On Charlie Manuel's Defense of Rich Dubee

On Charlie Manuel's Defense of Rich Dubee

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By Matt Hammond

So, Charlie Manuel doesn’t take too kindly to national media
types bashing his pitching coach – especially not former marginally-successful
closers that may or may not have an axe to grind.

Said the Phillies manager on Saturday before Phillies-Marlins
Game 3 at Citizens Bank Park in his first public comments since Mitch Williams
basically suggested pitching coach Rich Dubee should lose his job:

“I don’t want to get involved in what people say, but at the
same time I want to tell you this, alright? I’ve been here for nine years. I’ve
had two pitching coaches in the big leagues. I’ve had two good pitching
coaches. Rich Dubee has been a lot to us. He has definitely been a part of our
success here. He is a tremendous worker. He’s a great communicator. I totally
trust him.”

There was more. Manuel tabbed Dubee's work ethic,
communication skills – he even said that Dubee's the one responsible for
organizing the team's spring training plans. In short, for finality on Manuel's
stance on Dubee's job security:

"I’ll stand behind him thick or thin, until I
die."

So that's that.

But one comment of the manager's stood out in particular.
During his spirited and blanketing endorsement of Dubee, Manuel offered this
bit of evidence to try to prove Dubee’s footprint:

"I see pitchers that we’ve run through here, and we’ve
had them in 55, 60 games, something like that. We’ve had pitchers that leave us
-- I’m talking about quite a few -- and never show up in the big leagues, and
we got mileage out of ‘em, and I look right back at Dubee."

Only to how many guys, really, does that apply? The most
notable names are Vance Worley and J.A. Happ. (You could go Ryan Madson and
Brad Lidge, too, but their post-departure declines were most linked to injury
and age.)

Manuel's observation sticks – on the surface.

Worley dazzled in 2011, going 11-3 with a 3.02 ERA. With one
more team win, he would have tied Steve Carlton's 1972 run for the most
consecutive Phillies wins behind a starter. Since being shipped to the Twins in
the Ben Revere trade this winter, he's gone 0-4 with a 7.22 ERA.

Happ was 14-5 with a 3.11 ERA over four years with the
Phillies through the summer of 2010. Since heading to Houston in the Roy Oswalt
deal and later to Toronto in a massive swap of marginal talent, he's gone 23-32
with a 4.76 ERA.

But it's not that simple.

Worley's success was largely fueled by two highly
unsustainable factors: his batting average on balls in play and called strike
percentage. Worley's BABIP through 18 starts in 2011 was .258 – not insanely
low, but low enough to suggest it would soon rise, as it has.

Worley also relied way too much on called strikes (5th
lowest SwStr% in 2011, lowest in 2013), and now that he’s had to put the ball
over the plate to try to beat batter, is getting lit up all over the place.

It's not like Worley's regression came from nowhere, either.
It started last year, and coincided with a relatively serious injury. Last year
Worley posted a 1.97 ERA in April before ballooning to a 6.00 ERA in May. After
that, Worley hit the DL with bone chips and was never the same. Between being activated
off the DL and shut down for the season in August, he posted a 4.75 ERA over 16
starts.

Oh, and it’s been, like, five starts for him in Minnesota
since being traded (great for a guy’s confidence, for sure) to the American
League (where most NL starters reliably struggle).

As for Happ, there could be other factors – namely injuries
and the psychological effects of playing for godawful organizations. Happ
managed only two starts for the Phillies in 2010 before hitting the DL in April
with a left forearm strain. His next appearance was in July, when Happ surrendered
three runs in five innings. Then came the trade – and inconsistency, an
inability to last in games.

Even last year, dude spent the first half of the year stuck
with a historically bad 105-loss franchise, and punched two poor starts with
Toronto before doctors caught a broken bone in his foot.

That has to matter.

As for the Dubee-Williams tiff, Williams there exemplified
everything wrong with broadcast journalism: national media type with a loose
regional tie comes on feisty talk radio station, is prodded into saying
something stupid and cashes in on what he sees as an opportunity to make a
sound bite.

