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

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
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

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.

Who's after LeBron? CSN's top 25 NBA players poll

Who's after LeBron? CSN's top 25 NBA players poll

No matter how much you rely on analytics and logarithms in determining who are the best players, ultimately it becomes about judgment.
Should win shares have a greater value than a player’s winning percentage in the playoffs? Is defensive rating a better barometer about a defender’s ability than say, defensive field goal percentage differential?
And how much do you weigh how they fare versus playoff teams and non-playoff teams?
A legitimate case can be made for all those numbers and many, many more, being used to rank the top 25 players.
When I started looking at the data and breaking down what’s worthwhile and what’s shall we say, is worthless, it became pretty clear that this should not be a one-person job.
So I enlisted the help of my fellow CSN Insiders who each bring a different but valuable perspective to the ranking of players.
And so the only thing that made sense was to take all of our rankings, compile them together and voila! We made a beautiful, bouncing list of more than two dozen players.
The scoring for this is pretty simple.
Each Insider picked 25 players, ranking them from Nos. 1-25. Their No. 1 pick received 25 points, No. 2 got 24, No. 3 got 23 and so on.
Here is the first CSN Top 25 NBA Players list, in addition to our "others receiving votes" group.
25. Al Horford, Boston (19 points)
“You can find others with better stats not on this list, but Horford’s track record of success in Atlanta (playoff trips every year he was there, five trips out of the first round in eight postseasons he played in) makes him worthy of being a top-25 player in the NBA.” – A. Sherrod Blakely
24. DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers (22)
“He can’t shoot free throws, but he can rebound and play defense with the best of them. Jordan didn’t deserve his All-NBA first team selection, but he’s still a high quality long as Chris Paul is tossing up lobs.” – James Ham
23. Andre Drummond, Detroit (23)
“An emerging center who’s the league’s second-best finisher and rebounder, and without that free-throw problem, he would be higher. But … how close to his ceiling is he already?” – Vincent Goodwill
22. Marc Gasol, Memphis (24)
“One of the best passing big men in the game and also one of its best defenders. Has a soft shooting touch and off-the-charts basketball IQ.” – Jason Quick
t-20. Kyle Lowry, Toronto (32)
“Lowry came into the 2015-16 in the best shape of his career. The result was a career year and a two seed in the Eastern Conference. At 30, Lowry may have peaked, but if he can hold this level for another year or two, the Raptors will continue to post 50-plus wins.” – James Ham
t-20. Carmelo Anthony, New York (32)
“One of the more complete scorers but hard to evaluate as he hits the back end of his career; Probably the last season as a primary player on a good team, if the Knicks are to be one.” – Vincent Goodwill
19. John Wall, Washington (42)
“After being All-Defense two years ago, Wall fell off because of bad knees that required surgery on May 5 and yet he still averaged 20 points and 10 assists last season. At 6-4, a big, physical point guard with top-notch speed. Improved mid-range shooter off the bounce but still not a threat in catch-and-shoot situations or from the three-point arc.” – J. Michael
18. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers (56)
“Coming off an injury-plagued season that limited him to 35 games, Griffin still has a ways to go in diversifying his game. Fixing his footwork would help as would moving the ball quicker to create for teammates, but now he's trying to extend his range to the three-point arc. That can be a very good thing or a very bad thing.” – J. Michael
17. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota (63)
“The potential is frightening. Towns burst into the league last season and performed well-beyond his rookie year. He enters his second season with a dominating skill set and a year of wisdom from Kevin Garnett.” – Jessica Camerato 
16. LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio (65)
“Owns deadly combination of inside moves and silky mid-range shot, which includes an unblock able turnaround jumper.  Also an above-average defender who can block a shot then beat his man down the court.” – Jason Quick
15. Jimmy Butler, Chicago (75)
“One of the best two-way players in basketball, perhaps the most unlikely player this high on this list. Is there another leap in performance for a guy who’s made three already in his career?” – Vincent Goodwill
14. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland (82)
“His playoff run and more importantly, Finals performance, showed he’s the perfect complement to LeBron James. Not a pure point, but perhaps the best scorer ever at the point guard position.” – Vincent Goodwill
13. Klay Thompson, Golden State (89)
Comment: “Cold-blooded shooter from deep has the temerity to play fabulous defense on the opponent’s more dangerous backcourt player. A two-way All-Star.” – Monte Poole
12. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento (96)
“Cousins will take note of his ranking and treat each of us accordingly. He too has a list. And we are all now on it. He’s the best big in the game and he’s primed for the biggest season of his career.” – James Ham
11. James Harden, Houston (101)
“He could get just about any shot he wanted to in the past, and now that he’s going to be the starting point guard, there’s no reason why this guy shouldn’t lead the league in scoring, handily.” – A. Sherrod Blakely
10. Damian Lillard, Portland (102)
“A superb leader who makes everyone in his locker room better, Lillard is also a fearless shooter who craves the big shot. Needs to improve his defense and his shooting percentages, but is emerging as one of the game’s best playmakers.” – Jason Quick
9. Anthony Davis, New Orleans (103)
“Davis, a double-double machine, is returning from injury. Will he play more than 70 games for the first time in his career? It remains to be seen how much Davis will help the Pelicans improve from their 30-win season.” – Jessica Camerato 
8. Draymond Green, Golden State (115)
“At 6-7, can defend an All-NBA center such as DeAndre Jordan or switch onto an elite point guard such as Chris Paul and win those battles. Green isn't a system player. He is the system for Golden State, which allows the other All-Stars on the team to prosper while he does a lot of the dirty work.” – J. Michael  
7. Paul George, Indiana (129)
“Can score, rebound, defend and now with a clean bill of health, George and his retooled Pacers teammates will be a force in the East this season.” – A. Sherrod Blakely
6. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers (134)
“An elite defender and floor general, the nine-time All-Star is also probably one of the NBA’s best competitors, which rubs off on his team. At age 31, the question is how much longer can he continue to check the young point guards?” – Jason Quick
5. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio (149)
“Leonard's impact on the Spurs will be magnified this season following the retirement of Tim Duncan. Look for the two-time Defensive Player of the Year to try to get his team back atop the West.  – Jessica Camerato
t-3. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City (155)
“Tied for 3rd with his new arch nemesis? Westbrook will statistically flourish in his new role as King of the Dust Bowl. It may not lead him to a Western Conference showdown against Durant and his Warriors, but it’s hard to count him out.” – James Ham 
t-3. Kevin Durant, Golden State (155)
“Famous for scoring from deep, he is deadly on the block, a default rim protector, the best rebounding small forward alive and has a full grasp of the team game.” – Monte Poole
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State (162)
“Back-to-back MVP, including first unanimous winner, his incredible shooting range stretches defenses like no one we’ve ever seen. A legitimate game-changer. – Monte Poole
1. LeBron James, Cleveland  (175)
“DJ Khaled’s “All I do is win” hit from 2010 really should be the soundtrack to LeBron James’ career which now includes title bling in two cities – Miami (2 titles) and Cleveland – that could not be any more different. Hands down, he’s the best in the game right now.” – A. Sherrod Blakely 

