Friday, June 29, 2012

Kyle Kendrick "Satisfied" After Allowing 5-Run First Inning

“Gave us a chance to win,” Kendrick said. “Pitched deep in the game. They needed me to pitch deep in the game, I did that. We were in the game, had a chance to win the game. Yeah, you never want to give up runs, but I was happy with myself to go deep like that and give us a chance.”


Yeah, you pitched deep in the game. La de freaking da. You also gave up 5 first-inning runs. Five. You had your team down 5-0 before they even had a chance to bat. You sucked any energy that was in the ballpark right out. Five runs in any inning is unacceptable, especially in the first inning. You sucked, again. Hey Kyle, in case you've forgotten, here are your stats this season: 2-8, 5.35. You satisfied with that, too?

And then you have the nerve/stupidity to come out with a quote like that. Even if that is how you feel, just shut the hell up about it. This team has been a major disappointment, just a disaster in pretty much every aspect of the game, and you have been among the worst of the worst. Chooch is the only one who has the right to be satisfied with anything, and the only one that really deserves to talk about anything right now. 

As a fan who continues to watch the recent glorious run come to an abrupt halt, the last thing I need is to hear a pitcher who has a 2-8 record and and ERA over 5 and who is pitching for a last place team talk about how he is "satisfied" with anything, especially a start in which he gave up five first inning runs. Frankly I don't want to hear the word "satisfied" coming out of anyone on this team's mouth.

Sadly, I can't help but wonder if this piss poor attitude isn't more pervasive in the clubhouse. No one else on the team has been stupid enough to come out and say anything like this, but I see no fire from anyone out there. No passion. They haven't been playing the kind of baseball we've come to expect over the past five seasons. Good hitting, solid bullpen, good starting pitching, and excellent defense. But this year's brand of ball also lacks more. Intensity, passion, heart, maybe even a little pride. The Phillies of the past five years had a certain air about them when they took the field, and even in the clubhouse. They used to dictate the play on the field, creating opportunities for themselves, force the other team to make mistakes and play the type of game the Phillies wanted to play. And they had fun. I see none of that this season.

There is plenty of blame to go around for this. Injuries for starters. Ruben Amaro Jr. shit the bed with this season's roster. He paid no attention to the bullpen, other than Papelbon (who has been good) and getting duped into thinking Chad Qualls was good. And the players haven't helped. The Phillies defense has been way off par compared to the teams of the past five years, and has let the team down at key moments. The hitters are still absolutely clueless when it comes to situational hitting, despite the fact that everyone knew that the power numbers would be down and that this team would have to find ways to manufacture runs.

As the problems continue to mount and and this disappointing season continues to drag on it just seems more and more like the attitude of Mr. Kendrick and his stupid comments might just be representative of the entire team. Yes people get hurt, and yes players get older and may lose a step, and yes you might run into bad luck, and yes your front office may make some mistakes, but one thing that you can control and have as an advantage through all of that is attitude. Never quit. Hustle. Play with heart, passion, intensity, and pride. Have fun. The Phillies of 2007, 2008, 2009 had that. The Phillies of 2012? I'm not so sure.

It's Friday, Time to Dance

With the inductees for the 2012 Hockey Hall of Fame announced earlier this week and the induction ceremony for Barry Larkin and Ron Santo coming in a few weeks, it's as good a time as any to show a guy who brings about a heated debate on his Hall of Fame credentials. That guy is Omar Vizquel, who busted a move during a two-hour rain delay.

The 45-year-old Vizquel is somehow still in the major leagues, mostly riding the pine in Toronto. There are a whole hell of a lot people who proclaim that if Vizquel gets in, it's only because he is your prototypical stats compiler, a guy who played forever to rack up hits and make his résumé make him out to be a better player than he was.

To those people, I say, sure, you have a point … offensively. But god damn, Omar Vizquel was/is the best defensive shortstop this side of Ozzie Smith, a guy no one complained about making the Hall despite his less-than-Hall-worthy offensive numbers because he was incredible in the field and a truly great player. Well, that description fits Vizquel perfectly. So yeah, Omar Vizquel is a Hall of Famer because he's one of the greatest defensive shortstops of all time.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Not Even Chase & Chooch Can Overcome the Terrible Bullpen

Last night, there was an air of excitement at Citizens Bank Park that has been absent pretty much all season long. The return of Chase Utley brought about an anxiousness and bout of raw energy that had been slowly dissipating with the early-season struggles and injuries.

