Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Roy, Ryan and Raul

Roy Halladay: 7 innings pitched, 2 hits, 0 runs, 9 strikeouts, 2 walks; 1-for-3 with a bases-clearing double for 3 RBIs. He's better than everyone at everything.

Ryan Howard: 2-for-5, 2 runs, 3 RBI, 2 home runs. I don't care what anyone says, Ryan Howard is good.

Raul Ibanez: 3-for-5, 2 runs, 2 RBIs, home run. Welcome back, even if everyone else in Philadelphia hates you besides me.

Hunter Pence: 2-for-5, 2 runs, 1 RBI, home run. I like that trade very, very much.

Here they are in video form, though you'll probably have to go to to actually see the pictures move since has the most archaic embedding policies known to man.

Not bad when your 4-5-6 hitters go 7-for-15 with 6 runs scored, 6 RBIs and 4 home runs. Or when your starter drives in three more runs than he gives up because he's the best pitcher alive. In case you haven't noticed, the Phillies are pretty good.

Oh, and Cliff Lee starts tonight.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I Agree With Cole Hamels and Sean McDonough

The Phillies once again won last night, beating the Reds 3-2 in the first game of a four-game series out in Cincinnati. And while the win was all well and good, I have to tell you that I still disagree with Charlie Manuel's decision to lift Cole Hamels after 6 brilliant innings of work.

Listen, I know Hamels was making his first start after a stint on the 15-day DL with some shoulder discomfort. And I know that it's much more important to have Hamels ready to go 7, 8, 9 innings in October than it is in late August. But the fact of the matter is the Phillies, even with their 6.5-game lead over the Braves, need to keep winning every game they can to both secure the division and secure home-field advantage in the NL seeing as the Brewers are gaining ground.

So with Hamels having pitched 6 innings of 2-hit, 1-run, 7-strikeout, no-walk ball in just 76 pitches and saying he felt great and healthy, there was no reason he should have come out of the game. Especially when you consider a few things. Number one, one of the two hits he surrendered, the triple to Brandon Phillips that led to that one run, shouldn't have even been a hit. Hunter Pence slipped in the outfield as he got a little turned around, letting a ball drop that he should have easily caught. In that instance, I agree 100 percent with what ESPN broadcaster Sean McDonough said during the telecast. McDonough said he thinks that mishaps like Pence's slip and the Brandon Phillips error that was labeled a Chase Utley hit earlier should be considered errors because, well, the fact that Pence slipped was his error, just as the fact that Phillips tried to backhand toss a ball from far away was his error. The pitcher shouldn't be punished for that.

Then consider that Cole was completing dealing and mowing down the Reds with ease, not working too hard or straining himself. Further, the game was tied 1-1, with Homer Bailey matching Hamels' performance himself, striking out a ton of Phillies and rarely surrendering any good contact. With the game tied heading into the 7th, you never know how long the game could go. Shit, these two teams already played a 19-inning marathon in which the Phils ran out of pitchers once this year. Why use up a bullpen arm so early when your pitcher is dealing and only at 76 pitches? Also, Hamels' spot in the order was due up in the top of the 8th, so it would have made more sense to let him start the 7th and then pinch-hit for his spot in the 8th, or if he ran into trouble in the 7th, make a double switch. And finally, to cap it off, Cole wanted to stay in the game. He was engaged in a pretty lively discussion with Charlie and Dubee to stay in the game, and he said he felt great.

Yet Manuel decided to lift Cole after only 6 in a 1-1 tie, going to Antonio Bastardo, and he didn't even make a double switch at all, meaning no matter how the inning played out, the Phils would pretty much have to lift whatever bullpen arm closed out the 7th for a pinch-hitter.

I was confused and a little angery. It just seemed like a stupid decision to me, even as Rick Sutcliffe and Aaron Boone were trying to convince me having the bullpen get in the game was the best thing for the Phillies because it had been such a long time since the team played. Yeah, but yesterday they started a string of 33 games in 31 days, meaning the bullpen will certainly be called upon big time, so why not keep them as well-rested as possible to endure this brutal stretch?

Then again, Sutcliffe and Boone also tried to tell us that Reds really, honestly should consider trading Joey Votto to make room for Yonder Alonso because Votto is going to cost too much. This despite the fact that Votto has two more years on a friendly contract, is the reigning NL MVP and is one of the best players in baseball. Then one of them, I think Sutcliffe, actually said, "Well, if he puts a good at-bat together here, then you have to start thinking about it." What? If Yonder Alonso has one good at-bat late in a game against the Phillies in August of his rookie year, he's basically good enough to replace Joey Votto? Are you fucking nuts?

Even when I get the chance to get away from Tom McCarthy and Sarge, I still have to hear absolutely moronic statements. Though I do have to give Sutcliffe credit, he did a perfect, informative analysis on Ryan Hanigan changing the signs, calling for a fastball in but actually telling Homer Bailey to throw a breaking ball outside when he headed out to the mound to combat Wilson Valdez potentially stealing signs and relaying them to Shane Victorino.

That trickery caught Shane looking at strike three, completely fooled by a pitch. By the way, that at-bat by Victorino there in the 5th was absolutely horrible. It started out great, as he got ahead of Bailey 3-1 with runners on 2nd and 3rd with two outs. But then he chased a 3-1 slider that was in the dirt instead of locking in on a fastball and letting anything else go, then looked at said strike three on Hanigan and Bailey outfoxing him. It was extremely frustrating to watch, especially since the Phils had just tied it on a huge double by Wilson Valdez thanks to some shoddy outfield play, putting two runners in scoring position. But let's just say Shane made up for it later.

As Suttcliffe was insisting that removing Hamels was the best move for the Phillies in the 7th, Antonio Bastardo walked leadoff batter Votto, and I was really, really irritated. Of course, Bastardo then struck out the next three batters, making them all look foolish, so Antonio certainly did his job.

And after Wilson Valdez singled off Bailey to start the 8th and Michael Martinez failed to get a bunt down while hitting for Bastardo, not even Ryan Hanigan's smooth trickery could stop Shane this time. Bailey unleashed a first-ball breaking ball, and Victorino absolutely killed it, giving the Phils a 3-1 lead with just 6 outs to go.

See, had Manuel left Cole in to pitch the 7th, the game would be right where he wanted it, with Bastardo for the 8th and Ryan Madson for the 9th. But now Bastardo was already used, so the game was in the hands of the struggling Michael Stutes.

