Your 2007 Philadelphia Phillies

Your 2007 Philadelphia Phillies

March 26th,
2007: 11:30am -- I’m
walking out of my current office building on 19th and Market,
typical case of the Mondays. The biggest
decision of my miserable first day of the week was whether to spend a blogger’s
month salary for a shitty burrito at QDobba or roll the dice and go with my boy
Bob in the cart and his chicken pita special with the delicious mystery sauce for
two bucks and change. It was a gloomy
start to the week.

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quadrel, originally uploaded by damonabnormal

But then my day miraculously improved as I awaited the
street light to turn from red to green -- it seemingly wanted to stay red all
day. In an instant, a dozen cops cruised
by and shut down
Market Street. What the shit. I’m trying to get some lunch here. But then, the great red hope that is the 2007
Philadelphia Phillies came turning around the corner on the back of an early 20th
century firetruck. The Phillie Phanatic,
painted red, came cruising down the street to an uproar of cheers from the
lunch time folk who likely don’t even know who plays the hot corner for the
Fightins. For some strange reason, the
zooming fire engine slowed down as it approached. As my sorry ass stood at the corner, waiting
for the light to change from red, the Phillie Phanatic pointed at me and
laughed. I swear he did, I heard him.

It was then I realized this is going to be a fun summer.

Phillies fans have been rather positive the past few
off-seasons, hope abounds for the baseball team in South Philly when the
temperatures are freezing. The addition
of Freddy Garcia and the subtraction of Mike Lieberthal had fans all juiced
up. After all, we’ve got The Big Guy and
Chase. How can this team not be
successful?

We all fear it: the gloomy start in April, the streaky May
and June, the tease, and inevitably, the failure. We all fear it, but want to hop on for a ride
anyway. Cause after all, the ride is all
we know as Philly fans. 

Some things I think we need to keep in mind going
into opening day on Monday:

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strikeout, originally uploaded by Boston Fan in Michigan

Give Pat a
chance.
I think we can all agree
that Pat Burrell seems to be a little sensitive. The trigger happy fans are going to need to
make an effort to give him a chance. Maybe he won’t turn into the protection for Ryan Howard we’d all love to
see, but just give the guy a few at bats. We need the Pat Burrell who earned the name “Bat” and not the guy we
have come to know more as “Looking” or “Whiffed.”  He may be in there somewhere despite the gimpy
foot and poor eyes.  Just give him a
chance, at least through May or June. If
he strikes out with bases loaded, lay off the boo for a month or two. Come June or July, if Burrell isn’t
performing, then you can lay into him. But he’s fragile; we need to support him, at least early on. Hey, it couldn’t hurt. I think the type of season Burrell has will
be very indicative of how the Phils do. If they want to play into October, they’re going to need The Bat. Come on Pat! 

Run, Run, Run. Shane Victorino’s speed will certainly
give a jump start to the Phillies line up. With it looking like Michael Bourn will make the squad, the Phils will
have a speedster to come off the bench as well. Jimmy Rollins and others working with Davey Lopes on the bases could
really improve the chances of the Phillies having guys in scoring position. I think this should be a huge area of
improvement over last season.

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Mr. Chase Utley, originally uploaded by Fen Branklin

Chase, Jimmy, The Big Guy, and Cole. I can’t remember any team I’ve ever rooted for having such a stellar
core of young talent. If these guys
don’t get you excited about watching baseball every night, you’re probably at
the wrong website. I hope people
realize, I was joking on Wednesday when I commented on Ryan Howard’s
spring. The slow start they’re off to in

Florida could be a blessing in
disguise. Granted, nobody should be
playing sloppy down there, but I think they’ve tempered expectations a
bit. I’m looking for Chase to have an
MVP caliber season and Cole Hamels to turn into one of the games elite. If that doesn’t happen, the Phillies aren’t
winning anything.

Gillick and his Pen. The
currently 6 man rotation looks like it should be quality. I’m curious to see how Garcia turns out. To me, he is one of the biggest question
marks on the squad. He could be a stud,
a bust, or something in between. Let’s
hope something closer to stud. The pen,
of course, is where most of the questions lie. The first few months should be interesting. There is virtually no chance that the bullpen
will look the same in August as it does today and how this unfolds could be a
key to Gillick’s legacy in Philly.

Don’t Suck in April. We’re
amped and ready to go. J-Roll started
the talk early, but can they deliver? They will learn real quick with the stacked schedule in April and how
they come out of the first month of the season will surely set the tone of fans
all summer. It’s a scary month, with plenty
of uncertainty. We’ll know a whole lot
more about what this team is really made of come May. 

Expect the Worst, Hope for the Best. That has pretty much become my motto as a Philly sports fan. I’m not one of those depressed fans, I don’t
hate Philly, I’ve come to embrace the fact that I don’t expect them to
win. If they lose, I’m disappointed, but
it’s only a game. All that losing will
make winning all that more fun.

I can’t recall ever being
this excited about one of our teams. These are our Phillies. I’ll take
this squad over the Mets and the Braves. 

89 wins and a wild card. A
fan must have some faith. Is it Monday
yet?

Other Phillies Previews:

>>Hardball Times: Five Questions [Beerleaguer]
>>Phillies Season Preview [Deadspin]
>>Predictions [Swing and a Miss]
>>Phillies Season Previewed [BS&S]
>>Don't Forget to Join The 700 Level Flickr Group and upload all your best opening day shots.

Joel Embiid feels 'great' after injury scare to left knee

Joel Embiid feels 'great' after injury scare to left knee

Of the nearly 20,000 people in the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night, Joel Embiid was seemingly the least concerned when he came down and injured his left knee. 

