Cole Hamels Throws No-Hitter in Most Likely Final Start as a Phillie

I’ve barely watched any Phillies baseball this year, but I watched the final three outs of Cole’s masterpiece in Chicago today with the same vigor of when the team was chasing down division and league pennants. Gotta say, I got a bit emotional watching the final out and celebration.

He came up huge today, reinforcing what a big-time pitcher he is and why the Phillies should expect a handsome return for him in any trade. I’ll miss watching this guy pitch. Unlike other pitching heroes such as  Cliff Lee or Doc Halladay, Cole was Phillie from the start and that’s what makes his necessary departure so bittersweet. As good as he is, he deserves to pitch for a contender. Honestly, I would be disappointed if he made another start for the Phillies at this point.

Thank you Cole for EVERYTHING, and for making this dreadful Phillies season a bit sweeter as we all got transported back to the golden age of 2007-2011, even if it was just for a couple of hours on a random July afternoon.

Sixers Draft Recap: Welcome Jahlil Okafor

The biggest night on the Sixers’ calendar has come and gone and like the past two drafts under Sam Hinkie, the Sixers nabbed a big man with their top selection.

I’m pretty excited for Jahlil Okafor, especially since in all likelihood, he’ll be ready to play this season right away, as opposed to Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel in their rookie years. Okafor was probably the Sixers draft target I watched the most all year long, and was my first choice for much of the year. I knew that having two other young big men would not deter Sam Hinkie and that turned out to be the case. I just had no idea that he wasn’t going to be the top pick, since I figured the Sixers wouldn’t win the lottery this year.

But I CANNOT believe the Lakers swooped in and took D’Angelo Russell. Just a few days ago, Chad Ford, had it 80-20 that the Lakers were taking Okafor. I honestly thought Russell wasnt the best need pick for the Sixers, I thought he was going to be the best player available for the Sixers. If the Sixers had selected No.2 I have a feeling they would’ve went Russell, just like they wouldve taken Wiggins over Embiid had they had a higher pick last year. I guess the Lakers are going to find a big in Free Agency, or try to work out a three-team deal for a big man because they don’t have the resources now for a Boogie Cousins deal. The Lakers obviously felt Russell’s star potential was too much to pass up and like me they probably read this article, showing how Russell had the best chance to be a superstar (and most likely to be a bust). Russell in Philly would’ve been fun, but it’s time to get ready to watch Okafor do work.

I don’t think the Okafor pick signifies anything is dramatically wrong with Joel Embiid, but it does make his foot concerns a little less worrisome for me, knowing the Sixers can build around Okafor and Noel and Embiid can continue to rehab with a little less scrutiny now.

I do think Embiid will get on the court eventually, however and how they make they three big man co-exist will be fascinating. I have no idea how it will play out, but I’m sure the Sixers will find a way in the short-term at least. Long term? It’s probable that one of Embiid or Noel gets dealt, but that’s a ways away.

They all have their strengths and weaknesses. Noel, defense. Okafar, offense. Embiid is a good all-around prospect, but health is the issue. I like the odds that at least one of these three will be a perennial all-star. If you made me pick now, I’ll say Okafor, but it’s just a guess.

The bottom line is Jahlil was the best player available, and when the Sixers are shooting so high to be great, while currently performing one of the most dramatic and scrutinized rebuilds in sports, you can’t worry about position or fit when it comes to finding the next potential superstar.  Take the best player and that’s what they did and will likely continue to do.

Other thoughts

  • Boy am I glad they didn’t take Porzingis. I probably would’ve been off the Hinkie bandwagon if he did that. LOL at the Knicks fans last night.
  • Minnesota is putting together a terrific core, one that I think most Sixers fans would prefer to the one the Sixers have. And to think it’s all because they mismanaged Kevin Love’s contract and Lebron went back to Cleveland.
  • The Sixers are definitely a bit unlucky in this rebuild, which is probably going to make the process longer in the end. Embiid’s foot injury last year (and this year) pushing them away from Wiggins when he would’ve slipped to No. 3. And now this year, not only did the Lakers get a top 5 pick, denying the Sixers the rights to obtain their selection, they decide to go against their history of great big men and take Russell.
  • I’m pretty surprised the Sixers didn’t make a move back into the first round of draft with all the draft picks at their disposal. Even Hinkie stated today it was surprising that they only made one transaction last night.
  • Only in Philadelphia can questions about how enthusiastic a prospect appeared to be post-selection become one of the topics of conversation. Okafor seemed plenty enthused to me last night. Then again I have NO IDEA what his personality is like or what was going on in his mind. I’m just going to assume he’s happy to be in Philadelphia with a good coaching staff and a chance to be a franchise savior. I know it’s our nature to be negative, but let’s just be positive here Philly.

