Crack the Mumms.

Oyster Bay Drug and Sundry's Finest Champagne.

Oyster Bay Drug and Sundry's Finest Champagne.

Go crazy, folks.  Go crazy.  That’s Jack Buck.  So, are we feeling like 1990s Braves fans yet?  Is this getting boring?  Another division title for the Phillies, but now the real season starts.  I think that’s a Fox commercial or something.  The Phillies easily handled the Astros on Wednesday night to clinch the NL East for the third straight year.  The Phillies reach the post-season for the third straight time for the first time since 1978.  That’s before some bloggers were even born.  This title feels a little less satisfying than the last two years, a) because the Phils didn’t run down a choking Mets squad, and b) the old Phils set the bar pretty high last year.  A playoff appearance isn’t all these fans want. 

After the game the players talked about more celebrations to come, but I’m not sure how many more are in store for this version of the Phillies.  Pedro Martinez wasn’t effective in his four innings of work coming off his neck injury, and the fourth starter for the playoffs now looms as a question that Charlie Manuel is going to have to answer.  It’d be nice to have JA Happ as a left handed bullpen option, but he may have to go game four, depending on Pedro’s status and the match-up. 

As it stands now the Phillies would play Colorado, and that looks to be the most likely match-up.  Atlanta has slipped the last two nights, and they couldn’t afford any losses.  The Rockies should hang on the wild-card, and come to Philadelphia for games one and two.  An oddly familiar situation.  The Phillies will be the favorites again, but Colorado is a formidable squad to run into.  Game one is going to be crucial.  Likely Ubaldo Jimenez against Cliff Lee.  The Phils need to come out on top of that contest, but that is getting way ahead of ourselves.  I suppose, for the night, we should just celebrate.  Luckily, I keep a pony bottle of Motts sparkling apple juice in fridge for just these types of occasions. 

–Random Note–
Street fighting legend, and MMA fraud Kimbo Slice went down on the Ultimate Fighter Wednesday Night.  Some huge fat character named Roy Nelson just totally out-classed him, and won by TKO.  Kimbo wasn’t hurt or anything, but he just doesn’t have the refined skills these other guys have.  Go back to backyards and youtube Kimbo…that’s your kingdom.


Flies in the Donut Case.

Some Untainted Delectables.

Some Untainted Delectables.

Yeah, I mean I’m not going to talk about this for a whole post, but I saw it…fly in the donut case.  A real appetite suppressant.  How much do you want the donut?  If flies left foot prints in the icing, it’d be easier to make these kinds of decisions.  Do you call it to someone’s attention when there is a fly in the donut case?  Is that the humanitarian thing to do?  Cause, I walked away.  They throw all those out, and some guy comes in that doesn’t care about flies, has a meltdown?  I don’t want that on my conscience. 

Hey, quick shout out to the Indians for upping the ante on Ed Wade in the pointless late season firing department.  Eric Wedge.  Goodbye.   The Indians are supposed to be eyeing the Red Sox’s pitching coach?  I have a long, detailed, and completely unsubstantiated theory on why pitching coaches make bad managers.  It’s accurate in my head.  I keep thinking of Joe Kerrigan.  Plus, there’s that little known fact that a lot of position players don’t like pitchers that much.  Anyway, the Indians traded away all their best players.  Who wants that job now anyway?

Something else I saw recently, and you know I’ll preface this by saying I think I generally get the idea behind vandalism.  You know, it makes you feel tough or something, you’re breaking or defacing, you’re out of your mind…we get it.  Long live the middle class youth, but have we seen the “Deer Crossing” signs with red stickers on them…like it’s bleeping Rudolph?  I guess you have to live in a deer crossing area, but they’re just yellow signs with a frolicking deer on it, and these idiots either stick or spray paint noses on the deer. 

Maybe the first person that thought of this was creative in a really baseline way, like the comedians that tell jokes that make you cringe or smile, but not laugh out loud?  But, after that first time, is it really funny?  Do these people pull away from the sign after “Rudolphing” it in hysterical laughter.  I’d honestly like to know.  I mean, these would seem like the same kinds  of people who would really get a kick out of playing with Mr. Potato Head.  But hey, to each his own. 

 And lastly, a quick shout out to the Mangini for his elegant handling of the QB situation in Cleveland.  How to have a quarterback competition, settle on a guy, and then yank him after 3 games.  What are they going to do after week six when they realize both these guys stink?  Paging Jeff Garcia, Jeff Garcia please.  Or, do we think the Man-genius is ready to cough up a number 1 for Kevin Kolb?  Hmmmm….

My One Team NHL Preview.

Ray Emery Watch Begins in Two Days.

