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.

Flyers returning from World Cup enjoyed playoff-like atmosphere

Flyers returning from World Cup enjoyed playoff-like atmosphere

VOORHEES, N.J. – It’s as if the season began right where it left off for the handful of Flyers players that participated in the World Cup of Hockey. 

Five months removed from their first round series with Washington, the group that played in the international tournament says it was nearly identical to the tempo they saw in the NHL playoffs.

“Our division was really tight so right from the get-go you couldn’t afford to lose a game,” said Sean Couturier, who suited up for North America. “It definitely felt like playoffs, and it definitely didn’t feel like September.”

Couturier was joined by his World Cup teammate Shayne Gostisbehere, along with Team Czech Republic’s Jake Voracek and Michael Neuvirth, in their return to Voorhees for their first practice with the Flyers on Monday. Team Canada’s Claude Giroux and the Team Europe duo of Mark Streit and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare will be competing in the finals this week.

While it may have been an early exit for the first wave of Flyers who reported back, the experience of playing in a tournament with that high of intensity has left them more confident than they’ve ever felt at this time of the year, particularly for Gostisbehere. 

The Calder Trophy runner-up underwent offseason hip surgery following his 46-point season. Having missed a season two years ago because of a torn ACL, Gostisbehere is thankful for how much the World Cup prepared him for his second year. He says he feels better now than he ever has in his career after picking up four assists in the tournament.

“You don’t play in those games in September normally so it was pretty cool to do,” Gostisbehere said. “I think the tournament was a good stepping stone for me and to branch off my injury and give yourself the confidence that you’re feeling good for the year.”

Like Couturier and Gostisbehere, Voracek said the World Cup gameplay mirrored that of the NHL postseason. 

“When I look at the season for the Flyers, it was the best thing that could have happened for me,” Voracek said. “The World Cup was high level… I’m six games in before training camp even starts.”

After what he calls a “good offseason” of training, Voracek saw this opportunity as almost a saving grace – a chance to regain form before embarking on his sixth season in Philadelphia. The winger had one goal and one assist in three games that “felt like I was playing in the playoffs.”

Had this tournament occurred in 2015, the mindset coming back may have been different. Dave Hakstol was coaching his first professional season and as evidenced by their record to start the year and the comments made throughout, things took a little longer than expected when it came to picking up the new coach’s system.

That process is behind the Flyers, and it makes missing the first weekend of camp and possibly the first week of preseason games an easier obstacle to overcome.

“It’s always better when you know the system and what Hak wants in you,” Voracek said. “It’s obviously going to get better and better.”

The best-of-three World Cup finals will begin on Tuesday with the third game (if needed) commencing on Saturday. If the teams go the full distance, the remaining three Flyers involved would likely not play their first preseason game until October 6 if not October 8, the final exhibition game. 

Carson Wentz By the Numbers: Not much precedent for this success

Carson Wentz By the Numbers: Not much precedent for this success

The way Carson Wentz is playing, we may have to make this a regular feature.

Generally, when an Eagles quarterback plays lights out, we pull out the [Insert Name Here] By the Numbers.

We did it for Nick Foles after his seven-touchdown game against the Raiders, we did it for Sam Bradford a couple times late last year, we did it for Michael Vick a couple times during his hot 2010 season.

With Wentz? This might have to happen every week.

He's been that good.

So here is this week's Carson Wentz By the Numbers. Don't be surprised if you see it again very soon.

• Wentz is the first rookie in NFL history to have a game in which he completed 74 percent of his passes with 300 yards, two or more touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s also only the fourth Eagle to have such a game. Randall Cunningham did it against the Giants in 1988, Donovan did it four times (in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007) and Nick Foles did it against the Raiders with his historic seven-TD game in 2013.

• Wentz is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 30 or more passes with no interceptions in each of his first three career games.

• Wentz’s 73-yard TD pass to Darren Sproles was the longest touchdown pass by an Eagles rookie since John Reaves' 77-yarder to Harold Carmichael against the Giants at Yankee Stadium in 1972.

• Wentz is only the second quarterback in NFL history to be 3-0 three games into his rookie year. The other one is former Eagle and current Cowboy Mark Sanchez, who opened his career in 2009 with wins over the Texans, Patriots and Titans. Sanchez then lost six of his next seven starts.

• Wentz is the fourth quarterback to win his first three NFL starts (not necessarily as rookies). That list includes Wentz, Sanchez, 35-year-old Dieter Brock of the Rams in 1985 (who had played a decade in the CFL) and Marc Bulger of the Rams in 2002 (in his third NFL season).

• Among quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 100 passes in their career, Wentz now has the second-highest passer rating in NFL history at 103.8. He trails only Aaron Rodgers’ 104.0 figure. The only other quarterback over 100 is Russell Wilson, at 101.1.

• Wentz’s 125.9 passer rating Sunday against the Steelers is highest ever by an Eagles rookie. The previous high was A.J. Feeley’s 114.0 mark against Tampa in 2001. But Feeley didn’t start that game. So the previous high by a rookie Eagles starter was John Reaves’ 105.7 rating against the Browns in 1972.

• Wentz has already tied Mike Boryla’s franchise record for most wins by a rookie quarterback. Boryla won three games in 1974. Since then, Eagles rookie quarterbacks were a combined 5-21.  

• Wentz’s 102 pass attempts without an interception are the most in NFL history by a rookie in his first three games. Second-most are Dak Prescott’s current streak of 99 attempts. The record before Wentz and Prescott came along was 86 by Chad Hutchinson of the Cowboys in 2002.

• It was widely reported that Wentz had broken the NFL record for most pass attempts without an interception to begin a career at 102. But he actually has the second-longest streak. Tom Brady began his career with 147 attempts without an interception before getting picked off by safety Eric Brown of the Broncos in his seventh career game.  

• Wentz's 103.8 passer rating is third-highest in NFL history by a quarterback three games into his rookie year. His trails only Greg Cook of the Bengals (111.9 in 1969) and Marcus Mariota of the Titans (110.3 last year). Robert Griffin III (103.5 with the Redskins in 2012) and Jacky Lee (102.5 with the Oilers in 1960) are the only other quarterbacks over 100 after Week 3 of their rookie season (based on a minimum of 50 attempts).

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