Previous month:
October 2019

Flyers Extend Points Streak, Fall to Capitals in Shootout

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The Flyers have started to make a habit out of needing extra time. For the sixth time in the last seven games, it took overtime to decide a game. For the fifth time, it required a shootout.

Facing the league's best team proved to be too much for the Flyers in the end, with the Flyers dropping a 2-1 decision in a shootout to the Washington Capitals, but not before a highly competitive and entertaining game at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday night.

Continue reading "Flyers Extend Points Streak, Fall to Capitals in Shootout" »


Flyers-Capitals: Game 18 Preview

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The Flyers passed a significant test last weekend with back-to-back shootout wins over the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins, both on the road. This week, the schedule doesn't get any easier.

The Flyers will be back on home ice, where they enter play on Wednesday with a 6-1-1 record, but get the task of facing the NHL's best team, the Washington Capitals.

The Capitals just had a six-game winning streak snapped with a 4-3 shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Monday. They are currently on a 12-game points streak.

The Flyers enter with a streak of their own, having won their last four games and earned points in six straight games.

Game time is at 7:30 p.m.

Continue reading "Flyers-Capitals: Game 18 Preview" »


WE’RE ALL MANAGEMENT NOW

By Mitch Nathanson, Historical Columnist 

When I was six I got a Strat-O-Matic baseball game for my birthday.  This was 1972 and, my luck, the one I received came with a starter set of 1971 Expos cards.  Imagine the fevered delight of any six-year-old when he discovers he’ll have the thrill of managing from his basement the likes of Boots Day and John Boccabella for the foreseeable future. 

I can’t remember who the other team was that accompanied the Montreal cards; all I can recall is sitting in my basement watching these Expos strike out, pop out, and ground out with stunning alacrity.  In the real world, the Phillies were sending to the plate the likes of Denny Doyle, John Bateman, and Roger Freed so from where I sat, my Strat-O-Matic experience was alarmingly true-to-life.  This was baseball, I thought.  Real baseball.  And I was not merely playing it but orchestrating it.

Just as in real baseball, Strat-O-Matic offered insight if you took the time to look hard enough.  Those ’71 Expos were terrible but the more I played the more I saw the value of a player like Ron Fairly.  Rusty Staub was the unquestioned star of that club but Fairly’s card was fantastic; he seemed to get on base all the time and was maybe the toughest out in their lineup.  Ron Hunt was another player I learned to appreciate through his Strat-O-Matic card.  Soon I was batting them first and second every game even though the real-world Expos not only moved them around the order but sometimes didn’t play them at all.  Idiots, I’d say to myself.  I know better.

Strat-O-Matic begat Statis-Pro Baseball (where I discovered the deceptive magic of Paul O’Neill years before the Yankees would), which begat Rotisserie Baseball, which begat the sabermetric boom that we’re presently in the midst of.  In the process we’re all more in the know now than we have ever been before.  In short, we’re all management now, or at least we think we are. 

In the old days, when ballclubs traveled by train and sportswriters wrote breathlessly about them, we like to think that players were mythologized beyond belief – “godded-up” as critics of that era describe how they were written about.  And they were.  But along with that came a perspective that was clearly in management’s camp.  The writers of that era were working on the owners’ dole and weren’t about to do anything to screw that up.  So fans were offered a sweetened-up version of the game; one that gave them their heroes but also beat home the idea that these heroes were lucky to be there and ought not to rock the boat.  Fans, seeing the game through the eyes of management as conveyed to them by the sportswriters they read every morning, understood this implicitly.  In the process, the Yankees won seemingly every year, a few other teams tried, most didn’t, but everybody ended up comfortably in the black each October.

That perspective starting changing in the ‘60s, such that by the ‘70s and ‘80s fans were identifying more with the players than the people who paid them.  The owners were exploiting them no matter how much money this one or that one made, the players were the game, and the best ones were worth whatever it cost, were the budding narratives.  It’s no surprise that as this mindset emerged, the Players Association grew stronger and more powerful.  And in the process, baseball became more competitive.  Heroes may have become passé but stars ruled and in this star-laden era, a wider swath of clubs participated in a World Series than ever before.  And along the way clubs made more money than ever, although they were forced to spend more in order to do so.