I mentioned this last week and it bears repeating: Stutes simply looks gassed right now. The kid was so good most of this season, but for the past month or so, he looks out of bullets. It's understandable for the rookie, who has pitched in a ton of games and more recently had been tasked with pitching multiple innings per outing by Charlie, which really baffled me.

And last night it was more of the same. Stutes looked like he's simply lost something on his pitches. Yeah, he was still throwing 92 and 93 mph, but that's down from the 94-96 he was hitting earlier in the year. And his off-speed pitches don't have the same bite, oftentimes staying up in the zone and getting hit hard. That was certainly the case in his inning of work last night. Yes, he did get out of it with the lead still intact, but Stutes was up in the zone, surrendered three hits and gave up a run to allow Cincy to get within one.

As good as he's been all year, if he doesn't turn it around soon and regain his early-season form, I'd feel terribly uncomfortable seeing him enter a tight ballgame in October.

Thankfully Stutes' run and Manuel's decisions didn't cost the Phils, as Madson closed the door in the 9th to give the Phils the 3-2 win. But I still disagree with the way Manuel managed his arms.

But I do agree, 100 percent, with Hamels wanting to stay in the game and with Sean McDonough's take on errors.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Tyreke Evans is looking pretty healthy:

And on that note, I'm calling it a week.

It's Friday, Time to Dance

This may sound incredibly odd, but Rex Chapman was always one of my favorite players in the NBA during his playing days, specifically during his Phoenix Suns days. The most logical reason is because Rex had no conscious when it came to shooting, and he had range for miles. I loved watching him heave ridiculously long shots and somehow nailing them.

So when I saw this, it was a no-brainer what the dance portion of this week would be. Behold, Rex Chapman making doves and everyone else cry.

This is what the Internet was created for.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Top 10 NFL Defensive Players Right Now

Over at the Ed the Sports Fan, you'll find The Real Top Ten NFL Defensive Players of 2011 post that I was honored to be a part of, along with Kenny, Ed, Joe Simmons and Justin Tinsley.

It was a ton of fun and easily one of the hardest mental tasks of my life. There are so many great defensive players that have so many different responsibilities in different schemes that it's damn near impossible to get this thing right. The crazy thing is the No. 1 player based on the compilation of the five of us wasn't even on my top 10 list, though I have to admit Julius Peppers is a beast. Still don't think he's anywhere near the best defensive player in the league, but that's just me.

Anyway, definitely go check it out, and for the record, here is my list that I sent over to Kenny last night, with one amendment:

1. Patrick Willis

Easily the most physical, versatile and durable defensive player in the NFL. Willis can literally do it all, absolutely mauling running backs, receivers, tight ends and QBs. He sheds block with ease, can cover tight end and running backs, and has the speed to chase down wide receivers, >literally. Not only that, but he's only missed 1 game in his four years. Beast.

2. Ndamukong Suh

That's right, I'm putting a 2nd year player as my 2nd best defensive player in the league. Why? Because the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year is already as big of a difference maker as there is in the NFL. Dude had 66 tackles and 10 sacks as a defensive tackle. Basically, he's a more in shape Warren Sapp, which is just frightening.

3. Troy Polamalu

He may be No. 1 if he didn't get injured so often.

4. Clay Matthews

Reigning Defensive Player of the Year is a terror on the field.

5. Nnamdi Asomugha

The best compliment you can give to a corner is that a quarterback refuses to throw to his side. QBs never throw to Nnamdi. Ever. Though that may have to change this year now that he's lining up alongside ballhawk Asante Samuel and the talented Rodgers-Cromartie.

6. Darrelle Revis

Basically just as good as Nnamdi, only thrown at a little more. Plus, Randy Moss once gave him his obituary, so he can't leapfrog Asomugha. However, we all know how he consistently shuts down elite receivers. He's the real deal..

7. DeMarcus Ware

An unblockable edge rusher. Hate that he's a Cowboy.

8. Justin Tuck Adrian Wilson

Honestly, I have no idea why I put Tuck there. In fact, I didn't even write a word about him. Yeah, he's good, but not worthy of this list at all. Adrian Wilson on the other hand needs his respect. He's been stuck on a lackluster defensive team his whole career, but there isn't a more physically imposing or physically gifted safety in the NFL. Without a doubt, he's the safety I'd be most terrified of that he's kill me on the field.

9. Ed Reed

Not the player he once was, but still makes plays. The guy led the league in interceptions last year for goodness sake.

10. Asante Samuel

A big part of defense is causing turnovers, and no cornerback in the league is better at breaking on a ball and taking it the other way than Asante. Also, read this.

Seriously, I could have probably had 10 completely different guys on here and still been impressed with the players. But this is the list I'm sticking with, especially Willis and Suh. They may be my favorite defensive players in the league right now, and they very well may be the best.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Big Surprises: John Mayberry, Vance Worley and an Earthquake

Last night, I finally attended a Phillies game that featured both good weather and a victory — an occurrence that hadn't happened all season for me. Of course, there was an earthquake here in Philadelphia and all across the East Coast beforehand, which was all sorts of weird.

I can honestly say that last thing I expected when I went to work yesterday was for an earthquake to hit and rock my building. Yet there I was, at first feeling a rumbling in my feet and wondering what the hell was going on. Next thing I know, people are creeping out of their offices/cubicles, confused and curious and some even scared. The light fixtures were swaying like crazy, and for a second I thought our building was collapsing.

Then I took to Twitter and saw people all over the place were talking about the earthquake that just struck. Talk about odd. I had never before experienced an earthquake, and since there wasn't actually any damage or harm as far as I know in my office or here in Philadelphia, it was actually pretty cool. Having said that, I now in no way am interested in living in California. I mean, the quake originated in Virginia and was a 5.8 or something. I can't even imagine what it must feel like for a 7 or 8 on the actual fault line. When it comes to earthquakes, the East Coast is a giant pussy compared to the West Coast, no question about it.

Sadly the earthquake did not shut down my building, and work resumed as usual. In fact, I actually had to work later than anticipated even though I wanted to get out as quickly as possible and head to the ballpark because I'm pretty sure god hates me, or at least really enjoys fucking with me — not that I blame him.

Anyway, I finally head to the game with a buddy of mine, and the first thing I noticed was how few Mets fan made the trip down 95.

There was next to none of them present, a far cry from a few years ago. Remember when Citizens Bank Park opened? Every time the Mets came to down, thousands, and I mean thousands, of Mets fan would invade CBP and cause quite an electric and potent atmosphere. No, it was never a takeover like what's been happening down in D.C. when the Phils take on the Nationals, but a large portion of the stadium was taken up by Mets fans. In fact, one of my favorite CBP experiences ever was going to a game with a group of my friends and harassing a Mets fan who was wearing a faded Roberto Alomar Mets shirt. The "AL" was faded out on the back of the shirt, so the entire game we were yelling, "OMAR!" at the guy nonstop. He was clearly agitated but really couldn't do much about it because a. there was like 6 of us and b. we weren't doing anything profane. It was a blast.

