Philly March Madness: (2) Tim Kerr vs. (15) Carlos Ruiz

Philly March Madness: (2) Tim Kerr vs. (15) Carlos Ruiz

Over the next few weeks at The700Level, we'll be posting poll matchups as part of our Philly March Madness competition. Examine the cases of the two fine Philadelphia athletes below, and cast your vote at the bottom as to which you think should advance to the next round. And as always, feel free to explain your selection and/or debate the choices in the comments section.


(2) Tim Kerr

Imagine Scott Hartnell. Now imagine the complete opposite, and you have Tim Kerr. The beauty of Kerr, a three-time All-Star who from 1983 to 1987 might have had the most dominating four-season stretch of any Flyer in history, was the serenity that existed in him while mayhem reigned around him (usually due to his presence). At 6-3, 235, he was a mountain of a man, particularly in his era. And his greatest asset was almost neanderthal in concept: Stand in front of the net, and wait for the puck. Except as Kerr parked himself in front, particularly on power plays, opponents threw every short of plastic explosives at him in futile attempts to stop him. You could build a bonfire visible from space with all the sticks snapped over his back (and yes, they were still wooden sticks back then). They would hook, crosscheck, slewfoot, punch, butt-end … to no avail. You couldn’t knock Kerr off his skates. His balance was amazing, and his ability to endure the punishment was epic. He scored 224 goals in that four season stretch. Of the 58 goals he had in 1985-86, an NHL-record 34 came on the power play. Two players have come within 10 goals of that record in the past decade; it’s as air-tight as DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.

Kerr suffered a season-scrapping injury in 1987, came back the following season and threw up 48 more goals. But the pounding he took for his relentless decision to make the area three feet in front of the goalie his own took its toll. He didn’t play more than half a season over the next four years and retired when he was 33. However, it is impossible not to marvel at what Kerr did on the ice, for he had to know it would come at the expense of longevity.

Oh, one more thing: Tim Kerr was not a fighter. However, on the handful of occasions an opponent pushed him over his long threshold of patience and prompted him to drop the gloves, it was a scene from a gore film. No Flyer -- not Dave Brown, not Donald Brashear, not DAVE SCHULTZ -- could devastate a man with his fists like Tim Kerr. But Kerr knew he was more valuable as a mountain instead of a volcano. --Dennis Deitch

(15) Carlos Ruiz

Philadelphia loves to watch an unknown player emerge from doubt and/or mild obscurity to become a major contributor, and over the past three seasons, Carlos Ruiz has done just that. In 2007, he began to show he could work well with a pitching staff, aided by the mentoring of Jamie Moyer, and he also showed particular strength defensively. In 2008, with the Rod Barajas era over after just one injury-shortened season, Ruiz continued his development as a catcher and was a vital part of the Phillies’ World Series run. I’ll never forget watching him from the fifth row on the first base side in game 3. He had homered early in the game, but the moment that stands out was his dribbling, bases-loaded, walkoff infield single that somehow found enough daylight to score Eric Bruntlett despite Joe Maddon having seven fielders within the cutout. Game 3 was in the books, and Chooch’s status as a folk hero was cemented. He was the man calling some masterfully pitched games from behind the plate—a Panamanian with an almost entirely American-born staff (11 of 12)—and he also came up big at the dish under the brightest spotlight.

Over the past two seasons, particularly in 2010, Ruiz has continued growing as a catcher and is now considered one of the best in the game, even adding some offense. He caught Roy Halladay’s perfect game and his playoff no-hitter, and to hear Halladay tell it, Doc was just a guy doing as his catcher directed. His play on the final out of the no-hitter was a thing of athletic beauty, quickly getting out to a dribbler with the bat in the way, then firing it over the baserunner’s shoulder, just in time to make history. While some of the best-known prospects fizzle out when they get to the big leagues, if they make it at all, Ruiz spent eight seasons in the Phillies minor league system with most fans hardly knowing his name. Now you can’t go to a game without hearing it shouted by 40,000-plus. --Matt P.