And the decibel level only ratcheted up even more when, almost as if scripted, Utley homered deep to right field in his very first plate appearance of 2012, the prodigal son returned to save the save season.

The place was ready to explode, Wheels and McCarthy were flabbergasted and Twitter was blowing up. Chase is back. Maybe this team isn't dead in the water after all.

Then when Carlos Ruiz, easily this team's MVP this year, followed it up with a homer of his own, there were visions of revitalization and winnings streaks dancing all over Phillies' fans heads.

The juice was back in the lineup, Chase was here to save the day, with Ruiz continuing to lead, and both Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay on their way in the near future. Given all the despair this year for the Phils, fans were ready to embrace anything, ready for some small amount of hope to cling to. Chase provided that, and Chooch gave reassurance that better days were ahead.

Then the bullpen happened. For some insane reason, the Phillies decided to compensate for Sunday's double header screwing up the rotation for yesterday by tossing out a bunch of bullpen pitchers instead of calling up some guy from Lehigh to throw 5 innings. You know, because the Phillies' bullpen has been so awesome this year.

As you can imagine, this did not turn out well. At all. And to make matters worse, the game swung on the stupidest pitch of the season to date. The very next at-bat for the Pirates, Raul Valdez did everything in his power to throw all that momentum and excitement Chase and Chooch had created right out the window.

He began with the ultimate no-no, walking the leadoff batter. Then after Ruiz bailed Valdez out by gunning down Casey McGehee on the base paths, he went and walked Neil Walker. Great start. Still, he managed to strike out Pedro Alvarez because Pedro Alvarez strikes out all the time, two outs. After surrendering a single to Jose Tabata to put two on with two out, up came the 8-hole hitter, Michael McKenry. McKenry worked a full count with the pitcher on deck. Naturally, any pitcher on the planet would know not to throw a strike, hope McKenry chases but if not, the pitcher comes up with the bases loaded and two outs. Any pitcher except Raul Valdez, that is. Because Valdez stupidly threw a meatball, which McKenry crushed for a three-home home run to give Pittsburgh the lead and suck all the life out of Citizens Bank Park.

Fantastic. Valdez quite literally did the only thing you absolutely cannot do in that situation, and it killed the Phillies. From there, the wheels fell off completely, which is to be expected given the game was in the hands of this pathetic bullpen the entire way.

Joe Savery came in and matched Valdez's futility by surrendering a homer to McGehee and even giving up a god damn RBI single to opposing pitcher James McDonald. Savery, with the help of Michael Schwimer, allowed Pittsburgh's lead to balloon to 8-2 in true Phillies fashion. Nothing like having three minor-league pitchers entrusted with the first five innings of the ball game instead of, you know, just one minor leaguer that is actually a starter. I still can't believe that there isn't some guy in Lehigh, some starting pitcher that could have gone out there and given a better effort than this pathetic bunch. But there must not be, because Charlie Manuel and Ruben Amaro made no moves in that department, handing the ball to terrible pitcher after terrible pitcher instead.

However, the game was almost salvaged. Looking a lot more like the team from the past five seasons than the team so far in 2012, the Phillies staged a furious comeback, led of course by Chase and Chooch. Two runs in the 6th gave the Phils life, and in the 7th they made their move. Hector Luna reached on an error to lead things off. Jimmy Rollins followed with a triple to make it 8-5. Juan Pierre followed with a single to plate Rollins, 8-6. Chase made it back-to-back singles, putting runners on first and third with no outs, and Chooch came through yet again, making it three singles in a row and four straight hits to plate Pierre, 8-7 Phils with runners on fist and second and no one out. This was the prime opportunity to tie it up or take the lead and have something to build on.

So of course, Hunter Pence struck out with what can only be described as a horrendous at-bat, flailing at balls nowhere near the strike zone because he is a painfully undisciplined hitter.

I mean, it was just a brutal at-bat in a huge spot. Listen, I know everyone in Philadelphia was clamoring for Pence last season and instantly fell in love with the guy due to his quirkiness, his catchphrase and the way he hammered the baseball for the Phillies last year. And he's a good player, no doubt. But he is just a stupid, stupid player. A guy who has absolutely no clue about situational baseball, no clue about the strike zone and no clue how to play the outfield. He's incredibly talented and aggressive, and he's most certainly a good player, but he drives me fucking crazy. Last night was exhibit A.

