Fan Report: Sox Fans Not So Die Hard When Losing

Fan Report: Sox Fans Not So Die Hard When Losing

Loyal reader Loqiel was down at the ball park last night and sent in this Fan Report. If you're going to a game and would like to share your photos and game experience, hit us up.

Having taken a partial day off, I met up with a friend from work and
headed out to the ballpark  As soon as we hit the parking lot, our worst
fears were confirmed: there were Red Sox fans EVERYWHERE.  They didn't
outnumber us, but they were certainly there in force.  We got in early
to catch some BP, and were greeted with a light sprinkle from the
heavens as we made our way to Bull's BBQ.  Shawn ordered some ribs
while I had a pulled pork sandwich (it was above average but not
wonderful).  Eventually we made our way to our seats in the fine 400
level while watching the Sox take BP.

The fireworks started early last night.  No, I'm not talking about on the
field.  I'm talking about RSN trying to start up a "Let's Go Red Sox"
chant... and promptly being shouted down.  Much to my enjoyment, before
the game would be the only time they tried to start it up, as Rollins
and Howard connected for three quick runs off of former Cy Young
award-winner Bartolo Colon's bloated carcass (note to Colon: you're not
David Wells.  Mix in a salad, wouldja?)

That's how it went most of the night really.  The Phils jumped out
to a 4-0 lead, with Hamels dealing.  Colon couldn't throw strikes to
save his enormous self.  The Sox got two back, RSN started to stir a
little and was promptly silenced by a four-run sixth in which we saw
Mike Timlin spontaneously combust on the mound (much to our great
delight).

That's the way it ended: Phils 8, Sox 2.

Final line on
Colon's corpse: 4 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO, 3HR allowed, 70 pitches.
I guess when you're dead and faking it 100 pitches is no longer an
option.

For his part, Hamels went over a hundred pitches for seven plus
innings, had a hit and a fine sacrifice to set up a pair of runs,
limited his mistakes to two solo home runs, and did everything short of
don a yellow shirt and sell concessions.  Can we sign this guy to a
serious contract?  Please?  I don't ask for much, but I would really
like this.

We will not be needing your services tonight, Mr. Lidge.  Mr. Hamels is in control.

Some random thoughts:

-I saw a ton of Sox fans leave early, starting in the eighth.  Typical.
-The Sox fans sitting next to me in the 400 level left even earlier, after the four-run sixth.  So much for being die-hard.
-The rain held off, ironically for my second straight game of somehow
coming up with tickets to covered seats and then not being rained on.
This means the next time it thinks about raining and I go to a game
with open seats, I'm going to need an ark to get home.
-More and more people think this is a possible World Series preview.
I'm just fine with that if it means we can shut RSN up for a year.
-Also, one game does not a series make, but I'd be just fine with
winning this series. As Casey Stengal once said, "they don't pay me to
win every game, just two of three".
-Who is that dude in the pink gorilla suit that dances around the
stadium during games?  Is he the Phillies equivalent to Fat Dancing Guy
for the Flyers?
-There is no greater joy than watching a big, slow hitter leg out a
triple.  It's like watching Manny make his way around left field; you
know he'll get there sometime, but whether he beats the ball to the
spot is another matter.  Ryan and Pat, I'm talking to you.
-We booed the crap out of J.D. Drew when he was announced, when he
came up to bat, every time he changed pose in the dugout, you name it.
This city has such a long memory; it's too bad we don't have more
positive things to remember.
-We booed Manny too.  This I didn't understand.  Yes I know he's the
enemy and all, but isn't booing Manny like booing your
idiosyncratic-but-otherwise

-Harmless uncle?  I just couldn't bring myself to do it.  While Drew was greedy, Manny is just Manny.

"Don't boo him!  He's just misunderstood!"

All in all a good night out, and I finally got to see a win this year.

-Loqiel

Joel Embiid now as dominant as Henry Sims

Joel Embiid now as dominant as Henry Sims

There are seemingly countless metrics one can use to detail Joel Embiid's supremacy as a Sixer, but perhaps no stats more clearly tell the story of how indefatigable the rookie has been this season than those of his free-throw shooting. Despite ranking just eighth on the team in total minutes, he's already gotten to the line 215 times this season and made 169 of them, about 250% more than the second-most made FTs on the team (Ersan Ilyasova, 65). What's more, his seven games with ten or more free throws attempted is already more than Thaddeus Young (six), Evan Turner (three) or Jrue Holiday (zero) ever had as a Liberty Baller. 

But yesterday against the Bucks saw JoJo hit a new level with his foul drawing. Despite essentially being shut down by the Bucks in the first half -- I can't remember if he even had a single bucket at the break -- The Process eventually imposed his will in Milwaukee in a major way, parading to the line in the second half, ending with 22 points (as well as 12 rebounds and five blocks) on 4-9 shooting, getting to the line an astounding 18 times. 

Who was the last Sixers giant to accomplish such a feat, you might wonder? Well... 

Yes, it's been an impressive season for our double-redshirt rookie, and every game he seems to add another immortal name to his list of historical analogues. But not until now could we afford to mention him alongside the great Henry "Lickface" Sims, two-year Process legend whose 18 trips to the free-throw line on April 4, 2014 totally helped us win that random late-season game against the then-rebuilding Boston Celtics. As impossible as it once seemed, it now appears that soon, Embiid's folk herodom will be as self-evident and undeniable to the Sons of Sam as that of Hammerin' Hank himself. 

