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Striking In 1994-95 vs. Struck-down 2020 Phillies

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

With hope on the horizon, the Philadelphia Phillies could be days away from televised exhibition contests, but can the stars align with the baseball gods for 60 games? Yes, but the 20-contest schedule against the American League East will be one four-game series, and --location-wise-- it might benefit a National League East rival. 

 

Nature's Fist: 

After seemingly non-stop pandemic coverage competed with binge-watching for the eyeballs of the Phillies faithful, 60 contests won't be 2020’s top baseball issue. No, the national pastime will be a welcomed relief from this appearingly endless factor.     

IN OTHER WORDS:       

"Human destiny is bound to remain a gamble because at some unpredictable time and in some unforeseeable manner nature will strike back." - Rene Dubos

Phillies Schedule:

  • 60 games: 10 each against four NL East teams and four apiece versus five AL East clubs.

For the lords of baseball, the 1994 campaign was their attempt at initiating a salary cap to reduce spending and limit free agency. But the players went on strike and refused to accede even if there would be no 1995 games. Translation: no way!                           

In ‘94, the Fightins played 115 contests with a 54-61 record on August 11 for fourth place. They were 20.5 games behind the first-place Montreal Expos (74-40), who had a six-game advantage over the Atlanta Braves (68-46). So, the Phils missed 47 contests in an October with no World Series.     

Even though the ‘95 red pinstripes finished in second place after the campaign had begun on April 26, they were 21 games behind the Braves. Atlanta had a 90-54 mark to the 69-75 Phillies who tied the New York Mets for second place. Ergo, missing 21 contests did not affect the Fightins.      

The MLB and the MLBPA demonstrated their positions through orchestrated leaks. Occupation-wise, unions and management are confrontational by nature, and the majors are no exception. But although these tensions and strategies exist elsewhere, here the timing and publicity were brutal.

Needing an escape, fans instead received a preview of the debate over the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) expiring after the 2021 season. Hopefully, ‘21 won’t be another abbreviated campaign with unpopular rules for traditionalists, but fate will be in the government’s hands: federal, state and local. 

For now, MLB’s COVID-19 rules involve players being in a bubble. To illustrate, they pertain to more than air high fives and other celebrations: locker spacing, no after-game showers, and no hanging around after the contest. Yeah, totally different!                         

Because the situation is fluid, locations, rosters, and plans can change between now and July’s Opening Day. Presently, each organization will have 30 active players reduced to 28 after two weeks and 26 after another two weeks. But each team will also have a 30-man taxi squad with three men available due to an in-game injury.   

While some franchises may use two facilities before game one, 60 players will require training in staggered shifts regardless. And the Fightins will carry one catcher on their taxi squad with J.T. Realmuto and Andrew Knapp on the active roster. Ergo, the extra receiver will always be available for an emergency.     

Some minor league facilities could have games for players who don’t even make a 30-man taxi squad, and Nashvillie has already been floating their city as a possible destination. Plus if Arizona and Florida can solve their current infection rate by the fall, they could have leagues for some youngsters missing MiLB action.     

Teams to Beat:

With a shortened camp and a two-month schedule, players will be fresh. And it won’t be a marathon, it’ll be a sprint to October. Meanwhile, firemen like David Robertson will be ready for the stretch drive in late July, and Joe Girardi may signal for him against the New York Yankees. 

The Phillies will have one four-contest series versus the Yankees. However, starter Luis Severino is out for the year, and slugger Aaron Judge has recovered from his injuries. But one was a collapsed lung, and the coronavirus is primarily a respiratory illness: He could opt out. Nah, he won’t!  

After 96 victories in 2019, the Tampa Bay Rays annually find a way to be competitive, and they’ve benefitted by some trades and free agent signings. Unfortunately, you won’t be familiar with many uniformed regulars and starters, but don’t take them lightly because they frequently discover a winning path.             

The Boston Red Sox have a cautionary tale for the Phils faithful because their president had paid top dollar for free-agent talent and captured the 2018 Fall Classic. Problem-wise, Boston had exceeded the CBT (competitive-balance threshold) of $197 million by over $40 million for ‘18 and then missed the postseason in ‘19.  

