Time for Some Phillies Baseball

Time for Some Phillies Baseball

It's been a pretty crazy day around these parts with that exciting news and all. Thank you all for the support, by the way. It's much appreciated. Matt's actually down in Florida already and I'm literally running out the door right now to catch a flight to Tampa en route to Clearwater for a few days of Phillies baseball. So you'll have that to look forward to. Before I hop on 95 to the airport, our boy Rev wanted to wax poetic on what it's like to be a Phillies fan these days. You know, before Placido hurt his knee. These are the Rev's words.

As
our fearless leaders Enrico and Matt P. head down to Clearwater for
spring training I thought it’d be appropriate to write a Phillies-related
post. It’s nearly impossible to not have a good time down there. I
couldn’t possibly give them any Clearwater-related tips or advice
other than to say appreciate it. Which, going forward, is the same advice
I’d give to all Phillies fans.  What do I mean by that? Without
going all Peter King on you I’ll try to explain.

I don’t think too many people would disagree that we’re in the midst
of a golden era in Phillies baseball. They enter this season having
been to consecutive World Series. They’re also three time defending
National League East champions. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy
Rollins are the best players in franchise history at their respective
positions. As a result of their success fans have flocked to Citizen’s
Bank Park in staggering numbers (3.6 million last season – including
73 sellouts).

Needless
to say, these are not the same Phillies that players used to put at
the top of their no trade list. Nothing illustrates this better than
the fact that Roy Halladay wanted to come here, and in so doing
was willing to give up the chance to explore free agency. He wanted
to be here so much that he signed a contract extension…for below market
value…with the Phillies.  Considering where they came
from the fact that the Phillies have morphed into a winning organization,
with a beautiful ballpark, and are an organization that players want
to play for is nothing short of stunning.

Since
it is relevant I suppose I should mention that I am 34 years old. As
a kid and then teenager I was accustomed to the Phillies trotting out
overpaid and underperforming free agents (Parrish, Lance; Jefferies,
Gregg), overhyped farmhands (Chamberlain, Wes; Combs, Pat), and in over
their head managers (Leyva, Nick; Francona, Terry). I never could have
envisioned a day where the Phillies would be mentioned as one of the
top organizations in baseball. They were a mom and pop operation run
by a nice man with white hair (Bill Giles) who was the designated sacrificial
lamb for a Keyser Söze-like secretive ownership group. They played
in a 66,000 seat 2/3rds-plus empty multi-purpose stadium (between 1989
and 1999 they averaged approximately 26,200 fans per home game). It
was bleak. As Henry Hill in Goodfellas said after the helicopters follow
him everywhere - as he realizes he’s going to lose everything - “these
were the bad times”. That’s what it was like to follow the Phillies
then. And now? Now life is good.

In
light of all of this history, and looking back at the offseason, with
the trade of Cliff Lee and the acquisition of Roy Halladay, it was stunning
to me that we spent the winter analyzing how the Phils would match up
with the Yankees in a presumptive World Series rematch. We didn’t
even give the regular season a thought. Another National League pennant
was assumed. I was just as guilty as everyone else. However, now that
we’re in the lull between the start of spring training and the start
of the regular season I’ve had a chance to reexamine things and regain
perspective on how incredible a run it has been, and will hopefully
continue to be over the next few years.

I
know I’ve been spoiled by all this success.  However, I don’t
want to look back ten years from now and regret not having truly appreciated
each and every time this core group of players takes the field together.
I lived through a 6-4-3 of Thon-to-Herr-to-Jordan. As a result, I don’t
want to look past however many more Rollins-to-Utley-to-Howard’s we
may have. We’ve gone from Person and Wolf at the top of the rotation
to Halladay and Hamels. How about from Milt Thompson and Phil Bradley
to Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth? It borders on unfathomable just
how far they have come. Do you realize there are kids out there who
have no idea about what it’s like to suffer through a 90+ loss season?
The Phillies have finished above .500 eight times between 2000 and 2009
(they were 65-97 in 2000 and 80-81 in 2002).

Now,
by no means do I wish the lean years would come back. It’s an absolute
joy to follow a winning team. What I am saying is that it’s not always
going to be like this. And, as a result, we need to appreciate just
how successful and rare an era of Phillies baseball we’re all witnessing.
While it’s absolutely justifiable to wonder why they couldn’t have
hung on to Cliff Lee and acquired Roy Halladay, realize how rare it
is in the history of this franchise to even be faced with such a dilemma.

So,
as they prepare to head north for the season opener in Washington on
April 5th take a moment and look at the lineup Charlie posts
that day. Halladay on the mound, Jimmy aggressively swinging at the
first pitch, Polanco putting his bat on the ball, Chase gathering himself
before making the throw to first, the Big Man pointing his bat towards
the pitcher, Werth going yard a pitch after he went down to a knee after
swinging through a fastball, Raul feasting on Nationals pitching, Shane
legging out an infield dribbler, and Chooch kicking his leg out Tony
Pena-style. My advice?  Appreciate it.

Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

uspresswire-sixers-ilyasova-rodriguez.jpg
USA Today Images

Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

BOX SCORE

NEW ORLEANS -- Joel Embiid shot just 5 for 15 from the field and the Sixers … wait … the Sixers won. 

Surprising? Actually, that’s just how the Sixers envision finding success.

