One Man's Quest to Bring the Athletics Back to Philadelphia

One Man's Quest to Bring the Athletics Back to Philadelphia

J T. Ramsay is a local baseball geek who has started a movement dubbed "Bring Your A's Game" in an attempt to lure the Oakland Athletics back to Philadelphia. We chatted with him to see what his motivations were and how exactly the plan was coming along.

Enrico: Tell us a little bit about what exactly you're trying to do.

J T.: I'm trying to bring the A's back to their rightful home, here in the
City of Brotherly Love. It sounds crazy at first, but then when you hear
what's going on with the A's franchise, it's not that farfetched.
Oakland can't afford to keep them and San Jose can't afford to move
them, unless the Governator's cool with one of the cities in his
cash-strapped state okaying a half a billion dollar loan.

Will
the A's just be this tempest-tos't franchise, doomed to wander smaller
and smaller markets? I feel they deserve a better fate and thought, "Why
not move them back here?"

I know you're a diehard Phillies fan. What made you think Philadelphia needed a second baseball team?
Also, would you change your allegiance?

You're right. I bleed fire-engine red. My wife and I have practically raised my son in Section 143. 

I
love the Phillies, but I love Philadelphia and baseball so much that I
think we'd be a great home for the A's. They're the kind of working
class heroes Philly loves. Guys like Jack Cust and Dallas Braden would
be hometown favorites overnight. When I think about how few people saw
Braden's perfecto in person, I want to weep. The overflow crowd from
Citizen's Bank Park on Mother's Day would've been bigger than the 12,000
paid in Oakland that day. We're
a sport-crazed city. Of any city that doesn't have two baseball teams,
Philadelphia seems perfect for it. It'd be a beautiful homecoming.

As
far as allegiance goes, I don't think anything would have to change,
really. Philadelphians could have an AL and an NL team. It'd be another
opportunity to root against the Yankees and Red Sox. Who doesn't want that? They put up a new "With Love Philadelphia" billboard dedicated to them overnight!

One point Matt mentioned that I hadn't thought of is that most cities with
multiple fanbases have a rivalry, but those fanbases tend to hate each other.
Is that something we really want in Philly? Two different fanbases not liking
each other?

Yeah, I get that question a lot. Philadelphia fans don't have the
greatest reputation when it comes to anger management, but I don't think
a crosstown rivalry would be that bad. Rivalries rise and fall. I mean,
think about the Phillies-Mets rivalry. Isn't it a little sadder now
that they've folded like a deck of cards? The A's would have such a
honeymoon in this city that it would take a generation before anyone
felt animosity toward them. Heck, we'd finally have a winner in this town!

Look at what's happened to baseball rivalries today. The MLB has
tried to legislate new rivalries based on what will market well. None of
them, with the exception of Red Sox-Yankees and Cubs-Cards, seem all
that natural. Factor in interleague and you have some of baseball's
worst contrivances. It's a disservice to the fans. Don't Orioles fans
have it bad enough? Do they really need to watch a series against the
Nats when they play in the AL East?

A move like this restores order. Sure, you miss the
Battle by the Bay, but you'd revive a great tradition in Philadelphia,
which the A's and Phillies observed as far back as 1883, when the
original A's were still around (link) It's like the Big 5, but for professional baseball. Get rid of the On-Deck Series and play these games instead!


I think we can all agree a ball park located closer to Center City
would be pretty awesome. Did you have a particular location in mind?

I disagree with the downtown location, actually. I think there are
too many headaches involved in trying to do something downtown. The
Convention Center really crowded that opportunity out. Why not find a
location that's still convenient to regional rail and the Broad Street
line, closer to the A's original home? I think it would reintroduce the
concept of an actual neighborhood stadium, not just a neighborhood-style
stadium built alongside the interstate.

What can fans do to help with your cause?

Join and tell their friends. Find creative ways to bring their
A's games. You know how the Phanatic is all over town right now? I want
to see people take pictures with White Elephants all over town and share
them on Facebook and Flickr. Be creative! Show everyone just what a
great baseball town Philly is and how we miss our A's. Show your support
and join us for the first official Bring Your A's Game meet and greet
at Memorial Hall Field on September 19th. Details here.

