Philly March Madness FINAL FOUR: (1) Mike Schmidt vs. (4) Ryan Howard

Philly March Madness FINAL FOUR: (1) Mike Schmidt vs. (4) Ryan Howard

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.

Today and tomorrow: The Final Four and the Finals. Here's hoping
for our biggest voter turnout yet as we finally name a greatest Philly
athlete of the last 30 years.



(1) Mike Schmidt

Previously Defeated: (16) Keith Byars, (9) Wilbert Montgomery, (4) Ron Hextall, (3) Brian Dawkins

Sports Writers Say:

He  was batting .203 with six homers, but when his glove also betrayed him,  Mike Schmidt knew it was time. With two on and two out in a 3-3 game in  San Francisco a week ago, the Phillies' third baseman booted a grounder  for what would have been the third out, a grounder he would have once  handled routinely. When the next hitter, Will Clark, smashed a  grand-slam homer, the Phillies were on their way to an 8-5 loss. And at  age 39, Mike Schmidt decided that he won't be playing baseball anymore.  It's baseball's loss, not his. Too many baseball fans yearn for the good  old days, as if nobody playing now could possibly be as good as the  old-timers. But too many baseball fans don't always appreciate the good  now days. Over nearly two decades, Mike Schmidt was the third baseman of  the good now days. While accumulating three National League most  valuable player awards, he hit 548 homers and was voted 10 Gold Gloves.  No other third baseman ever did what he did with both his bat and his  glove. Not Brooks Robinson, not Eddie Mathews, not Pie Traynor.

If  you saw Mike Schmidt play baseball, you can always say that you saw  baseball's best third baseman. Even the old-timers might not argue.

In  assembling an all-time team, third base had always been the thinnest  p

osition for candidates. Only seven are waiting for Mike Schmidt to join  them in 1995 at the Hall of Fame: the old-timers Frank (Home Run)  Baker, Fred Lindstrom and Jimmy Collins along with George Kell,  Robinson, Mathews and Traynor. The other positions always had many more  legends to choose from but Lou Gehrig dominated the first basemen,  Rogers Hornsby the second basemen, Honus Wagner the shortstops. In the  outfield, take any three: Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron, Joe DiMaggio, Ted  Williams, Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose. Among the  catchers, judge Mickey Cochrane, Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella  and Johnny Bench. For pitching, consider Cy Young, Walter Johnson,  Christy Mathewson, Sandy Koufax, Bob Feller, Lefty Grove, Steve Carlton,  Tom Seaver.

But at third base, it's no contest. As good as  Traynor, Mathews and Robinson were in other years, none of them matched  the complete package that Schmidt put together.

Season after season, Schmidt not only produced but he usually produced when the Phillies needed him to produce.

His  500th homer wasn't merely a ceremonial cannon shot. It won a game in  Pittsburgh. In the 1980 divisional race with the Expos, his home run in  Montreal clinched the title. In the World Series against the Kansas City  Royals that year he batted .381, hit two homers and drove in seven  runs. He was selected as the m.v.p. as the Phillies won the Series for  the only time in the franchise's 106-year history. He once hit four  homers in a game; he twice hit three homers in a game. He holds the  National League career third-base records for double plays, total  chances and assists. And in an era of free-agent soldiers of fortune, he  wore only the Phillies' uniform.

One reason was that the Phillies were wise enough to pay him what he  was worth: more than $17 million over his career, more than any other  baseball player in history except Dave Winfield.

Like every  player, Schmidt had his slumps. When the Phillies lost the 1983 Series  to the Orioles in five games, he batted .050, only one broken-bat single  in 20 official times at bat. Even so, he never hid or sulked. After  every game, he sat at his locker and answered questions, patiently,  thoughtfully.

''I'd like to hit a five-run homer or a six-run  homer,'' he joked after the fourth game. ''You ever see one of those?''  But his 1980 World Series ring had eased his burden as the Phillies'  most productive hitter, a burden that developed on the teams that lost  the National League Championship Series in 1976, 1977 and 1978. When the  Phillies won the 1980 Series, their manager was Dallas Green, now the  Yankee manager.

