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.

Sixers were right to reject Pelicans' reported Jahlil Okafor trade offer

Sixers were right to reject Pelicans' reported Jahlil Okafor trade offer

If the reports are accurate, Bryan Colangelo probably made the right decision not trading Jahlil Okafor last week.

After the Pelicans acquired DeMarcus Cousins early Monday morning in a shocking, post-All-Star Game blockbuster, ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported several interesting pieces of information regarding the Sixers.

"The Pelicans were very close on a deal for Jahlil Okafor about 10 days ago, offering a similar package except it didn't include [Buddy] Hield," Shelburne wrote

A few hours earlier, she reported on ESPN that the deal for Okafor would have netted the Sixers Tyreke Evans, a protected first-round pick and a future second-round pick from New Orleans.

The protection the Pelicans sought was heavy — they wanted top-20 protection, according to Shelburne.

That just isn't a meaningful enough return, even for a player without a role in Philly.

Why? 

• Evans is a free agent after the season who has had three knee surgeries in the last two years and can't shoot threes. 

• A second-round pick is just a sweetener, so moving on from that ...

• A top-20 protected first-round pick isn't that enticing at all. Of the players selected between 20 and 30 in the last draft, only Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Toronto's Pascal Siakam and San Antonio's Dejounte Murray even have roles. 

In the previous year's draft, the best picks between 20-30 were Bobby Portis and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. 

The year before, Rodney Hood and Clint Capela panned out for their teams, but the eight others selected in that range have done little.

This sort of trade might have worked for the Sixers if they weren't already accumulating some roster depth. They don't need to go search for another late-first-round pick they can hopefully turn into the eighth or ninth guy in a rotation. With players developing like T.J. McConnell, Robert Covington, Richaun Holmes and Nik Stauskas, the Sixers are already building a decent second unit for the future.

There are a lot of people in this city ready to give Okafor away, but doing so just makes no sense for the Sixers. All it would solve is the center logjam and awkwardness, but the value in that New Orleans proposal just wasn't there for the Sixers. 

At this point, it's looking extremely unlikely Okafor is traded before the Feb. 23 deadline. The Blazers were interested but acquired Jusuf Nurkic from Denver instead. The Pelicans were interested but landed Cousins. 

The only team left we've heard connected to Okafor is the Bulls, who don't have much of intrigue to send the Sixers' way.

But still, hanging on to Okafor and trading him after the season, or on draft night, could yield the Sixers a better return than New Orleans was offering. Forget about Evans and forget about the second-round pick — that offer was basically a pick in the 20-30 range for Okafor. 

Not enough. 

The Sixers held out in hopes of New Orleans' making the pick top-10 protected or lottery-protected instead, but Pels GM Dell Demps knew the Sixers didn't have much leverage and thought to himself, "If I'm trading away a potentially valuable draft pick, I want a better player in return."

And so he got Cousins. That's how we ended up where we are today.

The Sixers' future is brighter because their pick swap with the Kings now holds more value, so last night was a win for them even though Okafor remains on the roster.

Sixers' big picture still bright even after recent bumps in the road

Sixers' big picture still bright even after recent bumps in the road

If you’re a fan of the local professional basketball franchise, it’s understandable that you might have been a bit frustrated to learn, weeks after the fact, that Joel Embiid suffered an itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny meniscus tear.

And you might have found it a tad concerning that contrary to popular opinion, there exists the possibility that Ben Simmons won’t play at all this year. Or that Jahlil Okafor won’t play somewhere else.

This reminder: You can love your team, but don’t expect it to love you back.

And one more: As disillusioned as you might be at present, you’ll be back.

You know it, and the Sixers know it.

They can be somewhat less than forthright on the injury front or somewhat less than successful on the trade front, and it won’t matter. They can, in fact, do everything short of moving to Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J., and it won’t matter.

Because if you’ve stuck with this outfit to this point in The Process – and man, you’re a real glutton for punishment if you have – you sure as heck aren’t going away now.

