Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Elevator Etiquette Links

Dear other people in the elevator,

You do know you're in a confined space with other people, right? There's no need to shout. Or even talk loud. Have some manners. Use your indoor voices. Because I don't want to go deaf hearing your terrible conversations, whether they be with someone else on the elevator or someone on the other end of your stupid fucking phone.

I don't want to have to listen to you bitching about all the problems of the terribly uninteresting project you're working on, or hear you talk about how, "bro, I totally played the best golf course this weekend, bro. We need to work on our swings at the driving range, bro." I don't need to hear you gossip about the suck-up or "oh my god did you see her dress." Every time I have to listen to one of these inane conversations, it makes me want to take the pen out of my pocket, remove the cap and bludgeon you all to death with it.

I hate you. All of you. Just shut the hell up and go to work/home. Working on the top floor sucks so hard.

Everyone else in the elevator

Links …

-Sweet fancy moses, a compilation of Allen Iverson's greatest in-game cross-overs. Awesome.

-More Iverson.

-Andre Iguodala ranked No. 26 in SLAM's ranking of the NBA's best players. Discuss.

-More Iguodala.

-Some local flavor in the SLAM Fresh 50 - 2012:

12 Daniel Ochefu 6-10 C Westtown (PA)

Shot-blocker who is also an adept shooter out to 18 feet.

14 Amile Jefferson 6-7 PF/SF Friends Central (PA)

Heralded as an elementary schooler, he has continued to advance his game.

39 Ryan Arcidiacono 6-3 PG Neshaminy (PA)

Gritty, smart lead guard with a high skill level.

46 Savon Goodman 6′5 SF Academy of the New Church (PA)

Explosive wing who plays well above the rim and will lock you down on D.

Have yet to see any of these guys play except for Savon Goodman. Hope to change that this year.

-Speaking of local high school flavor, check out Kobe dropping 43 during his high school days.

-Some love for A.I.'s cousin, Kuran Iverson:

KURAN IVERSON, North Catholic (CT), 2013
Standing 6-8, Kuran doesn’t need a Napoleon complex like his cousin, Allen Iverson. However, the highlight-maker out of New England does have a knack for getting buckets and wowing the crowd like A.I.

-Not exactly the start the Flyers were hoping for: Michael Leighton out a month with a bulging disc in his back and Ian Laperriere is still suffering post-concussion symptoms.

-If you're a Penn State fan, check out PSU in NFL for updates on the Penn Staters in the pros.

-Converse is making some bad-ass commericals with Dr. J.

-Great series: Worst NBA Champions.

-I don't always see eye to eye to Kulp, and I certainly won't ever be mistaken as the president of Andy Reid's fan club, but this is a very well-written, very true (at least in my eyes) take on Andy Reid.

I will say this: It would be a whole hell of a lot easier to like the guy if he would improve on his weaknesses, because lord knows he's done a lot more good with this franchise than he has done harm.

If you're interested in meaningless baseball games, Joe Blanton takes the hill tonight in D.C. to try and get to 95 wins just for the hell of it.

BallHype: hype it up!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Best Halladay Yet

This is what Roy Halladay came to Philadelphia to do. It's why after 12 years of dominating the AL East yet never once tasting the joys and suffering of playoff baseball as the ace of the Toronto Blue Jays he waived his no-trade clause to head to the City of Brotherly love.

He began his journey right there in Nationals Park, in the nation's capital, by picking up a win against the Washington in his very first start as Phillie, very first start as a member of the National league. On that night, he went seven innings, surrendering just one run on six hits while striking out 9. Twenty wins later, Roy Halladay clinched the National League East and the best record in the National League period for the Phillies on the same mound he began his Phillies career, pitching a masterful gem — another complete-game shutout, his MLB-leading 9th complete game and MLB-leading fourth shutout.

It was the kind of start that should put to rest any ridiculous arguments that Roy Halladay should not start game 1 in the NLDS for the Phils. With the chance to finally get to the postseason, Halladay pitched perhaps his best game yet —  a complete-game two-hitter in which he faced just one more than the minimum, struck out six and had the type of movement and command that made him all but impossible to hit. It may not go down in history the way his perfect game did, but I bet this one was even sweeter for Roy. He wanted the postseason so badly, you could feel it with every pitch. He wasn't going to let the Nationals have any hope. He wasn't going to rely on Atlanta losing (which is good, because the Braves won). And he wasn't going to hand this one over to anyone else.

When he blew that final perfect pitch by Danny Espinosa, you could sense the relief and the joy in Roy Halladay's face. For most of these Phillies, winning the division has become routine, an expected outcome of their hard work. Cause for celebration, sure, but a more reserved one than came in 2007. That was evident in Carlos Ruiz's initial reaction going out to congratulate Halladay. He went in for the high-five. Roy didn't want to slap hands, Roy wanted a hug. This was all new to him, a feeling he's never felt, something he really, truly was ecstatic to have happen.

After 12 seasons in Toronto, can you blame him? This was a day he probably never thought would come before landing in Philadelphia.

It was the fourth straight year the Phillies have won the National League East, a truly remarkable feat. While they were the favorites, it was hardly an easy road. Every everyday starter with the exceptions of Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez spent time on the DL. The offense went dormant for long stretches of time. And the Braves held first place for most of the season. But the one constant was that starting pitching, and no one was more consistent, more dominant, more important than Roy Halladay.

Last night, he picked up his MLB-leading 21st win, and with it, most likely the Cy Young. It may be a four-peat for the Phils, but this is a first for Halladay. A first for Mike Sweeney and Brian Schneider. And boy do they deserve it, just like Raul Ibanez and Roy Oswalt deserve a World Series title.

There's still a long way to go for that to happen. Jimmy Rollins needs to get healthy. And the cards have to fall right. But right now, it's looking pretty good. The offense is starting to roll. The pitching has been brilliant. And the Phillies will have the home field advantage for as long as they are playing.

That was all decided last night, when Roy Halladay pitched his team, pitched himself into the postseason. Of course, he had a helping hand from the red-hot Jayson Werth, who drove in four of the eight runs with a long solo home run, a two-run double and an RBI single. Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz each had three hits as well, Raul had two and Chase drove in two runs and scored two more.

