Roob's 25 Random Points: Marcus Smith, Phillies, Jim Bunning, Paul Simon & more

Roob's 25 Random Points: Marcus Smith, Phillies, Jim Bunning, Paul Simon & more

The Phillies have won precisely three games since my last 25 Random Points two weeks ago. So look for a lot of Phillies thoughts among the usual Eagles, music and miscellaneous nonsense this time around.
 
We’ve got some Paul Simon, some Jim Bunning, some Marcus Smith and much more. Dig in!
 
1. I can't get too worked up about Fletcher Cox missing OTAs. I'd like to see him there. He should be there. But it's May. And I also can't get too worked up about Donnie Jones or Jason Peters missing OTAs. A couple guys in their mid-30s who can probably use the time off. They'll be fine. But what on earth is Marcus Smith doing? What is he thinking? Now, maybe there's a perfectly good personal reason Smith was away for the voluntary workouts. Head coach Doug Pederson didn't even mention Smith last Tuesday when asked about minicamp no-shows. But if he's just staying away for no reason other than he didn't feel like practicing, then you've really got to wonder where his mind is at. This is a former first-round pick who has four career sacks in three seasons. The Eagles have Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Chris Long and Derek Barnett ahead of him. They signed a guy at his position and drafted a guy in the first round at his position. He should be doing everything imaginable right now to try to save not just his roster spot but to save his career. The odds are heavily against Smith right now. He should be doing every single thing imaginable to get better and impress his coaches. Marcus is a good kid, and I want to root for him, but he's making it really hard.
 
2. Pete Mackanin is a very nice guy, but it's obvious the Phillies have to make a change. And now would be a good time for it. The Phils are comatose. The slump going into Monday night is now 6-22 in their last 28 games following that 11-9 start. How do you even go 6-22? In a six-game stretch that ended Saturday, they had nine runs and 28 hits. In six games! That's an average of 4.7 hits and 1.5 runs over a six-game span. They haven't won back-to-back games in more than a month. Their hitting is terrible, their pitching is worse, and they look like they just have no interest in playing baseball. Once-promising young players are regressing, and they're 17-31 and on pace to go 57-105, which would be their worst season in 56 years and second-worst in 72 years. How do you get three-hit four times in six days? The baseball-reference database only goes back to 1913, but last week was the first time since at least then — 105 years — the Phils have been three-hit four times in a six-game span. This team is dead. Time for a change. And it's got to happen soon.
 
3. Here's a sign of how dead the Phillies are: They don't have a stolen base in their last 13 games. Granted, they haven't had a ton of baserunners, but they are just stagnant as a team, and the absence of a single stolen base since May 14 is pretty good evidence of that. Their last longer stretch without a stolen base was a 14-game streak in 1998. Before that, you have to go back to a 17-game streak in 1973. Stagnant. Static. Utterly lacking in energy. When a team is struggling to score runs — and the Phillies are sure struggling to score runs — you try to manufacture runs every way possible. The absence of a single stolen base over the past two weeks (they have attempted three) reflects poorly both on the roster and the manager.
 
4. And how on earth do you lose nine consecutive series?
 
5. I’m very curious to see what the Eagles get out of LeGarrette Blount this year. Blount is going from a Super Bowl team to a team in transition, he’s 30 years old, he’s with his fourth team in six years. The history of running backs after they turn 30 isn’t pretty. This could go either way. He could be a stud or he could be a disaster. I would have been happy to go with Wendell Smallwood, Donnel Pumphrey, Darren Sproles and possibly Corey Clement just to see what the young guys can do. It will be interesting to see what Blount brings the Eagles and how much of a workload he's given. Last year was the first time since 2011 Blount averaged over 13 carries per game. If I were Doug Pederson, I'd be careful not to go much higher than that.
 
6. One thing about Blount last year. Everybody talks about the 18 touchdowns. But in his last seven games, Blount averaged just 3.0 yards per carry — worst in the NFL during that span. Did he wear down? Seems that way.
 
7. And here's the other thing. When you sign guys like Chris Long, Blount, Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffrey, you better make the playoffs. You don't add those sort of veterans on both sides of the football if you're in that rebuilding mode Howie Roseman has been talking about all offseason. I don't want to hear a word about rebuilding. Go win some football games.
 
