Monday, April 30, 2012

Up and Down Philly Sports Weekend

The upside was way up, the downside was way down. Somehow the Phils keep finding ways to lose to terrible teams, the Sixers proved they have no shot, but the Flyers showed a competitive resiliency that could get them a little further than I originally thought. We'll start there.

First of all, I want to complain. I just want to get this out of the way. I have to stream the games online, and it just so happens, the stream I had last night was Hockey Night in Canada. Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of friends from Canada, I have a great time when I go to Canada, but man, they can't cover sports. One of the most frustrating parts, was the intermission analysts. I didn't get his name, but the guy in the middle, to the right of Kelly Hrudey and to the left of the host, was one of the dumbest commentators I have ever heard. I believe his name is P.J. Stock. I hope I never have to hear him again. I hate him.

Anyway. Scott Roesch, whom I reference often from our talks during the games, tells me that Philly sports radio and local broadcasts felt this Flyers-Devils series wouldn't be close. I believe Scott, but this baffles me.

If anyone saw the resiliency of the Devils in round 1, and if anyone involved in the current sports world saw Ilya Bryzgalov in round 1, I don't quite see the intelligence on saying the Flyers would dominate this series. Game 1 was no different.

In order for the Flyers to win, the games are going to have to be high-scoring. The Flyers can flat out score-and how good did James Van Riemsdyk look? Man if he stays speedy and gets back to his 2011 playoff form, their forwards are simply dominant.

But I look for this series to go minimum six games. The Devils and Flyers finished 1 point apart in the regular season, in the toughest division in hockey, and Martin Brodeur has something like 24 playoff shut outs.

Ok-A brief message on the Sixers-they have no chance unless the rest of the Bulls starting 5 gets hurt. Andre Iguodala is an emotionless bum who cannot shoot a jumpshot to save his life. He has had eight years in the league to improve on this, and hasn't.

And finally, the Phillies. A lot of fans won't like to hear this, but I think there is a way to improve this team. That way is to trade Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee. There is no value in the farm system, and unfortunately the team needs to keep Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, who have all added up to a pile of crap this year as well. But if the Phils are going to get anyone, they can get the most value for Halladay or Lee...or Cole Hamels, but I don't think the organization would be willing to part with him.

Either way, the team sucks. They scored seven runs against the Cubs, a hapless organization. They have scored two or less runs in 12 of their 22 games. The Phils have lost series to Pittsburgh, San Francisco. Tied San Diego and at best tied the Cubs. And yes, there is a lot of baseball left to play, but how long can we say that for? The Braves are for real, the Mets aren't that bad. The Nats, well, I have yet to figure them out (not that I have anything figured out). They have lost four in a row, and are still extremely young.

Time is running out. The highest profile names on the Phils offense have been nothing less than pathetic, and their starting pitching stellar. Something needs to be done or we are looking at a .500 team and a miss at the playoffs. The nine-game NL East push starting on Tuesday weighs very heavily on the outcome of the season.

I hope everyone back east in the US is enjoying their warm spring weather, enjoying the playoff push, and gearing up for summer. By July, we might see some sun and warmth here, so don't take that for granted. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Phils finding a groove- and- Metta World Peace

A brief note on the Phils, and I won't let this blog get too long Carson. I know you need to take a break every few paragraphs.

Laynce Nix and Ty Wigginton, who I don't feel are worthy of MLB contracts, have proven me stupid the last two games. The Phils managed to take two of three from the Diamondbacks and have one more tune-up series (Chicago Cubs) before hitting a nine-game NL East run. The fourth-place Phils can establish themselves as a contender during this run, with a much anticipated series in Washington. Side note- if you are a true fan, and have the means to do so, find a way to get tickets during this 'Take Back the Ball Park" series. The Nationals have limited ticket sales to people in a DC, Virginia and Maryland address, in order to have more Nats red than Phils red during that series.

Either way, that series is huge, as the Nationals sport a 14-4 record, with a near equal percentage of making the playoffs as the Phillies, according to a very biased statistic. Don't let the Nats take back the ball park. And don't let Jayson Werth think he made the right decision, when it appears, that truly, he has. Washington has a very bright future. The Phils, well, welcome to the 1994-2007 era in the next year or so.

