Eagles need to rebuild souring image

975699.jpg

Eagles need to rebuild souring image

The Eagles are out shopping for a new head coach. Its time. While theyre at it, theyd be wise to pick up a new identity as well. Its time for that, too.

Andy Reid did a lot of things for the organization over the last 14 years, but he never got enough credit for serving as the teams emotional and professional adhesive. Reid was the Eagles best and strongest bond. He held that team together. It shouldnt be surprising, then, that the Eagles immediately fell apart once Reid was gone.

Michael Vick wore a Kevlar protective vest for much of the season. After the Eagles ended their rotten 4-12 campaign, everyone in the NovaCare Complex locker room should have been similarly outfitted. Thats how many verbal shots the Birds took at each other without considering the fallout.

A quick review of the unapologetic in-house bickering:

Cullen Jenkins said the Eagles had no heart.

Jason Avant questioned whether enough guys bought in to what Reid preached, while Evan Mathis insisted that the Eagles dont have enough leadership.

Jeremy Maclin said the team had too many new faces that were used to doing things a certain way. When you come to a new place, Maclin said, you have to buy into everything coach is preaching, whether its scheme-wise or how you handle yourself as a professional.

LeSean McCoy criticized unnamed players for failing to lay it on the line and for having a lack of heart.

I think guys made a lot of excuses, McCoy continued. Guys maybe werent playing up to par. Guys werent focusing enough. Guys making money and not putting out. Guys were looking for excuses.

And then there was Vick, who denounced his teammates focus, dedication, commitment and effort in a spectacular screed. I tried to take the modest approach, Vick said when asked why he didnt confront the problem players during the season. I tried to lead by example. I held a team meeting and tried to help guys recommit. It was still the same thing over and over again. I'm not going to tell a grown man the same thing twice because the reason I ended up incarcerated was because people told me the same thing over and over again and I didn't listen. I feel like if you don't learn in the first go-around, you disregard it. You just deal with the consequences because there will always be consequences.

The Eagles just had their worst season since 1998. The roster is overloaded with underperforming players and bloated contracts. And the locker room is populated by finger-pointers and warring factions that openly argue without compunction.

Vick was right. There are always consequences. In this case, the consequence of having a bad team thats hard to like is a much tougher marketing job for the Eagles. The organization is now charged with selling a product that has spoiled to consumers who have soured.

The Eagles have always had a passionate fan base. That will almost certainly remain the case, though you wonder how the zealotry will manifest itself moving forward. Toward the end of the season, the usual grumbling and grousing about the Birds gave way to abandonment. It became relatively common to watch people flee Lincoln Financial Field in the fourth quarter of games that got out of hand which was most of them.

Compared to fixing the teams image and likability, finding a new coach ought to be easy. The Eagles arent numb to that. Jeffrey Lurie seemed fully aware of the locker room issues and how contaminated the chemistry has become.

I take some responsibility for that because I was right out in the forefront for Lets do anything we can to try to win a Super Bowl for the city and our fans. Lurie said. At times you probably had to be a little more self disciplined and say, Doing that and injecting that into the locker room, affecting the chemistry of the team maybe in some way, thats not the best thing to do. And yet, youre so able to do it because of whatever opportunities we had, maybe in free agency, that its kind of like indigestion. You have the capability of ingesting more and more but theres a point of diminishing returns and indigestion.

So true. It was tough season to swallow. Now the Eagles must eliminate the bitter aftertaste.

E-mail John Gonzalez at jgonzalez@comcastsportsnet.com

Best of MLB: Indians outlast Blue Jays in 19 innings for record 14th straight win

Best of MLB: Indians outlast Blue Jays in 19 innings for record 14th straight win

TORONTO -- Carlos Santana homered in the 19th inning off infielder Darwin Barney and the Cleveland Indians set a franchise record by winning their 14th straight game, 2-1 over the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday.

Cleveland won 13 straight in 1942 and again in 1951.

It's the longest winning streak since Atlanta won 14 straight in 2013. It's the longest by an AL team since Oakland won 20 in a row in 2002.