8. The last time the Eagles played a game with two starting cornerbacks who they drafted was Dec. 23, 2007, a 38-23 win over the Saints at the Superdome. Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown. There were two games in 2008 when Lito started in the slot alongside Sheldon and Asante Samuel, but it’s been 10 years since they started two homegrown outside cornerbacks. Does anything better represent the Eagles’ misguided attempts to build a roster through free agency than that? Here’s a prediction: Once the Eagles get back to homegrown corners — whether it’s Jalen Mills and Rasul Douglas this year or Sidney Jones and Douglas or Mills next year — they will once again be a playoff team.
 
9. Southampton is not a particularly large or distinctive town in Bucks County, but it's astonishing how many fantastic, innovative bands have come out of that little town. It started with Dandelion and continued with bands like La Guardia, Ty Cobb (later known as the Cobbs), Mad Action, Trip 66, Illinois and Eastern Conference Champions. And several of those guys are huge now. Panic at the Disco tours arenas, and their drummer, Dan Pawlovich, is a former guitarist with Illinois. Former Oasis singer Liam Gallagher formed a band called Beady Eye. Their bass player Jay Mehler, who had been in Kasabian, is a former member of Ty Cobb and Mad Action. Josh Ostrander had a No. 1 hit called "Shine" this spring with his new band Mondo Cozmo and has been playing every festival in the country the past month. He's a former member of La Guardia and the Cobbs and fronted Eastern Conference Champions and has used some of the guys from Illinois in his recent live shows. The Cobbs just came out of nowhere and toured large venues with the Jesus and Mary Chain. It's just fascinating to me that this anonymous little community of strip plazas and impossible left turns along Street Road in Bucks County has produced so much fantastic music. You expect it from places like New York, Detroit and L.A. But Southampton? No wonder they call it Rockhampton.
 
10. I know I'm in the minority here, but I think Chip Kelly will be terrific as a college football analyst. Chip was always an engaging personality, and I think that will come across in the studio. He sees the game a little differently, and that will serve him well. Chip doesn't think in cliches and doesn't see the game in cliches. He's always been able to articulate complicated concepts fairly simply and clearly. And he's funny. Chip has some credibility — he was 26-21 as Eagles head coach with two 10-win seasons and a playoff berth his first year. His issues were really as a general manager and he was a disaster there. But he's a tremendous storyteller, he's got an astonishing memory, he's always prepared and he knows way more about the history of the NFL than you'd expect. I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes for him.
 
11. I don't want to hear anybody complain that concerts are too expensive. You can see free music just about any night this summer somewhere around Philly. There's the Thursday night series of free shows at Spruce Street Harbor, featuring some awesome local artists (including Spirit of the Beehive, Straw Hats and Chill Moody), there are free shows every Friday starting at 5 p.m. in West Philadelphia atop Cira Green, which is on 30th Street between Walnut and Chestnut, and there are shows just about every night at Rose Tree Park in Media. For schedules and more info, click here for Spruce Street Harbor, click here for Rose Tree Park and click here for Cira Green. See ya there!
 
12. "Up the Junction" by Squeeze is just about the saddest song ever.
 
13. I think Isaac Seumalo at left guard for Allen Barbre is a bigger upgrade than the Eagles will admit.
 
14. It'll be interesting to see what a (presumably) non-supplemented Lane Johnson plays like. A lot was made last year about how the Eagles were 5-1 when Johnson played last year and 2-8 when he didn't. But remember those five wins included games against the 1-15 Browns, 3-13 Bears and Cowboys scrubs. The Eagles could have won those games with Antone Davis at right tackle. Still, this is a dramatically better offensive line with Johnson out there, and with Jason Peters, Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Johnson, this is potentially a very good O-line. Kelce is a wild card, and I'm still not convinced he'll be here, but if he is, he's just got to be more consistent.
 
15. My top-10 bands from the17th annual non-COMM music conference two weeks ago at World Café Live: 1. Mondo Cozmo 2. Dream Syndicate 3. Lo Moon 4. Bash & Pop 5. Blondie 6. The Districts 7. Robert Cray 8. The Pixies 9. Nancy and Beth 10. Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band.
 