Metta World Peace, formerly known as Ron Artest, has been in the news recently again for more non-talent reasons-unless his talent is muay thai, then his instructor may be impressed.

Whenever someone has the audacity to change his name to something as ridiculous as Metta World Peace, a few years after starting one of the worst NBA brawls in league history, has clearly something wrong with him.

His interview after his seven-game sentence was handed down was even more ridiculous. Something along the lines of after his dunk, he turned around and James Harden was just 'right there.' Then saying that 'he has never hurt anyone on the court.' The video, if you haven't seen it, is absurd. He takes a good two steps and just unwinds an elbow to Harden's head, after of course a few chest pounds for converting a slam dunk. Wow. Congratulations you bad dude you. A dunk in the NBA. Impressive.

But this led to me to do some research on World Peace's career. We all know about his 2004 Pistons-Pacers brawl, but did you know that his great dane - Socks - was removed from his home after he failed to adequately take care of her? Did you know he was arrested in 2007 for domestic violence?

So what's my point? My point is this. This guy goes into the county court house or wherever it is that you file for a name change and says I want my name changed to Metta World Peace saying  "Changing my name was meant to inspire and bring youth together all around the world." Great. You can't bring peace to your own home, your dog, your wife or your profession. But somehow, sir, you are on a mission to save the world through the name on the back of your jersey. This all makes complete sense to me, does it not to you?

Monday, April 23, 2012

A bit of reflection

This blog won't focus so much on sports, I am going to welcome you all to Monday with a bit of an update on my life in Europe, and of course, some reflections on Philly sports from the weekend.

First off, things have been a bit down for me in Denmark. As I walked home from the bus stop this afternoon in yet again, another rain storm, I reflected on my life. Not for too long, just for a bit. As of right now, it has been almost two months since I have worked-meaning two months of no income. I don't yet have my residency, and I am getting shut down left and right for jobs. Yes, I am in Europe, with my beautiful wife, but every night I am subjected to something no sports fan should be subjected to-staying up way past my bedtime to watch the Phillies play, especially now that they are on the west coast. The nine-hour time difference gives me much less tolerance when I see Jim Thome, Ty Wigginton and Laynce Nix step to the plate. The time difference gives me less tolerance when I see Antonio Bastardo or Matt Stutes come out of the bullpen, or when I see Cliff Lee pitch his heart and soul out to injury and get rewarded with terrible defense and no hitting. That is all for the Phillies.

It is great, to see the Flyers advance. It's even better to see them advance with a stellar effort from their less-than-stellar goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov. But the playoffs is all about getting hot at the right time-maybe he can get hot and Claude Giroux can continue to be the best player in the world right now. We will wait and see who the Flyers draw, but it would be great to avoid Boston and New York. And maybe not commit so many penalties. And, after talking with the soon-to-be-wed and diehard Flyers fan Scott Roesch throughout the game, I also realize that Andreas Lilja needs to be on the ice far less, along with Pavel Kubina, and Matt Carle. They just don't know what to do with the puck, how to attack a forecheck or even hot to hit hard. A huge contributing factor to the shots on goal for the first five games in the Penguins series.

I'll leave my select few readers with a positive note-something unlike me to do in my cynical and over-critical blogging tenure.

I got a rejection email for a sales consultant position this morning. The man, Lars, said that I needed to speak Danish fluently but when they hire for their exporting, he would be in touch-which, in most cases, never happens, it's just a nice way to say 'No.'

But what I appreciated, was that with all the applications this guy probably received, he takes the time to individually reject people, instead of an automated response. In this day in age, this doesn't happen much, and it feels much better for someone to get rejected by a human typing an email than an automated response.

I then took the opportunity to thank him for doing this, as it is not common practice. And he, again, responded saying, "No no Eddie, thank you. Be proud and think positive. There is always a job for someone like you." Wow- I am truly impressed. He took even more time, away from his main goal, of hiring a sales consultant, to encourage someone he has never met and will not be hiring.