That at-bat single-handedly killed the rally, as Shane Victorino continued to be worthless from the left side of the plate with a fly out and Jim Thome striking out to end the threat. Runners on second and first with no outs in a one-run game in the 7th, and Utley and Ruiz never even moved a base. Situational baseball, the Phillies suck at it.

That sequence was pretty much the game at that point, because the Phillies then handed the ball to Chad Qualls, also known as the worst free-agent bullpen signing in Phillies history, and that includes Ryan Franklin.

Qualls predictably got hit around, surrendering three runs to put the game out of reach, including a bomb by Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen also made an absolutely ridiculous catch to top off his night. As I was watching, I concluded that I'd trade the entire everyday Phillies roster for McCutchen. That guy is good.

The Phillies, well, they are not. With that predictable but nonetheless disheartening loss, the Phillies are once again 9 games out of first and 7.5 games out of the wild card. Their bullpen is a collection of minor-league talent and washed-up veterans, plus Jonathan Papelbon. They still are horrible at situational hitting, and their defense is shoddy anymore.

Now, there's still time to right the ship, still reinforcements on the way, but let's be real, this team cannot do a damn thing with a bullpen this pathetic and a lineup with so many limited players. Ruben simply didn't do enough to fill out the roster from top to bottom. This team still has the starting pitching with Hamels and Lee and Halladay on the way. It still has players who can hit. But it is a flawed team, one that doesn't instill a lot of hope here in 2012 given the way things have gone so far.

Last night, we briefly had a glimpse of that elusive hope. Chase and Chooch led a furious charge and a furious comeback. But they couldn't overcome a terrible bullpen and flawed roster, and it's going to take a lot for the Phillies to compensate for those things the remainder of the season.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Luke Schenn's Hitting and Fighting History With the Flyers

My initial reaction to the Flyers trading former No. 2 overall pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Luke Schenn, brother of current Flyer Brayden Schenn, was not all that positive. It seemed underwhelming to me to get a defenseman coming off a terrible years for a guy who showed so much promise before an injury-riddled 2011-12 season that the Flyers decided to sign him to an extension.

But I'm going to reserve judgment overall for a later date, seeing as there are still moves for this team to make. While my initial reaction is still there, Schenn is just 22 years old himself, a big bruiser on the blue line, and a guy who was drafted pretty high himself, being taken fifth overall in 2008. Plus, he has good genes, as his younger brother was considered the best prospect in the Kings' organization before being traded to the Flyers along with Wayne Simmonds for Mike Richards, and we all saw the flashes Schenn showed last season.

Anyway, with JVR gone and Schenn now officially a Flyer, here are some clips of him getting involved against the Orange and Black. He seems to have a bit of a history with Scott Hartnell.

Friday, June 22, 2012

It's Friday, Time to Dance

As the entire world knows, last night the Miami Heat emphatically eviscerated the Oklahoma City Thunder to finish off the 2011-12 NBA season and give LeBron James his first NBA title. And man, did LeBron certainly earn it, topping off his 3rd MVP regular season with an even better playoffs, one where he finished with an absurd triple-double in the title clincher.

So with the NBA season freshly ended, it's fitting to share USC basketball player Renaldo Woolridge's rap song about his late father, NBAer Orlando Woolrdige.

I don't recall watching Orlando Woolridge play a whole lot, but I do have fond remembrances of him in a different capacity. You see, I used to play Tecmo NBA Basketball all the damn time on the original Nintendo, and Orlando Woolridge used to be the king of sweeping dunks in that game for the Detroit Pistons.

Amazing how far video games have come, huh?

RIP Orlando.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Phillies' Defense Is Offensive

It's no secret that watching the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies has been a painful experience with more than a third of the season behind us. They are six games under .500 and 9 games behind the NL East-leading Washington Nationals. With each passing game, the season looks more and more like a lost cause, especially following a weekend sweep at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays.

The wheels have seemingly fallen off on a club that won a franchise record and MLB-leading 102 games just last season. We all know about the key injuries to guys like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay that have put a big dent in Philadelphia's armor, but the truth of the matter is the issues run much deeper. And the one that stands out to me the most is just how awful of a defensive team the 2012 Philadelphia are.