16. Have you ever just stopped and just thought about how many incredible songs Paul Simon has written? Mrs. Robinson, the Boxer, America, Homeward Bound, Hazy Shade of Winter, I Am a Rock, Bridge over Troubled Water, Sound of Silence. And that's just with Simon & Garfunkle. His solo career was incredibly inventive as well. He was releasing singles in the 1970s and 1980s that were unlike anything else anybody was doing — Mother and Child Reunion, Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard, Loves me Like a Rock, Kodachrome, Late in the Evening … I think sometimes we hear songs so many times that we kind of become immune to their brilliance. But Simon's body of work holds up remarkably well more than half a century after he started out.
 
17.
I have this recurring dream where I'm covering the Super Bowl for CSN and the game's about to start, and I can't find my laptop, and I'm running from room to room in some stadium looking for the garment bag that I've inexplicably placed my laptop in. I'm sure somebody could analyze all that and tell me what it means, but all I know is I never find it and wake up in a panic.
 
18. LeBron James has won a round in the postseason 18 times since the Eagles have won a round in the postseason.
 
19. In March 2013, Ray Didinger and I were hosting a radio show on 94 WIP at the Valley Forge Convention Center during the annual Valley Forge Sportscard and Memorabilia Show. There were autograph tables to our left, and show organizers had set up interviews for us with a couple of the celebrities signing that morning — Doc Gooden and Steve Bedrosian among them. One guy who was signing who wasn't scheduled to join us on the air was Jim Bunning. But when he was finished signing, he just wandered over to our table and said hi. We invited him on the air, and he was happy to do it. We mic'ed him up, and he proceeded to regale us with stories about his career for the next 15 minutes or so. It was a magical day, and Bunning could not have been nicer. I'm too young to really remember him as a Hall of Fame pitcher, but I'll never forget the few minutes I got to spend with him that day in Valley Forge. A true gentleman. My condolences go out to his family.
 
20. Saw Blondie two weeks ago. Incredible. Debbie Harry is 71 and up there rockin' like she's 21. Her band is amazing, too, with original members Chris Stein and Clem Burke as good as ever. That's 28 Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famers I've seen live now: Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, BB King, Beach Boys [Brian Wilson], Black Sabbath, Blondie, Bobby Blue Bland, The Clash, Donovan, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Gabriel, Genesis, the Kinks, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Pretenders, Bonnie Raitt, the Rascals, Lou Reed, REM, Rolling Stones, Linda Ronstadt, Santana, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, Muddy Waters, U2 and the Who. How many have you seen? I'll bet it's more than you think!
 
21. How many more weeks till the NBA finals start?
 
22. Philadelphia's four major professional head coaches/managers — Dave Hakstol, Brett Brown, Doug Pederson and Pete Mackanin — have never advanced past the first round in the playoffs.
 
23. This is the first time in the 50 years that Philadelphia has had four major professional sports teams that Random Point No. 22 has been true.
 
24. If the Eagles don't reach the playoffs in 2017, it will be four straight years without a postseason appearance. The last time that happened was 1982 through 1987. Yep, 30 years ago.
 
25. How about my favorite all-time concerts by state:

Arizona – Bottle Rockets

California – Bye Bye Blackbirds

Connecticut – Wilco

Delaware – Connor Oberst

Florida – Santana

Georgia – Robert Pollard

Illinois – Guided by Voices

Indianapolis – Matt Keating

Maine – Steve Earle

Maryland – B.B. King

Massachusetts – Sourpatch

Michigan – From Indian Lakes

Missouri – Bob Walkenhorst

New York – Genesis

New Jersey – Yes

Ohio – Muddy Waters

Pennsylvania – The Rave-Ups

Texas – They Might Be Giants

Virginia – Rainmakers

Washington – James McMurtry

Despite what they say, Eagles are building to win now

Despite what they say, Eagles are building to win now

What they're saying is not what they're doing.

They're saying patience. They're building for today.

They're saying grow through the draft. They're adding big-name free agents.

