Saturday, April 21, 2018

Pope Francis put in a good word for Philly Sports
Ron, are you awake?
Of course not. What, I'd be asleep in a dream?
Don't get smart; this is Heaven speaking.
Is this God?
No, God assigned this to me. I'm about third down.
Oh, okay, what do you want?
God wants you to know that he likes your sports blog. And He's noticed that you've been to Rome a few times and hung out at the Vatican. But He doesn't like that you drink too much wine, over there. And sneaking glances at the Italian women? Tisk, tisk.
Oh, hehehe, he noticed that?
Ron, He's God.
Okay, sorry about that. So what's this dream about?
God wants you to know that when Pope Francis visited Philadelphia, the Pope gave God a glowing report. Because of that, He's sending some blessings to what you call, Philly. God likes that word..
Really? Like feeding the poor or washing feet?
No. He's sprinkled some Good Dust on the Eagles, Sixers, Flyers, and yes, the Phillies, too; although they needed more dust than the rest.
Get out of town!
Yes, you'll see soon. You'll see the results of God's Good Dust. So when you do, just be thankful, and tell those people in South Philly to clean up when their dog's poop on the sidewalks. God doesn't like that.
Yea, I agree. They should get fined. So what will happen to Philly sports because of the Good Dust?
Oh, you'll see Ron. You'll see. You can wake up now.

Sometimes, dreams come true, and what an amazing time to live in Philadelphia.

First the Eagles Super Bowl win and parade. Now the Sixers are in the first round of the Eastern NBA playoffs and hold a 3-1 lead over the Miami Heat as they return to Philadelphia and play Tuesday night. I'm looking for tickets.

I love the Sixers.

The wildcard Flyers are playing today in game six of the Eastern Conference playoffs, and are down 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins. A loss and the Flyers' season is over. Another win and it sends the teams to the showdown Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

And what about those Phillies?

They are 13-7 in the NL East and a game behind the first place Mets. Once they taste winning, there'll be no stopping them. They are good enough to either win the NL East or grab one of the two NL Wild Card spots and here's why.

They are the youngest team in baseball and if you have the right combination of players — the Sixers? — youth can overcome experience. Moreover, younger players do not get injured as often, and younger players are hungrier.

Their rotation is as good as the Mets, if not better. With Arrieta and Nola at the top of the rotation, they'll create a competition for the younger pitchers that follow them: Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, Ben Lively, and when they come off the DL, Jerad Eickhoff, Mark Leiter, Jr., and Zach Eflin.

The Washington Nationals have a great rotation, perhaps the best in baseball, but Scherzer and Strasburg have pitched a ton of innings and could break down in the stretch. The Nationals are weak in the four and five slots of their rotation.

When the Phillies bullpen is healthy — when they get Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter off the DL — it too can be as good as the Mets or Nationals bullpens.

Late in the season, the Dodgers, Rockies, and D-Backs play each other often, which might benefit the Phillies in the two Wild Card slots. Perhaps the Phillies can sneak in.

Here's the thing: It's great to be a Philadelphian. All four of Philadelphia's professional teams are made up of young, hungry players. Lookit, they have you know Who on their side.

They've been doused in the Good Dust.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Philly fans gave Charlie a rough time.

Philly being Philly; it is what it is.

Managers and coaches come and go, but sometimes not without a whipping. They are the most scrutinized in the city — more than the mayor, more than city council, and more than the, ugh, school board.

Joe Kuharich came from Notre Dame, at the time the only losing coach in Notre Dame's history, finishing 17-23 at his alma mater. He came to Philly in 1964. Four years later, with the worse record in the NFL, the Faithful had seen enough. Kuharich couldn't even lose correctly: the Eagles won the last two games of the season and missed out on drafting O.J. Simpson. They went 2-12-0, and the Juice went to the Bills.

During that final season, some 60-plus fans wore "Joe Must Go" buttons and an airplane flew over Franklin Field pulling a banner: Joe Must Go.

Charlie Manuel was ostracized for the way he spoke. Lots of his sentences ended with, "Dontcha know." Plus, the Faithful hated him from the get-go because the popular Pittsburgh manager Jim Leyland was left at the altar. Leyland was a no-nonsense manager and a winner, but the organization went with a "country bumpkin."

