky, Curley and Schultz would be charged.

Spanier was forced out by the board of trustees a few days later, and the next year he also was charged over his handling of the Sandusky matter. A state appeals court earlier this year threw out several of the charges against all three administrators, but they remain accused of failure to properly report suspected abuse and endangering the welfare of children. They await trial in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

He said he wasn't thinking about McQueary when drafting the statement, and in fact didn't realize at that time that McQueary was a key figure in the investigation and an unnamed assistant described in the grand jury presentment used to help charge Sandusky.

Associated Press reporter Michael R. Sisak in Philadelphia contributed to this story.

Beau Allen prepared to start in place of Bennie Logan vs. Vikings

Beau Allen prepared to start in place of Bennie Logan vs. Vikings

It's not looking promising for Bennie Logan to get healthy in time for the Eagles' Week 7 tilt with the Vikings on Sunday (see Injury Update). If that's the case, Beau Allen is expected to get the start alongside Fletcher Cox at defensive tackle.

While Logan's presence would certainly be missed, it's a spot Allen isn't uncomfortable with or unaccustomed to being in. As the third-year player pointed out on Wednesday, he's not exactly in unfamiliar territory here.

"I've played a lot of snaps in this defense, I've played a lot over the last three years and I've started games for this team, so it's kind of nothing really new," Allen said. "It's the first start of this season, but it's not my first start in the NFL."

Aside from playing in all 16 games his first two seasons with the Eagles, Allen started at nose tackle in place of Logan for the final two games of 2015. Not surprisingly, those were by far the two most active games of his brief career with eight solo tackles and 11 total.

Even still, the 43 snaps Allen played in Sunday's loss at Washington were the second-highest he's seen in an NFL game, finishing with three total tackles and nearly doubling his playing time for the season. And if Logan can't suit up against the Vikings this week, his reps might be on the rise.

"It'll be more reps for guys like Beau and then maybe even a little bit more on a guy like Fletch," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said on Thursday. "We'd like to rotate those guys as much, but sometimes you're not able to."

Allen is aware of the potential challenges he faces with an expanded workload. This is also exactly what the 6-foot-3, 327-pound lineman has been preparing for since he was taken in the seventh round of the 2014 draft.

"I really honestly don't think it changes a whole lot because of the way I prepare on a week-to-week basis," Allen said. "I've played the type of big role that — I've played with all of our starters, so many reps over the course of camp, preseason and during the season that it's really nothing new."

A couple of other things that aren't new for Allen are with respect to the Eagles' opponent on Sunday, particularly their quarterback.

Like everybody else, Allen is very much aware that Sam Bradford is making his return to Lincoln Financial Field. While the 24-year-old interior lineman recognizes Bradford is playing some of the best football of his career, leading the NFL in completion percentage with zero interceptions in four games, the signal-caller's time in an Eagles uniform can be helpful to the defense.

"We're pretty familiar with this quarterback, I'd say," Allen said. "He's playing at a very high level and he's been really accurate, really smart with the football, not a lot of turnovers.

"There are tendencies every week with every team. We know him and we know his strengths and weaknesses because he was here, and we're going to attack them."

Sunday will also be special for Allen in a personal way. The Wisconsin product is originally from Minnesota and will have plenty of friendly faces flying in to see him play.

"I've got a lot of family coming into town just because a lot of them have been Vikings fans historically, but they'll be cheering for the Eagles on Sunday," Allen said.

"I think it's fun to play against your hometown team. It's sweet that they're coming in here, so obviously a big game for me personally that way."

Allen will have big shoes to fill on Sunday, as Logan was playing very well prior to the injury. Not only that, but the Eagles' defensive line as a whole struggled with consistency the past two weeks, and is now relying on Allen to help turn their fortunes around in just his third career start.

It's no small ask, but Allen understands the task at hand.

"Our run defense last week, there were a lot of problems," Allen said. "Overpursuing was one of them. I think it's more about discipline, front-side to back-side, knowing where the ball carriers are trying to cut back, things like that. Those are things that we worked to correct this week too.

"Obviously, we didn't have any sacks last week, so we're going to everything in our power to pressure the quarterback, get him off his spot, disrupt those timing throws and get after him."