Leaving The Inquirer For Online Pastures: Our Interview With Tim Panaccio

Leaving The Inquirer For Online Pastures: Our Interview With Tim Panaccio

Early in this hockey season, I began to notice that Tim Panaccio wasn't staffing his regular beat at the Inquirer. I thought maybe he was taking a season off to write a book, but soon after, I started seeing Panaccio-penned columns every day at the newly revamped web offering of Comcast SportsNet, CSNPhilly.com. When listening to him speak with WIP's morning show last week, I learned that there was more to the story of his departure from the Inquirer, and I asked if he'd be interested in discussing leaving, starting his new venture, and the 2008-2009 Flyers with us. Always a straight shooter, Tim didn't disappoint.

After so many years of covering the Flyers for
Philadelphia's largest-circulation newspaper, why did you leave the
Inquirer during the off-season?

Jim Cohen took over the
Inky sports department in January. He is not a hockey guy. He moved me to
the Eagles beat on May 22. He said that hockey was "irrelevant" and the
Eagles far outweighed other beats. Cohen didn't understand nor
appreciate that my "passion" was hockey and not the stinkin' Eagles.
They ended up moving Ray Parrillo, another displaced hockey guy, back
onto the Eagles to back up Bob Brookover. On May 22, I began looking
for another job. I more or less created an idea that coincided with
what Comcast SportsNet was planning to do in October. I left the paper on 9/11 to join Comcast.

To
what degree was it that you didn't want to cover the Eagles, versus
only being interested in covering the Flyers?

The NFL
beat is too orchestrated, too controlled, too difficult to do anything
original. Also, I like dealing with hockey players and I don't like
dealing with football and baseball players who feel they are owed
something the second they become a pro.

Working for CSN Philly, your offering is now
entirely web-based. As a long-time newspaper veteran, was there any
hesitation to leave the medium?

It was the easiest
decision I ever made. Why? Newspapers are dying. The web is the future,
and smart newspapers look at the web as an ally and not an adversary.
The Inky/Daily News still haven't figured that part out yet, which is going to
hurt them long into the future. Also, having worked with
Hockeybuzz.com, this was a natural progression for me.

Are there any differences between your current approach to covering the Flyers versus when you handled the beat for the Inquirer?

None. Everything I did for the Inquirer, I now do for
Comcast, except it appears on the web. I can write longer. I can write
additional stories without worry about an Inky editor telling me
there's no room for a sidebar because we have 7 Eagles stories
tomorrow. There are NO deadlines. I can hang around longer after games
to get the player or two I would normally miss if I were still on the
Inquirer's insane deadlines. Also, I have more time to write and that—theoretically—means cleaner copy, less dumb typos.


You've always been known as a guy who would ask the question
that needs asking, with Bob Clarke even answering "You're an
asshole" at one point. Will there be any change in your approach
considering that you work for Comcast, which is a major part of the
Flyers' ownership situation? You're not going to go Spadaro on us, are
you?

No, and I give credit to Jon Litner, Peter Luukko and Ed
Snider, who made it clear to me that they wanted me to cover this team
like I did at the Inquirer. They each said to me that they didn't want
a "house" man. They understand that the Flyers' web site is a club site,
and that Comcast is independent of the NHL's web sites. If you hear my
questions in post-game, I think you'll agree I haven't changed. I
pushed John Stevens hard last week on benching Scott Hartnell, and
Stevens answered with blunt, honest criticism of why he did it. I
haven't changed, and my approach won't change.

Which editor's desk has stricter standards when writing about the Flyers, the Inquirer or Comcast SportsNet?

CSNPhilly.com is a work in progress, and over the next year, you will
see more hires, more changes. This is all new to them. I appreciate the
tough standards I had at the Inquirer. It's made me a more responsible
journalist. I NEVER forget those standards when I write for Comcast. I intend to operate on the web as if this were a Pulitzer
Prize-winning newspaper.

How do you balance your content offering between writing for two online homes, CSNPhilly and HockeyBuzz.com?

Comcast and Hockeybuzz.com actually share some advertising and joint
ventures, such as Flyersbuzz.tv. It's a good partnership. The rules are
simple: Comcast pays my salary; therefore, we break news on Comcast, and we
refer to that news on Hockeybuzz with a link back to Comcast. Hockeybuzz
is blog-oriented. My material on
CSNPhilly, for now, is more journalism-oriented. Eventually, we will add new material, and I anticipate a
blog for CSN as well.

