Inside the Standings: Welcome to the Crowded Wild Card Race

Inside the Standings: Welcome to the Crowded Wild Card Race

The NL East standings can be found later on, but we've focused so much attention on that already, and little has changed. Let's shift gears, and talk about the hurdles the Phillies will have to leap in order to earn a Wild Card.

It goes without saying that everything hinges on the team playing better going forward, but you start to get a sense for how dire the situation is when you look at that list. I mean, that's practically the entire National League who hold at least a couple of games over the Phils at the moment. In fact, only four teams are further out of a playoff spot than the reigning NL East champions.

Of course there will be a lot of movement in these standings between now and September. Some of these clubs will fall out of the hunt as others separate themselves from the pack. The way things stand, it would still be a shock to the senses if Pittsburgh was there until the end,

But the point is, there are a lot of obstacles climb over even to grasp that extra ticket to October. I think the Phillies have a ton of work to do before the words "postseason" and "2012" should come up again, unless some variation of the word "miss" is in the mix as well.

vs. Colorado (25-40)

One of the few teams not above the Philadelphia for a WC spot, the Rockies should help jump start the home team. The Phils are 10-5 against the other three NL clubs below them in the standings, and 14-7 overall over teams presently under .500. And as bad as the Fightins have been recently, Colorado arguably has been worse, dropping 10 of their last 11, including a pair of home sweeps at the hands of the Angels and A's.

Not surprisingly, the Rocks own one of the top offenses in the league, thanks in part at least to Coors Field, but also not surprisingly, they are far better at home than on the road. Only the Marlins score fewer runs than Colorado in their opponents' buildings. They're also saddled with the worst team-ERA in baseball, having pretty much no effective starters in their rotation. You'd like the Phillies to sweep this team, but if they can't take two of three here, they're really in trouble.

vs. Tampa Bay (37-29)

One last interleague series on the slate, and it's a doozy. The Rays are hanging tough in the AL East, currently four back of the Yankees, and thanks to that second WC, they would make the playoffs if the season ended today.

Tampa Bay wins games on the mound, their staff in possession of the second-lowest ERA in the league. 42 times this season, they've held their opponent to four or fewer runs, with a 33-9 record in those games. We'll save you the math: that's 4-20 when they give up five-plus. TB is a middling club at the plate, so if the Phillies can build a decent lead, theoretically they should be safe -- although they've already blown 18 leads this season.

vs. Pittsburgh (34-31)

The Pirates have the second-least productive offense per game in baseball, behind only San Diego, yet they are in second place in the Central Division, and only 0.5 behind the second WC. Their pitching is keeping them in games, particularly the bullpen, which ranks second in the league.

The Phillies know all about the Pitt's pen, unfortunately. The Bucs picked up the series win in April, including a pair of walk-offs, as their relief pitching stymied the Fightins bats late in games. They allowed zero earned runs and five hits over nine innings of work in those three games. The Phils have improved a bit at the dish since then, finding ways to mix and match their lineup, but they are still lacking a bit in the clutch hits department.

vs. Miami (33-33)

The Phils welcome the Marlins to Citizens Bank Park for the third and final time this season, and are currently 3-3 against the Fish. Right now, it sets up for Cole Hamels to open the series, and while he's struggled in general of late, Miami was his kryptonite twice already this year. Cole is 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA facing the division rivals, his last outing against them on June 2 kicking off his current winless streak.

We know more or less what we're going to with the Marlins. They're an incredibly streaky team -- 8-14 in April, 21-8 in May, 4-11 so far in June, and 2-10 over their last 12. Giancarlo Stanton has cooled off considerably since their last visit, and the rest of the lineup along with him. Stanton was batting .304 with 13 HR and 39 RBI when the month began. Now he's down to .272, with one home run and three RBI over his last 15 games.

On Deck: @ New York Mets, vs. Atlanta, All-Star Break

Nerlens Noel posts thankful message to Philly fans

Nerlens Noel posts thankful message to Philly fans

Nerlens Noel's tenure in Philadelphia wasn't characterized by a whole lot of winning, but he'll still likely be remembered fondly by Sixers fans as being one of the original members of the process.

It's always an emotional time when a fan favorite departs for another city and a new team instead of seeing the championship aspirations many had for them in Philly through to fruition.

Noel posted an emotional message to his Twitter account on Thursday evening thanking the city of Philadelphia and its fans for the support they showed him through the ups and downs. 