''Schmitty was neat to be around,'' Green  recalled. ''He made you work at making him understand the game and  there's nothing wrong with that.''

Schmidt also made opposing managers work. Charlie Fox, now a Yankee  coach, once managed the Giants, the Expos and the Cubs against the  Phillies.

''When you're a manager,'' Fox said, ''there's always  one player on the other team that you tell yourself, 'Don't let this man  beat me.' On the Phillies that man was Schmitty. With the game on the  line, you'd tell your pitcher, 'Get this guy out, then we'll walk  Schmitty, and get the next guy.' But when you did pitch to him, you  never knew how. Just when you thought you were getting him out inside,  he'd start hitting the outside pitch to right center.''

At 6 feet 2  inches and 205 pounds, Schmidt was also considered one of the Phillies'  best baserunners. He stole 174 bases, with a high of 29 in 1975.

''He  stole a base when the Phillies needed it, usually late in the game,''  Fox said. ''He lulled you early in the game. In the third inning, the  fifth inning, he'd take a little lead and never even make a move to  steal. In the seventh or eighth or ninth when the Phillies needed a run,  he'd take that same little lead and you'd figure he wasn't going  anywhere and boom, he'd steal.''

Mike  Schmidt did it all. And he did it with a quiet style that embellished  his stature. If you saw him play, you can always say you saw baseball's  best third baseman. -Dave Anderson, New York Times, 1989


(4) Ryan Howard

Previously Defeated: (13) Jon Runyan, (5) Pete Rose, (1) Reggie White, (3) Donovan McNabb

Sports Writers Say:

The sky over St. Louis looked as gray and uninviting as cold oatmeal when Ryan Howard hit the most memorable moon shot of his career. He was 12, and his Little League team was playing a squad from Jefferson City. Howard, then known simply as Hurt, already had prodigious power from the port side. "When he made contact, it was like, Wow!" recalls his twin brother, Corey. "His home runs were loud."

Late in the game, Hurt turned on a chest-high heater. According to family lore the ball soared over the infield, over the outfield, over a 20-foot chain-link fence in rightfield, over a parking lot and, depending on the storyteller, struck the wall of a Red Lobster, the base of a sign outside a Red Lobster or a Red Lobster sign's red lobster.

Thirteen years later Howard still savors the swat. "It was my first actual bomb," recalls the Philadelphia Phillies' first baseman. "I watched it with a little awe." An equally awed sportswriter recently paced off the distance b
etween home plate and the building. If the yarn is true, Ryan's blast traveled at least 430 feet.

Laid end to end, Howard's homers this season have traveled an estimated 4 1/4 miles, the longest going 491 feet. He had a major-league-leading 56 to go along with a major-league-leading 138 RBIs, including 41 in August, the most by any player in any month since Frank Howard had 41 in July 1962. He also pounded 14 homers and hit .348 last month to single-handedly launch the Phillies into wild-card contention. If Howard reaches 60 homers, he'll become only the sixth player to accomplish the feat. "To hit 50 is really something," says Philadelphia closer Tom Gordon. "Sixty is almost beyond comprehension. It's magnificent."

To date, the Magnificent Five includes Babe Ruth, who hit 60 in 1927, and Roger Maris, whose 61 came in '61. The rest of the roster-- Mark McGwire (65 and 70), Sammy Sosa (63, 64 and 66) and record-holder Barry Bonds (73)--is sullied by suspected steroid use. Should Howard pass Maris's 61, a crusade is afoot to anoint him King of the Juiceless Dinger. Asked if he would take pride in such a title, he says, with a hint of diffidence, "I would."

Then again, Ryan is dispassionately modest about his chances of even attaining 60. "If it happens, it happens," he says with a small shrug. "If I were to do something like that and then wake up and reflect on the season one day at home in the off-season, I wouldn't believe it."