They're saying they have a long way to go. They're actually closer than you think.

"You feel like you're doing the right thing when you don't have a lot of Band-Aids," Howie Roseman said earlier this offseason.

Meaning build with young guys and not quick-fix free agents.

Then they go out and sign Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Chris Long and now LeGarrette Blount.

This is a team built for 2017. The Eagles just haven't admitted it yet.

They want you to be patient in case they don't win in 2017, but make no mistake about it. This is a football team that can win in 2017. That should win in 2017. That needs to win in 2017. 

If you really believe in building for 2018, 2019 and 2020, you go with Jordan Matthews, see what you can get out of Nelson Agholor and play the rookie receivers as much as possible. You don't sign Jeffery and Smith.

If you really believe that 2017 is a bridge year, you give Marcus Smith and whatever defensive end you draft — it turned out to be Derek Barnett — as much playing time as possible. You don't add 32-year-old Long.

If you really believe 2017 is a total rebuild, you give Wendell Smallwood 12 to 15 carries and see what Donnel Pumphrey and Corey Clement can give you. You don't sign Blount.

Not that I don't like the moves. I do like the moves. A lot.

The Eagles got better when they signed Jeffery, they got better when they signed Long, they got better when they signed Blount.

There's no question the Eagles should be dramatically improved in 2017. Their secondary will be better with a couple young, hungry corners instead of Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll. Their defensive line will be better with Barnett and Long. Their linebacking corps will be better just because those guys are now in their second year under Jim Schwartz.

They're obviously better at receiver and clearly better at running back with Blount replacing brittle Ryan Mathews. They'll be better on the offensive line just with Lane Johnson back for the season at right tackle (presumably) and somebody more athletic and talented than Allen Barbre at left guard.

And they're going to be drastically better at quarterback, as Carson Wentz enjoys a full offseason and preseason as the No. 1.

When I look at this roster, I see a team that should be fighting for a playoff spot, not a team that's mired in a rebuild.

The Eagles are actually one of the oldest teams in the NFL. They had the oldest roster in the NFL when 2016 ended, and they've added a number of veterans since (and shed several as well). 

This is not a three-year plan or a five-year plan. The Eagles are building for today, and with an elite young quarterback that is absolutely the correct way to go.

Surround Wentz with as much talent as possible and go win some football games.

Is this a finished product? Of course not. But it's a team headed in the right direction around a quarterback with superstar potential.

I give Roseman a lot of credit for this offseason. The Eagles went into it with very limited cap space, and he's managed to add several important pieces without having to shed the roster of anybody who really was going to play a part in the future (although in a perfect world you'd like to keep Bennie Logan).

The Eagles came out of 2016 with questions at receiver, running back, cornerback, pass rusher and offensive line, and they addressed every one of them either with draft picks or inexpensive free agents.

It's been nine years now since the Eagles' last playoff win and four years since their last winning record, and it's time for those droughts to end. 

The Eagles are building the right way with a roster that's nicely balanced with young homegrown players who should keep improving and veteran acquisitions who didn't break the bank who should contribute from Day 1.

That's a winning formula.

In fact, I agree with just about everything Howie's done. 

Just not everything he's said.

Roob's 25 Random Points: Sidney Jones, Ryan Howard, Doug Pederson & more

Roob's 25 Random Points: Sidney Jones, Ryan Howard, Doug Pederson & more

We've got Sidney Jones and Wendell Smallwood, we've got Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, we've got Jordan Matthews and Carson Wentz, we've got The War on Drugs and Mondo Cozmo and of course we have the Schuylkill Expressway westbound.

And we've even got a random guy in the waiting room of Thompson Toyota.

It's 25 random points and it starts now!

1. It's been surprising to see so much negative reaction to the Sidney Jones pick at No. 43. Now, if you genuinely believe he's never going to be the same player because of the Achilles injury or if you just didn't like his game in the first place, before he got hurt, you have a case, although I don't agree. 

Certainly all the medicals indicate a very good chance he'll be the same player he was before he got hurt. But complaining about the pick because the Eagles won't have him from the get-go his rookie year? That makes no sense. Who cares if you don't have him? You're going to have a first-round caliber cornerback for the next several years. You get him in now, you have him in meetings, you coach him up, you get him healthy, and even if he doesn't play a snap this year, on opening day next year, you have an extra first-round pick. 

