Monday, September 28, 2009

Dissapointment to Excitement in 1 Game - October Tomorrow

The Phillies played well last night thanks to 6 strong innings from J.A. Happ, a grand slam from Pedro Feliz and Ryan Madson locking down both the 8th and 9th inning for his 10th save of the season. With the Phils win and a Braves loss, the Magic # is at 1 - a number that has finally allowed some people in Philly to relax and look forward to October.

Sitting in Citizen's Bank Park two nights ago was down right depressing. The team seemed slow and disengaged and the fans were certainly agitated and dissapointed - for the first time in probably 2 complete seasons I heard many EAGLES chants in the background throughout the stadium. Finally (only about 11 months later), I heard Phillies fans booing poor play from their newly beloved World Champions. This lack of a voiced opinion of dissapointment (which is a staple of us Philly fans) towards the team is something that Jayson Werth has noticed during this season. In a recent ESPN article by Jerry Crasnick, Werth was quoted saying, "I don't want to say (the Phillies fans) have gone soft after winning it, because I don't think they have. But they might have to be reminded. I don't want them to change. I want them to stay hungry and be the same fans who helped us win it last year." This "reminder" Werth spoke about seemed to come two nights ago in a seemingly hopeless loss to the Astros. These anxious fans were pissed about another poor performance. The Magic # remained at 3 with the red-hot Braves appearing to be on an unbeatable pace. People exited the stadium, and surely their couches across the Greater-Philadelphia area, wondering why this team could not win just a few more games and get some needed rest before the playoffs!

This mood certainly seemed to change about an hour before the game last night. With news that Charlie Manuel had held a meeting to discuss the team's play, fans and Phillies players seemed to all know that tonight would be a good night for the Phillies. A few hours later, the Phillies were back to their patented style of play, hitting home runs while playing excellent defense. Secondly, the Phils received a bit of luck from the Marlins, since they were able to beat the Braves and lower the Magic # by an additional game. Once again, Phillies fans are excited and looking forward to another NL East banner. It is crazy what one game can bring.

Fast forward to tonight's game. Pedro Martinez will take the mound and try to will his team to one more win. I find it fitting that we are allowing a once despised player from last year's Mets team to attempt to clinch the division for us this year. Just imagine how Pedro must feel to be on the Phillies right now and pitching in tonight's game. In the last 2 years, Pedro was a member of a team that had arguably the worst collapse in baseball history in 2007 followed by another late September collapse the following season. Not to mention, Pedro ended up on the Phillies this year, instead of the Mets, because the Metropolitans believed they did not need him! Pedro has proved a lot since joining the Phillies - not only to the Mets, but to all baseball fans. Tonight's game will be seen as a playoff game to Charlie Manuel, the one person left for Pedro to prove he has the stuff for a starting playoff spot. With this in mind, we'll see if Pedro can make tonight feel like October.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lidge & Phillies Concerns

Brad Lidge Concerns:
The regular season is down to the magic 5 (combo of Phils wins, Braves losses). Should have only been 4 after last night's game, but once again Brad Lidge blew the game in the ninth inning allowing two runs. Phils lose 6-5. Lidge's blowing of games has been an ongoing problem that has been well documented nationally throughout the year. I'm about as comfortable with Brad Lidge pitching as Rhianna is about going toe-to-toe with Chris Brown. Lidge started hurt, then he said he was healthy, then started blowing games and said he was hurt he says he's healthy! Give me a break.

Lidge is 0-8 with a 7.48 era and 11 blown saves. These numbers are alarming and something that cannot be overlooked, which I believe Charlie Manuel has, but his numbers in the past 7 games are down right scary. In these 7 games (1 HOU, 3 WAS, 1 NYM, 1 FLM, 1 ATL), Lidge is 0-2 with a 13.85 era and has allowed 8 runs. Out of these 7 games, Lidge only threw a shutout inning twice -he allowed at least one hit in every one of these games. Lidge has not pitched a 1-2-3 inning since August 30th - nearly a month back (9 games ago). Last night, I could have thrown my beer through the television screen, honestly. Holding me back were 3 things: 1) it was a Yuengling 2) It was my parents new TV, they'd be super pissed 3) I once threw a small glass table out of my college living room window during a ND/Michigan game (long story)...and have since realized throwing things over sports gets you nowhere but in your friends jokes for years to come.