The moral of this story- go out of your way, no matter how big or how small, to help someone along. I know it sounds cliche, and with all the motivational, cliche crap posted on facebook with the sun rising in the background or a tree blossoming or whatever non-related art corresponds with an over-used phrase, the little encouragements can make a huge difference.

Whether you are rejecting the ugly girl, failing a student, or telling someone who has no shot at getting a job-No, do it in a way that makes yourself better and leaves the other person feeling better about themselves. You never know what something like that can do for someone.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Let's forget about the Flyers for a second-This is why the Phillies are not the same team as years past

The Phillies teams of the past five years, although in a decline for certain, would never have lost last nights "pitchers duel" in San Francisco. I will give three reasons why.

1-Fielding- Has always been a staple of good philadelphia teams. Jimmy Rollins, an improving Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, and a solid combination of Placido Polanco, Abraham Nunez and Pedro Feliz always made the team a defensive monster, even if they were pretty much solely relying on Cole Hamels and possibly Brett Myers to win games before Lee and Halladay came to town. Ty Wigginton should have made that play, but it's Ty Wigginton playing third base, what can we really expect. Should a 1-0 ten inning lost be pinned on a defensive blunder in extra innings? No, I just don't think this would have happened in the recent past.

2-Managing-Has Antonio Bastardo had any positive outings this year? Yes, 1, but he has blown a save and of the 11 batters he has faced, 5 have reached base. I'm not that good at math, but that's a rather high on base percentage. After a 10-inning shutout gem by the ever-so-gritty Cliff Lee, I could think of a few other options to support the starting performance. Bastardo isn't one of them. That decision lies on Charlie. Cain was out, and four relievers already in the game, the Giants would have been hard fought to continue another inning or two with relievers. Bringing in Bastardo is a very high risk situation.

3-Heart- Lee showed it, but a 4-hit performance in 10 innings didn't. A late game error, two on the game, and an 0-for-12 one through three hitters pits the difference between this team and the passion filled ball clubs of the past few years. I still wonder how Jim Thome gets at bats. I still wonder why John Mayberry doesn't get more, and although Laynce Nix has had two somewhat big hits this year, I still don't understand why he's not playing on a beer league softball team instead.

Remember it as you may, but the gritty days of having a Nunez, or an Eric Bruntlett, Matt Stairs, or even a Ross Gload come off the bench with a good solid swing are long past. Instead, the bench is filled with has-beens and effortless strikeout potential. The days of Madsen and Durbin coming in for a probably solid late game effort are gone to the ways of Bastardo???

Yes, the Phils have a chance at the division. A good chance. But they aren't the same. Let's see what the brass does as the season goes on in dealing with the bench and the pen. And Charlie-keep Bastardo out of meaningful games. Please. For our starting pitchers sake.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Flyers on a new high - and something for Red Sox Nation

20 goals in three games. Wow. They are the first team since 1993 to score eight goals in back-to-back games. Probability says they will win this series.


I can't help but find the negative in a lot of things. It's part of my downfall, there's no doubt about it. But in this case, it's right in front of me, and I can't let it sit there and smile at me. I have to smack it.

Ilya Bryzgalov has surrendered 12 goals in 3 games. His GAA is the second worst out of the 16 playoff goalies-behind Marc-Andre Fleury. Beating the Penguins in a seven-game series would be a huge win for Philly in the cross-state rivalry, but expecting this team score eight goals against Henrik Lundqvist or Tim Thomas or any other breathing, living goalie in the NHL would be ludicrous.

Don't get me wrong, the Flyers can score. And with the re-emergence of Danny Briere, this team can be in any game. But I find no solace with Bryzgalov in net and at some point, the fact that the Flyers have trailed in the first 10 minutes in 53 of their last 57 games, will catch up to them. You just can't expect to trail every game, give up four or five goals, and move on to the next round.

But for now, I'll enjoy a 3-0 series lead and some Philly playoff excitement. Lord knows we won't get it from the Sixers. ***Please fire Doug Collins*** ***Please trade Andre Iguodala for two D-Leaguers.***

I have kept my blogs mostly to appeal to Philly sports. That's where my heart lies and that's where my (few as they may be) readers are. But after three years in Boston, I couldn't help but follow some Boston sports. I didn't root for them, ever, but I did follow.