Nowadays, with the Mets becoming chokers, then financially strapped and a laughingstock, there are fewer Mets fans than ever invading Philadelphia. I'm sure the fact that getting a Phillies ticket is no easy task these days plays a part in that, but still, it's pretty stunning the drop-off.

As for the game itself, it was another drubbing. Before you could blink it was 9-0 Phils, and they went on to win 9-4. Shane Victorino got the offense going by murdering a baseball in the 3rd inning, John Mayberry continued to make it damn near impossible for Charlie Manuel to sit him by crushing yet another home run, this one a three-run shot, and Placido Polanco got himself back into the swing of things, picking up two hits and making a nice play in the first to nail Angel Pagan at home plate. Hell, even Ben Fracisco had a three-hit night, with Charlie pushing the right buttons yet again. It sure is nice to play the Mets.

The story of the night, however, was without a doubt Vance Worley.

Worley started off by living dangerously. The guy threw 30-plus pitches in the first inning alone, surrendering back-to-back singles to start the game, putting runners on 1st and 3rd with no one out. Then David Wright hit a chopper to third that Polly had to back up on. It would have been tough to turn two or even go for second with the speedy Ruben Tejada on first, so Polanco's only play seemed to be at first. Except thanks to playing the Mets, Pagan froze on third, then decided to go home. So Polanco calmly threw home and had Pagan by about 7 steps. Man, the Mets are bad.

Then Vance struck out Duda looking, walked Jason Bay and struck out Nick Evans looking. Not pretty, but got out of it with no runs.

The second started out quite similar. Worley again gave up back-to-back hits to start things off, a single by Thole and a double by Turner, to put two runners in scoring position with no outs. Not good. Then all he did was proceed to strike the next three batters out, all looking. In case you're counting, that would be 5 strikeouts for the first 6 outs, all of them looking. Yeah, I'd say Vance is good at fooling hitters.

After that, Worley simply shut the Mets down, dealing through 7 shutout innings. In all, he went 7 innings, striking 9, walking just one, and surrendering just five hits and one run. Oh yeah, he also went 2-for-3 at the plate with two runs scored and an RBI. Vance is now 9-1 on the season with a 2.65 ERA and a .229 batting average. Oh, and the Phillies have won the last 12 times he's pitched. Vance Worley is good. Surprisingly good. Even he's surprised with how good he's been:

“I saw myself as a cup-of-coffee guy,” Worley said.

“I didn’t expect to be doing what I’m doing. I just figured I’d be another average guy just filling in shoes.”

I'd say he's filling in quite nicely. And if Worley isn't the biggest surprise this season, then perhaps John Mayberry Jr. is. Listen, I've been about the biggest Raul Ibanez supporter there's been this year, especially during his hot July, but right now, it is damn near impossible for Charlie Manuel to keep John Mayberry out of the lineup. The guy has just been absolutely crushing the baseball.

With last night's two-hit performance in which he killed a baseball for a three-run home run in what turned out to be the difference, Mayberry is now batting .275 with 12 home runs, 41 RBIs, 26 runs, 6 steals and a .539 slugging percentage. He has 26 extra-base hits. All of this in just 193 at-bats. That's beyond remarkable. The guy has 53 hits on the year, and 26 of them have gone for extra bases. Wow. And lately, he's been as dangerous a hitter as the Phillies have.

When you sit back and think about it, it's stunning. Sure, Mayberry is big and strong and fast. He's been a good fielder every time he's gotten the chance to play, and a versatile one at that, able to play any outfield position as well as first base. But entering the season, virtually nothing was expected out of Mayberry.

He played in 39 games in 2009, getting 57 at-bats and putting up unimpressive numbers as a rookie: .211 average, .250 OBP, .474 slugging, .724 OPS, 4 home runs, 8 RBIS, 23 strikeouts and just 2 walks. Last year, he was barely up with the club, getting just 12 plate appearances. And while he did manage to hit 2 homers in those 12 at-bats and hit .333 with a .833 slugging percentage and 1.218 OPS, it was hardly a large sample size. He entered this season batting just .232 and with what people perceived as a huge hole in his swing.

Essentially, he was a flawed hitter who could hit the ball far, but was easy to get out and strike out. He didn't put together good at-bats, and always went for broke. Then suddenly Shane Victorino got injured and Dom Brown and Ben Francisco struggled, so Mayberry got a chance to play every day. And while his average wasn't great at the start, Mayberry started to consistently hit the ball hard and work great at-bats. Suddenly he went from an undisciplined hitter with a huge hole in his swing to a tough out. And the more he's played, the more he's produced.

The guy works the pitcher damn near every at-bat, fouling off tough pitches and laying off bad ones. And when he does go after a ball, he kills it. He no longer looks lost and vulnerable. He looks confident and monstrous. And now he's turning into a beast. The numbers don't lie. John Mayberry has been the most dangerous hitter for the best team in baseball of late, and there are no signs of him slowing down.

It's been an extremely pleasant surprise seeing him mature right before our eyes,. No one even mentions Dom Brown's name anymore. We want more John Mayberry, and that's what we've been getting. It's to the point where he seems to be asserting himself pretty clearly over Ibanez, who has gone back into the tank following a hot July. The way he's going, John Mayberry has to be in the lineup pretty much every day.

Honestly, Vance and Mayberry have probably been the biggest surprises all year for the Phillies, even more so than Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes.

Bastardo has been fantastic to be sure, and while no one quite expected what he's done, he started the year with the big club and had shown a lively arm and filthy stuff in the past. And Stutes has been a revelation, but again, he's been up all year, and actually has been fading of late.

Speaking of Stutes, I'm curious as to why Manuel seems to be using him two innings every time he trots him out there of late, especially given his recent struggles. To me, he looks like he has a tired arm, and last night the Mets were rocking the ball off him, even on outs. The fact Charlie left him in in the 9th was really strange to me. Maybe he wanted to get him some more confidence, but I feel like he may be wearing down a bit at this point in the season. And with a 6-run lead going into the 9th, it seemed like a good time to use Michael Schwimmer and rest Stutes' arm a bit.

In four of his last 10 outings, Stutes has gone two innings, and he hasn't been quite as effective of late. May be time for Charlie to cut down his innings a little bit. Then again, maybe not. Charlie certainly knows a whole lot more about Stutes than I do.