Despite not re-upping Craig Kimbrel, they were still $35.5 million over the $206 million CBT in 2019. But their supporters had expected more victories even with the tax penalties: They were none too happy. Well, the owner moved free-agent-to-be Mookie Betts after firing the president, and now ace Chris Sale is out for 2020.    

Compared to the Red Sox not being as dangerous, the Toronto Blue Jays will be interesting to watch from a surname perspective:  Biggio, Guerrero and Bichette. Yes, the sons of stars will be fun to eye if they don’t imitate their famous fathers in the games, but they’ll have growing pains.                 

And, lastly, the Baltimore Orioles will be without right fielder Trey Mancini: .291, 35 bombs, 97 RBIs, a 132 wRC+ and a 3.6 fWAR. Last summer, they suffered 108 defeats with his bat and power in the heart of the order. But don’t sleep on these youngsters because they have nothing to lose and a lot to prove.  

For social distancing, some players will be in the stands, and there will be no cheering or booing from fans. Plus the regulars will hear their home team’s broadcasters praising and criticizing them. In fact, those players could be aware of a mistake due to a friendly critique.    

According to Charles Barkley, the crowd propelled him with energy he was unaware of. However, that will be missing even if some fans are in the stands eventually.  

Charlie Manuel stated the game is 40 percent luck, but ‘20 must have a higher percentage: 50-60 percent? Unfortunately, I can only wonder what the former skipper thinks regarding the COVID-19 X factor.       

At any time, the virus or an injury --including unreported ones-- can claim a victim and change the season’s course if luck isn’t on your side. Favorably, though, the playoffs will mostly have NL and AL clubs who have not played each other since 2019 and a potential World Series with the same possibility.   

The old adage is you’ll see something in baseball you’ve never seen before, and it happens a handful of times during the standard 162. In 2020, though, when do I believe you’ll experience this phenomenon from Opening Day through October? Twice in July!   

 

NEXT:

Phillies, MLB: 2020’s Baseball Purists’ Nightmare

 

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Phillies Release 60-Player Pool, Highlighted By Bohm, Howard

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Alec Bohm is elegible to join the Phillies this season (Frank Klose/Sports Talk Philly)

The Phillies, like other teams, submitted their 60-player pool from which they will put together a team for their 2020 season.  The Phillies took advantage of their Spring Training depth to put together a group full of depth heading into the 2020 season.  The list includes top prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm.

Here is the list released by the Phillies on Sunday night:

Right-handed pitchers:

  • Victor Arano
  • Jake Arrieta
  • Connor Brogdon
  • Enyel De Los Santos
  • Zach Eflin
  • Edgar Garcia
  • Deolis Garcia
  • Spencer Howard
  • Tommy Hunter
  • Trevor Kelley
  • Mauricio Llovera
  • Reggie McClain
  • Hector Neris
  • Aaron Nola
  • Bud Norris
  • Blake Parker
  • Nick Pivetta
  • Ramon Rosso
  • Addison Russ
  • Connor Seabold
  • Robert Stock
  • Vince Velasquez
  • Zach Wheeler

Left-Handed Pitchers:

  • Jose Alvarez
  • Garrett Cleavinger
  • Cole Irvin
  • Damon Jones
  • Francisco Liriano
  • Adam Morgan
  • Jojo Romero
  • Ranger Suarez

Catchers:

  • Deivy Grullon
  • Andrew Knapp
  • J.T. Realmuto

Infielders:

  • Alec Bohm
  • Logan Forsythe
  • Phil Gosselin
  • Didi Gregorius
  • Josh Harrison
  • Rhys Hoskins
  • Scott Kingery
  • Jean Segura
  • Ronald Torreyes
  • Neil Walker

Outfielders:

  • Jay Bruce
  • Kyle Garlick
  • Bryce Harper
  • Adam Haseley
  • Mikie Mahtook
  • Nick Martini
  • Andrew McCutchen
  • Roman Quinn
  • Nick Williams

The Phillies released Matt Szczur and Drew Storen in the hours leading up to the deadline.

While Bohm and Howard are on the list, there is no guarantee the players will make the Opening Day Roster.  Other players in the "pool" not on the 40-man roster will likely train in Allentown at Coca-Cola Park, home of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.  The Phillies could hold their top prospects back to find the right moment to move forward.

