The 1965 Mets, Meatloaf underrated and overrated, the Ticketmaster settlement, LeBron, Dr. J's college campus, the 1996 Olympic Track Trials, Carson Wentz and Car Seat Headrest.
Even for 25 Random Points, we're all over the place today!
Here we go!
1. Even with Tuesday’s offensive explosion, the Phillies will go into Tuesday’s game with a team on-base percentage of .279. This is unthinkable. Let’s put it in perspective. It’s been 51 years since a team had a lower on-base percentage for a full season. The only other teams under .290 since 1970 are the 1972 Padres (.283) and 1981 Blue Jays (.286). The last team with a lower on-base percentage over a full season than the Phillies’ current .279 mark was the 1965 Mets at .277.
2. In fact, the 1965 Mets and the 2016 Phillies are the only teams in the last 100 years (according to baseball-reference) with an on-base percentage below .280.
3. And how about this: During the Phillies’ current 6-25 stretch, they have a team on-base percentage of .216, a .217 batting average and a .630 OPS. These numbers are impossible.
4. And this: The Phillies are hitting .213 at Citizens Bank Park this year, the lowest home batting average by any major-league team in the last 100 years. Over the last month, they’re hitting .196 at home. Other league-worst home stats: .272 on-base percentage, .336 slugging and .608 OPS.
5. And finally this: The Phillies have faced 71 starting pitchers this year. They’ve scored more than four runs off FOUR of them.
6. We’re not quite at the halfway mark of the season, but unless something dramatic changes, this Phillies team will go down in history as one of the worst offensive teams assembled in major-league history. Maybe the worst.
7. When I’m in charge, anybody under 65 who parks directly in front of a take-out restaurant and blocks traffic because they’re too lazy to park in an actual parking spot 20 feet away will lose their license for a year. Do it again and you lose your license for life.
8. I’m concerned about the Eagles’ linebacking situation. Mychal Kendricks has a world of ability, but it’s fair to say he’s underachieved in his career. We all saw what Jordan Hicks can do, but he’s always had trouble staying healthy. And Nigel Bradham has averaged 2.9 tackles per game in four years. And the backups are Najee Goode and Deontae Skinner. I see linebacker as a position of potential strength, but not without some very big question marks as well.
9. And the Eagles are relying very heavily on a lead running back in Ryan Mathews, who averaged 3.3 yards per carry the second half of the season. Mathews ranked 55th out of 63 backs from Week 9 on, worse even than DeMarco Murray (3.6). I know you can’t retool every position every offseason, but the Eagles are really thin at tailback. I do like Kenjon Barner and would like to see what he can do with an increased workload, but between Mathews’ injuries, Darren Sproles’ age and Barner and Wendell Smallwood’s lack of experience, this is a precarious position group.
10. I don’t get Chase Daniel. I don’t get the whole thing. I get that the Eagles didn’t know they were going to be able to move up to No. 2 when they signed Daniel. But they told everybody they were going to draft a quarterback somewhere, and with Bradford and Daniel both in place, whoever they drafted was going to be their No. 3. I know Daniel is Doug Pederson’s security blanket, but I don’t want a security blanket that has two career starts, turns 30 during the bye week, got $12 million guaranteed and $21 million overall and is just going to serve to block Carson Wentz from playing. If Bradford gets hurt or benched, Wentz has to play. Why is Chase Daniel even here?
11. And don’t tell me rookies need time for seasoning. In the NFL’s modern era (since 1960), there have been 38 quarterbacks taken with the first or second pick (not counting Wentz or Jarrod Goff, who haven’t played yet). Only one of those 38 didn’t start a game as a rookie, and that was Pete Beathard, who backed up Len Dawson with the Chiefs in 1964, Since 1970, 19 of 27 rookie quarterbacks taken No. 1 or 2 started at least 10 games. And over the last 25 years, 19 of 21 have started at least six games – all but Michael Vick and JeMarcus Russell. If Wentz doesn’t play this year, he’ll be one of the very few exceptions in modern NFL history.
12. I am continually amazed how far the Philadelphia independent music scene has come in the last few years, with several new venues opening, an incredible number of terrific local bands forming and a growing group of rabid music fans who are supporting most bands that come through town. It’s crazy to see artists like Fruit Bats, Bob Mould, Radical Face, Mitski, Jason Isbell, Car Seat Headrest and Heron Oblivion selling out venues in Philly with literally zero commercial radio airplay. Heck, Wilco packed the Mann earlier this month and there isn’t a commercial radio station in Philly that plays them. Philly is such a weird city that way. Every radio station is an oldies station, so apparently there are a lot of people out there that want to hear “The Logical Song” every 90 minutes. But whether it’s through music blogs or podcasts, word of mouth, music Magazines like Magnet, XM channels like The Loft or WXPN DJs like Eric Schuman and Mike Vasilikos, people are finding bands making terrific new music and supporting them night after night. Which is awesome.
13. I don’t know what’s a more egregious omission – Eric Allen not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame or Yes not in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
14. Cole Hamels since being traded to the Rangers: 14-2 with a 3.25 ERA. In his last four starts, he’s 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA.
