The Best Phillies Team Ever? How About the 2010 Squad

The Best Phillies Team Ever? How About the 2010 Squad

Dan Podheiser is a writer for NESN.com but a Phillies fan at heart. These are his words and opinions.

Following a loss to the Florida Marlins on August 9, 2009, the Philadelphia Phillies were 61-48, 13 games over .500. Flash forward one year later, and the Phillies sit at 62-49, once again 13 games over .500.

In that 12-3 loss to Josh Johnson and the Fish a year ago, the Phillies had all eight of their Opening Day position players in the lineup at one point (Jayson Werth and Carlos Ruiz came in as substitutions during the game). Five of those players -- Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez and Werth -- were in the midst of All-Star seasons.

Throughout the 2009 season, I considered the 2009 Phillies -- even though they didn’t win the World Series -- the greatest Phillies team ever assembled. But as it stands on August 10, 2010, I think I have to change my proclamation.

The 2010 Phillies are the greatest baseball team ever to take the field in Philadelphia.

This year’s team has depth like nothing this town has ever seen. The Phillies have gone 6-1 since Ryan Howard went on the DL. The team is currently missing its two best players, with a total of three All-Stars unavailable.

And yet, thanks to “bench players” like Ben Francisco and Ross Gload, the Phillies are right where they were in 2009. I add the quotes because, were they not playing in Philadelphia, these guys would be bona fide starters.

Imagine what kind of team this will be when Utley, Howard and Victorino come back, which should be right in time for Philly’s grueling, seven-game West Coast road trip at the end of August.

The starting lineup will have seven guys who have made an All-Star team. The only player who hasn’t, Carlos Ruiz, has a .389 on-base percentage.

The bench will feature guys like Francisco, Gload and Wilson Valdez, who have all made outstanding contributions at key moments. Then there’s Mike Sweeney, who has made five All-Star teams and, even though he’s at the end of his career, is still one of the smartest hitters in the game. Domonic Brown has shown that he can hit in the big leagues. And don’t forget Brian Schneider, whose veteran experience -- not to mention timely hitting -- makes him one of the most valuable backup catchers in the league.

Then there’s the rotation. At the beginning of the season, it was apparent that Roy Halladay would be an ace pitching in the National League for the first time, but the rest of the rotation was a big question mark.

Not anymore. Cole Hamels -- who is the victim of some of the worst run support Philadelphia has ever seen – has pitched lights-out ball for the past three months. And Roy Oswalt? Well, let’s just say that nobody wants to face Philly’s three-headed monster in a playoff series.

As for the bullpen, a lot of the team’s ninth inning success relies, unfortunately, on Brad Lidge’s right arm. However, 2010’s version of “The Bridge to Lidge” is outstanding. Ryan Madson has come back from his freak toe injury with great success, and looks like the shutdown setup man that he was in 2008 and 2009. Jose Contreras has been an elderly beast in the seventh and eighth innings all year, and J.C. Romero is still one of the best lefty specialists in the game.

The 2009 Phillies went on to win 93 games in the regular season, as they went a crisp 32-21 after August 9.

With 51 games left, the Phils would have to go 31-20 in order to match last year’s regular season win total. But when the hottest team in baseball is getting ready to add its two best players back to the mix, don’t be surprised if the 2010 Phillies cruise to another NL East title.

Elton Brand on national anthem protests: Sixers working with NBA, having 'discussions internally'

Elton Brand on national anthem protests: Sixers working with NBA, having 'discussions internally'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Pockets of NBA players have increasingly started to speak up about what they believe to be racial and social injustices taking place in the United States.

With San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the national anthem sparking protests from other players around the NFL and various sports, now the NBA as a whole is preparing for potential protests prior to games.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association union executive director Michele Roberts came together last week to formulate a joint letter to players to express how the two sides plan to take "meaningful action."

Whatever that action is, Sixers veteran Elton Brand is all for it and the overall discussion of issues going on around the country.

"There are e-mails and direct texts from the NBPA. We’re working with the NBA. They’re going to talk to us soon,” Brand said. “My thing is if you want to stand up for something, that’s a good thing. Especially in America, the tensions and the injustices that are going on right now. 

