Philly Sports - 25 Years Later

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

It was the greatest year possibly in the history of Philadelphia sports. The Eagles were in the Super Bowl. The Flyers played for the Stanley Cup. The Sixers went up against the Lakers in the NBA Finals. The Phillies won the World Series. It was a time of bliss and pride and excitement. And here we are. Twenty five years later we are in a quite different state of mind.

A lot has changed since 1980 to say the least. Players have come and gone as well as owners and coaches. Little success has come although chances have been given on occasion. The Sixers won the city's last championship in 1983. Since then the teams have had zero success in pursuit of a championship.

At the moment you might say that the fans of Philly are desperate and anxious for another championship to brag about and soak in. No championships since 1983. 1983! This is clearly an understatement. So how did a city who's teams were among the top of their leagues in the late 70's and early 80's become a city without a championship?

The Philadelphia Phillies, one of the losingest franchises in all of sports, are currently proving to be a huge mess. In 1980 hall of famers Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton, along with the likes of Pete Rose and Tug McGraw, captured our hearts with an NLCS victory of the Houston Astros in the best playoff series in all of sports, ever. Now third basemen David Bell continues to find his way into the lineup despite his underachieving and poor fielding and injuries. The general manager, Ed Wade, clearly has been a failure who is misguided about the talent his club currently possesses. Manager Charlie Manuel continues to bumble and juggle his lineup, keeping the "future everyday second baseman" Chase Utley out of the lineup against every left handed pitcher. The Phillies will notch their 10,000th loss at some point next season, a mark unreached in professional sports so far. Is it any wonder the fans of Philly are down on the Phillies?

On the other end of the Philly Sports spectrum, and directly across the street, are the Philadelphia Eagles. In 1980 they played the underdog Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, it was the Eagles who were the dogs that day as Oakland won the Super Bowl as a wild card team. Today the Eagles are in the best position in the city to win a championship. However, history is not on their side as the losing team in the Super Bowl finds it near impossible to return to the game the following season, except for Buffalo of course. They are also in the middle of a standoff with Terrell Owens and his agent. Total dominance has been their trademark the past few years in the NFC East and the conference. Four straight NFC championship and a Super Bowl appearance are evidence of that. But this franchise hasn't won a championship since 1960...before there ever was a Super Bowl! With the high expectations placed on the charm of the city at the moment, it is no wonder Eagle and Philly fans are going nuts.

Then there are the Sixers. Twenty five years ago they played the Lakers in the Finals and were eliminated when rookie backup Earvin "Magic" Johnson stepped up and scorched the Sixers in Game Six. The Sixers hold the last sports championship, 1983, and are probably the most likely to win the next sports championship, as basketball can be easier to put together a winning team in the shortest amount of time. The days of Dr. J and Moses Malone are long gone. Today it is all about AI, the other AI and now Chris Webber. They just made a coaching change, bringing back fan favorite Maurice Cheeks, who is the inspiration for this very article. Cheeks will bring a new attitude that this team desperately needs and Philly may be witnessing an attitude not seen from the Sixers since 1983, or 2001. Cheeks will have this team playing like the old days when the players knew to play hard every minute of the game.

And finally, the Flyers. A team that has won two Stanley Cup Finals hasn't done so since the 70's. Since then the team has not changed their philosophy enough. When the NHL does come back, because this writer believes it will someday, you can be sure that the Flyers will still be lead by general manager Bobby Clarke, captain of the Broadstreet Bullies of the 70's. Clarke has continued to believe in the old theory that if you're bigger and stronger than the opposition you will win. But if you look at some of the recent Stanley Cup champs you will know that is not true. The Flyers unfortunately believe that they can win their way now because it worked for them twice before in the 70's. This is a franchise who is still living back in the Spectrum. They just play their games in the Center.

So here we are, twenty five years later. Two championships since 1980. New York has won with the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Islanders, and even the Rangers. Boston has won with the Celtics, Patriots and even the Red Sox. Los Angeles has won with the Dodgers and Lakers. Here comes the reality shocks though...

Tampa Bay has won two championships. Miami has two World Series championships. And the great metropolis of the Meadowlands has won three Stanley Cups.