But on a serious note, the Phils took the Brad Lidge train two stops past town on this one. We've gone too deep into the season to make any change at the closer position that would allow that player the amount of confidence he would need to pitch successfully in the playoffs. Myers is not healthy and has not pitched enough to be in the role, Madson has the arm to be a closer but has struggled with the closer role (confidence killer again), and any other option (CHP, Durbin, Eyre, Walker, etc.) leaves a player unfamiliar to such a critical pitching style and mindset. We have no other option than to stick it out with Brad. Therefore, pull out your Koran, Bible, Torah or whatever you swear on and start praying - otherwise, this next month (hopefully!) with Lidge could quickly remind us all of Mitch's struggles in '93, and then some.

Carlos Ruiz:
Another reason we need to wrap up this division quickly is to get Carlos Ruiz as much rest as possible. News came out yesterday that his sprained wrist was aggrivated and he will be missing some games. The last thing we want to do is use the Panama Prince (I like that!) simply because we absolutely have to, no matter what his health is. We saw how amazing and important Carlos was last October - I mean honestly, I was asking for the nice Chevy and an MVP trophy for him! If we can win these 5 games quickly and let Carlos rest until game one of the NLDS we will be giving him a much easier run at the October he had last year. This could turn out to be incredibly important in the series to come. We cannot afford Bako everyday - not that he is bad, I like Bako - but he certainly is not as good defensively or at calling a game as Ruiz, and we do not need another lefty bat in the lineup consistently.

Pedro vs. Happ:
Now on to a topic I have been giving a lot of thought - Pedro vs. Happ for the 4th spot. And by the way, did John Kruk really ask if Blanton or Pedro gets the ball in game three? Johnny Boy, you played here! You know about our loyalty..Blanton is the answer. Sorry for the deviation...Pedro has been awesome since we signed him. I have really enjoyed watching him and believe the chip on his shoulder, no pun intended, has brought him a long way so far (thanks Omar Minaya). Happ, on the other hand, has been sensational and is in the running for NL Rookie of the Year. Who do we choose for our 4th starter come playoffs? Luckily (I guess..), I had the chance to speak with Tom McCarthy about this the other day as a guest for dinner with him in the Phillies Executive Diningroom (no big deal). McCarthy said he would go with Pedro because of the experience factor and would probably use Happ in spot rotation depending on the match ups in the playoffs. I would put Happ in the bullpen, where we really need help right now, and throw Pedro game four. If Pedro runs into any trouble we have Happ right there to come in for a long relief appearance. Happ has never been a starter in the playoffs and who knows how he will react to the big stage. Additionally, he has shown that he can pitch well out of the bullpen, something that Pedro has not done for a long time outside of the WBC.

A lot of questions with a little amount of time remaining!

Next Series Predictions - Milwaukee for 4 games starting tonight.
J.A. Happ (10-4, 2.77 era) vs. Jeff Suppan (7-10, 4.76) - W, Happ
Cliff Lee (14-11, 2.99 era) vs. Manny Para (10-10, 6.42 era) - W, Lee
Pedro Martinez (5-1, 3.32 era) vs. Brad Looper (13-7, 5.12 era) - L, Martinez
Joe Blanton (11-7, 3.82 era) vs. Dave Bush (5-8, 6.22era) - W, Blanton

Wishful thinking - win 3/4, hope the Braves lose some and clinch the division!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

AK'SPORTS Weekend in Review

Notre Dame Football - 33-30 Win over Michigan State
Pitt Football- 27-14 Win over Navy
Eagles - 48-22 Loss to New Orleans
Phillies - 2/3 Wins over Atlanta

Notre Dame - Well, Notre Dame finally beat MSU in South Bend...since 1993. I was seven years old then, so this is basically the first time I remember seeing ND beat the Spartans at home. No matter how happy the Fightin' Irish fans may be about this win, the game came with a huge cost - Michael Floyd is out for the rest of the season after needing surgery on a broken collar bone.
-Jimmy Clausen is quickly showing why he was the #1 recruit in all of America. He is about 300 yards short of his freshman season total for passing yards after three games (remember how bad they were in 2007!?). He has thrown 9 TD"s and 0 INTs. Kyle McCarthy has three INTs this season, 1 in each game, and saved the game for the Irish this weekend with a redzone INT preventing back-to-back devastating losses for the Blue & Gold faithful. Armando Allen must have worked hard this off-season...thank God. So far, Allen has rushed for 326 yards and 3 TD's and is actually breaking tackles! Allen seems to have put in some work in the weight room - he is finishing his runs and getting past the first defender, something he has struggled with in the past.
-Golden Tate had a great game, 127 yards and a TD, but dropped another wipe-open TD..the ball hit his hands, giving him three dropped TD's on the season.
-The Domers take on Purdue next weekend who has the nation's leading rusher in Ralph Bolden. As always, Purdue should put up a great inner-state fight versus ND, but I really see a huge mismatch here, favoring the Domers. After this past weekend's devastating loss to NIU, Purdue will be hungry for a huge win...sorry, they won't get it. The Irish should be able to rush Armando Allen all day and destroy the Purdue secondary. Jimmy Clausen has another huge game.
Prediction - Notre Dame 41, Purdue 17.