Ray Emery Watch Begins in Two Days.

Here’s the bad news.  Barry Melrose likes the Flyers.  He also picked Chris Pronger to win the MVP.  If there’s a more compelling case that Pronger will not win the MVP, well I’m not aware of it.  At least Barry wasn’t making the safe pick, but I don’t need Pronger to be an MVP.  If he gets anywhere close, the Flyers are probably in for a good season.  In a league defined by its offensive stars, it usually comes down to defense and goaltending.  A perennial Achilles heel for the Orange and Black. 

Consensus around the league seems to point to a handful of teams contending this season.  Detroit, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Chicago, Washington and Philadelphia.  Detroit is Detroit.  Pittsburgh is Crosby and Malkin.  Washington is Ovechkin.  San Jose is playoff failures and Evegeni Nabokov (he’s a goalie).  Chicago is the feel good original-6 story, young upstarts, and cabbie punching forwards.  So, where does that leave the Flyers?

Well, the Flyers are a wild-card.  Kind of like what they’ve been for the last 30 years while we wait for Cup number 3.  There’s always question mark.  They’re never the clear cut favorites.  This year is no different.  They bring back the league’s most balanced offensive attack, but backing them and the Pronger infused defense is one of the biggest dice rolls the organization has ever taken.  Flyers franchise goalie is an oxymoron.  They don’t really exist, and the latest man to skate between the pipes, Ray Emery, brings more mystery than most. 

There is a long article on Emery in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer.  The details you need to know about Emery are these:  He’s incredibly talented.  He has a long history of temper flares and erratic behavior.  He spent the ’08/9 season playing in Russia because no NHL team wanted him, and the Flyers tight salary cap position made them far more likely to take a shot on Emery than another team.  What all this will add up to remains to be seen. 

Emery has been brilliant in the preseason.  He’s saying all the right things, doing the right things, and by all accounts has been a model member of the franchise.  His time in Russia apparently offered him some sobering perspective.  We certainly hope so.  I don’t have much concern about how Emery or the Flyers will perform in the regular season.  This is a playoff team without a doubt, but once the playoffs start, that is when the deficiencies of past Flyers teams have been exposed. 

It’s nice to have the best player on the ice in the post-season.  The Flyers rarely enjoy this luxury, and perhaps haven’t since Eric Lindros skated here.  Can Jeff Carter continue to emerge as a star.  Is the combination of Carter/Briere/Richards/Gagne enough to overcome one Ovechkin?  You also need a post-season goaltender.  I think the common misconception is that the Flyers have never had the goalie they need to go all the way.  I’d say there were a few instances, even as recently as Marty Biron two years ago, where the goalie was playing well enough to win the Cup, but the team around them wasn’t.  You need everything to click to win the Cup, and that is what the Flyers never seem to get. 

The offense is going to be fine.  I’m especially interested to see if Claude Giroux can build on his stong close to last season, and if James van Riemsdyk is going to be a factor at all.  On paper, with Pronger, Coburn, Timmonen, Parent, Carle…and whoever finds footing as the 6th defenseman, the unit looks as strong as its been in a long time.    I think Ray Emery will work here, just a hunch.  So, I’m pretty optimistic about this season.  All the pieces seem to be here, they just need to fall into place.  Puck drops, Friday night in Carolina.

Magic Number is One, but…

...Phils are a Shell of Their Former Selves.

...Phils are a Shell of Their Former Selves.

A lot of the heat went out of the playoff races last night.  Minnesota had a chance to sweep a double header against Detroit, and tie everything up, but Justin Verlander stepped in to stop the bleeding.  The Phillies managed to slip by Houston, boosted by a Petey Feliz grand slam, and combined with a Rockies win and a Braves loss, the NL playoff picture got a lot clearer.  It is hard to blow leads as big as the Phillies had, and now it looks like any historic collapse will come up short.  It’s like when someone makes a run in a golf tournament.  They’re out early, making birdies, but they eventually run out of holes.  The Braves look they’re going to run out of holes.  It’s still up in the air who the Phillies will play in the first round, but what we know for sure is that there will be plenty of band-aids on the 25 man roster. 

Tonight’s game is big for the Phils for a number of reasons.  First, Pedro Martinez is returning from his stiff neck.  Pedro was a question mark, then emerged as the clear 4th starter, and then returned to being a question.  The only way Pedro helps this team, in my opinion, in the playoffs is as a starter.  So, we need a loose neck, and some solid innings out of Pedro tonight, and we can slot him in to start game four (if necessary).  Most of the time when people talk about a guy being savvy, or knowing how to pitch, that kind of nonsense….I write it off.  It’s a euphemism for not having sh*t, but with Pedro you believe it a little bit.  If he takes the mound in the post-season you think he’ll figure out a way.  At least he won’t back down.

