Friday, June 30, 2006

Impotent Owners and the art of spin

By John McMullen

I'm in foreign territory.

Very strange territory indeed because I am about to defend the Philadelphia Phillies' management team.

Don't get me wrong, the Phils' front office is comically inept of public relations acumen.

Dane Cook or Dave Attell could probably get 30 minutes worth of stuff by just spending a day with Dave Montgomery, Pat Gillick, Larry Shenk, Scott Palmer and the boys.

But, at the end of the day, the Phils are getting lambasted because they didn't handle the fact that one of their players is a donkey. And I hate to break the news but it's just not their fault that Brett Myers is a coward and likes to smack around the ladies.

Should they have shut the imbecile down right away?

Of course....but understand they couldn't have suspended him or taken the only thing that matters to him (money).

The all-powerful Major League Baseball Players Association has rendered management impotent in these types of situations.

All the Phillies could have done was spin the situation favorably.

Now we are talking about the Fightins, so obviously they couldn't even get that done but is that all you want -- spin?

Who cares about spin?

Major League Sports is overrun with dopes and felons.

The wonderfully irreverent website Pro Football Talk just came out with its first annual All-Turd team and the sheer volume of names is astonishing. From DWI's to wife beating to drug dealing to manslaughter. It's all there....

Baseball is no different -- You can't field a professional sports team without a few numbskulls. It's the law of averages.

Heck, you can't even walk down the street without finding a schmuck or two.

I, myself have been labeled as a "bad guy" on numerous occasions especially when I am mocking organized religion or the political views of the obtuse.

Let's just move on and get back to blasting the Phillies for what truly matters -- the fact that Pat Gillick has put together a horrible baseball team.

-You can reach John McMullen at or

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Disgusted and embarrassed

By Steven Lienert

While sitting through four different construction zones that added an extra hour and 20 minutes to my ride home from Baltimore on Wednesday, I had ample time to stew about what I just witnessed.

Somebody in the Phillies organization owes me for gas and tolls.

The Phillies have quit. They have quit on their manager, their fans, their front office, their owners and, worst of all, on each other.

What a bad joke this season has become.

How much longer are we going to be subjected to this without any sort of change whatsoever?

If Pat Gillick saw the lineup for Game 2 and thought it was acceptable, perhaps both he and Charlie Manuel should be shown the door. Jimmy Rollins led off, followed by, drumroll please, Dave Dellucci? Chase Utley as the designated hitter? Bobby Abreu batting cleanup?

Ryan Howard, the Phillies' best player, followed Abreu. And what protection did Uncle Charlie offer Howard? How about Shane Victorino. The rest of the lineup was filled out with the regular schlubs-de-jour: David Bell, Abraham Nunez and Chris Coste.

What? Was Pat Burrell too tired from hitting his meaningless homer in Game 1? I mean, designated hitting can take a lot out of a 29-year old.

And what happenned to Aaron Rowand? He needed the night off? He's 28! I think he can play back-to-back games of a doubleheader. It's not like he's a catcher.

The Phillies practically conceded Game 2 before it even started.

Victorino should bat lead off whenever he's in the lineup, especially during interleague play. Keep Utley batting second, followed by Abreu, Burrell, Howard, Rowand, Rollins, Bell and whomever's catching.

The team has lost 13 of 15 and 15 of 18, yet Manuel trots out this lineup like the squad has won 10 straight. But doesn't everybody want to play when a team is winning? Sure, just like nobody wants to play when a team is losing.

And nobody on that team is playing right now. Even Howard.

If Gillick is allowing the Brett Myers situation to affect his decisions regarding Manuel, that might be even more egregious than how the team is handling Myers.

On a side note: The Myers situation is bad. The team needs to hold a press conference saying that they have taken measures to help Myers, like enroll him in anger management classes or have him take a spousal abuse awareness course. It would go a long way in helping the franchise regain its abandoned fan base.

Are we to be subjected to this same old malarky for the rest of the season?

Say it ain't so, Pat. Say it ain't so.

Steve Lienert can be reached at or at
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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Spin Zone - The Phanatic's take on Rodney Carney

John McMullen:

Like a lot of you I nearly had a heart attack when I heard the name Thabo Sefolosha but all my visceral Billy King attacks would have to wait when the Sixers swung a trade and ended up with Memphis swingman Rodney Carney. The Sixers should have selected Connecticut point guard Marcus Williams but Carney was the team's second best option and No. 2 isn't all that bad when King is the captain of your ship. Carney is a virtually a carbon copy of Andre Iguodala athletically but he understands his role a lot better that the junior A.I. Carney already realizes he needs a lot of work at the offensive end and made his name as college basketball's best on-ball defender. A tough-minded defensive presence certainly can't hurt the Sixers.

Jared Trexler:

At second glance, Thabo Sefolosha -- while not a household name -- is an athletic swingman with the ball skills to play two-guard and the wingspan to bother perimeter players on the defensive end. So, it would not have been the end of the world if the Sixers had kept the Swiss star. That being said, Rodney Carney is a lockdown defender who loves to attack the basket and create off the dribble. He has the makeup and upside to be a solid player at the pro level, however with Marcus Williams still on the board I am hesitant to call this draft and trade with the Baby Bulls a winner (Philly also received a 2007 second round draft pick and cash considerations from Chicago). Drafting Williams would have allowed Allen Iverson (if he remains in Philly) to move to a more natural position off the ball -- especially in the guard's old age behind a career of wear and tear. I don't hate the move. I don't love it. Seems like a typical Billy King draft to me.

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MLB All-Star game has lost its luster

By Michael Rushton

Despite my young age, I like to consider myself a baseball traditionalist. I hate expansion, interleague play and Bud Selig. And now, more than ever, I loathe the All-Star Game.

There are so many problems with the Mid-Summer Classic, I don't know where to begin. For starters, Major League Baseball announced again this year that the winner of the All-Star clash will hold home-field advantage in the World Series.

This is a bigger joke than Charlie Manual's early-season lineup cards. Explain to me why the results of an exhibition game should directly impact the culmination of the regular season?
I'm sure Miguel Cabrera will be giving his all so the Mets or Cardinals will have an extra home game in October.

But the biggest problem with MLB's star-studded affair is how the rosters are compiled. Again, I dub myself a traditionalist but fan voting has got to go.

Let's start in the American League, where if voting ended this past Monday, six of the eight staring positions would be filled by either a Yankee or RedSox. I'll give Boston fans David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez while Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez have made cases to start but come on, Robinson Cano and Jason Varitek?

To make matters worse, in three of the position categories, Boston and New York players are 1-2 in voting while Johnny Damon holds down fourth place in outfield votes as well and is looking to squeak into the lineup card.

As of Tuesday night, Varitek was batting .250 with seven home runs and 36 RBI, yet leads all AL catchers in votes. Joe Mauer, batting a blistering .389 with five home runs and 37 RBI for Minnesota, trails Varitek by over 320,000 votes and is third overall for catchers.

Why? Because the Red Sox and Yankees draw large crowds which equal more in-stadium votes while ignorant, less knowledgeable fans across the nation vote by name only. That's why Vernon Wells and his 20 homers sits fifth among outfielders.

And its just as bad in the National League where the hosting Pirates have gone on a ballot-stuffing campaign. Pittsburgh's Jason Bay has jumped into the lead among outfielders, but don't get me wrong, at least he deserves it.

But find someone with the testicular fortitude to tell me shortstop Jack Wilson, second baseman Jose Castillo and first baseman Sean Casey deserve to be among the top three in their respective positions in voting.

And as a Philadelphia fan, Casey irks me the most. He holds a .290 average with three homers in 36 freaking games. 36! Yet, he has gathered in 675,477 votes. Meanwhile, Ryan Howard (cue AC/DC's "Thunderstrike") has clubbed 25 home runs with 66 runs batted in and a .286 average through 73 games. In a crime I dub bigger than anything that ever landed someone in kangaroo court, Howard is not even in the top five.

Take away the fan vote, leave it strictly up to coaches, players and management, and prevent such wrongdoing. And while we are at it, lets see how expansion has ruined the game as well.

Growing up, I always thought it to be cool that at least one of my boys of summer would be on the All-Star roster. Even as John Kruk solely represented Philly in 1991, I tuned in just to see him take hacks at some of the best pitchers in the game.