 

 

Sixers Nab the Third Pick (Again); Welcome D’Angelo Russell?

The Sixers will not have three first round picks and they won’t have the top overall pick as for the second-straight year, the NBA Draft lottery gods deemed the Sixers worthy of picking third and no higher.

I’m fine with it. I was worried leading up to the draft that bad karma from tanking would push the team out of the top four. The lottery was pretty straightforward with the only surprise coming when the Lakers and Knicks (lol) switched spots.

The Sixers certainly don’t need a big man but it would’ve been something else to see who Sam Hinkie would’ve taken at No.1 had the Sixers won the lottery. Instead he gets to work from his comfortable perch at third overall, and unless Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor get hurt, the Sixers will have pick of the litter of players who could fill a variety of positions of need for the Sixers.

Last year the entire season and pre-draft process had the Sixers linked to Andrew Wiggins. This year, it’s been less clear who they might covet, if it’s even reasonable to guess who they want at all. However, the D’Angelo Russell fire was stoked recently and now it’s starting to burn brighter with the Sixers picking third. That’s who my definite choice is now anyway. After Russell, I’d select Justice Winslow, but after that it’s a crapshot. Hinkie would probably target one of the European forwards over Emmanuel Mudiay, but again, who knows other than the Hinkman himself?

I honestly would’t be surprised if Hinkie took one of the Euros at three over Russell. But until draft night comes and goes, I’ll envision D’Angelo Russell pulling up and knocking down shots from all over the court, dazzling the crowd with no-look passes and alley-oops to Noel and Joel.

This might be all for naught, but I’m excited for the D’Angelo Russell era to begin.

Other quick lottery thoughts:

  • Whichever big man the Lakers take at two (probably Okafor) is guaranteed to become a slam dunk hall-of-famer and that’s only because of the Lakers ridiculous history of big men. It also has the potential to be a big-time front court when Julius Randle gets back on the hardwood.
  • That Minnesota team will have a damn good young core with Wiggins and whichever big they select.
  • Dissappointed in the lack of other lottery picks for the Sixers, but they’ll still be there next year, at least one of them most likely. If Hinkie wants to move back into the first round, he’s got plenty of second round picks at his disposal.
  • The Sixers drafted Evan Turner at No.2 out in 2010… out of Ohio State. So, Russell will be a huge bust right? Sure, if you believe in negative idiotic theories and Murphy’s Law.
  • Time to put that scouting work to good use at No. 4 Phil.
  • If Nerlens was pimping the new Sixers jerseys tonight, I like ’em.
  • It’s amazing that the Draft Lottery show is 30 minutes long. Talk about a waste of time. The NBA needs to embrace change and social media and announce the picks via Twitter.

Digesting the Eagles Draft

It has officially been one week since Marcus Mariota was not drafted by the Eagles. After four months of nonstop hype, wishful thinking and peculiar trade rumors, the most sensible result occurred with the Titans selecting him at No.2. Marcus Mariota may be an Eagle someday, but he’s not now. It’s likely Sam Bradford’s show and I actually have an inordinate amount of confidence that it will work out.

Now on to the players the Eagles did select during the draft.  Before I begin, let’s begin with the grade: B

Really like the Agholor pick. I’ll go so far as to say it’s a home run choice and we shouldn’t miss Jeremy Maclin too much next year. By all accounts he’s as versatile as they come and it will be fun to watch Chip get creative with where he puts him on the field. I heard some people, fans and media, whining they didn’t take Breshad Perriman. I couldn’t tell you one thing about Perriman, so I’m not going to be looking at this pick as a one or the other for the next five years. Chip had his choice and got his guy. And it’s a good thing he did, because while the Birds could’ve went o-line (more on this in a moment) or secondary with the first selection, getting their targeted wide out in the first was key. Why? in the second round, a slew of receivers went off the board. After the Eagles took Eric Rowe in the second, by the third round, only Jaelen Strong and Sammie Coates were the best options left. Good call taking Agholar in the first.

