Taking the First Jump: Cliff Goes for the Block in Phillies Debut

Taking the First Jump: Cliff Goes for the Block in Phillies Debut

Nobody but nobody sweeps the Phillies in July. This has been our month, with a 19-7 record overall, punctuated by sweeps of our own over the Mets, the Pirates and the Marlins. We've gone from a team barely above .500 to one of the league's elite. To finish it on the bad end of the broom, wielded by the team we'd be facing in the playoffs if the season ended today, is simply not acceptable.

How fortuitous, then, that we should be sending our new co-ace--our #1A starter, if you will--to the mound tonight. With the Phillies in a comfortable lead over the Marlins in the NL East, it seems unlikely that Cliff will have to pitch any legitimately pressure-packed games in the oncoming weeks--and hell, we'd certainly prefer it that way. But tonight will be a good fake-test of Mr. Cliff Lee's big game ability--if he can give the Phils the rock-solid start they'll need to emerge victorious in a ballpark and against a pitching staff that's been none too friendly to them this series.

Personally, I'm excited. Perhaps one day 40-50 years from now, we will all tell our grandkids about the time we watched Cliff Lee pitch his first game in a Phillies uniform--his first start in a decade-long tenure with the team, one which involved four Cy Young awards, two World Series MVPs, the first no-hitter ever to be thrown at Citizens Bank Park, a record-setting ten-home-run season at the plate, and a bizarre wild pitch that somehow managed to break three fingers and a thumb on David Wright's left hand, prematurely ending his season. Here's hoping it all starts today.

10:15 tonight at ATT Park. I'm ready for the plunge.

NHL Notes: Islanders fire head coach Jack Capuano

NHL Notes: Islanders fire head coach Jack Capuano

The struggling New York Islanders fired coach Jack Capuano on Tuesday, ending his tenure in the middle of its seventh season.

General manager Garth Snow named assistant GM/coach Doug Weight as Capuano's interim replacement. Snow told reporters Tuesday that the Islanders weren't where they wanted to be in the standings and that everyone's disappointed in their performance his season.

"At the end of the day organizationally I don't think Jack was probably going to be a coach that we were going to bring back," Snow said, adding that the team will begin a full-time coaching search now.

Snow said the halfway point of the season played a role in the timing of firing Capuano a day after beating the Boston Bruins 4-0. The Islanders were 17-17-8 and are in last place in the Eastern Conference with 42 points.

Capuano had been behind the Islanders bench since 2010 and was the fourth-longest tenured coach in the NHL behind Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins, Joel Quenneville of the Chicago Blackhawks and Dave Tippett of the Arizona Coyotes. Capuano's 482 games and 227 wins rank second in franchise history behind four-time Stanley Cup-winning Hall of Fame coach Al Arbour.

"I don't know that Jack fell short of expectations," Snow said. "When you're a coach in this league sometimes you're a victim of different circumstances."

Snow signed Andrew Ladd to a $38.5 million, seven-year contract in July and the winger has been a disappointment with 12 points in 41 games. The Islanders have also dealt with some injuries and waived veteran goaltender Jaroslav Halak to send him to the minors.

The Islanders under Capuano went 227-194-64 and made three playoff appearances. They have not lived up to playoff expectations this season and new majority owner Jon Ledecky is expected to consider major organizational changes this offseason.

Snow said he takes "100 percent" responsibility for the underachievement but that he doesn't worry about his own job security. He said he has full confidence in Weight, the coaching staff and players to "turn this ship around."

Weight, 45, has been with the Islanders in an executive and coaching capacity since retiring in 2011. Snow said his relationship with all players, including Ladd, was positive and that he called captain John Tavares and others to inform them of the "organizational decision" to fire Capuano.

Snow said assistant coach Bob Corkum would move down from the press box to the bench as part of the restructuring.