But now, the game is hindered by the fact that each of the 30 (!) teams has to be represented. Do the Kansas City Royals, Chicago Cubs or San Francisco Giants deserve representation this year? Probably not, but they will get it. It's time to throw that old rule out the window if the league insists on keeping 30 teams while trying to make the exhibition showing mean something.

So I propose that every ballot that is handed out should come with an instruction manual on how to vote. Among the steps to be included:

1) Remember, you are voting on a season, not a career. If Carlos Lee has 30 home runs before the All-Star break, he should receive more votes than Jim Edmonds.

2) If a player has missed significant time in the first half of the season and is not named Albert Pujols, he should not be receiving votes.

3) If you can't name the starting lineup, the starting rotation and all the teams in your squad's division, put the ballot down and walk away.

One thing the fans are doing right; Barry Bonds is ninth in outfield voting. Maybe there's hope after all.

No word on how write-in candidate HGH is doing by the way.

-You can reach Michael Rushton at

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

3,000 and Counting

By Jared Trexler

The Phanatic started as a sounding board for four colleagues who one night decided that the Pacific vs. Nevada Big West hoops showdown wasn't the top of the mountain but rather a dark cave in the side of the massive rock sculpture (It's a dark, dark cave).

It took us some time to find our niche (and 1,000 page views), but over the last several days The Phanatic has been hit, and hit, and hit (we are not cheap and I refuse to reveal the location of our corner).

However, for those just joining us, we welcome you. We'd also like to get you up to speed on some of the material that we at The Phanatic have covered since the very beginning.

From the Madness of March and an all-encompassing look at Philadelphia sports to rants on national sports headlines and even jabs at each other, The Phanatic has been a fantastic and creative writing outlet for us.

Below are some of the best lines from me and my colleagues over the first 3,000 hits. Thanks again for your support and keep coming back. We will have new articles on a daily basis and are even adding some new faces to the staff.


"Philadelphia sports fans have stayed loyal to their teams despite annual heartbreak. That's passion. And we at the Phanatic want to exude that same passion to our readers."
-- Our motto

"Today, Billy King is nothing more than a punch line. Once upon a time, the smooth talking, impeccably dressed, would-be politician's dazzling personality won over the area's scribes in record time. You see, sportswriters are an insecure group. Privy to the exhilarating world of the athlete but unable to attain it, King made this pathetic, self-doubting group of wannabes feel important and got a free pass because of it. But those days are over."
-- John McMullen, 3/22/06 (John hates Billy King)

"(Jay) Wright doesn't have any big men of Craig Smith's caliber on his roster. Once(Will) Sheridan picks up his second foul, and everyone knows that will happen sooner rather than later, Wright will look down the bench. He'll see Jason Fraser, who can barely run after multiple knee surgeries. He'll glance at seven-foot senior Chris Charles, who will give up about 30 pounds to Smith. He'll quickly look at freshman Dante Cunningham, knowingfull well that Smith would take the youngster to school on the block. He'll then yell to the end of the bench at Curtis Sumpter. Coach, a player can't enter the game in street clothes and Dockers. They will mark up the floor."
-- Jared Trexler, 3/23/06 (BC blew a large first-half lead to Villanova)

"Jim Johnson better find a way to keep T.O. out of the end zone when Dallas comes to the Linc this season. If not, Mayor Street might have to call in the National Guard."
-- Steve Lienert, 3/26/06 (T.O. and Steve will not be dining at The Beef tomorrow)

"For sometimes fate overwhelms all else. When (Folarin) Campbell's rain-making fadeaway left his hand with about 1:15 to play in the extra session, it looked like a last-second heave to beat the shot clock. The ball reached its apex at the doorstep of Heaven, and when it began its descent it had no where to go but through the net.84-80 Patriots."
-- Jared Trexler, 3/27/06 (George Mason's magical run was a sportswriter's dream)

"Here's the point -- the Phillies stink. I mean they not only stink, they stink on a legendary level. They are far worse than the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox, who have both built their identity and grossed an endless amount of income based on their failures."
-- Tim McManus, 3/30/06 (And McManus is a Phillies fan)

"People that make a living working at the Wachovia Center should start looking for seasonal work now. The Flyers and Sixers (if they make it all) will most certainly be first-round fodder in the postseason."
-- Steve Lienert, 4/12/06 (Steve, amongst other things, is a prognosticator)

"Sure, Congress is busy with the war, tort reform and budget problems but the collective brain wizards that make up our ridiculous two-party system sure jump when the opportunity to get some extra TV time exists. And the Congressional hearings into steroid abuse in the sacred cow that is Major League Baseball were just the type of headline grabbers that make John McCain and Ted Kennedy throw away the viagra."
-- John McMullen, 4/18/06 (John is not a huge fan of Massachusetts liberals)

"But, after reading about what happened to Moe Williams, I'm starting to think about heading north of the border myself. In case you missed it, the former Minnesota Vikings running back was found guilty of disorderly conduct on Thursday. For what? Touching the breasts of a dancer in a public space during the infamous "Love Boat" cruise on Lake Minnetonka. Now granted, a jury found him not guilty of two other misdemeanors -- indecent conduct and lewd or lascivious behavior -- but I don't want to live in a country where I can't fondle a stripper. Isn't that what you are supposed to do? Isn't that what makes this country great (at least for men)?"
-- John McMullen, 4/21/06 (This one was photocopied and sent to John's girlfriend)

"This is what the quest for Lord Stanley's Cup is all about. It's a war. It's a fight. Players get knocked unconscious. They lose teeth. They bleed from the nose. Teams don' t disclose specifics on injuries. Intensity, adrenalin and testosterone levels are off the charts. Players get cut, go to the dressing room, get stitched up and come back to play in the same game."
-- Steve Lienert, 4/23/06 (Steve should write copy for OLN. I'd watch the Stanley CupPlayoffs after reading that description)

"When war rooms like Philadelphia's banter about a player's name value, Pittsburgh and New England will be wondering how that player would fit in the team's current system. And on Draft Day it will again be evidently clear. I'll listen to my trusted colleague -- shut up, turn around and look at my Lombardi Trophy. I don't need to say a word. The Draft will speak for me."
-- Jared Trexler, 4/27/06 (I set off below)

"I am bitter, a bit depressed and have created a bald spot from all the head-scratching over the past several months. That said, I can't just let a Stiller fan use the LombardiTrophy for a soap box as he spews his holier-than-thou (and largely misinformed) opinions about our organization. I didn't want to do it JT, but you have forced my hand."
-- Tim McManus, 4/27/06 (Take that JT)

"The dirty little secret, though, is that the NFL and the NCAA's policies simply don't work, and neither will MLB's. Stopping performance enhancing drugs in any sport is impossible, and anyone who tells you different is either uninformed or a con man."
-- John McMullen, 5/04/06 (You should really read this piece in its entirety)

"Make sure you packed more than a travel kit, Geoff Geary. If Cole Hamels and the Phillies brass have anything to do with it, you won't be trading destinations with the prized lefty phenom ever again. Geary ironically was the first player to greet the lanky pitching prodigy on his initial trip to the Phillies clubhouse. And Geoff has been pitching well lately, but the time-honored management cop-out of a player's available options reared its ugly head. I hear Lackawanna County Stadium is beautiful in mid-May."
-- Jared Trexler, 5/12/06 (Both pitchers are now with the big club. The Phils stink)

"The good teams -- you know, like the ones who don't go 13 years between playoff appearances -- garner their strength from the mound. This way, they are sustained even in the times when the offense whispers rather than roars. Without pitching as a backbone, a team is vulnerable to sudden streaks --sometimes toward the heavens, sometimes toward the sewer."
-- Tim McManus, 5/14/06 (Wiser words have never been spoken)

"In the end, the only thing that's truly missing from Abreu's arsenal is a kille rinstinct, an ability to realize when the game lies in his hands alone, and the desire to crush that moment into the right-field seats. As evidenced during that All-Star weekend in ’05, there is superstardom in this man, a character that oozes passion and charisma and a hunger for center stage. The boos are nothing more than a plea for him to assume that lead role for a town desperate to embrace him."
-- Tim McManus, 5/20/06 (C'mon Bobby)

"By the way, since when did Red Sox fans become like a swarm of chowdah-slurping, funny-talking locusts? There were more Tom Brady jerseys at Citizens Bank Park las tweek than there were at Boston's Patriot's Day festivities. Who dresses these people?"
-- Steve Lienert, 5/23/06 (Lienert's return after an appendectomy)

"Welcome to Wednesday. Five hours and 21 minutes after Tuesday's pivotal NL Eastshowdown began, a weary Ryan Madson stared at dangerous left-handed hitting thumperCarlos Beltran. The slugger was thinking one thing. I want to go home. One swing of the bat later, Beltran got his wish and the cruel fate of baseball handed out its penalties. Madson was a loser for stats purposes only. The real loser of the marathon with the Mets was manager Charlie Manuel."
-- Jared Trexler, 5/24/06 (It seems to be the chronology of every loss).