Who should advance to the next round?online surveys

Results So Far:

East Bracket:

(1) Julius Erving (91.8%) over (16) Von Hayes (8.2%)
(8) Simon Gagne (77.9%) over (9) Seth Joyner (22.1%)
(5) Eric Lindros (70.3%) over (12) Eric Allen (29.7%)
(4) Randall Cunningham (77.6%) over (13) Shane Victorino (23.4%)
(11) Cole Hamels (82.1%) over (6) Mark Recchi (17.9%)
(14) Tug McGraw (51.1%) over (3) Moses Malone (48.9%)
(7) Darren Daulton (74.0%) over (10) Andrew Toney (26.0%)
(2) Chase Utley (93.5%) over (15) Andre Waters (6.5%)

Midwest Bracket:

(1) Mark Howe (60.2%) over (16) David Akers (39.8%)
(9) Rod Brind'Amour (73.6%) over (8) Rick Tocchet (26.4%)
(5) Brian Westbrook (93.3%) over (12) Jayson Werth (6.7%)
(4) Mike Richards (85.1%) over (13) Trent Cole (14.9%)
(6) John LeClair (89.2%) over (11) Clyde Simmons (10.8%)
(3) Jimmy Rollins (75.8%) over (14) John Kruk (24.2%)
(7) Lenny Dykstra (51.9%) over (10) Dave Poulin (48.1%)
(2) Allen Iverson (83.1%) over (15) Jeremiah Trotter (16.9%)

West Bracket:

(1) Mike Schmidt (96.9%) over (16) Keith Byars (3.1%)
(9) Wilbert Montgomery (59.4%) over (8) Jeff Carter (40.6%)
(5) Ron Jaworski (83.5%) over (12) Bobby Abreu (16.5%)
(4) Ron Hextall (94.1%) over (13) Andre Iguodala (5.9%)
(6) Mike Quick (59.8%) over (11) Hugh Douglas (40.2%)
(3) Brian Dawkins (98.3%) over (14) Scott Rolen (1.7%)
(7) Maurice Cheeks (51.9%) over (10) Eric Desjardins (48.1%)

Phillies respond to Mackanin's verbal spanking, beat Reds on Joseph's walk-off

Phillies respond to Mackanin's verbal spanking, beat Reds on Joseph's walk-off

BOX SCORE

It's too early to tell if the worm has turned for the Phillies, but this was certainly a step in the right direction.

The Phils, who entered the day with the worst record in the majors, pulled off a 4-3, walk-off win over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday (see Instant Replay). The Phils won it on a hit by Tommy Joseph after Aaron Altherr made a heads-up baserunning play to advance to second on a wild pitch that bounced just a few feet away from Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart.

The win was just the Phillies' sixth in the last 27 games — inching them out baseball's basement — but it was their second in the last three and both of them have been walk-off specials with Joseph delivering the winning run with a single up the middle.

"Works for me," Joseph said of his recent penchant for walk-off hits.

Works for manager Pete Mackanin, too.

On Saturday night, the Phils were beaten, 5-2, by the Reds. The Phils were held to one hit and no runs over the first eight innings by a pitcher (Tim Adleman) with an ERA of over 6.00 and after the game, Mackanin called a team meeting. The skipper was tight-lipped about the meeting, but sources say he gave the lads a verbal spanking that belied his mild-mannered personality.

Time will tell if the meeting creates lasting impact and the intensity Mackanin would like to see, but he saw a response Saturday.

"I'd like to think it did (have an impact)," Mackanin said. "I was hoping they would. They played well. They put together a few hits. The home runs were nice to see, but I would like to see us bunch four or five base hits."

For the record, Joseph did not think the meeting had a huge impact on the team. He believes the Phils are better than they have shown and did not need a manager's scolding to play better.

"No, no," he said when asked if the meeting led to more intensity. "We know what we're capable of. We have a great team in here. It's a matter of playing great as a team. We were able to show that today."

There were a lot of contributors in this win.

