NHL Awards Tonight: Does Giroux Have the Fan Support to Edge a Finnish Goalie from Tennessee?

NHL Awards Tonight: Does Giroux Have the Fan Support to Edge a Finnish Goalie from Tennessee?

You'll note that not a single Flyer is in the running for any of the hardware to be handed out at this evening's NHL Awards ceremony in Las Vegas, despite the team having at least a couple players and a coach deserving of at least some recognition.

But, hey, there's at least one Flyer who could walk away with something tonight.

Claude Giroux made it all the way through to the final round of the NHL 13 cover vote contest, and either he or Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne will be named the winner this evening.

As cool as it is to potentially have a Flyer on the cover -- he'd be only the second on an EA NHL game and the first since Eric Lindros in 1999 -- I can't be the only one surprised Pekka Rinne is still in this thing, right?

I mean the Peyton Hillis Madden cover sort of set a precedent for unlikely winners, but at least he was from Cleveland. You could imagine Browns fans getting behind something like that.

But Nashville? In a North American contest to see who is going to appear to on the front of a video game box, I'm still struggling to figure out how a Pred not named Weber found himself in the final two, but good on him for it.

While we're on the subject, and since we're still sort of slumping on that whole Carlos Ruiz thing, did any of you actually participate in this contest and/or vote for Giroux?

Either way, for those of you who longing for the days of hardcore virtual hockey on the PC, tell me this doesn't bring back memories:

Jackie Robinson's historic Dodgers contract on display in Philadelphia

robinsonrefframe_1.jpg

Jackie Robinson's historic Dodgers contract on display in Philadelphia

A piece of modern baseball history will be on display in Philadelphia for the next couple of weeks.

The original contract Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in April 1947 that allowed him to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball will be featured at the National Constitution Center from May 26 until June 5.

Mikalai Kontilia, CEO of Collectors Cafe, the company loaning the contract to the Constitution Center, brought both the Dodgers document and the contract Robinson signed with the minor league Montreal Royals in October 1945 to The Comcast Network's Breakfast on Broad show on Tuesday morning.

"What's amazing is, these contracts, finally, after 60-some odd years, have been unearthed, discovered and the American people can finally see the Jackie Robinson contracts," Kontilia said.

The Dodgers contract plays an important role in American history, and not just in terms of sport. Many people point to then-Dodgers owner Branch Rickey signing Robinson as a starting point in the American civil rights movement.

Kontilia said a historic documentarian appraised the contracts at a value of $36 million.

For more on the contracts, check out the video above.

Jim Schwartz on missing Fletcher Cox: 'He’ll catch up'

052316_mcleod_on_dawkins_webbestvideo3_1920x1080_691407939580.jpg

Jim Schwartz on missing Fletcher Cox: 'He’ll catch up'

As the Eagles kicked off their second round of voluntary OTAs on Tuesday morning at the NovaCare Complex, the team’s best player was still MIA.
 
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is staying away from the team as he awaits a long-term contract extension for big money. He hasn’t been at any of the team’s voluntary workouts this spring and the first mandatory date isn’t until June 7.
 
As the Eagles install a new defense, how much is Cox missing?
 
“It’s voluntary, so you can only do so much,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said on Tuesday afternoon in a near-30-minute press conference. “Fletch was drafted in a scheme similar to this. He’ll catch up. But I’m sure there will be some carryover for him. I assume he’s a fast learner and I assume he’ll pick things up quickly.”
 
Without Cox on Tuesday, veteran free agent pickup Mike Martin worked with the first-team defense at tackle next to Bennie Logan. Last week, at the first open OTA practice, Taylor Hart filled in for Cox.
 
When asked if he has spoken with Cox since taking the job, Schwartz declined to comment, saying he prefers to keep private conversations with players private.
 
And by the third consecutive Cox question – this one about how Cox will eventually fit into his defense – the veteran NFL coach was ready to move on.
 
“Why don’t we do this: that’s probably enough Fletcher Cox speak,” Schwartz said. “Let’s just talk about the guys that are here. I really can’t comment on the guys that aren’t here. I haven’t had any experience with those guys. So anything I’d say would really be hypothetical, to tell you the truth.
 
“I did look, as the whole defensive staff did, we evaluated last year, what guys did. And he certainly had an impressive year last year. And we think that scheme-wise and technique-wise, what we’re going to do is going to fit him very well.”

Phillies-Tigers 5 things: Jeremy Hellickson's 2-strike changeup key

052316-phightin-words-webrefframe_1.jpg

Phillies-Tigers 5 things: Jeremy Hellickson's 2-strike changeup key

Phillies (25-20) at Tigers (22-22)
7:10 p.m. on CSN

The Phillies actually lost a one-run game. 

Their six-game road trip started off with a 5-4 loss Monday night — which makes them 14-4 in one-run games — against a Tigers lineup that showed just how much power it has. Miguel Cabrera homered twice, and J.D. Martinez and Nick Castellanos added solo shots of their own. It was an all-around rough night for Phillies pitchers, but they have a chance to even the series tonight at Comerica Park.

