Philly March Madness: (2) Tim Kerr vs. (15) Carlos Ruiz

Philly March Madness: (2) Tim Kerr vs. (15) Carlos Ruiz

Over the next few weeks at The700Level, we'll be posting poll matchups as part of our Philly March Madness competition. Examine the cases of the two fine Philadelphia athletes below, and cast your vote at the bottom as to which you think should advance to the next round. And as always, feel free to explain your selection and/or debate the choices in the comments section.


(2) Tim Kerr

Imagine Scott Hartnell. Now imagine the complete opposite, and you have Tim Kerr. The beauty of Kerr, a three-time All-Star who from 1983 to 1987 might have had the most dominating four-season stretch of any Flyer in history, was the serenity that existed in him while mayhem reigned around him (usually due to his presence). At 6-3, 235, he was a mountain of a man, particularly in his era. And his greatest asset was almost neanderthal in concept: Stand in front of the net, and wait for the puck. Except as Kerr parked himself in front, particularly on power plays, opponents threw every short of plastic explosives at him in futile attempts to stop him. You could build a bonfire visible from space with all the sticks snapped over his back (and yes, they were still wooden sticks back then). They would hook, crosscheck, slewfoot, punch, butt-end … to no avail. You couldn’t knock Kerr off his skates. His balance was amazing, and his ability to endure the punishment was epic. He scored 224 goals in that four season stretch. Of the 58 goals he had in 1985-86, an NHL-record 34 came on the power play. Two players have come within 10 goals of that record in the past decade; it’s as air-tight as DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.

Kerr suffered a season-scrapping injury in 1987, came back the following season and threw up 48 more goals. But the pounding he took for his relentless decision to make the area three feet in front of the goalie his own took its toll. He didn’t play more than half a season over the next four years and retired when he was 33. However, it is impossible not to marvel at what Kerr did on the ice, for he had to know it would come at the expense of longevity.

Oh, one more thing: Tim Kerr was not a fighter. However, on the handful of occasions an opponent pushed him over his long threshold of patience and prompted him to drop the gloves, it was a scene from a gore film. No Flyer -- not Dave Brown, not Donald Brashear, not DAVE SCHULTZ -- could devastate a man with his fists like Tim Kerr. But Kerr knew he was more valuable as a mountain instead of a volcano. --Dennis Deitch

(15) Carlos Ruiz

Philadelphia loves to watch an unknown player emerge from doubt and/or mild obscurity to become a major contributor, and over the past three seasons, Carlos Ruiz has done just that. In 2007, he began to show he could work well with a pitching staff, aided by the mentoring of Jamie Moyer, and he also showed particular strength defensively. In 2008, with the Rod Barajas era over after just one injury-shortened season, Ruiz continued his development as a catcher and was a vital part of the Phillies’ World Series run. I’ll never forget watching him from the fifth row on the first base side in game 3. He had homered early in the game, but the moment that stands out was his dribbling, bases-loaded, walkoff infield single that somehow found enough daylight to score Eric Bruntlett despite Joe Maddon having seven fielders within the cutout. Game 3 was in the books, and Chooch’s status as a folk hero was cemented. He was the man calling some masterfully pitched games from behind the plate—a Panamanian with an almost entirely American-born staff (11 of 12)—and he also came up big at the dish under the brightest spotlight.

Over the past two seasons, particularly in 2010, Ruiz has continued growing as a catcher and is now considered one of the best in the game, even adding some offense. He caught Roy Halladay’s perfect game and his playoff no-hitter, and to hear Halladay tell it, Doc was just a guy doing as his catcher directed. His play on the final out of the no-hitter was a thing of athletic beauty, quickly getting out to a dribbler with the bat in the way, then firing it over the baserunner’s shoulder, just in time to make history. While some of the best-known prospects fizzle out when they get to the big leagues, if they make it at all, Ruiz spent eight seasons in the Phillies minor league system with most fans hardly knowing his name. Now you can’t go to a game without hearing it shouted by 40,000-plus. --Matt P.