"Jimmy Rollins began this season hounded by the media and chasing the ghost of Mr. Coffee himself, "The Yankee Clipper" Joe DiMaggio. Of course, placing the name of a deeply flawed hitter next to DiMaggio is folly. Joe D. was a legend and I am not talking about any 56-game hitting streak or multiple World Series rings. Yeah, those things are nice but DiMaggio was married to Marilyn Monroe! Talk about greatness...."
-- John McMullen, 5/26/06 (I'm Jimmy Rollins and I'm just one more reason to believe)

"With this defensive, dismissive and even aggressive side of Wade revealed, it is not a stretch to suggest that his non-action before the deadline was in part to service his ego, and it even helps explain why many blue-chippers in this organization(Schilling, Rolen, Wagner) were quick to flee. There's a reason why Wade is now just a scout for the San Diego Padres."
-- Tim McManus, 5/30/06 (Poor Ed Wade)

"Get busy living or get busy dying. Ellis Boyd 'Red' Redding, Morgan Freeman's character in the Shawshank Redemption, uttered that line throughout the movie, talking about how people either live life or let it wither away. The Phillies got busy dying this week and, quite frankly, they are left to play out the string in the middle of June. Welcome to baseball in Philly, Mr. Gillick."
-- Steve Lienert, 6/16/06 (Good Luck Pat)

"He looks and talks exactly like Marcellus Wallace from Pulp Fiction. The man either has some infinite wisdom or is medicated, because despite the tight quarters, the terrible hours and the constant exhaust running through his nostrils, he always has this cool, I'm-on-an-island-in-my-mind demeanor."
-- Tim McManus, 6/21/06 (Believe it or not, this article had plenty to do with sports)

"Brett Myers should stay behind and let his anger out on something other than the woman he vowed to love, honor and protect."
-- Jared Trexler, 6/25/06

"If less people come to your Stanley Cup parade than went to the Phantoms' Calder Cup final, you shouldn't have a hockey franchise....."
-- Steve Lienert, 6/25/06 (Jeff Foxworthy would be proud)

"I have an optimistic colleague that always thinks the Phillies are just a move or two away from becoming the 1927 Yankees. Unfortunately he keeps forgetting one thing-- a lot of players just don't want to come here. The ugly Philadelphia fan has turned off a whole generation of athletes who rather go in exile to Kansas City than go through the hell that they think awaits them in Philadelphia."
-- John McMullen, 6/26/06

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Rome wasn't built in a day

By Michael Rushton

Quick question for all you NBA draft junkies.

What's the biggest gamble in the draft?

Who to actually take with your first-round selection or having an actual top-five pick?

I'd argue that it's having an upper-tier pick.

The National Basketball Association is stuck in a rut and it all starts with the young talent that comes in via the draft.

Take the National Football League, the only other big-four league that doesn't have an established minor-league system. When your team has a pick in the top five, you expect that player to be a starter and solid contributor by year's end. Even if it's a quarterback Mr. Alex Smith.

Not so in the NBA. Most times, teams with the higher picks are forced to draft on potential rather then immediate impact, pushing teams into a loop of brutalness.

Very rarely do can't miss prospects like LeBron James come around. So if you happen to have a high pick during the now frequent "mediocre talent" drafts the NBA seems to be holding at an alarming rate year after year, its tough to judge what you are getting.

Every draft has its busts, but not many have as many gambles as the NBA due to the young, unproven talent. After all, if I head down the street and churn out some dominating performances at my local YMCA, what does that prove? It's tough to measure my talent based on some performances where I'm playing people no where near my skill level.

And just so we're clear, I get schooled at the "Y" but that's a different story.

Yet, year after year, media hype and some amateur video of a 6-foot-8 forward dunking on a bunch of fellow high school kids who may be more concerned with the results of their last geometry test than the game itself is all some teams are given.

Someone like Tyrus Thomas, just coming off his freshman year at LSU, might not reach his full potential for another three years (the exact time he would have finished college by the way). So, lets say he falls to the fifth pick in this year's draft where Atlanta would obviously need him to step in right away.

However, it is very possible Thomas doesn't contribute right away and Atlanta is stuck in the bottom of the standings for at least another year as their "impact player" continues to develop while taking up a roster spot and a piece of the salary cap.

In fact, by the time Thomas finally reaches his potential, he may be eligible to leave as a free agent where a team that can wait even another year for him to grow will throw money at him.
Or, the Hawks get sick of waiting for Thomas and deal him for an expiring contract or someone else's headache.

Let me give you the best piece of evidence I can give you to support my hypothesis: Kwame Brown.

Brown was grabbed by the Washington Wizards with the first overall pick in 2001 and in the process became the first high school player ever selected with the first overall pick in the draft.

Brown went on to start three games his rookie year. Three starts out of your No. 1 overall pick, who averaged 4.5 points a game that season. At least he helped run Michael Jordan out of town, who by the way, couldn't even make Brown look like a player.

Washington has since shipped Brown to Los Angeles where he comes off the Lakers' bench.

The 76ers pick 13th this year. Kobe Bryant was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets -- and later traded to the Lakers -- in 1996 13th overall. The Lakers could afford to wait for Bryant, who didn't become a regular starter until is third season. And we all know how that turned out.

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Glory Days

By Tim McManus

Like in wrestling, I think everybody should have a theme song that plays each time they come onto the scene.

This would really help in your decision-making, no? For instance: When you meet a drop-dead gorgeous girl your judgment instantly becomes muddled, but if she had "Super Freak" playing behind her you'd know to run away (or go after her, depending on your taste).

All of the man-eaters and hoochie mamas would be separated from the keepers who are once, twice, three times a lady, right?

It works for guys, too. If someone comes into anything played by Anthrax, it's probably a good idea to flee as quickly as possible. If it's something by the Smiths you don't have to worry about the competition, whereas if it's an Al Green song you probably do, but at least you'll get outdueled by a cool cat.

As you now choose which song would represent you, know this: It will never be as perfect as Metallica's "Enter Sandman" and Mariano Rivera. From the band to the title to the rift, no marriage of man and music will ever fit so well. Unless Randy Johnson used Bob Seger's "Against the Wind" (I was a little too tall, could have used a few pounds).

That doesn't mean we can't have some fun with this. So let's match your Philadelphia Phillies with their appropriate theme songs:

Ryan Howard: I'm thinking AC/DC's "Thunderstrike" or Tribe Called Quest's "Scenario": Powerful impact, boom! from the cannon

David Bell: Beatles, "When I'm 64". When I am old and losing my hair...Will you still need me (no), will you still feed me (no) when I can't bend down!

Aaron Rowand: Dave Matthews' "Crash" strictly for the title, mixed with Don Fogarty's "Centerfield", a classic feel for a throwback player.

Jimmy Rollins: No song. Every time he comes to the plate they should play the one part from "Major League": "You may run like Mays but you hit like sh%t!"

Chase Utley: Bruce Springsteen, "Glory Days". My colleagues insisted this song be on the list (they suggested it for every player) so I had to put it in. And it's kinda the All-American song, so it fits here somehow.

Bobby Abreu: Lionel Richie, "Easy Like Sunday Morning". The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced this plays in his head constantly during a game. He just sort of gallivants about, everything's is fluid, no rush, I'll swing when I swing. Maybe the key is to switch his song to Pantera or something.

Pat Burrell: Cranberries, "Zombie". Seriously, just watch him move. You'll never look at him the same again.

Sal Fasano: AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" for both the biker image and the fate of his career. I cannot be talked out of this one.

Cole Hamels: LL Cool J, "Something Like a Phenomenon".

Brett Myers: Prodigy, "Smack My B*tch Up". (Sorry, but you knew that was coming).

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Monday, June 26, 2006


By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - I’m tired of the way fans in this city are viewed around the rest of this country.