During this remarkable five-year run of NL East championships that included back-to-back trips to the World Series and one ring, the most consistent aspect of the Phillies was their stellar defense. In 2007, they had the third fewest errors in the National League and the second-highest fielding percentage in the NL. They were again stellar in 2008, committing the fifth least amount of errors in the NL and finishing with a .985 fielding percentage. And the defense just kept getting better.

In 2009, only the Pirates finished with fewer errors in all of baseball, and in 2010, they again finished in top three defensively in the NL. Last season, the Phillies had their best statistical season defensively to date, leading the Majors with a .988 fielding percentage by committing an NL-low 74 errors. Only Tampa Bay's 73 bested that mark.

Essentially, the Phillies over the past five years have not given anything away to their opponents. They played stellar defense behind Gold Glovers Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, not mention excellent defense from guys like Chase Utley at 2nd; Pedro Feliz and even Abraham Nunez at third, as well as Placido Polanco's Gold Glove last year; remarkable work behind the plate by Carlos Ruiz; and Jayson Werth's speed and arm in right field. Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell/Raul Ibanez were really the only question marks in the field, and we all saw Howard work his butt off to improve as he shed weight — though he still couldn't throw to second base — and while Ibanez and Burrell couldn't cover much ground, both had strong arms in left. Simply put, the Phillies saved a lot of runs with their defense and rarely gave any away.

This season, that simply has not been the case. Seemingly out of nowhere, the defense has dropped to the middle of the pack, and there are holes in the field all over the place. Hunter Pence is a mess in right field. He takes terrible routes to balls, completely misjudging more than any major leaguer should, and he's even been known to drop a fly ball or two. Ty Wigginton is a liability no matter where he's at, already committing a team-high 9 errors. Juan Pierre has been one of the few Phils doing work at the plate, but his arm is at a Little League level these days, and he doesn't come close to covering the ground he used to. Even the perennial Gold Glove candidates Rollins and Victorino have struggled. Rollins already has five errors this season, including a killer throwing error on Saturday, well on his way to shatter his single-season high of 14 errors. Meanwhile, Victorino seems to have caught some of Pence's fielding disease, misjudging or flat out missing more balls in center these first few months than I remember him missing the past five years, not to mention his arm strength clearly diminishing.

Honestly, only Carlos Ruiz has played at his typical defensive level as far as the healthy regulars are concerned. Polanco is still very good at third, but his range continues to lessen each year. John Mayberry is outstanding in the outfield, probably the team's best fielder out there right now, but he can't get in the lineup consistently. Freddy Galvis was playing a magical second base, but now that he's down, there's a void there too. This just isn't the same team defensively that we've grown accustomed to the past half decade, and it's one of the many reasons the 2012 Phillies are basement dwellers.

When you throw mediocre to bad defense on top of injuries, inconsistent hitting, overworked starting pitching and a rag-tag bullpen, it's no wonder the Phillies look nothing like the powerhouse they've been the past five years.

Friday, June 15, 2012

It's Friday, Time to Dance

The NBA Finals are in full swing, with the Heat tying up the Thunder in game 2 last night. So let's take a look at last season's Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki playing the tambourine with the Avett Brothers, shall we?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Watching 'Your' Guys Win Somewhere Else

On Monday night, the artist formerly known as Adam EatShit came to my house to watch game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. It was the first time he had come over specifically to watch hockey since the Flyers were eliminated. He came over because he had to. As a die-hard Flyers fan like myself, he had to be with someone else who had spent an inordinate amount of time rooting for Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne to hoist the most prestigious trophy in sports.

It was a moment I was completely and utterly prepared for, or so I thought. Ever since Carter and Richards were stunningly traded within hours of each other, the Kings immediately became my de facto second favorite team in the NHL. When Simon Gagne joined Richards in LA, that feeling only grew stronger. And by the time Carter was reunited with his buddy in a midseason trade, the Kings truly had become Flyers West, with the longtime Flyers joining Justin Williams, John Stevens and Ron Hextall in Hollywood.

I had spent quite literally their entire careers rooting for Gagne, Richards and Carter. I wasn't about to wish ill will on a trio of guys that never wanted to leave Philadelphia in the first place. So I rooted for the Kings every time they took the ice against any team not named the Flyers. I wanted them to make the playoffs, wanted them to beat the top-seeded Canucks, wanted them to somehow find a way to make it to the Stanley Cup Final. And once the Flyers were discarded for about the 8 millionth time in my life by the Devils, I wanted the Kings to win the Stanley Cup. I wanted to see Carter and Richards and especially Gagne get that elusive championship that they all got so damn close to here in Philadelphia.