Others receiving votes: DeMar DeRozan, Toronto (15 points); Mike Conley, Memphis (15); Paul Millsap, Atlanta (14); Hassan Whiteside, Miami (13); Isaiah Thomas, Boston (8); Gordon Hayward, Utah (7); Chris Bosh, Miami (3).

Thunder's Steven Adams presents towering challenge for Joel Embiid, Sixers

Thunder's Steven Adams presents towering challenge for Joel Embiid, Sixers

When Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City for the West Coast, he left more behind than just Russell Westbrook. There still is a dominating seven-footer in the lane for the Thunder, one the Sixers will have to tangle with on opening night.

Steven Adams has developed into a threat at the basket. Now entering his fourth year, the 23-year-old averaged 8.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks last season. The expectations for this campaign are higher for Adams. He posted 14.7 points, 7.0 boards and 1.3 blocks in preseason play.

“He’s one of the elite centers in this league because he’s got a disposition as a killer,” Brett Brown said at Sixers practice this week. “He is a committed offensive rebounder. He runs like a wing, and he’s what, seven-foot, 200-and-whatever pounds. He’s got a mentality that he does want to get under your skin,” Brown said.

“There is a discipline that you have to show when you play somebody like that.”

Defending Adams will be a test in physicality for Joel Embiid in his NBA regular season debut. Adams weighs in at 255 points, Embiid above 270. The two have known each other for years through their agent. 

“I think where he’s most dangerous is the first three seconds running and when he goes to the offensive boards,” Brown said. “This is the best offensive rebounding team in the NBA, and with Russell Westbrook it’s a wrecking ball just trying to go through the whole team if he feels like it. I think that getting back in transition is A-number one, and a close second is finishing plays with defensive rebounding.” 

The Sixers plan to defend Westbrook by committee, and they will put multiple players on Adams as well. Embiid will be capped at 20 minutes. Jahlil Okafor (knee) will come off the bench with restricted playing time. Richaun Holmes will round out the coverage at the five spot.