With the Francona departure and the beer in the locker room and chicken wings and late season collapse and whatever else happened in that organization the past few years, it is very refreshing to see Bobby Valentine call out his players.

Please don't confuse this with me supporting Bobby Valentine as a credible coach- I don't. He made the World Series once and lost in five games. In 14 years, he made the World Series once. Fine. Whatever. I don't care, but I do think the Red Sox could have found someone better.

Back to my main point. Bobby Valentine called out Kevin Youkilis for his demeanor and attitude. And he was right. The feel about Youkilis in Boston for the past few seasons is that he doesn't care, he doesn't show emotion, and he doesn't work hard. But Francona was afraid to say anything to Youk or anyone else for that matter. Valentine, with his team in the cellar of the AL East, didn't hesitate early in the season to call out Youk. And in my opinion, Valentine had no need to issue an apology because he was right and he's the manager and he should call out his players if they don't perform. The least you can do if you are in a slump is pretend to care about it and pretend to the fans that pay your salary that you want to do better for them. Cool batting stance Youk- change it. It's not working. Your body is catching up to you -get in shape. After an off year like last year, a terrible spring, and a terrible start to this season, stop being stubborn and change something. Until then, you are subject to being called out by your manager.

On the flip side-if your manager sucks, don't be afraid to call him out. Good job Pedroia. Let's see if others follow suit.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A day to Remember

It wasn't the Sixers beating the hapless Raptors, or the Phillies defeating a once-was-great Josh Johnson, or even the Flyers beating the Penguins. But last night's Philadelphia 'trifecta' - thanks Rich- was a compensating evening to the blows dealt on Saturday, thanks to the recently awakened Danny Briere.

I'm not going to comment on the Sixers winning 2 in a row other than by saying this- they are great at beating the Bobcats, Nets, Wizards, Cavs and Pistons, going 14-3 in those games against the worst teams in the east. Unfortunately, they won't match up with any of those teams in the playoffs. Ok.

The Phillies-well, they had bats against Josh Johnson, who gave up 10 hits his last start, and just isn't the same Josh Johnson from two years ago. Still, we'll take the confidence boost and hope it propels the team forward. Hunter Pence is on a roll, Jimmy Rollins is swinging a good bat, even when he gets out, and Shane Victorino has been a pillar of surprising consistency. But the fact that Ty Wigginton, Jim Thome, Juan Pierre and Laynce Nix see at-bats every game (not all of them obviously, but a combination) will be problematic for the Phillies as the year goes on. And with our depleted farm system, there's little hope of this improving throughout the year. Halladay is a beast, and expect somewhere between 50-60 wins this year from the big 3, putting the team in the 80-90 win category and a good, not great, shot at winning the division, making last seasons 102 wins seem even more impressive.

Now on to the real pleasure.

A good friend of mine Scotty Roesch sent me a message before the game predicting a 2-1 Flyers OT win, and for a shout out in my blog. He got 2/3rds of what he wanted.

Let me start by saying this- Scott was pretty darn right and pretty darn wrong about his prediction.

The Flyers made a good push at the end of the season to break out of the 5th-seed post, but they were just too far back and the Rangers were just too good and the playoff system is flawed. What I'm trying to say here is that this team wasn't satisfied with a fifth-seed and they didn't sit back all season. They didn't sit back last night either. Hence, the comeback. Hence, the overtime goal. Hence, the improbable win. That is where Scott was right.

Where he was wrong is that in no way were the Flyers going to hold the Pens, who haven't given their starters real minutes since locking up the fourth-seed almost a week ago, to just one goal in 60 minutes. He forgot the run of games where the Flyers surrendered a goal in the first five minutes, and two goals in the first 10 minutes, just like last nights contest.

This flaw in the system is two-fold- terribly inconsistent goal-tending, and a defense (and a front line for that matter) that isn't ready for the start of the game. Either the defense isn't prepared for battle ahead of time, or they crap their pants when the puck drops. How many times do you catch the team looking around for someone else to attack the puck, hoping the pressure is taken off them. There was a free puck more than a few instances last night in the first 10 minutes, with the Flyers standing around looking at each other- No one wanted it.