But here's the thing, I wasn't totally prepared for it like I thought. Because as I watched Gagne be the third King passed the Cup — and see him almost drop it — only later to see the former Flyers captain hand it off to his best friend and former Flyers sniper, I couldn't help but think one thought: It wasn't supposed to be like this.

Don't get me wrong, I was and am happy for Richards and Carter and Gagne, just like I was happy for Rod Brind'Amour when he finally got his Cup in Carolina. But these men who had spent their entire careers in Philadelphia prior to the 2011-12 season weren't supposed to be celebrating the ultimate achievement wearing black and purple. They were supposed to be doing it donning the Orange and Black, parading down Broad Street. And while they got painfully close only to come up short time and time again, they were the men who would lead the charge. Richards was the captain and Carter the goal-scorer. They had both signed long — and I mean long — term contracts to essentially be Flyers for life. Gagne was already there forever, even if his time was coming to an end. They were our guys, warts and all, and they were supposed to play out their careers here.

Instead, they were shipped off to greener pastures. Maybe it didn't seem like it at the time, particularly for Carter, but in the end, here they are with the one thing Philadelphia management decided they couldn't get here. Frankly, it's more difficult to stomach than I ever imagined. Watching my guys, and I mean that in every sense of the word, particularly when it comes to Mike Richards, win the one thing I wanted for them and myself so badly somewhere else leaves the ultimate bittersweet taste in my mouth. I'm thrilled for them; I really am. And I love the players the Flyers got in return for their departures. But it hurts. Because it wasn't supposed to be like this.

Richards and Carter and Gagne were absolutely supposed to win a championship … but they were supposed to do it for us, for the Flyers, for Philadelphia.

I know there are some Flyers fans out there saying they take solace in the fact that the Kings weren't really their team. They were bit parts in the victory. And yes, Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar, captain Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty are the leaders of LA. It is their team. They are the stars. But to discount the influence of Richards and Carter, even Gagne, is absurd. The Carter trade was the move that ignited a completely dormant LA offense. Richards was a defensive beast all season and all playoff long, even if he had his worst statistical season to date. And in the Cup Final, Carter scored a pair of game-winners, including the Cup winner, while Richards assisted twice in the clinching contest. Even Gagne played a leadership role, otherwise Darryl Sutter wouldn't have risked shaking up his lineup to dress him in the Final after missing nearly the entire season with a concussion. They were more than bit parts, they were big pieces.

Maybe they never would hoist the Cup as the faces of the franchise here in Philadelphia. But that doesn't make it any easier for me, after watching the Flyers get bounced yet again in the second round, while Richards, Carter and Gagne finally got to hoist the greatest trophy in the world on the other side of the country.

It's a weird feeling, watching your guys win it all somewhere else. You watch them for years on end, witnessing and picking apart their every move, cheering them on and building a bond. You wait for them to bring you that ultimate joy, to earn that championship you both want so damn much. And then they go and do it somewhere else. It's a feeling you can't quite describe. Even bittersweet doesn't do it justice. Because I am happy, and hurt, and proud, and angry, and ultimately content all at the same time. I don't know what you call that, exactly.

But I know we can now call Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne champions. I've always wanted to say that. I just never really thought it'd be under these circumstances.

Shocking The World At Camden Yards: Three Cities, Three Days & A Phillies Party In Baltimore

Shocking The World At Camden Yards: Three Cities, Three Days & A Phillies Party In Baltimore

Friday, June 8, 2012

It's Friday, Time to Dance

The Roots with a tribute to MCA and the Beastie Boys covering Paul Revere at Penn's Landing. Enough said.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Flyers West Just One Win Away

A lot has been made about the Los Angeles Kings and their "Flyers West" moniker around these parts, as Philadelphia watches a slew of former Flyers with great interest. John Stevens, Ron Hextall, Justin Williams and Simon Gagne already gave Flyers fans enough reason to tune in prior to this season, and it's only been intensified with former Philadelphia captain Mike Richards and his running mate Jeff Carter shipped off and reunited in LA.