"Summer Camp" as the Phillies are calling it, will be held at Citizens Bank Park.  Not all 60 players will report there; some may head to Allentown to help the team spread out for safety.

Not on the list is reliever Seranthony Dominguez.   Dominguez is headed to the 60-day injured list for an elbow strain.  He could undergo "Tommy John" surgery soon.

The rules state, "Any injured non-40-man-roster players will continue to count against the team’s Player Pool unless they are removed through one of the aforementioned transactions."  That would seemingly mean that David Robertson will not return in 2020.

The Phillies have also left Odubel Herrera off of the 60-player pool.  Herrera was outrighted to Triple-A and had been in minor league camp.  He will be paid this season, but will not play unless the Phillies were to trade Herrera or release him, which seems unlikely.


Tobias Harris Opens Up on ESPN's First Take

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

On Friday Tobias Harris joined Stephen A Smith and Max Kellerman on ESPN’s First Take. Along with discussing the global pandemic and social justice issues, Harris also had a lot to say about the Sixers as the NBA is closing in on its return. 

Harris was very open about the Sixers’ season before the suspension. Admitting that they “haven’t met our expectations so far this year.” 

He would also hint at some chemistry issues with the team. Saying that “we haven’t had the best chemistry throughout the year” and “it took us a while to kind of get everyone together.” 

Although Harris was very open on some of the Sixers mishaps this year, he is still very optimistic about what they can do when play resumes in July. Harris still feels that the Sixers “have a chance to win a championship.” 

Max Kellerman would mention that he has picked the Sixers as a sleeper team in the Eastern Conference. Harris would go on to say that he is not phased that his team is being looked at as a sleeper. Stating that the team has one goal and that’s “to play and win a championship.” 

Harris would then dive into how the team has been able to fix their chemistry issues during the season’s suspension. He would state the team has kept in touch through this quarantine through zoom calls and group texts. 

In the end, Harris would discuss how the team is ready to take the court in Orlando. Stating the team is looking at it as a “new opportunity.” He would also go on to say that the team will have a “refreshed feeling” when they get to take the court in Disney. 

After having a rollercoaster of a regular season, it looks like the Sixers are starting to put the pieces together. Now with more than three months to rest and get healthy, the Sixers have a chance to show the league how great they can be.

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The Goal Line Stand: Delay of Game? Are We Looking at a Delayed Football Season?

GLS YT (1)

Delay of game?!? Are we looking at a delayed start to the NFL and NCAA football seasons? 

In the Red Zone, Mike & Brett debate Chris Simms's "Top 40 QB's Now" list

Plus

• Where does Greg Ward fit for the Eagles
• Remembering Jerome Brown

Around the NFC East


• Eli moving into the Giants front office?
• What Dak Prescott's franchise tender means for the Cowboys and their future finances
• Washington to retire Bobby Mitchell’s number & tear down imagery of founder and known racist George Preston Marshall

 

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Charles Barkley Makes Bold Statements on Sixers

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Earlier this week Charles Barkley sat down with Michael Barkann of NBC Sports Philadelphia to talk about the NBA’s return and the Sixers. As we know Barkley’s opinion on the Sixers has changed often throughout the season, and ahead of the season’s restart, it looks like it has changed again. 

After being one of the biggest critics to his former team, it looks like sir Charles is back on the Sixers’ wagon. He would later go on to say in the interview that “[he] would not want to play the 76ers in the playoffs.” 

Barkley would then go on to make a bold statement regarding the Sixers’ two main stars. When referring to Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons he would say that the Sixers will have the best two players on the court against any team in the Eastern Conference except for the Milwaukee Bucks. 

That is a statement that he will most certainly get pushback for. In saying this Barkley is stating he feels the Sixers’ franchise players rank above All-Stars like Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam, and former teammate Jimmy Butler just to name a few. 

Along with that bold statement, Barkley would say he has picked the Sixers as a sleeper team when play resumes. “I think they’ve got a legitimate chance. I’d be surprised if they don’t do well” he would tell Barkann. 

Strong words from a man who was outspokenly disappointed in this team in the middle of the season. One thing that cannot be denied is that the Sixers are a sleeper team in the Eastern Conference. 

A now fully healthy roster with months to recover and refocus should not be counted out. It will be interesting to see if Barkley can keep his optimism when the Sixers take the court in August.