But it was Halladay's moment more than anyone's. He was awesome. He's been awesome all year long. And last night was, without a doubt in my mind, the best Halladay yet for Roy. It took him 13 years, but he's finally made it to true October baseball.

Take it away, Scott.

Roy Halladay in "The Clincher" by Mike Meech

All images below stolen from ZWR and The Fightins.

If Charlie Manuel doesn't win National League Manager of the Year, given all this team endured to get to the most wins in the Manuel era and clinch the best record in the league with five games to play, then something is terribly wrong with the world.

Now, a message to Phillies fans (myself included) from the other Roy:

BallHype: hype it up!

The Undefeated Starter

Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Vick has never lost a game he's started for the Philadelphia Eagles. Not a one.

Granted, he's only started two games for the Eagles, and those came against the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars, two truly dreadful teams. So it's not a very big sample size. And it's come against bad opponents. Still, it's been exciting watching Michael Vick lead the Eagles to consecutive road victories, playing two of his finest games as a pro in the process, to lead the Eagles to the top spot of the NFC East, a place they sit all alone at 2-1, with the rest of the division looking up with their 1-2 records.

I'm not going to get all crazy and proclaim the Eagles Super Bowl contenders and Mike Vick the savior after two wins and 10 quarters of impressive football. Like I said, these games came against the Lions and Jaguars, and the Lions and Jaguars are bad. Really bad. For all we know, Vick could go back to his inaccurate ways, get himself in trouble holding on to the ball too long and struggle to read some of the more complex defenses as the schedule gets tougher.

But good lord, did Michael Vick look awesome again on Sunday.

The man accounted for four touchdowns, throwing for three and running for another. He threw for 291 yards, still hasn't turned the ball and looks more like a true quarterback than he ever has before. Yes, his completion percentage dropped a bit (17-for-31, 54.8 percent), and he made a couple of really poor throws, but he also looked comfortable in the pocket, went through his progressions, read the defense and took what was there. Sometimes that meant throwing from the pocket. Other times it was moving around to buy time to throw. And on four occasions, it meant taking off, like he did on his 17-yard touchdown run. What he wasn't doing was at the first sign of trouble taking off. I mean, check out his touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin before the end of the first half.

Besides his maturity as a player showcasing itself right before our eyes, Vick still gives you plenty of jaw-dropping moments. The difference on Sunday was that most of those were made with his arm. There was the beautiful touch and accuracy on DeSean's touchdown pass, hitting him right in stride and letting Jackson do the rest. There was the impossible way he squeezed his second TD to Maclin in there, dropping it in over the cornerback and before the safety could get there. There was the lasers he'd toss, not to mention the back-foot heaves he throw effortlessly, mostly getting them there right in stride.

There's no telling what the future has in store for Michael Vick, but he's been about as good as you can be through two and a half games. And he's been doing it behind a very, very suspect offensive line.

Some have argued that the offensive line isn't as bad as is perceived, as Kulp did. And to a degree, Kulp is right. But on Sunday, the Eagles offensive line was not very good. Not at all. There wasn't much room to run, and Vick was under siege regularly. It wasn't a matter of Vick holding on to the ball too long or the Jags blitzing all that much. Jacksonville's front four simply beat Philadelphia's front five on many occasions, and John Henderson isn't even there anymore.

Terrance Knighton especially was giving Philadelphia fits. It wasn't an encouraging sign with Brian Orakpo and the rest of Washington's pass rush coming to town this week (and some guy named Donovan too).

However, the offense had no trouble moving the ball, especially through the air. DeSean had himself another huge game, with five catches for 153 yards and a score. Maclin had 83 yards on his four catches, half of which were touchdowns. And Brent Celek even got in on the act finally, catching four balls for 42 yards.

The thing that impressed me the most about the win though, even more than Vick, was the play of the defense. Everyone knows that if you stop Maurice Jones-Drew, you stop the Jaguars, but stopping elite running backs hasn't exactly been Philadelphia's forte over the years. And as bad as David Garrard is, he usually plays well at home and has a couple of talented wideouts in Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas, even if those guys don't strike fear in your hearts, and an athletic pass-catching tight end in Marcedes Lewis, the type of player that notoriously gives the Eagles trouble.

But that didn't happen. The Eagles keyed in on Jones-Drew, limiting him to 88 yards on 22 carries. And Garrard couldn't beat them. He threw for just 105 yards. Lewis led all Jacksonville receivers with just three catches. And Sims-Walker had the most yards, with just 34.

The defense was dominant, especially the defensive line. Trent Cole had a team-high eight tackles and two sacks and was easily the best defender on the field. Darryl Tapp looked unblockable in his first game as an Eagle, registering a sack himself. Trevor Laws had the best game of his pro career, looking like a new player. And Juqua Parker continues to play inspired football since losing his starting spot to rookie Brandon Graham, picking up another sack.

Meanwhile, Graham has been quiet through three games, but his impact has been felt if for no other reason than for lighting a fire under Parker.

One rookie who's having no such problems is Nate Allen. The man who was taken with the McNabb pick had two interceptions, one in each game, in his first two games. He should have had a third on Sunday, keeping his streak alive, but he dropped one that Garrard literally threw right to him. Still, he came away with his first career NFL sack, picking up one of Philadelphia's six sacks in the game. He's been most impressive indeed. Now if he'd just switch numbers with Joselio.

Oh, and Asante got his first pick and horribly whiffed on a tackle, so he's in mid-season form.

All in all, it was the type of effort you'd expect, the Eagles dominating a terrible team. What's unexpected is the Eagles sitting alone atop the NFC East standings three games in. And doing it with Michael Vick under center, playing some very impressive football.

Since there's not much to add, I'd like to give some love to Sav Rocca, a player I've been critical of quite a bit in the past. Rocca is killing the ball this year. Even though he did shank one on Sunday, he also boomed a ton, dropped two inside the 20 and finished with an average of 45.1 yards per kick on 7 punts. He has a 47.7 average this year on 19 punts, good for third in NFL, and his 41.1 average net is among the league leaders as well.