Last night, Flyers West had their prints all over LA's 4-0 victory over the Devils to take a commanding 3-0 lead, just one win away from hoisting the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

It started out not so great for the former Flyers, however. Mike Richards was called for an elbow late in the first period, and a minute later, he was joined in the box by Carter, who got four minutes for an errant high stick that cut Adam Henrique. There were the two guys we've grown so accustomed to seeing here in Philadelphia sitting helplessly side by side.

But the Kings, even with two of their top penalty-killing forwards in the box, did what they've done all series on the PK, finding a way to kill it off behind some tremendous work and great saves by Jonathan Quick. That would be a recurring theme of the night, remarkable determination by the Kings' defense and back-checking forwards, accentuated by the sheer brilliance of Jonathan Quick.

Quick's shutout performance all but ensured his Conn Smythe Trophy, especially if Los Angeles finishes this thing off in short order.

Things didn't exactly go smoothly for Simon Gagne last night either. Following the lead of Richards and Carter, Gagne picked up a minor of his own in the second period and saw limited ice time. Then again, he didn't look that bad for a guy who hadn't laced them up in more than five months. Gagne's last game was Dec. 26, when he suffered a concussion, and had't played until last night.

It says a ton about both Gagne and coach Darryl Sutter that he was even in the lineup to begin with. After all, the Kings have steamrolled through the postseason without Gagne, and they came in with two road victories to open up the Final. Few coaches would dare make any lineup changes with that kind of run and risk upsetting the chemistry, but Sutter didn't hesitate to reinsert Gagne into the lineup, even after such an extensive layoff. That's because he knows Gagne is a leader and a grizzled veteran who would take nothing off the table, only add to it. Classy move by Sutter to reward such an accomplished and hardworking player as Gagne.

While Gagne wasn't much of a factor and Carter and Richards got off to a slow start, things would quickly turn around for Flyers West, led by the first one to depart the City of Brotherly Love, Justin Williams.

Last night, Williams was as good as I've ever seen him. Playing on LA's top line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, Williams has looked every bit the equal of his line mates. That's saying something, seeing as Kopitar is hands down LA's best forward and Brown is the captain. But that's how much Williams has grown, becoming not only a top-line forward, but one who has risen to the challenge.

The Kings' top line was without a shadow of a doubt the best line out there, and Williams played a huge role. He was winning battles and making great plays all night long, and he set up the momentum-changing goal of the game. Entering the zone, Williams slickly played a bank pass back off the boards to Brown, who hit Kopitar driving the net for a one-timer on an absolutely beautiful tic-tac-toe scoring play.

It was the type of smart, subtle play Williams was making all night. He was relentless on the puck and later added a goal of his own. He was as good as anyone on the ice. Well, anyone other than Quick and Kopitar.

We already know that Quick has this Conn Smythe all but wrapped up, and shutting out the Devils in game 3 to put your team one win away from the Cup speaks for itself. The guy is a flat-out stud between the pipes, no matter how much room he seems to leave up top. No one can "elevate the puck" against him, as Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire have been imploring teams to do against Quick all postseason long, because he's so damn good at taking away time and space for shooters. The man has been brilliant all season and postseason.

What many people, including myself, may not have realized before this remarkable run by the Kings is just how good Anze Kopitar really is. Don't get me wrong, I knew Kopitar was an excellent player, a top-line scorer with soft hands and great touch. But seeing as he's played his entire career on the West Coast, I've admittedly watched him very little until this season, when Richards' presence in LA had me tuning in more than ever. And man, I had no idea how fucking good this guy was as a two-way player.

Kopitar is truly a superstar in every facet. He scored arguably the biggest goal of the night, tying him for the postseason lead in goals with 8 — which, oddly enough, put him in a tie with Claude Giroux and Danny Briere, two Flyers who were eliminated a month ago. But more impressive to me has been his defensive work and willingness to do the dirty work. Kopitar is as good a penalty killer as anyone else on that team: Stoll, Richards, anyone. He lays his body out to block shots, shuts down passing lanes and anticipates plays before they're made. He also seems to knock down a ton of pucks on clearing attempts in the offensive zone and win damn near every board battle. The puck just seems to find him every time he's out there.

Last night, he was far and away the best skater on the ice, with only Williams even remotely standing out otherwise. He's on a different level right now, which is exactly why he's right behind Quick in the Conn Smythe race.

Kopitar's brilliance is another reason that adding Richards and Carter has helped propel LA to where it's at now. With Kopitar, Brown, Quick and stud defenseman Drew Doughty being the focal points, Carter and Richards can just go out and play. No more leadership questions, no more overbearing pressure, just a talented scorer and an all-around workhorse allowed to do what they do.