“Even in our locker room we’re discussing who feels like this, who feels like what and ways that we can display how we feel about things. I’m all for it. I stand behind it and stand with other athletes and people that want to stand for a cause. Whatever their cause is, they want to stand for a cause. Our cause may be different.”

The NBA is significantly more diverse than the NFL, and Brand even admitted it’s been an eye-opening experience having talks about issues affecting African Americans inside a locker room with players from around the globe.

“We have a lot of international players,” he said. “I’m looking around the room and there are seven people that aren’t from this country. So you talk about the flag, talk about the constitution and to them it’s like, ‘I represent America because I’m working here, but I’m pro-Spain and I have problems there, too.’ We’re all sorting it out. We’ve had discussions internally also. I’m looking forward to what the NBPA and the NBA have to offer."

What the league and players association come up with will likely serve as something other than protesting during the actual anthem. Unlike the NFL, the NBA has a rule in place that explicitly states players, coaches and trainers must stand on the foul line or sidelines in a dignified posture during the playing of national anthems.

If Sixers players do ultimately decide on some sort of protest before games, they will have the support of the organization to express their rights.

"We haven't been together collectively long enough to have a real robust discussion about it," Sixers president Bryan Colangelo said. "I think we just addressed it briefly this morning with the players in an opportunity to say the following. Basically, we as an organization are going to be supportive of the views of our players. As the league and the players association formulate perhaps an approach, they've already circulated some information to teams. Things are probably still at the discussion phase. I hope to think that's where things are with our players, that they're still at the discussion phase. 

"Once again, I'm assuming that there will be a desire to express an opinion or viewpoint. I've always been supportive of people in society having freedom to express a viewpoint. Again, going back to the league and the players association, in a positive way I think they've always been out in front of some of these social issues and if they can affect social change in a positive way they probably will. You can just anticipate that there's still some unknowns to this, but you can estimate that we will be supportive as an organization as to how our players want to express their views."

Joel Embiid expects to play in Sixers' preseason opener

Joel Embiid expects to play in Sixers' preseason opener

CAMDEN, N.J. — The long wait could be over next week.

Joel Embiid expects to play in the Sixers' first preseason game Oct. 4 at UMass-Amherst against the Celtics, he said Monday at media day.

“The first thing for me is just get back on the court,” Embiid said of his expectations this season. “It looks like in a couple days I’m going to have the chance to do that.”

Embiid has missed the past two seasons since being drafted third overall because of foot injuries. Even though he is taking his rookie year one step at a time, he has a positive long-term outlook given how healthy he feels. 

“I’m confident that I’m going to have a long, successful career,” he said. “From what it looks like right now, I’m going to have a 20-year career.”

Embiid has grown as a player and a person during his recovery. He noted had he been competing in an 82-game season, he would not have had as much time to dedicate on his development. As a result of the specialized workouts and the hours he has spent in an individual practice format, he has improved his shooting and gained strength and speed. 

“What I was two years ago, I’m not even close to what I am right now,” he said. “My game has gotten so much better ... I’m not the same guy. I’m different.”

Embiid has been following a well-mapped out rehab plan during which he has had to adhere to restrictions, and will continue to do so this season. He admits the restrictions have been frustrating, but he now understands they are being implemented for his best interest long term. The lengthy recovery has forced him to change his outlook on maintaining his health. 

“The main thing I learned about myself is, I could be patient,” Embiid said. “When I was first doing my rehab, going through that, the only thing I thought about was getting back on the court. I would try to get back on the court and play more than I was supposed to. After the doctor [said] you had to heal well and I needed the second surgery, that’s when I told myself be patient and do whatever I can and make sure I listen to what people have to say.”

Head coach Brett Brown wants Embiid to become the “crown jewel” of the defense. Embiid, who stands at a towering 7-foot-2, 275 pounds, is ready to embrace those expectations. He has studied tape of Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing, among others. Embiid likes the game of Marc Gasol and appreciates how DeAndre Jordan communicates as a big man. 

“I love playing defense,” he said. “I hate when the other team scores.”

Embiid's debut will be the culmination of years of work. Now that the season is approaching, he is eager to count down the days. 

“I’m really excited,” Embiid said. “I’ve gone through a lot and it’s been two years. The fact that I’m healthy now and ready to get back on the court, I just can’t wait.”