Wednesday, June 30, 2004

A Football Game Breaks Out at CBP

At least that's what the final score would seem to have indicated last night, as the Phillies clobbered the Expos, 17-7. A night after they had set a record of 14 runs in their new digs, the locals smashed that record last night with an offensive explosion. Todd Zolecki, Mark Kram, and Dennis Deitch file the game stories. While taking in the new park last night, I was wondering why Bowa replaced Pat Burrell at the end of the 4th. According to today's stories, he apparently suffered a mild sprained groin, and should return to action tonight. Kram echoes WIP's Glen Macnow's sentiments from last night after the game, that Eric Milton is the "most umimpressive" 10-2 pitcher in the majors. The Libery Bell (nice touch by the park designers I might add, distinctly "Philadelphia") was ringing so much last night, Paul Hagen says this seemed like "arena baseball." Phil Sheridan cautions against unbridled optimism: "If Wade doesn't do something significant to help this team before July 31 - the sooner the better, frankly - he will not be able to ask the fans, the manager or the current players to trust his judgment." Zolecki's notebook takes another look at David Bell's hitting for the cycle on Monday night (this wasn't the first time someone in his family accomplished that). Mike Olshin looks at the irony that "there was only one Phillies starter who didn't finish with a hit last night. Major-league home run leader Jim Thome. Go figure."

Ed Moran says Mark Recchi already has one foot out the door as free agency approaches tonight at midnight.

As far as the ballpark is concerned, it's truly a great place to catch a game. While the endless offense last night led to quite a long game (much better than the multiple-rain-delay-induced long affairs from a couple weeks ago, to be sure), Citizens Bank Park is definitely a great place to take the family to see a game. Throughout the park, in both the upper and lower levels, there was plenty of space to grab a bite to eat, and stand at the back of a particular section, without missing any of the action. By the second inning, the lines at Geno's and Tony Luke's were ridiculously long, and not worth the likely half hour wait (though the site lines from the outfield area were OK). I don't know if the "blowout nature" affected this (though the Phillies did allow things to get interesting for a little while there in the 5th), but I did notice there didn't seem to be any "electricity" in the ballpark. It seemed to be missing the "buzz" that you would get at a Fenway Park, or one of the older parks. That could be just the nature of a 162-game season, or the fans still getting "used" to the new park (similiar things were said about the Linc when it first opened). If you closed your eyes for a minute, you might not have been able to tell you weren't still at the Vet. But, overall, a pretty enjoyable evening.

CSN has the final game of Expos-Phillies at 7:05.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Hitting For the Cycle

David Bell managed to accomplish that last night, becoming only the 7th player in franchise history to perform the feat (the last time it was done by a member of the Phillies was 1995). The Phillies slugged their way to a 14-6 win over the Expos. Hopefully they can keep the momentum going for the remainder of their homestand. Jim Salisbury and Paul Flannery have the game stories. Marcus Hayes has a little bit of leftovers from Mike Lieberthal's benching over the weekend (he returned to the lineup last night). He says he was upset, particuarly on Sunday, because he "was excited to face Schilling." Salisbury has GM Ed Wade pondering potential roster moves:
If the right thing comes along and the trade is value for value, we'd consider it. But right now, we're not seeing value for value. Other clubs are looking at our situation with having a new park and they think we'll overpay. We're not going to overpay to the extent these clubs want us to.
Jon Marks has Wade saying, "If the right thing came along there would be no reason to hold off." Hayes has Wade complaining it's "too much of a seller's market" still. Stay tuned.

Joe Juliano was on hand for the unveiling of the Wilt Chamberlain statue at the Wachovia Center yesterday. I had referred to this last week, mistakenly misreading the article I linked to which had pointed to yesterday as the unveling date all along. Sam Donnellon looks back fondly on Chamberlain's life, including an interview he conducted with him back in 1999, less than 6 months before Wilt died.

Kevin Mulligan refers to some idiotic parents who demonstrate just how badly corporate sponsorship has gone, as they named their child ESPN (I wish I were kidding). How long before we have a "Budweiser" and a "Bud Light"? Better yet, how about the "Coors Twins"?

CSN has Expos-Phillies at 7:05. Tonight I'll be at CBP for the first time, so tomorrow I'll try and have a report card of the new park.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Now's The Time

The Phillies finished a disappointing 2-4 road trip with yet another loss, this time gettting crushed 12-3 at historic Fenway Park by the Red Sox. Todd Zolecki and Marcus Hayes have the game stories. Jim Salisbury says the next 2 weeks will say a lot about what this team accomplishes this year, as they have a 14-game homestand heading into the All-Star break. Zolecki's notebook says Mike Lieberthal wasn't a happy camper about not being included in yesterday's lineup. Speaking of Fenway, Tom DiNardo mentions some interesting studies down by an MIT professor, "warning" of the effects that changes in the configuration of the old ball park (such as putting seats on the Green Monster in left field) could cause, and explains why there's a section of bleacher seats that are off limits to fans during day games (in case Phillies fans were wondering during their visit this past weekend). And it seems that lots of Philadelphians made the trip to Fenway this weekend, as was noted by Mike Shalinin in the Boston Herald yesterday, among others. Shalin also had an article about the red hot Jim Thome. The Phillies faithful were particularly vocal on Saturday (as heard on the FOX broadcast), especially seeing that Red Sox fans bailed during the late stages of the game when the outcome was not in question. However, we could have done without the "Eagles" chants. This just makes Philly fans look foolish, especially when you're going to a baseball game in the metropolitan area that is home to the team that has won 2 out of the last 3 Superbowls. How about next time we just stick to the "Let's go Phillies" chants, OK?

Tim Panaccio has Bob Clarke acknowledging that talks aren't going particularly well with free agent Alexei Zhamnov. Rob Parent notes the Flyers selected John Carter in the NHL draft, and that "Carter also happens to be the first African-American draft choice in Flyers history." Carter spoke of paving the way for others. "Maybe I can make my mark and make the path easier for other African-Americans when it comes to this game." Parent also sees Mark Recchi becoming an ex-Flyer and joining the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Caryl Kauffman gets Jim O'Brien's thoughts on his offensive schemes next year, and how Iverson will be featured: "I think Allen will probably be more comfortable with the way I coach offense than anybody that he has played for maybe in his life." What's the over/under on the number of games into the season before Howard Eskin criticizes O'Brien's game plan? Over the weekend, Stephen A. Smith wrote how the Celtics' picking Delonte West at #24 in last week's draft affected him: "I just started crying when my name came up on TV." Jack McCaffery is still incredulous that Jameer Nelson's stock dropped so far on draft night and says "there will be years and years of NBA games now, after which so many coaches and G.M.s will be caught muttering, 'How'd we miss that guy?'"

On our sister site, David Scott has nothing nice to say about the Philadelphia fans who visited Fenway Park this weekend.

CSN has Expos-Phillies at 7:05.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Coming Up Short

The Phillies disappointed yesterday afternoon by losing 3-2 to the Expos in Montreal, thus losing the series against them. Jim Thome first came within a few inches (OK, maybe closer to a foot) of tying the game in the 8th, when a long deep ball headed for the stands bounced high off the wall and back into play. Later in the inning, representing the tying run on 3rd, Thome, not particularly known for his speed, ran home after a fly to the outfield, but was thrown out at the plate. Again, a game of inches. Todd Zolecki and Marcus Hayes have the game stories. Hayes also previews the weekend series against the Red Sox, which starts tonight at Fenway Park. Jim Salisbury gets a few comments from some ex-Phils on their new team. Curt Schilling: "I came here to win a World Series. Anything short of that will be a disappointment." Terry Francona: "They're fanatical about this team. A lot of it is good. Some of it is over the top. But it's never dull. I love it." Zolecki's notebook reports that Chase Utley has been called up from the minors again. Paul Hagen wonders if the Phils will enter the trading fray this year since "it's that time of year again."