Anyway, the only thing that's been more surprising than Worley and Mayberry here in Philadelphia is having an earthquake hit the City of Brotherly Love, though you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who saw any of these occurrences coming.

Easily handling the Mets, however, isn't surprising in the least.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Black Cloud Hanging Over the Phillies — Me

This past weekend in Washington aside — with the Phillies somehow losing two games in which they led in the 9th inning — the Philadelphia Phillies have been nothing short of awesome this season.

They have by far the best record in baseball, their 81 wins four more than the next closest team, and their 6.5 game lead over the Atlanta Braves, who just so happen to be tied for the second-best record in the NL, is the largest divisional lead in baseball. Exploring further, the Phillies also have the second-best home record in the majors, their 44-20 mark trailing only Milwaukee's 47-16 home record.

When you add it all up, the Phillies have been unquestionably the best team in baseball and the second-best home team in the game. Yet I have been a black cloud hovering over the best team in the league, quite literally.

You see, I've been to about 10 games or so this year. The exact number escapes me. But what I can tell you with 100 percent certainty is that only once all season have I attended a game with good weather … and I've only witnessed two wins in person this year. Talk about a double-whammy.

The first game I went to was freezing cold and windy. It also just so happened to be Cole Hamels' worst outing of the year, making for an all-around miserable night. And in every game since except for one — another Cole Hamels loss actually — it has rained at least slightly, sometimes much, much more slightly.

There was the rain delay with Kyle Kendrick on the mound. The other rainy game against the Giants, again with Kendrick on the mound. Then I had tickets last Sunday (a week before yesterday), free tickets no less, for a game I was greatly anticipating. Not only was Roy Halladay slated to pitch, but the unveiling of the Harry Kalas statue was to take place.

So naturally, the game got rained out and postponed until Sept. 20. Then, I had tickets for Thursday's game, a match-up with the Diamondbacks featuring Vance Worley on the hill for the Phillies facing off against Arizona's ace, Ian Kennedy.

While the weather forecast said there was a chance of thunderstorms, the radar looked rather encouraging before I left work. The night started out great. My dad picked me up from work, and we headed to pick up his cousin down in South Philly. Then we were off to Nick's Roast Beef for a heart-stopping pregame meal, and it was fantastic as always. I mean, a roast beef sandwich with provolone and gravy fries is damn near impossible to beat.

After filling our stomachs, we got to the game nice and early. Maybe even a little too early. I say that only because our seats were in left field, section 142, row 7. Since we got there so early, Arizona was still taking BP, meaning there were a lot of fans crowded in our section trying to snare BP home run balls.

Now, let me state a few things. For starters, I have never once in my life caught a home run or foul ball at a baseball game despite going to literally hundreds upon hundreds of games in my life. My friends and I did get Rheal Cormier to toss us a ball from the bullpen at the Vet on Harry Kalas bobblehead night, but that's it. And I absolutely would like to get a game ball some day. I think every baseball fan would at one point or another. However, there is a fine line between wanting to catch a foul ball or home run that is hit to you and being a complete and utter psycho loser. If you are a grown man who does nothing but scour the ballpark racing to get home run/foul balls, especially during batting practice, you are a stupid human being, and probably a pretty awful one, particularly if you are jumping in front of children to rob them of a souvenir.

There were two such men in our section during batting practice, and I hated them with every fiber of my being. The guy directly in front of us was about 35 or 40 years old, glove in tow, and he was trying like hell to get to anything he could. At one point, a ball landed a few rows over, and he and another gentleman (this guy with his two young kids), went for it. The man with his kids got it and gave it to his daughter. The other guy said it was low because the ball was in his glove, the guy took it out and then proclaimed it his. And he bitched about it the rest of BP, despite telling us he had already gotten 15 balls this week, and that the other fellow who "took" his ball did so to give it to his kids. Seriously, get a fucking life.

Even worse, a man who had to be at least 60 years old was doing the same thing, stalking baseballs. He had a glove, at 60, and was fighting for position against 10 year olds to get a batting practice baseball. And the fucker got one, caught it out of the air, and thought he was tough shit for out-maneuvering some young kids and catching a god damn BP home run. He was extremely proud of himself, then shooed away a kid who asked for the ball. Seriously, that guy should go and get fucked.

Listen, if you are above the age of like 13, 14 tops, there is no way in hell you should be bringing a baseball glove into the stadium — unless you are an actual major league player. Yes, getting a baseball is cool and all, but really it's something that's for kids, particularly when getting to the game early. Get a fucking life and grow the fuck up. Christ.

Anyway, the best part of getting there early was going to see the Harry statue up close and personal. Fittingly, it's right next to Harry the K's, and naturally, it was mobbed the entire pre-game.

From there, the game began. Vance Worley was dealing yet again, throwing absolute filth and baffling the Diamondbacks. Raul smoked a ball that just missed being a home run, then was driven in by Wilson Valdez, who smoked another one off Kennedy to give the Phils the lead. Then, John Mayberry doinked one off the foul pole immediately to my right to give the Phils a 3-0 lead. Honestly, when Mayberry hit it, I didn't even stand up or react much, because from my seat it looked like the ball was going to be at least 10 feet foul. However, my eyes deceived me as it hit high off the foul pole to extend the lead.

That's when things went south. Due to my presence, the storm clouds were moving in. And while it was barely raining to start, the grounds crew rolled out the tarp. About 30 seconds later, Citizens Bank Park was engulfed by a monsoon. I mean, it was pouring as hard as I've ever seen. There were impressive bolts of lightning, and just buckets and buckets of torrential rain. We stuck it out for a good, long while, but finally we threw in the towel at around quarter to nine. My dad's cousin had to get home to his family and prepare for work the next morning, and honestly, there seemed to be no end in sight to the rain.

We knew that they'd do everything in their power to resume play given that Arizona does not come back to town this year, but how long that wait would be was anyone's guess. Of course, I got home and about 20 minutes later the game resumed. Fuck me.

That's just been the way of it for me this season. At least the Phillies won, making it just the second game all year that the Phils have won that I've been at, both pitched by Worley nonetheless. But I've been the black cloud quite literally for the Phils this year. I've been at two of Cole Hamels' 7 losses and two of Roy Halladay's five losses. I've seen Kyle Kendrick lose and Roy Oswalt lose. And I've gotten wet or cold at every game but one.