Most places don‘t think evolution ever made its way to the City of Brotherly Love.

And the shots keep on coming. Just check out the latest issue of The Sporting News where former Phil Todd Jones just couldn’t help himself from singling out the Philly Faithful.

Here’s Jones’ column:

“If you think about it, baseball players get yelled at for a living. After all, we're in foreign territory half the time. Now, most people just go to the game to enjoy the game. They grab a hot dog, get a program and prop up their feet. But, let's face it, some fans come to heckle.

For them, it's a form of cheap entertainment. If they keep it tasteful, hecklers can be quite entertaining. The rudest fans in the country reside, of course, in Philadelphia. Not all Philly fans are rude, but there you get some real dum-dums.

Their sole purpose is to make your life unbearable, and the funny thing is they wear it like a badge of honor: "Hey, this is a tough town. We boo Santa Claus." Well, congratulations.

New York and Boston can be tough, but the fans there are knowledgeable. To hear them say it, they're on a first-name basis with my mother -- and every other player's mother.

You can see the troublemakers from a mile away. Usually, it's a few buddies going out for the night. One will get his beer muscles on, and then it starts.

You see them plotting. Finally, one of them leans over and lets you have it: "Hey, Jones! You stink!"

That's it? That's all you've got? All that beer at 8 bucks a cup and your buddies egging you on, and that's all you can come up with?

Come on. At least be creative. Do your homework. If I gave up a homer the night before, mention that. If I have an unusual middle name (like, say, Barton), heck, throw that out. At least show us you're prepared and have done some homework.

The most polite fans usually are in the Midwest. If a fan in St. Louis is being a jerk, we don't have to say a word. The fans there kill their own nuts.

In L.A., the fans don't usually rag on you unless you play for the Giants. They don't even talk to you unless you're one of the big guys.

In Canada, fans look at you kind of funny. They cheer loudest for the catcher because he's the closest thing to a goalie baseball has. I'm kidding, of course.

What the fans want most is interaction. If you wave or smile, they usually will be great to you the rest of the time. They want a ball. They want you to make their day at the game an experience. For the most part, the fans I've dealt with have been wonderful. I've met neat people all over the country. If players treat fans with respect, we'll get it in return most of the time. Unless we're in Philly.”

I can already feel the righteous indignation building but before you start making excuses, understand Todd Jones is right.... At least, partially right.

Like most stereotypes, there is some truth to the ugly Philadelphia fan.

Of course, the vast majority of fans in this town just want to go to a game and enjoy themselves but the vocal, uneducated minority makes them look wretched to the rest of my country.

Every city has these stupefying fans. The beer-swilling, face-painting MENSA members who think nothing of dropping 75 or so F-bombs while in the presence of a five-year old little girl. The ones that live and die with a team that know virtually nothing about.

We all know them and can recognize them in an instant. The problem here is the minority has taken over.

This is directed at that minority.

In my years covering sports, I’ve had the opportunity to travel across the country and see how fans act in virtually every city. While I hate to say it, Philadelphia is the worst.

Now most of you will say, who cares what some clod in the media thinks? Who cares what opposition fans think? Who cares what Jones thinks?

And that’s your right but realize we are not alone.

I have an optimistic colleague that always thinks the Phillies are just a move or two away from becoming the 1927 Yankees. Unfortunately he keeps forgetting one thing -- a lot of players just don’t want to come here.

The ugly Philadelphia fan has turned off a whole generation of athletes who rather go in exile to Kansas City that go through the hell that they think awaits them in Philadelphia.

So when you think about the drought and you want to place blame. Along with the names of Ed Snider, Billy King, Bob Clarke, Dave Montgomery, Pat Gillick, Joe Banner and Andy Reid -- you can add one more to the list.

Just look in the mirror to find it.

-You can reach John McMullen at or

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

They don't know what they got

By Steven Lienert

In 2005, 20,103 hockey-starved fans came out to Wachovia Center for Game 4 of the American Hockey League's Calder Cup Finals to root on the Philadelphia Phantoms, the Flyers' minor-league affiliate, to a championship.

It was yet another testament to the passion of the Philadelphia sports fan.

It also set the bar on whether or not a city should have a hockey franchise.

Here are some simple guidelines to figure out if your city deserves the franchise you have. If only Jeff Foxworthy could narrate:

If less people come to your Stanley Cup parade than went to the Phantoms' Calder Cup final, you shouldn't have a hockey franchise.....

Take the Tampa Bay Lightning, for instance. Less people showed up at their Stanley Cup championship parade than went to the Phantoms game. It cost money to go to the Phantoms game -- the Lightning's parade was free. Thus, Tampa Bay doesn't deserve its' hockey team.

I bring this up because of the Carolina Hurricanes. They held a parade in Raleigh to celebrate North Carolina's first-ever major professional sports championship. How many Carolinians came out? There were estimates as high as 25,000, but that was clearly inflated. So by the aforementioned standard, it's marginal if Raleigh deserves the Canes. Just some perspective: The Flyers' 1974 Stanley Cup parade had brought out an estimated 1,000,000 people, which brings us to standard No. 2:

If your championship parade is a lap around your arena or stadium, your city does not deserve to have a hockey franchise...

The New Jersey Devils started an awful trend in 1995, and I'm not talking about the left-wing lock. The team decided to hold its Stanley Cup parade in the parking lot of what is now Continental Airlines Arena, which took away some of the luster of their Stanley Cup championship. Where did the Hurricanes parade take place? In the parking lot of RBC Center. Sorry, but Raleigh doesn't deserve the Canes.

Oh, and about the Devils. To steal a line from an old television commercial, the Devils and New Jersey are purr-fect together. They both belong in a swamp housing most of New York's waste. If the Devils went away, would anyone really care? Which brings us to standard No. 3:

If your team is in the championship round of its particular sport, and tickets are available the day of the game for face value, your city doesn't deserve to have a hockey franchise...

Tampa Bay had to actually persuade people with beer to have them buy a ticket to the 2004 Stanley Cup finals. New Jersey sells out Continental Airlines Arena, but only late in the finals when the Stanley Cup is in the building.

Detractors can say that Sixers' fans didn't sell out the Spectrum for the 1983 NBA Finals, but that was back before the NBA gained its mainstream popularity.

The Atlanta Braves routinely have seats available to all their playoff games, mostly because Atlanta sucks as a sports town. Braves fans were probably sick of the team winning 14-straight division titles with just one World Series championship to show for it. And good tickets were available on game day in both of the Florida Marlins' World Series appearances.

In a just world, these cities would give back their respective franchises and apologize to all of us for wasting our time:

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Ducks (because it was a Disney creation), Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes (but they can play in Hartford), Phoenix Coyotes (even with Wayne Gretzky), Atlanta Thrashers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies (are there grizzly bears in Memphis?), Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets (they are on their third city in four years). The Charlotte Bobcats are on probation because the city gave up on the Hornets.

MLB: Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Florida Marlins, Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos (the franchise still isn't drawing flies) and Kansas City Royals.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals, New Orleans Saints, Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens (although, if they traded names so that the teams were the Indianapolis Ravens and the Baltimore Colts, they would be allowed to stay).

Steve Lienert can be reached at or at

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Snow White and the Dwarf

By Jared Trexler

The rain saved the Phillies from getting swept out of Boston on Sunday. Now,the 'Fightless Phils get to spend another night on Beantown. Brett Myers should stay behind and let his anger out on something other than the woman he vowed to love, honor and protect.

Fittingly, Philadelphia will take the field in another "make-or-break" game tomorrow afternoon at 1 p.m., primetime for daytime viewers.

For the Phillies have turned from a National League contender to baseball's version of "Sands Through an Hour Glass" faster than Charlie Manuel can say "done good."

Jimmy Rollins is the character who just doesn't get it. He shows flashes of success at the plate only to revert back to bad habits when the going gets tough. You want to like him -- his carefree attitude mixed with an outward passion for the game. But he just refuses to change. All an audience can do is shake its collective head.

Aaron Rowand is the rough, tough guy with a lifetime free pass courtesy of a few drops of blood and a broken nose. The center fielder can air-mall 10 more throws over the catcher, continually fail to hit the cutoff man and strike out with runners in scoring position. It doesn't matter. He's a winner. He's a good guy. He cares when he fails (as opposed to the player who nonchalantly succeeds, aka Bobby Abreu).

