Broken Twigs: Culture changing and the FGSB Mailbag

Broken Twigs: Culture changing and the FGSB Mailbag

Paul Holmgren will not be fired this year so get used to it.

Ala-kazam! You’re welcome.

- - - - - - - -

Mike Sielski’s not wrong, he’s just an asshole.

Or to put more specifically, being an asshole about this.

Far be it from me to defend poor MISTER Snider or Paul Holmgren or any of the Flyers brass that has come but not gone over the past two decades, but it’s easy (and lazy) to attack a franchise that hasn’t won a championship in almost 40 years because, well, they haven’t won a championship in almost 40 years.

I agree with the sentiment of his Inquirer column – maybe it is time the Flyers change things up in the front office, maybe they get some new (possibly young) faces in there. But simply telling people they need broad sweeping change when something doesn’t seem to be working is like shooting fish in a barrel. And the thing is, Snider’s actually right in a certain sense, and the case of the Blackhawks doesn’t make him wrong. Just like every other team the Flyers have a 3.33% chance of winning the Stanley Cup at the onset of every season. Every spring the media in 29 NHL towns analyze what went wrong, why their team came up short, and what could be done to avoid the same failure next season. Rooting for a sports team has worse odds than your average scratch ticket. In the end almost everyone is going to lose.

So you haven’t reached the top of the pile in 38 years, ever thought about changing everything!?! Duh, dude. Duh. It’s funny to me that the media can be on both sides of this argument. The only entity that rivals the organization itself in identifying Flyers culture is the local media. Actually, they may have done more. Who has been perpetrating the idea of The Broad Street Bullies for the past 4 decades? Who has been feeding its readers this identity for 40 years? Who asks every single draftee if they think they fit into this idea that is Flyers hockey (whatever that is)? This whole time while the Flyers have been the production and distribution in this arrangement the Philadelphia media has been the marketing department. For a member of that same entity to come back and decry the monster it created without acknowledging its role in said creation seems naïve at best, and cowardly at worst.

Asking the chairman of a company if he needs to change the Flyers culture is akin to asking the President if we need to change the American culture after a school shooting. Like, how do you even answer that/what are you even talking about? You deserve to get spanked. Thanks for the insightful question. Let’s change the culture to a Stanley Cup winning one. That will be better for everyone.

It’s true that many Flyers executives formerly played for the organization, but since retiring each one of these individuals has taken a different path to get where they are today. And they continue to do so. Each coach, GM or scout makes decisions based on what he thinks is best for the team, finding some common ground between his own personal opinion and input from people he trusts. Holmgren made different decisions than Clarke would have. Hextall will make different decisions than Holmgren. Edmonton GM and former Flyer Craig McTavish would make different decisions than both of them.

Now if Sielski’s question and ensuing article are a call for just Ed Snider to distance himself from the operations of the team I think there could be some merit to that. But I don’t see the need to have only people who never played for the Flyers in the front office. Former Flyer or former Haliburton VP of Operations, doesn’t matter me to me. How each person performs in that role is what matters.

You have questions, I have answers. FlyersMailBagGo!

Question from myself…to myself: How did it feel when the coach got fired 4 days after you wrote a post for which the headlines was “Peter Laviolette will not be fired this year so get used to it.”
It’s not my fault. It’s the internet. What’s supposed to happen is that I write that headline and that post and then it gets buried in the annals of the internet and everyone forgets about it and Laviollette gets fired and no one cares that I was wrong. That’s how it generally goes. I’m going to bring you back behind the blogger’s curtain and tell you a secret – the internet is full of shit and a lot of it is the same exact thing posted on different sites by different people. So my writing prep generally goes like this – what is everyone in the mainstream media writing about ok I’m going to write the opposite because why not. You have to differentiate you’re product, son!

@DownGoesOskars - Which current flyer do you think would best be suited for a successful career in graphic design?
I’m wondering what angle you’re approaching this from…who is the most creative Flyer or who is the best at doing what they’re told (burn!). I actually wondered if there was a little internet café in the Flyers new locker room when I was reading about how great it was. Jay Rosehill, who has somehow made himself the voice of the Flyers and one of the only things we all talk about, said that it was the kind of place that made you want to come in early and leave late. For some reason I immediately pictured some kiosk/cubicle computer room where guys come in and surf the web. But then I figured they all just use their phones, and finally that these guys don’t really read anything online unless you count the word “Brazzers.” Aint’ nobody got time for computers when you could be working on your snap shot.

@Jmager_22 - how long until Berube punches a player to prove a point?
For some reason I think Berube is a quite/big stick kind of guy who knows that the threat of him coming down on you is way worse than the reality, at least in his post-enforcer days. As a coach you can really only scream at these young millionaires once or twice a year. What you need to do is bench, or even better scratch, a high profile player because then you’re messing with his livelihood and that will get everyone’s attention. All that being said, Berube’s definitely slapped Steve Hartnell in the back of the head.

