Nnamdi Asomugha to retire from football—we get Nnamdi’d one last time

Nnamdi Asomugha to retire from football—we get Nnamdi’d one last time

Wide receivers around the NFL shed some tears on Thursday evening upon hearing the news that four-time All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is retiring from pro football. Multiple outlets are reporting Asomugha will sign a one-day contract with the Oakland Raiders on Friday then ride off into the sunset. He last played for the San Francisco 49ers, but was waived on November 4.

In some parts of the world, people might ponder whether Asomugha belongs in the Hall of Fame. This particular corner will not be one of them*, because the only thing Nnamdi Asomugha is famous for around the City of Brotherly Love is being the biggest free-agent bust in Philadelphia Eagles history.

The Eagles signed Asomugha to a five-year contract worth $60 million with $25 million guaranteed in July, 2011. He was the prize piece from Joe Banner and/or Andy Reid’s Post-Lockout Summer Free-Agent Bonanza, a last-ditch effort to slap a team—a “Dream Team”—around Michael Vick after he had just taken the league by storm the previous season.

Widely considered one of the top two cornerbacks in the NFL at the time of his signing, Asomugha never lived up to his reputation as a shutdown corner. There were debates over whether the coaching staff—led at the time by offensive-line-coach-turned-defensive-coordinator Juan Castillo—was using its new personnel correctly, a theory Asomugha himself seldom denied. Regardless of technique or scheme though, he continued getting beat.

Asomugha was cut after two abysmal seasons with the Eagles. The team happily parted ways despite eating $4 million in guaranteed money in the deal. He eventually signed with the 49ers in April, but did not last the season, appearing in just three games.

What brought about his sudden decline is still not entirely clear. Asomugha had just turned 30 upon joining the Eagles, so it’s possible after eight seasons in the NFL, he simply hit a wall. It’s possible the decline began much sooner—Nnamdi had such a reputation in Oakland that quarterbacks often refused to throw or even look in his direction. Being shuffled into different roles in Philly likely accelerated the process, as opponents quickly began to see he could be exploited.

Asomugha also seemed indifferent at times. He wasn’t above upstaging his teammates on the field. He would openly question the game plan in the media. Was he unhappy with the organization or in Philadelphia? Did he lose his desire after cashing in on one last big payday?

Whatever the case, Asomugha’s rapid exit in San Fran and decision to retire indicate the Philly coaching staff didn’t break him. He was never very good to begin with by the time he got here.

So, I guess this is goodbye—at least until he acts in something again. Nnamdi Asomugha will never blow off his teammates at the cafeteria to make personal calls and eat lunch alone in his car again. He’ll never halfheartedly miss another tackle, or get burned on a deep pass and make faces at the nearest safety.

A fan base weeps for DeSean Jackson, as we all get Nnamdi’d one last time.

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*Okay, even if we did entertain the notion of Asomugha in the Hall, he spent six full seasons as a starting quarterback cornerback for the Raiders, and while they were presumably six elite seasons (even if probably they all weren’t), his career arc didn’t have enough longevity. Also, just no.

Alec Asher's two-seamer shines in another effective outing

Alec Asher's two-seamer shines in another effective outing

NEW YORK -- Alec Asher’s two-seamer was nearly perfect against the Mets on Saturday night — even if the pitching line was attached to his name was decidedly less so.

The rookie exited after five innings with four unearned runs attached to his name — two Phillies’ throwing errors on playable ground balls will do that — but lowered his ERA to 1.66 in a 10-8 victory that was far, far closer than it needed to be.

Lost in the shuffle of the Phillies bullpen’s attempt at self-immolation was just how effective Asher’s newly-developed two-seam fastball was in the early innings against the Mets’ full lineup. The relatively slow pitch — it was sitting around 90 MPH Saturday — generated six popouts during his perfect first trip through the batting order.

“Being able to throw a pitch that’s not straight works wonders,” Asher said. “Last year, I didn’t really have success throwing the four-seam, so just adding that little bit of movement misses barrels, [generates] mishits and gave me a lot of ground balls and weak contact, which is all I can ask for.”

Opponents are batting just .182 off Asher’s two-seamer in his four starts this year, according to data from Fangraphs.com, a complete 180 from his disastrous September call-up in 2015.

In his first major league starts, Asher struggled to establish a mound presence with a four-seamer that nearly touched 95 MPH. Opponents batted .250 and got seven extra-base hits off the four seamer as Asher finished 2015 with an ugly 9.31 ERA.

The Phillies challenged Asher to generative more movement on the pitch and he returned in Spring Training with an entirely new repertoire.

So far, the effort has paid off.

“It’s outstanding. It’s been a real good pitch for him and his changeup,” manager Pete Mackanin said of Asher’s two-seamer. “He didn’t have either pitch last year, and for him to come up with it over the course of the winter and throw those pitches so effectively is huge.”

Asher relied on the changeup to escape the fifth inning — the only high-stress situation he faced all evening.

With four runs already in, a fifth runner poised on third base and a Citi Field crowd beside itself in hopes of a miracle comeback, Asher got pinch-hitter James Loney to top a low changeup out of the zone down the first base line that Tommy Joseph stopped with a dive.

“[I wanted] just to slow the game down and take it pitch by pitch,” Asher said.

Even if Saturday wound up being perhaps a bit more frantic than he would have liked to be, Asher has developed a formula for future success as he prepares for his final start of the season next Friday — also against the Mets — and 2017.

“Just establishing the fastball, commanding both sides of the plate and changing speeds,” he said.

His two-run single in the first inning on Saturday night — his first two career RBIs and, ultimately, the winning margin — was a bonus.

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Today's lineup: Jorge Alfaro makes second straight start

Today's lineup: Jorge Alfaro makes second straight start

Catcher Jorge Alfaro is making his second straight start after Saturday's 10-8 win.

Alfaro, the Phillies' top catching prospect, has gone 0 for 11 with a walk in his three career starts, all coming in the last two weeks since he was called up. Alfaro was acquired in the Cole Hamels trade last July and is 1 for 13 with a walk in five games. 

The 23-year-old will catch Jake Thompson in a game that means a lot more to the Mets (1:10/CSN).

Giving Alfaro playing time allows Phillies fans the chance to get a glimpse of the future. Roman Quinn has received plentiful playing time after was called up in the mid-September and Alfaro, like Quinn, is trying to leave an impression on the Phillies' brass before spring training.

Quinn is not in the lineup on Sunday as Aaron Altherr and Cody Asche man the corner outfield spots. Freddy Galvis moved up to second in the lineup after staying in the bottom half of the lineup in recent games.

Ryan Howard will bat fifth, playing likely his final game at Citi Field with the Phillies. While he has batted just .203 in 52 career games at Citi Field, he alos has 11 home runs there after smashing 12 homers at Shea Stadium, the Mets' previous stadium.

Here's the full lineup that will oppose Robert Gsellman and the Mets.

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cody Asche, LF
7. Aaron Altherr, RF
8. Jorge Alfaro, C
9. Jake Thompson, P

For more on today's game, check out Steven Tydings' game notes

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