Saturday Reads: SLAMMED? Asante's Decline? Voracek's Value? Why a 'Gratton' Trade? Union Dues and Player Ratings? Phillies Food?

Saturday Reads: SLAMMED? Asante's Decline? Voracek's Value? Why a 'Gratton' Trade? Union Dues and Player Ratings? Phillies Food?

What we're reading this morning instead of doing something more productive. Sports, music, and food... 
Phillies...The Phils-Giants series got off to a rough start last night, allowing Tim Lincecum to improve his gaudy 2012 ERA while also giving up a decisive, gut-punching grand slam in a 7-2 loss. Vance Worley looked amazing for a stretch that included five straight strikeouts and retiring 11 batters in a row and 12 of the first 13 he faced. But things started to come apart in the fifth, then exploded in the sixth when Brandon Crawford cleared the bases with a salami to right. Even Eli Whiteside had an RBI double. The Phils' two runs came when Lincecum slipped and fell with Shane Victorino on third, balking him in, and when Ryan Howard launched his second homer of the season. Señor Finger has more on the game and its place in the 2012 Phillies timeline... [CSNPhilly
With the trade deadline still looming, we remain in "Who's staying, who's going?" mode... John Stolnis at That Ball's Outta Here weighs in with his guesses and reasoning behind who the Phils  will trade and who they'll hang onto. [TBOH]
Eagles...Switching gears to the Birds, an entry posted yesterday by Jeff McLane had some interesting nuggets in it. McLane was emptying out his notebook in two parts, both worth a read. In the second, he talks Mike Kafka's slight uptick in velocity, Nick Foles' hand positioning, DJacc and JMac, and perhaps of most interest—DRC and Asante. McLane refers to Andy Reid's belief that Asante was in "steep decline," which is surprising in two ways to me. First, that Reid felt that way about a guy who appeared to have a pretty damn good season, and second that he let it get into the press. On DRC, McLane gets into his lack of a contract after this season and how the Eagles could already be planning for life without him, even before 2013. [Philly.com / Birds Eye View
Pro Football Talk places the Birds at 8th in their power rankings. Click the link for their reasoning. [PFT
Flyers...The entire Flyers world feels like it's in a holding pattern as we await David Poile and the Nashville Predators' decision on whether to match the Flyers' massive offer sheet signing of Shea Weber. While we wait, so does Jake Voracek, the Flyers' own restricted free agent (along with Marc-Andre Bourdon). Vorch's next contract won't be an easy one to nail, as Bill Meltzer describes this morning. What do you think the Flyers should be targeting for a Voracek deal? [Hockey Buzz (requisite autoplay video ad warning)] 
One question that keeps coming up is that of whether the Flyers and Preds will arrange a "Gratton" trade, whereby something other than the mandated four first rounders goes to Nashville in exchange for Poile not matching the offer. One reason that doesn't make a lot of sense on the surface is the growing suspicion that the Predators don't have the cash to sign Weber to the offer the Flyers arranged with him. So why would the Flyers offer them players from their roster? BSH takes a look at three possible reasons. [Broad Street Hockey
If they want to make any more moves in addition to adding Weber's salary (say, signing Shane Doan...), the Flyers might need to shed some loot...
Union...According to Chester mayor John Linder, the Philadelphia Union missed a deadline for paying the 2012 installment of their agreed-upon annual $500,000 payment in lieu of property taxes, and although 2011 is paid off, there appears to be a discrepancy as to the 2010 figure. With a massive change in Chester city politics and a new entity like a stadium and its pro soccer team all coming at once, there were bound to be some disagreements. The good news is, the two sides appear to be talking at the negotiating table on both the annual payments and proposed entertainment and parking taxes, and not just sending messages through the press. [Daily News
Jon Tannenwald and Chad Graff sat down with MLS Commish Don Garber on the All-Star Game coming to PPL Park, perhaps earlier than many would have expected, and certainly something we're really looking forward to next week. Tickets hit my mailbox yesterday… [The Goalkeeper
As for the action on the pitch, Philly Soccer Page has an excellent breakdown of the Union players over the season to date in their midseason player ratings. You may or may not be surprised to see who their lowest-rated midfielder is… [Philly Soccer Page
And finally, Kerith Gabriel catches up with Sebastien Le Toux, on what it will be like to face the Union this afternoon wearing the dirty pink cow jersey of his new club, Red Bull New York (slightly paraphrased). [Daily News]
Sixers...After their personnel changes, are the Sixers any better than they were last year? I vote we ask Sir Charles. In fact, I vote we always ask Sir Charles when we're not sure of something. [CSN Philly
Wizards/Caps owner Ted Leonsis describes former Wiz and new Sixers gunner Nick Young as someone who "wanted stats" and not exactly a team player. The quote comes on page 3 of this interview, which is a pretty good read. [WaPo]
Food...Back in 2009, we read about baseball teams moving to get rid of all the junk food that was usually found in clubhouses. The Phillies were among that wave, which continues these days. M
y man Dom at Cocina Domenico recently spoke with Dana Gollotto, a chef and dietitian from South Philly who prepares meals for the Phillies, among others. Hook a brother up with some chocolate protein balls? Ya know, for after my "workouts." [Cucina Domenico
Pretty cool local food event going on at The Shambles at New Market (Headhouse Square, 2nd & Lombard) this evening, a collaborative effort from Slow Food Philly and Farm to City called "Good Food, Good Beer and the Rest Is History." Gourmet food trucks meet local breweries Victory, Philadelphia Brewing Company, Stoudts, and Earth Bread + Brewery. $30-$35 to get your grub & drink on. [Slow Food Philadelphia
Music...Ween fan? Check out mxdwn's interview with Mickey Melchiondo, where he talks about the I-hope-only-temporary "end" of the band, everything-fishing in America, changes in the music industry, and how he listens to sports talk radio instead of music. [mxdwn
Chili Peppers fan? Flea has a new EP available for download in a pay-what-you-will offering. Proceeds will benefit the Silverlake Conservatory of Music. Download Helen Burns here, and read about it at Rolling Stone. [Rolling Stone]  
And some War On Drugs:

End to End: Who will Flyers protect, lose in expansion draft?

End to End: Who will Flyers protect, lose in expansion draft?

Throughout the offseason, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

The topic: The expansion draft, who to protect and best guesses at Vegas' selection.

Dougherty
We have and will continue to discuss in detail the entry draft, but we haven't talked much about the June 21 expansion draft. That's what we're doing today.

The expansion draft will affect the Flyers' plans this summer because they will be losing a player to Vegas, but the impact will be a minimum. They will not lose any core pieces.

How the expansion draft works: Teams have two options in protecting players. They can either protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters and one goalie. The expectation is the Flyers will protect seven forwards, three D-men and a goalie.

There are six forwards and two defensemen who are obvious protections: Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Valtteri Filppula, Shayne Gostisbehere and Radko Gudas. Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny are exempt.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall will have decisions to make on who the seventh forward and third defenseman he protects. Then there is the goalie protection.

That leaves forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Nick Cousins, Taylor Leier, Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl, Matt Read, Jordan Weal and Dale Weise; and defensemen Andrew MacDonald and Brandon Manning.

Losing any of those six forwards would not be major blows to the Flyers. Now on the blue line, it gets interesting. My prediction is that the Flyers will choose to protect Manning with the hope Vegas takes MacDonald's contract.

Probably isn't going to happen.

Of the goalies, I don't think Vegas will have any interest in Anthony Stolarz, especially since he tore his right MCL in April. So that should cut the question here. That would mean the Flyers protect Michal Neuvirth, whom they signed to a two-year extension.

So what is my best guess at who Vegas plucks from the Flyers?

I think it will be a toss-up between Laughton and Raffl. I suspect the Flyers will re-sign Weal before the draft and then protect him, or have a verbal understanding they'll sign him after the expansion draft. Both parties appeared interested in him coming back.

My pick? Let's go with Laughton, a former first-round pick who turns 23 on Tuesday.

Laughton hasn't panned out as the Flyers hoped. He spent last season in Lehigh Valley and both Leier and Weal earned call-ups over him. I think that is a telling sign here.

So I'm predicting Laughton going to Vegas, where a change of scenery helps him out and the Golden Knights get a young forward that can slot into a third- or fourth-line role and still has upside.

Hall
There's a lot to the expansion draft — tons of possibilities and things can still change before June 21 that could impact the Flyers' decisions.