@lonis119 - Which Flyer will be the first filmed singing Don't Stop til you get Enough after a win, if they do win again?
If we’re going just based on their propensity to be caught on camera than it’s Zac Rinaldo. When he was talking to Jay Rosehill (there he is again!) on the bench on Tuesday I was paralyzed with fear. That look. I thought he was going to come right out of the TV ad dry hump me to death. If I was Berube I’d actually talk to him about that. Not that I care who he’s banging in the crowd, but during the game you focus on the freaking game. Only. Not just when you’re on the ice. Stop talking about boning chicks while you’re on the bench unless you’re up by 5 goals and your coach wasn’t fired the day before.

@treblaw - which Flyer would make a solid, if unspectacular, NBA shooting guard?
I feel like Mark Streit might be able to stroke the occasional three. He might actually be better suited at the point, but I can’t even picture any other Flyers dribbling a basketball. Streit would be best suited to the Harlem Globe-Trotters style of play, but I don’t think he’d be on board with cashing in the NHL lifestyle to ride around on a sleeper bus, eventually arriving in Louisville just to pants a referee and steal the ball from him.

@DirectingTitan - What is the official Craig Berube stance on spanking as a means of instilling discipline?
Well he brought it up so apparently it’s a tool he’s familiar with. Man is that going to be awkward after a blowout loss to the Blue Jackets. Berube in the middle of the locker room spanking Matt Read, staring right in Claude Giroux’s eyes.

Look what I found. Some of you probably weren’t even born yet.

Future Phillies Report: The Bash Brothers are killing it in May

Future Phillies Report: The Bash Brothers are killing it in May

The Bash Brothers are operating at peak efficiency this month for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, who can't lose in May.

That's where we'll start this week's Future Phillies Report.

OF Dylan Cozens (AAA)
Cozens is having a Joey Gallo-esque season for Lehigh Valley, hitting for a low batting average (.219) with a whole lot of strikeouts (63) and homers (12). 

He's slowed down some after a torrid start to May, but in 19 games this month he's hit .311 with eight home runs, two doubles, a triple and 19 RBIs. He has six walks and 23 strikeouts.

Cozens was named International League Batter of the Week the second week of May, when he had two walk-off home runs and a game-tying, ninth-inning single.

Cozens has made some improvements against left-handed pitching but he still has a long way to go. Six of his 12 homers this season are off lefties, but he's still hitting just .175 against same-handed pitching with five walks and 30 strikeouts.

The more Triple A pitching he sees, the more comfortable he should become against veterans with good breaking balls and an actual plan on the mound. Keep in mind Cozens doesn't turn 23 until May 31.

Cozens is on the 40-man roster and will probably get a look in September. It would seem unlikely that he'd get a call-up to replace an injured outfielder before then, a relevant topic given the minor injuries this last week to Michael Saunders and Daniel Nava.

1B Rhys Hoskins (AAA)
Hoskins is the one offensive prospect we feature regularly here who I'm confident will be up with the Phillies before September. He continues to impress not just as a power hitter but as a "hitter's hitter" — a guy who controls the strike zone and has few holes.

As productive as Hoskins' April was, his May has been just as impressive. He hit .338 with six homers, 12 RBIs and a 1.063 OPS in April compared to .296 with six homers, 24 RBIs and a 1.045 OPS in May.

Hoskins had a two-homer, five-RBI game last Thursday in a rare Lehigh Valley loss, which snapped the IronPigs' 12-game winning streak.

In total this season he's hit .318 with 12 homers, 36 RBIs, nine doubles, two triples, 24 walks and 27 strikeouts. His consistent production could create an interesting scenario soon because if Tommy Joseph continues to hit, one of them could become a valuable trade piece that could bring back a starting pitcher. 

In Hoskins and Joseph, the Phillies have two powerful, young, inexpensive first basemen who project to hit somewhere in the middle of the order. Why not use an organizational strength to improve an organizational weakness?

Joseph has already shown he can hit for power at the major-league level, but Hoskins' upside seems higher because of his plate selection.

SS J.P. Crawford (AAA)
He's almost there. After 171 plate appearances, Crawford has nearly reached the Mendoza line.

Crawford's multi-hit game Friday made him 10 for 25 over his last six games with a double, a homer, six RBIs, five walks and six strikeouts.

He's raised his batting average this month from .145 to .186, and even when he's slumped he's taken his walks — 25 in 39 games.

Crawford has hit .235 this month with a .358 on-base percentage. If his pitch recognition remains consistent when he reaches the majors — and keep in mind it's a skill he's shown at every rung of the minor-league ladder — it won't matter if he hits .260, he'd still be a valuable two-hole hitter.

This is the hottest Crawford has been all season and the Phillies are hoping he can keep it up for at least another week or two.

OF Roman Quinn (AAA)
I wrote about Quinn at length on Monday, outlining the reasons why he should be called up by the Phillies (see story).

Entering play Tuesday, he had hit .333 with a .424 OBP in May, fueling Lehigh Valley's surge by contributing at the top of the order.

Quinn would, right now, be a defensive upgrade for the Phillies, and it's not as if Saunders has done a whole lot to keep his job anyway.

OF Nick Williams (AAA)
Williams has homered three times in his last six games. All three were solos, but one was a game-tying shot in the ninth inning and his home run the next day was a game-winner in the 10th.