The Phillies are and have been the best team in baseball all season long, yet I can't buy a good experience at CBP this year to save my life. This team has just one black cloud hanging over it, and it seems to be me.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hunter Pence is a Crazy Person

Watching Hunter Pence play baseball (and being extremely irritated watching him) for four-plus years in Houston, you could tell something was a bit off with the guy.

Everything he did just looked so painfully awkward, yet he still was really good while doing it. That made me hate him so much, as I watched him awkwardly harm the Phillies time and time again.

Now I get to watch Pence play every single day for the Phillies, and it's become officially clear … Hunter Pence is a crazy person. How crazy? How about unnecessarily sliding into third yet still scoring on a single from second crazy?

When I saw this live on TV last night, I was just stunned — stunned both at the fact that he inexplicably slid into third, and also stunned that Tom McCarthy and Wheels actually thought he slipped at first when it was clear as day right away that he flat out slid. Why did he slide? Let's let Hunter explain:

"Little did I know the shortstop didn't catch it," Pence said. "Once I started sliding I saw [third-base coach Juan Samuel] waving. So I went home."

He apparently thought the shortstop got there despite the fact the shortstop was nowhere near it, not playing up the middle and all, and that Pence himself was on second to start the play, right next to the shortstop.

These are ramblings of a crazy person. Whether it was that insane slide, telling people he "melts faces," heading to the plate with the doughnut still on his bat, spray-painting his spikes or creating catchprhases, everything he does is certifiably insane.

He's also already one of the most popular players on the team, which is no surprise considering this city embraced the crazy that was damn near everyone on the 1993 Phillies. It certainly helps that he plays hard and is also killing it since putting on those red pinstripes. In the 16 games Pence has played as a Phillie, he's batting .344 with a .408 on-base percentage, .557 slugging percentage, .966 OPS, and has 3 home runs, 11 RBIs, 4 doubles and 10 runs scored. Oh, and the Phillies just so happen to be 13-3 in those 16 games.

It's no wonder the fans have embraced him so quickly, myself included. This coming from someone who really disliked him a lot before he got here. But it's just impossible not to like Hunter Pence when he's on your team. He's just too good and plays too hard.

And he just so happens to be a crazy person as well.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Jim Thome Started It All in Philadelphia

Last night, Jim Thome hit his 599th and 600th career home runs, becoming just the 8th player in Major League Baseball history to reach the 600 home run milestone. But unlike a few of the players of his era ahead of him — namely Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa — Thome has reached that plateau without the whispers of steroid use tainting him.

Thome is one of the game's best-liked players, and by reaching this illustrious milestone, he is undoubtedly one of the greatest sluggers of all time. What he's been able to do over the course of his career, going from a slightly smaller but miscast third baseman into a moon-shotting first-base power hitter, has been a pleasure to watch both from afar and up close.

A quick little true story: I, along with a couple of my friends, went to Jim Thome's first home game as a Philadelphia Phillie back in 2003. In fact, we actually went to all three games of that weekend series against the Pirates, making the trek from State College as freshmen back home and then to the Vet. I'll never forget it — not just because it was the first full series I ever went to or necessarily because it was the first time Philadelphia got to see Thome wear the red pinstripes in person — no, I'll remember it forever because in his very first at-bat, Thome hit a scorcher that just missed being a home run, instead settling for a triple. That's right, Jim Thome hit a triple in his first at-bat in Philadelphia as a member of the Phillies.

Believe it or not, Thome hit two more triples that season and one more the next year. In that first year, Thome was outstanding, slugging 47 home runs, driving in 131 RBIs, scoring 111 runs and helping the Phils win 86 games, albeit finishing third in the division. Instantly, he won over the fans' hearts, and he rewarded them with another fantastic 42-home run, 105-RBI, 97-run season the following year, in the inaugural season of Citizens Bank Park. Then in 2005, Thome started slow, got hurt and opened the door for Ryan Howard to burst onto the scene, making Thome expendable. The next season he was traded to the White Sox for another Philadelphia fan favorite in Aaron Rowand.

And while Thome's time here in Philadelphia was short-lived and did not result in any playoff appearances, his signing was the tipping point that put the team's current string of success in motion.

You see, Jim Thome was the first big free agent, the first star to actually want to come to Philadelphia in a long, long time. In fact, the team's best players had been doing everything in their power to get out of Philadelphia and leave this embarrassing organization. Curt Schilling forced a trade. Scott Rolen refused to re-sign. And no star player in their right mind was ever considering going to Philadelphia, let alone wanting to be a part of the franchise.

Jim Thome changed all that. With the new ballpark on the way, Thome saw an opportunity to help bring baseball back in Philadelphia. He was the face of the franchise when the Phillies closed out the Vet and ushered in Citizens Bank. He was the first all-star, the first truly elite-level player in decades to say, "Yeah, I want to go to Philadelphia to play."

A few short years later, the Phillies were on their way to winning their first NL East Division title in forever, then winning a World Series and attracting some of the game's biggest names, either through trade for free agency.

Now players want to come and be a part of the Phillies. Roy Halladay waived his no-trade clause to come here. Cliff Lee took less dollars and less years to return. Hunter Pence and Roy Oswalt were only too eager to go from dreadful Houston to Philadelphia. The list goes on. And while Citizens Bank Park has become a desired destination for players around the league thanks to people like Charlie Manuel, Ruben Amaro Jr., Pat Gillick and homegrown players like Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels, it was Jim Thome who got he ball rolling.

He was the one who first stood up and decided he wanted to be a part of the Phillies. Now he's residing among the greatest of all time — Ruth and Aaron and Mays and Griffey.

So congratulations, Jim Thome. And on behalf of Phillies fans and baseball fans everywhere, thank you for being a great player and an even greater human being.

Monday, August 15, 2011

John Kruk: The Guts to Succeed

Prior to 2008 and this current run the Phillies are on, the 1993 squad was the defining team of my generation. And while Darren Daulton was the unquestioned leader of that team, Curt Schilling its ace, Lenny Dykstra its fire and table-setter, Dave Hollins its intimidator, and Mitch Williams the most infamous, John Kruk was the embodiment of the 1993 Phillies and easily the biggest fan favorite.

There are several reasons for that. For starters, Kruk looked like any fat, slobby Philadelphian walking down the street and never took himself too seriously. But looks can deceiving. Make no mistake about it, John Kruk was a hell of an athlete and a hell of a baseball player. The guy was a career .300 hitter, a three-time all-star and worked as hard as anyone. He was a slick fielder and ran the bases better than anyone his size should be able to. He had a great eye at the plate, a memorable trait of the entire '93 team, and simply knew how to play the game the right way.