Albeit unlikely, Steve Mason could re-sign, which would obviously affect the Flyers' protection plan at goalie. Assuming that doesn't happen, I think the Flyers protect Neuvirth, especially considering Stolarz's health is in question this offseason and he may not be the true goalie of the future. Stolarz is also a pending restricted free agent, so he'll have to receive his qualifying offer from the Flyers before the expansion draft.

Now, let's say the Flyers go with the seven-forward, three-defensemen approach.

The blueliners are pretty clear: Gostisbehere and Gudas will be protected, as it comes down to MacDonald and Manning. I feel the organization thinks a bit more of MacDonald and his versatility compared to Manning, whose two-year deal last summer was likely strategic on the Flyers' part in planning for this expansion draft.

As for the forwards, Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds, Schenn, Filppula and Couturier are staying put. I believe Weal will be re-signed and protected.

Ultimately, I could see Raffl being Vegas' choice. At 28 years old, he's not super young or inexperienced, but also not old by any means, and the winger can play all four lines because of a well-rounded game that complements different styles.

Raffl's injuries last season (abdominal, knee) may cause red flags. At the same time, the Golden Knights should be intrigued by the two seasons prior in which Raffl played all 82 games of 2015-16 (and was a plus-9) after scoring a career-high 21 goals in 2014-15.

A loss of Raffl wouldn't be ideal, but not as damaging given the Flyers appear to be gaining more depth and youth at forward.

Paone
June 21's expansion draft will be the biggest wild card of the NHL summer. And that's not just some corny pun because it involves an expansion team from Vegas.

It'll be the first piece of player movement during the offseason, coming before the entry draft and free agency. But since it will be the first piece of player movement of the offseason, it will help mold how the Flyers and the rest of the teams around the league approach their summers.

None of the Flyers' "big guns" will be on the move and my gut tells me the Flyers will be protecting Neuvirth as they want him to shoulder the starting load this coming season.

We don't know exactly what Vegas is looking for in the expansion draft because general manager George McPhee is keeping that close to the vest. But if I'm the Golden Knights' GM, youth is at the top of my wish list.

That leaves three Flyers to stick out in my mind — Weal (25), Cousins (turns 24 in June) and Laughton (turns 23 on Tuesday).

After the sparkplug Weal was down the stretch with eight goals and four assists in 23 games, the Flyers should reach a new deal with the UFA and keep him in Philadelphia.

That leaves Cousins and Laughton.

My instinct tells me Vegas will gamble (sorry, still getting used to this whole Vegas having a team thing) on Laughton, a former first-round pick.

There's a reason he was a first-rounder in 2012. The guy can play, even if he hasn't shown it consistently in Philadelphia. But remember he's been yanked back and forth between the AHL and NHL on numerous occasions and when he's been with the big club, he's either been in the press box as a scratch or been tossed back and forth between center and wing. That constant instability in both level and position can be detrimental to a young player. Vegas would give Laughton a fresh start, a fresh home and some fresh stability.

Plus, I know there are only so many protections to go around, but Cousins is a guy the Flyers should want to keep around. Just 16 points (six points, 10 assists) in 60 games isn't good enough offensively, but not many Flyers were great offensively last season. Everyone needs to be better there. But Cousins has that pest intangible that can be so effective, especially in the rugged Metropolitan Division, where basically every game is a rivalry game. It's a good quality to have.

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Skidding Phils take on veteran Bronson Arroyo

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Skidding Phils take on veteran Bronson Arroyo

Phillies (16-30) vs. Reds (23-24)
4:05 p.m. on TCN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

Tim Adleman and the Reds shut down the Phillies in Friday night's series opener, dealing the Phillies a 5-2 defeat. It was the Phillies' 21st loss in 26 games (see full story).

Jerad Eickhoff takes the ball for the Phillies on Saturday, trying to get both the team and his own season back on track. Veteran Bronson Arroyo takes the start for the Reds.

Here are five things to know for the game:

1. Worst in baseball
The loss on Friday paired with the Marlins' win over the Angels gave the Phillies sole possession of the worst record in baseball. 

The loss to the Reds was enough to make manager Pete Mackanin call a team meeting with the Phillies hitting a definitive low at 16-30. The 2016 squad didn't fall 14 games under .500 for the first time until Sept. 2. The Phillies are 5-18 in May and have scored 86 runs compared to 131 by opponents. 

Many of the games recently haven't even been close. Six of the losses this month were by at least five runs. The team brought the tying run to the plate on Friday, but it was behind 5-0 and had just one hit going into the ninth. 