Baseball has seldom seen anything quite like Howard. The hulking 6'4" 250-pounder looks like he was poured into his uniform and forgot to say when. As if stanchioned to the bag at first, he often seems as animated as the William Penn statue atop Philadelphia's City Hall. "Ryan does get excited," insists Philadelphia reliever Geoff Geary. "His excitement is just not extreme." To prove a point, Geary shows a video he filmed surreptitiously on his cellphone. Facing his locker before a game, wired into an iPod, Howard, arms akimbo and hips swiveling, does a wobbly rumba. "That's Ryan's groove dance," says Geary. "He gets down to get loose."

Howard is only truly loose in the clubhouse, where he greets teammates with a dozen handshakes. "He's got big old Mice and Men hands," says Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. "You know, like the ones Lenny had. There's a lot of strong in those hands."

You need strong hands to dispatch fastballs into the troposphere. "Ryan uses an inside-out swing for wallburners to left, but his homers to center and right have a trajectory unlike anything I've ever seen," says pitcher Jamie Moyer, a veteran of 20 seasons. "They start out like routine flies and carry and carry and carry until they land 30 rows back in the bleachers. They're absolutely majestic."

At Citizens Bank Park, Howard's most regal blasts alight in the upper deck in right, a veritable petri dish of costumed Phillies fan clubs, from Flash Gordon's "Superheroes" to Chase Utley's " Utley's Uglies." Three clubs vie for Howard supremacy: the leonine-garbed "Ryan's Lions," the Homer Simpson--masked "Homer's Homers" and " Howard's Howards," who sport bowl cuts like Moe Howard of Three Stooges fame. All chant "M-V-P!" when their hero steps to the plate.

"Phillies fans go crazy for the shut-up-and-play type," says Jerry Getz, a Philly sports-radio gadfly known as Jerry on the Mobile. "Howard seems like a quiet, clean-cut John Kruk, an accessible, almost jolly guy who plays the game like he loves it. He's the anti-T.O."

In the Phillies' dugout Howard is called everything from Rhinoceros to Man-Mountain to One-Man Gang. The consensus favorite, however, is John Coffey, after the gentle gargantuan in The Green Mile. "John Coffey was a big guy and a good, kind person," says Howard. "I act like that sometimes, too, just to throw people off."

By most accounts it's no act. "Ryan has always been even tempered," says Corey, his fraternal twin. "The only thing that sets him off is hearing people say he can't do things. They've said he can't hit lefties, he can't hit off-speed pitches, he can't hit for a high average. Whatever they've said Ryan can't do, he's gone out and done."

Their father, Ron, a project manager for IBM in St. Louis, forbade the word can't in his home. So Ryan set out to show his old man he could. At Lafayette High he played defensive end, power forward, first base and trombone in the marching band. He played each of them ably but baseball best. Two years ago Howard, who was drafted by the Phils in the fifth round of the 2001 draft out of Southwest Missouri State, hit 46 homers for two farm teams. All that stood in his way in Philadelphia was power-hitting first baseman Jim Thome and his six-year, $85 million contract. "I'd heard Ryan hit bombs," Rollins says. "But I figured there were 85 million reasons I wouldn't see him anytime soon."

The following spring Howard auditioned in left, flunked and was sent back to Triple A. "The Phillies traditionally give you one shot," Rollins says. "If you're demoted after that, you might as well cancel Christmas."

For Howard, Christmas came in July. When Thome's season was cut short by injuries, Howard--the International League leader in hitting (.371), on-base percentage (.467) and slugging (.690) at the time--got another chance. He made the most of it, mashing 22 homers (10 in the final month) to help propel the Phils to within a game of the playoffs.

Last November the Phils settled their first base question by trading Thome to the White Sox. Questions about Howard, however, remained to be settled. Though he was Rookie of the Year in 2005, for example, he batted only .148 against southpaws. At week's end he was up to .283 and had hit 15 of his homers off lefties. "Two years ago he had raw power, but he tried to cover the entire strike zone," says Astros third base coach Doug Mansolino. "The difference now is patience and selectivity: He only swings at pitches in his strike zone." (His strikeout-to-walk ratio has improved from 3 to 1 last season to under 2 to 1 this year.)

