Archive for the ‘Philly Sports’ Category

Cliff Lee: Pitcher, Philadelphian

Posted: May 23, 2011 by joshgoldmanphl in Philly Sports

On December 15, 2010, Cliff Lee cemented his legacy in the city of Philadelphia. For once, after years of trade demands and ugly exits, someone actually chose us.

In 2009, the Phillies knew that without an addition to a rather bland starting rotation, they would likely leave their October hopes unfulfilled. Cole Hamels was 7-5 with a 4.42 ERA at the trade deadline that season. He was the ace, and an underwhelming one at that. After Hamels, Joe Blanton was 7-4 at the deadline while Jamie Moyer was 10-7. But both starters had ERA’s above 4 (Moyer was above 5).

Then there was J.A. Happ. The rookie southpaw had a record of 7-2 by the end of July and an ERA of 2.97. There was some high hope for Happ, but trusting a rookie in postseason baseball results in a lot more horror stories than fairy tales.

The Phillies needed an anchor to lead this pitching staff and compliment an offense that was good enough to play well into October. The Phillies needed Roy Halladay.

A former American League Cy Young Award winner, Halladay was very publicly “on the market” in 2009 as he all but packed his bags in mid-July. The Bluejays fans gave him a two-minute standing ovation as he left the mound on July 24th, or what was to be his last start at the Rogers Centre after a brilliant 12-year career in black and blue (are those their colors? I’m guessing).

He was as good as gone.

Then the unthinkable happened. The Phillies, assumed to be the favorite to land Halladay, traded for Cliff Lee with Halladay still on the market. Cliff Lee? Yeah, he won a Cy Young too. But he’s not Roy Halladay. He’s not THE MAN. We wanted THE MAN.

So Phillies fans begrudgingly accepted their new ace. His legacy, it was assumed, would be as a guy who probably helped the Phillies — but ultimately as a guy the Phillies got because they couldn’t land Halladay.

As they say, it takes a real man to admit when he’s wrong.

From day one, Cliff Lee made an impression on the city of Philadelphia that would not go unnoticed nor unappreciated. His numbers aside (he was 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA in the regular season; 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in the postseason), Lee’s intangibles made him an instant fan favorite. It was his hustle to and from the dugout between innings. It was his cool demeanor under intense pressure. It was the pace in which he worked through innings. It was his total lack of fear on the mound. Before long, Phillies fans knew they had something special — even though his last name was five syllables short.

That’s why Phillies fans loved Cliff Lee. And boy, did they love him. But 2009 would not be his legacy, That would come from what happened next.

Surely, you know the story. The Phillies traded Cliff Lee to Seattle in an attempt to replenish a farm system now decimated by the acquisition of Halladay. Or so the Phillies say. Maybe they saw him as “unsignable” with Free Agency one year away and the Yankees poised to strike. Or maybe they thought they had enough pitching, and might as well get some young talent for a guy who might be gone after just one season. Who knows? But he left, and he made no bones about it: he wanted to stay.

Then, after a season in which he took the Texas Rangers to the World Series while the Phillies watched from home, comes December 15. It will forever be a “where were you when…” moment for Phillies fans. The night Cliff Lee said no to Texas, and more importantly said no to New York, and yes to us.

It was as if the Scott Rolen’s of the world never existed. Never was there a Curt Schilling, never a J.D. Drew. After years of being the city and team that pushed stars away, someone had just turned down more money to come play in Philadelphia.

Yeah, it meant a lot. And not just to baseball fans either. It meant a lot to all of us. Here’s proof: a billboard paid for by the city that hung above I-95 for months after Lee signed with the Phillies.

Cliff Lee may go on to win Cy Young’s in Philadelphia. He may win World Series’. But 50 years from now, he’ll be the guy that when given the option between cheesesteaks and cheesecake, boldly declared, “Whiz With.”

The Jruth About the Sixers

Posted: May 21, 2011 by joshuacohan in Philly Sports

The Sixers blow.  Andre Iguodala can’t play. Elton Brand is overpaid. Heard that before?

Philadelphians, including myself, love to hate and before the midseason turnaround that the Sixers orchestrated last year after their 3-13 start, some of the many criticisms started to fade away.  Winning will generally do that, but the success must be sustainable.  We still don’t know if the Sixers are closer to the team that started the season and then sauntered into the playoffs, or the team that went 37-23 in between.

This Sixers team is probably not as good as they showed during their great stretch in the middle but not nearly as bad as the team that started the season.  Andre Iguodala might not be the star that he was supposed to be when he was signed to that enormous six year 80 million dollar contract, but he is still one of the best wing defenders in the league and the only player not named LeBron to average over 15 points 5 assists and 5 rebounds a game.   Elton Brand certainly has not lived up to his 80 million dollar deal either, but after playing healthy for the first time in 3 years, he has showed that he can still be a damn good starting power forward in this league with averages of nearly 15 points and over 8 rebounds a game.  The veterans were the keys in getting the Sixers to the .500 mark, but it is the play of the young guys that will dictate whether or not the Sixers will continue to take steps in the right direction.

