Benching Vick Should Be Reid's Last Resort

Benching Vick Should Be Reid's Last Resort

Whatever your opinion of Juan Castillo and the job he did as defensive coordinator, that experiment has concluded. It seems to me Andy Reid had far bigger fish to fry, specifically as it relates to the Eagles' ghastly offense, but you can certainly find cause for Castillo's removal. If nothing else, firing your friend and associate of 14 years sends a powerful message.

Whatever the case may be, people were seeking blood over the club's turbulent 3-3 start, and blood they got. Like spectators at the Roman Colosseum however, the citizens of Philadelphia do not appear to be satiated by a singular display of cruelty. All eyes turn to Michael Vick now as a city asks: will Reid squeeze the trigger on his quarterback next?

Vick has been the poster child for the Eagles' woes since Week 1 in Cleveland where he threw four interceptions, including a pick-six that nearly cost his team the game. The excuse at the time was rust, as Vick had appeared in just 12 snaps during the preseason due to various injuries.

Today we know that doesn't even begin to tell the whole story. Vick has been able to rein in the foolish passes to some extent, cutting the number of INTs to four over the last five games, only he's coughed up the ball via the fumble an additional five times officially. (It's actually six if he is charged for Dallas Reynolds snapping the ball early on Sunday, which in fact very well may have been prompted by a slight twitch of the Vick's leg.)

That is 13 giveaways by Vick alone, 17 total for the Eagles through six games. That is pathetic.

With Vick accountable for over three-quarters of the team's turnovers, replacing him under center might seem like the easy fix. It's not. Where dismissing Castillo put the players and coaching staff on notice that everybody's jobs are on the line -- even profoundly loyal employees of 18 years -- sending Vick to the bench amounts to nothing more than a distress signal.

Yanking Vick would be akin to sounding the nuclear alarm on the 2012 season, while Nick Foles is the fire extinguisher tucked away under the "break glass in case of emergency" sign. Choose your own analogy, but making the switch at quarterback is Reid's absolute last resort, and everybody inside that locker room knows it.

Look, this isn't about whether Foles is ready or not. Simply put, there is no faster way for a head coach to convey the future is bleak -- both immediate and long-term -- than calling on a third-round rookie QB to save his bacon. If the kid doesn't produce instantly, that pessimistic feeling will trickle down to the players, and that's when your season is in danger of spiraling out of control. And this speaks nothing on the respect MV7 commands, which could further divide the locker room.

The day for desperate measures may soon be at hand, but it hasn't arrived yet. There are 10 games remaining. The Eagles are currently one game back of first place in the NFC East. They already own a win over the Giants. There is absolutely no reason for Reid to further overreact and come out of the bye week with any other starter besides Vick, even if the head coach's confidence in his signal caller is understandably shaken.

And the truth of the matter is Vick hasn't been quite as bad as his press clippings might indicate, minus the turnovers of course. His three comeback victories lead the NFL, while only Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are responsible for more total yards of offense. This is behind an offensive line decimated by injuries, guided by frequently nonsensical play-calling -- not exactly an optimal situation for a rookie QB, oh by the way.

Do I believe Vick has what it takes to overcome his own flaws, let alone the flaws of others, to lead this franchise to a championship? Not at the moment, no.

Then again, I've never believed in Vick the way I did Donovan McNabb when he quarterbacked the Eagles. Heck, I didn't believe Vick deserved to unseat Kevin Kolb in 2010. I was literally in the process of writing the eulogy to Vick's career in midnight green as the Miracle in the New Meadowlands was beginning to occur. Throughout 2011, this past offseason, and the entire year, I wouldn't dare count him out, but my own reservations toward Vick's development at this stage of career were always clear.

Yet at this point, there can't be any doubt he presents their best chance at winning. That may not matter much to fans who "just want this regime to end," the folks who think rebuilding brings with it some guarantee Philadelphia's football club will quickly rebound as viable contenders. Ask the people of Cleveland who excitedly await the Joe Banner era how that's been going for them, uh... forever.