As for Dubee’s abilities: the organization has had too many
insanely talented pitching talents come and go without the slightest peep about
Dubee. Not even Roy Oswalt, who tended to be something of a grump, ever took a
rib at the pitching coach. If Dubee was enough an impediment to justify
Williams calling for his job, someone during or after the Big 4 era would’ve
spoken up already.

Also, Kyle Kendrick’s been good and stuff.

To say the declines of Worley and Happ vouch for Dubee is
something of a liberty. Though after Williams took some himself, Manuel was
certainly entitled to do the same.

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NFL Notes Rams' All-Pro Aaron Donald skips OTAs amid contract talks

NFL Notes Rams' All-Pro Aaron Donald skips OTAs amid contract talks

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald has skipped the Los Angeles Rams' first day of organized team activities while he negotiates a long-term contract extension with the club.

Rams general manager Les Snead says the team knew Donald wouldn't be at their training complex Monday.

Snead acknowledged Donald's absence is because of their contract negotiations, which are reaching "the serious part." The GM is confident Donald will be a long-term fixture on the Rams' line.

The Rams exercised their fifth-year option for 2018 on Donald last month. He will make nearly $7 million next year. Snead has repeatedly said the Rams plan to sign Donald to a long-term deal.

Donald is a three-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro in his three-year career.

Vikings: Zimmer takes time off after latest eye surgery
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer finally relented, taking some time away from the team to allow his right eye a proper recovery from his latest surgery.

Better in the spring than during the fall, he realized.

As Zimmer departed Monday for some rest and relaxation at his vacation ranch in rural Kentucky, general manager Rick Spielman said the organization anticipates a return by Zimmer "in a few weeks." Players will take the field Tuesday for the first of 13 scheduled offseason practices, including the three-day mandatory minicamp that runs June 13-15.

"We all agree Mike's health is the priority, and we believe rest and recovery are in his best interest for the long term," Spielman said.

Zimmer directed a free youth football camp Saturday at team headquarters. He revealed to reporters that he underwent an eighth procedure on the eye last week, a trying seven-month stretch that has included several unplanned operations (see full story).

Jets: Former 2nd-round pick Smith waived
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Wide receiver Devin Smith has been waived from the injury list by the New York Jets.

A second-round draft pick from Ohio State in 2015, Smith rarely saw the field for the Jets. He tore his ACL during the offseason workout program after he appeared in four games last season. He started that season on the physically unable to perform list while rehabbing from another ACL tear suffered in December 2015.

If Smith clears waivers, he would revert to the Jets' injured reserve list.

"It's bad luck and bad timing because the kid worked so hard to get back," coach Todd Bowles said last month during the NFL draft. "He has to persevere and adversity will help him get stronger. But unfortunately in this game, over my course of time playing and coaching, you see these types of things. Some of the best athletes get hurt and don't get a chance to get on the field, and it's just bad timing, bad luck."

The Jets also re-signed wide receiver WR Deshon Foxx on Monday. Foxx originally signed with the Jets in January and was waived May 9. The Connecticut product first signed with Seattle 2015 after going undrafted and was waived/injured with a hamstring injury that August.

Buccaneers: TE Howard signs rookie deal
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tight end O.J. Howard has signed his rookie contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Howard, who was the 19th overall pick in last month's NFL draft, signed a four-year deal on Monday that includes a team option for a fifth season. He is the first of Tampa Bay's six draft picks to sign.

Howard, who is 6-foot-6 and 251 pounds, was a third-team Associated Press All-America selection last season. He started 12 of Alabama's 14 games last season and had 45 receptions for 595 yards and three touchdowns.

The drafting of Howard and signing DeSean Jackson in free agency should give Jameis Winston more options in Tampa Bay's passing game.

The Buccaneers also announced that defensive end Jacquies Smith has signed his restricted free agent tender.

The case for Duke's Jayson Tatum to the Sixers at No. 3

The case for Duke's Jayson Tatum to the Sixers at No. 3

With the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery behind us, there appears to be a consensus on the first two selections in next month's draft. The Celtics are expected to take Washington guard Markelle Fultz, and it would be a surprise if the Lakers passed on Lonzo Ball.

After that, all bets are off, and the Sixers will have plenty of options at pick No. 3.