As currently constructed, this is a .500 team that could earn a few more victories based on the growth of the young guys.  Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young, Lou Williams, Mo Speezy, and Jodie Meeks are all under 25 years old and still have plenty of room for improvements in their game. There is no reason to believe that a bunch of 22 and 23 year olds will not continue to improve.  Although all the young guys are important to this teams success, the future of this team is most strongly tied to the future performance of Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday.

Evan Turner was the best college basketball player in the country at Ohio State and showed some flashes of brilliance, especially against the Heat in the playoffs.  Evan Turner has taken time to grow at every level and this will be no different.   Although Turner was drafted as a shooting guard, it became clear that his biggest struggle would be finding his shot.  He will be working with legendary shooting coach Herb Magee this summer, but it might be the case that he is better suited as a point guard or a small forward (possibly in the point forward role that Iggy played at the end of the year). Regardless of where he plays, Turner will be a better player next year and will hopefully get more minutes to show us what he can do.

While Turner is a huge piece to he Sixers future success, it’s really all about the Jruth.  Jrue Holiday is only 20 years old and averaged 14 points, 6.5 assists and 4 rebounds in just his second season in the league.  At 6-4, Jrue has the ability to defend point guards and shooting guards. Heck, he even showed the toughness to guard arguably the best player in the league, LeBron James.  With his size and length, Jrue has the potential to be an All-NBA defender at his position in the future as he continues to mature.

In addition to his defense, Jrue has got a silky J that should continue to become more consistent.  His passing and court vision are also off the charts for a 20-year-old kid.  The sky is the limit for Jrue as he continues to improve.  This team needs a face of the franchise, and they are hoping they’ve found it. Fact of the matter is that the Sixers do not have money to spend to bring in a superstar nor do they likely have the assets to get a guy like a Dwight Howard if the Magic decide to trade him.  If we are going to get a star, that guy is going to be someone who is already on the team.

I believe his name is Jrue Holiday.

The young guys are the most important part in dictating where this franchise will go.  However, in order for the young players to take the Sixers to the next level (above the 50 win mark),the Sixers need to add some size.  If Jrue becomes an all-star and Turner continues to grow, you still can’t win with lack of size down low that the Sixers have on their roster. Ed Stefanski and Rod Thorn will undoubtedly add some size to the small Sixers roster, and it is likely that a big man will come via a trade for Iguodala.  Iggy’s non-committal comment at the end of the season when asked if he wants to play for the Sixers next year and his skipping of his exit interview are clear signs that he does not want to be back.  Although Iggy should not be traded for a bag of chips, trading him will open up minutes for Evan Turner and would hopefully net the Sixers a young promising big man in return.

The Sixers are heading in the right direction. They are not some meddling middle aged team with no room to grow. They are a young and hungry team with a head coach that instills tremendous passion and pride in each of his players. If Jrue and Evan become the players they are capable of, the Sixers could be looking at many successful seasons ahead.

What Can Brown Do For You?

Posted: May 21, 2011 by jeffkerr in Philly Sports

Domonic Brown has been the Phillies top prospect for three seasons and could be the best player to get called up to the Phillies since Ryan Howard in 2005.

Last season, Brown showed flashes of brilliance at time during his stint in the majors. He had nine hits, one home run, and 10 RBI in his first seven starts. But the rookie struggled when major league pitchers adjusted to his smooth, long stroke and it greatly affected his performance. Dom hit .183 with two home runs and 13 RBi in only 49 at-bats over 31 games played.

After struggling in winter ball and the beginning of spring training, many fans were under the impression that Brown was all hype and not a good major league player.

Brown has struggled since his call-up to the majors last season, but he only has 62 regular season at bats and was not playing every game to hit out of his slump.

Domonic Brown is not the first Phillie to struggle early in his major league career, and will not be the last. Here are a few Phillies who had slow starts to begin their big league career:

1. Ryan Howard ( May 2005): 6-28, .214 avg, 1 HR, 1 RBI. Career (7 seasons): .277 avg., 262 HR, 783 RBI, 2005 NL ROY, 2006 NL MVP.

2. Chase Utley (2003): 32-134, .239 avg., 2 HR, 21 RBI. Career (8 seasons): .293 avg., 177 HR, 650 RBI, 2006-2009 Silver Slugger, five time all-star.

3. Jimmy Rollins ( April 2001): 23-92, .250 avg., o HR, 5 RBI. Career (11 seasons): .272 avg., 156 HR, 674 RBI, 2007 NL MVP, 2007-2009 gold glove winner.

Bottom line: Players need time to adjust to the top level of professional baseball in the world. Once Domonic Brown settles in, he could be on pace to equal or surpass the careers of these current Phillies stars.