Who should advance to the next round?online surveys

Results So Far:

East Bracket:

(1) Julius Erving (91.8%) over (16) Von Hayes (8.2%)
(8) Simon Gagne (77.9%) over (9) Seth Joyner (22.1%)
(5) Eric Lindros (70.3%) over (12) Eric Allen (29.7%)
(4) Randall Cunningham (77.6%) over (13) Shane Victorino (23.4%)
(11) Cole Hamels (82.1%) over (6) Mark Recchi (17.9%)
(14) Tug McGraw (51.1%) over (3) Moses Malone (48.9%)
(7) Darren Daulton (74.0%) over (10) Andrew Toney (26.0%)
(2) Chase Utley (93.5%) over (15) Andre Waters (6.5%)

Midwest Bracket:

(1) Mark Howe (60.2%) over (16) David Akers (39.8%)
(9) Rod Brind'Amour (73.6%) over (8) Rick Tocchet (26.4%)
(5) Brian Westbrook (93.3%) over (12) Jayson Werth (6.7%)
(4) Mike Richards (85.1%) over (13) Trent Cole (14.9%)
(6) John LeClair (89.2%) over (11) Clyde Simmons (10.8%)
(3) Jimmy Rollins (75.8%) over (14) John Kruk (24.2%)
(7) Lenny Dykstra (51.9%) over (10) Dave Poulin (48.1%)
(2) Allen Iverson (83.1%) over (15) Jeremiah Trotter (16.9%)

West Bracket:

(1) Mike Schmidt (96.9%) over (16) Keith Byars (3.1%)
(9) Wilbert Montgomery (59.4%) over (8) Jeff Carter (40.6%)
(5) Ron Jaworski (83.5%) over (12) Bobby Abreu (16.5%)
(4) Ron Hextall (94.1%) over (13) Andre Iguodala (5.9%)
(6) Mike Quick (59.8%) over (11) Hugh Douglas (40.2%)
(3) Brian Dawkins (98.3%) over (14) Scott Rolen (1.7%)
(7) Maurice Cheeks (51.9%) over (10) Eric Desjardins (48.1%)

Phillies-Mets 5 things: All the pressure on Mets, Gsellman

Phillies-Mets 5 things: All the pressure on Mets, Gsellman

Phillies (70-85) at Mets (82-73)
1:10 p.m. on CSN

After two rough losses for the Phillies and their pitching staff, the offense picked them up and came through with a 10-8 win. 22-year-old Jake Thompson takes the hill this afternoon while Robert Gsellman starts a crucial game for the Mets.

Here are five things to watch on Sunday.

1. All the pressure on New York, Gsellman
The Mets remain 0.5 games up on the final National League playoff spot. 

While their pitching staff was falling apart at the seams going into (and during) this series, the one saving grace for New York was its soft schedule, facing the Phillies seven times in its last 10. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals have to deal with the MLB best Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants end the year vs. the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

However, a loss on Saturday (thanks in part to Noah Syndergaard getting scratched with strep throat) puts the Mets in a precarious position. They're tied in the loss column with the Cards and Giants while fighting for one of two playoff spots and their rotation most closely resembles their Triple A team from Opening Day. 

Gsellman is one of those pitchers who started the year never having tasted the major leagues. In fact, he started the year in Double A. His first career start came at Citi Field last month against the Phillies and resulted in his first career loss after he allowed four runs in six innings. 

He's been better since that start, carrying a 3.13 ERA into Sunday. The 23-year-old righty will likely start vs. the Phillies again next weekend, meaning the Mets' season rides in part on a rookie with just 31 2/3 innings in the majors. 

2. Young man on a roll
While Gsellman lost his last start, Thompson has won his last two starts. The young righty is on a hot streak as his season nears an end.