More important than Pedro’s performance is the fact that this team needs to clinch.  They need to get some guys rest.  Chase Utley, who had a miserable September, looks like he needs to sleep for about 72 straight hours.  The last couple weeks have been rough on the boys.  All this pressing and losing, it makes the bats a little heavier.  Even Jamie Moyer got in the mix last night, leaving with a groin injury.  All you need to know about the bullpen is that no one is healthy.  I wasn’t too pumped to see Ryan Madson going two innings last night, but then again, who else were they going to trot out there?  The exact identity of the Phils dozen or so post-season arms remains a mystery as we wait for the return of Chan Ho, Brett, etc. 

One little interesting tid-bit I read yesterday…it looks like the Phils rotation is setting up for Cliff Lee in game one of the playoffs.  They could use Hamels as well, but the other thing to note is that in the first round, because of an extra off day, either Lee or Hamels would be able to come back in game 5 and pitch on normal rest.  So, game one obviously important, but the game two starter will be available later in the series as well.

Revised Top-10 NFL Quarterbacks.

Still Number 11.

Still Number 11.

The previous NFL QB ratings post proved to be one of the most popular of all-time.  That was partially do to the epic discussion of Eli and Donovan that followed, but alas…three weeks into the season I feel like the QB picture in the NFL has been changed drastically.  I don’t even remember my first list, and I don’t want to.  I’m doing it over.  Blogger’s prerogative. 

1.  Drew Brees.  Brees cost me a fantasy win last week by not throwing a TD, but that was more Pierre Thomas’s fault, breaking long runs.  Brees is accurate, he leads the league in a mess of statistical categories, and that Saints offense…wooo boy, I’d like to get me some of that.

2.  Peyton Manning.  Manning completely destroyed Arizona on Sunday night.  Not that it’s an impressive thing, but if there’s one thing Peyton does better than host SNL…it’s play quarterback.  He’s still a big donkey, and I hate the Colts, but he’s number 2.

3.  Tom Brady.  I know Brady hasn’t done a ton this year, but the Pats are 2-1, and the offense is still a little out of sync.  I’m not going crazy here, Tom could eventually land back at the top of this list, but while he and the Pats get their rhythm back, I’m slotting him at #3. 

4.  Aaron Rodgers.  Rodgers hasn’t lit up the stat sheet this year, but he’s got all the physical tools, hasn’t thrown an interception yet this year, and isn’t blessed with as good of a supporting cast as some of the others on this list.  I think by the end of the year Rodgers is firmly in the top-5, so I’m putting him there now. 

5. Joe Flacco.  In my opinion the Ravens might be the best team in the league, and Flacco is their gun.  It seems like the more the Ravens allow Flacco to do, the better he gets.  Todd Heap has reemerged as a weapon, and this team isn’t all about defense anymore.  Flacco looks legit, beware the Ravens. 

6.  Eli Manning.  See above for Flacco with slightly inferior physical tools.  Puke.

7.  Matt Schaub.  If Schaub can stay healthy, a big if, he’s going to put up monster numbers.  One of the reasons for that is that the Texans are going to give up a TON of points, but Schaub will be slinging it, and Andre Johnson and company will be the beneficiaries. 

8.  Phillip Rivers.  Rivers has been a bit of a disappointment this year, but I’m giving him a partial Brady benefit of the doubt.  LT looks officially done in San Diego, so this is Rivers’ squad.  He has a nice connection with Vincent Jackson, and if the Chargers can play a little better as a team, Rivers is clearly a top-10 guy by years end.

9.  Ben Roethlisberger.  The guy’s a one trick pony.  He wins, and this year he ain’t been winning, but it’s only three games.  The Steelers, and Big Ben will probably resort back to their boring/winning ways. 

10.  Donovan McNabb.  I know Don is hurt, and who knows when we’ll see him, or what we’ll see, but the little I saw of Don this year…I actually really liked.  Enough to keep him in my top 10.  I think he comes back after the bye week, and the Birds roll right along.  He’d looked as mobile as I’d seen him in a while before he went down, and I’m hoping that continues when he comes back.  Still got your back Don…kind of. 

Next Five:  Favre (too old, too much help from AP), Matt Ryan (not asked to do too much, maybe next year), Cutler (Could sneak into top 10 by years end.  I’m still scarred from that week 1 effort), Hasselback (A definite top-15 guy if healthy), and Mark Sanchez (hey, he’s 3-0…gotta put him on the list)

Anchors attached to ‘Em:  Delhomme, Palmer, Warner and Romo.