Will Philly ever win another championship? Sure they will. The question is, in another twenty five years will I be writing a story with the heading "Philadelphia Sports - 50 Years Later"?


Some Phillies Math for You

Thursday, May 19, 2005

So I took the advice of Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and took some time to study the game a little more as a fan. Here is a brief overview of what I learned!

Let us assume that in order to make the playoffs in the National League, a team must win 90 games. I think that if you look at playoff records over the past few years that this number is actually quite low. I counted up how many games each team in the division has played and calculated how many games each team has remaining. The Phillies organization has this belief that everything will turn around for them and the losses of some players on other teams can only benefit the Phillies. As it stands at the moment I'm writing this, the Phillies must go 72-49 in their remaining games to reach 90 wins. Their crutch is the fact that the Braves have to go 66-56, the Marlins must go 68-57, the Nationals must go 67-55, and the Mets must go 67-54 just to win 89 games. The chances of all of that happening might be too much of a stretch for them to overcome.

I've also learned that 25 years have passed since the Phillies last won a World Series. It has also been 12 years since the last playoff appearance for the Phillies. 1993 was also the last year with four teams in the playoffs. They expanded to three divisions and a Wild Card in 1994; well, technically 1995. In that latest span, Ed Wade has become the second longest tenured general manager in baseball to not make the playoffs.

Did you know the Phillies had blue seats in their stadium? You may not have known it last year unless you went to a game. But you get a nightly lesson on it this season.

Just a few things I picked up Charlie. Will this all be on the test?


Now it's Personal

Monday, May 16, 2005

In my last post I told you why the Phillies are floundering this season and some things that should be done to correct it. Since then the Phillies have made things personal by responding to the fans. And boy do they not know how to deal with us.

Again the question is, "Where do we start?" We can go back to general manager Ed Wade who continues to believe that he is the all knowing baseball guru and that he knows the game of baseball better than anyone else. Zero division championships and zero playoff appearances in the second longest playoff drought by an active GM would prove otherwise Eddy.

Manager Charlie Manuel, now being booed every time he walks out to the mound is now saying that he wishes the Philadelphia fans would go back and "study the game a little more." Study the game a little more? Ok Charlie. Let us Philly fans get out our textbooks and review the science of the double-switch, or the art of not letting the second baseman of the future play sparingly and sometimes at first base. Obviously Charlie has fallen victim to the "Philly fans don't know jack" philosophy. I believe that Philly fans are among the top when i comes to passion and knowledge of the game when compared to fans in Boston, New York and Chicago. We do know what we're talking about. If you want to believe otherwise that is fine. But one thing should be easy enough for anyone to see; You don't criticize Philly fans in Philadelphia. No questions about that.

What's more is Jimmy Rollins made a very similar statement on ESPN saying that Philly fans may be intelligent but they are not the most knowledgeable baseball fans. Kenny Loften took another approach, clearly showing his ignorance of the Philly fan lifestyle when he urged the fans to cheer the Phillies on regardless of the struggles instead of showing aggravation and booing. Sorry Kenny, this ain't Cleveland anymore. When the Philly fans are upset that you're not living up to your expectations we are going to tell you. Do you know why? Because nobody else in the Phillies organization will!

Phillies fans have endured many years of losing, this much is obvious. The team may have lied to us and lead us on before but the diehards always come back and the true fans still stick by their team in hopes of winning the next year. But with the turmoil this season the team has taken a very arrogant approach to dealing with it from the top down and it has finally crossed the line. Once you deal with the fans as much as they have there is almost no turning back. And this is not a media thing. The fans really are angry. Not just the radio-heads and columnists the management believes to be the main culprit. But the people who buy the tickets, or don't buy the tickets. What is happening now is the honest Phillies fans are hurt and disgusted with the inaptitude of this franchise and they are turned off. I am turned off. I will continue checking scores and watching this team fall farther than anyone can imagine until a shakeup is made.

Ed Wade must go. So must Charlie Manuel. So must half the players. So must the other half.