The ninth-inning bomb went to the opposite field and was off veteran big-league closer Joe Nathan. Both were good signs — that Williams' power can travel to left-center field and that he did it against a pitcher who's had a lot of success and experience.

On the year, Williams is hitting .258 with an on-base percentage right around .300. He has six walks and 47 strikeouts. For the 700th time, that's a concern and it's probably always going to be there. To make a difference in the majors, the Phillies will need Williams to produce about 30-35 doubles and 15-20 homers per season. In that regard, the recent uptick in barreling balls is a promising development.

2B Scott Kingery (AA)
The most surprising storyline in the Phillies' farm system this season is Kingery's home run jump. The guy has 14 homers already before Memorial Day. He hit five last season.

The quick assumption would be that Kingery is taking advantage of Reading's homer-friendly ballpark, but six of the 14 homers have come on the road.

On the season, Kingery is hitting .290/.369/.665 with eight doubles, four triples, 14 homers, 28 RBIs, 17 walks and 31 strikeouts. He's also 9 for 10 in stolen base attempts. And he's committed one error all season.

This has been a breakout year for Kingery, who will make the jump to Triple A in 2017 if this continues. 

C Jorge Alfaro (AAA)
Alfaro has been striking out a lot lately. He has 27 strikeouts and no walks — you read that right — in 70 plate appearances this month.

His batting line has dropped to .281/.308/.410 with 10 extra-base hits in 146 plate appearances. 

Like Williams, Alfaro is probably never going to show enough plate selection to be a true superstar. But there's some more confidence Alfaro will be able to hit in the majors, and if he can hit .260 with power and a strong arm behind the plate, that might be enough.

RHP Sixto Sanchez (High A Clearwater)
A stiff neck has kept Sanchez off the mound since our last Future Phillies Report, but he remains the Phillies' highest-upside pitching prospect and maybe their highest-upside prospect overall. 

He has 28 strikeouts and three walks this season with a .211 opponents' batting average, and he still hasn't allowed a home run in 104 pro innings. He has a blazing fastball and above-average command, especially for an 18-year-old.

Carson Wentz building rapport with Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith

Carson Wentz building rapport with Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith

For a few weeks now, Carson Wentz has been throwing to his new weapons, Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, in an attempt to grow their chemistry.

Something was different on Tuesday.

"The biggest thing is we get comfortable on air and now all of a sudden, there's a body in the way," Smith said. "It's weird. But you have to get open against somebody. Just have to knock the rust off these next few days. A lot of us have been playing long enough. We just need to be where [Wentz] expects us to be."

On Tuesday morning, the Eagles kicked off their OTAs, the voluntary practices that lead into the mandatory minicamp in mid-June. And for the first time this spring, offense and defense went head-to-head in full-team drills (see 10 observations).

It was just the latest step in the progress of building a rapport between the quarterback and his top receivers, who were added during free agency.

"I don't think it's too tough," Jeffery said. "I think it's just working each and every day. He knows what type of player I am; I know what type of player he is. It just makes it better. Just keep working."

Wentz said in addition to on-field work, he and his new receivers (and new RB LeGarrette Blount) will be looking to sneak in as much extra time together as possible. That extra time will come in the locker room, in the training room, in the film room and in the cafeteria, wherever and whenever they can.

At least now, thanks to OTAs this week, they'll have tape against the defense to look back at and use to get on the same page.

"It's a work in progress," Wentz said. "No doubt about it. It's a work in progress with guys I've been here with a year now. It's just an ongoing process. You're putting in new plays, new routes, things are always changing. So it's a process, but I feel very comfortable with them at the same time. But again, we're still just going to continually build that relationship."

While Tuesday was just the first day of practice in a long process leading up to the season, both Jeffery and Smith showed off their respective skills.

While Jeffery is quiet off the field, he already made plenty of noise in Day 1 of OTAs.

"It's been great with him," Wentz said. "He plays on time, he knows what he's doing, his catch radius is impressive. That's the first thing that jumps out at me. I'm just looking forward to continuing to build that relationship."

Jeffery is the big receiver with a huge catch radius, while Smith is the speedier receiver, even though he still has good size at 6-0, 205 pounds.

Were both their skills on display at Day 1 of OTAs?

"Definitely," cornerback Patrick Robinson said, shaking his head.

Jeffery and Smith are still the new guys in town, but they both worked with the first team on Tuesday, while Jordan Matthews played in the slot (more on him here). (Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham worked with the twos; rookies Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson worked with the threes.)

For Matthews, playing in the slot with Jeffery and Smith outside should help him quite a bit in 2017. So the Eagles' slot receiver said he was glad to have them added to his team.

"Both of them bring a lot of production," Matthews said. "Both of them are playmakers in their own different ways. The biggest thing I like, too, is in a room full of guys, you need competition. That's going to be what elevates guys' level of play. When you bring in two guys like that, who have had production over a long period of time, and they're also willing to come out here and work during the voluntary part of the offseason, you're going to have everybody get pushed."

Matthews has spent a ton of time with Wentz over their year together and already has a great relationship and chemistry with his quarterback.

Now it's up to Jeffery and Smith to catch up. And they're off to a good start.