The Rowe pick was also well received and I’m excited to see where he lines up in the secondary. Ultimately, I can’t help but think he winds up at safety, but he should definitely be a positive addition next season.

Following these two picks, I was feeling great. It was a slam dunk draft so far, to use another cliche sports metaphor. But then the third round, this is where things got interesting. Not bad, but slightly puzzling. Jordan Hicks an inside linebacker from Texas had me scratching my head. Not because he’s a bad prospect. But because of the glut of talent at linebacker. Kiko Alonzo and DeMeco Ryans are coming off tough injuries, so if this is a depth move it’s solid reasoning. Last year the Eagles were stuck with Casey Matthews and I think Hicks is an upgrade there. But then there’s Mychal Kendricks’ and his uncertain future. It’s been widely reported that he’s being shopped and it makes sense given the logjam and the possibility he could bring a solid draft pick back. Kendricks is a stud. Yes he’s been injured but I already pointed out Alonzo’s and Ryans’ injury situations. Getting rid of him would be a tough blow.

But the real reason I’m scratching my head a week later is the fact that they didn’t go offensive line in the third. Chip pointed out that some of their top targets went ahead of them and that’s just the unfortunate breaks of the draft. But the more I think about it, the more I wondered why they didn’t try to recoup another pick and move out of the third entirely. They gave up two fifths for Rowe. Why not try to get another back, in the top of the fourth? At least take an offensive lineman, who even if he’s a project, you can mold towards the future. It’s the second straight year the Eagles didn’t draft a lineman and after seeing how badly injuries hurt them last year, it’s inexcusable to not pick one this year. I don’t know if they’re screwed at offensive line, as Jimmy Kempski points out, but they’re making it very hard on themselves in the long run. When it comes to next year’s draft, they’re going to have to address the line with at least 2 of their first three picks.

After initially being frustrated with trading out of the fourth and going two straight rounds without picking a player, I think getting that third round pick from Detroit in the 2016 draft is vital, especially with the still-befuddling decision to include a second to St. Louis in the Foles deal fresh in everyone’s mind. That pick will be really helpful next year.

For some reason I think one of Randall Evans or JaCorey Sheperd, the two players the Birds took in the sixth round, will end up being a solid player for the team going forward. Just a gut feeling.

Now that the schedule’s out, the draft is over and the focus shifts to training camp, the question on sports radio will shift from whether they will make a move for Mariota to is this team actually better than last year? I’ll say they’re slightly better, but I’m not putting them in the playoffs or anything just yet.  Offensive line aside, the Eagles have improved at a number of areas this offseason. Safety is still a big question mark, but I’ll wait and see what happens with Rowe.  There are likely some decisions still to be made in regards to Kendricks and Evan Mathis, but those likely wont be made until training camp.

Ultimately this draft is going to be a successful one in my opinion. They didn’t get Mariota, the apple of every Eagle fans eye, but there was a time when the Eagles turned down Ricky Williams for Donovan McNabb and that worked out just fine. Sometimes the best moves are they ones you don’t make.

 

 

One Week Until the Draft: What the Hell is Chip Going to Do?

The answer? No idea. The Eagles definitely need to nail this first round pick next week, especially following the debacle of Marcus Smith last year. Could Chip trade everybody on the roster for Marcus Mariota? Sure! Could he sit back and play it safe and draft a wide receiver or corner? BOOOOOORING, but yeah, he could do that. Could he trade out of the first round entirely and draft some Division II quarterback from Illinois State? You betcha! Note; I’m not sure if Illinois State is a DII school or not, but you get the point of the hypothetical right??

