Eagles Are Shifty.

Footsteps Falco Could be at the Helm in 2011.

I wonder if the possibility of a lockout in 2011 is having a big impact on the way the Eagles are doing business this off-season.  The Eagles have been running a good business for years, and I think the possibility of a work stoppage in 2011 could be more on their minds than some other teams.  If this was the classic Simpsons episode, the Eagles would be Ned Flanders, stocked to the gills, waiting in his fallout shelter.  The rest of the league, everyone else trying to get in.  I don’t know all the ins and outs of the NFL’s labor situation.  I do know that right now, still a year away from a possible stoppage, things aren’t looking promising.  Both sides seem prepared to fight this out, even if it means not seeing the NFL we are accustomed to in 2011.

So, in this “odd year” for free agents as Andy Reid called it, maybe the Eagles aren’t willing to spend the money because they don’t know exactly what they are going to get.  Would you be less inclined to give Julius Peppers, at 30, a huge deal if you thought you might not get his services in 2011?  He’s likely only going to be productive for the first two or three years of the deal, how much does a lockout decrease his value?  Do you look at him as one year older?  Do you look at it as possibly only getting 1 or 2 years out of him?  Would you know what you are getting from any player if they were returning from an extended lockout?

I don’t know, but I think it makes all free agents less attractive, and that’s just the first reason.  There’s at the very least going to be a new collective bargaining agreement after this season.  I don’t know what that is going to do to the salary structure of the league, but I don’t think the players are in line for a windfall.  Look at Kevin Kolb.  The Eagles obviously want Kolb, but maybe they are willing to let him ride out this last year of the contract because they don’t want to re-negotiate until they know what the new economic climate in the league is going to be.  Coupled with the fact that it looks like they are going to keep Donovan, giving Kolb an extension now doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  And, neither does extending McNabb.  Do you want 2012 to be the first year you get production from McNabb on that new deal?

I think the Eagles are trapped between playing for 2010 and looking at the future.  If they are taking the possible lockout into consideration, it’s frustrating for the fans.  Not only do they have to deal with a complacent policy this off-season, but also the prospect of not getting NFL football in 2011.  That’s a tough combination to swallow, especially if you think the Eagles are in a position where a few moves could make them a serious contender for the next Super Bowl.   This is always the Eagles way, though.  They’ve made a habit of practicing “Cliff Lee” style personnel moves.  Everything is done with an eye to the future.  I can’t help but think that may be curbing their aggression this off-season.

So, just a thought.  If I was an Eagles fan it wouldn’t make me feel any better about what has gone on, but as I was trying to decipher the Eagles’ apparent timid behavior, I thought the lockout might be playing a role.  The Eagles can afford to play it this way.  Teams like the Bears who are out spending money need to make a much stronger statement to their fans right now.  The Eagles have built up a decade’s worth of 10-6 goodwill.  Like I said, I’m no expert on the potential lockout, but the Eagles seem like a front office that operates with consideration of worst case scenarios.

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Phils Aren’t Equipped To Deal With Injuries.

Introducing Juan Castro.

Maybe it was the report of Joe Nathan returning to Minnesota for tests on his arm, or the news that Russell Martin would miss the start of the season, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the fragile nature of the Phils lately.  Not that they are injury prone, but the fact their grip on the National League isn’t supported by great depth.  They’ve been a very healthy team the last few years, but also a team that doesn’t that use its bench.  And, for good reason.  The bench is terrible.  Last season, with Greg Dobbs having a bad year, the Phillies had about as bad of a group of reserves as you could expect to find on a World Series team.  You want to know why most of the starters were playing 155+ games, look no further.  Addressing the bench in the off-season, the Phillies were Eagles-esque.  Barely acknowledging a problem, while keeping a good eye on the budget.  The result?  A moderate improvement at best.  No team can afford to lose stars, but some Phillies are harder to replace than others.

The Middle Infield:

Remember 2008 when we got to see about a month of Eric Bruntlett?  I blocked it out as well, but if you are looking for irreplaceable guys on this team, you have to start with Rollins and Utley.  You aren’t going to be able to replace their offense, but the Phils struggle to find even a serviceable middle infielder to back them up.  Bruntlett is gone, but in his place is Juan Castro, who is two years removed from hitting .180 for the Reds.  Yes, he was better last year, but this guy in the starting lineup for more than a day at a time would spell doom.  Of the two, Rollins may be more valuable.  If Utley went down, you might be able to patch together some Polanco at second, Dobbs at third band-aid for a while.