Meanwhile, the Sixers seem to have lucked out in last night's draft. Joe Juliano says nabbing Andre Iguodala after he fell to the 9th pick was an easy call for the decision makers at PCOM. Iguodala was brought in for a "secret workout" earlier this week, unbeknownst to the media. Speaking of the media, the new Sixer said a close friend of his told him "about the media in Philly being pretty tough." Phil Jasner says the pick falls in line with Jim O'Brien's "vision" for the team. John Smallwood is on board with the pick: "For the first time since they had the No. 1 overall pick in 1996 and selected Allen Iverson, the Sixers not only caught a break, but they actually took advantage of it." Caryl Kauffman has Tony DiLeo remarking that this is "the type of player who can get triple-doubles. He did it in college." Jon Marks seems to be the only writer to have mentioned the Sixers have drafted "another A.I." You can tell Jack McCaffery is not happy the Sixers are sticking with Iverson.
Well, what’s the sense of fighting the reality? Iverson is here, will be here and, well, is not so old that he cannot recapture some of the special qualities that made him the 2001 MVP.
Stephen A. Smith appears to be very angry that more than half the league passed on selecting Jameer Nelson, who, it seems, was being short-changed (no pun intended) by GM prospectors because of his height. Apparently he lacks "upside" (and until that word is banned on draft night, you can expect the parade of high schoolers to continue). He calls it "insanity. Or stupidity." Dick Jerardi has quotes from a visibly upset Phil Martelli.
It's an awful message. They don't want to acknowledge that they are hurting the game. They want to give you lip service about an age limit. They don't want an age limit. They will keep raiding and, if the kids were 10th graders and they could take them, that's what they would do.
Rob Knox notes that Nelson had the support of many who made their way to the Theater at Madison Square Garden last night. Paul Flannery has coach from Chester also lamenting Nelson not being a lottery pick.
The only thing you can say is shame on the NBA. They’re betting on all these young guys. They’re gambling. Here’s a proven winner. He’s the epitome of what we try to teach our youngsters. I guarantee you most of them will live to regret that they passed on this kid.
I think he might be right on that one. While Nelson's stock was inexplicably falling, Delonte West was the surprising pick by the Celtics at #24. Knox has Coach Martelli's reaction: "He took a chance and he won." Many thought he was making a bad decision by remaining in the draft and forgoing his senior year, but apparently Celtics GM Danny Ainge had him in his crosshairs. Adam Kilgore of the Boston Globe had Ainge speaking of West's future:
We think Delonte West can play point. Maybe not in the traditional fashion of point guards, but we think he's one of the best quarterbacks in the game because his decision-making is right up there with the best of the guards.
Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald has new Celtics coach Doc Rivers calling him "one of the best shooters in the draft."

Tim Panaccio believes Bob Clarke and Ken Hitchcock have talked Sami Kapinen out of retirement. Captain Kangaroo (sorry, couldn't resist) said he's "reconsidered, but can't guarantee a decision." Mike Kern has a somewhat comical note about David Stern correcting himself last night when he announced the pick for the "Seattle Super...er, excuse me, Sonics." We blasted him somewhat earlier this week, but today we offer kudos to Mike Kram, has a lengthy piece on the dangers posed by foul balls to fans at major league ballparks. He has a fairly sad story about a woman named Jane Costa, who got severely injured by a ball at Fenway Park several years ago. He also adds this tidbit that I did not know about:
The 1921 Spalding Baseball Guide stated: "All balls batted or thrown out off the grounds or into the stands shall, when returned to the field, be given into the custody of the umpire immediately." That changed one day at the Polo Grounds when a fan, Ruben Berman, chose to keep his foul ball instead of handing it over to an usher. Berman was forcibly removed from the stadium, for conduct that the Giants characterized as "disorderly" and "ungentlemanly." Berman sued. The Supreme Court of New York County ruled in 1921 that he was entitled to keep the ball.
Interleague play continues tonight, and CSN has Phillies-Red Sox at 7:05.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Hopefully the Start of Something Good

Kevin Millwood finally notched a win yesterday and the Phillies were able to beat the Expos 5-2. Todd Zolecki and Marcus Hayes have the game stories. Millwood says he "couldn't remember the last time I got a win." Jim Thome continues to be on a tear, and tied the franchise record for homers in a month last night. He now has until next Wednesday to break that record. He's also on place to break the Phils' record for homers in a single season. Jim Salisbury has a look at Rheal Cormier's quest for American citizenship, and has a look back at Manny Ramirez of the Red Sox becoming a citizen not too long ago. In his first appearance after reciting the oath, Ramirez took the field at Fenway Park carrying an American flag, which Cormier thought "was awesome." Zolecki's notebook has a look at Paul Abbott's unenviable task of facing Pedro Martinez tomorrow night in Boston. Hayes tells us why Ricky Ledee will miss at least the rest of the current road trip. As far as reliever Elizardo Ramirez joining the team after a visa snafu, Dennis Deitch has Ed Wade promising, "the paperwork is supposed to come by FedEx in the morning."

Stephen A. Smith has a look at the confusion surrounding the league as tonight's NBA draft approaches. Billy King says, "it's crazy." Joe Juliano has Jim O'Brien engaging, perhaps, in a bit of "liar's poker." Phil Jasner looks at O'Brien's approch going into next season, which will likely involve Iverson playing more at point guard, and will feature a "more intricate and demanding" defense. Rich Hofmann thinks anybody who watches tonight's draft tonight thinking the Sixers will be able to land an impact player are "suckers." He suggests "you're better off watching CSI - because, at least on that show, they can always identify the stiffs within an hour." John Smallwood looks at the littany of excuses used by Andris Biedrins in blowing off his scheduled interview with the Sixers on Tuesday: "My leg was a little bit trouble." Or, "I didn't feel comfortable to travel." Terry Toohey also chimes in about the draft:
The bottom line is that for the NBA to get better, league owners, general managers and coaches have to stop taking fliers on high school kids or players from Latvia with names no one can pronounce and start drafting smart. The NBA is not a training ground. That's the job of NBDL, the CBA, the USBL and the European leagues. The NBA is for the best not just those with the best potential.
Jon Marks has his guesses about who the Sixers will wind up with, and won't be surprised if King picks up another draft pick along the way. The Boston Globe's Peter May mentions (and I don't believe I've seen this anywhere else) that "the Sixers supposedly made a commitment to [high school senior Josh Smith], who is the best athlete in the draft." Ray Parrillo says Jameer Nelson has been preparing for life on the road in the NBA for quite awhile now. "I have to get used to it because it's going to be my job," says Nelson. Rob Knox reveals the playful side of Jameer, and adds that he was showing off his cell phone's screen saver, which was "a picture of him going in for a lay-up." Knox also has the city of Chester ready to celebrate tonight. "When Nelson walks across the stage this evening flashing his trademark smile, the entire city will be strolling beside him."

Harvey Yavener takes exception to an article, which was linked to by this site, by Sam Donnellon (without mentioning his name) earlier this week. He says he's "nuts." Interestingly, he adds, "Maybe David Stern is a lot of fluff, a lot of P.R., but the guy who runs the NBA is a real commissioner." Funny, when I linked to this article, I also made the assertion that Stern was on a different level than Bud Selig. You don't think members of the media are reading here, do you? Naah. Kevin Mulligan tells the story of a charity event this week in which, among the many things up for auction were a lunch with Howard Eskin. "'I'll bid $350 not to go,' someone yelled." Classic. Paul Domowitch looks at the correlation between footwear and injuries in the NFL, to which my only response is, "it's gotta be the shoes."

Finally, Ed Barkowitz had a sitdown roundtable with sports broadcasters in the area. The Daily News has quick bios of the participants in the discussion: Harry Kalas, Bill Campbell, Merrill Reese, Tom McGinnis, and Jim Jackson.

Sorry the links didn't get posted until after the Phils lost to the Expos this afternoon, 3-2. They now prepare to meet the Red Sox starting tomorrow night. Catch the NBA draft on ESPN, starting at 7 (if you like to watch more pre-draft chatter). Orlando goes on the clock for the #1 pick beginning at 7:30.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Not Off To A Good Start

The Phillies didn't start their 6-game road trip the way they wanted to, as they lost to the lowly Expos, 5-2, dropping a full game behind the Marlins for first place in the division. The teams are even in the loss column, as the Phillies have 2 games in hand. Todd Zolecki and Marcus Hayes have the game stories, including one irate Bobby Abreu, who expressed his displeasure over a questionable called third strike, which landed him an ejection. Hayes has Abreu taking a bit of ribbing on returning to the dugout following his ejection. Zolecki's notebook gets GM Ed Wade's thoughts on sending Marlon Byrd down to the minors: "As much as I didn't want to send him down, I thought it was appropriate at this point to do that and get his mind clear. And get his confidence back." Hayes thinks Vicente Padilla will be out at least a month, whereas Dennis Deitch claims that "simple math can conclude that Padilla doesn’t have much hope of returning to the rotation before August." Deitch also laments that the Phillies are "bobbing in the ocean of mediocrity." Looking to tonight's game, Jim Salisbury says, "Kevin Millwood needs to start winning ball games, and he needs to start doing it now." Sam Donnellon takes Phillies fans to task since they have apparently not voted for Jim Thome en masse:
You, the so-called city that loves you back, could not even be bothered with punching a chad, or clicking your mouse a few times online. Passionate fans, my fanny.
Paul Hagen ranks MLB's ball parks, and then provides his reasons for the ranking he gives Citizens Bank Park.