I have no idea what the hell’s gonna happen next week. What do I want to happen? There’s really only two options. First, trade for Marcus Mariota. The Eagles finally find their franchise quarterback in the Heisman Trophy winner and perfect human being (according to most people who’ve ever stepped within five feet of the guy). I would give up a lot for Mariota, obviously. Two firsts, two seconds(assuming they recoup the one they give away in the Foles deal), a third, a few future mid-round picks, Mychal Kendricks and another player or two, but no Fletcher Cox thats where I draw the line. And I like Mychal Kendricks, but with Ryans resigning and Kiko Alonso’s arrival, it doesn’t look good for his return.

As much as I want Mariota in an Eagles uniform next year, it seems unlikely, and there’s probably some dark horse team out there who nobody is talking about right now who will swoop in and select him. That leaves option two. Stay and select the best player at 20 or move up a few spots if you have to and take the best player available (BPA). I think the Eagles got outmaneuvered last year and thus settled to move back and take Smith when their top options were gone. Give me an offensive lineman, wide receiver or defensive back with the first pick and I’ll be satisfied.

I think we can also expect multiple trades. The Eagles are usually pretty frisky on draft day, but now that Chip is making trades cool again in the NFL, I’d expect at least two, and several of which to involve current players on the team, such as Brandon Boykin or Kendricks, even in a non-Mariota deal.

Sam Bradford? He’s not going anywhere in my mind. Still the most mind-boggling move in this offseason of madness, Bradford looks set to commandeer of Chips’s offense, assuming, you know, HE HAS TWO WORKING KNEES. Every time I think he can do big things in Chips system, I remember how he might not even be ready for the start of the season. Is he better than Foles? I think so. But not by much. I dislike giving up the second-rounder, but if Bradford turns out to be very good, it’s worth it.

This is a great draft for running backs, which us why I was surprised the Eagles stuck it to the Cowboys and signed DeMarco Murray. To me, I would’ve just signed Ryan Matthews, counted my lucky stars Frank Gore Changed his mind, and selected a top back in rounds two or three. Oh, and kept Jeremy Maclin too, even if he was pretty pricey. But now running back is one less positon they need to prioritize for the early rounds, until next year anyway.

Besides the Mariota dream, there’s so many positions the Eagles can target with their first rounder next week which is why I’m more excited than usual for the draft. Add in the complete uncertainly of whether Big Balls Chip will unleash more mind-warping trades and I’m almost frothing at the mouth.

I’ll be at the Eagles draft party next Thursday at the Linc. If Mariota starts to slide, I can only hope the place starts building with energy every time a team passes before finally crescendoing to a booming a MAR-E-O-TAH chant that the front office will hear across the street at NovaCare. Of course, if they select some scrub for the second straight year, it will be pretty fun watching every Eagles fans head explode in rage.

‘Why is He Still Here?’ Welcome to the 2015 Phillies Season

Phillies baseball returns on Monday (or perhaps Tuesday?) against some team in a location that will presumably have grass, dirt, four bases and foul (fair?) poles dotting the corners of the outfield.

Alright fine, after a brief Google search, they’re hosting the Red Sox at 3:05 at Citizens Bank Park Monday, April 6. Cole Hamels, soon-to-be former ace, toes the rubber for the Phils, Clay Bucholz for the Sox.

While the other three Philly teams are in a state of flux (side note: holy shit, the Eagles, more on them in a few days) the Phillies have the bleakest outlook by far. A lack of impact prospects and only two or three veteran players who can still contribute at an all-star level, leave this team in dissarray. Add in the front office’s startlingly slow acceptance to a rebuild (seriously, how many times would Sam Hinkie have rebuilt this team in the same time he’s managed the Sixers?) and you get a uninspiring quagmire.

So with the rebuilding process still in its infancy stages, and a long season of losing ahead, let’s play Philadelphia’s new favorite pastime: “Why is he still here?”

Ruben Amaro Jr: How many general managers have presided over a 100-win team and a 100-loss team? I’m guessing it’s a short list, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Rube was the only one on it if the Phils do reach triple digit losses this spring.  I haven’t ripped Amaro as much as other fans have done in the years since the Golden Age came to an end. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he deserves most of the blame. But I can’t help buy wonder if he was restricted, by other personnel in the front office and ownership group in anyway when it came time to rebuild sooner. Lord knows he wasn’t restricted with the checkbook.  Plus, I was fully on board with giving up prospects to win now in 2010 (Oswalt trade) and 2011(Pence trade). The team has technically be in decline since winning the title in 2008. But obviously you’re not going to fire a GM after he loses in the playoffs multiple years. With his contract up after this season and no extension signed, the guess is that Rube and the Phillies part ways quietly after the season.