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Report: NHL, Players Closing in on CBA Deal

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Before the NHL can return to the ice, both the league and players need to work out a lot of the details that will allow it to happen. Notably, this would mean a new CBA and a successful vote that would implement the return-to-play protocols that would set the stage for Phase 3 and 4, including signing off on hub cities and the protocols within each city.

It appears that the long road to return could soon be over. According to a report from ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, the NHL and its players are closing in on a new CBA deal. It was reported that the new deal could be announced “as early as Sunday,” but that timing was characterized as “really fast.”

Even if it takes until early next week for a deal to be finalized, we could finally be learning both the details of the CBA that will allow for the league to resume play and the locations of the two hub cities. The agreement would also involve a vote from all members of the NHLPA on a return to play. As of Friday night, the vote has not yet taken place.

Continue reading "Report: NHL, Players Closing in on CBA Deal" »


Report: Sixers Schedule Released

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Earlier tonight the NBA released the schedule for all 22 teams when play resumes at the end of July. The Sixers will play their first game on August 1st against the Indiana Pacers.

Here is how the rest of their schedule will play out:

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The Sixers had one of the easiest schedules before the season was suspended, and that still holds now. Another positive for them is that they will have to play one back to back in these eight games when they will play the Suns and Raptors.

How the games have been laid out favors the Sixers nicely. Their two main opponents in this stretch are the Pacers and the Raptors, and those games will be played on opposite ends of the schedule. 

Currently, the Sixers sit at sixth place in the Eastern Conference with the potential to move up. If the Sixers can take advantage of their weaker schedule they can find themselves in the top four of the conference. 

One game you might want to circle is the final game of the schedule against the Houston Rockets. As we know the Rockets now run the smallest lineup in the league, and they will be facing off against a Sixers’ lineup that is potentially the biggest in the league. That game should be a good clash of old school versus new school. 

All in all, this could be a good stretch for the Sixers. Six of the eight games are winnable games for the Sixers, and the other two could fall their way as well. Gaining momentum before the playoffs are crucial, and the Sixers have a chance to go into the playoffs strong.

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Report: Sixers Sign Ryan Broekhoff to Deal

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Sixers have made their first move since the transaction window has opened. First reported by Adrian Wojnarowski, the Sixers have signed Ryan Broekhoff to a deal. 

Broekhoff most recently played earlier this season for the Dallas Mavericks. He appeared in 17 games for the Mavericks where he would average 4.2 PPG in 10.6 minutes a night. 

There is one key stat that sticks out about this signing and that is three-point shooting. In 59 career games in the NBA Broekhoff has shot 40.3% from deep. 

At six for six, he fits the mold of this team and could potentially have a role on this team when play returns. With Mike Scott’s shooting being very inconsistent this season, having a guy like Broekhoff as insurance in that stretch power forward role can be good to have. 

This is a good move for the Sixers to make with one of their two open spots. Although he does not have the experience that some other available free-agents have, he provides a skill and role that Sixers have needed this year. 

The Sixers have now put them in a good position in terms of their bench construction. Now adding another sharpshooter to their bench, the Sixers now have a good batch of potential floor spacers to put around Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. 

In today’s game with shooting at such a premium, you can never have enough of it on your team. That makes this signing a solid one as the Sixers look to bolster their three-point shooting for the playoffs.

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Report: Mikhail Vorobyev Intends to Sign with KHL

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The Flyers have had many recent draft prospects make the jump to the professional ranks and experience some early success. But it has become a crowded list of future talent that could make it difficult for many to reach the ultimate goal.

One player that has certainly been part of the crowded group between the AHL and NHL is Mikhail Vorobyev. Over the last two seasons, Vorobyev has played in 35 NHL games, scoring two goals and adding three assists for five points. In the AHL, he has played 145 games, scoring 28 goals and adding 55 assists for 83 points. 

But for most of his career, it has been an up-and-down trip between the NHL and AHL and with other young players emerging, it was becoming clear that Vorobyev was slipping in the ranks. According to a report, Vorobyev intends to sign with HC Ufa Salavat Yulaev of the KHL in Russia, his home country, on a three-year deal that will cut ties with the Flyers.

Continue reading "Report: Mikhail Vorobyev Intends to Sign with KHL" »