It is time once again to sort through the overwhelming volume of non-existent email questions to provide you, dear reader, with all the answers to all those queries you haven’t even made…
Q. I have been hearing a lot about the Phillies lately and most of it has been bad. They did next to nothing in the off-season…Ryan Howard had a setback after his Achilles surgery…several other players are ailing…and now it appears Chase Utley isn’t even ready to start practicing yet. What’s the current outlook on the 2012 Phils? Will it be all about pitching, at least early on?
A. As any astute baseball fan knows the Phillies, since winning it all in 2008, have taken exactly one step backward each season since. Losing a World Series in 2009…losing a Championship Series in 2010…losing a Divisional Series in 2011. Admittedly, other cities would kill for any ONE of those campaigns, but from the time Citizens Bank Park first opened its gates the checkbook opened up as well. This team is now expected to be elite year in, year out and nothing short of a title is expected.
The oldest continuous, one-name one-city franchise in all of sports is now old on the field as well. There is also a lot of wear and tear on some of these guys. Youth has not been infused into the roster in a timely manner. Consider Jimmy Rollins is the healthiest infielder right now…and he has as much chance of playing 162 as I do. Shane Victorino IS the outfield right now – we’re looking into the possibility of him playing all three positions.
As you may have guessed, this team will once more be mainly about pitching early on…and there admittedly is plenty of it. However, the October 7th, 2011 game against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLDS is as vivid to all Phillies’ fans today as it was that day. Losing 1-0 on our home turf. That’s the last memory we have of the season…that and Ryan Howard hobbling off the field at game’s end with a blown out tendon…which got infected after surgery and there is currently no specific timetable for his return. And Howard is a player who usually doesn’t warm up until the weather does anyway. And he’s a year older. Which brings us to Chase Utley and the Phils’ organization, which is starting to remind me of the days when Bobby Clarke ran the Flyers…and did the exact opposite of what he told the media and fans. Everything out of Bobby’s mouth was a flat-out lie back in those days. The Phillies are starting to remind me of Clarkie’s management style, especially in regard to Chase.
Chase has bad knees. Really bad knees. The problem is the man and his team have been less than forthcoming about how bad his situation is. We’ve all been asking about him for weeks now. There were some inconsistent stories earlier in the Spring about the extent of Howard’s surgical setback as reported first by Manager Charlie Manuel…then by the team. Here’s a quote from David Murphy specifically regarding the Utley situation, covering the Phils for the Philadelphia Daily News:
“Utley and the Phillies cannot ignore the fundamental reason for the presence of such curiosity: People care. They care deeply about the Phillies, and they care deeply about the superstars they have watched develop over the last 5 to 10 years. Philadelphia is one of those towns where fans look at themselves more as shareholders than as paying customers. The intensity of that emotional investment has made a lot of people a lot of money, from the players who have signed eight-figure contracts to the executives who have watched profits soar. And let’s not forget about the financial investment from taxpayers that helped build Citizens Bank Park, thus making the current money machine possible. One half of the organization appears to have a healthy understanding of the economics of it all. The Phillies’ marketing department puts on a game-day show like few others in the major leagues. The team’s involvement in the community is obvious. The business side of the organization is stocked with homegrown personnel who understand the city’s affection for the team, starting with Roxborough-bred David Montgomery in the president’s office. On the other hand, the baseball operations side of the organization often leaves the impression that it would rather you just play with your bobblehead and let the grownups worry about the important issues. This does not make it unique among personnel departments. In fact, in the current media age, silence often is the smartest policy. But silence also means that, even after Sunday (when Chase advised us he has to “listen” to his knees), the only possibility that has been ruled out is surgery, which was not the case the first time Utley spoke publicly about his knees this spring. On one hand, his assertion that he feels better now than he did last year provides some hope that he will miss less than the 2 months he was sidelined at the start of last season. On the other hand, he was able to take batting practice throughout last spring, something he is not currently doing. On either hand, the fact that neither he nor the team will offer a hint of when they hope he can return means Phillies fans still have no idea what kind of team they will be plunking down money to watch this season.”
Bottom line…we Philadelphians don’t know what to expect from this team by the end of this season. But early on, you can expect a lot of those 1-0 games. We just hope we’re on the right side of that score…unlike last October.
Q. I saw Kansas State Head Basketball Coach Frank Martin as a guest in the studio during the NCAA Elite Eight coverage. He criticized the “age of social media” for spreading false stories about his pending jump to South Carolina. Then I saw he jumped to South Carolina. And someone told me he admitted playing players also…what a weekend for him, huh?
