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Report: Sixers Travel Date Released

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

News has come out on the NBA’s travel plans and when teams will be arriving in Orlando. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that teams will be making the trip in groups from July 7th to July 9th. 

The Sixers will be in the last group of teams to make the trip and will be arriving at Disney World on July 9th. Some of the teams that they will be arriving with include the Bucks, Lakers, Raptors, and Rockets. 

One positive for the Sixers is that their two biggest opponents will be in the same travel group as them. Although the travel days are only days apart, now the Raptors and Pacers will not have any extra time to settle in then the Sixers. The same could also be said for the Bucks, who right now is the Sixers’ biggest threat in the Eastern Conference. 

This could be looked at as a double-edged sword for the Sixers. Although they will be one of the final teams arriving in Orlando, this means they have a couple of extra days in their home facility before they have to make the trip. On the same note, the Sixers are also going to have less time to get situated in the new environment before play resumes. 

Things are starting to get real for the NBA. Two weeks from today the Sixers will pack up and head to Disney World, and we are a little over a month away from games resuming. We have reached the light at the end of the tunnel, soon the sprint to the NBA championship will begin.

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Phillies Sign First Round Pick Abel

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(Image via Mick Abel, Twitter)

While Major League Baseball was on pause, the draft continued on the same day scheduled, June 12.  The Phillies used their first round pick on high school pitcher Mick Abel, a right-handed pitcher out of Jesuit High School in Oregon.  At the time of the signing, Phillies scouting director Brian Barber expressed optimism that a deal could come together.  That happened on Wednesday.

The Phillies announced the move on Wednesday:

Abel signed above the their slot for the first round pick.

Oregon Live reports that Abel signed for $4.08 million, above the $3.89 slot number.  The Phillies spent less on rounds four and five, which allowed them to spend more on Abel.  Oregon Live says that the additional money helped convince Abel to forego his college plans.

Abel had committed to the University of Oregon.  But instead of becoming a Duck, Abel is a Phillie, though there is no place for him to report at the moment.  Typically, draft picks join the Gulf Coast League and often join Short-Season Williamsport.   Even Phillies camp in Clearwater is shut down at the moment.

Abel expressed his excitement on Twitter, "So excited to be part of the Phillies organization! Time to get to work! #ringthebell". 

 


Report: Realmuto Deal "Could Come Quickly"

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When Major League Baseball hit the "pause" button back on March 12, it was not just Spring Training that stopped.  During the shutdown there was a transaction freeze that did not allow for teams to make any type of deal, including negotiating with their own players.  That included catcher J.T. Realmuto, whom the Phillies were looking to extend prior to the shutdown.  But the Phillies could return with some good news.

On Wednesday night's NBC Sports Philadelphia special, "Return to Play", Jim Salisbury reported some good news on the Realmuto extension front.   NBC Sports Philadelphia senior producer Sean Kane broke it down on Twitter for those who missed it:

With the Phillies hitting those numbers, I would think that the deal would come together quickly.

Players to compare include catcher-turned-first baseman Joe Mauer with the Minnesota Twins, who signed an eight-year, $184 million deal in 2010.  Though that set the record for a catcher of $23 million, the eight years proved to be a cautionary tale as Mauer did not stay at the catching position. San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey received eight years as well, though at an average salary of $19.875 million per season.

Realmuto turned 29 years old in March, so a deal of five years would take him through his age 34 season.  With the wear and tear at the catching position it does come with some risk.  But should the National League stick with the designated hitter, the risk could be minimized.


Phillies, MLB: 2020’s Baseball Purists’ Nightmare

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By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While the Philadelphia Phillies faithful watch in horror as the summer days dwindle into July for the MLB, the pandemic-abbreviated season itself could spark fears for 2021 and beyond. Yes, the slippery slope of rule changes to accommodate economic and health concerns offers differences in the game you love.       

 

Bitter Ingredients:

The closure of the Phillies Clearwater facility was the proverbial tap on the shoulder for their front office and the entire MLB. In fact, this remember-me flare-up is impacting the locations and competitional elements for 2020’s contests, but whom will the rule changes also affect? The fans!                       

IN OTHER WORDS:

“Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.” - William S. Burroughs

If baseball has the wrong changes for purists, they will rail against it relentlessly and never forget the offending rules ruining the national pastime. But improvements or potential ruinations have been part of the sport from the beginning. And when you think about it, most fans have experienced changes even since 2010.   

To illustrate, hitting one back through the box was when there was a chalk box drawn on flat ground.for the hurler. With the introduction of the mound, though, the home team raised or lowered it depending on the starter, but eventually baseball established a uniform height.         

According to Chris Landers of Cut4, batsmen could tell the moundsman they wanted a low or high strike zone before every pitch. Low was from the knee to the belt, and high was from the belt to the shoulder. So, the Phillies followed this rule from 1883 through 1887 and its discontinuation.      