Marc Narducci concludes his 3-part preview of the NBA draft, this time focusing on the international talent. Phil Jasner wonders just how much disinformation Billy King and the rest of the Sixers' brass have been floating lately:
When coaches and general managers respond to reporters' questions, are they shooting from the hip or shooting from the lip? Are they total truth-tellers, or are they offering degrees of what they want you - and, in turn, their competitors - to know? Are they providing clues to their blueprint, or merely leaving a masterfully misdirected trail of bread crumbs?
Caryl Kauffman has King's take on speculation that the Sixers might move up in the draft: "There’s all kinds of deals under consideration right now. The likelihood of anything happening? I couldn’t put a number on it." Phil Sheridan believes "King's legacy will be defined largely by his decisions this week." He feels that "it will be frustrating for Sixers fans to watch O'Neal and Vince Carter and Steve Francis and Tracy McGrady change teams while the Sixers stand pat." The Sixers have no way to land O'Neal, McGrady and Francis are accounted for, and I'll take Iverson over the what-has-he-ever-done Vince Carter any day, thank you very much. Speaking of this latter rumor, Joe Juliano quotes King as saying the Iverson-Carter rumor has "no validity." Kauffman, linked earlier, said this rumor was "nothing but speculation by local radio hosts." I haven't been able to catch WIP much lately, but I'd venture a guess that Eskin was leading the charge on this rumor. Al Morganti worries that not trading Iverson "is the safest path to take, but it is hardly the path with the best chance of landing the Sixers in the promised land of a world championship."

Ray Parrillo looks out how NBA scouts' perceptions of Jameer Nelson have changed in a year. In that article, Jim Lynam, currently an assistant coach under Maurice Cheeks in Portland, and a former Sixers and St. Joe's, says, "It's apparent that Jameer is better than a lot of people thought he was." Dick Jerardi had a phone chat while Jameer was waiting for a connecting flight in Chicago, and Nelson admitted he has "no clue" who will be calling his name on draft night. Jack McCaffery is incredulous that the Sixers will end up with "a lottery pick and take a guy who might be a good college player three years from now -- and at the same time, perhaps, dismiss Nelson, who was the best player in all of college basketball?" Jerardi also has a look at Delonte West, and where in the lottery he might get drafted.

Rich Hofmann writes about the life and legacy of Roger Neilson. Now onto legends: the Daily News reports that a Wilt Chamberlain sculpture will be unveiled today at the Wachovia Center.

CSN has Phillies-Expos at 7:05.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

On The Road Again

The Philies kick off a road trip against the Montreal Expos tonight. Todd Zolecki reports on the progress of starting pitchers Randy Wolf (on target for a return against Boston this weekend) and Vicente Padilla (who suffered a setback in his last outing). Zolecki also has a brief note about Jim Thome being named NL player of the week. Dennis Deitch has Larry Bowa saying "it would be a travesty if he's not on the All-Star team." Deitch notes that it's likely NL All-Star manager Jack McKeon would have to add Thome to the squad. Sam Donnellon writes a puzzling piece in support of MLB commissioner Bud Selig, and believes he "will go down as one of the most significant commissioners in this sport's history, and in sports history." I don't think Selig is anywhere near on the level of David Stern, who took the NBA from relative obscurity in early 80s into the successful league it is today. Of course, having Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan during that era probably didn't hurt.

Hitting on a theme I mentioned yesterday, Jon Marks is concerned many of the young players eligible for the draft just aren't ready for the NBA. He sums up the basic problem this way:
Kids, who have been told forever they are too good to waste their talents on school, have bought this dream hook, line and sinker. There are too few youngsters who elect to stay in school to enhance their understanding of the game and gain a better appreciation for the other four guys on the floor.
Marc Narducci has his second in a 3-part series previewing the NBA draft, today looking at college prospects, with Emeka Okafor at the head of that class. Stephen A. Smith seems to continue on a theme that started over the weekend by an area writer (we'll get to the culprit soon enough). Smith says he hopes Iverson finally "does things the right way" (Copyright, Larry Brown, All rights reserved). Brown's only regret about his championship is that he wishes "we could have done it in Philadelphia. It would have been really, really neat." Brown pretty much reiterated that, and spoke highly of Iverson, when David Letterman brought up the topic on last night's Late Show. Joe Juliano has a look at swirling trade rumors, including some that dredge up a trade scenario from quite some time ago, Allen Iverson for Vince Carter. I must have missed all those NBA Finals appearances by Vince's Toronto Raptors. In response to Howard Eskin's report on Sunday Sports Final that the Sixers were inquiring about the availability of Tracy McGrady (a pretty much moot point now, as we'll talk about in a bit), Phil Jasner has Billy King responding, "my job is to make calls. That's what I do." Speaking of Phil, Rich Hofmann has lots of nice things to say about Jasner, who will be honoroed by the Hall of Fame later this year. Hofmann writes:
That is what you come back to, over and over - that outlook, and that enthusiasm for the job. We all have mind's-eye pictures of Jasner. Here's mine: glasses perched on his nose, firing away at the keyboard like a madman, so intense, so into what he's doing that it's almost comical if someone taps him on the shoulder. He jumps about 3 feet into the air, every time - such is his concentration, and his caring, even after all this time.
Finally, we will again turn our attention to the writings of one Jack McCaffery. He writes a completely Eskin-esque piece of drivel today, even worse than the collection of words that substituted for a column over the weekend. Here are a few gems from today: "Aging, injured, reluctant to practice, unwilling to play when it does not suit his mood, Iverson has become an intolerable energy drain to a Sixers organization in full-speed retreat." He also claims that "McGrady, Carter, Bryant and Francis are all bigger and better than Iverson, all have some measurable style and would not leave the Sixers without an obvious franchise marketing focal point." Just ask how successful Orlando's and Toronto's "marketing focal points" were in last year's standings. He attempts to head off criticism of his article by claiming, "this is not just a garden-variety anti-Iverson rant." No Jack, not at all. It's a complete rip job. Howard Eskin's job as WIP host is already taken, thank you very much, but thanks for playing along. We will keep your resume on file.

Also in the useless drivel category, Mark Kram submits this utterly lame article about a so-called "curse" which-shall-remain unnamed. He talks about the efforts of one "long-suffering Red Sox fan (as if there is any other kind)." Nothing like mailing it in, right Mark? Peter Vecsey is having trouble keeping up with all the latest NBA trade rumors, but he definitely has Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis switching addresses come July 1.

CSN has Phillies-Expos at 7:05.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Moving On Up

With yesterday's 8-2 win over the visiting Royals, the Phillies moved percentage points ahead of their division nemesis Marlins to take first place. Todd Zolecki has the game story, including third base coach John Vukovich's breakdown of how everything had to go right for Jimmy Rollins to hit the first in-the-park homerun at Citizens Bank Park: "The ricochet. The speed of the runner. That's a big factor. There's a lot of guys I'm not going to send on that, but Jimmy can fly." Harvey Yavener describes it this way:
It may have been the most electrifying moment yet at the new Citizens Bank Park, Jimmy Rollins flying around the bases for a three-run inside-the-park homer - the first of his life. There is no play in baseball to match the excitement of the ball driven to the far reaches of the stadium, the star center fielder desperately hitting the wall trying in vain for the catch, the swiftest runner in the lineup tearing around the bases while the third-base coach knows he has to wave him home or incur the wrath of an overflow crowd.
Zolecki has a "shell-shocked and upset" Marlon Byrd, who was demoted to Triple A yesterday, after struggling at the plate for much of this season. Bernand Fernandez has Larry Bowa trying to look at the positives of Byrd's situation: "A lot of attention's been given to his at-bats every time he comes to the plate. He'll be in a more relaxed-type atmosphere down there. Nobody really cares if you're 0-for-4." Harvey Yavener also has Byrd trying to look on the bright side, as difficult as that might be: ""When you go 0-for-4, it doesn't matter how hard you hit the ball, and that's true here or in the Little League. There's no sense being angry. I have to work through it."