Even yours truly, in this blog, imitated the way Charlie spoke. Shortly after that, I received an email from Phillies broadcaster, Chris Wheeler, who said: "Ron you don't know Charlie, you're being unfair." Wheels, the good man that he is, was right. I apologized.

So the Faithful greeted Charlie Manuel the only way it knew: "Boooooooooooooooo."

Now, Charlie Manuel gets a standing ovation any time he visits and sticks his head out of the dugout. And they chant, "CHAR-LEE, CHAR-LEE, CHAR-LEE..."

Philly being Philly.

From the start, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was criticized for not being "brainy enough" to be an NFL head coach. How, of which half the Eagles crowd is rowdy and drunk by halftime, the hooligans could come to that conclusion, is beyond me.

They were cranky to begin with. Chip Kelly, the brainy Oregon coach, ran the team into the ground. Then the Eagles hire a 'stupo' to replace him? Pederson was seen, too — as Charlie Manuel was Jim Thome's lackey — as Andy Reid's lackey.

Longtime NFL executive Mike Lombardi said, "Everybody knows Pederson isn't a head coach. He's less qualified than anyone I've seen in my 30-plus years in the NFL.

That's all they needed. "Boooooooooooo."

We attended the Phillies home opener on April 5th, where Doug Pederson threw the ceremonial first pitch. During introductions, Phillies new manager, Gabe Kapler, was booed. Pederson received a standing ovation as he walked out to the mound.

It is what it is; Philly being Philly.

Speaking of Kapler, it's bandwagon time. Everybody wants on. First, it began with the coconut oil question at Kapler's introductory press conference, by local radio and television jockey Howard Eskin. The question was embarrassing and out of order, two areas of which Eskin prides himself on.

During the first six games of the season, all on the road, Kapler made some apparent coaching blunders. That's all the Faithful needed on opening day; they were waiting for him to pop out of the dugout.


But suddenly something's happened. Gabe Kapler's team is winning. Six in a row, sweeping the lowly Rays and moving up into second place in the NL East, behind the Mets. The benchings and analytics don't seem that important now.

If the Phillies keep winning, Gabe Kapler may get the keys to the city, instead of a boot out of town.

That being, of course, Philly being Philly.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Carlos Santana, off to a slow start in April.
When the Phillies signed Carlos Santana, two thoughts immediately came to mind: 1) Does the club really need this guy? His stats aren't much better than Tommy Joseph's, and 2) Santana is a solid big league player, perhaps they want him to mentor Maikel Franco.

Well whoop de do, twelve games into the season Franco is hitting .258 with two bombs and 12 RBI's, a considerable upgrade over how he ended 2017, carrying a .230 batting average into Halloween.

I suppose Santana is mentoring a lot because he sure isn't hitting: a buck fifty with two home runs in 11 games. Only two players have played in 11 of the 12 games: Santana and Rhys Hoskins.

Meanwhile, Tommy Joseph is languishing in the Texas League with the Frisco RoughRiders, the Rangers Double-A club 25 miles north of Dallas, where he'll help open the season tonight at Dr. Pepper Park.

I hope he likes Country Music, where Bob Wills is still the king.

But enough of that. Twelve games into the season Santana isn't the only Phillies' slugger doing the Limbo under the Mendoza Line: Aaron Altherr .074; J.P. Crawford .103; and catchers Jorge Alfaro .167 and Andrew Knapp .176.

Speaking of catchers, Cameron Rupp is sitting right on the Mendoza Line hitting .200 with the Texas Rangers Triple-A club, the Round Rock Express, just north of Austin. Bob Willis is really the king there.

The Yankees placed CC Sabathia on the DL with a hip strain. At 37 (38 in July), this didn't come as a surprise. What is a surprise is that the Bronx Bombers passed on Jake Arrieta — knowing Sabathia is, delicate? — six years younger than Sabathia unless...

After Arietta got semi-hammered in his Phillies debut — giving up three hits in three runs over four innings — maybe the Yankees passed for a reason. We will see. Arietta is scheduled to pitch Saturday in Tampa Bay.

On a side note, how 'bout them Sixers? It's great to see their coach, Brett Brown, enjoying success after he spent the tanking years with the team. Perhaps it would have been professional — nice? — for the Phillies to have given Pete Mackanin a shot with some real players after, like Brett Brown, he managed the team through the stinko years.

Naw, that wouldn't have worked. Besides, look who we've got now!