On to the team... The Flyers have clearly underachieved for much of this
season. Do you feel they'll be able to turn it around before Randy
Jones and Ryan Parent return, or are they in trouble without them?

Every time they seem ready to go into the tank again,
they rebound. I don't see how they are going to afford Jones and Parent
unless they move someone, and I believe Luca Sbisa will go back to
juniors. His salary would come off the cap, but they would still have to
pay him out for the season. I feel a trade involving the defense and a
pricey forward will be coming in December. The back end of this team
would not have been such a problem had all these injuries not occurred
in the pre-season. Hatcher, Jones, Parent have missed every game.

You've
been on the record as supporting a move for the Panthers' Jay
Bouwmeester, who is a player we'd love to see here as well. What kind
of player package will it take to land him, and do you think the Flyers
are interested?

I know the Flyers will be in the hunt once the Panthers decide
to move Bouwmeester. If I am Count Jacqula down there in Sunrise, Fla.,
I go the distance, wait til the trade deadline when teams get
desperate, then make my best deal. If I am Paul Holmgren, I come up
with a "best" deal right now and beat everyone to the punch. There are
two things in hockey every team covets: a franchise goalie and a No. 1
d-man who will be around a long time. Bouwmeester is that kind of guy.
By the way, Matt Carle has been impressive in his short stint here,
offensively—his passes out of the zone, and defensively—his shot
blocking.

Is Marty Biron good enough to lead the Flyers to a Stanley Cup winner?

Based on the season so far, definitely not. Based on last year's
playoff run, I would have said yes. If Cam Ward can do it, so can Marty,
but his consistency needs to get back to where it was. He has been much
better and has solid numbers over the past 5 games though. That tells me he is
coming out of his funk. I need to see that Biron the rest of the way to
say he's good enough to win it all.

Any predictions for the outcome of this season?

Second place in the Atlantic Division remains a possibility. As does fourth. It's that tight. It depends on whether Stevens can keep this
team's interest from waning like it did over stretches of last season. I
think that is something the Flyers see in Brendan Shanahan—a guy who can keep
the club heading in one direction and be rather vocal about it. Truth is,
Derian Hatcher was that guy, and not having him in the dressing room is
a huge loss for the club.

Our thanks to Tim for taking the time to talk with us. Look for more from him at CSNPhilly.com.

Pete Mackanin unloads on Phillies' bullpen after latest collapse

Pete Mackanin unloads on Phillies' bullpen after latest collapse

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies’ bullpen continued its ugly, late-season collapse on Tuesday night. It was tagged for six runs in a 7-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves. The Braves rallied for the tying and go-ahead runs in the bottom of the eighth inning (see Instant Replay).
 
The loss came two days after the bullpen gave up 14 earned runs in four innings in a 17-0 loss to the New York Mets on Sunday and it left manager Pete Mackanin more than a little bit frustrated.
 
“The bullpen has just not been doing the job,” Mackanin said.
 
Jerad Eickhoff gave up just one run (on a solo homer by Freddie Freeman) over four walk-free innings to open the game. He was up 6-1 after four innings when the rains came and stopped the game for an hour and 53 minutes.
 
With Eickhoff bounced by the weather, Mackanin had to go to his bullpen. He used four relievers — Severino Gonzalez, Luis Garcia, Joely Rodriguez and David Hernandez — and all gave up runs.
 
Phillies relievers have pitched 77 1/3 innings this month and allowed 69 earned runs for an ERA of 8.03. So that’s one more thing Matt Klentak has to fix this winter, along with the offense that Mackanin wants to see addressed (see story).
 
Ultimately, Hernandez took the loss when he gave up three hits and a run in the bottom of the eighth. The other run in the inning was charged to Rodriguez.
 
As unbelievable as it may sound with rosters being expanded in September, the Phillies played this game shorthanded.
 
They did not have reliever Edubray Ramos. He had a sore elbow, Mackanin said.
 
They did not have outfielder Peter Bourjos, who had gone home to be with his wife for the birth of their child.
 
They also did not have outfielder Tyler Goeddel, who is out with a concussion.
 
Not having Bourjos or Goeddel forced Mackanin to use Darin Ruf in left field after Roman Quinn went out with an oblique injury in the sixth inning. Ruf failed to make a catch on a long fly ball by Tyler Flowers to the gap in left-center. The non-play extended the eighth inning and fueled the Braves’ comeback.
 
“It should have been caught,” Mackanin said. “If Quinn's out there, he catches it. He wasn't out there.”
 