Fernandez says Jim Thome has been on fire, and is on a pace to set the Phillies team record for homers, the current record being held by Philly favorite Mike Schmidt, who hit for 48 for the World Series champions in 1980. Thome leads the majors with 23, but incredibly, does not currently have enough votes to make the All-Star team. How ridiculous is that? Zolecki's notebook also talks about a set back for Vicente Padilla, who was originally slated to return to the starting rotation this week in Boston.

Jack McCaffery says the Phils found an ace pitcher when they weren't looking. He's not talking about Kevin Millwood, but Eric Milton, who, with Saturday's win, is now an eye-opening 9-1. Speaking of Milwood, over the weekend, Harvey Yavener says the Philly boo birds should get off his case. I don't think that's going to happen, not at the price tag he came from the Atlanta Braves with. Don McKee looks at new definition for "standing room only seats" at the new ballpark, as the standing areas that surround the park seem to be the most "popular seat" of choice for many fans, leading to scattered dots of blue seats, which might confuse TV onlookers, who are told the game is sold out. Mike Olshin plays the Phillies version of fact vs. fiction. Jim Salisbury says Phillies fans can forget dreaming about Carlos Beltran appearing in the hometown team's uniform. He concludes, "You can't help but think he could put the Phils over the top this season. But it's not happening. Beltran will end up in the Bronx or Boston or San Diego or someplace else, and the Royals will have lost another young talent, just as they once lost Johnny Damon and Jermaine Dye." In out of town coverage, yesterday, Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald had a look at the high expectations of the Phillies, who will play at the cathedral that is Fenway Park this weekend.

Marc Narducci has the first of a 3-part NBA draft preview. Today he looks at high school players, and notes that this year's draft might see the most ever first round draftees from that pool. He specifically mentions Josh Smith, who seemed to impress Jim O'Brien during his workout with the team. I caught a show last night on Comcast SportsNet, which had a look at many of these young kids (and they are kids) as they prepared for the McDonald's all-American game. Teams are so afraid to miss out on the next Kevin Garnett that they are more willing to take a chance at one of these young players. If the Sixers hope to return to the playoffs (and for more than just a round), they will have to take somebody who will make an immediate impact, and I don't think one of these guys is the answer. Phil Jasner says Sixers assistant GM Tony DiLeo is still surprised at Delonte West's decision to stay in the draft. Joe Juliano says the "secret" unprotected expansion draft lists weren't so secret after all, which has some GM's, such as Billy King, upset: "The league sent a memo saying anybody who gives up a list will be subject to a fine. It's unfortunate people are speculating, because it's not supposed to be."

John Smallwood defends the city of Boston's honor, over this weekend's insinuations by Barry Bonds that it is a "racist" city. Smallwood finds it interesting that "the Boston Globe has three white sports columnists. None has jumped to Boston's defense." The article raises some interesting points, and is definitely worth reading. Jeff Gelles, in the business section of yesterday's Inquirer, implores Comcast to end some of its monopolistic practices and allow satellite carriers to include Comcast SportsNet on their packages. This comes as Comcast looks to get out of paying taxes for 15 years, so that they can have a new skyscraper and headquarters built here. Exactly how does this benefit of the city of Philadelphia?

Jack McCaffery reveals his anti-Iverson agenda and bias with this bit of drivel yesterday. Not to be outdone, Howard Eskin, in last night's Sports Final, had an exclusive interview with Larry Brown. Most of Eskin's questions, particularly about "playing the right way" were overt attacks on Iverson and his style of play, and it was somewhat pathetic to see Brown having to come to his defense in answering them. Brown revealed that he's spoken with Allen, who was supposedly "crying" on the phone with him, happy that he finally won his ring. Somehow I question Larry's recollection of that, but I guess we'll have to take his word on that (and we all know how much that's worth). Brown also mentioned Andy Reid also called to congratulate him as well. I found it pathetic that Eskin has "adopted" the Detroit Pistons as his team (sure, after they win the title). This just goes to show you what his agenda is all about, and the lengths to which some media personalities will go to in order to further that agenda.

The locals are off tonight, so take the time to enjoy the first full day of summer. If you're a Sixers fan that is still aggravated that Larry Brown won his championship after abandoning Philadelphia, you probably want to miss his appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman tonight.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Rain, Rain, Go Away

The storm clouds subsided long enough yesterday for the Phillies to get both games of their first home day-night doubleheader at home. Todd Zolecki has the game stories of the 6-2 afternoon win, and the disappointing 5-4 loss in extra innings of the night game. Closer Billy Wagner had his second blown save opportunity in 11 tries, as he gave up the game-tying homer in the top of the 9th. Bob Cooney had Larry Bowa giving the surprising Detroit Tigers some props. "They got three two-out hits. That's hard to do sometimes, and they did it three times in a row." Zolecki's notebook points to some potential lineup changes in the future. Bill Conlin gets specific and says Marlon Byrd "is doomed to vanish from his protected South Philly sanctuary unless he picks up the pace." He later dabbles in some clever humor when adding, "it's no secret, though, that Bowa has turned the heat on Byrd to hit or get off the nest." Paul Hagen is happy that Ken Griffey Jr. failed in three home games to hit #500 "and that the Reds now go on the road for their next six games. It's just bad the owners get to keep the extra money that the quest generated."

Bill Fleischman writes about Comcast SportsNet trying to innovate with some of their game coverage. The Phillies are among six teams participating in a "commissioner's initiative to enhance fans' enjoyment of local baseball broadcasts." He says, "this new service will be really worth watching if Bowa has to stop in midsentence to make a decision or argue with an umpire." Actually, it would be quite humorous if they used wireless mikes here and they could catch Bowa's interactions with the umpire. Frank Fitzpatrick just calls this a "ridiculous TV development" and part of the "pre-packaged, pre-produced, gimmick-riddled, made-for-TV sports events" culture. He obviously doesn't care for what he calls a "cheap in-game intrusion." A typical FOX broadcast features many such gimmicks (if I have to endure one more meaningless fan poll, I'm going to throw a chair at the image of Joe Buck voting on his Sprint cell phone). However, Fitzpatrick is way off here on this one, I feel. For instance, during last night's broadcast, as the game headed for yet another rain delay, the CSN broadcast team spoke with Bowa on air, and got some insights into whether Kevin Milwood would be able to return to the game after a lengthy delay. This was good stuff, and something even the casual fan at home would have learned something from.

Ray Parrillo has an article on Delonte West's decision to remain in the mix for next week's NBA draft. "It was a tough decision, but in the end I had to do what I feel is best for me and my family." This was no big surprise, as the word was, this was the direction he has been leaning in for awhile. Dick Jerardi says he wasn't surprised by the decision either, since West attended numerous private workouts (some multiple times) with teams, the expenses of which he would have had to pay for himself had he withdrawn from the draft. "Now, West won't have to pay back anything. For better or worse, he is staying in next Thursday's draft." Phil Jasner briefly mentions some of the draft prospects the Sixers are looking at.

Rob Knox has additional reaction to Larry Bird's comments last week during an ESPN interview. Charles Barkley had this to say:
Every time somebody says something about race, it’s not always bad and the politically correct police are getting out of hand. Every time somebody says something about race, it doesn’t mean they are a racist. I know Larry Bird is not racist. I’ve got no problem with what he said.
Al Morganti documents the recent trend for the champions in the four major sports to be all about teamwork, and not the big name stars.
It’s a nice marketing tool to have the star players, but all it really means is that a team has a huge payroll. Thankfully, championships are still won on fields, courts and rinks, and not on the basis of who has the thickest wallet or the most stories in glossy magazines.
Sam Donnellon says Larry Brown isn't finished yet. He mentions that a San Antonio reporter joked earlier this week "that amid the celebration Tuesday night, Larry was pondering how to fix the Atlanta Hawks." He then added that Red "Auerbach's right. Until you build your own championship team, there's something missing on your resume. Which is why I doubt this is Larry's last stop." Finally, David Scott gets in yet another obligatory shot at Philly in his most recent article on our parent site:
Stephen Angry Smith seemed to be his most angry during the Finals. Can you even imagine how this guy would handle rush hour in Boston? Philly’s rush hour, from what I recall, consists of three bums chasing the cheesesteak scraps from 6 to 7 a.m.
Quite uncalled for Dave, quite unnecessary.