Thompson's ERA has goe down in each of his last five starts, a stat made less impressive by the fact that he began that run with a 9.78 ERA. He has gone at least five innings in his last eight starts and has shown glimpses of why he was such a valued prospects.

In September, Thompson is 2-1 with a 3.09 ERA over four starts. He's still allowed 33 baserunners in 23 1/3 innings during that span, but it's been much better than his lackluster August.

While Thompson is in line to start next weekend against the Mets as well, today could be his final start of the season. He has already set a career-high in innings and the Phillies may not want to extend him one more start.

3. What to look for in the season's final week
Including Sunday, the Phillies have just seven games left in their season. They're eliminated from playoff contention, but there's still plenty to watch as the Phils take on Braves and Mets.

Ryan Howard's final fairwell: With his five-year, $125 million deal coming to a close this year, Howard is almost certainly playing his final games in Philadelphia next week. He'll get plenty of starts and may even face the Mets' Bartolo Colon, who he's smacked three home runs off of in his career.

Playing spoiler: As mentioned above, the Mets have everything on the line both today and next weekend in Philadelphia. There are few better ways to end a postseason-less season than knocking a rival out of playoff contention.

More looks at the kids: Roman Quinn's emergence over the last two weeks has been fun to watch and Jorge Alfaro may get more chances in the last seven games. Beyond them, Thompson, Tommy Joseph and others close out a nice first season. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Maikel Franco has looked more like his 2015 self over the last few weeks. He's batting .310 in September with three home runs, matching his August total. His 15 RBI this month are his most in a month other than July. 

Mets: Asdrubal Cabrera has been on fire this month as well. After battting .405 in August, he's batting .333 and has five home runs, including the walk-off homer on Thursday. He's slugging .628 this month after putting up a .786 slugging percentage in August. 

5. This and that
• In Gsellman's August start vs. the Phillies, he only allowed one run while he was in the game. However, he left the bases loaded in the 7th with no outs before A.J. Ellis knocked in the decisive two-run double to give the Phils a lead they would not relinquish.

• Six different Phillies batters had hits off Gsellman, including Jimmy Paredes who went 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI. 

• Despite pitching injuries, the Mets have the eighth-best team ERA in September with a 3.64 average. The Phillies are 15th in baseball with a 4.10 ERA this month.

• The Phillies are 6-9 against the Mets this year. They're already ensured of a better finish than last year's 5-14 mark vs. New York.

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, killed in boating accident

uspresswire-marlins-jose-fernandez.jpg
USA Today Images

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, killed in boating accident

MIAMI -- Jose Fernandez, the ace right-hander for the Miami Marlins who escaped Cuba to become one of baseball's brightest stars, was killed in boating accident early Sunday morning. Fernandez was 24.

The Marlins announced Fernandez's death, and the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed that Fernandez was one of three people killed in a boat crash off Miami Beach.

In the statement, the Marlins say they are "devastated by the tragic loss of Jose Fernandez. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time."

Chief Petty Officer Nyxolyno Cangemi told The Associated Press that a Coast Guard patrol boat spotted an overturned boat at 3:30 a.m. on a jetty near Government Cut. The bodies were discovered a short time later.

Because the boat was on a jetty, the Coast Guard notified Miami-Dade police, which turned the investigation over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Fernandez was on a 32-foot vessel that had a "severe impact" with a jetty, said Lorenzo Veloz of the Fish Commission.

A news conference was planned for later Sunday morning.

Fernandez was a two-time All-Star who went 38-17 in his four seasons with the Marlins, winning the NL's Rookie of the Year award in 2013. The native of Santa Clara, Cuba became a U.S. citizen last year.

He tried to defect from Cuba at least three times -- landing in jail after one of those unsuccessful tries -- before eventually getting to the U.S. and going to high school in Tampa, Florida. The Marlins drafted him in 2011 and Fernandez was in the majors two years later.

The Marlins' game Sunday at home against the Atlanta Braves has been cancelled.