Santana doubled and scored in the third as the surging Indians survived a marathon game and disappointed a sellout crowd that came for a Canada Day matinee that lasted 6 hours and 13 minutes, featured 19 pitchers and saw 34 left on base.

The 19 innings matched the longest game in Blue Jays history. Toronto played 19 against Detroit in August 2014 (see full recap).

Revere's double gives Nationals win in 14 innings
WASHINGTON -- Ben Revere doubled in the winning run with two outs in the 14th inning, and the Washington Nationals outlasted the Cincinnati Reds 3-2 on Friday night for their sixth straight victory.

Revere's liner off the wall in right-center off Ross Ohlendorf (5-6) scored Danny Espinosa, who was hit by a pitch to start the inning.

Yusmeiro Petit (3-1), the sixth Washington pitcher, worked two innings for the win.

The last-place Reds have lost five straight and nine of 10. They battled for 4 hours, 30 minutes before falling in this one.

Bryce Harper had two singles for Washington, but one of them probably should have been at least a double. Leading off the fourth, the reigning NL MVP hit a liner that appeared headed for the seats but instead struck the top of the wall in center field. Harper admired the drive too long, and was barely past first base by the time the ball was returned to the infield (see full recap).

Ace Fernandez's 2-run double lifts Marlins over Braves
ATLANTA -- Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, making the first pinch-hit appearance of his career, drove in the go-ahead run with a two-run double in the 12th inning, helping the Miami Marlins beat the Atlanta Braves 7-5 on Friday night.

The dramatic moment overshadowed the meltdown of closer A.J. Ramos, who blew a rare save in the ninth for Miami. Ramos had converted 33 straight saves, one short of the franchise record, before Tyler Flowers led off with his sixth homer to force a 5-5 tie.

Fernandez, one of baseball's most dynamic starters, began the game with a .222 batting average in 27 at-bats. With the pitcher's spot due up in the 12th and no position players available, Fernandez batted for reliever Nick Wittgren (3-1) and delivered the big hit.

Fernandez is Miami's starter Saturday.

Casey Kelly (0-3), the sixth Atlanta pitcher, took the loss (see full recap).

Herrera boosts All-Star candidacy with big game in Phillies' win over Royals

Herrera boosts All-Star candidacy with big game in Phillies' win over Royals

BOX SCORE

Odubel Herrera says he is not trying to audition for a spot on the National League All-Star team, that his concern is helping the Phillies win ballgames.
 
On Friday night, Herrera did both. He homered to lead off the bottom of the first inning and drove home the Phillies’ final run with a two-out hit in the sixth. He also stole a base, scored two runs and made a splendid running catch in right-center. His efforts helped the Phillies beat the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals, 4-3, on fireworks night at Citizens Bank Park and certainly enhanced his All-Star candidacy (see Instant Replay).
 
The Phillies’ fourth win in a row gave them a 36-45 record at the mathematical halfway point of the season.
 
Herrera’s big night raised his batting average to .306 and his on-base percentage to .396. He has nine homers, one more than he hit as a rookie last year, and 30 RBIs.
 
Somebody from this Phillies team will be named to the NL All-Star team when the announcement is made Tuesday night. Herrera is the team’s top candidate.
 
“I don’t have that on my mind,” the 24-year-old centerfielder said after the game. “I’d love to be part of it. But I’m just trying to help my team win.”
 
He’s done that a lot this season.
 
On Friday night he got some help from his friends.
 
Starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson allowed just one run over six innings. The right-hander has given up just two earned runs in 12 innings over his last two starts. Teams looking for a veteran arm to add to their rotation at the trade deadline will no doubt take notice.
 
Cody Asche continued to swing a hot bat – “This is the best I’ve ever seen him,” manager Pete Mackanin said – with an RBI double batting out of the No. 3 spot.
 
Maikel Franco also drove in a run with a nice piece of two-out hitting. He smacked a 3-2 fastball on the outer part of the plate to right field off Ian Kennedy in the third inning for his 42nd RBI.
 
