Guest Post: An Open Letter to SI and Tom Verducci

Guest Post: An Open Letter to SI and Tom Verducci

A lot of folks in Philly are less than thrilled with Sports Illustrated's decision to not give the Phillies' first World Series win in 28 years its own cover. Nationally, the win was but a post-it on a picture of upright citizen Albert Haynesworth. In the mid-Atlantic region, the prominences were reversed, but a text box sullies the great picture of our moment of moments. In the following letter to SI and Tom Verducci, who penned the cover-crowding letter to Bug Selig, Dan Roche sums what a lot of Philadelphians are feeling.


I am writing to you as a life-long fan of both the Phillies and your
magazine. Having experienced plenty of disappointment by the former,
the latest dose from your publication was no less severe.

The city of Philadelphia waited a quarter-century between major sports
championships. And for this reader, the anticipation of seeing how the
event would be immortalized by the photographers and wordsmiths at SI
is just as integral as the celebration in the streets on the night of
the clinching game and the subsequent parade that followed.

The last -- and only -- time the Phillies conquered Baseball's Mount
Olympus, back in 1980, they were passed over for the cover of the
subsequent SI issue by marathoner Alberto Salazar (take a second to
think about that). When I received the latest issue in the mail, I
hoped for retribution. I began at the photo of an enraptured Brad Lidge
and Carlos Ruiz, and making my way down the cover (which I imagined
framing in my unborn child's room), saw that the picture had been
sullied by a box filled with the beginning of a letter from columnist
Tom Verducci to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. (I now know by skimming
your website that the national cover went not to the Phillies, but to
Albert Haynesworth, who, at last check, hasn't won anything besides a
5-game suspension for stomping a helmetless foe 2 seasons ago.)


I immediately opened to the article, which only intensified my
apoplexy. Verducci mentions the Phillies only tangentially to make his
points to improve the World Series to make it more fan-friendly. Well,
sir, I am a fan, and friendly is not what I'm feeling right now.

Verducci manages to step off the soapbox long enough to give back story
on Charlie Manuel's journey through hardship. During this portion of
the article (paragraph 23), we stumble over the fact that yes, the
Phillies won the 2008 World Series. And only after the end of the 30th
paragraph (of 32) does Verducci stop to mention any of the players by
name. Maybe space-filler?

I've never written a letter like this to voice my displeasure. I
certainly hope Mr. Verducci got Commissioner Selig's attention with
this article, and elicited a response that is within a toll call of the
feelings I'm experiencing right now.

This article is self-serving, aimless drivel. And if folks weren't
interested in watching the World Series, as you imply, they certainly
wouldn't have wasted any time side-stepping the photos that bracketed
your pointless ramblings.

At the risk of prolonging a stereotype, Verducci, boo.

Note: SI also released a Commemorative Edition. Perhaps with the regular issue covers, they hoped to sell more of that? We're a little puzzled by the decision, with an obvious bias.

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

READING, Pa. — Perhaps the most important issue facing the Phillies as they get set to open spring training is the health of pitcher Aaron Nola.

It won’t be possible to fully gauge the right-hander’s condition until he starts firing pitches against hitters in a competitive situation in February and March.

But less than a month before camp opens, Nola is optimistic that the elbow problems that forced him to miss the final two months of the 2016 season are resolved.

“I feel like the injury is past me,” he said during a Phillies winter caravan stop sponsored by the Double A Reading Fightin Phils on Tuesday night. “I feel back to normal.

“My arm is all good. One-hundred percent.”

Nola, 23, did not pitch after July 28 last season after being diagnosed with a pair of injuries near his elbow — a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and a strained flexor tendon.

Nola and the team opted for a conservative treatment plan that included rest, rehab and a PRP injection. The pitcher spent much of the fall on a rehab program in Clearwater that included his throwing from a bullpen mound. He took a couple of months off and recently began throwing again near his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“All through the rehab, I had no pain,” Nola said. “Probably in the middle of the rehab, I started feeling really good. Towards the end, I started upping the intensity a little bit. I knew after I took two months off I was going to be good. I started back up, throwing after Christmas and it felt really good when I cranked up. I’ve been throwing for a few weeks now. No pain, no hesitation. Not any of it.”