Links:
Save the White Elephants. Join Bring Your A's Game
Share photos in our Flickr group
Follow Bring Your A's Game on Tumblr

Shibe Park image via

NBA draft profile: F Dragan Bender

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NBA draft profile: F Dragan Bender

Dragan Bender

Position: Power forward
Height: 7-1
Weight: 225
Team: Maccabi Tel Aviv

Croatia’s latest basketball export is just 18 years old. He won’t turn 19 until November. Like a lot of teenagers, he’s hardly a fully finished product. The kid is raw, but his obvious potential figures to make him a high lottery pick in the upcoming draft.

Through 38 games with Maccabi Tel Aviv this season, Bender averaged just 12.9 minutes. He took 3.7 shots per game. He shot 42.3 percent from the floor, 33.8 percent from deep (on 2.0 attempts per game) and 71.9 percent from the line. He didn’t get to the line very often, by the way. In fact, he hardly got there at all, taking less than one attempt per game from the stripe.

But Bender’s appeal isn’t about what he is right now; it’s rooted in what he could become with time. There’s a reason why all 30 NBA teams sent someone to watch him play this year, according to DraftExpress. Investing in him could yield a significant return. Also, dude’s name is Dragan Bender. He was destined to become a pro athlete or conquer King’s Landing. Either way, good things ahead.

Strengths
Bender has been on the NBA’s projection radar for a while now. He’s worked hard to develop his shooting. Initially thought of as a non-shooter with wonky mechanics, Bender changed his stroke. It’s more compact and efficient now. Despite the small sample size, Bender had a 54.1 true shooting percentage and a 51.4 effective field goal percentage through 38 games this season.

He could pass more, but when he does he’s pretty savvy — particularly with the full-court outlet pass. Defensively, he’s not a rim protector, but he has a long wingspan (7-2) that should help him be a good pick-and-roll defender with time. In the increasingly switch-everything NBA, that’s a plus.

Also, did we mention his name is Dragan Bender? Donald Bender works in Croatian finance. Dave Bender has a nice B&B on Hvar Island. Dragan Bender is a potential NBA star.

Weaknesses
He’s reportedly put on some weight recently and worked hard to develop a better base, but he’s 7-1 and 225 pounds. Someone needs to feed him lots of sandwiches and protein shakes. Adding muscle for the long-slog NBA season will be important.

In addition to having a still-developing body and skill set, he hasn’t faced top-level international competition yet on a regular basis. He needs minutes against the best in the world, and in order to get those minutes he’ll have to refine his game – particularly his ball-handling and driving, which are still works in progress.

Unlike some other recent NBA imports (Nikola Mirotic and Kristaps Porzingis among them), it’s probably going to take a while before Bender can be a consistent contributor in the league. Any team that takes him has to acknowledge the inherent time commitment.

How he’d fit with the Sixers 
If we’re talking about how he’d fit with the Sixers, who had a long-term plan and weren’t in a hurry to rush anything, the Sixers who embarked on an open-ended journey with no fixed timetable or end point, you could make a case for Bender (but not with the first overall pick). Five or seven years from now, Bender could be a polished product – an outside shooting threat with, perhaps, an expanded offensive game that allows him to put the ball on the floor and optimize his passing and scoring. You could imagine him growing defensively and creating mismatch problems. You could envision it – over time.

The question is whether these Sixers, who keep talking about transitioning from the rebuild into whatever comes next, are about to scrap the slow-and-low approach to cooking their roster in favor of adding on-court heat and off-court PR sizzle. If that’s the case, Bender wouldn’t fit well at all. Not to mention that taking Bender means adding another body to an already clogged frontcourt.

NBA comparison
Lots of people have drawn a parallel between Bender and Porzingis. That’s the easy, reflexive comparison. Both are tall, lanky stretch fours from a not dissimilar region of the world. But really that’s unfair to Bender. Porzingis declared for the NBA draft back in 2014, only to withdraw his name and wait until last year. The wait helped elevate him to more of a known commodity. At that point, he had played three seasons for Sevilla of Liga ACB in Spain, one of the best leagues in Europe that features some of the premiere international talent. Bender isn’t there yet in terms of experience, and their games aren’t one-to-one equivelants anyway. Bender might ultimately shake out as something closer to Andrei Kirilenko (if he can improve his handle) or Nikola Mirotic.