The offense has gone silent in the last six games, scoring no more than two runs each time out. In five of their last six, the Phillies have faced a starter with an ERA above 5.00 who proceeded to throw at least five innings and give up one run or fewer. Adleman was the latest to victimize the Phils (see story).

The bright side? The upcoming schedule is much more palatable for the squad. After the Reds, the Phillies face the Marlins, Giants and Braves for 10 games. Those three teams have a combined record of 57-85 this year and the Phillies went 5-0 against the Marlins and Braves in April.

2. 10th time's the charm?
Nine starts into his second full MLB season, Eickhoff hasn't found the right stuff ... or a win. In 51 2/3 innings, he's 0-5 with 4.70 ERA. 

Why the slow start? First off, Eickhoff had some control issues. He's gone from a more than palatable 1.9 to a less stellar 3.1 walks per nine innings. Beyond dishing out free passes, he has a 1.43 WHIP, up from 1.16 last season. Still, his 3.77 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) indicates he shouldn't have struggled quite this much. 

Looking further into the numbers, Eickhoff has allowed more infield and bunt hits this season than he did on a rate basis last year. He's induced less weak contact, which could be part of his issue. Still, he's thrown 300 MLB innings over 50 starts and has a 3.66 ERA. It's hard to believe his true talent level isn't closer to his 3.65 ERA over 197 1/3 innings last year than his out-of-character 4.70 mark this season.

He faced the Reds just once before, taking a loss in the Phillies' second game of the year. It seems a while ago now, but Eickhoff started the year with three quality starts, including a two-run, six-strikeout game over 6 2/3 in Cincinnati. The Reds' batters have four extra-base hits against him and he's allowed home runs to Joey Votto and Scooter Gennett. Gennett's HR came as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers.

3. Arroyo back in action
You're forgiven if you didn't think Arroyo was still in baseball. He was injured and didn't pitch in either the 2015 or 2016 season. Despite being a non-entity on the field, he was still traded twice, going from the Diamondbacks to the Braves to the Dodgers, who immediately released him. 

At 40 years old, Arroyo is easily hittable now. The right-hander never threw very hard but now tops out at 87 mph, averaging 83-84 with his fastball. Like many soft-tossers, he constantly uses his off-speed stuff. He's heavily reliant on his curveball and slider, both of which are in the 70s. 

Hitters against Arroyo have been home run happy with 15 dingers this year over just 46 2/3 innings. Those 2.9 HR per nine innings are near three times as many as Eickhoff, who has struggled with the long ball at times over the past few seasons. The 15 home runs play a large part in his 6.75 ERA as batters hit plenty of flyballs vs. Arroyo. It doesn't help that he has a 1.479 WHIP. 

Among current Phillies, only Freddy Galvis (1 for 7) and Andres Blanco (1 for 3) have faced him. His career against the Phillies dates all the way back to three starts in 2000. Over 14 games (13 starts), he's 4-7 with a 5.14 ERA in 77 innings against the Phils. He's just the second starter after Bartolo Colon to pitch at Citizens Bank Park this season that also faced the Phillies at Veterans Stadium.

Arroyo is fourth among active pitchers in starts and fifth in innings pitched. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Moved into the leadoff spot on Friday, Odubel Herrera put together a few strong at-bats, finally coming through with a hit in the ninth inning to snap an 0-for-13 stretch.

Reds: Scott Schebler hit his 14th home run of the season off Aaron Nola in the second inning Friday. In just his third season, Schebler had just 12 homers in his career before 2017.

5. This and that
• Howie Kendrick made his third rehab appearance in Triple A Lehigh Valley Friday, going 1 for 4. He played all nine innings in left field. The IronPigs won, 5-4, with Nick Williams hitting a home run. Williams, J.P. Crawford and Jorge Alfaro each had two-hit nights.

• The Phillies haven't won a season series vs. the Reds since 2012 (10-18 since the start of 2013). However, the Reds are 16-30 at CBP and haven't won a series in Philadelphia since Aug. 2006.

• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, on April 18 this year, Arroyo became the first Reds pitcher older than 40 to win a start since Boom-Boom Beck beat the Phillies, 8-1, on May 31, 1945.

• The Reds are the only team in baseball with four hitters (Votto, Schebler, Eugenio Suarez and Adam Duvall) who have at least 10 home runs.