Pity the pitcher who trespasses in Howard's zone. Last week Houston's Russ Springer tried to bust him with a cutter up and in. Howard swatted the righthander's pitch off the face of the second deck. "Lefthanded batters are supposed to foul that off or hit it on the ground," says Astros infielder Aubrey Huff. "I don't think there's another big leaguer who could have hit it out."

The crack of Howard's 34 1/2-ounce bat was easy on Rollins's ear. "When he connected, it was loud, like somebody had turned up the volume," says Rollins. "It was a beautiful sound, and I knew the ball would be leaving the yard." -Franz Lidz, Sports Illustrated, 2006

    Who should advance to the next round?Market Research

Elite Eight Results:

(1) Julius Erving (53.6%) over (2) Chase Utley (46.4%)
(2) Allen Iverson (68.1%) over (5) Brian Westbrook (31.9%)
(1) Mike Schmidt (51.6%) over (3) Brian Dawkins (48.4%)
(4) Ryan Howard (72.9%) over (3) Donovan McNabb (27.1%)

 

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

Two people with knowledge of the situation tell The Associated Press that the Miami Heat have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with free agent guard Dion Waiters.

The two sides came to agreement on Monday. Waiters will make $2.9 million. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the deal.

Waiters averaged 9.8 points for the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, but had several big games in the playoffs. He played particularly well against Dallas and San Antonio in the playoffs before his role was reduced in the seven-game loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

Waiters will give the Heat another scorer off the bench (see full story).

Blazers: C.J. McCullom inked to four-year extension
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A person familiar with the deal confirms that guard CJ McCollum has agreed to a four-year, $106 million contract extension with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Monday because the deal hadn't been formally announced by the team. It was first reported by Yahoo Sports.

McCollum, who was named the NBA's Most Improved Player, averaged 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists for the Blazers during the regular season. He raised his scoring average by more than 14 points over the previous season.

As the 10th overall pick for the Blazers in the 2013 draft, McCollum bided his time on the bench for his first two seasons. He became a starter in the backcourt with Damian Lillard last season after four of the team's starters departed in the offseason (see full story).

Michael Jordan donates $2 million to ease racial tensions
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Jordan is trying to help ease tension between African-Americans and law enforcement.

The NBA great and Charlotte Hornets owner said Monday he's giving $1 million to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The aim is to help build trust following several shootings around the country.

Jordan says in a statement to The Associated Press on Monday that "as a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers," (see full story).

Phillies Phodder: On injuries, trade possibilities, more roster moves

Phillies Phodder: On injuries, trade possibilities, more roster moves

MIAMI — The Phillies will be without their best utility man and bat off the bench for at least six weeks.

Andres Blanco needs surgery to repair his broken left index finger. He suffered the injury making a tag play at third base during Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh. According to manager Pete Mackanin, Blanco will have a pin inserted in the finger during surgery on Wednesday.

“That’s a shame,” said Mackanin, who has called Blanco the best utility man he’s seen in his 47 years in pro baseball. “He was one of our best players. Maybe in six weeks he can come back. But it’s going to be a while.”

With the trade deadline a week away, Blanco would have been a nice fit on some contending teams. Now, he will stay put. 

Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson and outfielder Peter Bourjos remain strong trade possibilities. Hellickson started Monday night against the Marlins, who are interested in his services. A source confirmed a FOX Sports report that the Phillies have been scouting the low levels of the Marlins farm system in preparation for a potential deal (see story). The Marlins are considering other pitchers, as well. Some industry insiders view Hellickson and Bourjos as backup targets for teams looking for pitching and outfield help. Translation, the fate of bigger names on the trade market might have to shake out before the Phillies know if they can strike a deal. The trade deadline is next Monday.

The Phillies recalled infielder Taylor Featherston from Triple A to take Blanco’s roster spot (see story).