Pitt - Looks like Dion Lewis is the replacement for the Panthers that they desperately needed after losing LeSean McCoy to the NFL draft. The Freshman ran for 79 yards and a TD - he has just under 500 yards rushing and 5 TD's in 3 weeks in the NCAA, very impressive. Bill Stull had a respectable game, throwing for 245 yards and a TD. Stull now has 6 TD's and only 1 INT so far this season - a great start to the season for a player who struggled down the finish last year. Another great showing by Jonathan Baldwin solidifies the Panther's offense as one of the best in the Big East - Baldwin had 6 catches for 111 yards.
-Next week the Panthers play at NC State who is 2-1. This will be the toughest competition that Pitt has seen so far, but the Panthers should be able to handle the pressure on both sides of the field.
Prediction - Pitt 27, NC State 17

Eagles - Ahhh..the worst 4 hours of my weekend - well, I guess I should say 2 hours. At the end of the first half, I really believed that the Eagles could pull out a win. But...about 5 minutes into the second half I was certain this "win" was not happening. While Kevin Kolb played significantly better than I thought he would, he still made some terrible decisions. He really seems to struggle throwing quick balls to wideouts near the sideline - two INTs on throws like this, one returned 97 yards for a TD...a great reminder of the Baltimore INT to Ed Reed last year. Essentially, the defense, special teams, and penalties killed the Eagles. Asante Samuel was abused by Marques Colston, (who would have thought? -sike) and Drew Brees picked apart the Eagles defense for 311 yards, 3 TD's and 1 INT. Every special teams play seemed like it was raining yellow flags - just giving the Saints yardage at every chance.
- I'd rather just forget about this game and hope that Donny is back next weekend. The defense better take a long look at themselves and hope Matt Cassel doesn't look anything like Drew Brees next week. I don't want to write about the Saints game anymore...too much to say at this point. Devastating.

Phillies - 14 games remaining/ Magic # at 6 - The Phils took 2 games out of 3 from the Braves and moved 8 games ahead of the Marlins for the division lead. Starting tomorrow night the Phils have a three game series in Miami with the Marlins. The Phils are 6-0 in LandShark Stadium this season and would love to extend that record with a series win. If the Phillies can win 2/3 or sweep the division is all wrapped up! We'll see how the bullpen can handle the next few games..
-More to come on Phillies in next post..

Weekend Rating - 3 1/2 out of 5 stars - only one loss overall, but a devastating loss! Otherwise, a great weekend in my sports world.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Talking Eagles - Eagles vs. Saints Concerns

So here are my main concerns for the Birds Sunday...

1. Starting QB - word from the Eagles is that Donovan is doing all that he can this week to play on Sunday - certainly not a surprise - Donny is as tough as they come. So..would Donovan playing on Sunday be a good thing? It could go a few ways here...

-As a wanna-be smart fan, I want to say "No" - Donovan needs to rest his ribs this week and let the defense try to win this game (bc we know Kolb won't win it)..then..hope that our team wins a "should win" versus the Chiefs without Donny which allows him an additional week during the BYE to rest and return for the Bucs game - healthy and ready to fire away. Depending on this weekend's performance by Kolb, next weekend could allow time for Garcia to know/remember the offense and Michael Vick to be fully up to speed for his anticipated return Week 3. I hate saying this....but..we cannot leave out the long stretch that Kevin Kolb actually plays half decent this week. Long Stretch.

-As an idiot want-to-win-now fan, I want to say allowing Donny to return is OK.. almost in the same respect that I wrote about why we should sit him. If we can get Donny through this game without making his injury worse, we can then rest/or not rest him the next two weeks depending on how he's feeling. We may be able to squeeze just enough out of him to get a win over the Saints. Obviously, This theory really depends on how our offensive line looks this week during practice (OL - to be discussed later). P.S. this theory is for argument sake!

-One way or another, Kolb is penciled in to be the starter and debating what will or will not happen is irrelevant. Fingers crossed...I'm praying - seriously.