Cesar Hernandez, Michael Saunders and Joseph all smacked solo homers off 40-year old Cincinnati starter Bronson Arroyo.

Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff was not at his best, but he did manage to stop the bleeding after allowing a two-run homer in the first. He pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up only one more run before handing a tie game off to the bullpen.

That bullpen was outstanding, running its scoreless streak to 19 2/3 innings. Edubray Ramos, Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris combined on 3 2/3 scoreless innings to keep the game tied until Joseph could work his walk-off magic in the ninth.

But that magic started when Aaron Altherr led off the bottom of the ninth with a single off Michael Lorenzen and alertly took second on an 0-2 wild pitch that didn't bounce very far away from Barnhart. Altherr's getting into scoring position for Joseph was huge.

"Tommy Joseph has been coming up big in big situations and coming through for us," Mackanin said. "That wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for Altherr coming up and advancing on that ball in the dirt. So it's a good day.

"Maybe I should have a meeting every night."

After batting just .179 with one homer and seven RBIs in April, Joseph has hit .321 (25 for 78) with seven homers and 17 RBIs in 24 games this month. He is the first Phillie with two walk-off hits in a three-game span since Juan Samuel in June 1985 and first in the majors since Starlin Castro, then of the Cubs, did it in June 2015.

"If he continues like this, he’s going to have a heck of a good year and help us win a lot of games," Mackanin said.

Joseph nearly had his career ended by a series of concussions. A month-long slump was nothing he couldn't handle.

"At the beginning of April, I didn't think I'd have an April like I did," he said. "So it was just a matter of making adjustments with (hitting coach) Matt Stairs, making sure that we stay a little more consistent with what's going on, and it's all about really sticking to the adjustments that we make."

The Phillies have not won two games in a row in exactly a month — since April 26-27.

Can they do it Sunday?

Is the worm turning for this team?

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Reds 3

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Reds 3

BOX SCORE

The Phillies rallied for a 4-3 walk-off win over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday.

Tommy Joseph won it with a single up the middle with no outs in the bottom of the ninth. The hit scored Aaron Altherr, who had singled and moved to second on a wild pitch.

The Phils have won just six of their last 27 games. Joseph has had a walk-off, game-winning hit in the last two wins.

In addition to Joseph, who also homered, the star of the game was the Phillies' bullpen. Four Phils' relievers combined on 3 2/3 scoreless innings after starter Jerad Eickhoff exited. The Phillies' bullpen is riding a 19 2/3-innings scoreless streak.

Starting pitching report
Eickhoff allowed eight hits and three runs over 5 1/3 innings. He gave up a bunt hit and a two-run homer to the first two batters of the game but took a 3-2 lead into the sixth inning. He allowed a leadoff single and a one-out RBI double in that inning as the Reds tied the game at 3-3.

Veteran Bronson Arroyo, back in action at age 40 after recovering from surgery the last two seasons, gave up three runs — all on solo homers — over five innings.

Bullpen report
Good work by Edubray Ramos to get two outs in the sixth to strand a runner in scoring position and preserve a 3-3 tie. Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris each followed with a scoreless inning. Neris struck out dangerous Joey Votto on a splitter with a man on base to end the top of the ninth. He got the win.

Austin Brice pitched two scoreless innings for the Reds. Michael Lorenzen took the loss. He gave up two hits in the ninth. Joseph's game-winning hit came on a 97 mph heater.

At the plate
Cesar Hernandez, Michael Saunders and Joseph all clouted solo homers for the Phillies. Joseph has six homers in his last 21 games.

Zack Cozart smacked a two-run homer against Eickhoff in the first inning. The Reds tied the game on a one-out double by Scooter Gennett in the sixth.

Remembering Bunning
Jim Bunning died Friday night. Larry Bowa recalled the impact that the Hall of Famer had on his career (see story).

Up next
The series concludes Sunday afternoon. Zach Eflin (0-2, 5.36) and Scott Feldman (3-4, 3.99) are the pitchers.