15. Hey, check your Ticketmaster account. There’s a good chance you’ve got some free stuff in there. As part of a class-action settlement, Ticketmaster must dish out $400 million in ticket credits to anybody who bought tickets through the service from Oct. 21, 1999, through Feb. 27, 2013. The settlement was the result of a lawsuit claiming Ticketmaster’s ticket fees were deceptive. To check out your share of the prize, sign into your account and look for the link to “Active Vouchers.” When you open it up, you’ll see a list of credits and vouchers for free tickets, all with unique codes. Ticketmaster hasn’t yet announced exactly how the vouchers will be redeemable and what shows they’ll be redeemable for, but when they do, there will be a list of events on their website and a place to input your discount or ticket code. And hopefully it’ll result in us going to some shows for free. Chalk up one small win for the little guy.
16. I feel like I like Jahlil Okafor more than most people. One of only seven players in NBA history to average 17 points and 7 rebounds and shoot over 50 percent before his 21st birthday. The other six: Adrian Dantley, Anthony Davis, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Karl-Anthony Towns and Chris Webber. If you trade him, you better be sure Joel Embiid is going to be a long-term healthy big man for you.
17. Casinos give me the creeps.
18. Twenty years ago on Sunday I experienced my greatest single moment as a sportswriter. It was the 1996 Olympic Track Trials at the Olympic Stadium in Atlanta, and I was there for the Burlington County Times newspaper covering Carl Lewis, Jack Pierce and all the other amazing South Jersey athletes trying to make the U.S. Olympic track team.
One of the South Jersey athletes was Lamont Smith, who I had followed since he was a freshman at Kennedy High School in Willingboro. When Kennedy closed after the 1989 school year, Smith moved to Willingboro High School and, under the guidance of legendary sprint coach Fred Rucker, blossomed into one of the country’s fastest quarter-milers. He won the 1991 New Jersey Meet of Champions in 46.62, edging another future world-class runner named Kevin Lyles, who ran 46.84.
Through sheer hard work and no assistance from banned substances, by 1996 this kid from Willignboro had become one of the fastest 400 runners in the world. And in the Olympic Trials final, Lamont ran 44.30 – still one of the 20-fastest times in world history by a clean athlete – and placed fourth behind Michael Johnson and two runners who later received IAAF doping bans. After the race, I was with Smith when U.S. national team coach Erv Hunt assured him he had earned a spot on the Olympic 1,600-meter relay team, and then Lamont and I went searching the stadium for Lamont’s parents, Junius and Floretta. Lamont had 60 minutes from the end of the race to report to drug testing, and the drug testing guy was counting down the time as we searched the concourse for mom and dad. “Twenty-five minutes … 20 minutes … 15 minutes.”
Finally, Lamont and his dad spotted each other, and without saying a word embraced and wept for at least five minutes. I’ll never forget that moment. To see an athlete work so hard for so long to become an Olympian and then achieve it and then be able to share the moment with his father without a word being spoken was overwhelming. Even the drug testing guy was teary-eyed. I know I was. “Five minutes.” Finally, Lamont and I dashed down a stairway to drug testing so the 44.30 and Olympic spot wouldn’t be jeopardized. Two months later, Smith ran a 44.62 leadoff leg for the U.S. in the finals of the Olympic 4-by-400 relay and got his gold medal. The U.S. ran 2:55.99, finishing about half a second ahead of Great Britain. Twenty years later, the time remains sixth-fastest in world history.
Lamont is now a cop in Houston but remains a huge Eagles fan and returns to the Philly area whenever he can. Sadly, he lost his dad several years ago. But I know neither Lamont or I will ever forget that moment on a crowded concourse at Olympic Stadium where a father and son silently shared the overpowering emotion of an impossible dream that had come true.
19. Was in Amherst, Massachusetts this week and walked around the UMass campus looking for a Dr. J statue. Nothing. What is wrong with these people?
20. I love when LeBron shuts people up.
21. Just think about the numbers LeBron averaged in the finals: 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.3 blocks. That is pure insanity.
22. My top five all-time shows at the Mann: 1. Tom Petty / Replacements (1989), 2. Dire Straits (1985), 3. Wilco (2016), 4. Yo La Tengo / Belle & Sebastian (2014), 5. Midnight Oil (1993).
23. Best intro ever: “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” The Temptations.
24. There are a lot of bodies to sort out at cornerback, but I’m confident – regardless of who was getting OTA reps with the 1s – that by the time the pads go on, training camp comes and goes and the regular season arrives, Eric Rowe will be a starter. I saw enough positives out of him last year to feel that he’s going to be a solid pro in Year 2. Playing cornerback as a true rookie is not easy. His five starts last year were the most by an Eagles rookie since Bobby Taylor in 1995. But you could see Rowe just get more and more comfortable and more and more confident with each passing week. I’m still not sold on this secondary, but if Rowe and Nolan Carroll start at corner, with Leodis McKelvin in the slot, and Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod are the safeties, the Eagles just might have their first respectable secondary since 2008.
25. Bat out of Hell > Paradise by the Dashboard Light.