Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Italian Sausage Party at Citizens Bank Park

Last night, two teams that were a combined 19 games under .500 took the field at Citizens Bank Park, with the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants and their last-place record coming to town to take on the third-place Philadelphia Phillies.

For all intents and purposes, both teams' seasons might as well be over, making this far from a marquee match-up. But after walking around Center City all day and realizing just how beautiful it was outside, I decided to see if silver fox wanted to go to the ballpark and take in a Phillies game. After all, it had been a while since I've been to CBP, though not all that long ago that I saw the Giants play. So we decided to head to the game and enjoy perhaps but probably not the last game in red pinstripes for a few Phillies. You never know, even if it seems like Ruben Amaro Jr. still thinks this core is good enough to win a World Series when healthy. But I digress.

We got down to the stadium, purchased some cheap seats up in section 434, grabbed a couple beers and took our seats on quite literally a perfect summer night. There was no humidity, the sun was setting, it wasn't hot and wasn't cold — perfect conditions for baseball, one of the most comfortable nights of the entire summer.

To top it off, there was room for us to stretch out a little, with so many vacant seats, and the people in our section were quite pleasant actually. In fact, minutes after I sat down, I sneezed, and the guy sitting to the right of me with his son passed me a napkin. Hospitality in Philadelphia — it felt strange but was much appreciated.

As for the game itself, pitcher John Lannan started off on the wrong foot, giving up a run in the first inning, and I kept saying how they should trade everyone. But the Phils got it right back and even took the lead, as Michael Young got things going, Chase Utley followed suit and Delmon Young and John Mayberry drove in runs to give the Phils a 2-1 lead. Moral of the story: Barry Zito is still terrible.

That first inning took forever, and the game just continued to crawl along from there. The Giants tied it up in the third, and it felt like it should have been the sixth. Thankfully, like I said, it was beautiful out and I had nowhere else to be.

Plus, we soon found out it was Italian heritage night, and the Phillies kept playing stereotypical Italian music. Some could argue it's racist, but whatever. I'm half Italian, and I didn't mind.

Again, back to the game. In what could potentially be his last game as a Phillie, Carlos Ruiz homered to left in the fourth, scoring John Mayberry and giving the Phils a 4-2 lead. Chances are Ruiz isn't going anywhere, but just in case that was his last game in Philadelphia, it was a nice way to go out … deriving in the eventual game-winning runs.

Two innings later, Michael Young — the Phil with the best shot at being traded provided he waives his no-trade clause — crushed a two-run bomb himself to left, and the game was pretty much over from there.

Lannan settled down after the third and seven innings to get the win. Ruiz and Young both hit two-run bombs, and Mayberry drove in two runs himself. All in all, it was a good effort from a team that looked like it didn't have another good effort left.

But really, all the game action is secondary to what took place between one of the innings.

Let me start by saying that over the course of my 29-plus years on this planet, I have been to quite literally hundreds of Phillies games. I've been going to games since I was a little kid, and there have been seasons where I've gone to close to 30 games. I've sat pretty much everywhere you can possibly sit in both the Vet and Citizens Bank, from club box to box seats to skybox to every section and row you can think of. And in all those games over all those years, I've never once caught a foul ball or home run ball, nor have I ever gotten a hot dog/sausage/t-shirt shot out of the Phanatic's cannon. Never. Not once.

So when the Phillie Phanatic came out with his hot dog gun shooting Italian sausages, silver fox and I had no delusions that a sausage would come our way. In fact, silver fox literally said, "There's no way he can get one of them up here." I thought the same. While I've seen the Phanatic hit the upper deck with his hot dog gun, I thought the angle we were at in 434, row 5, the last upper deck section lining up near the foul pole in left field, gave us no shot at a sausage.

Then, moments later, the Phanatic cranked up the CO2 and rocketed one right for us. It just kept rising on a line headed literally right toward me. What can only be described as a douchey-looking fellow in front of me wearing a Papelbon shirt tried to nab it, only to see the sausage fly through his hands and land right next to me. I'll be damned. I nabbed the sausage, unwrapped its layers of duct tape and split the sucker with silver fox. Not only did the Phanatic get it up to our level … he shot it right at us.

We considered that a victory in its own right, and we capped off the perfect evening with a cheesesteak and some chilling at my house following the victory for the Phillies and the victory for us. All in all, not a bad night at the ballpark.

Leave Johnny Manziel Alone

Leave Johnny Manziel Alone

Friday, July 26, 2013

It's Friday, Time to Dance

The Phillies are terrible and should be selling off any semi-valuable assets they have at any moment. The Sixers still don't have a coach because who needs a coach when the full tank is on? The Flyers continue to do baffling things because Paul Holmgren never learned math. And the Eagles, well, at least training camp has started and there's something new … but there's still that whole quarterback controversy thing.

So here's Jimmer Fredette and his stupid name dancing.

Friday, July 19, 2013

It's Friday, Time to Dance

DeSean Jackson likes necklaces, apparently. The guy really seems to enjoy spending his money. Good for him.

Personally, I'm partial to Merrill Reese's version.

Great work all around.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Philadelphia General Managers' Money Issues

ESPN the Magazine recently released its money issue. In said issue, the staff used a bunch of newfangled statistics to calculate Surplus Value, figuring out what a player is worth and comparing it to his actual salary. They used this information to determine the most overpaid and underpaid players in sports, as well as to calculate a Surplus Value for each team, which were then ranked best to worst. If you are a Philadelphia fan, the results were not pretty.

According to the numbers, our GMs are among the worst in all of sports at evaluating talent and attaching appropriate value to the players they evaluate. Of the 13 markets with at least four major sports franchises, Philly ranked dead last with a combined Surplus Value of negative $354,728. That's $100,000 worse than the next worst city, Miami, and more than twice as bad as the third worst, Minneapolis. And that was just the beginning of the bad news.