Well done, Sav. Now keep it up.

BallHype: hype it up!

An Ugly-Looking Win

My weekend started off on the wrong foot. I got stuck late at work, on a Friday, causing me to miss the first two innings of my softball game. And I was only the 9th guy to show up, meaning we were playing down two guys, and now still were down one and had to surrender an out every time the 10th spot came up. Needless to say, we lost. I was pissed from being caught at work, pissed for being late and pissed at losing.

Then I had to get up all sorts of early on Saturday to drive out to State College with my dad and watch that sorry excuse for a football game that was Temple vs. Penn State.

My dad and I stopped at Wawa on the way up, got some grub and headed out west. Things were going great until we got near that stupid merge to one lane getting toward Boalsburg. Sweet christ do I hate merge points. Still, we make it through with plenty of time to spare, make a pit stop to pee and grab some beer, then try to locate some prime parking spots. Sadly, Eisenhower is full. So is my secret lot off-campus that apparently is no longer a secret. So finally, my dad gives up and heads toward the "football parking." When we get there, way back behind the track, it costs 40 god damn dollars to park, at least a half mile away from the stadium. I don't want to say my alma mater is screwing people with this outrageous price, but that's exactly what those bastards are doing.

Forty dollars? Get the fuck out of here. I will never park in those lots without a pass. Ever. My dad's a sucker.

Anyway, we doled out the cash, ate our hoagies and then went to meet up with my aunt and uncle, who were tailgating with my cousin. We exchanged pleasantries, relaxed for a little, and then I ventured inside. This was the first game I've attended since giving up my season tickets, so it was the first time I've taken in a Penn State game in somewhere other than section WBU in more than two years. And I gotta tell you, it was great. I sat in section WJU, which is on the same sideline as my former season tickets, but at the opposite end zone. The vantage point was basically the same, just from the other end of the field. But what made this so much more enjoyable was the fact that there was no Brokeback assholes starving for attention and begging people to acknowledge them. Far from it.

The people in section WJU were great. I was surrounded by knowledgeable fans, none of whom were there to get on the big screen or to make people notice them. No, all of these people were there for one reason and one reason only: to watch the game. And I found myself agreeing with most of what the people around me were saying, especially the guy in front of me. Really, really great section. I forgot what it's like to go to a Penn State game and have good people around you. It was awesome. What wasn't awesome was this shitty game.

Now, there was a lot of talk about how this was finally the year Temple had a real shot to take down Penn State. Having watched both teams a good amount over the past two years, I had my doubts. Sure, Temple has two extremely talented running backs, and yes, the Owls' defense is very good. But their quarterback, Chester Stewart, is awful, and even Penn State in transition is still Penn State. I knew Temple would give the Nittany Lions a game, but I expected Penn State to be in control the entire way and win by something like 10 to 14 points.

Well, if you look at the numbers and the numbers alone, that's what you would think happened because Penn State dominated in a 22-13 nail-biter:

Penn State outgained Temple 439 yards to 202 yards.

Evan Royster rushed for 187 yards on 24 carries.

Robert Bolden completed 18-of-28 passes for 223 yards with no interceptions.

Temple quarterback Chester Stewart completed 8-of-19 passes for 46 yards and 3 INT.

Penn State had 20 first downs to Temple's 8.

Penn State forced four turnovers and only gave up the ball once.

Penn State ran 74 offensive plays to Temple's 51

On top of that, Penn State finally freed Justin Brown somewhat, as the immensely talented sophomore led all receivers with 84 yards, averaging 21 yards a catch. Of course, he should have gotten the ball more than four times, but at least they threw to him enough to post some good yardage.

With all that said, you wouldn't expect the game to be as close as this one was. But after taking the opening drive and putting up a field goal, Penn State started a long, painful march of shooting themselves in the foot. Evan Royster, who started the game with a 50-yard run to help set up the field goal, fumbled on the first play of the second possesion, giving Temple the ball at Penn State's 28. Two plays later, Bernard Pierce was waltzing into the end zone to give the Owls a 7-3 lead. After following that up with a field goal to answer, Temple marched 75 yards in six plays, again capped by another Pierce touchdown, to give Temple a surprising 13-7 lead (North Penn's own Brandon McManus missed the extra point).

The offense was stagnant and predictable. Penn State hardly threw on first down, Temple would sell out on the run and the Nittany Lions would be facing a second and long time and time again. Then, once they moved down toward the red zone, they'd go into a shell, taking no shots and doing no damage. The one time they actually let Robert Bolden take a shot downfield, he hit Justin Brown for a 33-yard gain on a beautiful pump fake-double move. It was literally the only time in the first half the team took a shot down field, despite the fact they have the 6'5 Derek Moye, a player who has proven to be a good deep threat, and Brown, a star in the making if they ever decide to unleash the kid.

Defensively, the defensive ends and outside linebackers were doing a terrible job of keeping contain, allowing Pierce and Matt Brown to get the corner time and time again. Jack Crawford, despite all the talent in the world, looks like he still has absolutely no idea how to play football. He was the biggest culprit of the day on not keeping contain, getting sucked in on damn near every snap. Bani Gbadyu is a fast guy who tries to play football. He's not a football player who just so happens to be fast. He's like the Samuel Dalembert of Penn State football — very talented and looks the part, but really has no understanding of the game. After that pathetic showing and four games of doing absolutely nothing, I think it's officially time to limit the playing time of Gbadyu and Chris Colasanti, another player who hasn't done dick since the first game of the season. Give that playing time to Khairi Fortt, and let him roam free with Nate Stupar and Mike Mauti.

Things just weren't going very well. It looked like the Lions were sleepwalking through the game. Then, Temple pinned Penn State all the back at their own 1, and things looked like they were going to go from bad to worse. That's when Penn State actually woke up a little. Joe Suhey and Evan Royster gave Bolden some breathing room, then he hit Justin Brown on consecutive plays for gains of 12 and 33 yards. Then he hit Brett Bracket to get down to Temple's 29, and it looked as though the Nittany Lions were finally in business. But then a sack, a predictable run that went nowhere and a short pass later, Penn State had to settle for yet another field goal, making it 13-9. Something was just off on offense.