In my lifetime, 16 franchises have expanded to 30 organizations, and the postseason has grown from a possible seven games to a maximum 20 contests. Ergo, a club needed only four victories, but 12 triumphs is now the winning total for a wild-card team.                

For 2020 and maybe 2021, COVID-19 and government leaders will influence the MLB’s locations and seasonal length. Plus outbreaks, quarantines, and other restrictions will probably be mere detours for the lords of baseball.                       

Initially, roster construction involved the three-batter rule and a maximum of 13 hurlers on an active 26. But the pandemic will affect Phillies general manager Matt Klentak and his MLB contemporaries more when or if training camp begins again on July 1 at home parks.

Well, the sticklers will be none too happy with the DH (designated hitter) in the National League, and they will be extremely vocal if the DH is in place for ‘21 as well. Imagine their threats of no longer watching baseball because they blame commissioner Rob Manfred for the NL’s DH.             

What would push purists over the edge? Perhaps, the extra-innings rule for ‘20 is a real possibility because the 10th frame will start with a man on second base. He will be the last batter who made an out, and the ruling will be an error and an unearned run on the reliever’s line if he scores.          

If a knotted-up contest completes 12 innings, a tie game could be the outcome. Yes, Richie Ashburn and every deceased member in the Hall of Fame would be turning over in their graves. Oh, the horror!                 

It could be worse than suspended games for rainouts instead of makeup doubleheaders being seven-frame contests. So, a squad with a solid rotation and a top-tier closer won’t really have the advantage over their weaker-armed opponents. But day-night doubleheaders are still a possibility for complete washouts.        

Fortunately, sticklers won’t be able to grumble because the six divisions will still be the same, and the playoffs will as well. In fact, the Fightins will play their divisional rivals for 10 games apiece (40 total) and the American League East for four contests each (20 total).         

Will the Phillies play from Canada to Florida, or will the virus force the MLB to form a bubble-type configuration in southern California? Well, Florida and Arizona may have problems due to the present COVID-19 situation for three organizations and the Toronto Blue Jays if they can’t play there or their Florida camp.    

A bubbled-location MLB would need five sites to host three games per day or 15 contests involving 30 clubs. Basically, Los Angeles has three stadiums, and San Diego has two facilities: a doable backup plan! Moreover, they could be neutral sites if the coronavirus is problematic in Arizona, Florida and/or Toronto.           

Other possibilities involve two-team cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Translation: It may be safer in Queens than the Bronx, in Chicago’s south side than their north side, or in San Francisco than Oakland. Ergo, they can switch arrangements on the fly.                

Since only change is 100 percent, I’m not a purist and don’t believe in being upset over something I can’t control. But those who believe the opposite will have a difficult time deciding between a 2020 with multiple first-time rules or no baseball. Pick one!         

NEXT:

Phillies: A Sluggers Curse from 1951 to 2020

                             

BITTER STEW


Baseball is Back!

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Baseball is back.  For real.  Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association both have declared: baseball is back. In just over a week's time, Major League Baseball teams will have reported to their home cities to train for a 2020 season.  It will look unlike other seasons, but at least it is back.

There is much to break down about the upcoming 2020 season, so here are some of the terms as reported by major media outlets, particular Jeff Passan of ESPN and Jayson Stark of the Athletic

  • The season will be 60 games
  • Transactions may resume on Friday (Paging: J.T. Realmuto)
  • Teams will assemble 60-player "pools" that include the 40-man roster and 20 other players.  They may (but do not have to) be part of the "Spring Training" (It's now Summer!)
  • Season will start with 30-man rosters, which will become 28-man rosters after two weeks, and assume the standard 26-man roster after four weeks
  • Trade deadline will be August 31
  • Roster deadline for playoff rosters will be September 15
  • There will be a special COVID-19 injured list for those who have either tested positive or are showing symptoms, free from mandatory lengths

There will be some other modifications, however.

First, the designated hitter will be in both leagues in 2020.  There is no commitment for 2021, but this could be the end of the designated hitter.  The move is designed to protect the health of pitchers.

Second, teams will play 40 games in-division and 20 games interleague with the geographic counterpart, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network. Provided the schedule is balanced, that means the Phillies will play each of the Miami Marlins, New York Mets, Washington Nationals, and Atlanta Braves 10 times each.  Meanwhile, that leaves 4 games each for the Toronto Blue Jays (who may be in Dunedin), Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, and Boston Red Sox.

Heyman reports that Opening Day will be either July 23 or July 24.

But also, this:

This move was experimented with at the last World Baseball Classic.  This change is likely to draw the ire of fans.  But the rationale is that in a shortened season with much at stake, games lasting too long 

There will be an empty Citizens Bank Park for games as far as fans go, of course.  But there will be baseball played.


Sixers Draft Grant Riller in Latest Mock Draft

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

With the NBA on a rushed timeline, it is not too soon to start talking about the NBA draft. Although the Sixers’ potential first-round pick is not set in stone, they have been mocked to draft a different player from previous mocks. 