The Phillies selected Nola with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft with the hopes that he would be a foundation piece in the rotation for many years. Nola ascended to the majors in the summer of 2015 and recorded a 3.12 ERA in his first 25 big-league starts before hitting severe turbulence last summer. He had a 9.82 ERA in his final eight starts of 2016 before injuring his elbow during his final start.

Nola said he would report to Clearwater on Feb. 1. He does not expect to have any limitations in camp.

Manager Pete Mackanin is eager to see what Nola looks like in Clearwater.

“There's a part of me that’s concerned,” Mackanin said. “When guys don't have surgery and they mend with just rest, that makes me a little nervous. I don't want that to crop up again because then you lose a couple years instead of one year. But I defer to the medical people and believe in what they say and how he feels.”

Mackanin said he expected Nola to be in the five-man rotation along with Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff, Clay Buchholz and Vince Velasquez to open the season. Mackanin also mentioned Zach Eflin and others as being in the mix. The Phillies have some starting pitching depth and that’s a plus because pitchers' arms are fragile. Nola was the latest example of that last season. He said he’s healthy now, but he'll still be a center of attention in spring training.

More seasoning for Quinn
Mackanin acknowledged that the addition of veteran outfielder Michael Saunders probably means that Roman Quinn will open the season in Triple A.

“I don’t think it’s in our best interest or [Quinn’s] to be a part-time player at the big-league level, so I would think if things stay the way they are and if Saunders is on the team, I think it would behoove Quinn to play a full year of Triple A,” Mackanin said. “We have to find out if he can play 120 or 140 games, which he hasn’t done up to this point. We hope he can because, to me, he’s a potential game changer.”

Morgan to the bullpen?
Mackanin suggested that lefty Adam Morgan could be used as a reliever in camp. The Phillies have just one lefty reliever (Joely Rodriguez) on their 40-man roster. If Morgan pitches well out of the bullpen, he could be a candidate to make the club. Non-roster lefties Sean Burnett and Cesar Ramos could also be in the mix.

Another chance for Gomez
Jeanmar Gomez saved 37 games in 2016 before struggling down the stretch and losing the closer’s job. Hector Neris finished up in the role.

So how will competition for the job shake out in Clearwater?

“I wouldn’t say it’s wide open,” Mackanin said. “I’m going to give Gomez every opportunity to show that he’s the guy that pitched the first five months and not the guy that pitched in September.”

PFF ranks Eagles' front seven as the second best in NFL

PFF ranks Eagles' front seven as the second best in NFL

At times during the 2016 season, the Eagles' defense looked like the best unit in the league. And at other times … it didn't. 

By the end of the season, the Eagles averaged out to be a middle-of-the-road defense. And the way ProFootballFocus ranked it makes sense.

PFF ranked the Eagles' secondary as the absolute worst in the league, but in it's list of front sevens, released on Tuesday, the Eagles came in at No. 2 behind just Seattle. 

Here's what PFF said about the Eagles' front seven: 

"It was a difficult decision between the Eagles and the Seahawks for the No. 1 spot, as this front-seven propped up a hodge-podge secondary to form one of the league’s most effective defenses for a good portion of the season. Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox finished with the third- and fourth-highest pass-rushing productivity marks at their respective positions. Philadelphia’s front-seven also features a budding star in second-year linebacker Jordan Hicks, who led all players at the position with five interceptions."

Graham received the highest grade among the Eagles' front seven with a 93.3, while Connor Barwin received the worst at 42.1. Graham was the only Eagles player to make the PFF All-Pro team this year. To prove that stats don't always tell the full story, Graham finished with a half sack more than Barwin (6 1/2 to 6). 

While the Eagles' cornerback trio of Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll and Jalen Mills ranked 79th, 107th and 120th out of 120, respectively, their players across the front seven were much, much better. 

Hicks was ranked as the seventh-best middle linebacker and Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks were both top-10 outside linebackers in 4-3 defenses. Graham was the top-ranked 4-3 defensive end and Cox was the fifth-best interior lineman.