The Sign? Swing away . . . far far away

The Sign? Swing away . . . far far away

The following post is guest blogger Brad Maule, who is the editor of PhillySkyline.com and holds Plan C tickets in the front row of the Pat Burrell section of the Arcade Level.

Citizens Bank Park is a nice ballpark, there's no doubt about it. The playing field's dimensions are an asset (although Pat Burrell probably isn't a fan of the reconfigured leftfield wall after he missed a game-tying homerun by less than a foot last night), the field's upkeep is excellent (more so if you were raised on The Vet), the causeways are roomy, the sightlines are unobstructed, the beer and food selections are great and even somewhat local, and the Schmitter will take ten years off of my life because I can never say no.

CBP could have been better, though; there's no doubt about that either. Having come on the late side of the Camden Yards Ballpark Revival, it could have provided a bold architectural statement but instead went with conservative (boring) brick paneling. It could have been located perfectly at 30th and Walnut, an easy walk for residents of Center City, West Philly and two major universities, directly above the Schuylkill Expressway, and two blocks from 30th Street Station, which serves every Septa regional rail line, the El, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak, but instead it was built as a 'neighborhood ballpark' in a massive parking lot.

And then there is that goddamn Phillies sign.

The Phillies sign in the centerfield parking lot . . . now that is an obstruction. Google "Phillies sign skyline" and try to find a single favorable opinion. They don't exist; everyone hates that sign. It would seem that even the Phillies organization doesn't think too highly of it. The architectural renderings of CBP -- you remember them, "Homerun Pat Burrell, Phils Win!!!" -- showed no sign of The Sign, but instead a clear and straight view to the skyline. (It also has 10th Street dead ending into trees, and 76 is absent.)

The Phillies recognize the view as part of the experience; the city skyline was on all the marketing literature leading up to the opening of the ballpark. The Sign? Not so much. The 2005 Opening Day ticket painted -- or should I say photoshopped -- the Phillies' embarrassment of The Sign. The ticket design featured a photo of the skyline, for which some poor intern was probably assigned to remove The Sign from the view. Except, well, they didn't finish the job. As you can see below, the photoshop job was left only half done, and 45,000 tickets were printed with half of The Sign.

We've all heard the rumors: "oh yeah, the Phillies are eventually going to tear that thing down." Reality check: CBP is now in its fourth year of use, and well, this is Philadelphia. Penn's Landing was supposed to be a historic waterfront attraction, but we built an interstate highway between it and Independence Park. Love Park was a destination to skateboarders across the world, but after we landed ESPN's X-Games two years in a row, our mayor spent taxpayer money to make it skater unfriendly. It's only appropriate that we have a ballpark with a fantastic view that is blocked by an unnecessary sign.

The Sign is a relic of The Vet Era. Believe it or not, it was built by the City, but it was taken over by the Phillies in the 80s and retrofitted with a more Vet-like appearance.

Well, The Vet is gone, so are they going to finally tear it down? On the contrary. The Phillies are in the process of putting their Theme Tower (that's right -- it's called Theme Tower) up for bids for renovation. It is going to be modernized, it will feature more info ("Suzie will you marry me . . . Dave Matthews tickets on sale Saturday"), and it will be neither moved nor shortened.

So, Phils fans and skyline aficionados, get used to The Sign -- err, the Theme Tower -- cos it ain't goin' anywhere.

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

The Phillies are a lifeless team right now.

For a while the starting pitching was the biggest issue, then it was the bullpen, now it's the offense. The Phils have hit .224 since May 12, which was when their 2-7 road trip began. 

Their .268 on-base percentage over that span is worst in the majors and their .613 OPS is better than only the Mariners.

Players up and down the lineup are slumping. Odubel Herrera has hit .207 with a .246 OBP since the ninth game of the season. Michael Saunders hasn't given them much at any point. Maikel Franco had an eight-game hit streak snapped Monday, but even still is hitting .221 with a .281 on-base percentage. 

At this point, why not bring up Roman Quinn and play him every day? It makes too much sense right now.

Daniel Nava went on the 10-day DL Monday with a hamstring strain suffered Friday in Pittsburgh. It doesn't seem to be a serious injury, but why not use the open space as an excuse to bring Quinn up for at least a few days and see what he's got?

