Hanging on Every Word

Hanging on Every Word


Daily News writer Rich Hoffman had an epiphany, one I think would benefit a lot of people in this town.  There always seems to be some personal element of Donovan McNabb to complain about, most recently because he has this chip on his shoulder.  During the past few weeks, he's refused to acknowledge the benching may have helped, and now he's catching some flak for answering a pointed question about playing in Philadelphia.

Why does any of that matter though?  Everything Donovan says is over-analyzed, and we always seem to conclude it was negative.  For instance, it was silly he didn't know there are ties, but the notion this somehow affected his play seems just as ridiculous.  Or this off-season when he said the team - offense, defense, and special teams - needs more playmakers, that was automatically an indictment on the wide receivers.

Even Donovan's gestures and demeanor on the field spark outrage with
fans.  When he says "my bad" and points to himself, why is that
anything more than owning his error?  When he smiles and laughs in a
tough situation, why do we forget that it's still just a game?

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of criticisms you could levy on Donovan, and if you're honestly of the opinion he needs to go, this isn't to persuade you otherwise.  It's simply both curious and frustrating that so much is made about his words and not always what he's done on the field.  At the end of the week, all that matters is they got that W, but how often does that get lost in some story about his imminent departure or how he chose to answer a loaded question in an interview?

We even nitpick his performance.  It's always "another wormball," or
"how could he miss a wide open receiver by that much," and never "nice
touch on that TD pass," and "what zip on that throw."  The guy isn't perfect.  If we're expecting him be Peyton
Manning, who makes some doozies himself, well he'll never be that and
no one else will either.

Have we been unfair with Donovan?  On some level, yes we have, not necessarily because you want to see him go, but because he's still here and you won't give him a chance.  It's convenient to ignore the strides he's made over the years, and instead punish him for the stupid things he says and matters he can't control, like injuries and the coach's impossible gameplan.

If you don't like what he has to say, why pay it any attention?   It's not about what happens behind the microphone, and as we've seen in Dallas so far, it's not about who has the most likable quarterback.  Maybe McNabb can't get it done, but the truth is it hasn't always been about what happens on the field.

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

The Phillies made a couple quiet additions as the winter meetings ended, signing veteran outfielder Daniel Nava and lefty reliever Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts.

Nava, 34 in February, is a left-handed hitter who can play the outfield corners and first base. He came up with the Red Sox and became a fan favorite in Boston in 2010 as a 27-year-old rookie. Some Phillies fans will remember him for hitting a grand slam off Joe Blanton in his first major-league plate appearance.

Nava had a few decent years in Boston, the best of which was 2013, when he had 536 plate appearances and hit .303/.385/.445 with 29 doubles, 12 homers and 66 RBIs. 

Nava's numbers and opportunities have dropped every year since. He was designated for assignment by Boston in 2015, latched on with the Rays, signed the next year with the Angels and was traded late in the season to the Royals.

Over the last two seasons, Nava has hit just .208, albeit with an on-base percentage 99 points higher because of his 30 walks and 10 hit by pitches.

Burnett, 34, has spent five of the last seven seasons in the Nationals' bullpen. He had a 2.85 ERA in 283 appearances from 2009-12 and parlayed that success into a two-year, $7.25 million contract with the Angels. However, he barely pitched in 2013 and 2014 for the Halos because of an elbow tear. He returned to the Nats last season and allowed two runs in 5⅔ innings.

Burnett, perhaps more so than Nava, has a chance to fill a role with the Phillies if he can stay healthy. He's shown he can get outs at the highest level, posting a 2.38 ERA in 2012 with 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings and a 2.14 ERA with 8.9 K/9 in 2010. That was a long time ago now, and Burnett's fastball has dipped from averaging 90-91 mph to 88.

According to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith, Burnett will receive a $1.25 million salary if he makes the team and can earn another $1.75 million in incentives based on his number of appearances.

Burnett has an opt-out date of March 26, meaning he can become a free agent a week before the regular season begins if it looks to him like he isn't in the Phils' plans.

Nava's chances at cracking the opening-day roster seem longer because the Phillies are expected to make more depth signings between now and the start of camp. They've prioritized finding some offense in the corner outfield and that could come in the form of more minor-league deals, a guaranteed contract or trade. One potential fit I examined last week was Mariners outfielder Seth Smith, a hitter more proven than Nava (see story).

These minor-league deals were commonplace for Phillies general manager Matt Klentak last offseason, when the only free agent he signed to a major-league deal was reliever David Hernandez. 

Last season, three players who were signed to minor-league deals with invites to spring training made the team on opening day: outfielder Cedric Hunter, utilityman Emmanuel Burriss and reliever James Russell.

Others, such as former closers Edward Mujica, Ernesto Frieri and Andrew Bailey, failed to make the team out of camp. Bailey eventually earned a call-up; the other two didn't.

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixers point guard and Meek Mill collaborator Lou Williams is enjoying quite the run off the bench for the Lakers recently.

Over Los Angeles' last four games, Williams has posted totals of 40, 38, 24, and 35 points. 

The six-man is averaging 34.5 points per game over the stretch, and his 137 points are the most off the bench in a four-game span by any player since 1970-71, when stats were first recorded, per Elias Sports Bureau, via ESPN. Williams is now averaging 19.3 points this season, which is 4.4 more than his highest average with the Sixers.

Williams isn’t the only player who used to play for the Sixers that is playing well for the Lakers this year. Nick “Swaggy P” Young, who also comes off the bench, is averaging 13.3 points per game. Just a few weeks ago, Swaggy P stole a pass intended for Lou Williams, and then proceeded to hit a game winner against the Thunder. Swaggy P, however, is currently sidelined with a right calf strain, but is getting closer to a return.

"Lou Will" was also talked about last April during Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game, when he was beefing on Twitter with another former Philadelphia athlete, LeSean McCoy.