Phils 2 Games Out of First...

Phils 2 Games Out of First...

Yep. Thanks to a sweep of the once mighty Chicago White Sox at home, the Phillies are now tied with the Braves at 2 games back of the Mets. Beating up on the White Sox helps, but the recent rise in the NL East standings probably has more to do with the Mets and Braves both falling apart and coming back to the middle. Over their last 10 games, the Mets are 1-9, the Braves are 3-7, and the Phillies are 7-3 (imagine if they could have taken that Royals series...).

The Mets have been hampered by some injuries, but so have the Phillies, with Brett Myers and Tom Gordon leaving the bullpen to El Pulpo and the boys and Freddy Garcia's spot in the rotation going to Double-A arm Kyle Kendrick. Surprisingly, the Phillies haven't looked as horrible as you might think, especially against Ozzie Guillen's club to start the week. Of course, the White Sox are the least productive offense in baseball (can you believe that?), but it's good to see that the Phillies didn't fall to the occasion, with Chase Utley and Aaron Rowand taking a torch to Guillen's job security. It's not too early to start the MVP chants, by the way.

Up next are the Detroit Tigers, who come to town for a weekend series starting tomorrow. And yes, the Phils will face Justin Verlander, who notched a no-hitter in his last appearance. Kid is good. Look for him on Sunday against Adam Eaton, who just threw 7 innings of shutout ball and has won 4 of his last 5 starts. Friday we'll see Jon Lieber take on Jeremy Bonderman, and on Saturday Jamie Moyer will face youngin Andrew Miller.

A quick look at the numbers shows the Phillies leading the NL in runs, OBP, and OPS (the best markers of offensive success), and 2nd in slugging and steals. I can't believe it. The Phillies are second in steals? Billy Beane might not think they matter much, but I love to see that spirit on the base paths. Utley is tied for the league lead in RBI, and Cole Hamels has an NL-best 9 wins and the most strikeouts in the majors at 104.

The Mets have to play the white-hot Yankees this weekend, so by the time your ass hits the desk chair on Monday, the Phillies could be in first place. Or third. The Tigers are pretty good too.

Former Eagle Byron Maxwell benched by Dolphins

Former Eagle Byron Maxwell benched by Dolphins

Dolphins cornerback Byron Maxwell is not starting tonight against the Bengals. Maxwell, who the Eagles traded this past offseason, was already seeing his playing time diminish. Now, he will sit in favor of Tony Lippett, who has not seen a single snap for the Dolphins this season.

The Eagles big trade this offseason keeps getting better and better.  They acquired the 8th overall pick in the draft in exchange for the 13 overall pick, Maxwell and Kiko Alonzo. Not only were they able to rid themselves of Maxwell’s awful contract, but they were able to get value for a player who is now not considered an NFL starter. 

The 8th overall pick that the Eagles acquired from Miami was flipped to the Browns among other picks to move up to number two. As you may know, that number two pick became offensive rookie of the month Carson Wentz. 

At the time of the trade, Maxwell originally failed his physical due to a shoulder injury. It was reported that the shoulder was so bad that he could not perform a simple pushup, but the Dolphins traded for him anyway.

The Byron Maxwell trade was the stepping stone for the Eagles to land their quarterback of the future, and this news can only make them feel better about the move. Howie Roseman had an incredible offseason cleaning up the mess Chip Kelly left behind, and Maxwell’s benching will certainly help his case for executive of the year. 

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- Brett Brown left training camp last September with an unsettling feeling. He had just completed long days of scrimmages, drills and planning, and yet he sensed the Sixers were not ready to tackle the 82 games that lied ahead. 

“I remember driving back to Philadelphia last year knowing in my heart of heart that this group was going to be challenged,” Brown said Thursday following the morning practice session at Stockton University. “That was a frightening drive home. That drive home scared me because I felt like, I know what we have and how are we going to be able to maneuver through this?”

Brown was right. The Sixers lost their first 18 games and began the season 1-30. They stumbled the rest of the way, finishing the 2016-17 campaign with a dismal 10-72 record. 

“We really didn’t know who the point guard was,” Brown said. “We came in extremely injured, we were trying to make the Nerlens (Noel) - Jahlil (Okafor) thing work, there really weren’t a lot of veterans to look around [and see], and you knew it.”

Now in his fourth training camp as head coach, with 47 wins and 199 losses with the Sixers behind him, Brown has different emotions as the team nears the end of training camp on Friday. 

Instead of a constantly-changing lineup of players, the Sixers are building a roster that can serve as the foundation for the future. There are nine new players on the team, including first overall pick Ben Simmons and rookie Dario Saric. Joel Embiid will make his NBA debut after two years of injuries, and the Sixers added veteran leaders in free agency.

Brown has a clearer picture of what the team could look like this season and beyond. He is coaching training camp to enter a new chapter, not to simply make it through the upcoming months. 

“You can leave and you can sniff reality,” Brown said. “Now what I see is there’s depth. There are challenges positionally as we’ve talked about. But there’s talent. There’s point guards. They’re sprinkled in with some veterans. How we grow it and play it is still on the table. To me, it’s a completely different feeling that I have now that I did not have last year.”

The additions of Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez at the one spot lessen the coaching load for Brown. He also can turn to T.J. McConnell from last season. The depth is a far cry from when the Sixers were quickly changing at that position and didn’t find a consistent starter until they traded for Ish Smith in late December.

“That position, I think, is vital when you start putting a bunch of 20-year-olds around it and trying to find some type of organization,” Brown said. “You just can’t replace a point guard’s intellect. You can’t replace, I think, somebody that has great command from that position. It certainly helps me.”

Brown expects to feel “proud” when the Sixers wrap training camp on Friday. He is looking forward to getting the season underway, beginning with two practices at the new training complex in Camden before their first preseason game Oct. 4 against the Celtics. 

Brown anticipates his drive home this time will be a much different trip. 

“I feel comfortable that we’re ticking boxes and we’re achieving the goals that we set out from the start of what we wanted to get done in Stockton,” he said.

The Sixers continued to monitor load management on Thursday, as Okafor, Embiid and Gerald Henderson did not participate in the morning scrimmage. Bayless also did not go through the scrimmage because of a sore left wrist.