Mackanin gave a succinct answer when asked whether the team considered bringing up top prospect J.P. Crawford.

“None,” he said “No talk about him.”

Crawford could still see time in the majors later this season.

The Phillies are expected to make another roster move later this week when Aaron Altherr’s minor-league rehab assignment expires after Wednesday’s game. Altherr, who suffered a wrist injury that required surgery in March, is playing at Triple A. The Phillies could bring him up Thursday. To clear a roster spot for Altherr, the Phils could trade Bourjos or subtract a player such as seldom-used Jimmy Paredes.

Altherr was on target to be a starter in the Phillies outfield before he went down in spring training. He will play a corner outfield spot when he arrives.

“I'm sure he'll be here sooner rather than later,” Mackanin said. “I'm anxious to see him. He's important for us to get a good look at. I'd like to see two months' worth if I could.”

Roob's 25 Random Points: Kenjon Barner, Freddy Galvis, Father John Misty and more

Roob's 25 Random Points: Kenjon Barner, Freddy Galvis, Father John Misty and more

Chase Daniel vs. Carson Wentz. Lehigh vs. the NovaCare. LeSean McCoy vs. Ryan Mathews. Freddy Galvis vs. Cookie Rojas. Joan Jett vs. Todd Rundgren. Andy Reid vs. Doug Pederson. Tim Showalter vs. Father John Misty.

Whaaaaaaaat???

It can only be a another edition of … Roob’s 25 Random Points.

1. I understand why more and more NFL teams are holding training camp at their year-round facilities and leaving their long-time summer homes on college campuses in small towns across the country. The logistics of moving operations to a remote location combined with the elimination of two-a-day workouts has really rendered remote training camps anachronistic. I get all that. But that said, I really miss it. Training camp was my favorite part of the season, for a few reasons. I loved how kids could interact with their favorite players before and after practice. Chatting, autographs, photos, whatever. I loved seeing a player as accomplished as Dawk spend 30 minutes after practice on a blazing hot day, standing by the fence signing autographs for whoever wandered over. I loved stuff as corny as a little 6-year-old kid walking with a hulking offensive lineman, carrying shoulder pads that were bigger than they were. But I also loved the connection between big-time NFL teams and small-town America. The way the Eagles would settle into Bethlehem for a month every summer and become part of the fabric of the community. And watching every morning as the parade of cars filled with Eagles fans wound through the mountain roads toward a day watching free football. And just the action on the football field. Seeing unknown rookies blossom into NFL players in front of our eyes. Watching superstars like Randall and Donovan and Michael Vick make unbelievable plays while a few thousand fans watched in amazement from just a few feet away. And just watching and listening to personalities like Asante Samuel, who was just as intent on making the fans laugh as he was on beating his man. It was a unique atmosphere, and I loved every minute of it, and it’s a shame it’s gone.

2. If Sam Bradford gets benched or hurt and Chase Daniel replaces him, I will be extremely disappointed.

3. He’s a grizzled veteran and an older guy and has been in the league a while and backed up Drew Brees and Alex Smith and spent time in K.C. with Doug Pederson. But let’s be honest. What has Chase Daniel accomplished that Carson Wentz hasn’t? He’s 29 years old and has one career touchdown pass. So in six years, he’s built a one-TD lead over Wentz in career touchdown passes. Come on. Wentz has to be No. 2. Has to be.

4. I’m not exactly sure why I have faith in Kenjon Barner, but I do. He’s got only 34 career carries and he’s fumbled twice, so that’s a concern. But I think the kid runs hard and runs tough and we know he’s fast. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry in limited action last year, but I’m very curious to see him in action this preseason. We all know Ryan Mathews’ injury history, and we all know that Darren Sproles is 33 and coming off a season where he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry, his lowest since 2009. So Barner could have a seriously expanded role this year. If he does, I think he’ll be just fine.