And Bryzgalov. What a train wreck at the beginning of games. The guy is never in position and completely over skates one-timers, leaving rebounds wide open and not even being in front of the net at the end of the play. The second goal-not his fault. The third goal-completely his fault. So I would be hard pressed to claim the Pens would score just one goal in extended time.

But the great part of last night is that none of that mattered to the Flyers, who have been in this situation more than not in the last 15 games. Down 3-0? Ok. Goalie and defense that uses the first period as warm up? No big deal. Danny Briere, were you on the team this year? Yes, I actually was.

A team that realizes a game is 60 minutes long is a team that will always have a chance to win. The Flyers realized a game can be more than 60 minutes long-and that is why they won. Chip away, correct the flaws, and believe in your coach. Laviolette, I give him credit, made the adjustments and didn't waver on his team. He didn't think of pulling Bryz, he didn't press the net in the second or third period and sacrifice defense, he just let his team play. And they responded. Capping a heck of a night for the city of Philadelphia.

But it's just game one. This is going to be a great series.

And I wanted to leave with a shout out to another friend of mine-Eric Bonds. Eric, who hasn't told anyone he's a Penguins fan his whole life, posted on facebook how the Pens 'got rid' of Jagr after 10 years. And finished with 'Go Pens,' after Pittsburgh came out hot in the first period and took the lead.

This has been a recent trend on facebook-unwarranted smack talking in which 1 of the 2 sides ultimately looks stupid. Calling Crosby a whiner and saying the Pens are dirty and whatever other smack talk comes out-it's just annoying- in both directions. Especially when you are invisible in the sports realm all season. I'm only citing Eric as an example. There were probably 10-15 posts on this crap yesterday. Don't confuse another teams success or potential success with your confidence and accomplishments. It doesn't mean anything to anyone but yourself. If you're going to comment on something, be a fan, or add something fruitful. Don't be a member of the high school spirit squad.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter-Kind of...

Happy Easter to anyone who may read this, I wish I was home with all the east coasters celebrating, although there wasn't much to celebrate last night.

Although I love the Sixers the most out of any Philadelphia sports franchise, I have given up hope, which may make me a bad fan, I don't know. They're just a bad team, so I gave my attention to an average team- the Phils.

Although the announcers tabbed the past two games as 'pitchers duals', anyone that has any knowledge on the Phillies organization knows that this series has been two good pitchers (Halladay and Lee) against two near-average pitchers (Bedard, Karstens) and the complete absence of offense.

I read on facebook some of my friends getting upset when Blanton came in the game, but let me just point out the obvious. If you score 1 run in 10 innings off of Jeff Karstens and the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen, you won't win the game. Everyone knows what Blanton will give you, and his first inning ERA over the past few years has been simply awful. In 12 appearances last year, he gave up runs in the first inning of work 5 times. I didn't want to go through all of his 2010 appearances because there were a lot more and I'm lazy, but I just get the feeling of always having to come back from an early deficit with Blanton. But now I'm getting off track.
Bottom line-not your fault Joe.

And I'm not going to go crazy on the subject, we're two games in on the season, who knows what is going to come out of this offense. But I will say this-this Phillies team hasn't been clutch or situational in years, and this year appears to be no different.

The first inning should have yielded at least two runs. Laynce Nix and Freddy Galvis are clueless at the plate- one is understandable, one isn't. Hunter Pence swings at everything. And our two best hitters are batting 6th and 7th, in perfect place for Galvis and the pitcher to knock them in. Yes Ryan Wile, Chooch should move up. 4th? I don't know, but he has earned a higher spot in the batting order.

