Much Ado About All 22

Much Ado About All 22

Football junkies received an early Christmas present last week when NFL.com announced coaches film would be part of the Season Plus package on the site's Game Rewind program in 2012.

For the low price of $69.99, any writer, fan, or student of the game can access the "All-22" view of every play from every game for this upcoming season, which differs from broadcasts in that it reveals what every player on the field is doing at all times. You've no doubt seen All-22 footage dissected on TV before, and as the term coaches film implies, it's what teams use to study their own performance and gameplan for opponents.

Not to make the controversy out to be bigger than it is, as there's a good chance you hadn't even heard the news, let alone the bluster of a few, but there was a surprising amount of backlash to the NFL's latest offering. In providing fans an unprecedented level of access, the concern is second-guessing of players and coaches will increase dramatically as self-proclaimed experts become more certain of their knowledge.

Frankly, I don't see how we could fit any more second-guessing into our culture of watching sports.

Second-guessing is already happening at every level of discourse. Sports writers, whether they're high-profile or on blogs such as ours, are natured to second-guess what we see. Sports talk radio is nothing but a lot of second-guessing, and entire shows on ESPN are based on debating -- or second-guessing -- national stories across multiple sports. And fans, the people who buy tickets and merchandise, are the ultimate second-guessers, and are all too eager to demonstrate their second-guessing right in the midst of the action with a chorus of boos.

Furthermore, we're supposed to believe the tsunami waves of second-guessing as Joe Shmoe targets specific play calls or player mistakes will place additional pressure on the men on the field. I was at Lincoln Financial Field the night half the stadium chanted "Fire Andy," then filed out the gates in a mass exodus that left me wondering if they would ever come back. It's hard to imagine Andy Reid being more scrutinized, his relationship with the fans more strained than they are, yet he's still here. It's in the front office's best interests to block the noise to an extent, and make sound decisions for the future of the franchise, not entirely off of outside reaction.

The idea second guessing will grow is obviously nonsense, but more specifically, some are worried football hobbyists will mistake their obsession for unmistakeable knowledge. I'm sure that will be the case for a sub-set of Game Rewind subscribers, but the only way that's any different from present day is their rationale. People already tend to lend more credence to their own opinions in the first place -- now it will be that, and a smug, "I watched the tape."

Building on the alleged problem, critics of the feature contend that watching the All-22 feed will not make you a smarter football fan. You have the coaches tape, but you still won't know what the play call was, what each player's assignment was, where the quarterback's progressions were, etc. In essence, you'll have a bunch of untrained head coaches trying to decipher that which they cannot possibly understand.

This is where the divide really breaks down. That nothing gleaned from the All-22 look could be accurate without more information and some NFL experience is simply false. I'm not saying watching coaches film automatically transforms the viewer into an expert, but you have the chance to observe parts of the game you simply cannot during a traditional broadcast. Arguing outsiders could never understand what they are seeing is the same as arguing we never understand any of what we see on Sundays, and that's insulting.

While I think the only real controversy here is the bait-and-switch pricing NFL.com pulled last Friday, quickly raising the price $10 shortly after announcing the availability, ultimately it won't matter in 2012, as the NFL won't be removing a feature that's generated a buzz in a service that had none at all prior. Whether All-22 film remains in future years remains to be seen, but I have a feeling the only change we'll see in the immediate future is an escalating price as more and more hardcore fans and industry types flock to access this cool service.

>> Game Rewind [NFL.com]

Today's Lineup: Tommy Joseph, Andres Blanco in to help avoid sweep vs. Cubs

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Today's Lineup: Tommy Joseph, Andres Blanco in to help avoid sweep vs. Cubs

Seeking to avoid being swept for the first time since their opening series in Cincinnati, the Phillies on Sunday afternoon will ask Tommy Joseph to provide a much needed spark.

Joseph, 24, sat out Saturday's 4-1 loss to the MLB-best Cubs with Chicago trotting out right-handed pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who crafted a five-hit, one-run complete game masterpiece.

It will be Joseph's fifth game against a righty this week, as manager Pete Mackanin's platoon at first base with Ryan Howard seemingly is coming to an end. Joseph will bat fifth.

With the Phillies averaging 3.22 runs per game, second-worst in baseball, and owning a run differential of minus-38, playing Joseph more is one of a few moves Mackanin can make.

Take into account Howard's average dipped to .154 after an 0 for 4, two-strikeout game Saturday, the decision to give Joseph more at-bats makes sense. It has for a while now.

Plus, Joseph has enjoyed success during his time up with the Phillies. The first baseman is hitting .290 with two home runs and four RBIs. He is, however, hitting just .211 with seven of his 10 strikeouts in 19 at-bats against righties. He'll face a good one in John Lackey (4-2, 3.32) on Sunday.

Mackanin has also decided to start Andres Blanco at second base against Chicago, which has proved to be too much for the Phils through the first two games. Blanco, 32, will bat third against Lackey, who he has never faced in his career. The utility man is hitting .281 with one long ball and eight RBIs in 35 games this season.

In other lineup news, the Cubs will start Villanova product Matt Szczur in left field in the series finale, giving Jorge Soler the day off. During his junior baseball season at 'Nova in 2010, Szczur took time off to donate bone marrow that helped saved a young girl in Ukraine. (Read more on Szczur here from CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury.) Szczur is hitting .375 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 40 at-bats this season with Chicago.