They then ranked the 122 franchises that make up the four major sports. The Philadelphia franchise that fared best in those rankings, your Philadelphia Flyers, only managed to be number 90. So of 122 franchises, our four Philadelphia teams all managed to be in the bottom 32. They also ranked the five best and worst teams in each sport, as well as the five best and worst contracts in each sport, and yeah, there were plenty of mentions of Philadelphia in those rankings as well. Let's take a look at each team individually.

Philadelphia Phillies
Overall rank: 120/122. Yes, third worst. They have the worst cumulative Surplus Value in Major League Baseball. Of the five worst contracts in baseball based on Surplus Value, the Phillies are paying two of them, Ryan Howard (-$22.3 mil SV) and Michael Young (-$20.5 mil SV).

Of the 50 best-paid athletes in the WORLD, not country, world, the Phillies are paying four of those contracts. This has ballooned them to the 11th best paying sports team in the world. This for a team that failed to reach the postseason last year and is on its way to repeating that this season.

Some of the Phils' SV numbers may be somewhat distorted because a lot of the big-money players they are paying have been injured and haven't been their usual selves (Howard, Halladay). Also, the Phillies were in the middle of a period of unprecedented success, more money was coming in, and extra money was spent to try to keep the run going. Regardless, Ruben Amaro Jr. has slowly led the Phillies from their pinnacle as a franchise back to a middle-of-the-pack team.

Amaro has failed to address blatant weaknesses on his team, has completely disregarded age as he has watched his roster approach geriatric status, and has demonstrated an inability to properly value players, consistently overpaying his stars and failing to find value players at other positions or to fill the bench (although Ben Revere is now playing the way a lot of people expected him to).

Philadelphia Eagles 
Rank: 100/122. They have the fifth worst cumulative Surplus Value in the NFL. At least they don't hold any of the five worst contracts in the sport. I don't really have much to say about the Birds on the subject. Their draft record under Andy Reid was putrid, but I'm ready to just sit back and see what the Chip Kelly era does.

Philadelphia 76ers
Rank: 105/122. They managed to avoid being in the bottom five in cumulative Surplus Value in the NBA, but Andrew Bynum's contract landed them on the worst contracts list. The Sixers have developed a lineage of piss-poor contracts and player evaluation. From passing on players such as Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki in the draft, trading for a depleted Chris Webber, giving an aging, shell-of-his-former-self Elton Brand a max contract, or drastically overvaluing players like Samuel Dalembert and Spencer Hawes, the Sixers' front office has been frustrating and angering fans of this fair city for years.

However, there is good news here. Finally there is light at the end of the tunnel for a franchise that has been mired in mediocrity and irrelevance since a 6-foot guard from Georgetown was shipped out of town. The team hired Sam Hinkie as its new GM, and he immediately made a splash by trading fan favorite and the team's best player, Jrue Holiday, on draft night.

My immediate reaction to the trade was anger. Jrue was the lone reason to watch the Sixers last season, and now he was gone. But after the emotion wore off, I realized it was the best move for the franchise. They received the No. 6 pick Nerlens Noel and got to keep their No. 11 pick, which they used on Michael Carter-Williams. They received a first-round pick next year (top-5 protected) and still have their own pick, which should be somewhere in the top five or at worst top 10.

With one gutsy, stunning move, Sam Hinkie put this team on the right track. He is starting to load up on young players with a lot of upside, potentially got his team two top 10 draft picks in what is being called the best draft in a decade, and got his team out of the mire that is finishing 7-10 in your conference. The Sixers have a lot of work to do, but there is finally hope and a person steering the ship who knows what he is doing. Final note on Hinkie: He was hired from the Houston Rockets' front office, where he worked under Daryl Morey. Last season Morey added Jeremy Lin and James Harden and is about to add Dwight Howard. Oh, and the Rockets were ranked eighth out of 122 in the team SV rankings.

Philadelphia Flyers
Rank: 90/122. The best of a bad bunch, the Flyers avoided being in the five worst in the NHL but were responsible for the second worst contract, and we all know whose contract that was. That contract has since been bought out, so at least we can move forward from it. Anyway, when it comes to posting on this here site, I usually defer the hockey stuff to the Rev, and will do so here as he discussed the team's seeming lack of direction.

Most of us around these parts have known for a while that our GMs haven't been getting the job done. Thanks to ESPN the Magazine for really bringing the point home, showing me just how frivolous they are being with my hard-earned money that I spend on supporting these teams, and how poor they are doing with both talent evaluation and putting a monetary value on the talent.

It's My Friday, Time to Dance

Tomorrow I head out west to visit San Francisco and the Bay Area for the first time in my life, taking a weeklong vacation. Thus, today is my Friday, and I'm all amped to be going to California.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

TSFJ Presents: The 2013 MLB All-Star Game Starters, AL Edition

TSFJ Presents: The 2013 MLB All-Star Game Starters, AL Edition

C: Joe Mauer
1B: Chris Davis
2B: Jason Kipnis
3B: Miguel Cabrera
SS: Jed Lowrie
OF: Mike Trout, Nelson Cruz, Jacoby Ellsbury
DH: David Ortiz
SP: Yu Darvish

Jrue Holiday: It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye

Jrue Holiday: It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

TSFJ Presents: The 2013 MLB All-Star Starters, NL Edition

TSFJ Presents: The 2013 MLB All-Star Starters, NL Edition

C: Buster Posey
1B: Paul Goldschmidt
2B: Brandon Phillips
3B: David Wright
SS: Troy Tulowitzki
OF: Domonic Brown, Carlos Gonzalez Yasiel Puig
DH: Joey Votto
SP: Matt Harvey