Let's take a look at the matchup:

1. Keep 'em in the park
Comerica Park favors pitchers more than hitters, but the Tigers and Phillies made it look small on Monday, hitting a combined six home runs. Oddly enough, all were solo shots.

Jeremy Hellickson hopes tonight for more success than Vince Velasquez had Monday. Hellickson struggled with the home run ball earlier in the year, allowing nine in his first seven starts. He didn't allow one in either of his last two starts, but the Marlins and Reds aren't as loaded offensively as the Tigers.

Detroit has clicked at the plate over the last week, belting 17 home runs over its last six games. J.D. Martinez has three of them and Cabrera has five. With those two batting second and third, Hellickson needs to be sharp in the first inning. 

The opening frame has been a problem for Hellickson all season — his opponents have hit .289 with an .883 OPS, six doubles and a homer. His first-inning ERA is 7.00 this season and 5.75 over the last two.

2. Changes from Hellickson
He enters 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA. Over his last two starts, Hellickson's given up just two earned runs in 13 innings, putting 11 men on base and striking out 13. He's faced 57 batters since last allowing a home run for his longest homerless streak of the season.

What's been the biggest difference for Hellickson in his last two starts? He's turned to his changeup, his best pitch, more often with two strikes. In his first seven outings, Hellickson threw the changeup 18 percent of the time with two strikes. His last two starts, he's thrown it 48 percent of the time with two strikes. It's completely fooled the opposition, which is 0 for 17 with 11 strikeouts against Hellickson's changeup over that span.

Hellickson has by far the highest swing-and-miss rate of changeups in all of baseball with 57 in 184 pitches (31 percent).

Look for Hellickson to continue utilizing that pitch tonight. Here are some of the Tigers' numbers this season against right-handed changeups:

Cabrera: 1 for 11
Castellanos: 1 for 10
Justin Upton: 1 for 7
J.D. Martinez: 0 for 7

Current Tigers are 30 for 95 (.316) lifetime against Hellickson. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia has done the most damage, going 8 for 25 with three doubles, three homers and five walks. Cabrera is 4 for 11 with a homer. Upton is 5 for 13 with two doubles and two homers.

3. Not the same Verlander
Now 33, Justin Verlander is not the same fireballer he was in his prime. In 2011, the year he won AL Cy Young and MVP, his fastball averaged 95 mph. This season, the pitch has averaged a career-low 92.1. 

Here's a look at the difference for Verlander's pitches the last three seasons compared to his peak of 2009 to 2012:

2009-12
Fastball: .254 opponents' batting average
Curveball: .152
Changeup: .196
Slider: .209

2014-present
Fastball: .263
Curveball: .248
Changeup: .275
Slider: .227

His pitches just haven't had the same life and bite as they once did. We've seen this happen to a number of former aces over the last few seasons: Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay. When the decline happens, it happens fast, especially for guys who pitch so many innings every year. It's not as drastic for some as it is for others. King Felix has been able to remain effective despite diminished velocity by mastering his offspeed pitches. That's something Lincecum, Cain and Sabathia have been unable to do.

Verlander is sort of in between. Since the start of 2014, he's 23-24 with a 4.16 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 61 starts. He hasn't been horrible but hasn't been great either.

This season, Verlander is 3-4 with a 4.58 ERA. He's struck out 60 and walked 20 in 57 innings. He's on a roll entering tonight's game, having allowed just four runs over his last 22⅓ innings with 27 strikeouts.

Current Phillies have only 34 career at-bats against Verlander and 18 belong to David Lough. Ryan Howard and Andres Blanco are 0 for 3, Carlos Ruiz is 0 for 2 and Peter Bourjos is 1 for 8.

4. Franco breaking out?
Maikel Franco has had back-to-back multi-hit games for the first time since April 22-23, when he hit three home runs and drove in seven in the first two games of a series in Milwaukee.

Is he finally breaking out of his lengthy slump? Every time over the last few weeks that it's looked like it, he's followed with a few hitless games. 

Franco does appear to be seeing the ball better, though. He's walked just 11 times all season but four have come in his last seven games. In his last five, he's reached base nine times in 19 plate appearances with a double and a homer.

5. This and that
• Odubel Herrera, who was pulled from Monday's game for not hustling out a groundball, has followed an 0-for-11 skid by going 5 for 7 in his last two games. He's batting .335, and his .901 OPS is 10th among all NL outfielders, ahead of guys like Starling Marte, Hunter Pence, Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton and Carlos Gonzalez.

• Herrera's five errors lead all MLB centerfielders. Nobody else has more than two.

• Colton Murray's soaking up three innings last night allowed David Hernandez, Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez to rest despite Velasquez's recording just 12 outs. Hernandez has had two full days off. Getting these guys some rest will be crucial moving forward. Neris is on pace for 86 appearances, Gomez 83 and Hernandez 72. Last season, only one reliever in the majors (St. Louis' Kevin Siegrist) had 80-plus appearances.

• Tommy Joseph entered Monday 0 for 7 with four strikeouts against right-handed pitching, but he had a double and a homer off Mike Pelfrey. 

• Ryan Howard is 4 for 52 (.077) with 22 strikeouts over his last 18 games. His .156 batting average ranks last among 180 qualifying major-leaguers and his .226 OBP is 177th.