CSN has Royals-Phillies at 7:05.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun?

Because of the non-stop rain here in the city of Philadelphia this week, the Phillies were forced to reschedule last night's game. Todd Zolecki notes today's day-night doubleheader will be the "first-ever home day-night doubleheader requiring separate admissions" in Phillies history. Sorry the first game already started (Business "person's" special, to be politically correct, no?) by the time today's column was posted (laptop problems earlier in the day). Zolecki's notebook has the players disagreeing with Lary Bowa's assessment of the season to date. While Kevin Milwood feels "we should probably be way ahead right now," Bowa says, "with the injuries we've had, I think our team has definitely overachieved." Marcus Hayes has a humorous Doug Glanville commenting on the weather this week and suggesting "maybe we can build arks and race down the Schuykill." Dennis Deitch notes "the Phils have been able to tread water in a division and a league that has no dominant team and where the presumed contenders have been beset by injuries." Hayes also talks about the relationship Bowa struck up with Larry Brown when he was here. Larry (the one who didn't shaft Philadelphia by leaving to coach a conference rival) recalls a conversation with Brown in which he confessed, "I find it difficult to deal with 12 guys. I don't know how you deal with 25."

Speaking of Brown, Chuck Bausman says "yes, we're going to be childish and carry this grudge against the former 76ers coach a little longer. You expected something else?" My sentiments exactly. Bernard Fernandez speaks with Billy King and Aaron McKie and gets their feelings on Brown winning his first NBA title. McKie says, "I'm happy for him. I just wish it could have been with us." Jon Marks of the Trenton Times talks about how excited King "was for his mentor and for the Eastern Conference as a whole, since they would no longer have to put up with hearing how they were the NBA's 'junior varsity' compared to the West." Stephen A. Smith continues to offer mea culpas to the Pistons, "that athletic, feisty, suffocating bunch of bandits given no chance--especially by me--in these NBA Finals." He called the domination over the Lakers a "shellacking the likes of which we haven't seen in some time." He also notes in that article how Joe Dumars "is the first black executive to guide a franchise to an NBA championship." Michael Wilbon, of Washington Post and ESPN's Pardon The Interruption fame, pleads, "can we officially stop with favorably comparing Kobe with Michael Jordan?" Phil Jasner writes of a "Larry moment" earlier in the week when he said that if he won a title, he "might be doing something else" after that, which no doubt had Joe Dumars beginning to mentally compile a short list of replacements. Marc Narducci has King hoping to "move up" in the NBA draft scheduled for next Thursday. "We have talked to some people, but I don't know if it's going to happen," says King. Kevin Mulligan has Jim O'Brien "very, very interested in seeing how Glenn Robinson will be, because I'm putting a lot on Glenn. I think he's going to have a great year and I'm anxious for him to come in ready to go." Rob Knox has a look at Jameer Nelson, and how his dreams of playing in the NBA are close to becoming a reality. He says that some reports having him picked at No. 10 (Cleveland), right after the Sixers 9th pick. A Jameer-LeBron combination? That would be quite an interesting team to watch. Knox concludes, "Nelson has the entire package to flourish and make an impact in a world dominated by giants. Nelson is a winner, a tough on the ball defender, a catalyst every time he’s on the court and quite possibly the steal of the draft."

Adam Kimelman briefly mentions that the Flyers signed R.J. Umberger to a 2-year contract, after he could not reach an agreement earlier with either the Vancouver Canucks or New York Rangers. Bill Conlin has a touching tribute to fallen comrade Ralph Wiley, who died on Sunday. Wiley was a key contributor to ESPN.com's Page 2, and will no doubt be missed.

The New York Post reports that Marv Albert will no longer be the voice of the New York Knicks after a four decades-long relationship. Here's what the Post had to say: "Sources said the Cablevision CEO has sent word to his network executives that negative Knick statistics should be ignored. Knick mistakes shouldn't be replayed. Announcers were told not to compliment Knick opponents. Plus, there should be no video montages extolling the exploits of opponents." So much for journalistic integrity. Aren't we happy the Comcast-Spectacor, owner of the Flyers and Sixers, doesn't impose its will similarly in Comcast SportsNet broadcasters and hosts?

Finally, for those who are "historical statistical geeks" like myself, Fred Kerber notes that the Detroit Pistons are actually the second team to have swept the three middle games at home in the 2-3-2 Finals format. When the Pistons were in Fort Wayne, they actually accomplished the same feat in 1955, the same year the 24-second shot clock was introduced. The next year, the NBA abandoned the 2-3-2 format (after a short 3-year "experiment"), until going back to it in 1985. Interestingly, the team with home court advantage won every one of those series, and those three series also featured two Game 7s (in contrast with the past twenty years using the same format, where we have had the same number--two--Game 7s). With this year's Finals concluded, we now have 20 Finals series under the belt with the "modern" 2-3-2 format. During that time, only 5 teams who began the series on the road walked away with the title (including this year's Pistons). Including the 3 "experimental" years, the teams with home court have won 18 of 23 series, at a 78% winning rate. Also of historical note, until this year, the Minneapolis/LA Lakers had been undefeated (7-0) in the NBA Finals when holding home court advantage under the 2-3-2 format (Note: some of these trends come from information gathered through email conversations with the author of the WhoWins.com website last year). I guess this year's Pistons demonstrated that you can pretty much throw out the statistics when it comes to hustle, hard work, and determination. But it still makes for interesting analysis (if you're into that sort of thing like I am).

CSN has the day-night doubleheader between Tigers-Phillies at 1:05 and 7:35.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

A Good Night for Detroit

First the Tigers beat the Phillies, then the natives no doubt began ramsacking what is left of downtown Motown when the Pistons knocked off the Lakers and "shocked the world" in what is being called one of the more surprising "upsets" in the NBA Finals in decades. Few analysts predicted this outcome, and even those that did could not foresee Larry Brown's crew dominating Shaq and company in the manner in which they did.

The Tigers beat the Phillies 10-3, sending soaked fans home muttering under their breath (watching Larry Brown smile later for the ABC cameras wouldn't soothe their wounds either). Todd Zolecki and Marcus Hayes have all the gory details in their game stories. Zolecki's notebook seems to have GM Ed Wade and coach Larry Bowa at odds over the decision to demote Chase Utley to the minors. Utley surprised a few folks with his performance while filling in for Placido Polanco, and this move will no doubt be second-guessed during the months ahead. Dennis Deitch talks about the comedy of errors last night, including snide references to balls hit in the vicinity of the "Abreu Triangle." Rich Hofmann is concerned about the long-term effects of the injuries to the starting pitchers on the bullpen. Mike Olshin reports that the Phillies are one of only four MLB teams averaging more than 40,000 in attendance (this is probably double what typical attendance was at the Vet, especially in recent years), as they check in at 40,008. Lots of Delaware Valley folks want to get a first hand look at CBP.

Phil Jasner says Greg Buckner (please, please take him), Marc Jackson, Todd MacCulloch, Aaron McKie, and Derrick Coleman were on the list the Sixers submitted for the expansion draft. I guess I'm a bit surprised that McKie's name shows up on that list. Perhaps Billy King and company feel he's been through too much wear-and-tear over the years. Jasner also says last night's loss marks "the end of an era for the Lakers, who can only stare helplessly into an uncertain future." John Smallwood agrees with the assessment that this was "one of the most stunning upsets in Finals history," at least when you consider what the experts were saying before the series began. Smallwood says, "Detroit didn't just bea the Lakers. It humilated them, stomped on their egos, cut their hearts out" (a reference to when Kobe said he would do that to the Sixers in 2001, John?) It was pretty evident watching the game last night that by midway through the third quarter, when the lead was around 15 (and growing), that the Lakers just flat out quit, which you would think to be completely unacceptable for that organization. Stephen A. Smith calls the Pistons' championship "shocking and alarming." He says "the Lakers were completely annihilated, bum-rushed in such conspicuous fashion, they should hestitate to show their faces to family and friends." He lays most of the blame on the "man who-would-not-be-Michael-Jordan: Kobe Bryant." It's hard to imagine what Stephen A(ngry) Smith (as some affectionately refer to him as) would have had to say if he hadn't been waving his purple and gold Laker pom-poms for the greater part of the last five years. Or is he particularly scathing today because the Lakers nearly got swept, thus embarrassing Smith's own reputation as an NBA expert? Meanwhile, Jerry Crowe of the LA Times quotes Phil Jackson from his press conference last night "that it's a pretty slim chance that I'll be back" with the Lakers next year.