Look at it this way: If somebody told you the Eagles could have an extra first-round pick in 2018, but whoever they drafted wouldn't be able to play until 2019, would you take that deal? Of course you would. And that's exactly what the Eagles just did.

2. I'm also fine with the Eagles' not taking a running back in the first three rounds. Let's see what Smallwood can do in a full season. I liked what I saw from him last year. In the three games he got double-digit carries, he averaged 4.6 yards a pop — against the Falcons, Steelers and Seahawks. And he's not a small back. He's 208 pounds (same as Shady). I'm not giving him 20 carries a game, but if he gets 12 to 14 carries, Darren Sproles gets four to six and the rest are divvied up between Corey Clement and Donnel Pumphrey — whomever's active — I think you can get pretty good production.

3. I get a lot of tweets asking who the Eagles' "big back" is going to be. Their goal-line back. I just think that's an antiquated concept, that you give the football to some 245-pound dude on 3rd-and-inches or on the goal line. You give the football to your best back, not your biggest back. If the offensive line is doing its job, he's going to get the yard. Who are the biggest backs in Eagles history? Keith Byars, Stanley Pritchett, Thomas Tapeh, Leonard Weaver, Emil Igwenagu, Ronnie Brown and Tony Hunt? You want those guys with the football on the goal line? Out of that group, Byars was a terrific pass catcher and Weaver had a nice half season, but neither was a short-yardage back. It's not about how big you are. It's about how good you are and how much push your O-line gets.

4. From 2006 through 2011, Ryan Howard led all of major-league baseball with 262 homers and 796 RBIs. He hit .279 during that six-year span with a .929 OPS. And the Phillies averaged 93 wins during that period, winning the NL East the last five years, reaching two World Series and winning one. He was the most-feared slugger in baseball during that period. Every time he stepped to the plate, you watched, waiting to see that massive swing, that momentary pause to admire his handiwork, and that baseball disappearing into the night. The guy launched rocket shots. That's the Ryan Howard I'll remember.

5. I like Jordan Matthews. And I want him on my team. He's steady, he's consistent, he's durable, he's a hard worker and he's a natural leader. He has yet to play more than one season with the same quarterback, and you could see last year how his chemistry with Wentz grew as the year went on. Another year together will help both of them. Say what you want about Matthews, but only nine wide receivers in NFL history have more catches in their first three seasons. Now that Alshon Jeffery is here and Matthews doesn't have to be the No. 1 guy, I think you'll see his numbers take off.

6. Matthews is one of 22 players in NFL history with at least 800 receiving yards in each of his first three seasons. Of those 22, he's one of only four who didn't have a 1,000-yard season along the way. Nobody in NFL history has started his career with four straight seasons of 800 yards or more — without a 1,000-yard season. If Matthews finishes 2017 between 800 and 999 yards, he'll be the first player ever to open his career with 800 or more yards in each of his first four seasons without a 1,000-yard season. What do you think? Does he get to 1,000?

7. If the Eagles don't make the playoffs this year, Doug Pederson will be the Eagles' first head coach to fail to make the playoffs in either of his first two seasons since Marion Campbell in 1983 and 1984. This doesn't count the 1987 season, when the Eagles were 7-5 in real games but 0-3 in strike replacement games with fake players and didn't make the postseason. If those games hadn't counted, the Eagles would have been a playoff team in 1987. Buddy Ryan reached the playoffs in 1988, his second full season as head coach. Is 8-8 without a playoff berth good enough for Pederson to keep his job? I don't think so. I need to see more than a one-game improvement.

8. The War on Drugs is pretty much the best band on Earth right now.

9. Here's an interesting notion: LeSean McCoy, Hall of Famer. Am I crazy? Let's lay out the case: Shady already has 11,884 yards from scrimmage, and only 10 players have had more before their 29th birthday. Eight of those 10 are in the Hall of Fame (all but Edgerrin James and Steven Jackson). 

