Grantland Says Its Time to Blow Up the Phillies

Grantland Says Its Time to Blow Up the Phillies

As far as season previews go, this is not the most
optimistic outlook on the Phillies. Grantland’s Jonah Keri asks, “At what
point does Philadelphia see the writing on the wall and start building for
tomorrow?”

This is the dilemma the Phillies
face heading into the 2013 season. They've already turned over more than half
the lineup, handing starting roles to much younger players. But none of those
players are premium prospects. Moreover, the team's trio of infield stars, the
ones who've been the face of Phillies baseball for nearly a decade, are still
around, fighting injuries and Father Time as they desperately try to keep the
Phillies relevant in a division that's left them behind. Then you've got the
starting rotation's three aces and the fire-breathing closer, all making big
bucks, all hugely attractive gets for many other teams were they to become
available. Four months from now, if Philly appears on its way to another
mediocre season, should the team cash in their biggest trade chips for younger
players who could help build a winning team for 2014 and beyond?

Maybe the bigger question is this:
If the Phillies do reach that point, could they go through with it — tearing
down the most dominant collection of players the team has seen in 30-plus
years?

Wow. So the National League East has left the Phils behind?
A division they finished in third place a season ago despite missing two of
their most important players for the first half the year. A division they won
for the fifth consecutive time just one season earlier. Don’t get me wrong, the
Washington Nationals are the favorites, but is their beating the Phillies again that
much of a foregone conclusion? At the very least, most people expect them to be
in the thick of the wild card race anyway.

You can talk about their age and question their health all you want. This is still a team with Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard in the starting lineup, backed by a rotation of Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee.

Keri has a point though. Sometime in the near future, the
Phillies are going to have to drift away from the core that brought a world
championship to Philadelphia in 2008, despite certain rankings being none too
high on the organization’s farm system.

Yeah, if the club tanks this season, they should become
sellers – just like they were last summer. But then again, it's only March 5.

Assuming there is some hope for the Fightins in ‘13, there
is plenty of room for radical change over the next couple years without Ruben
Amaro Jr. going out of his way to dismantle the team. Only four players on this
year’s roster are signed to sizable contracts beyond 2014: Ryan Howard, Cole
Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Jonathan Papelbon. What the farm system can’t immediately
replace, the Phillies should be able to go shopping for.

The post is worth a read, even if the tone might be
slightly off key. Keith Law may not like the Phillies’ prospects,
but a bunch of young outfielders and relief pitchers are already competing for spots on
the big club right now, while the organization believes kids like LHP Jesse
Biddle, C Tommy Joseph, and 3B Cody Asche could be building blocks of the
future.

Perhaps Keri's outlook is simply far more distant future than I am capable of thinking right now, but the Phillies’ primary focus today should be on winning this
year. We can play fill-in-the-blanks later.

>> Blow Up the Phillies! [Grantland]

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Flyers' power play rediscovers swagger in win over Canucks

Flyers' power play rediscovers swagger in win over Canucks

BOX SCORE

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Flyers got some swagger back Sunday night.

But especially so on the power play, which entered Sunday's clash just 2 for 19 over the last six games.

Two markers on the man advantage helped the Flyers edge the Canucks, 3-2, at Rogers Arena in Vanvoucer (see Instant Replay).

“It all comes back to finding a way to produce – and they did that tonight,” said Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, who had called for his power-play participants to rediscover that swagger.

Hakstol’s club won for the first time in its last nine games in Western Canada. More importantly, the Flyers (28-24-7) moved within a point of the eighth and final playoff spot, currently shared by Florida and Boston, in the Eastern Conference.

Thanks to the power-play success, the Flyers built a 3-0 lead in the game’s first 23 minutes and then hung on, atoning for a sub-par effort in a one-sided loss to the Oilers in Edmonton on Thursday night.

The Flyers converted two of three power plays while blanking the Canucks on all four of their man advantages. The loss prevented the Canucks (26-28-6) from getting closer to a Western Conference playoff berth.

“I thought we were playing some pretty good hockey of late, but the pucks weren't going in,” said Flyers center Brayden Schenn, who scored the winning goal on the power play at 2:38 of the second period. “Tonight, we tightened up defensively again from Edmonton's game and were able to score a few more goals. It's a huge two points going home."

Wayne Simmonds, also on the power play, and Jakub Voracek scored the Flyers’ other goals.

“We needed a win,” Simmonds said. “Especially after the game in Edmonton, this is good for the morale."

Shayne Gostisbehere assisted on all three goals, recording the first three-point night of his career.

Schenn’s winning goal came only a minute and 27 seconds after Voracek gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead at 1:11 of the second by sending Sean Couturier’s huge rebound into a gaping net behind Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller. Voracek’s goal was his first in 10 games. He had not scored since Jan. 25 against the New York Rangers.

How did long sought-after goal make him feel?

"Like I scored a goal,” deadpanned Voracek. “We won the game. That’s the way I looked at it. It doesn't matter who scored the goals. Special teams were huge tonight. I liked our power play. We were going all 60 minutes. This one kept us in the race."

The Flyers were a well-rested team thanks to a two-day break between games and a three-day break before the start of the road trip. The Canucks, on the other hand, were playing their second of back-to-back home games with only a day’s rest following a grueling six-game United States road trip. But there was still considerable suspense over the final 30 minutes.

Markus Granlund and Jannik Hansen tallied for the Canucks, who are known as comeback artists, at 3:43 and 12:42 of the second, respectively, before the Flyers shut Vancouver down the rest of the way. Voracek indicated the Flyers were not nervous in the final frame.

"I don't think we changed anything to be honest,” he said. We were pretty tight in the neutral zone. We didn't give them much. When we had a couple of breakdowns, [Michal Neuvirth] was on his act.”

Neuvirth stopped 18 of 20 shots as the Flyers outshot the Canucks, 28-20. He enjoyed a much better start Sunday, holding the Canucks scoreless in the opening period after allowing four goals on his first 12 shots on Thursday in Edmonton. One of his better saves came with just over a minute into the game as he got his toe on Markus Granlund’s dangerous chance from in close.

"I felt good,” said Neuvirth. “I have been practicing well and playing with confidence. The last game, it didn't work out. I put that one behind me and restarted my mind and got back to work tonight.”

“I thought he was excellent,” said Hakstol. “He was calm and settled in there. You can go back through that 60 minutes and you can pick out three or four pretty darned good saves.”

Neuvirth excelled while making his fourth consecutive start and sixth in the past seven games overall.

“It feels good,” he said of the heavy workload. “It feels better when we win.”

But he was not about to get too excited. The Flyers have a tough clash at home Wednesday against NHL-best Washington and a road game Saturday at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field against the rival Penguins as part of the NHL’s Stadium Series.

“We have a tough schedule coming and we have to be ready,” Neuvirth said.

Sixers Twitter rejoices in the Kings' pick swap after DeMarcus Cousins deal

Sixers Twitter rejoices in the Kings' pick swap after DeMarcus Cousins deal

All hail the pick swap.

When word got out that the Sacramento Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans, Sixers fans on Twitter rejoiced.

On July 10, 2015, the Sixers traded away the rights to Artūras Gudaitis and Luka Mitrović, and, in return, received an unprotected 2019 first round pick, Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson and the right to swap first-round selections in the 2016 and 2017 drafts.

The Cousins move appears to significantly weaken the Kings, who are 24-33 and just 2.5 games better than the Sixers, so the pick swap looks healthier than ever.

But, for now, enjoy some samplings of Sixers Twitter from after the trade.

Here are some of the best tweets.