Luckily, the defense picked it up. Nick Sukay, who I absolutely murdered after the Alabama game, made a great read to intercept Stewart. Sukay made another awesome interception later in the game, and in all honesty, the guy played one heck of a game. Gotta give him credit where credit's due. As a result of the pick, Penn State got the ball at Temple's 45 with 3:22 remaining in the half. Riding Evan Royster, who was having his best game of the season (fumble excluded) in the first half, Penn State got a first down and then faced a 3rd-and-2 at Temple's 26 with 1:14 to go. Bolden, trying to pick it up himself, got stuffed after picking up just 1.

Now it was decision time, though in my opinion it was no decision at all. Even as the stadium implored Joe to go for it, I knew better than that. Collin Wagner had already hit three field goals in the game, had looked good all season, and Penn State was struggling to get points. Kick the field goal, make it a one-point game and regroup at halftime. It was a no-brainer. I turned to my dad and said, "I'd kick it," adding, "What has Penn State done so far that made anyone believe they could score a touchdown and not screw this up?" Yet Paterno and Galen Hall decided to go for it, got stuffed on fourth down and went into the half trailing 13-9. It made no sense. None at all. And I was pretty pissed about it.

Just like I was pissed that Penn State stopped taking shots down the field, and growing even more pissed that they weren't going to Justin Brown, who had gained 45 yards the two times they actually did get him the ball.

I'd be lying if I said the second half was much better offensively. It wasn't. Not until a 4th-quarter touchdown drive that came basically with Penn State finally doing everything I said they should have been doing all along, though to be fair to the coaches and the skill players, this offensive line really does suck, especially at run blocking.

Thankfully, the defense shook off the cobwebs from the first quarter, played much better in the second quarter and then pretty much dominated in the second half, shutting out Temple from there on out and forcing two turnovers (three total). The defensive ends and linebackers played much more disciplined and stayed in their lanes, Bernard Pierce hurt his ankle for the thousandth time since stepping foot on campus at North Broad, and the Cherry and White had nowhere to go. Nate Stupar and Mike Mauti were flying all over the field making plays, including some impressive tackles by Mauti and a big interception by Stupar that set up another field goal by Wagner.

Sophomore end Pete Massaro decided to distinguish himself from the very subpar play thus far by the defensive ends, flying off the ball to make several great plays in the backfield, record a couple sacks and almost kill Chester Stewart on the final play of the game. He most definitely earned himself a starting spot this weekend out in Iowa, supplanting either the disappointing Crawford or even more disappointed Eric Latimore.

The Nittany Lions did take care of business, taking the lead right before Stupar's pick on another Wagner field goal, and adding to it with Wagner's fifth field goal of the game. Then the game was finally iced with a 12-play, 96-yard beauty of a drive in the fourth quarter in which the coaches finally let Bolden open things up a little bit. On consecutive plays, including a first down!, Bolden hit Graham Zug for 19 yards and Brown for 12 yards. Then he hit Justin Brown again for 27 yards to get down near the end zone. If I've said it once, I'll say it a thousand times, Free Justin Brown!

From there, wanting to milk the clock and get in the end zone, Penn State put the ball in Evan Royster's hands, picking up 17 yards. With the defense softened up and Royster acting as a decoy, fullback Mike Zordich picked up 11 of the final 15 yards including the final one, scoring the only touchdown of the game for Penn State and putting the game away.

My dad likes to say there's no such thing as an ugly win, only an ugly loss, and in many respects that's true. But I said to him, that may not have been an ugly win, but it sure as hell was an ugly-looking win. At times, Robert Bolden looked very much like a freshman, badly overthrowing receivers and missing open guys. Other times, the playcalling was so vanilla, especially given the number of weapons this offense has. And the offensive line is still a work in progress, even more so with right tackle Lou Eliades tearing his ACL.

Still, Royster had by far his best game, looking like his old self in racking up 187 yards on the ground. Justin Brown displayed the talent I've been saying all along he has, pretty demanding that Penn State look his way more often. And they took care of the football, especially Bolden — who also showed tremendous poise in a 15-13 game to march Penn State 96 yards and put it away — which is always a good thing.

Defensively, there is work to do there too. The defensive line generated very little pressure on their own, and the ends are a mess with the exception of Massaro. Ollie Ogbu and Devon Still are very good inside, but neither one will ever be mistaken for Jared Odrick. At the linebacker spot, Chris Colasanti and Bani Gbadyu just aren't getting it done. If it were up to me, Mauti, Stupar and Fortt, who has really looked good in limited action, should be the unquestioned starters and get the bulk of playing time. In the secondary, I love everything about the corners, with Lynn, Morris and Thomas blanketing everyone (Lynn's one time getting burnt, though not costing the team due to Stewart's incredibly far overthrow, notwithstanding), but the safeties still worry me. Sukay had a really good game Saturday, but he has to prove he can do that regularly. Drew Astorino sometimes looks really good, other times looks completely awful. In fact, Andrew Dailey started for him, and Dailey isn't really the answer either.

But again, there are positives. The defense has talent, and they shut out Temple after the first quarter one week after pitching a shut out for an entire game, showing they've put the Alabama debacle behind them.

I'd be lying, however, if I said I feel good about going into Iowa for a prime time game on Saturday. I fully expect the Hawkeyes to handle Penn State. I hope I'm wrong. I really do. Lord knows we owe them.

Also, there were reports that Shawney Kersey, one of the 6 Penn State players I told you to watch in 2010, stopped showing up to practice and may transfer. I made it a point to look for him during warmups on Saturday, and he was nowhere to be found with the wide receivers during the pregame drills.

Well, he's back at practice and hopefully he's sticking around, because the potential of the redshirt freshman joining forces with Justin Brown down the road is something awesome to consider.

BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, September 27, 2010

50 Years in Beaver Stadium

Today, the corpse of Arkansas Fred sent me me an email with the subject line: "Colin Wagner > Kevin Kelley > Robbie Gould < Shit," which is just a brilliant subject line (awaiting another cease and desist). The email with several capitalization and spelling errors read:

The penn state football story had a sweet video this week about 50 years at beaver stadium with tons of highlights.  I really miss Michael Robinson and larry Johnson and Derrick WIlliams and Lavarr and Brandon Short.

Since I don't have to discuss the shit show that was the Temple game that I attended on Saturday, here's that video:

More on the game, and the Eagles and Phillies, tomorrow. Work blows.

BallHype: hype it up!

Friday, September 24, 2010

It's Friday, Time to Dance

There was dance fever at Citizens Bank Park this week as the Phillies swept the Braves to put a choke hold on the division. Mike Sweeney busted a move, and an old man danced in joy of the sweep.

And just because, here's another NBA 2k11 commercial starring Andre Iguodala, Russell Westbrook and, the scene-stealer, Josh Smith.

"Both y'all suck."

Man, do I ever wish the Sixers would have tried to sign Josh Smith instead of flushing all that money down the worthless Elton Brand toilet.

BallHype: hype it up!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Samuel Dalembert, Class Act

Samuel Dalembert drove Sixers fans nuts for years, getting paid an exorbitant amount of money to play at times spectacularly and at others as bad as is humanly possible. But no matter how good or bad he played on the court, or how moody he may have seemed about his role at times, no one has ever said an unkind word about Samuel Dalembert the person to my knowledge. This story is why.

If anyone actually deserves to be overpaid in professional sports, it's Dalembert, who is still doing everything in his power to help his native Haiti recover from the devastating earthquake and looking to provide long-term solutions for the country.

Read the story. No matter how many times he drove you crazy with an ill-timed goaltending, three-second violation or ill-advised turnaround jumper, you can't help but respect and admire the man for what he's doing. Well done, Sammy D. All the best in Sacramento and in your efforts to rebuild and rejuvenate your homeland.

BallHype: hype it up!

Finally, Willie Green is Gone

Honestly, I never thought this day would come, but finally, mercilessly, I won't have to watch Willie Green take ill-advised shots and play way too many minutes any longer for the Sixers, as he's been traded to the Hornets along with Jason Smith in exchange for Darius Songaila and Craig Brackins.

Truth of the matter is, Willie Green played hard and had some really good games for the Sixers, but he was the type of guy who deserved to be an 8th, 9th or 10th man at best, not an occasional starter and primary bench option. Yet he was, and that made every Sixers fan get sick and tired of seeing him, myself included. Not any longer, thank goodness.

Jason Smith showed promise as a rookie, but missing all of his second year with an ACL tear has stunted his growth and made him more than expendable. Songaila is a hard-working veteran who can scrap a little bit, but not much more. I know nothing of Craig Brackins other than he was selected in the first round, which is more than either Smith or Green can claim. So I'm completely on board with this. So long, Willie. I'd be lying if I said I'd miss you, but I certainly wish you no harm.

BallHype: hype it up!

How Sweep It Is

The Phillies entered Monday's series with the Atlanta Braves three games up in a division that Atlanta had led most of the season. It was, without question, the most important series of the year to date. With a sweep, the Braves could pull back dead even with the Phillies to all but ensure the final series of the season, down in Atlanta, would determine the whole thing. A series win for either team would put the heat on the other. And a sweep by the Phils would all but bury the Braves, making the division title a moot point and forcing the Atlant to hang on for dear life in the Wild Card race.

Well, the Phillies took the first two games behind a brilliant performance by Cole Hamels and some clutch hitting in in game 1 and Roy Halladay picking up his 20th win of the season with some help from Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez in game 2. A win last night would be the final nail in the coffin for Atlanta, and Roy Oswalt was determined to bring his hammer out to the mound with him.

That is exactly what he did, pitching perhaps his best game since coming to Philadelphia, which is saying something considering just how dominant he has been. Oswalt went 7 innings last night, giving up just one hit and no runs while striking out eight Atlanta Braves. He made Derek Lee look like a lost little boy. Ditto Rick Ankiel. And all the rest of the Braves. He could sense the importance of this game, knowing full well he had the chance to complete the sweep and annihilate the Braves, and he wasn't about to let down after watching his fellow aces, Cole and Doc, get the job done.

Oswalt sure did his part. But Atlanta, sensing the desperation, kept pace. Tommy Hanson matched Oswalt nearly pitch for pitch, giving up just two hits in six innings and working out of some jams created by some control issues (he walked 3). He combined with Peter Moylan and Craig Kimbrel to equal Oswalt's seven innings of shutout ball. The Braves would not go quietly into the night. So the Phillies decided they'd just have to put them away kicking and screaming.

Ryan Madson came in for the 8th and continued to completely dominate in September, pitching a scoreless inning. And for the second straight night, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez decided to play hero after Ryan Howard grounded into a double play to erase Chase Utley, who was hit by a pitch. Werth walked on a great at-bat to get on, and Raul, who is more than showing he has plenty left in the tank, went with a pitch on the outside corner, ripped it down the leftfield line, just landing on said line, scoring Werth from first, who was off on contact with two outs.


Then Brad Lidge came in and nailed down yet another save, getting three weak pop flies to bury the Braves. Suddenly, when it really is getting to crunch time, Lidge and Madson are back in World Fucking Champions form.

The Braves had a golden opportunity to get back in this and still make a push for the division. The Phillies had the chance to really begin to pull away and assert themselves. For all those years, this was where the Braves would step on the throats and take the division, like they did time and time again in the '90s and early in the 21st century. But the script has flipped. The Braves aren't the top dog anymore. That title belongs to the Phillies, winners of the NL East three years running, National Champions two years running. And with an emphatic sweep of the Braves to extend their winning streak to 10 games and lengthen their lead in the division to six games with just nine more to play, their magic number to clinch is now down to four.