Quinn could infuse some energy and life to the top of a sputtering lineup. Bat him second, play him in the corner outfield and see what happens. At the very least, he'd be a defensive upgrade over Saunders. At the most, Quinn's hunger to stick in the majors could result in a hot streak that sparks the top of the order the way Herrera does when he's hot.

Quinn is hitting lately at Triple A, batting .333 with a .424 OBP over his last 15 games. He showed last September that he can be an offensive catalyst with his ability to beat out infield singles, bunt for hits and spray the ball. Yes, he strikes out too much for a leadoff-type hitter, but it's just hard to see the downside of a call-up right now.

The argument against bringing Quinn up now is that it's too early to sour on Saunders, a player the Phillies signed in hopes of trading at some point. But think about how much Saunders would have to do to have worthwhile trade value. Yeah, you could flip him somewhere for a negligible return or some salary relief, but he'd have to be extremely productive for at least a month to get a team interested in trading a minor-leaguer of any value for him.

Pete Mackanin has tried many things to spark the Phils' lineup, moving Herrera and Franco down, sitting guys, challenging guys. The best solution, perhaps the only solution right now, might be a move made over his head to promote the Phils' speedy, switch-hitting outfielder who has a future with them so long as he stays on the field, which he has this season.

As for Rhys Hoskins and Jorge Alfaro, who have also hit very well at Triple A, they just happen to play the same positions as Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp, who have been the Phillies' most reliable bats the last few weeks.

Jason Kelce ignoring trade rumors as he tries to work on himself

Jason Kelce ignoring trade rumors as he tries to work on himself

Jason Kelce is aware of the rumors and reports that have surrounded his name this offseason. 

As much as he might try to avoid them, the Eagles' veteran center does not, presumably, live under a rock. So he's heard for months about the possibility of his long run with the Eagles coming to a close. 

After all, the Eagles have stockpiled an abundance of interior offensive linemen who can play center, and trading Kelce would save the team $3.8 million in cap space. 

So it all makes sense, but Kelce is trying to keep it out of his mind. 

"I think you'll drive yourself crazy if you're reading too much into what's going on," he said on Tuesday as the Eagles kicked off their voluntary OTAs. "My whole offseason has just kind of been really the only thing I can control is my game and the way I play and what I've been doing. So I've just really tried to hit the weight room, work on technique, work on things to try to get my game back to where it used to be."

How is he able to put it out of his mind? 

"Because worrying about it doesn't do any good," he answered.

While the Eagles have Isaac Seumalo and Stefen Wisniewski ready to play center if necessary, head coach Doug Pederson said on Tuesday that Kelce is still "the guy." 

Kelce, 29, was named to his second career Pro Bowl team last season, which might be a surprise to those who watched the Eagles throughout the year. Kelce wasn't as bad as some people think, but he also probably wasn't a Pro Bowl-caliber player. 

He got off to a very slow start in 2016 but did seem to get better as the season went on.  

"I feel at times last year, there were times I was dominant and games where I didn't really do a great job," he said. "You go back and watch film and try to make the corrections, try to make sure that moving forward I'm the same player I was in the past."

Kelce attributed many of his problems early last season to lousy technique. He's been trying extra hard to work on that part of his game as well as in the weight room. 

Often characterized as undersized, he said weighed 295 pounds on Tuesday morning. That's also his listed weight on the Eagles' website. 

All last season, Kelce said he played in the 290s, which was heavier than he had been in a long time. His goal this offseason is to make it up to 300 pounds by training camp, and then he hopes to keep the weight on. 

"I would certainly think so," he said. "As you get older, it gets a little bit easier to put on the weight and hold it on. I think everybody kind of finds that out."

Perhaps the biggest reason for the Eagles to keep Kelce around this season is the development of quarterback Carson Wentz in his second year. Kelce, as his center, might be integral to Wentz's growth. Although Kelce said he doesn't think of it like that when asked if that relationship gives him an advantage over others.  

Kelce has been with the Eagles since 2011 when he was a sixth-round pick out of Cincinnati. He's played and started 78 games in six seasons. 

He admitted last season he needed to play better or he knew he would become expendable (see story). So the rumors and reports this season likely aren't a shock to him. 

He's still not going to pay attention to them. 

"The reality is, we always have guys coming in, coming out," he said. "Now we happen to have a lot of really good depth at interior line. But like I said, it doesn't do me any good worrying about the what-ifs. All I can control is what I can control and that's how I go out and play, how I go out and prepare and how I try to get back to the player I've been in the past."