Not after watching Embiid, who – 31 games into his professional career already – looks like a transcendent player. And not when you stop to consider the promise of Simmons, the first overall pick in last summer’s draft. Or the promise of whatever Okafor might bring in a trade.

That said, the optics are not good right now. Not with the smoke from three brush fires hovering over the team, partially obscuring some promising developments (the rise of Dario Saric and T.J. McConnell foremost among them).

General manager Bryan Colangelo appears to have only told the truth about Embiid’s injured left knee as a last resort – i.e., after Derek Bodner of derekbodner.com reported the meniscus tear on Feb. 11.

Before that, the team had most often referred to the injury, sustained Jan. 20 against Portland, as a contusion, which would seem to connote some sort of minor, skin-deep issue. As he continued to miss games – in all he has been held out of the last 11, and 14 of 15 – there was, eventually, the admission that it was a bone bruise.

In a hastily convened news conference after Bodner’s story broke (and before a game against Miami), Colangelo finally said that the team knew from the start it was “a very minor meniscal tear,” in addition to a bone bruise.

Not the finest hour for a GM who had promised transparency.

Then the Inquirer’s Keith Pompey reported last Friday, at the start of All-Star Weekend in New Orleans, that the Jan. 23 CT scan on Simmons’ surgically repaired right foot indicated he had not fully healed.

Simmons suffered a Jones fracture of that foot’s fifth metatarsal on Sept. 30 -- i.e., the final day of training camp. The word then was that he would miss three months and thus be back in January. Then there were reports he would return after the All-Star break. As recently as last Wednesday coach Brett Brown told ESPN.com, “I fully expect him to play this season.”

After Pompey’s report, Colangelo issued a statement saying the team is “employing a conservative and thoughtful approach” to Simmons’ recovery, and basing his return “on the advice and direction of medical professionals.”

Colangelo added that Simmons’ next examination is scheduled for this Thursday, the day before the Sixers resume their season at home against Washington. Brown has said the rookie will need four or five full practices before he plays in a game, of which 26 remain in the season. The math doesn’t look promising, people.

The trade deadline also arrives Thursday, and on Sunday night Sean Deveney of The Sporting News and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com tweeted out that the Kings offered guard Tyreke Evans, a 2017 first-round pick and a future choice over a week ago for Okafor before shipping a similar package (as well as rookie guard Buddy Hield) to Sacramento for All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins.

Shelburne tweeted that the sticking point in the Okafor-to-the-Pelicans deal was the fact that the Sixers and New Orleans could not agree on the protections for the first-round pick.

So this saga continues. As far back as Feb. 6, there was a report (from USA Today’s Sam Amick) that the Sixers were talking with New Orleans about a deal involving Okafor.

Then, during a break in that Miami game on Feb. 11, Okafor was seen shaking hands with teammates as if a deal had gone down. He didn’t play that night – Brown admitted it was because of “trade rumors” – and Okafor didn’t even travel to Charlotte for a game two nights later.

But he rejoined the team last Wednesday in Boston for the Sixers’ final game before the break and saw some time off the bench. David Aldridge of Turner Sports has since reported that a swap with Portland fell through.

Other outlets have reported that Denver and Chicago expressed interest (the Nuggets presumably before swapping centers with the Blazers), and on Saturday Deveney wrote that Dallas was a potential destination.

So far, nothing.

Lest you be inclined to fret about any of this, understand that the Sixers stand to benefit from a (likely) downturn in Sacramento’s already-dim fortunes, given that they can swap first-rounders with the Kings under terms of a larcenous 2015 trade engineered by Sam Hinkie.

On another front, Embiid said that if all goes well in practice this week, he “probably” will return Friday.

And kindly consider the big picture – that the Sixers have had far worse times than this. Far worse, even, than the first three years of The Process. They are the franchise that traded Wilt, Moses, Barkley, AI and nearly Dr. J. The one that went 9-73 when they were TRYING to win. The one that twice frittered away 3-1 leads en route to losing playoff series; no other Eastern Conference team has done it that often.

You will get through this.

Deep down, you know it. And they do, too