Games like Strat-O-Matic and Statis Pro pushed back against the rising player-centered narrative, albeit inadvertently.  And fantasy baseball and sabermetrics crushed it into the dirt.  Today we’re back, if not quite where we started – baseball gods reside only in heaven nowadays – but pretty damn close.  Once again we see the game through management’s eyes, tinkering with our rosters here, looking for underappreciated value there, mixing this with that to see what might happen.  The players exist primarily as assets or liabilities; widgets of one sort or another, to be plugged in here or there, or nowhere if we might save a dollar or two in the process.

Which explains why players such as Mookie Betts, Kris Bryant, and Francisco Lindor are on the trading block right now.  All of these players are popular in their home cities, in the prime of their careers – 26 or 27 years of age – and on clubs seemingly built to contend next season.  Yet they very well might be moved.  Forty years ago fans in Boston, Chicago and Cleveland would be screaming bloody murder.  Today they calmly talk about “acquiring assets,” “cost certainty,” and “maintaining payroll flexibility” in giving management not merely a pass but a hearty pat on the back for reducing the likelihood that their hometown club will be able to compete for the postseason in 2020. 

Today’s fan not only sides with management, in his eyes he IS management. 

The brainwashing is nearly complete.  Baseball is not only run by bean counters; its most ardent supporters consider themselves kindred spirits.  To the astonishment of just about everybody, the accountants won.  Who knew they were even playing?

It would be one thing if there was solid evidence that the type of thinking now being sanctioned by armchair GM’s predictably worked, but for every club like the Astros (who, in any event, may very well have gotten where they are as much by old fashioned sign-stealing as new-age player development metrics) there are a large handful like the Pirates and Marlins, who sell and sell and sell while chanting breathlessly and vaguely about a future that each season seems to be another year further off on the horizon.  Now it’s not only the Have-Not’s who are doing the selling but the Have’s as well.  And still the armchair GM’s cheer.

The means have become the end.  For too many clubs the goal now is cost-control.  Achieve that and call the season a success irrespective of the results on the field.  To this, amazingly, the crowd roars. 

We’re all in our basements now, rolling the dice, flipping the cards, running the numbers.  The real games are on TV upstairs.  But the living room’s empty. 


Most Marvelous Mustaches in Flyers History

By Matt Mastrogiovanni, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

Many this month are letting their facial hair run wild as part of "No Shave November." However, a select few choose to swap out a full beard for just a mustache; thus the synonymous tradition of "Movember." Both month-long activities serve as symbols for Men's Health Awareness just as the pink ribbon symbolizes the fight against breast cancer.

In the National Hockey League, whether it be Movember or not, many marvelous mustaches have come and gone throughout the years. As the Flyers are in the midst of the current season, it's time to take a look back at some of the most iconic "mo's" in franchise history:

Continue reading "Most Marvelous Mustaches in Flyers History" »


Gabe Kapler is Named Manager of the San Francisco Giants

IMG_0482

The Phillies hired Gabe Kapler to be their manager on Halloween two years ago.  Both seasons the Phillies started out strong but faded down the stretch, and the Phillies decided to replace Kapler at the helm on October 10.  One month and two days later, Kapler has a new job.

Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Kapler will be manager of the San Francisco Giants.  Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported around 10:00 p.m. Eastern time that an announcement was imminent.  The word broke within a half-hour of the announcement. 

Kapler was reportedly a finalist for the position alongside Joe Espada, bench coach for the Houston Astros, and Matt Quatraro, bench coach of the Tampa Bay Rays.  Shortly after Slusser's report that an announcement was imminent, word came that Espada did not get the job from Jon Heyman of MLB Network.  

Kapler has a strong relationship with Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, dating back to the time both spent in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.  The move comes after new general manager Scott Harris was named.  Harris came from the Chicago Cubs organization that had just interviewed both Kapler and Espada for the managerial vacancy there.

Kapler managed the Phillies to an 80-82 record in 2018 and an 81-81 record in 2019.