Abreu is the town's whipping boy. No matter what he does, criticism rains down from the proverbial heavens. Walk with two men on base? He's leaving it up toPat Burrell. Singles home a run in the first frame? He's padding the stats before the late innings.

Cole Hamels is the child prodigy. Mike Lieberthal is the aging employee who has hung on for too long. Myers hits women. Burrell at times plays and runs like one.

Manuel may have a tough time spelling the word.

Have no fear, Rick White is here to save the day. White can spread the wealth in the clubhouse, passing on the frequent flyer miles saved from a lifetime trip around the league. The right-hander is just another bullpen arm who works the corner -- offering his services to any team willing to pay minimum wage.

The Dwarf (Manuel) will use Snow White late in games then stumble to the podium and in kindergarten speak, explain the rationale behind the double switch.

And this franchise wonders why it continues to fail. An optimist would even have to agree that the glass is half empty.

So, as the rain continues to pelt down on Fenway Park it is time to call off work on Monday. Give yourself a three-day weekend and tune in to the finale of this month-long cliffhanger.

Poor play has been building. The characters have developed to the point where we (the fans) can miss a few episodes and still know what's going on.

Rollins pops up. Utley singles. Abreu lazily walks. Burrell strikes out with one foot on the ground. The opponent walks Howard. Rowand flies out with the bases loaded, but seems pissed in doing so.

The order then reverts to the top (fans forget batters 7-9 on purpose).

Jon Leiber has neck spasms from turning to watch balls soar into the seats. Myers shows irritation on a borderline pitch. He shows physical restraint with the men in blue.

Every episode is the same. The viewers are starting to get bored. In order to reclaim its spot on the top of the daytime television rankings, "Snow White and the Dwarf," needs to cap its cliffhanger with something that sends shock waves through the baseball world.

Watch tomorrow. Expect a conclusion. Stay tuned...
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Friday, June 23, 2006

To play the game, one must understand the "game"

By Jared Trexler

Many of these kids started with nothing. Basketball was their escape from drugs, violence, life. An orange ball and a pair of Nikes were their ticket out.

When nothing quickly becomes a whole lot of something, judgment is clouded.

Hours spent in the weight room and on the playground send basketball's next rising star into a revolving line at the nearest meat market. Take a number and wait your turn.

When the number is called, be prepared for a thorough inspection. Ability to jump through the roof? Check. Inside-outside skill set essential for a well- rounded offensive game? Needs work. Court Awareness? Will improve with time. Life skills? As high as can be expected for a 19-year-old kid.

Basketball experts everywhere will spend the next several days dissecting a player's body fat, vertical jump and ability to catch and square to the hoop in one fluent motion.

However, most NBA failures don't fall into obscurity because of a lack of talent. Rather, the problems lie with a lack of discipline. Lack of focus. Lack of accountability.

In simple terms, they are grown men living an existence without consequence. That mentality lands even the most physically gifted athletes at the end of life's bench -- a view that isn't pretty when staring up at success with failure's splinters riding up one's gym shorts.

So, when Toronto's brass is placed squarely on the clock with the draft's first selection, it should consider a player's ability to not just play under the bright lights of the Air Canada Centre but also the bright lights of Canadian nightlife.

An organization should consider a player's values -- ranging from his upbringing to his time spent in college under the watchful eyes of a coaching mentor. A young man who spent the prom in Juvenile Hall may be a risk. A player that learned the game of life from North Carolina head coach Roy Williams should have an edge over another who soaked in Bob Huggins' wisdom.

"Family values in the household are extremely important," said Gerald Cimmet, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist, educator, speaker and performance enhancement coach with over 25 years experience. "There can be fine values even in the poorest neighborhoods as there can be shallow values in the richest."

However, Cimmet admits that the lure of financial well-being is significantly greater among players who grew up in low-income neighborhoods.

"These players might think, 'I'm likely to be nobody and I can't do anything else, so why not take the money.' This could be more pronounced in the poorer neighborhoods, but the idea of a dream of fame and success coming true is very powerful and affects everyone's judgment regardless of neighborhood," said Cimmet.

The trip down a very slippery slope begins with that dream. While a dream's foundation -- ambition, desire, hope -- is positive, not all chances at success are created equal.

The ping pong balls signifying an NBA team's chances at the top pick demonstrate the volatile nature of the sport. It is a lottery, where some make it big and others watch life pass them by while expressing eternal, yet false hope.

"In poorer neighborhoods, the children's role models tend to be in sports and music, while in other neighborhoods there is likely to be a more diverse group of role models that could include teachers, lawyers and doctors," said Cimmet. "The thinking for the first group is more likely to be, 'Life's a risk anyway, so why not go for it.' It's a gambling philosophy."

So many times players get sold into the illusion that every hand will be a royal flush, when in reality the odds are stacked highly in favor of the house.

"From the age of five to 20, the idea of a glamorous life greatly outweighs stark reality-based thinking," said Cimmet.

That's the scary thing. If the player is caught up in the mirage of luxury, who is there to reel him back in with sensible discourse?

The parents? Sadly, some see their child as a tool to wealth. Even the most loving parents get caught up in the possibility of early retirement after 19 years of labor just to put food on the table.

The agents? Their minds are clouded with big money and big marketing ideas. Their vested interest is in the player, not the person.

The team? It is looking for a player to fill seats, increase profits and take the organization to the promised land. It views the player as a commodity until the shots stop falling. It then turns its attention and financial resources to the next rising star.

Never in the structure of a team game can an individual feel so alone.

To cut down on young adults entering a world they are not prepared for, the NBA changed the age limit for players to enter the draft in last year's Collective Bargaining Agreement. Now, a player must be at least 19 years old to declare for the draft or be at least two years out of high school. The new limit has eliminated high school basketball players from throwing their hats into the ring.

"It buys another year or two and makes an assumption that the slightly older athlete will be more mature," said Cimmet. "It might help a little, for some 17 and 18 year olds think more maturely at 19 and 20."

While the league helped its overall product with the higher age limit, it more importantly helped today's young athlete. It also gave an indirect order to colleges nationwide.


In the context of the basketball ladder, the two entities that make millions off the success of athletes should now know where they stand. Colleges need to take more responsibility for their athletes, while the NBA must hold each individual player to not just a talent evaluation, but a psychological litmus test.

Sadly, even this article has left the most important piece to the puzzle for last.

Tim Duncan and Matt Leinart are two prime examples of four-year student athletes who didn't rush fame. Duncan learned how to use a lanky frame to his advantage, developed a mid-range game and grasped the idiosyncrasies of basketball. Today, the Spurs forward is the most intelligent player on the court.

Leinart could have leaped to the NFL after a junior campaign that included a Heisman Trophy and a national championship. However, he wanted to experience his senior year of college. He had the rest of his life to play pro football.

The Southern California signal-caller didn't win either coveted prize last season, but put up phenomenal numbers and spent another season with his teammates and friends. He picked up ballroom dancing then used the dance moves on a litany of So-Cal coeds.

Both are reasons why students shouldn't trade in school for a career in sports so quickly. Granted Duncan and Leinart were in better financial situations than many collegiate hoop stars, but that is all the more reason for an athlete from an impoverished area to use his talents to earn a degree.

Life on the road in the NBA is an entirely different animal than a Friday night at Party U. Kegs of cheap beer and the smell of cheap drugs are replaced with Cristal and Crystal -- just one of many illegal drugs that have got various young players into trouble over the years.

Before stepping foot into the arena, players need to understand all it encompasses. They should ask themselves if they can survive in it.

If the answer is truly "yes," then the decision to forego the collegiate experience is a profitable one in the long term.

However, if the answer is "no," then schedule classes and suit up for meaningful games at the Carrier Dome.

Good luck Kyle Lowry. Best wishes Adam Morrison. Farewell Cedric Simmons.

For every undergraduate who opted for cash over college, the game is waiting. So is the "game."

Longevity in the league will be determined by success in both.

-- Jared Trexler is The Phanatic's College Basketball Columnist. He can be reached at and

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Me, Miami and tollbooth Wallace

By Tim McManus

Here’s a perfect example of why I like sports:

For the past six years, through three different jobs and two moves, I have taken the Pennsylvania Turnpike to work. And the one constant through that time (besides the fact that I can barely afford the rates) is this one tollbooth worker. Maybe you’ve seen him.