If you think about it, not only are the Pistons the only home team that swept the middle 3 games at home since the 2-3-2 format was adopted in 1985, but they are probably now the only team that had to win five games in order to clinch a series--given that they pretty much had Game 2 wrapped up before Larry Brown insisted on "playing the right way" and losing that game. Many of the "experts" (though I wouldn't consider myself one, I would agree with them) felt the Pistons would be demoralized after losing that game in that manner. It kind of reminds me of the "greatest comeback in playoff history," which happened in Nets-Celtics two years ago. Boston came back from a 26-point deficit and beat New Jersey in Game 3, and many (myself included) figured the Nets would be done. They went on to win three straight and take the series. I guess there's nothing to this "demoralizing loss" theory when it comes to the playoffs.

CSN has the Tigers-Phillies at 7:05.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

A Late Night Affair

Jim Thome got his 400th career homer last night, but the few hundred who stayed behind last night to see if it would count had to wait until after 2 in the morning for the game to be "over." Sam Carchidi talks about the fans efforts to try and capture the "photographic keepsake." Jim Salisbury says that sitting Griffey was a "sound business decision," since now he'll be able to go for 500 in front of his home fans, as the Reds will no doubt sell lots of tickets to tonight's game. The Phillies had the largest crowd ever in Citizens Bank Park's young history last night. Carchidi gets a few fans to complain about Griffey's no-show, questioning the Reds' motives. "That's baseball now, it's all about money" lamented one fan. All the better, I suppose. This way, all the attention could be focused on hometown hero Thome. Mark Lelinwalla says Todd Stark, who bought tickets less than an hour before the opening pitch, is the lucky fan who caught the milestone homer. Stark was quickly escorted out of his section by security, and in exchange for the ball, received an autographed ball, bat, and picture with Thome. Paul Hagen says fans had to wait until nearly 4 hours after Thome's homer to find it if it would count. This was just plain ridiculous. The game should have been called after the second rain delay, once the game was official with five innings on the books. That only about 700 fans were left on hand by the time the game was officially ended at 2:06 has to be about the most fan-unfriendly decision the umpiring crew could have made. Hagen also wants to know why, if all Griffey Jr. worries about is winning (and not the "individual stats"), he sat last night. Mike Olshin has former teammate Sean Casey saying of Thome:
He's such a humble guy. Jim is going to finish with 500 or 600 homers, and when he gets there, he'll really appreciate it. It's awesome because he's not only a great hitter, but a great person too. I'm sure he's more embarrassed than anything else about the attention he's getting. He's probably wondering, "OK, when is this over, so we can go hunting?"
Phil Jasner writes that the "pride of Coatesville", Rip Hamilton, had difficulty putting his trade to Detroit behind him, saying that Washington trading him away was "like when you break up with your first girlfriend." I wonder what the Wizards think of that move now, especially since Rip is about to get crowned "prom king"? Stephen A. Smith has several coaches saying nobody deserves an NBA title more than Larry Brown. Brown is on the verge of becoming the only coach ever to win both an NCAA and an NBA championship. John Smallwood references the Bill Plaschke article I referred to yesterday and adds his commentary:
Bryant's supreme belief in himself and his abilities has helped put his team on the brink of elimination. Bryant's greatest strength has become his and the Lakers' greatest weakness. He has shot poorly, yet refuses to sacrifice his individual game to do the one thing that has gone right for the Lakers. Bryant's unyielding drive to show that he is "the man" has all but ended Los Angeles' chances of winning a fourth title in five seasons.
Mark Lelinwalla says the Flyers have signed Keith Primeau to a four-year deal for $17 million (first two years at $4.5 million, last two at $4 million). Primeau says "Philadelphia is where I wanted to be," which explains why he turned down the chance to become a free agent. Ed Moran says Primeau really must have wanted to be here, since he took a pay cut in order to stay (he was on the payroll for $5 million during the last two seasons). Adam Kimelman also has Captain Primeau still trying to convince Sami Kapanen not to retire and move his family back to Finland. Kapinen's "stance is beginning to soften," according to his close friend. Kimelman also submits his "last NHL column for the season." The upcoming 2004-05 season, that is. The one that, from everything he's hearing (including the Daily News report he mentions, that was referenced here last week, where the Flyers told their broadcast crews "not to hesitate to look for work elsewhere") won't happen.

Sam Donnellon wonders what idiots who are overly "aggressive" trying to catch a souvenir at baseball games are thinking, in reaction to the bozo who did so over the weekend at a Cardinals-Rangers game, the replay of which was shown all over the country. "If common sense and decency cannot motivate you, imagine what you look like to your co-workers if you're caught on television trampling on women and children."

Peter Vecsey sounds a bit tired of Phil Jackson's whining about the officiating in the Finals. "I got a technical just to prove a point. I don't think it worked. [Kobe's] first free throws were at the end of hte game," complained Coach Zen Master. Vecsey asks, "why should it work? Why should the refs be expected to bail out Kobe when he's upchucking so many sordid shots while falling away from the basket?"

CSN has the Tigers-Phillies at 7:05. OK, You have my permission to watch potential history-in-the-making with Lakers-Pistons, Game 5 of the NBA Finals, tonight at 9. Detroit is trying to clinch the title and become the first team to sweep the middle three games at home since the league switched to the 2-3-2 Finals format.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Returning Home

Paul Abbott had a good performance yesterday, and Billy Wagner was able to close the deal as as the Phillies left the Metrodome with a 2-1 victory, and a winning road trip. Todd Zolecki has the game story. His notebook says tonight's makeup game at Citizens Bank Park could be the night for a couple of milestones: Ken Griffey Jr.'s 500th home run, and Jim Thome's 400th. Dennis Deitch says "the right-field seats at CBP [will be] a memorabilia gold mine, with Thome and Junior both hitting from the left side of the plate." I guess this means if Griffey reaches the milestone tonight, this will be one visitor's homer that doesn't get thrown back onto the field, as is the new tradition at CBP? We'll just have to wait and see. In either event, Marcus Hayes has Thome saying both milestones being reached tonight would "be awesome." Over the weekend, Bob Ford seemed to implore the front office to do something to address the injuries and inconsistencies of the starting rotation. Larry Bowa conceded, "Until we get out starters back, we're going to have some problems and that's just the way it is."

Bob Grotz has Terrell Owens explaining some of his comments last week.
Everybody thought I was ragging about getting the ball. But I just felt like, this city is excited about the season. And for us to be able to pull our magic out and make it work, I felt like we needed to be on the same page, as far as chemistry. And that's all that was.
Les Bowen reveals the rather disturbing "deal" that Andy Reid made with T.O., that if he scores 15 touchdowns, "I told him I'd wear the tights." Bowen (and T.O.) noted this is "something one would not yearn to see."

Marc Narducci says "there wasn't a scout or executive questioned who felt [Delonte West] was ready for the NBA" after last week's pre-draft camp in Chicago. On last night's Sports Final, John Clark says that, according to friends and family members, West is leaning toward remaining eligible for the draft.

I may not necessarily be enjoying seeing Larry Brown and the Pistons on their way to winning a championship, but I certainly am enjoying seeing the Lakers self-implode in one of the more stunning outcomes of an NBA Finals in years (decades?) Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press has Phil Jackson whining after the game that his players "just want a fair shake. They want an even break from the refs. They want to feel like they're not playing uphill." Hey Phil, how does it feel? After years of watching MJ, and more recently, Shaq/Kobe, get the "superstar" calls, Coach Zen Master finally gets a taste of his own medicine. Why can't he just admit that his team is just plain getting flat out beat? Albom concludes, "Foks, when they start blaming the referees, it's over." John Smallwood agrees, "this series is over, and the better team is going to win." I wonder what Howard Eskin, who typically drools over Kobe Bryant, has to say about Kobe's performance thus far. If Eskin read (I know, a stretch) what was being said of him by his own beat writers, he might be a bit surprised. Bill Plaschke of the LA Times says that "on Sunday night, ...one trait that he has shown more than all others in his time in Los Angeles, his stubbornness" did the Lakers in. Drew Sharp called it the "Kobe Virus."