But more important than his looks and his talent, Kruk is the most beloved player from that 1993 team because he understood Philadelphia better than anyone. He didn't buy into the stereotypes or let the the pressure overwhelm him. He embraced it, he welcomed it and he loved it. He is as Philadelphia as an athlete gets.

John Kruk was inducted to the Phillies Wall of Fame this weekend for a lot of reasons, all of them making him deserving. But perhaps the biggest reason of all is because he had the guts to succeed here whereas so many athletes before and since have not.

Friday, August 12, 2011

It's Friday, Time to Dance

With the NFL back — and the Eagles looking impressively sharp in their preseason debut last night — and baseball in the throes of the dog days and exciting divisional races (except the NL East), it's easy to forget about the currently locked-out NBA. So here's Lou Williams collaborating with someone named Dave Patten to show us what some NBA players are doing with their free time.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I Hate You West Coast

Back in the day, I could stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning every single day and not have it faze me one bit. The reasoning was pretty simple: I had very little responsibility.

In high school, I would stay up ridiculously late on school nights either watching West Coast baseball and/or basketball games, or playing Madden or NBA Live while listening to CDs (remember those?) on my headphones into the wee hours of the a.m. The next day I'd be complete shit at school, my eyes so relaxed and droopy to the point people assumed I was showing up to class stoned, but it didn't matter. I could nap in class, nap when I got home and do it all over again.

During college, I could sleep as late as I wanted, either skipping class or scheduling them as late as possible, so 3, 4, 5 a.m. bed time was the norm for drinking, fucking around or playing Madden/MLB/NBA Live for hours on end. And even after I graduated, I went into the wild world of covering community sports, meaning I could still sleep in until noon or later, covering games and practices after the school day was through.

That meant staying up to watch the Phillies on their West Coast swings was never an issue (well, except for the fact we didn't get Comcast when I went to Penn State, which is bullshit). But then a few years ago, I sold out to the man and began working a regular 9-5 job, and let me tell you something, that shit blows. Don't get me wrong, I like the fact that I now have my weekends and nights free like the majority of my friends, a luxury I did not have during my sportswriting days (which is a major reason, along with pay, why I transitioned to my current job), but I am not a morning person. Never have been, never will be. I like to sleep in. I like to stay up late. But man, both of those things are so much harder nowadays. While I still routinely don't fall asleep before midnight most nights, it's a struggle to keep my eyes open too much later than 1 a.m. If I do, the next day sucks so incredibly hard.

Then there is the fact that since I do still stay awake pretty damn late most of the time, there inevitably comes a day every now and then when my body completely shuts down and demands I go to bed early. On those days, it's guaranteed I'm out cold by 11 at the latest, sometimes as early as 9, and even on some occasions, I'll go to sleep right when I get home from work, wake up at some time between 10 p.m. and midnight, piss and go back to sleep until it's time to wake up for work again. Yesterday was one of those days.

I tried to fight it as long as I could so I could watch the awesomeness that is Cliff Lee face off against Ted Lilly and the embarrassing Dodgers, and for a moment I thought I might make it. But after the Phils' first at-bat, I was done. I missed all but that first half inning of the game, meaning I missed Cliff Lee pitch 8 innings of four-hit, 10-strikeout, shutout ball, while also hitting his second career home run, which just so happened to turn out as the game-winning run in the Phils' 2-1 victory.

So fuck you, West Coast. Why can't you just run on East Coast time to accommodate my needs? There should never, ever be an instance where I miss Cliff Lee throw a gem, get the win and hit the game-winning home run. But I did, all because of stupid work and the stupid West Coast.

I hate the work and I hate the West Coast so very much.

You know who I don't hate though? Cliff Lee. That guy is good, just like this team.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

College Football Is Coming

Last night I got a text from Arkansas Fred that simply said, "Big 10 network, 830."

Naturally, I knew some iconic Penn State football game was airing, and when I checked the programming, there it was: Penn State-Ohio State at Beaver Stadium in 2005. That, my friends, was my senior year at Penn State. After an exciting but frustrating freshman year, in which Penn State won nine games and Larry Johnson rushed for more than 2,000 yards, Penn State sucked so hard my sophomore and junior years.

But then 2005 happened, with Michael Robinson and Tony Hunt leading the freshmen wideouts of Derrick Williams, Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood and even cornerback/receiver Justin King and Paul Posluszny winning the Butkus and Bednarik awards on a deep, talented defense. Suddenly, Penn State flipped a switch and went out and won the Big 10, finishing a god damn play away from reaching the National Championship game.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the highlight of that season was this game. Penn State fell behind 3-0, then went on to win 17-10 behind an insanely dominating performance by Posluszny, capped by Tamba Hali's sack/forced fumble on Troy Smith. This game was the original and only legitimate "White Out" at Penn State (though I still wore by blue Brandon Short jersey). It was the single greatest college football game and second best football game period I've ever attended (only behind the Eagles beating the Falcons in the NFC Championship game), and easily the greatest football atmosphere I've ever been a part of. It's hard to describe just how awesome this game was, but here's a hint: Last night, I watched every single second of that replay, some six years later. And loved every minute of it.

Needless to say, this got me all sorts of amped for football season. The regular season is just a few short weeks away.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Password Is Poop

This past weekend, the Phillies continued their assault on baseball by taking 3 of 4 from the defending World Series champions. And while that was very reassuring, especially following losing 2 of 3 to the Giants at home the week before, that was hardly the highlight. Nor was the return of Roy Oswalt, who was shaky but tough, surrendering 12 hits but just 3 runs in six innings of the work in the lone loss for the Phillies.

No, the highlights of this weekend were without a shadow of a doubt the "brawl" that was incited when Shane Victorino was hit by a pitch in the Phils' blowout victory Friday, followed by Eric Karros and Fox having the most bizarre key to the game of all time.

Yes, that does say "Drop a Deuce," and yes, Eric Karros actually said, "Cole Hamels needs to drop a deuce today." God I hope Deuce of Davenport saw that.

On a slightly related tangent, the password for every single one of the fantasy sports leagues I participate in with my high school friends is poop. Why? Because poop is funny.

Also, that Hunter Pence trade is looking pretty damn good right about now, isn't it?

P.S. I finally met the Ed the Sports Fan in person this weekend, as he was in town for the National Association of Black Journalists conference. He was just as cool in person as he is in writing. Philadelphia was honored to have him.