The Phillies displayed a championship mentality, even without their emotional leader, Jimmy Rollins, stepping foot on the diamond. Trotting out the best three-headed monster in all of baseball, the Phillies surrendered just four runs in three games to Atlanta, showing any team that gets the unfortunate task of facing the Phillies in the postseason what they're up against. Cole Hamels went 8 innings, giving up just one run. Roy Halladay pitched 7 innings of three-run ball, legitimately a bad outing for him, the type of outing 99 percent of pitchers in baseball would kill to have. Oswalt blanked the Braves in 7 innings of work. And their tremendous efforts did not go unrewarded, as Brad Lidge picked up three saves with little trouble, and Ryan Madson shut the door in the 8th on Tuesday and Wednesday.

This sweep was a statement to the Braves, to the rest of the National League. To the Yankees and Rays and Twins. To all of baseball, in fact. These Phillies aren't content with winning one World Series and going to two straight. They want to get back again, and they want another parade. In fact, with guys like Roy Halladay and Mike Sweeney, two established veterans who have never even sniffed a postseason, not to mention guys like Roy Oswalt and Raul Ibanez, who have come oh so close but remain ringless, this 2010 version of the Phillies may be hungrier than any to come before it. And deeper. And more talented.

Right now, the Phillies have no flaws. They run 8 deep in the lineup, with or without Rollins, as Wilson Valdez has proven invaluable. Shane, Chase, Ryan, Werth and Raul are all on fire in September. Placido and Ruiz have been huge all season. Jimmy will be back at one point or another, and Valdez has been tremendous in the utility role. Add a potent bench that includes Sweeney, Ross Gload, Ben Francisco, Dom Brown, Brian Schneider, et al, and you have an offense that is as frightening as any in the game. And defensively, this team rarely makes mistakes, with Gold-Glove caliber players all over the place.

Then you look at the pitching, and you have to be terrified. Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt, probably the only three starters this team will need. Joe Blanton coming back to form if needed. And a rejuvenated bullpen that looks as unhittable as ever, especially Chad Durbin, Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge.

There's still 9 more games to be played in the regular season. Still a lot that can happen between now and November. But with an MLB-best 92 wins, the most accomplished starting rotation in the game and a team that has proven itself time and time again the past few years, the Phillies are primed to make another push toward November.

I can't wait to see what this team has in store for us this time around.

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On Mike Vick and 20 Wins

Where there is Philadelphia sports, there is controversy. It just seems to be the way of it. Whether it's Charles Barkley throwing a bar patron through a glass window, Allen Iverson releasing rap singles or talking about practice or throwing his wife out of the house, the annual goalie controversy for the Flyers, Curt Schilling wearing a towel over his head, the Utley-Werth rumors, the Carter-Hartnell rumors, or the T.O.-Donovan soap opera, this city is accustomed to some controversy when it comes to its sports. Now add Vick-Kolb to that list.

When the Eagles traded Donovan McNabb to the Redskins, it was assumed and proclaimed that this offense was handing the reigns over to Kevin Kolb, Andy Reid's hand-picked successor to his first draft pick as a head football coach in the National Football League. Kolb had waited patiently for his turn, studying under Donovan McNabb for three seasons, performing admirably in his first two career starts last season, biding his time. Along the way, the Eagles inexplicably and surprisingly brought Michael Vick in for his chance at redemption. I was stunned and confused, not understanding where Vick would fit in with Donovan McNabb already on the roster and having another year on his contract, not to mention Kevin Kolb as the entrenched backup and starter-in-waiting, whenever the Eagles and McNabb finally parted ways. The only logical conclusion was that they hoped Vick would retain some of his big-play ability and that they could trade him in a league full of teams desperate for a quarterback. Other than that, this was McNabb's team in the present, and Kolb's team in the future.

After back-to-back unceremonious losses to Dallas to end the season, the Eagles brass took a long, hard look at the team and decided it was time for a face-lift. After 11 years of always coming up just short, the Eagles decided it was time to trade the face of the franchise, to try something new. That something new was Kevin Kolb.

Everything was all set up perfectly for the second-round pick out of Houston. He threw for over 300 yards in his two starts last season, and every young player on offense was endorsing him once McNabb made his way down I-95. Philadelphians, eager to see what the new guy had, started to rally around Kolb. Tales of him killing rattlesnakes and hunting wild boar made him a media darling. He was the new man in town.

Then the first game happened.

In one half of football, it all came crashing down for Kevin Kolb. He was under relentless attack from Green Bay, getting pounded time and time again. With no protection, Kolb looked dreadful. He was missing throws, staring down receivers, making terrible reads. He looked nothing like the confident guy who stepped in last season. To make matters worse, he suffered a concussion, ceding the field to Michael Vick … who played brilliantly and nearly led the Eagles back from a 17-point deficit against a team many believe is a Super Bowl contender.

With Kolb still on the sidelines this past Sunday due to the concussion, Vick was tremendous again, leading the Eagles to a 35-32 win over the Lions by throwing for 284 and 2 touchdowns on 21-34 passing, and adding 37 yards on the ground. Just as importantly, his play inspired tremendous confidence in his teammates, and opened up room for them with his threat to make a big play with his arm or his legs. LeSean McCoy, an afterthought against Green Bay, gashed Detroit for 120 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. DeSean Jackson ran free for 135 yards and a score, creating the big plays you expect from him, and Vick distributed the ball all around, hitting eight receivers in all.

As well as he played, and as good as he looked, Andy Reid kept saying this was Kevin Kolb's team. That Kevin Kolb was the starting quarterback. And I agreed with him. Kevin Kolb would be back in there. He had to be. He needed his fair shake at starting, deserved the opportunity to show what he could do. But damn, Mike Vick was playing well. Really well. It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to watch him play some more.

Then stunningly, Andy Reid did a very uncharacteristic thing: He named Vick the starter last night. Even with Kevin Kolb cleared to play. Even though he had drafted Kolb and traded McNabb for the very purpose of making Kolb the starter for years to come. Even after publicly declaring that, despite Vick's great play, Kevin Kolb is the starting quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles. Not anymore.