He looks and talks exactly like Marcellus Wallace from Pulp Fiction. The man either has some infinite wisdom or is medicated, because despite the tight quarters, the terrible hours and the constant exhaust running through his nostrils, he always has this cool, I’m-on-an-island-in-my-mind demeanor.

Every time I pull up he gives the nod, says “What’s up man,” in a baritone pitch and then gives the affirming “Alright,” as I pull away. I like to think as I’m leaving that he gets a call, listens for a minute, then says: “It’s cool Jules, I’m on the motherfu*%er. Go back inside, chill those nig#@rs out, and wait for the toll booth man, who will be arriving directly.”

For some reason -- probably because the rest of the workers look somewhere between miserable to close to death -- I always feel a little bit better giving my money to this cat.

Now the interaction I just described has never wavered for six years. He always starts with the nod, says the same thing, and never breaks from the slightly-sedated, placid personality.

Until last night.

I was driving home from work during the fourth quarter of the Mavs-Heat game, trying desperately to find an AM station that came in somewhat decent. That was pretty much a failure, but I did find one that faded in and out every 10 seconds, allowing me just enough audio to give me an idea of how the game was going.

As I pulled off the turnpike and moved toward the tolls, Wade nailed a pair of free throws with 17 seconds left to put Miami up 95-90 and secure the franchise’s first-ever championship.

The sound faded out as I moved between the booths, but Wallace took over the commentary from there:

“We did it! We did it! Ha ha ha ha ha!”

He was doing some kind of crazy shimmy that nearly tore his compartment down, then threw in a couple Jordan-like fist-pumps. There was no room for the customary nod, not a word spoken to me before I drove off. He just took the cash and went right back to his moment.

It was the first time in six years that I saw my man smile, and it will probably be the last.

I get the feeling that there’s nothing else that could have happened that would have brought out the same reaction. If the woman he loved said “yes”, his kid got a scholarship or his company decided to give him an amazing early-retirement pension package, I doubt that I would have seen the same Antoine Walker-type dance as I had last night. Those types of celebrations are usually designated for loved ones or when you’re alone in front of the mirror.

Sports, though, is a shared experience. Even though we were far from South Beach and I just pulled up randomly, I knew exactly why he was pumped and he knew I knew exactly what he was responding to.

It made me remember why I’ve been putting up with this city’s failures for so many years: Once one of these teams finally pulls out a championship, it’s going to be like that experience times ten thousand; a whole city of tollbooth Wallace’s running around like crazy.

See, Wallace is like Philadelphia, a bunch of people walking around like everything’s alright, but not too alright. But like an adrenaline shot to the heart, a title wakes everyone up and paints them electric.

If only for a moment.

Changing of the Guard: Wade is finals MVP

By John McMullen

At 7-foot-1 and 330-pounds with a gregarious personality, Shaquille O'Neal is larger than life. When the "Big Aristotle" relocated to South Beach, it was with the expressed intention of being "Batman" to Dwyane Wade's "Robin".

But, make no mistake about it -- there is only one superhero in Miami and it's not the big guy.

Miami received a far different player than the one that dominated the league in Los Angeles. The current version of O'Neal is just a shell of his former self. A shell that has trouble showing on the pick-and-roll and nearly crippled the Heat during the NBA Finals with an inability to make free throws in key situations.

O'Neal managed just nine points in 12 rebounds during the final game as he struggled with foul trouble throughout.

If you add in a supporting cast full of aging, former stars like Antoine Walker, Gary Payton and Alonzo Mourning, the stark reality was clear.

Miami had no business winning its first NBA championship.

Of course, that didn't take into account the game's ultimate finisher, Wade. Not since Michael Jordan has the NBA had a player who, not only wants the ball in big situations, but craves it.

Most observers feel Dallas lost this series and the NBA championship because they had no answer for Wade on the defensive end. While that's true, the real problem in North Texas was the Mavs inability to field a player that longed to make a play down the stretch like Wade.

The former Marquette star willed Miami to four straight wins as the Heat became only the third team in NBA history to come back from a 2-0 deficit to win the title. They are the first team to do it since the league went to a dubious 2-3-2 format that seems to heavily favor the team with home court advantage.

And, it was Wade and not Shaq that was the clear choice for the MVP of the series.

After averaging just 25.5 points in losses during the first two games in the series, Wade exploded for 157 points in four consecutive wins, including a franchise playoff record 43 points in a 101-100 overtime thriller win in Game 5 on Sunday.

Almost poetically Wade grabbed the season's final rebound, heaving the ball in the air as time ran out on the Mavericks.

O'Neal quickly hugged him and thanked him for carrying him to a fourth world title.

"Wade is the best player ever," O'Neal said.

While overstated, Wade was clearly the best player in the finals.

-You can reach John McMullen at or

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Method or madness?

By Tim McManus

When seemingly illogical moves are made in sports, there are two plausible explanations:

1) The general manager/coach/player is wallowing in incompetence, or

2) There's more to the story than you realize.

I bring this up because the Phillies have made some lineup moves this past week that don't seem to make sense, especially given the circumstances.

On June 17, the Phils were trying to snap a six-game losing streak against young sensation Scott Kazmir and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Even though they were still reeling from a sweep at the hands of the Mets and could not afford a further dip, they called up Scott Mathieson from Double-A and started him, then decided to give their best hitter, Chase Utley, a day off.

Despite losing that game to further the slump, Manuel decided to rest Aaron Rowand, Pat Burrell and David Bell the next day against Seth McClung.

Then, in Monday's series opener against Randy Johnson and the New York Yankees, the Phils sat Bobby Abreu and Ryan Howard.

Somehow, they won two of those three games.

They took a huge risk of extending their losing streak to nine games with those moves, though. Sitting one big-name player a day because of injuries or pitching matchups is understandable, but two or more? That's asking for it.

So you have to question: Is it stupidity driving these decisions or is there actually a method to the madness?

Let's assume, against better judgment, that there's a logical explanation.

If you take that approach and break down the box scores accordingly, the one constant that you'll see is Abraham Nunez. He played second base for Utley, third base for Bell and then took second again against the Yankees while Utley was bumped to first base.


A man who couldn't sniff the lineup for almost an entire half-season gets called upon on three consecutive nights. Coincidence, or are they trying to up his value for potential suitors?

If that was their plan it worked, as Nunez hit a homer in his first game, knocked in a run in the finale against Tampa Bay and then made a spectacular diving play to rob Johnson of a base hit and save a run against the Yanks.

Shane Victorino, meanwhile, started two of those games and appeared in all three, while David Dellucci started Sunday and went 3-for-4 with a run.

And Mathieson didn't embarrass himself in his major-league debut despite making the double-leap, allowing four runs in six innings of work.

So to recap: The Phillies showed off one of their bright pitching prospects, started their backup third baseman on three straight nights, and tried to illuminate the potential of their top two bench players.

It gets the wheels turning. Is it so hard to imagine another team's GM saying to Pat Gillick, "You know, I love what Nunez did for the Cardinals last year and I could really use a utility man, but I just haven't seen enough of him."; or, "Mathieson seems like a stud, but I just don't know how his talent will translate in the big leagues"?

Maybe, just maybe, the moves seem terrible because we're not privy to the same information that the Phillies' front office is. Maybe said players are soon to be part of a package deal that brings this team some much-needed help.

You better hope that is the case. Otherwise, your team is in a lot worse hands than even the most cynical detractor thought.

You can contact Tim at

Incompetence doesn’t equate to conspiracy

By John McMullen

Dallas is the perfect place for these NBA Finals.

Think about it...the “Holy Grail” for conspiracy theorists, Dealey Plaza, is just a few miles from the Mavericks’ home. John F. Kennedy’s assassination there spawned a generation of lunatics that think the fix is in on everything.

From important world events like 9/11 and the election of George Bush to things as silly as the Super Bowl and the NBA Championship, these mental midgets think evil puppeteers are calling all the shots from dimly lit rooms that no doubt smell of a cigar smoke and hooker spit.

It’s not really a big deal. In fact, I have always just snickered at most of these nuts and let them have their fun. But, when one of the crazies actually owns a team in the NBA Finals, you have to sit up and take notice.

Mark Cuban has turned into the world’s most famous (and annoying) conspiracy nut since Mel Gibson played Jerry Fletcher in the movie.

I actually feel for would be cool if Montgomery Burns came to life and really did manipulate everything but the truth is always far less exciting.