The tweet contained the hashtag #Philly with a couple of exclamation points with a screenshot of a note that read:

What an exciting journey it’s been… To have such an amazing city embrace a kid from Boston coming out of Kentucky the way y’all did, is something I’ll truly never forget. And even through the ups and downs I never doubted the love here and that won’t change. Thank you to everybody that’s believed in me and supported through #TheProcess.

Love! -NN4

Noel was traded earlier in the day to the Dallas Mavericks for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut, and a conditional first round pick that will likely turn into two second round picks.

Bryan Colangelo will address the media on Friday morning to discuss his rationale behind moving Nerlens.

Related:

>>Every reason why the Nerlens Noel trade was unjustifiable 

>>Video: Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid say their goodbyes 

>>Joel Embiid reacts to Nerlens trade on Twitter: 'Trust it'

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Nerlens Noel emerged from the trainer’s room in a red sweatshirt and made his rounds of handshakes and hugs. It would be his last time in the Sixers' training complex as a member of the team, marking the end of the longest-tenured player’s stay in Philadelphia.

The Sixers traded Noel to the Mavericks on Thursday for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a top-18 protected first-round pick, according to a source (see story). He went through a portion of practice and was removed from it because of the deal. 

Noel’s now former teammates had a strong reaction to his departure. 

“Nerlens, he’s my guy,” Joel Embiid said. “He’s been my best friend since I got to Philly and I’m happy for him. He wants to start. I think in Dallas he’s going to get the chance to start and they’re going to re-sign him and they’re going to pay him a lot of money. Here it was kind of hard for him to start unless they were starting us together. But I’m happy for him. He’s going to get the chance he wanted.”

Noel’s future with the Sixers had been in question for two years as he enters restricted free agency this summer. Last season, the team struggled to find a way for him and Jahlil Okafor, both true centers, to play together. This season, the logjam was magnified when Embiid made his debut and took over the starting role. 

Noel candidly spoke out about the overcrowding at the beginning of the season but that situation was sidetracked when he missed 23 games because of injury. Once he returned, he quickly was on the short end of minutes. 

“I need to be on the court playing basketball,” Noel said in mid-December. “I think I’m too good to be playing eight minutes. Like, no, that’s crazy. That’s crazy. That’s crazy. They need to figure this s--- out.”

The Sixers did figure out his role, later making him the defensive leader of the second unit as Okafor became the odd man out. The Sixers also considered the possibility of pairing Noel and Embiid in the starting lineup, as they did with Embiid and Okafor, but that experiment played out only over a handful of minutes. 

“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Embiid said of not playing more alongside Noel. “I thought we should have tried that a little bit more. I think the few times we did, it actually looked pretty good offensively and defensively.”

Of the bigs, it seemed like Okafor would be the one moved at the deadline after being held out of two games because of trade talks. In the end, it was Noel as the one to go on Thursday. 

“He’s one of my favorite players here,” Dario Saric said. “He’s always ready for jokes, he’s always ready to enjoy every moment.” 

Noel was the only player remaining from Brown’s first season as head coach with the Sixers. Brown could not comment on the Noel trade because it was not official at the time he addressed the media. 

Ilyasova leadership missed
On Wednesday night the Sixers dealt Ersan Ilyasova to the Hawks for Tiago Splitter, a 2017 second-round pick and 2017 second-round pick swap rights. Even though Ilyasova played only 53 games for the Sixers, the veteran leader left his mark.

“He was a consummate pro,” Brown said. “He helped teach our young guys about that professionalism and helped contribute to our culture. He was good. You add those things up and we’re going to miss him.” 

Ilyasova’s departure affects those who played with him and behind him. Embiid credited Ilyasova for stretching the floor when they were in the starting lineup together. 

Saric, though, is perhaps the most impacted by the trade. Saric moved to the second unit when Ilyasova took over the starting role. He learned from his fellow international power forward, who helped him adjust to the NBA on and off the court. Saric is likely to get the nod as a starter. 

“For me, it’s hard,” Saric said. “I lost in Ersan some kind of mentor.” 

Brown also plans to play Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes at power forward at times, as well. If Covington slides over from small forward, Brown eyes Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Gerald Henderson and Nik Stauskas as players who could fill in at the three spot. 

The Sixers will resume activity on Friday morning for shootaround ahead of their game against the Wizards. They will approach that contest without familiar faces on the court. 

“I lost two good friends,” Saric said. “But this is the NBA. This is part of the business, part of the job.”