GQ Ranks Despicable Coaches.

Made the List.

Made the List.

You know, I don’t mind GQ.  A $2000 extra-slim suit isn’t really in my realm, but they usually have good feature articles, and provide interesting information on food, travel, decent movie/tv reviews, etc.  They’ve been known to have a few pictures of attractive ladies as well.  When they dip into the sports realm, though, they sometimes have mixed results.  There are two sports related pieces in the most current issue.  One, I found to be quite interesting, a look at the brain trauma suffered by NFL players, and the impact it has.  The other article, I think missed it’s mark.  A ranking of 20 “Despicable” Coaches.  Somewhere the guidelines for this got a little muttled. 

Here’s the problem.  They’ve got names you’ve heard of on the list.  Isiah Thomas, Bob Knight, and Bill Belichick are all present.  That’s fine, if they wanted to do the shadiest coaches in professional sports, or the ones that are the most high profile, this would have been fine.  The issue is, they expanded it to all coaches.  They have Belichick, who’s crime seems to be just that he’s a jerk, and the whole videotaping thing…they have him bunched in with coaches that have commited serious and violent crimes, sometimes against minors.  Belichick is ranked as more despicable than a high school track coach who threw parties for his underage athletes and encouraged drinking, sex, etc.  Really?

Aren’t we missing some level of perspective here?  I’m not saying Belichick or Bob Knight should be getting Man of the Year awards, but you can’t lump them in with people who are in jail.  Knight is 6th on the list.  Ahead of steroid pushers, and just behind a trio of child molesters.  Bob Knight put his hands around a player’s neck, and kicked his son.  Fine.  He has said some horrible things, but the guy has some redeeming qualities as well, no?  He’s not a pervert, or a drug pusher.  He’s not even a cheater.

I don’t know.  The list makes no sense to me.  It seems like they wanted to highlight some terrrible coaches, but since a lot of the worst are not household names they threw in Knight and Belichick to make a good headline, and sell some magazines.  I’m sure the two of them have better things to do than worry about where they stand in some GQ rankings, but I’d be pretty bothered by this if I were them.  It’s a pretty low blow at their character. 

GQ…careful with your sports stories.  You don’t see me writing about the hot Fall sweaters…

I’ll Say When.

We're getting there.

We're getting there.

It’s not quite time yet.  I mean, believe it or not, it could be worse.   We could be Carolina Panthers fans.  What a pile of slop that team is.  The good news is, the Cowboys are terrible, maybe the worst 2-1 team in the history of the NFL.   Nice TV in the stadium, but your team stinks, your quarterback is a buckler.  Beat a mediocre team….then we’ll talk.  I couldn’t really watch the game.  Monday Night Football can’t hang with House these days.  Not when you’re brining Panthers/Cowboys to my door. 

It was probably a more enjoyable game to watch than the Phillies/Astros match-up, though.  The Phillies seem perfectly content, blissful even, as they collapse down the stretch.  Now, they still have a 4 game lead, and they would have to get very creative to blow this all the way, but it looks like they are trying.  They got smoked by the Astros, 8-2 on Monday Night, and what strikes me about this team all of sudden is that aside from Ryan Howard…no one is stepping up. 

They’re pressing, they’re pressing.  That’s all we hear.  Well, pressing is a friendly way of saying “choking”.  They’re trying to hard, well…don’t try so hard then.  Or just get a hit.  Knock somebody in.  Get someone out.  They don’t have a regular hitting over .300, every time a starter looks like he’s got a good run going he gets rocked (see Cole Hamels tonight), the bullpen is a collection of guys who have trouble in close games.  This doesn’t sound like pressing to me.  The Phillies don’t seem to be comfortable as front-runners.  At least down the stretch. 

This team was untouchable in September for two years, and now without the Mets to run down in the division, they’re a wounded animal.  The Braves are going to continue to make this charge.  I promise.  If the Phils are going to wait for the Braves to lose, they’ll be waiting until next Spring.  I’d honestly expect the Braves to win out at this point.  The way they are playing, it seems likely.  So, the Phillies are going to have to come up with at least 3 wins.  Who are they going to beat?  Who’s going to provide the offense?  I’m actually happy to see JA Happ going to the hill tomorrow.  I trust him to at least keep the Phils in the game, and then maybe someone will do something weird and get a hit with a runner in scoring position. 

Until that magic number hits 0, I’ll be contemplating the magnitude of this possible collapse.  I still think they’ll be fine (in terms of making the playoffs), but the fact that it’s even a question is pretty sad, and it makes me feel like I’m a Mets fan.  And that, just ain’t right.