2. Pressure from the Linebackers & D-line - Drew Brees...dude is an animal. 6-feet tall with spikes and a helmet on, and he still threw for 5,069 yards and 34 TD's last year - he led the league by over 500 yards passing last year. Ohh and by the way... last week he threw for 358 yards and 6 TD's with a passer rating of 137! Plainly stated, Brees is top 3, if not the best, QB in the game and we need to hit him, sack him, intercept him, but most importantly, put pressure on him ALL game. This is why my concern surrounds our defensive pressure on Brees..

-I will start by saying, last week's defense looked great - 5 int's, 5 sacks, 2 FF, 1 fumble return for a TD. Victor Abiamiri finally looked healthy/strong and I was really excited about this, but news came out today that he did not practice because of a pulled groin and is listed as questionable. Trent Cole and Mike Patterson looked dominant as always and Darren Howard played exceptionally well - 2 sacks and 1 forced fumble. The linebackers are a question, simply because of their inexperience and constant change throughout spring training. Last week, they played better than I had anticipated, but Jake Delhomme is certainly not Drew Brees and Delhomme looked the worst of all starting QB's last week.

-If the D-line can effectively open the lanes for the linebackers to fire then we stand a great chance at dramatically disrupting the Saint's flow of distribution to their many offensive weapons (Devery Henderson, Marques Colston, Reggie Bush, Mike Bell, Jeremy Shockey). As always, this pressure changes Brees' timing and speeds up all decisions and throws - exactly what we need with arguably the best DB's in the game. I would imagine that the Eagle's blitz will be turned up a notch this week from the linebackers, while keeping a constant eye on Jeremy Shockey for the short dump off (he played well last week with 2 TD's - I hate Shockey). Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown have struggled against tall receivers in the past (Plaxico!) and Colston's frame is fitting the mold - should be an interesting match-up for them.

3. Eagles Running Attack - So apparently Donny broke a rib and Kevin Kolb is probably going to start? Ohh Ok..that's fine, he can pass. HAHA SIKE. Dude is terrible! I wouldn't trust Kevin Kolb throwing a baseball into the Delaware River from a Penn's Landing pier, let alone throwing a real football in a real NFL game! Because of this, our running game must be on point this weekend. We will need to run the ball from all different sets and with as many different players as we can. Obviously, the Saints are looking for this and will be keeping their linebackers up on the line more than usual. I don't really care - we need to run BWest, Shady, DeSean and Weaver as much as possible. If we can mix them up with the occasional short pass we may be able to keep the Saint's defense off balance. Kolb better not throw the deep ball - especially if Darren Sharper is in coverage (2 int's last week).

4. Offensive Line - Since all sources seem to be saying Kolb will be the starter, this offensive line play is incredibly important. Winston Justice must play as well as he did last weekend because the test did not end with Julius Peppers. Stacy Andrews is in a three man rotation with Nick Cole and Max Gean-Gilles - understandable with the injury history that Andrews has had in the past year. Regardless, a three man rotation will not help the continuity of a line which has barely practiced together. I am concerned to a high degree about this offensive line. The Birds really need great protection for Kolb and also really need to open the gaps for Westbrook and McCoy to create an effective running game.

Conclusion: I am nervous about this game, which says a lot. I am almost never nervous about the Eagles, but this game will be a tough game for the Birds to win. I think that McDermott will have a prepared defense, much like last week. The offense on the other hand is a tough call. If we can get a run game going then we stand a chance. If we have to pass a lot then we will not win this game. I trust Andy and Marty to figure this out. The game will be closer than people think (although the line is only -1 Eagles). I really feel that the Eagles should lose this game, but I am going to say that the Birds somehow pull this one out 30-27...maybe a game winner by Akers??


Sports Concerns Blog Overview

So I've finally folded into the "blogger network". I recently started reading blogs of athletes and Philadelphia sports "know-it-alls", so I figured that I would give it a shot myself.

I have always loved arguing, debating or just discussing sports with anyone who was willing to give me the time. Additionally, I've always enjoyed writing and putting my opinion on paper - or I guess on screen in this case..?

I intend on writing my opinions on the sports that I follow, the teams that I love and anything ridiculous that I may stumble upon along the way.

In a nutshell, this means I will write about Philly sports (Phillies, Eagles, maybe Flyers..probably not Sixers), PITT sports (class of '09), Notre Dame Football, possibly a random International Football (Fiorentina!) topic here or there.. and then by default all other sports happenings.

We'll see where this takes me..