To be blunt, this team is boring as hell to watch. It's sad if we're arguing for Chooch and Mayberry to move up in the batting order. It's sad that in 19 innings of baseball, we've scored twice. It's sad when we blame Joe Blanton for a loss in 10 innings to the hapless Pirates. It's sad that the organization couldn't find anything other than Freddy Galvis to play 2nd base. They were boring last year, especially towards the end of the year and the playoffs, and they had 102 wins. But this year, they're worse. And I'm not sure if Utley and Howard are going to change that. They're boring too. (.259 and .253 BAs, .344 and .346 OBP respectively)

The saving grace in this is we pretty much know what we are going to get from Roy, Cliff and Cole, which is great and terrible. It looks like the team relies on them to pitch great, and somehow get up for Kendrick, Worley and Blanton's starts. One way to get a premiere pitcher out of town- don't get him any run support.

The Phils can win the series with a win over the Pirates today. That would be great. Then there's still 159 games left. Which I think is one of the greatest things about baseball: you can watch your team 5-6 times a week for six months. That is, if they can keep you awake.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Phillies are starting just in time-

I have now made a personal decision to commit to my blog-that is until I get a job out here in Denmark. I figure I can put some time into a daily - or almost daily- blog. I'll just have to fit time into my dog walking, working out, and washing dishes schedule.

In wake of the Flyers allowing four first period goals en route to clinching the East for the Rangers, and the Sixers falling to the Heat for the fourth time this year, it is pretty apparent neither of these teams are destined for great things- but what did we really expect as Philly fans?

Let's start with the Flyers, who have been owned by the Rangers, especially after their embarrassing Winter Classic at home to the class of the East.

7 out of their last 10 games, the Flyers have spotted teams at least a two-goal lead. Somehow they have managed to pull off a 5-3-2 record in those games, because they do happen to have a bit of heart and can score goals in many different ways. What they still don't have is goal-tending. And winning in the playoffs is difficult to do when you are playing from far behind. And winning in the playoffs is hard to do when your star forward hasn't done anything all year. In case you are wondering, I'm talking about Danny Briere. Thank God for his phantom injury, maybe we won't have to watch him for a few games.

I will say this- I am excited for the opening round Pens-Flyers series. Should be a lot of testosterone, a lot of goals, and at least 6 games. Unfortunately, with the flawed playoff system in the NHL, the three best teams will be seeded 1, 4, and 5, and unless an upset occurs, which is truly possible, especially in the potential Devils- Panthers series, the Flyers would see the Rangers in Round 2, should they get by the Pens. And it would be unwarranted to suggest the Flyers would beat the Rangers in a seven-game series.

As for the Sixers. They had a great start to the season, mostly due to the weighted average age of the team based on minutes played- they are the third youngest in the league with an average of 25.14. The average age is 26.34, but based on minutes played, the drop is 1.2 years, the second-largest drop behind Atlanta.

My point with this is that while many teams were struggling to get in shape for the season, the Sixers were ready, thanks to their age, and coach Doug Collins. And while we're somehow still waiting for Andre Iguodala to emerge as half of the player he was tagged to be coming out of Arizona, the youthful Sixers are now exposed to the NBA teams who are now in shape and playing good basketball.

The bottom line is that the Sixers just aren't very good, and are touted for another high seed in the playoffs-if they make it- and a first round non-competitive exit. No real improvement has been seen in 10 years with this organization. And it's sad. They have skilled, young players who are playing for a passionate coach. They just don't have any go-to scoring and experience at winning- two factors that are needed in the NBA playoffs.

And in the wake of the two detrimental Philadelphia sports losses last night, we should all give thanks that the Phillies open tomorrow-against Pittsburgh.

Now let's not all get excited when the Phillies sweep the Pirates-who bring their 'ace' to the mound in injury-plagued, velocity leaking, can't seem to win games Erik Bedard- to match up with Roy Halladay-arguably the games most dominant active regular season pitcher.

The Marlins are for real this year. The Braves were for real last year, and have gotten better this year. I still think the Phillies take the division, due in great part to Utley and Howard missing significant time. But it won't come nearly as easily as the past five seasons.

So the Phillies open with the Pirates, which will add some relief to the Flyers and Sixers upcoming playoff expectations. As the sun sets on another titleless NHL season, as well as another titleless NBA season, there is still a glimmer of hope in an aging and soon to be split MLB season. The opening weekend should keep spirits up in the greater Philadelphia region-and for those watching around the world.