S.O.S. Phillies are S(t)inking

Friday, May 13, 2005

Imagine you are playing poker with your buddies. The hand you've been dealt flat out stinks. No good cards at all. Maybe if you exchange a card or two with the dealer something will turn out. Luck would have it that the cards you get in exchange are worth absolutely nothing and you have to fold. Meanwhile those cards you traded in go on later to help your buddy win a couple hands.

Now, I'm not a poker player at all, but I have to imagine that this is kind of what the feeling is with the Phillies organization at this point. As we all know, the Phillies are in a state of turmoil and the fans are getting more and more restless. Of course the angry fans will say they know what to do and that the general manager Ed Wade is incompetent at his job, as well as the manager Charlie Manuel, and the players themselves. Heck, things are so bad with the organization right now the hot dog vendors may not be up to their job either! It is painfully obvious what needs to be done with this team. Royal flush everything.

You can start with the ownership or the general manager. As much as I would love to see the team sold to an owner we can put a face too, I realize that will not happen anytime soon. So we start with the general manager. Ed Wade's job security is now a published issue as the rumors of a firing are out there in the media. I personally believe it is year's overdue. Wade has failed to bring in players who will push this team to the playoffs in his tenure here. Not once. Every other team in the National League East, except the Montreal Expos who have been in a league of their own, has been to the World Series! What is worse is the Florida Marlins have won the whole thing twice. Twice! And they passed the Phillies in the standings along the way to their second championship run, literally. Want to know how? By bringing in key players at the trade deadline. Jeff Conine single handedly eliminated the Phillies from the playoffs on that push a couple years ago. Some Phillies fans clamored for Conine to come to town. We can also analyze the managerial situation.

The Phillies used to have a guy by the name of Terry Francona. Now, I realize he now owns a World Series ring, but I must say that I could have managed the Red Sox to a World Series championship with that lineup and pitching. Francona was a guy who coddled and nursed his team, including Scott Rolen. The team floundered year after year and the organization claimed they needed a guy to light the fire for this team. So they bring in fan favorite Larry Bowa. Bowa found a way to have a winning record each season he was here, and came close to the post season twice. Mistakes were made though and it was publicized that the team did not like him because he was too hard on the players when they didn't live up to the expectations of them. Pardon me if I don't cry. So the organization decides to go back and get the player-friendly manager, Charlie Manuel. Wade will tell you that Manuel is experienced at the professional level by saying he's managed over 1600 professional games and won over 90 games with Cleveland a few years back. With Jim Thome, Albert Belle, Roberto Alomar, Manny Ramierez, David Justice and more all in one lineup it is no wonder so many games were won. One World Series appearance and they lost to the Atlanta Braves, the biggest postseason chokers in history. Also, Manuel managed a bunch of those games in Japan and in the minor leagues. Jim Leyland, the popular fans pick for Phillies managerial successor to Bowa, must be sitting at home laughing at the team now (as I'm sure Bowa would be too). The Phillies brought in guys on a "world wide" search for Bowa's successor, but the feeling is Manuel was Thome's buddy and that is how he got the job. The team used Bowa as their reason for failing the past few years. Guess what guys. You can't blame Bowa anymore, but you can still blame the manager.

The philosophy with the club in terms of their players is generally "they will come around and everything will be alright." They also claim that certain young players are untouchable in their farm system and team. The problem is, the Phillies don't have a good farm system anymore. And the players the fans are told will be great fail to produce. Chase Utley is the best example. Because Manuel likes to keep his players happy he continues to play Placido Polanco at second base, even though it is widely known that Utley is the second baseman for this team ten years from now. David Bell has been underachieving at third from day one. Sit Bell, move Polanco to third, play Utley at second. If Polanco complains that's too bad. Utley is being robbed of prospering on a daily basis with this team and until a manager with the ablility to realize what's best for the team's chances of winning comes in, as opposed to keeping everyone happy, he will continue to be denied.

I know I'm covering a lot of ground here with what is wrong with the team, but that is just the sad truth. There are a lot of things wrong with the team. Ever since the team backstabbed their manager I have been turned off and disgusted with these players. Well that is not true. I've been disgusted with this team's efforts ever since...1994?

Time for a new hand to be dealt.


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