Draft projection
Top five. If he lasts any longer, it will be a surprise.

Eagles mailbag: Jordan Matthews; injury concern, leading rusher

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Eagles mailbag: Jordan Matthews; injury concern, leading rusher

Another day, another mailbag. 

I hope you're enjoying your Memorial Day Weekend. If you're reading this on the beach or at a BBQ, well done. 

Yesterday, I answered the first round of your questions about Doug Pederson, Brandon Spikes and the possibility of adding another running back. 

Today, I'll answer some more: 

At times, Jordan Matthews will still be in the slot this season. But he won't be there all the time. 

In Doug Pederson's offense, the receivers will move around quite a bit, which means we'll see Matthews lining up out wide on both sides and in the slot. He has the ability to do both. Either way, he's going to be on the field. He's clearly the Eagles best receiver and they're not going to take him off the field. 

I think there's a good chance we'll see some Josh Huff in the slot this year, which would make a ton of sense to me. Huff is at his best when he gets the ball in his hands and can make something happen. He's shifty enough to play in the middle. 

The idea that slot receivers are just small, shifty guys is outdated. It's all about matchups and Pederson won't be afraid to move his receivers around to find the best ones. 

Good question. I'll give you two names. One on offense and one on defense. 

Now, I didn't just pick the best players, I picked the best players with the biggest drop off to their backups. So on offense, it's Jason Peters and on defense it's Jordan Hicks. 

The scary thing: it wouldn't be shocking if either of these two go down in 2016. 

If Peters goes down, the Eagles will be fine at left tackle, because Lane Johnson will shift over. But that means either Dennis Kelly or Halapoulivaati Vaitai will come in. We all know what's happened in the past when Kelly comes in, and Vaitai is just a rookie. Not a ton of great depth at tackle. 

As for Hicks, we saw what happened to the defense when he went out last season. And this year, the team has virtually no depth at linebacker. If Hicks went down, either veteran special teams player Najee Goode or rookie Joe Walker would need to fill in. Yikes. 

I understand it's kind of a cop-out to just pick the top running back on the depth chart, but that's what I'm doing. I know Ryan Mathews has a lengthy injury history, but I can't see Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood or Kenjon Barner being the team's leading rusher. 

And when healthy, Mathews was the team's best running back in 2015, going for 539 yards on 106 carries, an average of 5.1 yards per attempt. If he manages to play 12 games this year, I think he'll be the team's leading rusher. 

Phillies pitching prospect Mark Appel hits DL with shoulder strain

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Phillies pitching prospect Mark Appel hits DL with shoulder strain

Mark Appel, whose fastball velocity was down considerably in the first inning of his last start, was placed on the disabled list Friday with a shoulder strain.

Appel, 24, is 3-3 with a 4.46 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in eight starts for Triple A Lehigh Valley in his first year in the Phillies' system. He's struggled his last four times out, allowing 18 runs (15 earned) in 16⅓ innings on 20 hits and 11 walks.

The No. 1 overall pick in 2013 out of Stanford, Appel has had a disappointing pro career to this point. In 62 minor-league games (61 starts), he has a 5.04 ERA. The Phillies acquired him from Houston as part of the Ken Giles trade this past winter.

Appel's trip to the DL creates an opportunity for right-hander Ben Lively, who was promoted from Double A Reading to Triple A to take Appel's place in the IronPigs' rotation. Lively, acquired from the Reds for Marlon Byrd prior to the 2015 season, is 7-0 with a 1.87 ERA this season.

Rehab updates
Leftfielder Cody Asche and left-handed reliever Mario Hollands had their rehab assignments transferred to Triple A Lehigh Valley. 

Asche is 5 for 34 (.147) with two home runs and 12 strikeouts during his stints with Clearwater and Reading. 

Hollands has been sharp, posting a 1.04 ERA in 8⅔ innings with 12 strikeouts and one walk.