To Andy Reid, the 53 men who go to battle every week, and the rest of the masochists actually holding out hope for the improbable, the decision on who will be under center matters. Don't sound the alarm unless or until all hope is lost.

Raudabaugh throws 10 touchdowns, Soul clinch home-field advantage

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Raudabaugh throws 10 touchdowns, Soul clinch home-field advantage

The Soul (13-3) defeated the Orlando Predators (12-4)  67-59 at the Amway Center in Orlando on Saturday night.  

With the win, the Soul will have home field advantage throughout the American Conference Championship game.

Reigning league MVP Dan Raudabaugh completed 21 of 29 passes for 335 yards and 10 touchdowns.  Four of those scores were to receiver Chris Duvalt, who led all receivers with nine receptions and 155 yards.

The Soul will host the Tampa Bay Storm (2-14) next Sunday, August 7 at 6 p.m. With a win, the Soul will return to PPL Center for the conference championship on August 14. 
 

Hellickson wins possible Phillies swan song, but sustains minor hand injury

Hellickson wins possible Phillies swan song, but sustains minor hand injury

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA – Though he wasn’t happy with the way he pitched in what might have been his last start with the Phillies, Jeremy Hellickson still helped the ballclub win on Saturday night.
 
He just did it more with his bat than his arm.
 
Hellickson’s two-run double – the first extra-base hit of his career – gave the Phillies the lead in the fifth inning of what eventually became a 9-5 win over the Atlanta Braves (see Instant Replay).

“The big hit for me was Hellickson’s double,” manager Pete Mackanin said after the game.
 
Mackanin was so happy with Hellickson’s double down the leftfield line that he absolved the pitcher for not being able to get a bunt down earlier in the at-bat.
 
Well, sort of.
 
“We’re going to have to do extra work with all the pitchers because we’re not getting bunts down,” said Mackanin, who was happy to get the win but a little exasperated by the sloppiness of the three-hour, 40-minute dull toothache of a game.
 
“At least we won,” he said. “A win’s a win.”
 
Hellickson's at-bat in the fifth was actually a little more adventurous than anyone would have liked, particularly with the pitcher being on the trading block. Before stroking the double to left, Hellickson got jammed while hitting a foul ball to the right side. The jam shot caused some soreness and bruising on the palm of his right hand and prevented him from getting through the sixth inning. He left after 5 2/3 innings with a 5-3 lead that he helped build.
 
“I’m still not really sure what it is, a bruise or I popped something in there,” Hellickson said after the game. “But I felt fine, though, after I did it. It was just a little tough to grip -- just the curveball.”

Mackanin sent pitching coach Bob McClure to the mound to check on Hellickson in the sixth. The pitcher told McClure his palm was sore so Mackanin got him out of there.
 
“It jarred him,” Mackanin said. “But he’s OK now. In the end, it’s not a big deal. It’s not like his elbow was hurting, you know what I mean?
 
“Anyway, his hit was the big hit of the game. It turned it around for us.”
 
It remains to be seen whether Hellickson’s sore hand will affect his trade status. The issue seemed minor enough that it shouldn’t, but one never knows.
 
The Phillies, according to sources, have received significant interest in Hellickson and he could be on the move by Monday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline. A number of teams including the Orioles, Pirates, Blue Jays and Cardinals have been monitoring him. The Dodgers and Tigers, both in the market for a starter, had scouts at Saturday night’s game. The Tigers scout parachuted in specifically to see Hellickson.
 
Hellickson finished the month of July with a 2.34 ERA in six starts and gave up just four runs in his last three starts. So if someone trades for him, they will be getting a hot hand. He is 8-7 with a 3.70 ERA in 22 starts with the Phillies.
 
“I have no idea what’s going to happen,” Hellickson said. “I'll find out Monday. 
 
“I can't control any of it. So I've just been focused on every start and in between starts. Whatever happens happens. Hopefully I'm still here on Tuesday.”
 
Mackanin echoed that thought.
 
“He’s been an outstanding guy, a real likable person,” Mackanin said. “He’s got a good work ethic. He’s focused and poised on the mound. He’s a true pitcher. He knows how to change speeds. I’d like to keep him.”
 