5. One encouraging thing about Mathews: Just looking at his career, when he’s healthy, he rarely has a bad game. Like a total dud of a game. He’s had 20 or more carries 17 times and rushed for at least 90 yards in 14 of those 17 games. In the other three, he had 65, 74 and 78 yards. When he gets 20 carries, he’s averaged 105 yards. Just for the sake of comparison, when LeSean McCoy gets 20 carries, he’s rushed for 90 or more yards just 18 of 31 times. But he’s averaged 118 yards in those games. So McCoy is more likely to get you 130 yards. When getting 20 carries in their careers, McCoy has rushed for 90 yards only 58 percent of the time but 130 yards 29 percent of the time. Mathews has gotten 90 yards 82 percent of the time but 130 yards only 12 percent of the time.  

6. Among 18 active running backs who’ve had at least 15 games with 20 or more carries, only Jamaal Charles (86 percent) and Arian Foster (84 percent) have rushed for 90 yards on a higher percentage of their 20-carry games than Mathews. Only two have a lower percentage than Shady – Frank Gore (57 percent) and Matt Forte (54 percent). Interesting.

7. Since 1983, 31 quarterbacks have been taken with a top-five pick. Only two of them haven’t started at least one game as a rookie — Philip Rivers (behind Drew Brees) and Carson Palmer (behind Jon Kitna). In fact, the last top-five pick who didn’t start at least 10 games his rookie season was JaMarcus Russell in 2007. The last 11 all started double-digits.

8. Hey, has anybody had any luck redeeming those free Ticketmaster vouchers? Every time I log on, everything is unavailable. Somebody is getting free tickets to something but it’s not me!

9. I don’t think it’s a good thing when 100 games into the season, Freddy Galvis is second on your team in RBIs.

10. But he is. Galvis has 37 ribbies, second-most on the Phils. That puts him on pace for 60 this year. Maikel Franco is on pace for 89 RBIs, but the Phillies are on pace to have just one guy with more than 60 RBIs for the first time in a non-strike-shortened season in nearly half a century — since 1968, when Dick Allen led the Phils with 90 RBIs and Cookie Rojas was second with 48.

11. Tommy Keene. Write down that name. Look him up. Check out his music. He’s brilliant. There is no reason he’s not as big as Tom Petty. Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you. But listen.

12. I honestly would not be surprised if Caleb Sturgis beats out Cody Parkey. Why? Because kickers are weird. They can look like Hall of Famers one year and inept the next year. Remember Paul McFadden? Alex Henery? The stats say Parkey wins the job and it’s not close. But when we’re talking about kickers, nothing ever surprises me.

13. Before we send rookie seventh-round corner Jalen Mills to Canton based on an impressive series of minicamps, remember … minicamp equals no pads. And no pads equals not really football. The kid certainly has skill and speed and confidence. But nothing counts until the pads go on this week. And we’ve all seen minicamp superstars who quickly come back to earth when the real stuff starts. That said, it will sure be fun watching Mills and all these other young cornerbacks sort themselves out over the next few weeks. With Mills, Eric Rowe, JaCorey Sheperd, Randall Evans and Denzel Rice, the Eagles have a promising group of young corners behind veterans like Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll and Ron Brooks. I still think Carroll and Rowe are your opening-day starters. But fair to say every spot at corner is up for grabs.

14. Weird that Billy Davis doesn’t have a job. Anywhere. You’d think he’d at least be a college linebacker coach somewhere. But maybe after the experience of the last three years, he just needed a break. I don’t think he coached very well here, especially last year, but I also don’t think last year’s defensive collapse was all his fault. He didn’t have a ton of talent to begin with. And the Eagles did have a top-10 defense halfway through the season. But nobody can coach a defense that’s forced to play 36 minutes a game.

15. Crazy that Brandon Graham, a draft pick in 2010, has now played under five defensive coordinators — Sean McDermott, Juan Castillo, Todd Bowles, Davis and Jim Schwartz. Five defensive coordinators in seven years.