CSN has the makeup game of Reds-Phillies at 7:05.

Friday, June 11, 2004

T.G.I.F.

Looks like the area writers have been putting in a little extra time these past few days, because there was a plethora of links to go through, and that despite the fact that a Philadelphia team has not played a game in the last 36 hours...

Todd Zolecki has a notebook looking at Jim Thome's plans with the ball from home run #400, when it comes in the next few days. Paul Hagen has a look back at the scout that "discovered" Thome. Some interesting stuff in there about the "cloak-and-dagger methods" involved with major league scouting. Hagen also writes about the development of Thome's "natural" swing with the assistance of an old manager. He also talks about the possibilities of the makeup game's scheduling, including the (no doubt rare) chance that it would be rescheduled the day after the regular season ended, and played only if it had playoff implications. He also submits this commentary where he says the Phillies front office "should be asking themselves if, all things considered, this $93 million team is playing up to its capabilities." His opinion is that they certainly are not. Finally, this fifth article by Hagen (see, I told you they were busy yesterday, I guess they were bored by the rainout) has some of the Phillies discussing the difficulties of tracking the ball at Minnesota's Metrodome, where they open a series tonight. Kevin Mulligan has nothing good to say about this year's interleague scheduling.

Stephen A. Smith says that Kobe Bryant's "perpetual smirk...indicative of a blase attitude" seems to be fading. I'm not sure what happened to Stephen A.'s article here, or whether his headline writer got things messed up, but the online version has "Bird has the authority to be frank with truth" as the title of this article (perhaps we'll see Smith's opinion on this subject over the weekend). Phil Jasner is out in Detroit covering what is turning out to be a surprising Finals. Shaq seemed to be doing his usual finger pointing after the game, including his comment that this was the "first time in my 10 years I went to the line once. I thought I was getting bumped, but maybe not." Brown managed to get yet another dig in at his former team, saying after last night's game, "Like my players reminded me, we are not the same team as Philly." What he fails to mention is this is not the same Lakers team either. The 2001 squad steamrolled through the playoffs, and the Sixers were the only team to actually made them earn their wins. Jasner also reiterates Allen Iverson's plans to honor his committment to play in the Olympics this summer, joining only Tim Duncan as the original players picked for Team USA. Phil also just had to mention yet again that Iverson "has not spoken with beat reporters since March 20," as if the fans cared about that. Jasner also speculates on who the Sixers will protect in the expansion draft for the new Charlotte Bobcats. Harvey Yavener almost sums up my feelings perfectly when it comes to finding a rooting interest in this Detroit-LA matchup. Al Morganti points out that Brown's "ego gets in the way of winning championships," since that means insisting on "playing the right way," (which is a euphemism for "Larry Brown's way") even if that means losing, as it did in Game 2.

Peter May of the Boston Globe has the NBA's announcement that it would establish a single-season attendance record this year. Through Game 3 of the Finals, 21,810,973 fans have walked through turnstiles in arenas throughout the league this year, making you wonder about rumors of the league's demise in fans' eyes. However, these figures are slightly misleading, as the the NBA fails to mention that they added at least one, and possibly two, games to each series in the first round (up to a total of 16 games for the 8 series played). Figuring each arena at an average of 20,000, that's an increase of 320,000 due to increasing the number of playoff games alone. Not to say that this entirely explains the new "record," but it does appear disingenious on the NBA's part to cite such statistics. A far more telling stat would be average attendance. This is kind of like David Stern being proud that this year's Finals' ratings spiked compared to last year. Again, it's not mentioned that last year's Finals was the lowest rated since the championship round was shown on tape delay back in the 1970s.

Mark Lelinwalla plugs the 14th annual basketball clinic being held Sunday and Monday at the Borgata in Atlantic City. Marc Narducci looks at Nate Robinson, who is facing a similar decision as Jameer Nelson did last summer. Ray Parrillo gets John Nash's opinion of St. Joe's guard Delonte West.

Mark Eckel looks at the ever-evolving role of Brian Westbrook. Bob Brookover looks at the Eagles paying a visit to the Edward Gideon School in North Philly.

Frank Fitzpatrick watched Game 5 of the 1980 Phillies-Astros NLCS on ESPN Classic Monday night, and didn't miss the ads behind the catcher, the sports tickers across the bottom of the screen, or the AFLAC trivia questions. Don Steinberg has a look at some upcoming programming on CN8 and Comcast SportsNet. Ed Moran says that "according to sources, the Flyers have decided not to renew their broadcasters' contracts if the season does not begin on time and there are no games to air." Rich Hofmann noticed there were only 20,000 who showed up for the Tampa Bay Lightning's championship parade, and wondered:
You wonder what is more galling - to be from Boston and to go for decades at one point without being able to beat the Montreal Canadiens in a playoff series, and to go for a lifetime without being able to beat the New York Yankees in a big spot, to be tortured by historical greatness, or to be from Philadelphia and have your lunch eaten three times in less than a year.
I have to admit that ESPN got me. Their "Larry Bird says more white guys are needed in the NBA" controversial headlines of the past couple days got me to tune in last night to Jim Gray's "Two on Two" interview. I have to say that I enjoyed the interview and failed to see what the fuss was all about. The only thing I was upset about midway through is that ESPN resorted to such tactics before the interview was aired to attract attention and ratings. That is a shame, because the interview certainly should have been able to stand on its own merit.

Tonight, CSN has Phillies-Twins at 8:10.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Coors Field of the Midwest?

That's what Jason Strait of the Trenton Times has Larry Bowa calling U.S. Cellular Field after the Phillies won last night's "homer-happy" 13-10 marathon. The win puts them two games behind the Marlins, who lost last night. Todd Zolecki calls it "big-league baseball at U.S. Cellular. But at times it looked like intramural softball in Manayunk." Zolecki's notebook has the Phillies just trying to survive the juggling act with their starting rotation by signing Paul Abbott, who was cut from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Paul Hagen has Bowa lamenting, "I'm tired of worrying about it. If you don't have your people, you do the best you can." Hagen also looks at Jim Thome quickly approaching 400 career homers, something he is likely to do before the Phillies return home to Citizens Bank Park.

Bob Brookover says Eagles' fans should get any ideas of bringing back Jeremiah Trotter out of their head. Les Bowen has backup quarterack Jeff Blake making a good early impression. He says he's "stumbled only once calling plays the last 2 weeks, and that was because Todd Pinkston was making a face at me." Mark Eckel has N.D. Kalu working hard to maintain his role as a starter. Led Bowen has a pretty good feature on Terrell Owens and his generous side. A longer article, but worth the read, I thought. In the article, Owens addresses comments Ray Lewis made last week:
Ray Lewis isn't but one person. I'll be ready. They can say what they're going to do to me, this and that, it doesn't bother me. If they want to take all their frustration out on me, good. That means they're probably not going to be doing what they're supposed to be doing. My main thing is the Eagles winning the game. It's not me against Ray Lewis.
Bob Brookover also discusses an interesting "field trip" the newest members of the Eagles made yesterday, including a T.O. visit to Pat's Steaks. Owens says he's never had a cheesesteak, and from the sounds of it, he plans to keep it that way. He didn't exactly give a ringing endorsement of the Philly delicacy:
I've got to keep these six packs. That's not part of my diet. I had a fresh tuna salad sandwich on the bus over here. My body is clean. I put good gasoline into my body. If I ate here, I'd be done for the rest of the trip. I'd be on the toilet.
I'm sure Pat was overjoyed by that sound bite. He did mention that Andy Reid might have a "field day" there, and might enjoy "four or five." In the words of Homer Simpson, "mmm...cheesesteak..." (followed by drooling sounds).