Hernandez was the only free agent that the Phillies signed to a major-league contract this winter. The Phillies signed him with an eye toward using him as the closer. But Hernandez struggled much of the season and slipped into the middle innings while Ramos, Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez rose to high-leverage roles.
 
Gomez lost the closer’s job last week and Mackanin was saving Neris to close out this game. That meant Hernandez had to pitch the eighth. He couldn’t protect the lead. He gave up the game-tying hit to Mallex Smith and the go-ahead hit to Emilio Bonafacio.
 
“Neris was going to close for us,” Mackanin said. “I thought about using him with two outs in the eighth. But, at some point, somebody else has to do a (bleeping) job. Somebody else has to (bleeping) step up. In two games now, every reliever I brought in has given up a (bleeping) run. That's unheard of.”
 
The bullpen’s unraveling threw cold (rain) water on Eickhoff’s solid start and Ryan Howard’s big night. Howard belted his 24th homer, a grand slam in the first inning, to highlight a 14-hit attack and help the Phils jump to a 6-0 lead.
 
“Eickhoff looked like he was having one of his best games and then the rain came. So that was our first disappointment,” Mackanin said. "Other than that, Howie swung the bat great. Hit that grand slam. We got 14 hits, but we stranded 12 runners. We have to keep adding on.”
 
Quinn had three of the Phillies’ 14 hits then added to his collection of injuries with the oblique strain that bounced him from the game in the sixth. He hurt himself taking a swing.
 
Oblique injuries generally keep a player sidelined for at least three weeks, so Quinn’s season is likely over. He missed six weeks with a similar injury at Double A Reading this summer. The 23-year-old outfielder came up from the minors on Sept. 11 and has been auditioning for a spot on next season’s opening day roster.
 
“It looks like it,” Mackanin said when asked if Quinn was done for what remains of the season.
 
Injuries have been a consistent hurdle for Quinn ever since he was selected in the second round of the 2011 draft. He has missed significant time with a ruptured Achilles tendon, a wrist injury that required surgery, a torn quad muscle and an oblique strain. Now he has another one.
 
“It’s the same one I hurt before,” Quinn said. “It’s frustrating.”
 
Right now, just about everything is frustrating with this team. Good thing there are only five games left.

Best of MLB: Blue Jays beat Orioles in opener of AL wild-card showdown

Best of MLB: Blue Jays beat Orioles in opener of AL wild-card showdown

TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer, Aaron Sanchez struck out 10 and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-1 on Tuesday night in the opener of their AL wild-card showdown.

Ezequiel Carrera also homered as the Blue Jays won for the sixth time in eight games. They lead the wild-card standings by two games over the Orioles with five to play.

Baltimore began the day two games ahead of Detroit and Seattle for the league's final playoff spot.

Orioles slugger Chris Davis was ejected for arguing with plate umpire Will Little after striking out against Joe Biagini in the seventh, the third time in three at-bats Davis was caught looking. Baltimore manager Buck Showalter also was tossed after he came out to argue (see full recap).

Syndergaard, Mets pound grieving Marlins
MIAMI -- With time running out in the playoff race, the New York Mets set sympathy aside.

Noah Syndergaard struck out eight and allowed one run in six innings Tuesday night, and the Mets totaled 19 hits to beat the grieving Miami Marlins 12-1.

Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes each hit his 31st homer for the Mets, who began the game with a half-game lead over the Giants in the battle for the first NL wild-card berth, with the Cardinals 1 1/2 games behind.

The game was the Marlins' second since the death of ace Jose Fernandez in a boating accident. One night after a heart-tugging victory over New York filled with tributes to their teammate, emotions were more subdued, and Miami's bats were too.

Syndergaard (14-9) had a lot to do with that. After missing a scheduled start Saturday with strep throat, he threw 93 pitches and lowered his ERA to 2.60, third-best in the majors. He'll return to pitch the regular-season finale Sunday at Philadelphia if needed (see full recap).

Cards beat Reds to tighten wild-card race
ST. LOUIS -- Playing with a heavy heart, Aledmys Diaz hit his first career grand slam and the St. Louis Cardinals finished with five home runs Tuesday night in a 12-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Chasing the Giants and Mets in a tight race for the two NL wild cards, St. Louis moved within a half-game of San Francisco for the league's final playoff spot -- pending the Giants' late game against Colorado.

New York, which beat Miami 12-1, leads the wild-card standings and remained 1 1/2 games ahead of the Cardinals.

Jhonny Peralta had a three-run homer and drove in four runs for the Cardinals, who had lost four of five. Matt Carpenter, Randal Grichuk and Matt Adams also homered (see full recap).