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Monday, April 9, 2018

Like the crocus and tulips around here, twenty-four-year-old Nick Williams stuck his head out of the still cold Philly ground and did a no-no: He bypassed his manager and unloaded to a newspaper reporter. He's lucky Bowa isn't still the manager. He might not see playing time until the gladiolas bloom. What, midsummer?

Williams didn't make the starting lineup on opening day and he did what any spoiled child would do: threw himself down on the floor screaming and kicking his feet.

Here's what he said: "I guess computers are making it, I don't know." He's referring to the team's dependence on analytics and that computers are filling out the lineup. "I don't get any of it but what can I do? I'm not going to complain about it because I have zero power. I'm just letting it ride." I like the way he's "letting it ride," on the third page of the Inquirer sports.

OUCH. Baseball's equivalent to kicking and screaming. Kim Jong-un used more diplomacy while lobbing nukes over Japan. As expected Williams was called in on the carpet and now everything is hunky-dory.

Or is it?

Look, here's the thing. The Phillies manager seems to run his team like the manager at the Stop 'N Shop: 'Tom, you got the frozen food aisle today, Annie you're at the cold cuts and tuna salads, and Bennie, you've got the fish and meats. Bill, we don't need you today.'

He says, the manager not the supermarket guy, he's fielding a team using the players he feels gives them the best chance to win, based on, as Mr. Williams pointed out, a computer. Or several of them.

Only, if you notice, certain guys don't get moved or benched: Carlos Santana, Cesar Hernandez, and Rhys Hoskins. I guess the computer geeks don't cover them. But the rest of the players, five outfields, two catchers, and four infielders, get the supermarket treatment. Plus, Scott Kingery, who looks like he's 16 but hits like he's 25, gets to play everywhere. Any outfield or infield spot. Nice.

Here's why I think Gabe Kapler is a bad manager. Next game, Williams is back in the lineup. Any teacher or coach knows that you don't give in to a malcontent in front of the team or class.That's Managing 101. Williams out-of-line remarks to a scribe should have cost him. It didn't. Kapler said they had a "heart to heart talk," and the next game he's back in the lineup.

Right, and I explained aerodynamics to my cat. She and I had a heart to heart.

Professional baseball players need to play. Especially, young professional baseball players. And when talented, young players start losing — because they don't know from day to day which supermarket aisle they'll be in — managers get fired. I've never seen the players get fired in my lifetime.

Lookit. The Phillies have a talented team. They have more at Triple-A. They don't need a guy who doesn't know what he's doing to screw it up. It will cost them. If the general manager is using Larry Bowa and Pete Mackanin as advisors, as he says he is, then use them.

Phillies: Get an experienced manager who can play these kids. They don't need slogans, they need leadership and direction.

They don't need Gabe Kapler.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Eagles fans booed Santa Clause. What do you think they'll do to Kapler?
It's already started"

Too many times in my lifetime I've seen this dog and pony show. You can feel it in the air, like snow coming, or when the wind shifts and blows the refinery smell over South Philly.

Everybody knew coming in that he didn't have the dugout experience to manage a ML game. Some — like me — gave him the benefit of the doubt. And some — like my son — Temple Made and Temple Proud — called for the noose after the first game.

But it was the water guy that tipped me off.

He brings our giant Deer Park water jugs into the living room and sets them down. Nice of him but we do tip him. The other day at water delivery he came into our living room and looked at the wall of Phillies photographs.

"The dumb ass manager has got to go," he says. It was totally unprovoked.

Oh yea, you got trouble my friend, right here in River City, with a capital B and that rhymes with Kapler and that stands for BOOO.

If you haven't followed it, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler made some foolish blunders that the Faithful quickly picked up on and not only did it embarrass the Phillies here in Brotherly Love, but in the national media, too.

Listen, you don't fool the Faithful. They can spot a phony faster than bad creme donuts at the shore. And when they do they smell blood.

First, with a five-run lead, Kapler pulled Aaron Nola in the fifth after just 68 pitches. He was throwing a masterpiece. The bullpen got hammered and the Phillies lost their opening game on a walk-off, three-run jack. Next, in a 15-2 loss, he mismanaged the bullpen so badly, a position player had to pitch.

AND — and this is my favorite — he went out to get his starting pitcher when he had no one warming up and held up the game while he waited on the mound for the reliever to get ready. That one when viral. Who leaves the dugout to remove a pitcher without a reliever warming up?