Stephen A. Smith continues to wonder at the coaching blunder at the end of Game 2, and includes this quote from a Joe Dumars' confidant: "Chances like that don't occur every day. Joe knows that better than anyone, so just imagine how furious he is. I'm practically family to him and I'm scared to talk to him. So I know LB should feel that way." Stephen A. reminds us that Philadelphia is all to familiar with the frustration and the "moments of the inexplicable" that accompanies the "greatness and genius" of Larry Brown. ESPN's David Aldridge joins in on the second guessing of "pound for pound" LB's decision-making.

Phil Sheridan looks at a special "Two on Two" interview that will air on ESPN tonight (see below for more details), and disagrees with Larry Bird's opinion that "the NBA needs more white stars to appeal to the white fans," and feels that might have been true in the past, but one look in suburban middle schools full of "skinny white boys with baggy jeans and sideways baseball caps" is enough to dispel that notion. A pretty good article, I think, that doesn't make a mountain out of a molehill when it comes to Bird's comment that pro basketball is a "black man's game."

Marc Narducci has a look at what Randy Ayers has been up to since being fired by the Sixers last year. Ayers is still on the team's payroll through the remainder of his contract (another two years), unless he takes another job. Ray Parrillo looks at St. Joe's guard Delonte West's workouts in Chicago. According to one anonymous scout, West is "a second-rounder all the way." I also found it interesting that because he made trips to Portland, New Jersey, Indiana, Boston, Orlando, and Chicago, he is obligated to reimburse those teams if he decides to stay at St. Joe's. Yet another reason the NCAA should be ashamed of itself.

UPN 57 has Phillies-White Sox at 8:05. ABC Channel 6 has Game 3 of the NBA Finals at 9. ESPN is airing what is turning out to be a controversial interview session hosted by Jim Grey featuring Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Carmelo Anthony, and LeBron James at 7.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Swinging for the Fences

There was a whole lot of that going on in last night's opening game of interleague play, and the Phillies dropped a 14-11 decision to the White Sox, wasting two 3-run homer shots by Jim Thome, in the 1st and 9th innings. Todd Zolecki has the game story. His notebook says closer Billy Wagner is ready to go. It's too bad he didn't have a prayer of getting in the game last night. Paul Hagen has Thome saying "the ball was carrying well to all fields. You see the ball real, real well here. I don't know if it's the lighting or the background, but you can pick up the ball well." Hagen also notes Jimmy Rollins' improved confidence at the plate. Hitting coach Greg Gross says, "it's pretty obvious. His whole body language is completely different." Bill Conlin says the radio hosts that are daily calling for Larry Bowa's resignation can stop wasting their breath.

Mark Eckel says disgruntled Green Bay Packer Mike McKenzie isn't even on the Eagles' radar in terms of some kind of deal. Bob Grotz worries that this could be a mistake, as "the last thing the Eagles need is to finish only a corner away from the big game." Meanwhile, Bob Brookover highlights Terrell Owens' appearance on the cover of Sporting News. Owens continues to make an issue of Andy Reid's dress code, which requires players to wear shorts. In what must have been a humorous scene, Owens spent the first couple of days of voluntary camps walking by Reid and, probably muttering under his breath, saying "these shorts suck," which elicited a chuckle out of Big Red. Owens complained further, "If I just have my tights on, I feel smooth, fluid, Spider-Man-like, I have given up a lot; for me to wear tights wouldn't be much. At least give me a leash. I understand having structure, and I guess that is him making a statement. I don't have any problem with that, but it's a big adjustment." What's the over/under for the week number of Owens' first mid-season tirade?

Bob Ford says that, according to ABC, the ratings for the Stanley Cup Finals revealed a somewhat surprising fact: "the ratings for the Philadelphia market were fourth-highest in the country on Monday night. Only Tampa, Orlando, and Detroit paid more attention to the broadcast than Philadelphia." Ford added:
That means, if you choose to look at it this way, Philadelphia was the top-rated market in the United States for those cities that had no particular stake in the outcome or reason to feel boosterish about the game.
OK, I admit it, the appeal of watching the mighty Lakers go down 0-2 in this supposed coronation of a Finals got to me. I should have known better. Read these quotes from Phil Jasner on the Lakers' 99-91 OT win:
You know, we're crushed. I mean, shoot, that was...we had a winnable game. And everybody in that locker room is down...We came here, should have won two games, [given] ourselves a hell of a chance.
You can't tell whether that was said last night, or from 3 years ago when the Sixers also blew an opportunity to take a shocking 2-0 lead on the Lakers, can you? And can the media stop acting so surprised that a team from the eastern conference is competing in the Finals? Case in point, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald (and what's up with his headline writer: "Kobe, Lakers stun Pistons"--I thought the Lakers were the favorite?) So far, Detroit has done nothing more than the Pacers in 2000 (actually, the Pacers fell into an 0-2 hole) or the Sixers in 2001. What these so-called experts seem to forget is that even though the Sixers eventually lost the series 4-1, every game in that series was competitive, and had the Sixers either had home court advantage (something that Brown completely blew a chance at by giving away the last game of the regular season) or had they won Game 2, the series would have taken on a whole different look. At least they didn't choke away a 6-point lead with 48 seconds left in regulation (including a mindless foul when Shaq dunked a Bryant miss with just over 30 seconds to play, like Detroit did last night.

I am now fully on board with the Peter Vecsey philosophy: why, oh why, didn't the Lakers foul Kobe Bryant instead of allowing him to take a "miracle" 3-pointer that nearly everybody watching the game just knew he would make? Peter May says Larry Brown's excuse was that he would have fouled if the ball had gone inside to Shaq, but since it went to Bryant, he feared a 4-point play. Actually, Marc Berman of the NY Post says Brown "didn't think they were going to throw it to him." Huh? Yes, what a huge surprise, Kobe Bryant getting the ball in that situation. Who would have thought? ESPN.com's Marc Stein says that even Kobe Bryant "was waiting for them to foul." One more Finals note, Peter May followed up with the Brown-Hamilton exchange mentioned yesterday, in which Hamilton said that Detroit was "a different team" and that Brown "wasn't in Philly anymore," implying that they wouldn't lose 4 straight to the Lakers like the Sixers did 3 years ago. Brown's reply to Hamilton? "Yeah, but you've got the same coach." To the delight of Lakers fans across the nation today.

OK, enough ranting for today. You can catch Phillies-White Sox at 8:05 on CSN.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The Jameer/O'Brien Saga Continues

It certainly isn't anywhere near "Larry Brown/Allen Iverson" drama, but it certainly makes things interesting and stirs up the pot in an otherwise slow sports day. Joe Juliano quotes Jameer after his workout yesterday: "I'm not saying he was being negative; he was just stating his opinion. Everybody's entitled to their own opinion. But it just gives me a little chip to play harder and just prove people wrong." Phil Sheridan gets Jameer to jokingly say, "He made me cry. I got a lot of calls from a lot of people afer that. He made my mom mad." Kevin Mulligan has Nelson putting things into perspective, adding, "if I go out there and play like I know I will, everything will take care of itself." Speaking of their 9th pick, Caryl Kauffman writes in her notes that there seems to be some confusion between Jim O'Brien and Billy King regarding the prospects of moving down in the draft. King says they "like the players we're seeing in the top nine."

Interleague play begins tonight, which led Larry Bowa to complain about the fairness of scheduling. Jim Salisbury got these Bowa quotes on the off-day yesterday: "The way it's set up is not right. Nothing against Tampa Bay, but the Marlins have six games with them, and we've got to play Boston." However, Phillies president David Montgomery is quite happy to play against the likes of the Red Sox and Orioles, as attendance tends to go way up against these opponents.

Now that the Stanley Cup Finals are over (can you believe Tampa now has 2 championships in 2 different sports in the past 2 years, and we're still waiting for our first in over 2 decades?), Rich Hofmann takes nearly 1,000 words to say that "between now and the contract expiration in September, well, if isn't even worth talking about." Then why did we write about it? Can I have that 5 minutes of my life back?

And in case you needed any further reason to despise Larry Brown and the Pistons (not that you can root for the Lakers either), Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald notes that after the Pistons upset the Lakers in Game 1, Larry Brown reminded the team that the Sixers did the same thing in 2001, only to then lose 4 straight to the Lakers. Rip Hamilton rebutted, "This is a different team. You're not in Philly anymore."'

You can catch Phillies-White Sox at 8:05 on CSN. ABC (Channel 6) has Game 2 of the the NBA Finals (Pistons-Lakers) at 8:30.