Atlanta out-hit the Phils, 14-9, but the Braves made two errors and their pitchers walked eight, including four in the eighth innings when the Phillies sent nine men to the plate and scored four times without getting a hit.
 
“When you score four runs without a hit you better win the game,” Mackanin said.
 
The Phillies were able to do that because Cameron Rupp had three hits and scored two runs and reliever Edubray Ramos got four big outs, three via strikeout. Trade candidate Jeanmar Gomez closed out the game in a non-save situation.

“I wanted to win the game,” Mackanin said of his decision to use Gomez. “I didn’t want to take any chances with anyone else. I just wanted one of my best guys knowing that he’s well rested and we have a day off Monday.”
 
Not everyone will be off Monday. The front office will be working the phones as the minutes tick away until the 4 p.m. deadline. Vince Velasquez is in play (see story). Gomez could go. David Hernandez could go. And so could Hellickson. If this was his last start with the Phillies, he finished up with a win.

Best of MLB: Happ gets 14th win, Blue Jays take over 1st place

Best of MLB: Happ gets 14th win, Blue Jays take over 1st place

TORONTO -- With one big inning and another strong start from J.A. Happ, the Blue Jays moved into the AL East lead.

Happ won his eighth straight decision, Devon Travis homered and Toronto used a seven-run fifth to beat the Baltimore Orioles 9-1 Saturday, taking sole possession of first place for the first time since early April.

"There's still a lot of baseball left, but I feel we're starting to play good ball," Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin said.

Toronto, which won for the 16th time in 22 games, had not been alone atop its division since a 2-0 start. The Blue Jays have scored seven or more runs in an inning three times this season.

Kevin Pillar had two hits and drove in four runs to match his career high. Major league RBIs leader Edwin Encarnacion drove in his 89th run (see full recap).

Giants find just enough offense for rare win since break
SAN FRANCISCO -- Hunter Pence is healthy at last. Joe Panik has been back a few days from a concussion and is driving in runs again. The San Francisco Giants sure are starting to look like themselves again.

Oh, with that new face in the infield of Eduardo Nunez.

Panik hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the seventh inning, Nunez had a two-run double in his first start with San Francisco and the Giants snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Washington Nationals 5-3 on Saturday.

Pence was activated from the disabled list after missing 48 games with a strained right hamstring that required surgery.

"It's huge, just his presence in the lineup," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's one of our guys. In addition to the talent, he brings energy and all those intangibles. He charged up the troops being out there (see full recap)."

De La Rosa, Rockies win 5th straight, Mets lose 4th in row
NEW YORK -- Jorge De La Rosa earned his 100th career victory and the Colorado Rockies eventually caught up with Bartolo Colon, beating the New York Mets 7-2 on a rainy Saturday night for their fifth straight win.

The Rockies improved to 12-4 since the All-Star break and won despite losing NL home run leader Trevor Story to a jammed left thumb. He seemed to get hurt on a scrambling slide in the fourth, exited early and X-rays on the rookie shortstop were negative.

On the day the Mets retired Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza's No. 31, the Mets lost their fourth in row. The 43-year-old Colon (9-6) faltered in his first start on three days' rest since 2005, and slugger Yoenis Cespedes left in midgame because of a nagging quad injury (see full recap).

Rea injured in Miami debut, Marlins win 11-0
MIAMI -- The Miami Marlins' big win might have come with a price.

Newly acquired Colin Rea left early with an elbow injury in his Miami debut in the Marlins' 11-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night.

"We obviously needed the win, but it's not at that cost," Marlins reliever David Phelps said. "Hopefully, it's nothing, but you never like to see a starter come out of the game when you're strapped for starters to begin with."

Rea, acquired in a trade with San Diego, pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out four.

"I kind of felt something in my elbow and it gradually got worse throughout the game," Rea said. "I don't know if I could have thrown another pitch, but we'll see. We don't know anything yet."

Rea initially felt a pain in his arm during warm-ups before the game, but tried to pitch through it (see full recap).