In San Francisco, Kapler replaces Bruce Bochy.  Bochy won three World Series titles with the Giants: 2010, 2012, and 2014.  Bochy is likely headed for the Hall of Fame.


Report: Phillies Seeking to Add Two Starters, Then Keep Eye on Cole

The Phillies enter the 2020 offseason with many needs, highlighted by the starting rotation.   The starting rotation let the Phillies down significantly last season, as the likes of Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez failed to live up to the potential that many felt they had, and Jerad Eickhoff never returned to form after constantly battling injury.   The Phillies appear ready to be active in the starting pitching field.

Jason Stark of the Athletic notes that the Phillies will be active on the pitching front:

That could mean that the Phillies weakness will become a strength.

When speaking of "one big multi-year deal", could that be Cole himself?  The way this is worded it suggests that the Phillies will not wait around and Cole may be the type who hangs around until the end.  Should Cole overreach the market - as Jake Arreita might have done two years ago - the Phillies could find themselves in a place to jump in March, should the Boras Corporation client go the route of Arrieta and Bryce Harper like last year, waiting until March.

But there are good names beyond Cole and even beyond Stephen Strasburg, who gets equal attention in free agency.

Zach Wheeler has been solid for the New York Mets in recent seasons and the Phillies have had trade interest in the past.  Julio Teheran has been up and down with the Atlanta Braves but has talent and is just 29 years old.  Jordan Lyles is also just 29 years old and would represent an upgrade for the Phillies. Lyles was strong down the stretch for the Milwaukee Brewers after a July trade.  Michael Pineda, who finished the season after testing positive for a weight loss drug, a diuretic banned under the MLB joint drug agreement.

For the one-year deal types: Cole Hamels is an option; he has publicly said he would take a one-year deal and further, sign with the Phillies.  Dallas Keuchel will return to the market after completing his partial-year deal of a year ago with the Atlanta Braves.  Pitchers that are older in baseball years such as Ivan Nova, Tanner Roark, and Wade Miley could command one-year deals.

Beyond pitching, Stark addressed the Phillies infield:

In other words - the Phillies expect to be busy.

The general managers around baseball are currently gathered in Scottsdale, Arizona for the general managers meeting.  Sometimes there are trades to be made at those meetings; other times groundwork is laid for other deals.  It sounds like Matt Klentak will be busy at these meetings and well beyond.

 


The 76ers Offense is Struggling: Are More Post-Ups the Answer?

By Bill Gorman, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

Bully ball. It has been a popular refrain among local media, 76ers fans and even the organization since general manager Elton Brand signed 6-foot-10 Al Horford, traded for 6-foot-6 Josh Richardson and brought back 6-foot-9 Tobias Harris to form the largest starting lineup in the NBA along with the 6-foot-10 Ben Simmons and 7-foot Joel Embiid.

Heading into this season, fans and analysts alike had visions of five defenders all with enough quickness and length to switch on any and every pick and roll or screen action. With defensive-minded reserves like rookie first-round pick Matisse Thybulle (6-foot-5 with a 7-foot wingspan), James Ennis III (6-foot-7 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan) and Kyle O’Quinn (6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan), predictions that Philadelphia would shut every opponent down and keep opponents from clearing the 100-point mark on a regular basis ran rampant among fans. Through nine games so far this season, the team is sixth in the league in defensive rating (points per 100 possessions) at 102.4: Things are going as expected on that end of the floor.

The 76ers offense this season was always going to present the larger question. Losing players who had accounted for 48% of the team’s 3-point attempts in 2018-19 presented a challenge the team will be facing all season. Making the floor spacing work with a lineup consisting of Simmons (a non-shooter), Richardson (career 3-point percentage in the mid-30s), Harris (the lone "shooter" in the starting lineup) and the twin-towers of Embiid and Horford was always going to be an issue for head coach Brett Brown to figure out. The hope is that, as the season goes along, the starting lineup will gel together and as a result floor spacing will not be as much of an issue.