Ryan Howard:  Owed $70 million when you include his $10 million 2017 buyout, Howard seemed destined to be released in the offseason, with the Phillies just cutting bait with the former MVP. No other team seemed likely to trade for him even if the Phillies swallowed nearly all of Howard’s salary. But he’s still here. Taking meaningful at bats from younger players like Darin Ruf and Maikel Franco. Ruben had to awkwardly apologize to him after declaring that the team would be better off without him. Never the same after multiple injuries suffered after his albatross of an extension signed in 2010, he’s averged 16 homers and 16 RBI since 2012.  He should be a DH in the AL. The salary is embarrassing whether he’s playing for the team or not. I think there’s more value in outright releasing him and starting a younger player rather than keeping him around. I don’t expect Howard to finish the year in Philly.

Chase Utley:  Can’t figure this one out. I’m guessing once the losing gets so bad, Chase will look to his former double play partner, Jimmy Rollins, having a blast in LA and say, ‘that’s it get me the hell out of here,’ in the most polite and honorable way Chase can. Actually, knowing Chase, multiple F bombs will be mixed in that trade request. I admire him for wanting to stay loyal to the Phillies and wanting to live in Philly, but is leading by example really going to benefit this team’s younger players? Especially because the younger infield players on the big league roster just aren’t very good. Cody Asche might be the only serviceable one of the bunch.  Plus Chase deserves a shot at a second ring.

Cole Hamels: I’ll give Rube credit for this one, at least he didn’t trade Cole for pennies on the dollar. Yet. Anyway, I remember during Hamels’ contract year in 2012 when he was being shopped towards the deadline, teams were hesitant to give up top prospects for a rental. Now, it’s three years later, Hamels has 4 years and $90 million remaining, plus an option year,  which puts his salary obligation at over $100 million and teams are still hesitant to give up top prospects. Amaro can’t afford to give away his most prized trade chip for marginal talent in return. He needs to get one blue chip prospect to give fans and the organization something to look forward to for the future. The best chance for that scenario to unfold is for Cole to pitch lights out in the first half of the season, the hope a desperate team finally agrees to meet their asking price. Let’s just hope Cole stays healthy.

 Jonathan Papelbon: One of the least popular Philly athletes of my lifetime, and just a downright bizarre dude, Papelbon’s hefty contract is the reason he’s still here. Expensive closers are pretty much like expensive running backs. Few and far between. Teams can more productive running backs in the middle rounds and pay them a fraction of what, say, a Lesean McCoy or Adrian Peterson can make. Same thing with closers in baseball, assuming they have the mental fortitude to handle the rigors of the 9th inning. His numbers last year were actually solid, and I would think this is the year some team in playoff contention makes a trade for him, assuming it costs them very little.  I wouldn’t be disappointed if the Phillies got pennies on the dollar for Papelbon.

Quick MLB Predictions Because Why Not?

NL East: Nationals

NL Central: Cardinals

NL West: Dodgers

WC 1: Pirates

WC 2:  Padres

NLCS: Dodgers over Nationals

AL East: Blue Jays

AL Central: Indians

AL West: Angels

WC 1: A’s

WC 2: Tigers

World Series: Dodgers over Tigers

AL MVP: Mike Trout

NL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton

NL Cy Young: Johnny Cueto

AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez

Goodbye LeSean ‘Shady’ McCoy and Other Eagles Thoughts

NFL Free Agency begins Tuesday and Chip Kelly, officially confirmed as head honcho in charge of all pigskin related matters, is making quick work of the roster, only to begin reshaping it when free agency gets started.

There’s been expected moves, cutting James Casey and Cary Williams, and some marginally surprising moves, cutting Todd Herremans and Trent Cole. Then there was the what-the-heck just-happened-move: trading LeSean McCoy to Buffalo for Kiko Alonzo.