16. You guys hear about Father John Misty Friday night at the Xponential Festival at Wiggins Park? Father John Misty (real name Joshua Tillman) is a hot-shot singer-songwriter who sells out mid-sized theaters everywhere he goes and shows up all the time on every rock critic’s Best Of list. Father John was booked to perform for 55 minutes at Xponential, but instead of performing he lectured the crowd incoherently about the Republican National Convention and the “meaningless of entertainment,” then played two songs — one unreleased, one a Leonard Cohen cover — before walking off the stage to a chorus of boos. A few people, mainly rock critics, defended the guy and called his performance “brilliant,” praising Tillman for not performing when his heart wasn’t in it and saying that’s the nature of art. Oh please. I’m sorry. There’s a time and a place for that sort of thing. A time and a place to make a statement. This wasn’t it. A lot of people paid a lot of money to hear the guy play music for nearly an hour, and he left all of them sorely confused and disappointed. He owes a lot of people a sincere apology.

17. Tim Showalter of the fantastic Philly band Strand of Oaks went after “Father John” brilliantly in a series of tweets: “Furthering your entertainment career by calling entertainment stupid. … Shows have saved my life. The stage is a privilege more importantly FANS are a privilege. Go on a lecture tour if you have so much to say…. Start a charity, work for habitat for humanity, volunteer, whatever. Be productive…. That's it. I love your music so much. But don't come to my town and insult my peoples intelligence.”

18. Was sitting around recently with some friends and started to wonder who has seen the most Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers in concert. I finished last with 26: Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, BB King, Beach Boys (Brian Wilson), Black Sabbath, Bobby Blue Bland, The Clash, Donovan, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Gabriel, Genesis, the Kinks, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Bonnie Raitt, Rascals, Lou Reed, REM, Rolling Stones, Linda Ronstadt, Santana, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, Muddy Waters, U2 and The Who. Go through the Hall of Fame list and figure out how many you’ve seen. I’ll bet it’s more than you think!

19. One thought on the credibility of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame: Joan Jett is in, Todd Rundgren is out. Get a clue, R&R Hall of Fame.

20. If it was up to me, smoking within a few feet of a child would be a crime.

21. Why is everything “curated” lately? What a pretentious word for “compiled” or “arranged” or “slapped together.” I mean … “Hey, I’m curating this week’s 25 Random Points today!” Who talks like that?

22. I like Sam Bradford more than most people. I think he’s a serviceable quarterback. My biggest issue with Bradford is his TD-INT ratio. He does a lot of things well but he doesn’t throw enough touchdowns and he throws too many interceptions. And those are really the two most-important stats for a quarterback. For his career, Bradford has thrown a touchdown every 29 pass attempts and an interception every 44 attempts. Among 156 quarterbacks who’ve thrown 1,000 passes since 1980, Bradford ranks 134th in TD percentage. So only 22 quarterbacks since 1980 have thrown touchdowns more infrequently. Among that group are Kent Graham, Steve Walsh, Rick Mirer, Dave Brown, Mike Pagel and Joey Harrington. Bradford has had three seasons (2010, 2012, 2015) where he’s thrown at least 500 passes and thrown 21 or fewer touchdowns. Only five other QBs in NFL history have had three such seasons.

23. This is kind of important. Because without getting the ball into the end zone, all the stats kind of don’t matter. There’s always been an excuse – new coach, new scheme, poor receivers – but the lack of TD passes has followed Bradford around his entire career, and I doubt it’s a coincidence.

24. One more Phillies point: After 51 of 81 home games, the Phillies are hitting .218 at Citizens Bank Park with an on-base percentage of .273 and an OPS of .627. Their home batting average is the worst by any MLB team since the Rangers hit .218 in 1972, their on-base percentage is the worst by any team at home since at least 1913 (as far back as baseball-reference.com goes), and their .627 home OPS is also worst by any MLB team since 1913. Barring a significant reversal in the last 30 home games, the Phillies could wind up as the worst-hitting team at home in the last 100 years.

25. I’ve always thought an Andy Reid press conference was just about the most boring thing imaginable. Then I started to see Doug Pederson press conferences and I’ve already changed my mind.