Friday, August 5, 2011

It's Friday, Time to Dance

Earlier this week, the great, mercurial Randy Moss announced his retirement. So in honor of the most talented and at times dominant wide receiver of his generation, it's only fitting to celebrate RAAAAAAAANDY.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Kevin Durant, Corey Fisher and Dajuan Wagner

As I'm sure you've all heard by now, Kevin Durant went to Rucker Park recently and dropped 66 points on a bunch of street ballers. It was absolutely insane.

No matter the competition, it was quite an impressive display. He was raining threes with ease. His incredible performance immediately brought two other people to mind: Villanova grad Corey Fisher and Camden's own Dajuan Wagner.

Although there is not video documentation that I am aware of, word is Corey Fisher scored 105 points in a summer league game in NYC, which is just unfathomable. And then there is Dajuan Wagner, who famously scored 100 points in a game while at Camden High School.

So I ask you, what is the most impressive feat of the bunch — Durant, Fisher or Wagner? Tough call, but a good excuse to show more highlights of these three.

A Fan's Guide: The Difference Between Hate and a Hater

Being from Philadelphia and dealing with morons on a daily basis, I consider myself an expert in the field of hate. I hate the Dallas Cowboys. I hate the New York Giants. I hate the Mets and Braves and Rangers and Penguins and Steelers. I hate the Knicks and Lakers, Ohio State and Michigan. And I hate a long, long list of current and retired athletes who played either for or against my favorite teams. Hell, I hate a good 90 percent (or more) of the people I meet in real life.

But I don't consider myself a hater.

Here's why. To me, a hater is someone who hates simply for the sake of hating, with absolutely no capacity to give any credit whatsoever to the object of their disdain. For example, the person who claims, "Peyton Manning sucks!" Yeah, but he throws for a ton of yards, has won a ton of games, set records, never misses a game, calls his own plays and has a Super Bowl ring. None of that matters? "Doesn't matter, he still sucks," the hater says.

To me, there's no quicker way to lose me than to say something along those lines, something like, "Sidney Crosby is a pussy and sucks." You lose all credibility. What you say has no credence. Because you are a hater. You just sound stupid and childish and ignorant. How do you expect anyone to take you seriously?

Now I admit, at times it's difficult to avoid being a hater. One of the greatest pleasures of being a sports fan is the acceptable practice of hating. You hate your favorite team's rivals. You hate certain players from certain schools, teams, areas. It's part of who we are.

But there's a way to hate with reason, and then there's being a hater. For instance, I hate Karl Malone with every fiber of my being, yet I readily admit he is one of the greatest power forwards to ever play and an absolute beast. I hate Kobe Bryant and the Lakers to no end, but I can't help but appreciate the way Kobe plays and all the hard work he puts in. The same goes for Sidney Crosby.

There isn't a franchise in all of sports I loathe more than the Dallas Cowboys, yet I acknowledge the greatness of Emmitt and Irving and Aikman. If there was one city on the planet I would choose to blow up, it would without a doubt be Pittsburgh, yet I can appreciate all the ways stupid jerkface Ben Roethlisberger can win games, how incredibly awesome Troy Polamalu is and how well-run that organization is.

It's your right as a sports fan to hate — in fact, it's a tradition. And even blind, senseless hate is fair game. I'm guilty of it myself. But it's when you allow that hate to completely blind you to reality that you reach the point of hater and lose the respect of your peers.

Go ahead and call Jorge Posada a cock-gobbling asshole who cries about the strike zone more than any catcher in the history of the game. I agree with you 100 percent. Just don't tell me he was never any good at hitting a baseball. Because that's just ridiculous. And you sound like you don't know what you're talking about.

Hate is a good thing in sports. It's healthy and fun and accepted. But no one likes or respects the jaded, uninformed, ignorant hater.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Kyle Kendrick Does Not Go Quietly Into the Night

Last night, the Phillies ensured themselves yet another series win and became the first team to reach the 70-win mark this season with a 5-0 victory at Coors Field. This with Kyle Kendrick of all people on the mound.

Yeah, Kendrick is going out guns ablazing

With Roy Oswalt healthy and itching to get back, Kendrick is the obvious choice to slide out of the rotation and back into the bullpen given the remarkable success of rookie Vance Worley. Many a Phillies fan would be more than happy to usher Kendrick back to the pen, he being Philadelphia's #1 whipping boy as far as starting pitching is concerned.

But don't look now, because if you do you might notice that Kyle Kendrick has been pitching his ass off for this team, as surprising as that seems.

With last night's incredibly efficient 8-inning, 4-hit, 7-strikeout shutout performance, Kendrick has lowered his season ERA to 3.19. To put that in perspective, Cliff Lee's season ERA is 3.14. Yeah, Kyle Kendrick's ERA is just 5 hundreds of a run worse than Cliff Lee's on August 3rd. I'm as stunned as you are, but it's true. Believe it or not, Kendrick has been excellent this year, especially of late.

In his last five starts, he has surrendered three earned runs or less, and in that time he also threw an inning of shutout ball against the Braves. He has a winning record at 6-5. And he's been pretty darn good when called upon out of the bullpen as well.

No, the guy doesn't have good stuff. He's not going to strike many batters out, evident by his 39 strikeouts in 87 and a third innings. He'll walk some guys and put runners on base. But at the end of the day, the guy has been finding a way to get it done.

And last night, as he took the mound to start a game for perhaps the last time in a long while, he threw easily his most impressive game of the year, possibly of his entire career. For a guy who has gotten as much flack as anyone on the Phillies roster over the past few years, it's time to give Kyle Kendrick some respect.

The man has done more than anyone could have imagined in the Major Leagues, and as he bows out of the starting rotation in the near future, we'd all be remiss if we didn't acknowledge the fantastic job Kyle Kendrick has done this season both as a starter and a reliever.

If this was the last time he toes the rubber as a starter for Philadelphia, he couldn't have gone out any better.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Very Good Philadelphia Friday (and Weekend Plus)

Honestly, you couldn't have asked for a better end to July and start to August if you're a Philadelphia fan. It started with one of the greatest Fridays in Philadelphia history, ended with a weekend sweep and ushered in August with another come-from-behind, extra-inning victory. Essentially, a perfect four days.

Things began Friday with the news that the Eagles signed Vince Young to be the backup quarterback behind Michael Vick.

I couldn't have been happier. Now backing up the Pro Bowl starting quarterback is a Pro Bowl quarterback with a winning record and a world of talent. Excellent signing in my opinion by the Eagles, and a chance for Young to learn from both Vick and Andy Reid to help develop as a QB and reclaim a starting spot going forward.

That seemed like it was going to be the end of the high-profile moves by the Eagles this offseason following the signing of Jason Babin and the Kevin Kolb trade that netted a second-round pick (which Kolb was) and young Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. All attention now was squarely on the Phillies and their pursuit of Hunter Pence.