A. First off, let me say I love Frank Martin, the coach. I wanted him to go to “The U” so badly last year when that Miami job opened up. Being back in his native South Florida with all of his entrenched recruiting ties, he was a natural to take the Hurricanes to rarefied air in college basketball. I don’t know if it was the parallel situation with the school being investigated for football and basketball or not, but he remained at K-State and I figured that was just fine…heaven knows the “Little Apple” of Manhattan deserved to continue to reap the benefits of his coaching talent.
However, Frank let me down this past weekend in that CBS studio. His response to a question regarding the rumor he would be the next coach at South Carolina:
“In the age of social media that we live in right now, it’s crazy. I was scheduled to be at a press conference today in South Carolina and I was sitting watching a show in New York City last night. And obviously I’m sitting here with you guys today, so it’s…the stuff that gets out these days, I look at it as a compliment that we’re doing our job the right way at Kansas State that these sort of things get out.”
You may have heard a day later he confirmed he would be the next coach at South Carolina.
That insulted our collective intelligence. But moments after he made that comment, he insulted the NCAA’s. And…you don’t make these kind of comments within their pristine, “One Shining Moment” analyst settings during March Madness. In this day and age, you don’t make these kind of comments period…especially when you had a top player held out of their final Tournament game because of impermissible benefit eligibility…especially when you’re in the midst of starting with a new employer:
“I coached 16 years in the same inner city in Miami that I grew up in. Do you know how much money I sent to kids that played for me in high school when they were in college because I knew where they came from? I knew they didn’t have a father figure.”
“I’m not going to tell you who they were but I sent them a lot of money over the years to make sure they could take their girlfriend out to the movies, make sure they could wash their clothes and do all the things that scholarship money don’t cover. They don’t have an option. It’s not like they can work while they’re in college. They can’t find ways to make money. When there is no money at home, who is going to help these guys?”
Frankly, Frank…too Frank for National TV. Your heart is in the right place. But I wonder if South Carolina thinks you’re in the right place. Oh, and you can bet the NCAA will be in touch…unfortunately with Kansas State also.
Q. Why DID the New York Jets acquire Tim Tebow?
A. I don’t know for sure…but I have a theory. Let us start with what Owner Woody Johnson had to say:
“Tim Tebow will be a good addition to our team. From a football standpoint, he adds flexibility, versatility. He’s a great athlete. He’s a big athlete. He can do a lot of things besides being the quarterback, besides being the backup quarterback. All of those things make us a better and stronger team going forward. I’m excited to have him onboard. Tim Tebow has been a winner all his life.”
Woody makes perfect sense here. You can argue how poorly Tebow sees the field and throws passes all day long, but can’t you see this acquisition helping a team if they are committed to having a Wildcat/3rd Down option where a dump-off pass would be all that was required? How about just plain old depth on your roster – this guy is in his pro football infancy and could develop into a running back or a tight end. He just wants to play. And he plays hard. And why wouldn’t you want that on your roster? Huh? Tell me WHY? WHY?
1. It’s New York City.
2. Mark Sanchez is the incumbent.
3. Rex Ryan is in charge.
Actually, in this instance I suspect Rex wasn’t in charge. This smacks of Owner Johnson wanting to fill out his fantasy football team instead of his real one. I am betting he fell hopelessly in love with the idea of bringing Tim to NYC to swap out some headlines with the defending Super Bowl champs who share Snoopy Stadium with him. He dismissed such thoughts when asked. I wouldn’t expect him to admit to that, would you?
Everyone. Every One…will want him to start, including Rex. They share a brutal passion for winning. Sanchez got ripped in the off-season, got an extension…and now this. His head has to be spinning. Both Tim and Mark have said all the right things in the early days here, but as much as I think Sanchez can eventually get himself straightened out and play winning football…I’m sure with this latest development that development will be delayed. The New York tabloids already have checklists of “Pros” and “Cons” in areas like “Running Ability” and “Toughness” as they weigh the advantages of both players at the QB position. Tim’s holding his own being placed alongside Mark by the rabid press…and mind you, we’re talking about who should START.
Those tabloids also have pictured as many people Tebowing in the streets and parks of NYC than you saw in an entire year in Denver. I’m telling you, I can feel Tebow’s energy and aura whenever I step outside here coming barreling straight down I-95.
One story in a recent New York Daily News edition caught my eye. Russell Francis, age 44 from Brooklyn, was dying of lung cancer a week before the trade…and swore to his family the Jets were going to somehow get Tim Tebow. He was so excited. In a cruel twist of fate, he passed away just as news broke Tebow was indeed coming to New York…which few people saw coming aside from Russell. Francis was buried in a brand-new #15 Jets jersey a few days ago.
Oh, his family indicated he had one other “vision” before he died.
The Jets would go to the Super Bowl this coming season.
Take a knee, Jets fans. Take a knee.