In the latest mock draft, the OKC pick does convey to the Sixers and they go on to draft Grant Riller out of Charleston. Riller is a point guard who is coming off a season where he averaged 21.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG, and 3.9 APG. 

Although most upperclassmen are looked down on in draft classes now, the Sixers showed that taking guys who spent more time in college can benefit greatly. Riller played all four years in college and was able to up his scoring numbers each season. 

Riller is more of a combo-guard than a point guard but this is a non-issue for the Sixers. His ball-handling skills and scoring ability could allow him to share the floor with Ben Simmons in spurts. 

Along with being a strong ball-handler who can get to the rim, he is also able to knock down shots from deep. In his four years at Charleston, Riller shot 35.6% from three on four attempts a game. 

This could be a solid pick for the Sixers if this is how things were to play out. Riller could be a cheap option to slide into the backup point guard role and play that role well. Along with being able to run an offense, he can also create shots for himself off the dribble. 

Riller’s player comparison is Fred Van Vleet of the Toronto Raptors and it is very accurate. At six foot three and 190 pounds, Riller’s build is very similar to Van Vleet, and their play styles are almost identical. 

If Riller lives up to this comparison it would be a steal for the Sixers. Having a guy who can be a primary ball-handler in small spurts and come on the floor to space and be a secondary ball-handler is something the Sixers need. 

If the Sixers do plan to make Shake Milton a starter for the future they are going to need a player like Riller to facilitate the second unit. Drafting a guard would also allow them to allocate their limited cap space to address other issues of need.

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If Chris Long Holds An Official Retirement, He'd "Probably Do It As An Eagle"

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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Chris Long spent two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles before his role would have been changed and he had an unceremonious retirement from the NFL.

The veteran simply didn't take a contract and decided to focus on other ventures.

On the most recent episode of his podcast, The Green Light Pod, the two-time Super Bowl Champion did discuss a possible retirement, however.

In a bit of a surprising statement, he said that his inclination was to retire with the Eagles should he have a formal retirement.

Continue reading "If Chris Long Holds An Official Retirement, He'd "Probably Do It As An Eagle"" »


Oskar Lindblom Returns to the Ice for Flyers

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

There are certainly a lot of questions still surrounding the resumption of play for the Flyers and the NHL during the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, despite 11 positive tests out of an excess of 200 tested, the league has moved forward with Phase 2 and still has sights set on starting Phase 3 on July 10.

This has certainly not stopped Flyers players from returning to Voorhees. After six players were initially at the SkateZone for the start of Phase 2, among them Ivan ProvorovSean Couturier and Joel Farabee, several more have come in over the last few days including Nicolas Aube-KubelAlex Lyon and most recently Carter Hart.

There was another player on the ice among the small groups taking part in New Jersey on Tuesday, and it was probably the most welcome sight there could be. Oskar Lindblom, who exited the lineup after his diagnosis with Ewing’s sarcoma in December, was skating.

“I don't have a lot left, I'm going to be done soon," Lindblom said of his treatments. "I can see the light in the tunnel right now and I'm trying to enjoy my life as it is. I can't complain, I can't complain. People have it worse. I'm just happy to be where I am right now.

"It was great. That's the only thing I'm waiting for right now is to be done with my chemo and get back with the team and play some hockey. That would be unreal to get back to real life again and have fun.”

Lindblom said he has skated only three or four times since his diagnosis. It is very likely that he had the approval of doctors before taking the ice with a small group of teammates.

GM Chuck Fletcher offered some comments on Lindblom’s return to the ice.

“It was great to see him out there,” Fletcher said. “He looked really good on the ice, his hands are still there. It is remarkable to think that with all the treatments that he has had he was able to go out there today and still show the skill and still have the stamina to skate for about 35-40 minutes. It’s a great sign for him and very exciting to think that with all going well in the future he’s going to return to play for us. Obviously, Phase 2 is voluntary and every player and staff member must follow very strict guidelines and rules. Our practice facility is a very safe environment, safer than most places.”

As of Tuesday, the NHL was permitted teams to allow for groups of 12 players at a time to take the ice as Phase 2 activity ramps up. Previously, only six players maximum were allowed on the ice at one time.

You can see pictures and video of Lindblom on the ice as tweeted by the Flyers below.


Four More in Phillies Organization Test Positive for COVID-19

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The State of Florida continues to be one of the biggest hot spots for the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.  With Phillies Spring headquarters in Clearwater, Florida serving as a rehab and training location for some, those in Phillies organization were located in a more susceptible part of the country.  After announcing on Friday that eight members of the organization tested positive, on Tuesday we learned that four more tested positive.

Jayson Stark of The Athletic was among those to report four more positive tests:

The Phillies have not commented on the severity of the virus in any affected.

Meanwhile Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association were unable to agree on any plan to play.  MLB has asked players to let them know by 5:00 p.m. today if they are able to report to a July 1 start to Spring Training.  That may not be guaranteed as player COVID-19 cases mount and players worry about safety.