Last night in New York he put on a defensive shift that left second base uncovered for a double play, which would have ended the inning. As a result, two Met runs scored right after the boner and they lost, 2-0.

"Ooh, ooh ooh, I feel my temperature rising."

You got trouble my friend, with a capital B and it rhymes with Kapler and it stands for BOOOOOOOOOO.

Lot's of baseball fans across the country laughed at the blunders, but not the Faithful. In Philly, what's the opposite of laughter? It's the official bird here and I'm not talking pigeons. From Richie Allen to JD Drew, and a few inbetween, it's embedded in the city's history.

Maybe Kapler can turn it around. Maybe it was a few odd games and things will be fine. They play in New York this afternoon and back in Philly tomorrow for the home opener.

But know this. Hell hath no fury like a scorned Philadelphia Faithful.

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Friday, March 30, 2018

I heard my iPhone 'ding' and I knew trouble was coming. I looked at my phone and it said, "Get rid of this guy."


That's my son Matt texting me about Phillies manager Gabe Kapler lifting starting pitcher Aaron Nola in the top half of the fifth; he threw 68 pitches. Matt is a true Phillies fan; a true Temple-grad Phillies fan which are in a league of their own. If it was up to Matt and his Alpha tau Omega brothers, Temple's BB coach Fran Dunphry — who they call 'one &-DONE-phry; but lately 'NONE & done-phry' — would've been gone five years ago. Ah, maybe eight.

Even Denise, when the Phillies manager strolled to the mound to get Nola, said, "He's pulling him? It's only the fifth." Like the cat just licked the icing off the Easter cake she made.

Good point. But the game has changed. No longer are pitchers expected or allowed to go beyond seven innings. Even so, in a day and age where pitchers are coddled to protect their arms, there are more arm injuries than ever. The Phillies currently have three pitchers on the DL from spring training arm injuries — Jerad Eickhoff, Pat Neshek, and Mark Leiter, Jr. A third pitcher, Tommy Hunter, is on the DL with a strained hamstring.

Fox radio and television critic, Howard Eskin, tweeted,"So many mistakes by @gabekapler. Managers can only lose games in a season. And he lost this one with a brutal, pathetic and disgraceful job of managing. Had 5-0 lead against stinkin #braves and wanted to show people how smart he is and bleeped it up. And takes Hoskins out to boot."

It didn't faze me that Nola was lifted in the fifth. It's the first game of the season. Pitchers just out of spring training, where they are coddled and pampered even more, shouldn't over throw in the first game. Sixty-eight pitches could've been enough for the 24-year-old Nola.

Besides, what's a bullpen for? Six pitchers — Milner, Garcia, Morgan, Ramos, Florimon, and Neris — followed Nola. Only Garcia pitched without surrendering a run.

I didn't see or hear Eskin — or anyone else — complain about a "stinkin" pullpen.

I'm standing by my man Kapler on this one. With a five-run lead in the fifth, a bullpen has to close the door. True, Hunter and Pat Neshek were unavailable. But that doesn't mean the others can't step up.

What if Nola kept pitching and strained his forearm and put on the DL for ten days? We don't know that, of course, but blaming a manager for the failures of his pitchers, in this case, doesn't cut it.

Definetly, somebody dropped the ball and unfortunately it resulted in the first loss of the season.

But it wasn't the manager.

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Just look at the standings.

As of Wednesday's Inquirer the playoff-bound Sixers are fourth in the Eastern Conference, 43-30, and have been on a hot winning streak. The Flyers, 38-25-14, have a slim shot at the playoffs but they need to keep winning to claim the final wild-card spot. Even if they do their chances are slim. Other NHL teams have to lose to give the Flyers a shot.

Playoffs or not, the Flyers are loaded with future young stars.

The Phillies open the season Thursday in Atlanta and they, too, are stocked with youth. Arguably the youngest team in baseball, the starter for today's game against Atlanta, Aaron Nola, 24, is the youngest Phillies starting pitcher to open the season in 54 years. Like the Sixers and the Flyers, the Phillies have young, bright stars and barring injuries, have a shot at one of two wild-card slots in the National League.

And, of course, the Eagles.

After one Super Bowl victory, the Eagles are perched to continue their winning ways, led by a young and talented quarterback, Carson Wentz.