Fans held their breath and the Sixers looked on anxiously as the standout big man got up in visible discomfort and limped off the court (see highlights). Embiid, however, wasn’t worried. 

“I knew it was OK. I just landed the wrong way,” he said after the Sixers' 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers (see Instant Replay). “I’m great. The knee’s fine. They did an MRI and stuff, everything looked good.”

Embiid ran off the court on his own, was diagnosed with a left knee contusion and was cleared to return to the game. He aggravated his knee again driving to the basket and this time, the team held him out to be careful.

“The review is that he hyperextended his left knee,” head coach Brett Brown said. “There was a minor tweak again, and for precautionary reasons only, the doctors did not allow him to return. There will be more information given as we know it. But quickly, that's what we know.”

Embiid understood the team’s decision to sideline him for the final 8:50 while the Sixers went on a comeback run (see feature highlight). He still finished the game with an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double, five assists and four blocks in only 22 minutes.

“Obviously those guys, the front office, they care about my future, so they just shut it down,” Embiid said. “But I was fine.”

Embiid will not travel to Atlanta for Saturday’s game against the Hawks (pre-scheduled rest). He expects to be available for Tuesday’s home matchup against the Clippers. 

"You know how tough he is," Nerlens Noel said. "If it isn’t anything serious, he’ll be right back. At the end of the game, he was telling me was he was feeling great and there was no pain. He wanted to come back in the game … he’s a trooper. He always gives it his all and always plays hard."

Injuries to any player are worrisome, especially a franchise centerpiece with two years of rehab (foot) behind him. The Sixers have been methodical and cautious with his playing time. Embiid is on a 28-minute restriction and can play in only one game of a back-to-back series. 

The same player who is so closely watched, though, also plays with sky-high energy that doesn’t have a brake pedal. 

“You're concerned,” Brown said of seeing Embiid get injured. “It's clear to all of us that he plays with such reckless abandon. I think that we're all going to be seeing this and feeling this regularly. From flying into stands to stalking somebody in the open court to block a shot to the collision he often is in trying to draw fouls. That's just who he is. 

“I think that as he just plays more basketball and continues to grow, to not necessarily avoid those situations, just to perhaps manage them a little bit more. Right now, he's just a young guy that's just playing that doesn't know what he doesn't know and has a fearless approach underneath all that attitude.”

Fearless is an accurate description considering Embiid's trouble-free reaction to the awkward way his leg bent (he hadn’t seen a replay). 

“I kind of had that in college, too,” he said. “I think I’m flexible, so it’s supposed to happen.”

Best of NHL: Before visiting Flyers, Devils fall to Canadiens

Best of NHL: Before visiting Flyers, Devils fall to Canadiens

NEWARK, N.J. -- The toughest thing Montreal Canadiens goalie Al Montoya had to do against the New Jersey Devils was stay awake.

The Canadiens limited the Devils to a season-low 17 shots, and Shea Weber and Max Pacioretty each scored a power-play goal during a major penalty early in the third period of Montreal's 3-1 victory Friday night.

"I'd take this any night," Montoya said after the Canadiens snapped a two-game skid. "Your team is playing fantastic in front of you. Halfway through the game it's 1-1 and all I'm really focused on is making that next save. These guys did a phenomenal job and I just wanted to make that next save, and the power play was terrific. The guys were mainly terrific all night."

Alex Galchenyuk added a goal and two assists, and Alexander Radulov had three assists as Montreal ended the Devils' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Big 2nd period helps Penguins roll Hurricanes
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins have been beatable away from home this season. Good thing for them this felt nothing like a road game.

Phil Kessel had a goal and an assist during Pittsburgh's four-goal second period, and the Penguins routed the Carolina Hurricanes 7-1 on Friday night.

Conor Sheary scored twice, and Evgeni Malkin had a late goal and an assist. Carl Hagelin and Chris Kunitz joined Sheary in scoring during the second for Pittsburgh.

"In a win like that, I think it was a really complete effort from all the guys," said Sheary, who has four goals in three games. "It's fun to win on the road,” (see full recap).

Blackhawks beat Bruins on Hossa's late goal
BOSTON -- Blackhawks backup Scott Darling insists he isn't trying to take playing time away from No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford.

"I don't know if you guys know who my goalie partner is," Darling said with a smile after beating the Boston Bruins 1-0 on Friday night. "He's one of the best goalies in the world, hands down, no arguments. So I'm just pretty happy to get any games I can."

Marian Hossa scored with 1:26 left to break a scoreless tie, and Darling stopped 30 shots to post his second shutout of the season. Darling is 12-4 and he brought a 2.34 goals-against average into the game, even better than Crawford's 2.54 (see full recap).

Okposo gives Sabres OT win over Red Wings
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Kyle Okposo scored a power-play goal 4:34 into overtime and the Buffalo Sabres rallied to beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 on Friday night.

Ryan O'Reilly had a goal and an assist, and Sam Reinhart also scored to help the Sabres overcome a pair of one-goal deficits. Anders Nilsson made 32 saves for Buffalo, which has won two straight against Detroit in one season for the first time since 1989-90.

Darren Helm and Frans Nielsen scored for the Red Wings, and Petr Mrazek was sharp in stopping 33 shots.

The Red Wings had their three-game winning streak snapped and took a rare loss to Buffalo. They fell to 8-0-2 in their past 10 meetings with the Sabres and 31-4-3 with a tie in their past 39 (see full recap).