Franco has made a lot of outs on two-strike pitches away in the zone. Not this time.
 
“Fastball away,” he said. “I had to make an adjustment and take what they give me. I put some good contact on it and got the RBI.”
 
Cameron Rupp had two doubles. Guess who leads the Phillies with 16 two-baggers? Yup. Rupp.

Rookie Edubray Ramos protected a three-run lead in the seventh. David Hernandez allowed two hits in the eighth, including a two-run homer, to make it a one-run game, but that did not faze never-nervous Jeanmar Gomez. He racked up his 22nd save. He could be a candidate for the All-Star team.
 
It was interesting that Mackanin did not use Hector Neris in the eighth inning, especially after an off day Thursday. But Neris pitched three days in row in Arizona prior to the off day and leads the majors with 42 appearances. Mackanin wanted to stay away from him.
 
“Neris is fine,” Mackanin said. “I want to make sure I can keep him healthy. Sometimes you’ve got to go to other people and they have to do the job.”
 
Neris has been wearing a compression sleeve on his right arm while sitting in the bullpen. Asked about it after the game, he said he wears it to keep his arm warm now that the weather has warmed and a jacket is not needed.
 
“Nothing is wrong,” he said.
 
Before embarking on their recent nine-game road trip, the Phillies had the worst team batting average in the majors at .225. Since then they have vaulted up four spots and are now hitting .239 as a team. They have reached double digits in hits in eight of their last 10 games.
 
“It was good to bring the sticks into our ballpark,” Mackanin said. “We swung them pretty well on the road.”
 
Friday night’s 12-hit effort snapped a seven-game home losing streak for the Phils. They have not lost eight straight at home since 1972.

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Royals 3

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Royals 3

BOX SCORE

The Phillies opened their final homestand before the All-Star break with a 4-3 win over the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night.
 
The Phillies’ fourth win in a row gave them a 36-45 record at the mathematical halfway point of the season.
 
The Phillies went 0-6 on their last homestand and were winless in their last seven home games, dating to June. With the victory, they avoided losing eight straight at home for the first time since 1972.
 
The Royals had won 12 of 18 coming in.
 
Starting pitching report
Jeremy Hellickson pitched well. He gave up just one run over six innings, walked one and struck out six. Four of the five hits Hellickson gave up came in the first two innings. He has given up just two earned runs over 12 innings in his last two starts, both wins. For the season, Hellickson is 6-6 with 4.06 ERA.
 
Kansas City right-hander Ian Kennedy (6-7) gave up six hits and three runs over five innings. He left trailing, 3-1. 
 
Bullpen report
Rookie Edubray Ramos allowed a leadoff double in the seventh, but got three straight outs to strand the runner and protect a three-run lead.
 
David Hernandez inherited a three-run lead in the eighth and turned it into a one-run lead when he allowed two hits, including a two-run homer.
 
Jeanmar Gomez protected the one-run lead for his 22nd save.
 
At the plate
The Phillies have reached double digits in hits eight of the last 10 games.
 
Odubel Herrera knocked in two runs for the Phillies. He led off the bottom of the first inning with a homer and had a run-scoring single in the sixth.
 
Maikel Franco had an RBI single and Cody Asche an RBI double.
 
Cameron Rupp had three hits, including two doubles. He leads the Phillies with 16 doubles.
 
Kendrys Morales had a two-run homer for the Royals in the eighth. The Royals scored a two-out run against Hellickson in the second on a double by Alcides Escobar and a single by Cheslor Cuthbert.
 
Signing day
The Phillies will sign more than a dozen 16-year-old prospects from Latin America on Saturday (see story).
 
Up next
The series continues Saturday night with Aaron Nola (5-7, 4.45) opposing Kansas City lefty Danny Duffy (3-1, 3.24). First pitch is 5:50 p.m.
 
Nola is looking to rebound from four straight poor starts in which he has had difficulty keeping the ball down. His ERA has risen from 2.65 to 4.45 over that span.