Here are today's full lineups:

Phillies
1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Andres Blanco, 2B
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Tommy Joseph, 1B
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Tyler Goeddel, LF
8. Vince Velasquez, P
9. Peter Bourjos, RF

Cubs
1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Jayson Heyward, RF
3. Kris Bryant, 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
5. Ben Zobrist, 2B
6. Miguel Montero, C
7. Addison Russell, SS
8. Matt Szczur, LF
9. John Lackey, P

For more on today's game, read Steven Tyding's game notes.

Chase Utley owns the New York Mets, according to Wikipedia

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Chase Utley owns the New York Mets, according to Wikipedia

The New York Mets' majority owner, Fred Wilpon, has a reported net worth of $500 million.

But on Saturday night, the Mets were not owned by a suit who made their profits off real estate development.

No, the Mets were owned by former Phillies second baseman and current Los Angelers Dodger Chase Utley.

At least according to the Mets' Wikipedia page.

Utley, who has become one of the greatest villians in New York sports of recent memory, made his return to Citi Field this weekend after breaking Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada's leg with a hard, controversial slide into second base successfully breaking up a double play during the postseason. On Friday night, the 37-year-old delivered a three-run game-tying double in the ninth inning, athough the Dodgers fell to New York, 6-5, after Curtis Granderson hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth.

But on Saturday night, Utley's legend grew even stronger in the Dodger's 9-1 win. Utley was thrown at — and missed — by Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard, who was subsequently ejected from the ballgame, in the third inning. In his next at-bat during a scoreless game, Utley took New York reliever Logan Verrett deep to give L.A. a 1-0 lead.

It gets better. Coming to bat with the bases loaded and a 2-0 lead in the seventh, Utley entered the batter's box serenaded with boos from the Mets' faithful only to hit a grand slam. You can watch it all right here.

Owning the Mets is nothing new for Utley, however. The second baseman has 33 home runs, 113 RBIs and a .283 average in his career against New York. We love Utley in Philadelphia because he plays the game hard, was a key member of the Phillies' 2008 World Series team and he kills the Mets. Remember this one from 2007?

What will Utley do as an encore on Sunday Night Baseball? We will all be watching because some of us won't be able to catch Game of Thrones live because we work.

Remember, no spoilers. And plus, Utley owning the Mets is a better storyline than any TV show can give us.

Phillies-Cubs 5 things: Getting Vince Velasquez back on track

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Phillies-Cubs 5 things: Getting Vince Velasquez back on track

Phillies (26-23) at Cubs (33-14)
2:20 p.m. on CSN

The Phillies have lost back-to-back games to the MLB-best Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field and on Sunday afternoon, they'll look to salvage a victory in the series finale.

Here are five things to get you ready for the ballgame:

1. Avoiding a sweep
Phillies fans had losing shoved down their throats for long stretches last season. This season has been much different … at least until the last three series.

With Saturday's loss, the Phils have lost three consecutive series for the first time in 2016 and will look to avoid their first sweep since their opening series in Cincinnati. The 4-1 victory by the Cubs was the Phillies' fourth loss in five games. They haven't lost five of six since September 2015. 

Meanwhile, the Cubs have won four straight games after losing eight of 12 games in mid-May. A win Sunday would give Chicago its fourth win streak of at least four games already in 2016. 

If that doesn't underline how tough a task the Phillies have ahead of them, Sunday's starter will do the trick.

2. Solving Lackey
John Lackey doesn't have the pizzazz of a Jake Arrieta or Jon Lester, but the veteran righty has been a consistent force in the Cubs' rotation. Coming over from the rival Cardinals in free agency, Lackey has a 4-2 record with a 3.38 ERA in nine starts in 2016.

However, the underlying numbers have been even better. He's completed six innings in all but one start and has seven quality starts. He has 61 strikeouts compared to just 13 walks and 45 hits in 61⅓ innings. 

Lackey has been a workhorse for the Cubs and has struck out at least five batters in each of his last four starts. 

The good news for Phillies fans? Despite Lackey's solid numbers, the Cubs have lost four of his nine starts.

3. Getting back on track
At 23 years old, it's tough to expect Vince Velasquez to be an ace all season, even if he may fill that role at some point in the not-so-distant future. 

So Velasquez's relatively minor struggles over his last few starts shouldn't worry fans as a sign of things to come. In Detroit, the flamethrowing righty could only complete four innings while giving up three home runs. While he struck out 10 and gave up no runs the start before against Miami, he failed to get past the fifth inning.

Those two starts came after consecutive outings where Velasquez gave up four runs in six innings. His last quality start came May 1, although it's tough to call his game against the Marlins anything but impressive.

While he's faced some strong lineups like the Mets and Nationals, the Cubs are a force Velasquez hasn't dealt with quite yet. He has no career numbers against the Cubs' probable starters, a group that has combined to be one of baseball's top offenses in 2016.

4. Who's on first?
Ryan Howard's final season in Philadelphia has been a grind to say the least. The veteran first baseman has just six hits in 58 at-bats in May and has just a .154 batting average this year. Howard's eight home runs have been a bright spot, but he doesn't have a homer since May 11.

Howard has three hits (two home runs) in 16 career at-bats against Lackey. But with right-handed first baseman Tommy Joseph excelling in his first big-league action, manager Pete Mackanin may turn to the rookie Sunday, as Howard tries to end his slump.

5. This and that
• Obubel Herrera is 3 for 4 in his only career appearances against Lackey. Maikel Franco is 2 for 3 against the righty.

• The Phillies are 3-0 in the final game of road trips this year … and 3-0 in the final game of homestands, too. 

• The Cubs have not swept the Phillies in Chicago since 1995.