Soul, Raudabaugh Ready for ArenaBowl 32 Showdown Against Empire

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(Mike Kruce/SportsTalkPhilly.com)

By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

Coming off of a 7-5 regular season finish and home-and-home playoff series sweep of the defending-Arena Football League-champion Washington Valor, the Philadelphia Soul will play for their fourth championship in franchise history Sunday evening opposite the top-seeded Albany Empire in ArenaBowl 32 at the Times Union Center. Sunday's championship game mark's the Soul's sixth-ever ArenaBowl appearance; they are looking for their fourth title in franchise history and their third in the last four seasons, having won in 2016 and 2017, along with 2008. 

Largely helping the Soul advance to the ArenaBowl was their defense containing Valor dual-threat QB and Second Team All-Arena selection, Arvell Nelson, who led the AFL in total offense this season. Over the two-game series, Nelson threw five interceptions and was sacked seven times. Recently assigned Soul DL Malik Forrester has accounted for an AFL-best 4.5 sacks so far this postseason, including 3 in last Sunday's championship clincher.

Now, the Soul defense will look to contain Empire QB and three-time MVP Tommy Grady, who has been sacked just once this season. That sack came via Soul lineman Sean Daniels in the team’s Week 10 win against the Empire. In the second half of that game, Grady uncharacteristically completed just 8 of 18 passes and threw two picks. Overall this season, Grady led the AFL in completion percentage, passing yards, and touchdowns.

The Soul have 12 players with previous ArenaBowl experience, including veteran QB Dan Raudabaugh

  • Over his four appearances, Raudabaugh ranks second in ArenaBowl history in passing yards (1,101, 275.3 per game) and touchdowns (21, 5.25 per game), trailing only QB Nick Davila (1,437 passing yards, 35 touchdowns).
  • Raudabaugh (97) needs just 14 completions to break Davila’s ArenaBowl record (110).
  • In his last appearance (2017), Raudabaugh threw four touchdowns, three being to current teammates Darius Prince (2) and Darius Reynolds (1). James Romain and Dwayne Hollis each had an interception in the victory.

ArenaBowl 32 will feature 12 of the league's 18 First Team All-Arena selections (9 from Empire and 3 from Soul - Romain, Prince and Neal Tivis).

Continue reading "Soul, Raudabaugh Ready for ArenaBowl 32 Showdown Against Empire" »


Phillies Look for Continued Success Against Samardzija, Giants

By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

Looking to build off of their 9-6 win, the Philadelphia Phillies (60-56) will send RHP Vince Velasquez to the mound Saturday afternoon in the third of a four-game series against the San Francisco Giants (57-60) at Oracle Park. Velasquez will oppose 12-year veteran RHP Jeff Samardzija.

RELATED | Harper's 2 Homers, 4 RBI Lead Phillies Past Giants for 60th Win

Corner outfielders Corey Dickerson and Bryce Harper combined to produce seven of the Phillies' nine RBI in Friday's win. Dickerson's three-run triple gave the Phillies a 3-1 lead in the second, while the second of Harper's two home runs — a three-run blast in the seventh — put the Phillies on top for good, 8-6. Harper produced his first multi-home run game with the Phillies, and the 18th of his career. RHP Hector Neris notched his 20th save in the win.

With 46 games remaining, the Phillies are in a three-way tie to being a 1/2-game out of the second National League Wild Card spot. One of the teams the Phillies are tied with are the surging New York Mets, who have won 14 of their last 15 games.


Starting Pitching Matchup:

Philadelphia Phillies (60-56) San Francisco Giants (57-60)
RHP Vince Velasquez RHP Jeff Samardzija
(4-6, 4.23 ERA) (8-9, 3.70 ERA)

Continue reading "Phillies Look for Continued Success Against Samardzija, Giants" »


Soul DB James Romain Named 2019 AFL Defensive Player of the Year

Screen Shot 2019-08-10 at 5.18.44 AMBy Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

Just days after being named the Arena Football League's Defense Back of the Year, Philadelphia Soul First-Team All-Arena veteran DB James Romain earned another top league honor on Friday — Defensive Player of the Year.

Romain is the third Soul player over the last four years, and third overall, to win the AFL Defensive Player of the Year award, joining DB Tracy Belton (2016) and current GM and assistant head coach Beau Bell (2017). The Soul are among just three teams in AFL history to produce at least three Defensive Player of the Year award winners, joining the San Jose Sabercats (5) and Orlando Predators (4).

 

Continue reading "Soul DB James Romain Named 2019 AFL Defensive Player of the Year" »


Harper's 2 Homers, 4 RBI Lead Phillies Past Giants for 60th Win

By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

Amid a close National League Wild Card race — with the Philadelphia Phillies (60-56) being among six teams vying for two postseason spots — timing could have not been more perfect for the club to end its three-game losing skid in Friday evening's matchup opposite the San Francisco Giants (57-60) at Oracle Park.