And that familiar tandem connected on the third goal for Los Angeles, with Richards feeding Carter for the power play tally. That's right, Jeff Carter scored in back-to-back Stanley Cup Final games, one an overtime winner and the other essentially the nail in the coffin. And Richards was his normal self, doing remarkable work on the penalty kill, just like all the Kings. LA was perfect on the PK, rarely even giving up quality chances to the struggling Devils. Richards and Carter played a hand in that, and Williams was the one leading the way all game long.

Now Flyers West is just one win away from accomplishing something in Los Angeles that these players never did in Philadelphia. I bet they can drink an awful lot out of that Cup.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Things You Don't See Every Day, Phillies Edition

Yesterday I attended my first day Phillies game of the 2012 season, expecting a beautiful day at the ballpark. Before I left to meet up with uncle jellyfish and a friend of ours, I checked the weather, which called for a pretty nice day until later, when the rains would be coming in. Looked like we'd be good for the game.

So naturally, the clouds came roaring in along with some decent rain to drench us. It was just that kind of bizarre afternoon — the kind where things happen that you don't see every day.

For starters, when I met my friend outside the third base gate, a giant, inflatable tooth walked right past us. I can't believe I didn't take a picture of it, but apparently it was a Cavity Busters promotion, since that place is advertising the shit out of itself at CBP.

Talk about something you don't see every day.

Then I purchased the biggest can of beer I have ever seen in my life over at Xfinity Live before heading into Citizens Bank Park.

Yeah, one quart of beer in a can. That's how my Sunday got kicked off, a enormous inflatable tooth and a gigantic can of beer. I should have known things were going to get weird.

How weird? Hector Luna batting cleanup weird. Juan Pierre getting a bunt double weird. Yeah, I said bunt double. With no error. Just a legit bunt down the third base line for a double. That really happened. I swear.

Oh, and a pitcher looking like the most dangerous hitter in the entire game weird.

Now, we all know Carlos Zambrano is one of the best hitting pitchers in baseball, but yesterday, he quite literally looked like the best hitter out there period. So awesome, in fact — going 2-for-4 with a mammoth opposite-field home run to go along with a single and two runs scored — that I honestly would rather have Zambrano batting cleanup than anyone else in the lineup for the Phillies yesterday, especially Hector Luna. You know your season is in trouble when the opposing pitcher strikes more fear at the plate than anyone in your own lineup.

Yet that's where we are right now when the Phillies decide to give Carlos Ruiz a day off. The Phils' lineup was this unrecognizable murderer's row (with updated bathing average after yesterday's 5-1 debacle):

Jimmy Rollins (.237)
Juan Pierre (.340)
Hunter Pence (.269)
Hector Luna (.333)
Shane Victorino (.251)
Placido Polanco (.290)
Freddy Galvis (.227)
Brian Schneider (.276)
Joe Blanton (.048)

Take a look at that lineup again. Honestly, does anyone with the exception of Pence really strike any fear in an opposing pitcher? Anyone? Rollins looks washed up at the dish right now. Pierre is a singles hitter (or bunt doubles hitter). Luna is a career minor leaguer. Shane has been horrible this year. Polanco is a stronger, much slower Pierre at this point. Galvis is batting .227. Brian Schneider is Brian Schneider. That is one sorry lineup, which explains why the Phillies scored one measly run with just six hits.

Then you look at the Marlins and you see why this team is currently in a three-way tie for first place in the NL East. Jose Reyes wreaks havoc with his speed at the top. Omar Infante does now what Polanco used to do as a two-hole hitter. Hanley Ramirez is a stud, evident by his home run explosion against the Phillies this weekend.
Giancarlo Stanton can kill baseballs. Hell, former Phil Greg Dobbs had himself two hits yesterday and is batting nearly .300.

Even the struggling Marlins at the bottom of the order got back on track against the increasingly overmatched Joe Blanton, with John Buck, Chris Coghlan and Zambrano, the 7-8-9 hitters, went a combined 5-for-11 with four runs and an RBI yesterday.

It was the kind of bottom-of-lineup production you don't see every day, particularly when the batters occupying those spots all came in batting below the mendoza line.

Then again, there were plenty of things you don't see everyday going on yesterday. It's just one of those type of years, it seems.