But here's the kicker — of the 14 players in NFL history who've netted 11,000 yards from scrimmage before their 29th birthday, only three have a higher career yards-per-carry average than Shady's 4.7. Those three are Jim Brown, Adrian Peterson and Barry Sanders. Shady already has four seasons with 1,000 rushing yards and a 4.8 average. Only Sanders, Brown and Jamaal Charles have more. Through his first eight NFL seasons, Shady has averaged 1,485 yards from scrimmage. Two more seasons at his career average puts him right at the doorstep of 15,000. If he does that and maintains that 4.7 average, he's an absolute lock for Canton.

10. Freddy Galvis has more hits than any other National League shortstop since opening day 2015 with 318. Galvis is also fourth with 31 homers during that span, just four behind Brandon Crawford of the Giants and Corey Seager of the Dodgers, and third with 138 runs scored. He's no slugger, but as shortstops go, he's not the worst hitter. And with that glove, I'll take him in my lineup any day of the week.

11. I can't believe Domonic Brown is still playing minor-league baseball. He's hitting .259 with no homers and two doubles in 11 games for the Rockies' Triple-A team, the Albuquerque Isotopes. He hasn't played in the majors since 2015. In 251 games since playing in the 2013 All-Star Game, Brown has hit .251 with 19 homers and 104 RBIs. He's 29. He should be in his prime. Instead, he's playing in anonymity in New Mexico, in front of 7,000 fans a night. Sad story.

12. One of my favorite records of 2017 is by a band called Harmony Woods, which is the brainchild of Sofia Verbilla, a Glenside teenager who writes remarkably poignant, detailed and evocative lyrics and super hooky melodies, all with a sense of dynamics that's rare with someone so young. The record, "Nothing Special," was released last week, and you can stream it or download it on her Bandcamp page at harmonywoods.bandcamp.com. Rarely has an album title been so inaccurate.

13. I've had the same philosophy about players complaining about their contracts since my first experience with a disgruntled Keith Jackson back in 1990. It's simple: If you don't like the contract, don't sign it. The same pattern has been repeating itself over and over for decades — players give up free agency to sign deals that make them among the highest paid in the league at their position, then, in the later years of the deal, when they're invariably no longer among the highest paid in the league — or even on their team — at their position, their feelings get hurt and they want to renegotiate. 

But this is the nature of contracts. You sign it understanding that just because you're the highest paid now, you might not even be in the top 30 a few years later. Because as the salary cap goes up and salaries go up, other players will get more lucrative deals. It doesn't mean your deal was a bad deal. It was just an earlier deal. Yet year after year, players who were thrilled with their contracts when they signed it, threatened to hold out because all of a sudden their feelings are so hurt. 

Not because they're not getting what they wanted, but because other people are getting more. With very few exceptions, I have zero sympathy for athletes who complain about their contracts. Not because of how much money they make. They deserve every penny. But just because if they don't like the deal they're offered, they have a very good option. Just don't sign it.

14. Note to the dude in the crowded waiting room at Thompson Toyota in Doylestown: Maybe don't talk in detail about the results of all your medical tests in an extra-loud voice so everybody from here to Quakertown can hear you? M'kay?

15. Also, good luck with the gallbladder surgery, dude.

16. Hard to believe Aaron Altherr is the first Phillie with three RBIs in three straight games in 19 years. I mean, three is not that many RBIs. But thanks to Baseball-Reference.com, we know he's the first to do it since Rico Brogna in 1998. That's just really hard to believe. Three ribbies in three straight games? You'd think it would have happened in the last two decades!

17. A note to Joaquin Benoit: The Phillies are paying you $7.5 million this year. You know what? Forget what inning it is. Forget the score. Just go pitch.

18. Most underrated band ever: The Bee Gees.

19. You know what's kind of amazing? Even with a terrible receiving corps and a ridiculous number of dropped passes, and even after becoming the starter just a week before the season began, Wentz had the third-highest completion percentage in NFL history by a rookie at 62.4 percent (minimum of 400 attempts), behind only Dak Prescott (67.8 percent) and Teddy Bridgewater (64.4 percent), whose injury was responsible for Wentz's becoming a starter. If he can complete 62.4 percent of his passes with that receiving crew and no offseason as the starter, I don't see any reason he can't complete 65 or 66 percent of his passes this coming season. The Eagles' record is 65.0 percent by Sam Bradford in 2015. I say that goes down in 2017.