As the Mavericks owner, accuses the NBA of trying to steal his NBA Championship, I wonder if Cuban really is that foolish or is he just trying to cover for a team that can’t finish.

On Sunday night, when Miami took a 3-2 series lead with a 101-100 overtime victory, Cuban could not accept the loss. So he and his players blamed the referees.

In the final seconds they said Dwyane Wade committed a backcourt violation that was not called. Then it was Wade committed a foul on Jason Terry on his way to the basket. Next, they wined that Wade was not fouled at all on the final drive that set up his winning free throws.

Finally, Dallas claimed it wanted to use its last timeout after Wade's second free throw but that the referee mistakenly awarded it after the first one -- even though the Mavs’ Chris Webber impressionist -- Josh Howard -- clearly called for the timeout after the first free throw.

Like most good conspiracy theories there is some truth in the Dallas story. Most importantly, Wade wasn’t fouled with 1.9 ticks left.

That said, one bad call, even with 1.9 seconds remaining, doesn’t mean the world is against you.

If the NBA truly wanted the Heat to win, why were Howard and Dirk Nowitzki put on the free throw line late? Howard missed two free throws with 54 seconds left and Nowitzki missed 1-of-2 from the line.

It also doesn‘t explain how the Mavs blew a 13-point fourth-quarter lead in Game 3.

If Dallas had players that performed under pressure like Wade does, this series would be over.

And that doesn’t sound like a conspiracy to me.

-You can reach John McMullen at or

Monday, June 19, 2006

Let’s Go Oilers!

By Steven Lienert

If anybody can sympathize with Edmonton, it’s Flyers’ fans.


It was late June, 1987, when the Flyers, who were down three-game-to one to the Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Coffey and Fuhr Oilers, rallied to win Game 5.

J.J. Daignault’s slap-shot goal from the left point won Game 6 at The Spectrum but, more importantly, it forced Game 7 back in Edmonton.

It was the greatest moment in Flyers’ history… in my lifetime, of course.

There was no doubt Philly was going to win Game 7.

I happened to be on a two-week trip with my folks to Florida that year, and we left for the 2 1/2 –day road trip before the Flyers even made the finals. We stayed in our pop-up camper with some tents at Disney World’s Fort Wilderness resort, and each morning I ran to the trading post get the first copy of USA Today, just to see how the Flyers were doing.

Long-story short, the day the Flyers forced Game 7 against Edmonton, I made my parents pack up and drive back to Philly with hopes of catching Game 7 on television.

We arrived at our house in time to catch the game, just before Gene Hart's call of the drop of the puck.

But, as history shows, it ended in heartbreak, much like every other playoff appearance a Philadelphia team has had in the past 23 years.

If it means anything to anybody, the Flyers lost to the Oilers that year, so maybe if Carolina wins tonight, it’s poetic justice for Edmonton fans.

But I’m rooting for the eighth-seeded Oilers to win the Cup, only because Hurricane fans haven’t suffered enough. They were lucky to get a franchise as decent as the Hartford Whalers.

Besides, if one more former Flyer hoists the Cup before our team does, I’m going to vomit in my cereal.

Here’s hoping the Oilers become the first team since the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs to come back from a three-games-to-one deficit to win the Stanley Cup.

Their fans deserve it.

Steve Lienert can be reached at or at

Friday, June 16, 2006

Now what?

By Steven Lienert

Get busy living or get busy dying.

Ellis Boyd 'Red' Redding, Morgan Freeman's character in the Shawshank Redemption, uttered that line throughout the movie, talking about how people either live life or let it wither away.

The Phillies got busy dying this week and, quite frankly, they are left to play out the string in the middle of June.

Welcome to baseball in Philly, Mr. Gillick.

What about the wild card, one might ask? Forget it about it. That belongs to either the Reds, Astros, or Padres, considering that the Cardinals and Dodgers win their respective divisions.

The worst part is, this is a virtually unfixable situation.

Not only doesn't anybody want Pat Burrell, he has a no-trade clause to boot. The catcher position is in shambles. Brett Myers loses his head every time David Bell or gold-glover Bobby Abreu commits an error, which is at least once a game. Jon Lieber is in no rush to get back from the disabled list. Ryan Howard gets consistently lost running between first and third.

The team is reaching to its best pitching prospect from Double-A Reading for a spot start on Saturday, mostly because there's nobody at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre that is in a position to help. (I'm lookin' squarely at you, Gavin "Fraud" Floyd).

And the astute manager, who, last I checked, was responsible for coaching the players, has analyzed the situation and came up with a brilliant strategy to turn this debacle around.

He thinks the team is playing well, but it needs to play better, hit better and catch better. Play the game better as a whole.

That's the kind of insight a fan can only get from the skipper of the ship himself. Brilliant!

Sarcasm aside, it's not news that Charlie Manuel is a backwater buffoon.

But what can the organization do?

Firing Manuel won't do anything for the long term. Besides, everyone seems pretty concerned that the manager be popular among the players in the locker room. That rules out the Lou Piniella and Dallas Green types. Otherwise, they'll bitch and moan for 162 games, and who really wants to listen to that?

The front office isn't willing to overpay for a No. 1 starter (i.e, Dontrelle Willis). Ownership isn't changing anytime this decade. The lineup is built for the three-run homer, but since no one gets on base, most are just solo shots.

Jimmy Rollins pops-out once a game like Willie Mays Hayes in Major League. And the Fightin's strike out so often, you'd think they'd be sponsored by Circle K.

It's become so apathetic, Citizens Bank Park has become a destination spot where fans from other teams can come to completely take over the stadium. Mets and Red Sox fans have made our ball yard their home away from home and, for the first time in my life, Philadelphians are welcoming them with open arms like they were in town for the Greek Picnic.

Instead of rooting for the Phillies to actually win, perhaps Phillies' fans should start embracing the losing like the organization has.

Think about it this way: no one can stop the March to 10,000 losses. The best news is that the Phils will get there before anyone in American Sports History, and no one can EVER take that away.

Steve Lienert can be reached at or at

Thursday, June 15, 2006

It's Time to Panic

By Tim McManus

Yes, it's time to panic. But maybe for different reasons than you think.

Getting swept by the team you're chasing, in any month, is a blow. That becomes especially true when you look up after and see that your enemy has pulled ahead by nearly double-digits.

It is not the 9 1/2 game deficit that is most alarming, though, but rather a familiar sense of apathy that the Phillies exuded during the recent burial.

There are deficiencies in this team that have been thoroughly explored in this space throughout the season, and reasonable ways to fix the ailments in time to make a playoff run (Namely, exchanging a club for a gun).

You have to wonder, however, if there's a way to reverse the psychology of a team that can't identify a big moment, much less seize it.

This core group has followed a similar pattern since its assembly: A stutter in the early going, a surge that puts them on or near the top, followed by a series of critical letdowns that leaves them hung on the barbwire rather than over the fence.

(Actually, Thursday's loss serves as a perfect microcosm, with the Phils going down 4-0 early, battling back to move within one, then ultimately coming up short.)

This has been the modus operandi with both Larry Bowa and Charlie Manuel at the helm, so calling for the skipper's head in this instance may be unwarranted.

Instead, let's focus on the rough in the diamond...

There are only four players in the entire organization that Philadelphia should deem absolute keepers: Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. All of them are not only young, but hold an intangible that makes you feel comfortable when the game falls in their hands. And that is the very quality that needs to be further honed by this club.

The antithesis of such players include Mike Lieberthal and Jon Lieber. Lieberthal needs to be exiled from Philly, and replaced with a catcher that can both handle a staff and a bat. This needs to be done now. Lieber, meanwhile, must be demoted to a No. 4 by next season or sent packing. And David Bell should join them for the ride, not because he's mentally soft but instead because he's just not good enough.

Jimmy Rollins, Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell all fall into the next category of players who will often give you a lift, but are just as prone to let you down. I still contend that Abreu needs to be moved in the name of a pitcher, while Burrell stays so you can still have a right-handed power bat in the middle of the lineup. Rollins should not lead off another day in his life. The experiment is over with him. Let him swing for the fences in the seven-hole.

Aaron Rowand obviously possesses the kind of inner fortitude that this team is missing as a whole, so he stays. And Madson shows just enough promise to ride him out.

None of the aforementioned players, though, should be deemed too valuable to get rid of. It is clear as it has ever been that a shake-up is in order, if for no other reason than to prove that a lack of urgency will not be tolerated.