Southpaw Drew Smyly made his fourth start with the Phillies, but he was far from the main story in the Phillies' strong 9-6 win, as Bryce Harper produced his first multi-home run game of 2019 — with his two home runs adding up to 876 feet and four RBI.

Overall, the Phillies offense produced two four-run innings; Harper's three-run blast (his second of the game) helped with the latter, while recently acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson's bases-clearing triple early on helped with the first. With a three-run lead, RHP Hector Neris notched his 20th save in the ninth.

The win helped the Phillies remain in the thick of the postseason race — remaining tied with the St. Louis Cardinals and their division rival New York Mets as being just a half-game back of the Milwaukee Brewers for the second Wild Card spot. Just 46 games remain this season, with only 21 being at home.

The Phillies entered the game having lost four straight games at Oracle Park, scoring only one run combined.

Continue reading "Harper's 2 Homers, 4 RBI Lead Phillies Past Giants for 60th Win" »


Phillies Sign RHP Nick Vincent to Minor-League Contract

By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

While facing the San Francisco Giants on Friday, the Philadelphia Phillies not only defeated their National League rival, but also signed one of their former relievers, RHP Nick Vincent, to a minor-league contract, according to Jon Morosi.

Vincent had made just 18 appearances with the Giants this season, as he was recently activated from the 60-day injured list with a right pectoral strain. Rather than keeping Vincent, the Giants activated and designated the right-hander for assignment on July 28.

Over those 18 appearances, Vincent went 0-2 with a 5.58 ERA, 30-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 1.435 WHIP over 30 2/3 innings. Vincent appeared as an "opener" on May 14, but lasted just one inning, allowing three runs on four hits against seven batters faced. One of the hits was the Toronto Blue Jays' Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s first career home run.

The 33-year-old will be making an adjustment playing on the east coast. He is native to Poway, California, attended California State University Long Beach, and thus far through his eight-year major league career has played for the San Diego Padres (2012-15), Seattle Mariners (2016-18) and Giants (2019). The Phillies are hoping Vincent can become the player he once was with the Padres, when over four seasons and 161 appearances, he combined for a 2.63 ERA and 161 strikeouts over 150 2/3 frames.

Vincent will report to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but could of course be called upon to the majors if the need arises.


Soul's Clint Dolezel Named 2019 AFL Head Coach of the Year

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By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

Just three days before the Philadelphia Soul compete for their fourth-ever ArenaBowl championship, their head coach earned the highest Arena Football League coaching honor.

On Thursday, Soul head coach Clint Dolezel was named the 2019 Moss-Marcum Head Coach of the Year, marking the third time in his career that he received the award (2015, 2016, 2019). Dolezel is also just the second three-time winner of the award in AFL history, joining fellow AFL Hall of Famer Perry Moss.

Soul star QB Dan Raudabaugh called Dolezel a "staple in this game" for the past 20 years, and that he has been "one of, if not the biggest contributor to the Soul’s success.” 

“Calling the offense, defense, and special teams, there’s no one like him in the game and we’re lucky to have him," Raudabaugh said.

Over seven years with the Soul, Dolezel has an 86-37 record, along with two ArenaBowl championships in back-to-back seasons, 2016 and 2017. This season alone, albeit a myraid of injuries, the former QB coached the Soul to a 7-5 regular season record and their sixth-ever ArenaBowl appearance. In just days, he can win a third championship.

The Soul's press release adds:

[Dolezel] handled play-calling duties for both the offense and defense this year, while producing seven All-Arena honorees. Dolezel currently sits in seventh on the AFL’s all-time coaching wins list, having passed Redskins coach Jay Gruden earlier this season.

Dolezel and the rest of the 2019 AFL awards recipients will be recognized at the AFL Award Ceremony on Saturday, August 10 — one day before ArenaBowl 32 between the Soul and Albany Empire — at the Times Union Center.

Continue reading "Soul's Clint Dolezel Named 2019 AFL Head Coach of the Year" »


Harrison/Erickson Issues Statement in Response to Phillies' Phanatic Lawsuit

By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

The Philadelphia Phillies' lawsuit, made public last Thursday regarding ownership of the Phillie Phanatic, lingers on.

On Tuesday, PR firm Baretz+Brunelle sent SportsTalkPhilly.com the following response on behalf of the defendants from the Phillies' lawsuit -- Harrison/Erickson:

“At the Phillies request more than 40 years ago, we created the Phanatic, giving him a story and a life. Over the decades since, we have taken care of him, even patching him back together when he needed it, and have had a good, professional relationship with the Phillies. We feel like he is part of our family and certainly a huge part of the fabric of Philadelphia. His value has grown with his popularity, and we felt that the Phillies franchise never offered a reasonable payment to extend the Phanatic’s license. Instead, we were sued by the franchise, which was incredibly disappointing.

