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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Rating the Rumor: Eagles 'In on' Alshon Jeffery

Rating the Rumor: Eagles 'In on' Alshon Jeffery

Ian Rapoport for the NFL Network reports the Chicago Bears are not expected to place the franchise tag on free-agent wide receiver Alshon Jeffery before the March 1 deadline. Meanwhile, league sources previously told Jason La Canfora for CBS Sports that they “anticipate” the Eagles “being in on” Jeffery should the 2013 Pro Bowler become accessible.

Put two and two together, and there are folks around the NFL who believe the Eagles will pursue Jeffery when free agency opens on March 9.

Yet while receiver is one of the Eagles’ two greatest needs this offseason, whether they should make a run at Jeffery and whether they can afford him might be two different answers. Getting another weapon for Carson Wentz seems like it will be the top priority in free agency, but doing so will not be cheap, and the club is up against the salary cap.

There’s little doubt the Eagles will reach out to Jeffery. Aside from the organization being known for always doing its due diligence with players, the 27-year-old is hands down the best option on the market. Over the 2013 and ’14 seasons, Jeffery averaged 87 receptions, 1,277 yards and 8.5 touchdowns per year. He’s dealt with injuries and a terrible supporting cast in the two years since, yet still managed to go over 800 yards receiving in each.

Jeffery has some baggage, specifically the four-game suspension for violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy in 2016. Despite everything, only nine active players are averaging more than his 72.2 yards per game, and only 10 better than 15.0 yards per reception. The talent is undeniable, and with a quarterback of Wentz’s caliber throwing him the football, the sky is the limit.

The Eagles absolutely should pursue Jeffery. Actually signing him is where this begins to get tricky.

For starters, the Eagles are currently sitting at an estimated $9.69 million under the cap, according to OverTheCap.com. Only three teams are in worse shape. There may be more moves to free up space in the coming days, which will help, although even if they get that figure closer to $25 million through a series of trades and releases, the numbers are tight.

Jeffery collected $14.6 million under the franchise tag in ’16, and while he might not see quite that much annually on his next contract, it’s not out of line with expectations. Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant are all making $14 million or more per season. Jeffery may not have the body of work of those players, but as the top receiver available, the market will value him and be willing to pay as such.

That $25 million the Eagles can theoretically free up might be the best case scenario. It likely won’t be that, which means signing Jeffery would take up practically all of their cap space for ’17. Obviously, there are ways to structure a contract to push money into future years, and the case could be made the Eagles don’t need to sign any other free agents.

No matter how you slice it, there are some logistical concerns here. Until the Eagles shed some of those contracts and we can see what they’re working with, it’s difficult to envision how they win a bidding war against suitors with upwards of $50, $60, even $70 million to spend.

It’s not so much a question of interest for the Eagles. It’s whether or not signing Jeffery is realistic in the first place.

Rating the Rumor: We’ll see

Flyers-Avalanche 5 things: Final showing before trade deadline

Flyers-Avalanche 5 things: Final showing before trade deadline

Flyers (28-26-7) vs. Avalanche (17-40-3)
7 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30

A day before the NHL trade deadline, the Flyers welcome the hapless Colorado Avalanche to the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night.

Here are five things to know for the matchup:

1. Final hurrah?
Prior to Saturday's outdoor game in Pittsburgh, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall admitted his team's final two contests before deadline day could have some impact on decisions.

The Flyers lost to the Penguins at Heinz Field, 4-2, and now host the NHL's worst club in the Avalanche. It could be the final game before the Flyers look a bit different the remaining 20 contests of the regular season.

The Flyers enter Tuesday six points behind the Maple Leafs for the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot. At 63 points, they also trail the Islanders (68), Panthers (66) and Lightning (64), with the Sabres (62) and Devils (62) breathing down their necks.

With three expiring contracts on defense and young blueliners at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, Hextall has pieces to sell and reasons to do it. Defensemen Mark Streit, Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz are set to be unrestricted free agents this offseason. Goalies Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth can also hit the UFA market come July 1, as can role forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde.

The Flyers are clearly not in a win-now mode with the way things have gone recently, so dealing parts, clearing space and acquiring draft picks would certainly help expedite the road to contention.

2. Avoid an Avalanche
This really is a game that would be inexcusable for the Flyers to lose.

They have one last chance to make an impression on their GM.

They're in serious need of a win to keep postseason hopes flickering.

And they're on home ice against a team that has won six games over the last 2½ months.

"Everybody is frustrated right now," Claude Giroux said Monday. "We can't be pointing fingers.
 
"Everybody needs to be a little bit better and give a little more and go one game at a time here. [Tuesday], we're back in front of our fans. We've got to get this win, we know that. We've just got to keep at it."

The Avalanche are in the NHL cellar with 37 points. The next closest team is the Coyotes at 51 points. Colorado is dead last in goals per game (2.02) and goals allowed per game (3.30), and has also been interested in the Flyers as a trade partner, a source told CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio.

3. Different defense
Del Zotto should get a chance to showcase himself Tuesday night.

That's because defenseman Brandon Manning will serve the first game of a two-game suspension handed down on Monday for his hit on Penguins forward Jake Guentzel during Saturday's loss.

Del Zotto, who will likely enter the lineup for Manning, has played just 32 games this season because of injury and healthy scratches. The 26-year-old also understands that trade rumors swirl this time of year.

"It happens every year," Del Zotto said last week. "It's not like it’s the first time. I've been traded before. It is what it is. It's a business.

"You realize that pretty early in your career. I understand where I'm at as far as my contract, being a UFA this summer."

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Giroux has two goals in his last 26 games. However, he has six goals in nine career games against the Avalanche, who are giving them up in bunches this season. You'd have to think this is a game in which the captain could break out a bit.

Avalanche: Matt Duchene has been the subject of trade rumors and leads Colorado in goals with 16. The 26-year-old center has also played well against the Flyers in his career, posting seven points (four goals, three assists) in nine matchups.

5. This and that
• Flyers goalie Steve Mason is expected to start for the first time since Feb. 9. He's played just twice since Jan. 31, allowing eight combined goals in two losses. Mason is 16-17-6 with a 2.90 goals-against average and .900 save percentage.

• Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard was scratched last Saturday because of a stiff neck. If he can't go, 27-year-old rookie Jeremy Smith will make his fourth career start.

• The Flyers have lost eight of their last 11 games.

• The Flyers have scored the NHL's fewest goals (68) since Dec. 5.