Drexel Hill's Hoops Legacy

Drexel Hill's Hoops Legacy

An article in today's Philadelphia Inquirer focuses on the storied past of basketball in Delaware County. It's a must read for anyone who has ever played CYO ball.

The roots of Drexel Hill's passion trace back to its three Catholic
parishes - St. Bernadette's, St. Andrew's and St. Dorothy's - whose
outstanding grade school teams, high school CYO leagues, tiny gyms, and
outdoor courts made basketball an overwhelming presence in their
parishioners' lives.

"It got in our blood somehow," said Eddie Hastings, another 1971
Villanova player who also was a star at St. Andrew's and Monsignor
Bonner High. "The schools were definitely a factor. The people who
coached us were truly dedicated, and they tended to stay on forever."

It even goes on to mention the courts at Bailey Park in Havertown just two blocks from where I grew up. It was on those legendary courts that a young Campitelli mastered his crossover move and failed to ever really develop a dependable jump shot.

>>Tim Donaghy and Drexel Hill's hoops glory [Inquirer]

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Hellickson, Phils have chance to play spoilers

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Hellickson, Phils have chance to play spoilers

Phillies (59-69) at Mets (65-63)
7:10 p.m. on CSN

Both the Mets and Phillies go into the second game of the series with their best (healthy) starter on the mound. Noah Syndergaard, known by many as "Thor," takes the hill while trying to keep the Mets' playoff hopes alive, while Jeremy Hellickson makes the 26th start of his rebound season. 

Here are five things to know before Saturday night's matchup.

1. Playing spoilers
If the Mets want to make the playoffs in 2016 and reprise 2015's run to the World Series, they're gonna have to go through the Phillies. 

Not in the playoffs of course. But in the regular season.

After losing Friday night, the Phillies are six games back of the Mets and 10 games back of a playoff spot. They're not going to the postseason, barring a miracle.

But the Mets still have every intent to compete for a wild-card spot despite injuries all over the place (see point No. 2). They have the second-easiest schedule the rest of the way (Nationals have the easiest) and that is in large part thanks to games remaining against the Braves … and the Phillies.

Including Saturday night's game, the Mets and Phillies have nine games left against each other this season. That's more than enough to affect the Mets' postseason chances. The Mets are just 6-4 against the Phillies so far this year and will need to be much better in the final nine games to make a legitimate run.

But the Phillies can also spoil other teams' postseason chances. They have six games left against the Marlins and four games vs. the Pirates. This doesn't even mention the seven games with the Nationals, who are fighting for homefield advantage in the first round of the playoffs while holding a comfy lead in the NL East. 

2. Laying down the hammer
Matt Harvey is out for the year. Steven Matz is having shoulder issues and is on the disabled list. Jonathon Niese, newly reaquired, was injured four batters into his Tuesday start. Zack Wheeler seems far away from returning from Tommy John surgery. And to top all of it, Jacob deGrom's next start will be skipped to work on mechanical issues.

So that leaves Friday's starter, Bartolo Colon, and Syndergaard as the Mets' only experienced starters still on turn in the rotation at the moment. Certainly not how the Mets drew it up.

While this shows the perils of building around pitching, there is still the one shining ray of hope: Syndergaard. The righty flamethrower had his bumps in the road, his non-ace like starts, but for the most part, he's been just as advertised. 

Here's a telling stat: Syndergaard has made 24 starts and only in three has he given up more than three runs. As electric as he was as a 22-year-old rookie last year (3.24 ERA with 166 strikeouts in 24 starts), he's been even more so this year. He's given up more hits in almost the same number of innings, but he's limited home runs and struck out more batters. 

Overall, he has an 11-7 record and a 2.61 ERA. His 5.53 strikeout-to-walk ratio is one of the best marks in baseball and so is his 0.5 home runs per nine innings this year. With a hit-or-miss offense and a struggling middle relief corps, Syndergaard continues to carry the Mets to some modicum of playoff contention.

3. Hellickson re-established
It's been said and written plenty of times, but Hellickson was a clear reclamation project when the Phillies acquired him in the offseason. 