Continue reading "The 76ers Offense is Struggling: Are More Post-Ups the Answer?" »


Eagles Sign Brandon Brooks Through 2024

Embed from Getty Images

By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

On the Monday following the Eagles bye week, Howie Roseman made one of his signature moves by re-signing one of the team's best players to a contract mid-season.

The new deal will keep guard Brandon Brooks with the Eagles through the 2024 season.

Brooks has been the Eagles best player this season and is line for a slew of awards.

After tearing his Achillies' tendon in the Divisonal Round, Brooks rebounded to start week one of the season and be Pro Football Focus' best offensive lineman in 2019.

Continue reading "Eagles Sign Brandon Brooks Through 2024" »


Bye Week Is Good To Eagles, Birds Very Much In Playoff Hunt

Embed from Getty Images

By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

For as much as it feels like the Eagles have been getting beat down this season, the team is actually still in pretty good shape in regards to the playoffs, especially after this week.

Sure, a bye week is almost always in favor of the team on bye getting a chance to heal, but the Eagles got a little help from the schedule this week.

The Eagles are not exactly in an ideal position in regards to the playoffs with a 5-4 schedule, but they find themselves tied for a the sixth-best record in the NFC following their bye and just 2.5 games out from the second first-round bye.

The Eagles are now focused on trying to go 12-4 with arguably the easiest part of their schedule set to end the season following match-ups with the Patriots and Seahawks - both Eagles home games.

Continue reading "Bye Week Is Good To Eagles, Birds Very Much In Playoff Hunt" »


For Starters, Phillies Would Be Wise to Sign Hamels Immediately

Hamels
(Kevin Durso/Sports Talk Philly)

The offseason will really kick off this week as the general managers head to Scottsdale, Arizona for the annual general manager meetings.  The Phillies have been active at these meetings before, such as 2003 when the Phillies made a trade for closer Billy Wagner.  The Phillies do not need to travel anywhere to get one piece set, however.  The Phillies, facing an offseason with many needs, have Cole Hamels publicly commenting that he would like to be back in Philadelphia.   The Phillies should take advantage of this and make a move now.

Hamels told MLB.com last week that he had a desire to return:

“They’re building their roster. If I fit on their roster and their plans, I’d love the opportunity to come back. It’s probably more on their end, though, to reach out and see if I actually do fit in their plans. It would be difficult for me to say, ‘Hey, I want to play there, can you guys make it happen?’ But I’m always willing to play for that team and city and attempt to win a World Series.

Hamels fits their needs and terms.

Is Hamels willing to sign a one-year deal and not handcuff the Phillies long-term? Check.  Will not cost a draft pick to sign him? Check.  Left-handed?  Check.  Salary in a reasonable range that will not preclude a bigger signing? Check.   Everything about the situation seems to align with the offseason plans for the Phillies.

Hamels would not be, and should not be considered a front-end of the rotation option.  Hamels is no longer that guy.  But is he someone who can provide value to a starting rotation?  Absolutely.  Would he bring clout and leadership to the young players on the team since he won a World Series in Philadelphia and was the World Series MVP?  Absolutely.  The Phillies could check off a box and bring a special energy to the team and to the fans.

Last offseason the Phillies declared that they would not wait around to make moves, even as they had their eyes on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.  The signing of Andrew McCutchen was an earlier signing that allowed the team to fill one starting lineup spot in the earlier end.  It was not the biggest splash in terms of present-day talent on the field, but he was a transformational presence in terms leadership, which translated to better performance from the team all around.

Also last offseason the Phillies took a pass on the likes of Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ and did not want to trade prospects for starting pitching, either.  Getting Hamels in the fold now would at least keep the cupboard from being completely bare.  The Phillies probably will still try for Gerrit Cole and/or Stephen Strasburg.   But the Phillies need more than one starter, and last year Hamels was better than any starter not named Aaron Nola on the Phillies roster.

It is probably true that the Phillies could find someone analytically better than Hamels for the back-end.  But no other player is willing to go public with their desire to come to Philadelphia.  This would be an easy acquisition.

So, get it done, Phillies.  Then you can move onto the next, bigger item on the offseason agenda.