Mike Tomlin: Antonio Brown 'foolish, selfish' for locker room live stream

Mike Tomlin: Antonio Brown 'foolish, selfish' for locker room live stream

PITTSBURGH — The father in Mike Tomlin regrets the language he used to describe the New England Patriots during the postgame speech Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown's opted to livestream on social media after a taut playoff victory over Kansas City.

The coach in Tomlin has just as big an issue with one of his team's biggest stars forcing the Steelers to talk about something other than trying to find a way to finally beat Tom Brady when it counts.

A characteristically blunt Tomlin called Brown's decision to broadcast more than 17 minutes of Pittsburgh's giddy locker room to the world -- a move that caught Tomlin using a handful of profanities -- over Kansas City "foolish," "selfish" and "inconsiderate."

"Not only is it a violation of our policy, it's a violation of league policy, both of which he knows," Tomlin said Tuesday.

"So there are consequences to be dealt with from his perspective. We will punish him. We won't punish us."

Tomlin took responsibility for his choice of words, though he was unaware of being filmed as he spoke.

During Tomlin's brief remarks he attached an expletive to the Patriots, who earned a full day's head start on the Steelers by virtue of beating Houston on Saturday night, 24 hours before Pittsburgh outlasted Kansas City 18-16.

"The responsibility associated with being in this thing, just from a role model standpoint, it's something that I personally embrace," Tomlin said.

"It's something that we as a team and organization embrace. So that's why the language, specifically, in terms of the content, is regrettable."

So too is the action of the talented if sporadically diva-like Brown. The former sixth-round pick has evolved from raw project into one of the NFL's best wide receivers.

This season he became only the second player in league history to post four consecutive 100-catch seasons.

His work ethic is universally lauded even as his Q-rating has skyrocketed. Brown can be found on TV pitching everything from soda to credit cards to video games.

The player who -- for reasons he hasn't yet disclosed -- occasionally refers to himself as "Ronald " also has a devoted social media presence, with more than 1.5 million following on Instagram and another 650,000 on Facebook, many of whom got an eyeful and an earful as the Steelers celebrated their first trip to the AFC title game in six years.

While Tomlin has "very little concern" about the content of the video, he has plenty of concern over Brown's lack of judgment.

"You wear on your teammates when they routinely have to answer questions about things that aren't preparation or football-related," Tomlin said.

"It's our desire for him and for everyone to be great teammates, as well as great players. He is a great player. He is a hardworking player. He is respected, largely, in the locker room for those things. But incidences such as this, don't help him in that regard."

The Steelers have grown accustomed to Brown's flights of fancy, whether it's posing for the Mannequin challenge while meeting with reporters, wearing eye-opening (and fine threatening) cleats or his over-the-top touchdown celebrations.

The fallout this time around has been mixed. Long snapper Greg Warren said Monday "AB is AB, he can do what he wants to do."

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger expressed disappointment in Brown during Roethlisberger's weekly appearance on 93.7 The Fan.

Either way, the fact they were forced to respond to questions about Brown before the biggest game of the season only reinforces Tomlin's point, though Tomlin stressed Brown is hardly the only athlete capable of becoming a distraction.

"Those things don't apply exclusively to Antonio," Tomlin said. "It's a global thing in regards to professional sports. I think that's why oftentimes you see great players move around from team to team.

"And I definitely don't want that to be his story. I am sure he doesn't want that to be his story. So, he has to address these things that put him and us in positions from time to time, in settings such as this, where it needs to be addressed."

Tomlin didn't outline the internal discipline Brown faces other than to say it will not affect his availability this weekend.

New England (15-2) pulled away from the Steelers (13-5) in the second half of a 27-16 victory in Pittsburgh on Oct. 23, a game Roethlisberger missed while recovering from surgery on his left knee.

Roethlisberger will be around this time. And so will Brown, who will almost certainly have his phone turned off late Sunday evening regardless of the outcome.

"He has to grow from this," Tomlin said. "He has to."

Notes
LB James Harrison is dealing with shoulder and triceps injuries and could be limited early in the week. ... TE Ladarius Green remains in the concussion protocol more than three weeks after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit against Cincinnati.