If we're talking strictly on the field right now, going with Vick is not that hard to justify or figure out. Kolb has far less experience than Vick, played one terrible half of football and suffered a concussion. Meanwhile, Vick has played six tremendous quarters of football, notched a win and has looked, surprisingly, as good as just about any quarterback in the league thus far, albeit with one of those games coming against Detroit. Add to the fact that Philadelphia's offensive line is in shambles and looking like swiss cheese, and it makes perfect sense. Vick can create something out of nothing, escape pressure, make things happen on the move. Kolb is a pure pocket passer, a sitting duck, and with a shaky offensive line, he's sure to get pounded and maybe even injured again. Like I said, football-wise, this move makes sense, especially if the Eagles think there's a chance (there isn't) that they can contend for the NFC.

But down the road, is this a good thing? I don't know, but I'm leaning towards no. Kevin Kolb was drafted to be the next starting quarterback in Philadelphia, and he was extended through 2011 after McNabb was traded. Now he's been relegated to backup again. What does that do for his psyche? What does that do for his morale? Does he even want to be here anymore? Either way, it can't be good. Regardless of whether or not the Eagles are still confident in Kolb, it sure comes off like they're not. It's almost as if they saw all they cared to see in that one short half of football, which seems crazy.

Beyond that, Mike Vick is a free agent after the season. If he plays well, do the Eagles try to re-sign him? Is he the new heir apparent? And if so, is that a good thing? If the Eagles were tired of Donovan McNabb and his team always coming up just short, what makes them believe things could get better with Michael Vick? Over his career, Vick has been nowhere near as effective of a passer as McNabb, nowhere near as good in the playoffs, and lest we forget, Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons continually were bounced from the playoffs by Donovan McNabb and Eagles, with McNabb playing far superior football in every conceivable way than Vick.

I don't know what the future holds for Vick, Kolb or the Eagles. What I do know is none of this would have ever happened had they not traded Donovan McNabb and just waited the year out to make a decision on the quarterback of the future. But they did, and they got Nate Allen in return, a free safety who has two interceptions in two career games. They also got themselves a major quarterback controversy. One that we have absolutely no idea how it will play out.

What is not controversial is the greatness that is Roy Halladay. Last night, he picked up his MLB-leading 20th win of the season, defeating the Atlanta Braves 5-3 by tossing 7 innings of three-run ball to extend the Phillies' lead in the NL East to five games and cut the magic number down to six.

He is the first Philadelphia Phillies pitcher to win 20 games since 1982, when Steve Carlton won 23. That means Roy Halladay is the one and only Phillies pitcher in my lifetime to win 20 games in a season. And it hasn't been a hollow 20 wins either. Truth of the matter is, if the Phillies could have scored any runs for the guy earlier in the season, he could have another five wins, easy. When you look at the numbers and watch him on the mound, there is no debate: Roy Halladay has put together the single greatest pitching season for a Philadelphia Phillie in my lifetime.

Halladay is 20-10 on the season with a 2.53 ERA, which is good enough for third in National League and fifth in all of baseball. He's thrown 8 complete games, more than anyone else in the game, tossed an MLB-best three shutouts and leads the majors in innings pitched — his 241 and two-thirds is eight innings more than second-place Felix Hernandez, and 17 and a third more than Adam Wainwright, the next closest in the NL. Halladay leads the NL in strikeouts with 213 (good for third in baseball behind King Felix and Jered Weaver), his 1.07 WHIP trails only Mat Latos, Wainwright and his teammate, Roy Oswalt, in the NL. And his 7.10 strikeout to walk ratio is the best in National League, trailing only the greatest man who ever lived's ridiculous 10.88. Oh yeah, he pitched a perfect game too.

Add it all up, and Roy Halladay is your 2010 NL Cy Young winner. With all due respect to Adam Wainwright and Mat Latos and Ubaldo Jimenez, no one has been as dominant, as reliable and as good as Roy Halladay. Wins don't really tell the whole story of a pitcher. We all know that. But the truth of the matter is, you have to be really good and play for a good team to win 20 games. It's no coincidence that the only two 20-game winners right now just so happen to play for the last two World Series Champions, and the teams that met in the World Series last year (CC Sabathia and Halladay). However, when you combine those 20 wins with all the rest of those ridiculous numbers, you have yourself a Cy Young winner, which would be another first in my lifetime: a Phillie winning the Cy Young.

Whether he wins it or not, I couldn't be happier that Roy Halladay is a Philadelphia Phillie. With him leading the three-headed monster along with Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, this team is starting to run away with things. The Phillies have the best record in the National league, are second behind only the Yankees' 92 wins with their 91 wins. And with Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt shutting down every batter in the land, and with Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge looking like their 2008 versions, and the bats really coming back to life in the deepest lineup this team has ever had, well, a third straight trip to the World Series is looking like a very distinct possibility. So is another parade down Broad Street.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's just enjoy the 20 wins of Roysmas and be thankful that we have the honor to watch Doc pitch every five days for our favorite baseball team.

BallHype: hype it up!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Night at the Ballpark: Annoying Women, Dumb Kid, Red Man Goes Down and a Drunk Middle-Aged Lady Riles Up Some Teenagers

Last night, I attended the Phillies game to watch Cole Hamels put forth another masterful performance and extend the Phils' lead in the NL East to four game over the Atlanta Braves.

He went 8 innings, giving up just one run while striking out six, dropping his ERA to a very impressive 2.93 on the season. Cole did get batted around a little bit early on, surrendering his lone run in the 2nd inning, but he also got big strikeouts when he needed it, and some key double-play balls to erase any trouble. After last season, I had my doubts about Cole, but those are long gone. He really, truly is an ace, one of three on this staff, and he showed it again last night, silencing the 2nd-place Braves in the most important series of the season to date. I really can't say enough about the guy this season.

Just like I can't say enough about Carlos Ruiz and Wilson Valdez either. It can be argued that had Carlos not gotten hurt and missed a decent amount of time, he'd be the Phillies' MVP. Hell, even with the time off, he may be the MVP of this team, given his ridiculous amounts of clutch hits, his .399 on-base percentage and the insanely awesome way he's handled what may be the best pitching staff in baseball, at least right now. Whatever the Phillies need from the guy, he delivers. Great defense, check. Calling a great game, check. Settling down his pitchers, check. Batting 8th, 7th, check and check. Big hit, check. And he did all of that again last night.