It’s not about Embiid having a relatively quiet night on offense with 14 points, especially going 0 for 5 from three. It’s about other players getting involved and taking the burden off the rookie. Embiid has proved he can do a lot of things, but carrying a team each night in his first season isn’t what the Sixers have in mind. 

“I think that’s when we’re at our best,” Nik Stauskas said after the Sixers beat the Pelicans 99-88 (see Instant Replay). “Obviously there are a few guys in the NBA like a LeBron (James), KD (Kevin Durant) or Steph (Curry) that can single-handedly win a game throughout the entire season. But most of the teams are going to rely on bench players to step up and make shots and make plays. I think that’s when we’re most effective.”

Embiid entered Thursday night averaging 24.3 points and shooting 48.9 percent in Sixers wins (three games played). His 14 points against the Pelicans were his fewest in a victory this season. He also grabbed seven boards with four blocks and three steals as the team snapped an overall eight-game losing skid and an 23-game road losing streak. 

Instead of being powered offensively by their centerpiece, the Sixers received solid efforts from the starters and reserves. Ersan Ilyasova scored 23 points (along with eight rebounds) for the second straight game. Sergio Rodriguez chipped in 16 points and eight assists. Off the bench,  Stauskas hit three treys en route to 14 points while Dario Saric scored 10 points with five rebounds. 

Embiid’s teammates attribute their success to the fact he is such a focal point of the opponents’ defense. In comparison to the beginning of the season when Embiid was getting stifled by double-teams, he has been learning how to pass out of them. Embiid expects to see two defenders every game and has been making adjustments to create opportunities for others to shoot rather than committing turnovers. 

“We’re not standing around a lot and just focusing on what Jo can do,” Robert Covington said. “Jo is making great moves to find guys that are open. He’s willing to pass. We’re starting to build the chemistry that everyone’s been looking for.”

Ilyasova has noticed a change in the flow of the offense and has capitalized on defensive mismatches when opponents swarm Embiid. 

“We just share the ball well,” Ilyasova said. “I find myself open. Obviously Joel does a great job of as far as when there is a double-team, just kicking out. When I see the open look, I try to knock that shot down.” 

This style of play is mutually beneficial for both Embiid and his teammates. Just because Embiid is passing out doesn't mean he's not getting his looks. Oftentimes, dishing out of a double-team allows him to get a better look on the next touch. 

“It’s a team effort," Covington said. "We’re doing so much as a unit that we’re not just focusing on just get Jo the ball and let him do his thing. He’s getting the ball, he’s surveying the floor and then he’s making his moves. He’s reading the defense really well. He’s doing a lot of [kicking out]. Then we find him a lot of re-posts and finding the open shot and making it easy for him to find the easy bucket.” 

Embiid is capable of scoring 20-plus in spite of his 28-minute restriction. The Sixers are making strides, though, by finding ways to win when he isn’t the running up the scoreboard. 

“I think there’s no doubt Jo is our best player and our offense is going to revolve around him most of the time,” Stauskas said. “But we’re playing our best when he’s posting up and kicking out to guys and they’re hitting threes or we’re taking pressure off him by making plays and the defense can’t just be solely focused on him. In a game like tonight, that’s kind of what you saw.”

Connor McDavid: Brandon Manning made 'classless' comments about injury

Connor McDavid: Brandon Manning made 'classless' comments about injury

Connor McDavid scored his first power-play goal of the season in the second period during the Flyers' 6-5 win on Thursday night (see Instant Replay). After his 12th goal of the year, McDavid made a point to stare down and exchange words with Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning.

In the first period, Manning and McDavid were in the middle of a scrum after the whistle, chirping each other (see 10 observations). The battle between the two roots back to when Manning broke the rising superstar’s collarbone November 2015 during a play against the boards in Edmonton.

“You know what, I did all I could defending him last year in the media," McDavid said after Thursday's game. "I didn’t want to make a big deal saying he did it on purpose.

"He wanted to make some comments today about what went on last year and I thought it was one of the classless things I’ve ever seen on the ice. He said some things and our guys responded accordingly.

"We can put the whole 'he did it on purpose' thing to rest, because what he said out there confirmed that. It shows what kind of guy he is, how he doesn’t step up and fight some of our guys.”

Manning received death threats from Edmonton fans last season, and responded after the game Thursday, reiterating the play that injured McDavid was an accident.

"I think anybody who knows me or who has played with or against me along the road here," Manning said, "knows that I am not that kind of player. I am not out there intentionally trying to hurt people. I'm a guy who plays the game hard and I take pride in that.

"I think going back to last year, it was a total accident. I mean, there were three players involved and there was never any intention of hurting anyone."

The injury ended up costing McDavid a few months, and a year later, the tension is still high between him and Manning.

As the second period moved along, McDavid continued to make plays for the Oilers. At the 4:35 mark in the second period, he took the puck away from the Flyers and then helped set up Andrej Sekera for a shorthanded goal that tied the game, 3-3.

The shorthanded goal helped give the Oilers momentum at the end of the period, but they could not carry it over to the third. The loss Thursday is the second night in a row in which Edmonton lost a game it looked like it was going to win.

“I’m not too sure what it is but I think we will figure it out,” McDavid said. "I’m not too sure what it is, like I said before. Something we need to figure out real fast here.”