While we very much want the Phanatic to remain the Phillies mascot, we will not yield to this lawsuit tactic. We intend to respond to it and win,” said Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison, professional artists and creators of the Phillie Phanatic.

The firm noted the above statement contains "quotes from the creators," and was sent so "their side of the story" can be heard. The firm also responded with the following points:

  • Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison are among the best-known professional artists in their field, with over four decades of experience creating famous characters. (For example, Bonnie created Miss Piggy for the Jim Henson Company).
  • They created the Phillie Phanatic, registered it at the U.S. Copyright Office in 1979 and licensed their rights to the Phillies in 1984.
  • Over all these decades, no one has ever disputed that Bonnie and Wayde created and owned the registered copyright to the Phanatic.
  • Under federal copyright law, all individual artists are entitled to recapture and renegotiate the rights to their creations after 35 years, protecting the artists whose works have increased in value. In anticipation of the 35 year mark, Bonnie and Wayde were in negotiations with the Phillies for more than a year when they were sued by the franchise.
  • The rights are due to expire next June 2020.

A screenshot of the firm's email to SportsTalkPhilly can be seen below with the subject: "News - Phillie Phanatic - Statement from Creators" (Note: click to expand)

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Click HERE for our original article, which details the Phillies' side of the lawsuit.


Wild Card-Holding Phillies, Arrieta Aim for Series Win Over D-Backs

By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

Behind RHP Jake Arrieta and tied with the Washington Nationals for the top National League Wild Card spot, the Philadelphia Phillies (59-53) will take on the Arizona Diamondbacks (56-57) in the second of a three-game series Tuesday evening at Chase Field.

Arrieta will oppose fellow 10-year veteran RHP Mike Leake, who will make his Diamondbacks debut. Recently acquired Phillies outfielder Corey Dickerson will make his second start with the club in left field; he will lead off.

The Phillies began their fourth-to-last, seven-game road trip on a high note late Monday, defeating the Diamondbacks in the series opener, 7-3. The Phillies never looked back when they took a 3-1 lead in the third thanks to J.T. Realmuto's RBI double and Jean Segura's RBI single. Scott Kingery produced the Phillies' first run in the second, homering in his hometown. The Phillies offense finished with 13 total hits, six RBI, four walks and seven strikeouts, while the defense turned four double plays. Right-hander Vince Velasquez earned the win, allowing only two runs, six hits and two walks through seven frames.

A win on Tuesday would snap the Phillies' five consecutive series skid against the Diamondbacks, which dates back to June 16-18, 2017.


Starting Pitching Matchup:

Philadelphia Phillies (59-53) Arizona Diamondbacks (56-57)
RHP Jake Arrieta RHP Mike Leake
(8-8, 4.44 ERA) (9-8, 4.27 ERA)

Continue reading "Wild Card-Holding Phillies, Arrieta Aim for Series Win Over D-Backs" »


Phillies' All-Black Uniforms, Nicknames Revealed for 2019 Players' Weekend

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By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

Players' Weekend (August 23-25) is back for a third year, and the Philadelphia Phillies will take a page out of the Philadelphia Eagles' playbook with black uniforms.

Because the Phillies will be away against the Miami Marlins during Players' Weekend, their National League East rival had first dibs and opted to go with white uniforms instead of the monochromatic black (all home teams can chose either color). Marlins pitchers will still wear black caps to ensure umpires and batters have clear visibility of each pitch.

Players’ Weekend was created by MLB and the MLBPA to "more effectively market the sport’s stars and to engage a young audience." It is an opportunity for players to showcase their passions, backgrounds and interests by putting their personal touches, including nicknames, on what they wear and the equipment they use.

The best part of Players’ Weekend? The player-selected nicknames! The Phillies' 2019 nicknames are as follows:

Continue reading "Phillies' All-Black Uniforms, Nicknames Revealed for 2019 Players' Weekend" »


Phillies Embark on 7-Game Road Trip Behind Velasquez

By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

Behind RHP Vince Velasquez, the Philadelphia Phillies (58-53) will embark on their seven-game west coast trip starting Monday evening against the Arizona Diamondbacks (56-56) and 30-year-old rookie Merrill Kelly at Chase Field.

The Phillies have lost five straight series to the Diamondbacks dating back to June 16-18, 2017. In the 16 games over this stretch, the club was shut out twice, including the most recent game on June 12 (2-0), also started by Kelly.

The road trip against the Diamondbacks (August 5-7) and San Francisco Giants (August 8-11) will be the Phillies' fourth-to-last this season.


Starting Pitching Matchup:

Philadelphia Phillies (58-53) Arizona Diamondbacks (56-56)
RHP Vince Velasquez RHP Merrill Kelly
(3-6, 4.40 ERA) (7-11, 4.52 ERA)

Continue reading "Phillies Embark on 7-Game Road Trip Behind Velasquez" »