He hadn't pitched to an ERA below 4.52 since 2012, his second full season in baseball. His velocity had fallen after a shoulder injury and the righty based mostly on command was beginning to give up way too many hits. The Tampa Bay Rays, the team that drafted him, dealt him and after one year, the Diamondbacks gave up on him, too.

But in five months with the Phillies, Hellickson has re-established himself as the pitcher he was before. His hits per nine innings have improved back to their 2012 numbers and he has lowered his walk rate while keeping his strikeouts at a career high rate. 

So for the first time in four years, Hellickson is an above-average MLB pitcher. Besides pushing back his last start, he's been consistently pitching every fifth game, one of the few constants for the Phillies' rotation. He's thrown 150 innings, his most since 2013 and he has a month left.

And he's now won four straight decisions. The Phils have won his last six starts and he's given up three or fewer runs in each one. While he is putting himself in line for a big payday in the offseason, the Phillies are certainly happy with the production they've gotten from the 29-year-old righty.

4. Battle of the bullpens
Based on ERA, the Phillies and Mets have had two of the five worst bullpens in baseball since the All-Star break. Yet it's been for very different reasons.

For the Phillies, it's simple: The rotation has been in disarray. Even the guys who've been healthy have simply failed to get far into games. Hellickson is the only starter to complete at least seven innings since the break and even he hasn't done it more than the one time. 

If the starters weren't giving length but were giving the bullpen leads on a consistent basis, Pete Mackanin could go to his top relievers like Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez, who have been pretty steady despite a recent hiccup by Gomez against the Cardinals. But they haven't been given many leads and that has meant mop-up relievers. 

So with the long reliever getting more of the innings, it's easy to see why the Phils' pen has the fifth-worst ERA (4.52) of any MLB bullpen since the break. 

But what's been the Mets' problem to cause a 4.74 ERA, second worst in the second half? It's a little more complicated. First, they've had some of the same issues as the Phillies. Starters either getting hurt (Niese) or struggling and having to exit early leads to same results as the Phillies. 

Yet it's also the back-end relievers struggling. Although he's had a good August, Jeurys Familia has blown three saves since the break after none before the break. Jerry Blevins has been slightly worse since the break. And Hansel Robles, a key cog in middle relief, has a 6.41 ERA in the second half. 

The mop-up relievers have done a lot of the damage, but the Mets' back end isn't as steady as it needs to be. 

5. This and that
• Syndergaard beat the Phillies in April at Citziens Bank Park. He held the Phils to just one run over seven innings and struck out eight batters. He gave up just five hits and two walks.

• Hellickson has made three starts against the Mets this year and is 1-1. He got a win at Citi Field on April 10 by allowing just two runs in 5⅔ innings. He got a no-decision after allowing 10 hits and four runs in 4⅓ 10 days later. Hellickson was beat up in his first start after the break, losing to the Mets in a six-inning start on July 15. He gave up four runs on seven hits and two home runs in that game.

• Ryan Howard is 2 for 7 against Syndergaard with a home run and two walks in nine plate appearances. Odubel Herrera is 1 for 9 with an RBI single. 

• Curtis Granderson has faced Hellickson more than any other Mets batter thanks to their time with the Yankees and Rays, respectively. In 29 plate appearances, he is 5 for 25 with a home run, two walks, seven strikeouts and two hit-by-pitches.

• Yoenis Cespedes is 5 for 12 against Hellickson with two home runs and a walk. 

Report: Eagles to work out Darius Reynolds, Jake Mentz on Monday

Report: Eagles to work out Darius Reynolds, Jake Mentz on Monday

Fresh off a 56-42 win in Arena Bowl XXIX, the Soul could be losing two key players.

To the Eagles.

According to ESPN's Adam Caplan, the Eagles are scheduled to work out wide receiver Darius Reynolds and defensive lineman Jake Mentz, two key contributors from the Soul, on Monday.

During the 2016 regular season, Reynolds had 112 catches for 1,447 yards and 38 touchdowns, while Metz led the team with eight sacks and 10 tackles for loss.

The Eagles have 84 on their roster heading into Saturday night's game, but must be down to 75 players by 4 p.m. on Aug. 30 and then down to 53 by 4 p.m. on Sept. 3.