A popular choice has been Kansas' Josh Jackson, and with good reason. The 6-foot-8 guard was an All-Big 12 first-team selection in his lone season with the Jayhawks, averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

Others have pointed to Kentucky sharpshooter Malik Monk, who would fill an obvious need. Monk consistently has shown the ability to pull up without hesitation. He shot nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc while averaging 19.8 points per game to lead the Wildcats.

There is a strong case to be made, however, that Duke forward Jayson Tatum will be the most talented player remaining on the board when it is the Sixers' turn to pick. 

As a basketball beat writer for The Duke Chronicle, I had the opportunity to watch Tatum play up close and in-person for much of the season, seeing him at his best and his worst.

A quick rise
After coming to Durham, N.C. as one of the key pieces of the Blue Devils' top-ranked recruiting class, Tatum suffered a left foot sprain during a preseason practice that kept him out of action until early December. 

But even with what appeared to be a breakout performance against then-No. 24 Florida in early December, he struggled to find a rhythm throughout the first half of the season. Tatum shot only 30 percent from three-point range in his first 13 games.

When the Blue Devils were shocked at home by ACC bottom-feeder N.C. State Jan. 23, I was quick to call out the first-year player — he was not cutting it on the defensive end, and offensively, Tatum had yet to prove himself as a consistent shooting threat.

Down the stretch, however, no freshman came on stronger than Tatum. He scored 28 points on 6-of-7 shooting from distance against Virginia in February, averaged 22 points in four ACC tournament wins in March, and notched a double-double in his first career NCAA tournament game.

Whatever questions scouts have about Tatum's potential, he has already shown an ability to develop in a short period of time. Even if Tatum takes time to develop as an NBA player, it probably won't take all that long as the Sixers continue their rebuild.

Cool customer
In a deep ACC, Tatum was one of just two first-year players to earn all-conference honors, picking up a third-team spot in early March. He was also second in ACC Freshman of the Year voting behind N.C. State's Dennis Smith.

Tatum been a consistent performer at the charity stripe — unlike Jackson, who shot just 56.6 percent from the line. He hit on 118 of 139 free-throw attempts (84.9 percent) and has the body to get to the line at will with strong drives to the rim.

Although the Sixers have budding stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, they lack a true end-of-game threat who can score both inside and out. Tatum's improving outside shot combined with a powerful inside game could give the Sixers an option that will stretch opposing defenses.

Defensive concerns
As has been the case with a few recent young Duke prospects (e.g. Brandon Ingram, Jabari Parker), Tatum at times struggled on defense. As Sixers fans know all too well, Jahlil Okafor has the same problem. The former Blue Devil standout led Duke in scoring during his lone collegiate season but wasn't a major factor on defense and has been even worse with the Sixers, ranking 324th of 486 NBA players in defensive win shares last season.

Tatum's numbers suggest he has potential to be a better defender than many might expect. According to Basketball-Reference.com, Tatum had a 3.2 block percentage and a 2.3 steal percentage — an uncommon combination. He helped Duke limit North Carolina's Justin Jackson to only 6-for-22 shooting in an ACC tournament semifinal matchup.

Where Tatum needs to grow is guarding away from the ball. He often found himself losing his man on back cuts and long possessions in the half-court.

With the Sixers, the 6-foot-8 Tatum potentially could be the shortest member of a lineup that would feature the 6-foot-9 Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Simmons at 6-foot-10, and the 7-foot Embiid in the middle. Although he will likely need to improve his quickness, Tatum has the size to overwhelm smaller guards and the strength — weighing in at 205 pounds — to match up with most small forwards in the league.

Tatum vs. Jackson
Tatum and Jackson are comparable players in most respects. The two were right next to one another in the ESPN's Class of 2016 rankings behind Harry Giles and put up nearly identical numbers on the offensive end.

Both are considered top-five picks, but the 19-year-old Tatum is younger by more than a year and has room to grow physically. And unlike Jackson, he does not carry the baggage of a criminal property damage misdemeanor from December.

Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel told 97.5 The Fanatic last week that Tatum is "one of the most talented, most gifted offensive guys" he has ever seen. 

Agreed.