Honestly, I was beginning to get agitated on Friday with all the talk and speculation going on about Pence, especially when word leaked (whether true or not) that Domonic Brown was probably going to be included one way or another in the deal. This made me furious because while Brown has certainly had his struggles, it just seemed foolish to me to give him up for Pence, a very good but not great player. I mean, the Phillies weren't willing to include Brown in trades for Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay or Roy Oswalt, and as good as Pence is, he's not nearly as good or accomplished as any of those guys.

Anyway, I wasn't feeling too good, and trying to keep up with all the rumors was exhausting. So I skipped out of work a little early, headed home and laid down to take a nap. When I awoke a little after 6 p.m., I got a call shortly thereafter by Arkansas Fred. I picked up the phone and the first words out of his mouth were, "Is it true? Is this real?"

I had no idea what the hell he was talking about because I had just woken up. He said two of our friends just texted him that Nnamdi Asomugha signed with the Eagles. I couldn't believe it. No way. Can't be true. He told me to verify and call him right back, so I hopped on my computer and sure enough, there it was … Nnamdi Asomugha, easily the best free agent on the market and arguably the best cornerback in all of football, signed a five-year, $60 million contract with the Eagles.

Whoa. Talk about stunning. I mean, with perennial Pro Bowler Asante Samuel already in the fold, then the trade for Rodgers-Cromartie, I pretty much thought the book was closed on Nnamdi to Philadelphia. But just as they have so many times in the past, the Eagles flew under the radar and shocked the entire NFL with this signing.

With it, it immediately brought about speculation that perhaps now the Birds were looking to move Samuel, who coincidentally had not been in camp at Lehigh yet with an excused absence. But word from the Eagles was and has been that they aren't shopping Asante and don't plan on trading him unless they are completely blown away with an offer. That means the Eagles went from Asante and a bunch of bums, making the cornerback situation a major weakness, to Asante now being only the second-best corner on his own team at best. Now the Eagles have Nnamdi, Asante and DRC, easily the best cornerbacks in the NFL by a wide margin. And given the lack of depth and experience at linebacker, I can only assume that means Juan Castillo plans to run a 4-2-5 defense (how awesome would that be?).

That's just frightening. I assume Rodgers-Cromartie will be the odd man out of the starting lineup given Asante's penchant for big plays, but all three will play a ton. And given the inexperience at safety as well, with the projected starters being second-year man Nate Allen (recovering from injury) and rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett, perhaps DRC may even play a little safety. But we know all three will see the field a ton, and the nickel may be utilized more than ever before.

It was really a mind-blowing signing, something I don't think anyone saw coming after the Kolb trade. But at this point, when you think about the Cliff Lee coup, the Flyers completely overhauling the franchise, not to mention the Vick signing, and now this, it's safe to say we can no longer be surprised or shocked by any transactions Philadelphia teams make.

While I was still digesting that news with glee, the Phillies went out and completely annihilated the Pirates 10-3 behind another good outing by Roy Halladay, who all the sudden looks like the favorite to repeat as the NL Cy Young winner given the recent struggles of Jair Jurrjens. And as that whooping was taking place, bringing the Pirates back down to earth, news of the Hunter Pence trade came in, with the Phils completing the deal while holding on to Brown.

Sure, the Phillies gave up top pitching prospect Jarred Cosart and power-hitting first baseman Chris Singleton, plus two other prospects, but they held on to Brown, got the right-handed bat they've been looking for and look like about as complete a team as you can possibly have in baseball.

The excitement level couldn't be any higher in Philadelphia for Pence's arrival. And as happy as I am with the trade, I want to go ahead and put a permanent moratorium on the whole "Pence-ylvania" thing. Two reasons: one, it's fucking stupid; two, the Philadelphia area is absolutely nothing like the rest of the state and in no way should Pennsylvania be trumpeted in front of Philadelphia regarding the Phillies. I'll let it slide for this weekend, especially given that the Pirates were in town, but please, no more. It's not clever. Really, it's not.

Having said that, it was nice to see Pence get a hit and an RBI in his debut, though it was Ryan Howard who stole the show in the 7-3 win, going 4-for-4 with a home run, two doubles and three RBIs.

Oh, and sliding in under the radar among the Pence buzz and leftover excitement about Nnamdi was the fact that the Eagles also finally signed a 300-lb. plus defensive tackle, luring away Cullen Jenkins from the defending Super Bowl champions, while shipping off former first-round pick Broderick Bunkley.

Damn. Talk about giving Castillo all the tools to be successful. The only thing the Eagles haven't addressed is linebacker, and while they most likely will look to bring in a veteran there, they now have a defensive line that includes Jenkins, Babin and Trent Cole, and a secondary that has three Pro Bowl corners. Add that to the news that first-round pick Danny Watkins was signed and that DeSean Jackson plans to be in camp this week, and it's a very, very good time to be an Eagles fan.

And a Phillies fan. With the Pirates coming in to Citizens Bank Park as the talk of baseball, the Phillies just went out and asserted themselves, stealing those headlines with the Pence trade, burying Pittsburgh in the first two games, and then going out and completing the sweep behind Raul Ibanez, who seriously needs to be left the hell alone.

All Ibanez did on Sunday was go 3-for-5 with 4 RBIs and two home runs and play the role of hero not once, but twice. The first time was in the 8th inning, with the Phils down two runs. After Ryan Howard made an absolutely boneheaded baserunning play, the Phils looked to be in a bad spot. Then all Raul did was crush a two-run, opposite-field home run to tie the game.

Oh, and then after Pence doubled in the 10th, Raul did the same thing, getting the walkoff hit to win the game.

It was Raul's 25th RBI in his last 20 games, and the guy has the most RBIs in all of baseball the past three weeks, so, uh, stop fucking complaining about him. He added another RBI last night, so yeah, the guy certainly helps the Phillies win games, despite anonymous commenters who say otherwise.

And Pence definitely acclimated himself well, scoring the winning run in just his second game as a Phillie and having a great quote after the game:

"Good game, let's go eat."

Pretty much a perfect way to close out July. And the start to August was just as sweet. Down by two in the 9th last night in Colorado, John Mayberry came up with two out and one on. He proceeded to have an absolutely awesome at-bat, fouling off pitch after pitch, and then finally smoking a game-tying two-run homer.

An inning later, Shane Victorino hit the game-winning home run, with Ryan Madson closing it out.

All in all, not a bad four days here for Philadelphia. Not bad at all.