Let’s start with McCoy because yeah, that’s the biggest move by far. Once we moved past the immediate time after the news breaks and the Twitter mass has its customary freakouts, both good and bad, this move wasn’t really surprising, and probably should’ve been expected. First off, when you cut DeSean Jackson, following a year when he put up more than 1,300 receiving yards, and he goes to a division rival, anything is on the table with this regime.  Secondly, McCoy brought a huge cap number to the table next season, and didn’t seem keen on renegotiating. Thirdly, he seemed off last year, be it from injury-depleted offensive line, or just general moodiness and lack of enthusiasm of Chip’s system (pure speculation on all three accounts here).

It’s crazy that come next September, the Eagles could line up an offense without Shady, DJax and, yes, Jeremy Maclin. But like Sam Hinkie, Ron Hextall and Ruben Amaro (just kidding) Chip has a plan and believes his scheme will make up for the loss in production. Still, that’s a TON of production. Getting rid of your receiving leaders in back-to-back offseasons and the franchise’s all-time leading rusher (in only six seasons!?) is seriously ballsy, even for someone nicknamed Big Ball’s Chip.

As an Eagles fan, I’m sad because when McCoy was on his game, he was as elite a talent as they come. His dazzling jukes in the open field and to be able to cut on a dime as his Twitter handle promotes was second to only Barry Sanders. I certainly wish I could’ve watched Shady make more memorable plays in an Eagles uniform, but this is the harsh reality of the NFL, and especially of the Chip Kelly era.  Personally, I think McCoy has several good years in Buffalo, provided he actually shows up. Next season when the Bills come to the Linc will definitely be interesting.

At least this year the Eagles got something in return for one of their stars. I’m excited for the potential Kiko Alonzo has shown and I’m not too worried about the ACL injuries he’s had in the past. Most players can recover quicker and stronger than ever before from this injury. And from what I’ve heard from several beat writers, his recovery has been very good.

Now to other Eagles moves and possible moves.

  • Good riddance Cary Williams. His brash, confrontational personality could’ve played well with the city if he, you know, played well.  Due $6.5 million next year, his release was a no-brainer. I soured on him last season when he complained about practice following the Eagles dramatic September win over the Redskins to move to 3-0. You’re not Allen Iverson. Shut up.
  • Thank you for your abilities James Casey. I would’ve liked to see more of Casey as a versatile offensive weapon, but Chip Kelly couldn’t pass up Zach Ertz in the 2013 draft and I cant blame him. He made the most of it as a terrific special teamer and I applaud him for that.
  • The Eagles will miss Cole and Herremans. Two of the best picks Andy Reid ever made were valuable contributors each season they were here and I can’t believe there were in Philly for a decade. Time flies. Cole’s release was several years coming, but he still managed to provide two productive years in a new defensive scheme. Good luck to the Hunter.
  • I will be really disappointed if this team doesn’t resign Maclin. There’s no reason to let him go with upwards of $50 million cap space. I understand Kelly believes in the scheme, but if Maclin walks, this turns into a rebuild, not a retool. The still haven’t adequately replaced DeSean and now have to replace Shady. Just too much uncertainty.

I think many are expecting the Eagles to make a big splash in on Tuesday shortly after 4. I am one of those people, but I’m not ordering my Byron Maxwell or Devin McCourty jerseys yet. Lots of teams have money and many need defensive back help. If it comes down to McCourty or Maxwell for me, I’d go McCourty.  Throw in a Jason Worilds, who I think is a lock for the Birds, and a re-sign of Maclin and it will be a productive start to reshaping this roster.

That’s how I predict the Birds will spend their big money. As for cornerback and offensive line, I think they’ll go after some veterans on shorter-term deals, possibly like CB Tramon Williams from Green Bay or offensive lineman, such as Davin Joseph and Orlando Franklin.

Those are my best guesses for free agency. I’ve been right the last two years with at least one player: Connor Barwin in 2013, Malcolm Jenkins last off season. Here’s hoping for more productive players this year, and not a ‘Dream Team’ redux. Tuesday at 4 p.m. can’t get here quickly enough.