20. Does it drive anybody else bonkers that no matter what time of day, no matter what day of the week, no matter what the weather, no matter what time of year, the Schuylkill Expressway westbound always backs up as soon as you pass the City Line Avenue ramp? Always.

21. Chase Utley is hitting .145.

22. J-Roll is out of baseball, Howard is out of baseball. Shane Victorino is out of baseball. Chooch is hitting .129. Cole Hamels can still pitch but is 33 and on the DL with an oblique strain and may miss two months. Kind of crazy that pretty soon this whole group will be retired. Time remains undefeated.

23. Low Cut Connie has got to be the worst band name.

24. I really hope Modern Baseball continues as a band.

25. I first met Hooters drummer Dave Uoskkinen last year during a WIP Eagles pregame show at the Head House Plaza, but like a lot of us, I've been a Hooters fan since the days of "All You Zombies" in the early 1980s. Dave is a huge Eagles fan, and I'm a huge music fan, so we got along great. Dave remains the Hooters' drummer, but he's involved with a number of other projects these days, including his own brainchild, In the Pocket, a remarkable ongoing collective of Philly music legends from every era that performs in the area every few months with a rotating cast of musicians paying homage to classic Philly music from past and present. 

On any given night, you can see Tommy Conwell, Kenn Kweder, Jeffrey Gaines, guys from Smash Palace, Beru Revue, the A's, Robert Hazard's band, plus rising Philly music stars like 18-year-old Turnersville native Joey Ditullio or local cover band legends such as Buddy Cash sitting in with In the Pocket. The set lists are essentially a Greatest Hits of Philly music over the decades and you never know who you'll see on stage or what Philly classics they'll play.

That was certainly the case last month, when Dave recruited me to play keyboards on a great old Robert Hazard song called "Change Reaction" when In the Pocket played at the Ardmore Music Hall. Dave had asked me to sit in with the band without ever hearing me play keyboards, but for some reason he trusted me to get the job done. I borrowed some gear and rehearsed around the clock for a month to make sure I was ready, but I had no idea what I was in store for. I arrived at the theater for sound check around 4 p.m. on the day of the gig, and after a few minutes, In the Pocket's regular keyboard player, Wally Smith of Smash Palace, brought me on stage to show me around his rig and give me a chance to practice a little on the Nord Electro 5 keyboard I'd be playing later in the night.

Just then, Dave — who is simply one of the best drummers on Earth — started playing a funky little riff, and a few other musicians who happened to be on stage at the moment checking their gear began jamming on that riff. Why not? I jumped in too with the Nord set on a B3 pre-set and began wailing away with these guys. I learned later the dude playing bass that I was jamming with was legendary Kenny Aaronson, who has toured with Bob Dylan, Joan Jett, Hall and Oates and countless others. Whatever else happened the rest of the night, I had jammed with Bob Dylan's bass player and apparently hadn't made a fool out of myself. I felt a little out of place, but all these legendary cats were totally cool and accepting of me.

By the time it was our turn to play, I was totally stoked. I walked on stage, joining Dave on drums, two incredible guitar players — Steve Butler of Smash Palace and Greg Davis of Beru Revu — Cliff Hillis on bass and freaking Ben Arnold on vocals. After Dave introduced all of us, we kicked into a revved-up Change Reaction for about 500 people. I don't remember much from the actual performance except at one point Greg looked at me with a huge smile while Steve was soloing, and I apparently screamed really loudly. That, and I remembered the key change near the end of the song. Then it was over.

Dave fist-bumped me from behind the tubs, I walked off the stage and Tommy Conwell came over and high-fived me. Then I wandered out into the house to catch incredible mini-sets from Richard Bush of the A's, Kweder, Conwell and several others. What a night. A lot of us dream about being rock stars. Thanks to Dave Uoskkinen, I got to live that dream. And it was more amazing than I ever could have imagined.


Photo credit: Dailyn Pavey