Eagles-Colts preseason: 10 players to watch

Eagles-Colts preseason: 10 players to watch

It’s time for the dress rehearsal.

For the most part, preseason games don’t give us a great idea of how a team will do during the regular season, but at least the third game can sometimes offer a glimpse because starters play the most in this game.

After last year’s preseason Game 3 against the Packers, when it looked like nothing was going to stop Sam Bradford and the Eagles from going to the Super Bowl, hopefully we’ve all learned our lesson. In that game, Bradford looked like Joe Montana and Chip Kelly looked like Bill Walsh. Turns out they were just Bradford and Chipper.

Still, there’s plenty of reason to watch Saturday night. Here are 10 players to keep an eye on:

WR Dorial Green-Beckham
DGB played a little bit last week in Pittsburgh and was targeted twice, but now he’s been with the team for a week and should have a better grasp of the offense. He’ll get some run with the first-team offense, which should be fun to watch. Physically, Green-Beckham is a freak. He’s 6-foot-5, 230, and ran a 4.49 in the 40 coming into the league last year. He has a skillset unlike anyone else on the team and unlike many in the league.

OL Stefen Wisniewski
Because rookie Isaac Seumalo is out Saturday night with a pec injury, the veteran Wisniewski is filling in. Wisniewski has started each of his 77 career NFL games since entering the league and doesn’t want the streak to end. He views Saturday as an audition to win the starting job, although Doug Pederson said he won’t strip Seumalo of his starting gig because of injury. Even if Wisniewski isn’t a starter, he’s still the top backup at all three interior linemen positions.

CB Leodis McKelvin
McKelvin hasn’t done a ton to impress during training camp or in the first two preseason games, but he’s still clearly a starting cornerback on this team — even though Nolan Carroll has looked better early. It’s important to watch McKelvin because you know what’s coming: a division with Dez, Odell, DeSean and others.

RB Wendell Smallwood
After suffering a quad injury in camp, this will finally be Smallwood’s first NFL game action. The time he missed was significant, but he still likely has a roster spot locked up. The biggest thing he needs to show Saturday is the ability to pass block. If he’s unable, it’ll keep him off the field this season.

QB Sam Bradford
I probably don’t need to tell you to watch the starting quarterback, but I am anyway. The first-team offense didn’t do much to alleviate any fears last week in Pittsburgh. Bradford partially blamed it on purposeful vanilla game-planning because the Eagles face the Steelers in Week 3. That’s probably somewhat fair, but fans probably want to see a little more production from the unit.

LB Mychal Kendricks
A hamstring injury has kept Kendricks out until this point of the preseason, but he should be good to go Saturday. The oft-injured Kendricks was probably one of the more frustrating players on the 2015 team. He has plenty of talent, but needs to finally put it all together. This is our first look at him in the new defense.

WR Paul Turner
The future Hall of Famer is pushing hard for a roster spot. He’s been good during camp and the preseason, but his lack of versatility could hurt him. He’s a slot receiver and the Eagles already have a pretty good one in Jordan Matthews, and Josh Huff could be OK in that spot, too. Turner’s pushing for a spot is a result of his play paired with the struggling group.

TE Chris Pantale
Earlier this week, Pederson still seemed committed to keeping four tight ends, which would mean Pantale’s roster spot is safe. It’s fair to wonder, though, if he’s worth a roster spot, especially if Trey Burton is at least somewhat capable of playing fullback. That lead blocker role is why Pantale is still in the mix, so we’ll have to see how much Pederson uses it on Saturday.

LB Stephen Tulloch
Tulloch is 31, coming off an offseason ankle surgery and just joined the team recently. How much does the middle linebacker have left to give? It’s pretty clear he’s coming to Philly to be a backup for now, but it’ll be interesting to see if he can prove himself to the point where he warrants playing time. Knowing Jim Schwartz’s defense should allow him to jump in quicker than another player off the street.

WR Rueben Randle/Chris Givens
A two-for-one deal! I’m lumping these two together because they’re in similar situations. Both signed one-year “prove-it” deals, but what have they proven so far? With the addition of Green-Beckham and with the solid play of Turner, it looks like one or both of these veterans could be in danger of being left off the 53-man roster.