Ruiz and Hamels were on the same page all game long, making the job easier for both of them. And to help his pitcher out after his one hiccup in the 2nd, Curbball doubled in Ryan Howard to tie the game and allow Hamels to start things over. It's been fun watching Ruiz the past few seasons for his defense and the way he handles pitchers alone, but now that he's turned into a ridiculously tough out, he's that much more fun to watch.

Just like watching Wilson Valdez throw a baseball is fun to watch. Valdez didn't get a hit last night, didn't score a run or get an RBI in the 3-1 win. His .255 average and .296 on-base percentage won't impress anyone. But Valdez is another guy that has been absolutely vital for the Phillies. No, he's not the greatest hitter or the world. Yes, he grounds into a billion double plays. But Wilson Valdez gives you a truly valuable utility player, something this team has been lacking ever since Charlie Manuel came to town.

He's no Eric Bruntlett. Not even close. Valdez may not have the best numbers in the world, but he can hit a little. He's had some big hits, a couple huge homers and knows how to work a count. But more importantly is what he brings to the table defensively. Valdez isn't just a good fielder, he's a great fielder. Not better than Gold Glover Jimmy Rollins, but almost. And his arm, wow. To me, I've considered it an honor to watch Jimmy Rollins play shortstop, mainly because of his strong, accurate arm. Rarely do you ever seen Rollins make a throwing error, and the man can certainly bring it. But in all honesty, I think Wilson Valdez may have the best arm I've ever seen at short — at least on par with Rafael Furcal in his heyday. The man just throws rockets. And that arm was on display last night several times.

He and Chase Utley combined for some spectacular double plays, the most impressive coming in the 6th. Martin Prado smoked one to Utley's left. Chase made a tremendous play to get to it, turned, fired to second and before you could blink, Valdez threw a laser to Howard to turn the double play and end the inning. It was a thing of beauty. I could watch Wilson Valdez fire seeds all day long.

As you all know, the Phils won the game 3-1 mainly by small ball, scoring two runs on ground outs and then having Brad Lidge come in and clean up Cole's tremendous outing with a 1-2-3 ninth against Atlanta's 2, 3 and 4 hitters, highlighted by striking out Jason Heyward to start things off and punctuated by fanning Derek Lee to end it. There's nothing more encouraging than seeing Brad Lidge record a 1-2-3 save against the heart of a playoff-caliber team's order. He's not making us pull out our hair anymore.

As great as the game was, I wasn't sure I'd be able to refrain from stabbing someone when I first arrived. Leaving right from work, I was set to meet uncle jellyfish, my roommate and a friend of ours at the game. I got there early and met up with a friend at a tailgate, then went in about 20 minutes before the first pitch. After I grabbed a couple dollar dogs, I got to my seats, sat down … and a kid behind me spilled his entire soda. He was a couple seats down, so the liquid sugar didn't get on my clothes or anything, but it spread throughout the row making it unbearably sticky. I wanted to punch him in the face, but I'm pretty sure hitting a 12-year-old is frowned upon. Also, he probably could have kicked my ass. I'm weak as hell.

To add to that, there was a group of three women sitting directly behind me. Three loud, middle-aged women. Three loud, middle-aged women who didn't shut the hell up for 9 god damn innings. Sure, they talked about baseball … 1 percent of the time. The rest was chitchat about stupid shit women chitchat about, and loud, horrifyingly annoying, deafening laughs that made my eardrums hurt and my blood boil. They were the type of stereotypical women at a baseball game that make me understand why some people commit murder.

Of course, the anger I was gathering from these annoying ladies subsided when this happened.

I don't condone fans running onto the field and interfering with play, but I have to admit, this was funny to watch. This guy made some tremendous moves to dodge security, cutting back like Barry Sanders on a few occasions, until Matt Diaz tripped him up. He certainly looked a whole hell of lot more difficult to tackle than Mike Bell.

Thankfully, this knucklehead put on this show when the Phillies were at-bat, because the last thing we needed was for him to mess with Cole's rhythm.

Where I was sitting, in section 308, "red man" wasn't the only show either. A few sections over, in the rightfield upper deck, there was a middle-aged woman, clearly drunk, two rows in front of a giant crowd of teenagers. This woman was plastered out of her mind. She was wearing white pants, and dancing, shaking her butt, slapping her ass, getting the teens to go crazy. They were cheering her, leering at her, and she was eating it up. She reached up and grab a kid and kissed him, driving them even more wild. It was a hell of a sight, a drunk, older woman giving a bunch of horny teens a show. I thought something inappropriate was sure to happen, but things settled down a little when security started hanging around. It's a shame, I'm sure one of those teenaged boys was going to get laid.

All in all, it was a good night at the ballpark. The Phillies won. Cole and Lidge were tremendous. And red man and drunk lady spiced up the atmosphere. Though this red man was nowhere near as entertaining as the real Redman.

mtv cribs red man
Uploaded by GENSDUVOYAGEPROD. - Watch more music videos, in HD!

Four games up with 11 to go. Magic number: 8.

BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Radio Killed the Video Star

A lot happened this weekend, especially football-wise (which I hope to get to today), but the highlight for Philadelphians, no matter how you slice it, was Jayson Werth's walkoff. While we were watching it on the TV and listening to Wheels and McCarthy, we all wondered what the call sounded like by Scott Franzke. here it is, and it's tremendous as always.

Werth's Walkoff by Mike Meech

If only there was a way to get this man on TV, if only he wasn't so damn great on the radio.

BallHype: hype it up!

Friday, September 17, 2010

It's Friday, Time to Dance

The Eagles play the Lions on Sunday. That gives me more than enough reason to post this epic touchdown and celebration by Shaun Rogers. It may not technically be dancing, but there is music.

If you want to see someone actually dance, well, then you might as well watch Barry Sanders dance around defenders.

I've only owned one non-Eagles NFL jersey in my entire life, and it was Barry Sanders. I could watch nothing but Barry Sanders and Michael Jordan highlights for the rest of my life and be a happy man.

BallHype: hype it up!