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.