Get this guy to the All-Star team already.

Difficult to see now, but remember: Flyers’ window just starting to open

Difficult to see now, but remember: Flyers’ window just starting to open

They can’t win away from the Wells Fargo Center. They’ve seen a nine-point cushion in the wild-card standings vanish and when they resume play, they’ll be out of the playoff picture.

The Flyers are who we thought they were. A fringe playoff team lacking in too many areas to be considered a serious contender, despite the overachievement of last season.

When the Flyers entered their bye week, they sat one point ahead of Carolina for the final wild-card spot and two points ahead of Florida and Ottawa. They are 3-8-3 in 14 games since their 10-game winning streak was snapped, and were blown out in back-to-back games in Boston and Washington by a combined score of 11-3.

Yet, they’re still on the brink of the postseason — for now. Perhaps it’s time for a trade from the front office to send a shockwave through the locker room? Not so fast.

“If we can make our team better, we will,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey. “But we’re staying on course.

“I don’t care if we win every game the rest of the year or lose every game, we’re staying on course. We set out on a course two and a half years ago — we’re not deviating from what we planned. I’m not going to make a trade to send a message.”

It’s easy to get carried away in win streaks and unexpected playoff appearances, especially in Philadelphia, where the four major sports teams are rebuilding. It’s even easier to scream for a team to go for it when it shows a glimpse into its full potential.

That is what makes sports fun. It’s what makes for good sports debate programs and entertaining talking heads. But it’s not how organizations should run their operations.

It’s certainly not how Hextall runs his regime with the Flyers. Hextall has a clear vision, and time and time again has shown no signs of expediting his plan for immediate help. He has made it a purpose to build through the draft. We have to remember that, and realize that the Flyers’ front office is playing the long game here, not the short game.

“Right now, we’re gonna stick with what we’ve got here and move forward,” Hextall said Sunday in Washington. “But on a day-to-day basis, I always look at how we can make our club better, and if there’s something that we think makes our club better, we’ll do it.

“The worst thing you can do is overreact when things aren’t going right and that’s not gonna happen. But if we can find a way to make ourselves better, we will.”

Let’s take a step back and make some sense of the Flyers’ current state. They are seventh in the Eastern Conference with 50 points as of Tuesday morning. They are 8-12-3 on the road, with nine straight defeats away from South Philadelphia. They are a top-10 scoring team, with 127 goals, but have allowed a league-high 144 goals against.

Steve Mason’s confidence is completely shook. Michal Neuvirth hasn’t been much better, if at all. Claude Giroux hasn’t scored a goal in 11 games and has just one marker in his last 17 games. (To be fair, he does have seven assists in his last eight games.)

Shayne Gostisbehere has been a healthy scratch twice this season, with his latest coming last Saturday in Boston. He’s struggled with his gap defense, among other areas, and is enduring growing pains in his second NHL season — as expected.

While the Flyers’ defense has scored 102 points, second most in the NHL, it struggles with gaps, turnovers and has too many breakdowns. Ivan Provorov, 20, has been the lone bright spot among the group of eight defensemen.

Head coach Dave Hakstol has juggled his lines and defensive pairs in attempts to find something that works. Some of the moves have worked, others have not. Questioning some of Hakstol’s lineup decisions is fair, but there’s no question his systems work.

There is only so much Hakstol can do with what he has to work with. Part of the blame can be placed on Hextall because this team, as currently constructed, is not there yet. It is, however, unfair to put every decision Hakstol makes under a microscope.

“Hak has tried a lot of things,” Hextall said. “In the end, it’s a group and we win together, we lose together. We have to react as a group better when something doesn’t go our way. That’s bottom line. … Line changes, different D combinations, flipping Mase, Neuvy. Everything that’s there, Hak has tried. In the end it comes down to our whole group just being better and not reacting the way we do when something negative happens.”

One of the reasons Hextall opted to hire Hakstol, who came directly from college with no prior NHL coaching experience, is development. Growth takes time, and there is rhyme or reason behind each Hakstol benching, whether we see it or not.

The Flyers’ play the last few weeks has been dumbfounding because a lot of the same mistakes that plagued the team in the beginning of the season — lax team defensive coverage, bad decisions with the puck, letting opponents enter the zone too easily, among others — are reappearing and that’s a fair criticism on the current coaching staff.

But, when we put things in perspective, there are positives. Provorov has proven he’s the real deal before he turned 20 last Friday. Travis Konecny is here, and while he’s been the victim of a Hakstol benching, he’s shown glimpses of what’s to come. Jakub Voracek (41 points) has bounced back, Wayne Simmonds is an All-Star and added penalty kill to his résumé. Brayden Schenn leads the NHL in power-play goals with 11, though his 5-on-5 scoring could improve. And there’s a lot of upside on the farm system, with the potential of seeing an influx of kids joining the Flyers as early as next season. 

“The window is actually starting to open, the way I see it,” Hextall said last week. “The kids we have on our team. The kids we have coming. There’s things happening here that are good. We’re going to get better here. We’re not going to get worse.”

And Hextall is right — the window is just opening and will only open wider. Patience remains key here, and don’t trust the process with the Flyers. Just enjoy the course.