Centerfield:

I don’t dislike Ben Francisco.  He came over Cleveland, and was a breath of fresh air considering  Stairs-y hadn’t had a hit a couple months, and he could actually play defense.  That being said, I don’t want to see Francisco out there every day.  Victorino was one of the most consistent Phillies last year, and that is what this team needs.  We know guys are going to get hot, but when everyone was down last year, Victorino kept plugging away.  He’s not a superstar, but they need his skills in the lineup, and they need him to play center field.  The Phils are better prepared to deal with an OF injury than one to an infielder, but if I could guarantee one guy would stay healthy in the outfield, I’d take Shane.

The Bullpen:

My choice here is Ryan Madson.  I have no idea how the Phillies bullpen is going to shake out.  It will all depend on Brad Lidge.  Is he healthy?  Can he close?  Even if the answer is yes to both of those questions, Madson will have a huge role.  Seeing that most starters don’t get much past the seventh, even on a good day, the eighth inning has become just as important as the ninth.  In that role, Madson has flourished.  He hasn’t had success as a closer, but I still think he’s the logical option if Lidge can’t go.  There’s a ton of uncertainty in the Phillies pen, and if they lost Madson, I think they’d be bordering on chaos.  Depending on the health of Romero and Lidge, they’re already going to be plugging gaps with young guys.  They need some stability.

So, that’s my list.  Obviously, the Phillies will need healthy starting pitching, but that goes without saying for every team.  And, I’d hate to see Ryan Howard go down, but believe it or not, I think they could survive without him for a while.  Hopefully, this won’t be an issue.  Charlie can trot the same eight there 155 times, and everyone will be happy.

Best Golf Performance in a Senior Role.

Could Shoot 64 on Pandora.

I’m not going to write another entire post about Fred even though I am tempted.  He’s dominating the old guys, enough said.  I wish the Champions Tour could get a little more live TV love, but what are you gonna do?  No, the premier television event of the night was surely the Oscars.  Though, my personal favorite part of the broadcast was the commercial for Modern Family, so I’m not sure what that says.  It was cool to see the bad guy from “Hackers” win for best documentary, and the belated Big Lebowski love for Jeff Bridges was nice as well.  Also, Avatar being shut out of the major categories was justification for me not seeing, or ever seeing it, and that is greatly appreciated as well.  I see what I want to see, dammit.

One of these days, they’ll figure out how to broadcast the ceremonies in under a decade.  Oddly enough, I think this is also what they say about NASCAR.  I’ll cop to watching the last 15 laps or so of the NASCAR race.  I don’t know why it happened, but it must have taken 45 minutes?  I’m not sure.  It felt like a very long time.  It was worse than the end of a basketball game.  There were 2 or 3 crashes, someone “wrecked” another guy on purpose, which looked like a good time, and there were multiple “do-overs” on the last few laps.  Apparently, they get 3 chances to run the last couple of laps without an accident?  Honestly, I don’t really know, but this seems like an odd thing to do.  Uh, keep running that last play until we get a good ending…I thought it was the Daytona 500.  Not the Daytona 50-whatever it takes for these guys to stop running into each other.  I mean, they don’t keep lengthening a marathon waiting for the guy in second to catch up.  I don’t know, it’s my fault for watching NASCAR.  I’m sure I don’t understand.

All of this was great, but my actual favorite moment of TV watching during the day happened while I was watching the Honda Classic.  And, I only think it happened, but it doesn’t take away from the moment’s greatness.  Camillo Villegas was running away with the tournament.  He thought about buckling for a minute, but he was so far out in front he couldn’t even sabotage himself.  So, the drama was gone while he played the 17th, which is a par three over some water.  His playing partner, though, was Nathan Green.  Nate was having a tough day.  He hit his tee shot into the water, but it sat barely submerged, right on the edge of the hazard.

Now, when you are totally out of the running like Green was, I’d suggest not getting too crafty (play for the check), but he wanted to play this shot out of the water.  So, he slashes away, covers his pants with muddy water, the ball pops up onto the bank, then rolls to his feet.  Whoops.  He tries again.  Same result.  At this point, what I believe was screamed by someone in the gallery was, “Take the Drop!”.  I didn’t hear it clearly, but regardless, what an amazing line.  Green opted to slash another out onto the bank, skank it up there, and make a long putt for six.  A heck of a triple all things considered.

Anyway, it was a darkly entertaining moment for me, this literal insult to injury for poor Nathan Green who stood there in his soiled pants wondering how golf got so damn hard.  It is a cruel game sometimes.  Without a doubt.  The one-liner from the crowd, about 2 swings out of the muck too late, offered a brief bit of levity on a pretty unwatchable afternoon of golf.

I guess that’s about it, other than the fact that the Eagles I think have reached the point where they are intentionally messing with their fans.  Oh, and Oliver Perez gave up 5 runs in 3 innings against the Nationals.  So, all is right in Mets land.  Ba-ha.  Ha-ha. Ha. Ha.