It is time to mold a winner.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Will Birds Miss Owens?

By John McMullen

Since I am based in Philadelphia -- every time I am asked to do a radio spot, inevitably, the
host(s) will ask about Terrell Owens and how much the Eagles will miss him.

Now usually, I'm a pretty analytical guy that relies on logic when offering an opinion.

In this situation, logic would dictate that the Eagles will struggle trying to replace one of the best receivers in football but my answer always remains the same...

The Birds are far better off with Owens sporting a different address, even if his new home is in the same division.

No one here is questioning Owens’ ability but he is the single most immature and selfish athlete in professional sports. And, think about how much ground that covers.

While it’s very true the Eagles can’t replace Owens’ production, it‘s also true they couldn't afford his circus like sideshow.

Andy Reid has often talked about the type of players he brought into his"system." Good, hard working, character guys but when the time came, he sold his NFL soul to bring in the league’s worst teammate.

Well, it almost worked but now that is a distant memory. When Reid let Owens back on his practice field on Wednesday, August 17, 2005 -- he sealed the team's fate last season.

Reid and Donovan McNabb simply let a cancer eat through their locker room without much of a fight.

But, at least it's over...Yeah, we had to suffer through a 6-10 year but the cancer has been cut out and the dumbest receiver on the planet is now Dallas' problem.

And Owens is already proving my instincts are honed...According to the Dallas Morning News, Terrell showed up eight hours late for his own football camp last Wednesday.

Yep, Bill Parcells' new 6-foot-3 inch, 230-pound hemorrhoid kept his agent, publicist and about 90 morons who actually paid $195 to spend time with him, waiting an entire day before the NFL's resident diva finally decided to grace them all with his presence.

Some people just don't get it and at 32, it's pretty evident Owens never will.

-You can reach John McMullen at or

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Henin-Hardenne wins third French Open in four years

By Jared Trexler

Brought to Roland Garros for the first time as a kid and tennis novice, Justine Henin-Hardenne continued to live her childhood dream by winning her third French Open title in four years with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over eighth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova.

"I take everything I can. It's a bonus for me. I didn't believe one day I could win three times here," said Henin-Hardenne. "Now everything is a plus. It's great."

Before the fifth-seeded Belgian served for the championship, loud cheers rained from supporters and the crowd began the wave. Henin-Hardenne then closed out the match, tossing her racket in the air as Kuznetsova's forehand sailed long.

With the victory, Henin-Hardenne became just the sixth woman in the Open Era to hoist the trophy at Roland Garros at least three times and first to repeat since legendary Steffi Graf in 1996. She steamrolled through the field, never dropping a set and posting her 14th consecutive victory on Roland Garros' red clay.

"I'm very happy the way it went this week. Winning here for the third time means maybe more than the fifth Grand Slam for me, I mean, because it's physically and mentally very hard on clay," said Henin-Hardenne. "I've been very calm during the whole tournament, even if I never really played my best tennis. I played very well on the crucial points, and today again. So I'm very, very happy the way it goes right now."

Henin-Hardenne defeated countrywoman Kim Clijsters to capture her first French Open title in 2003 then beat France's Mary Pierce in last year's championship match. To pick up her third championship and defend her title, Henin-Hardenne had to get through the talented Russian, who burst on to the national tennis scene by winning the 2004 U.S. Open.

The 24-year-old Henin-Hardenne improved to 11-1 lifetime versus Kuznetsova, including a perfect 4-0 in Grand Slams. However, the straight-set victory did not do an entertaining and extremely competitive final justice.

Henin-Hardenne's early strategy of hitting all returns to the center of the court paid dividends. A seven-minute first game led to an early break, as the excited Belgian sprinted to her chair with the edge.

After three straight holds, Henin-Hardenne attacked the Russian's serve once again. A beautiful forehand placed behind a slipping Kuznetsova gave the fifth seed double-break point and she converted for a 4-1 advantage.

Kuznetsova refused to go quietly, losing one break opportunity before closing out the game moments later to get back into the set. After holding for a 4-3 deficit, the 2004 U.S. Open champion sapped into the current momentum to again put Henin-Hardenne on the ropes.
However, showing her familiarity and superiority on clay, Henin-Hardenne pounded ground stroke after ground stroke while waiting for Kuznetsova to make an unforced error. Kuznetsova lost a golden opportunity for a break when she dumped an overhead volley into the middle of the net.

Kuznetsova then held serve and found herself at 30-30 as Henin-Hardenne served for the set. A 114-mph serve that hugged the chalk and a powerful forehand out wide capped the game and the set for the defending champion.

The start of the second set was a total reserve from the match's opening minutes. Kuznetsova held at love then dominated on Henin-Hardenne's serve, breaking the Belgian in four quick points for a 2-0 lead.

"I was 2-0, 30-Love, and I felt like I'm in control, same as I was in the end of the first set," said Kuznetsova. "Then you just miss two balls and then you lose your chance, you know. You let her come back to the match. And if you keep losing, keep missing, you know, you keep letting her back, it's not possible to win. So I think that was the key."

After looking sluggish in the first two games, Henin-Hardenne picked up a second wind and hit a sterling winner to get back on serve at 1-2. Henin- Hardenne then held serve, and Kuznetsova withstood four deuce games to take a 3-2 lead.

Henin-Hardenne overcame a deuce game to square the set then took a huge step toward capturing the championship. Three well-orchestrated points capped by a forehand behind Kuznetsova opened a 0-40 lead, and a lob smash at 15-40 gave the Belgian the break and a 4-3 edge. Both players held serve, setting the stage for the Belgian to serve for the title.

When the Russian's return sailed long, Henin-Hardenne captured her third title of 2006 and 26th crown of her career. Kuznetsova fell to 1-2 in '06 title bouts, with the lone victory coming at the NASDAQ-100 Open in Miami back in April.

Henin-Hardenne collected $1.189 million for the victory, while Kuznetsova took home $587,000.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Time to Wake up

By John McMullen

The other shoe is about to drop.

When federal investigators searched Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Jason Grimsley’s house on Tuesday, it signaled that the clock is ticking on MajorLeague Baseball.

Thirteen different agents searched Grimsley’s house for nearly six hours.

To get a judge’s permission for the search, investigators who were involved in the BALCO case noted that Grimsley actually cooperated in the investigation but withdrew his assistance in April.

Before Grimsley turned into "Johnny Sack" he allegedly made "extensive statements" about illegal drug use, "for the purpose of performance enhancement," according to the affidavit.

IRS Agent Jeff Novitsky told a federal judge the investigators were looking for "any and all records showing contact or relationship with any and all amateur or professional athletes, athletic coaches or athletic trainers" with regard to illicit drug use and purchases.

According to Novitsky, Grimsley broke "the code" and named other players he believed were using. The names of those players were blacked out in the court records but you can be sure that there is a lot of nervous people around baseball today.

"I have no comment about that and no idea about that," Grimsley told the Arizona Republic on Tuesday, hours before the Diamondbacks took the field against our Phillies.

After Arizona’s 10-1 loss to the Fightin's, D-Backs manager Bob Melvin said news on the investigation may have affected the team. And Melvin was likely right but it affected both teams. In fact, it probably affected 30 teams.

Grimsley is a journeyman who has played in Philadelphia, Cleveland, California, the New York Yankees, Kansas City, Baltimore and Arizona.

He has been all over baseball and participated in illegal drug use at all of those stops. Perhaps more importantly, he has seen illegal drug use by others at every stop.

Grimsley stated that amphetamine use was so prevalent in baseball that it was placed in coffee and marked "leaded" or "unleaded."

Do you really think MLB and the league's players association didn't know that?

Of course, Grimsley never failed a league administered drug test until 2003 despite admission of using amphetamines, steroids and human growth hormone.

This scandal reaches to the very top.

I'm not here to say Bud Selig or Donald Fehr sold or encouraged the use of any illegal drug. But, let's all be honest for a minute. They certainly knew it was going on and by ignoring and enabling it -- encouraged its continued place in a game they profess to love.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Grimsley will be on the unemployment line very soon and, in a sport virtually devoid of competent pitching, he will not find another job.

But, blackballing will not work this time -- You can bet when this is all is said and done, hundreds will be exposed.

If it makes you feel better -- go right ahead and keep mocking Barry Bonds or Jose Canseco or Rafael Palmeiro for being "cheaters".

Keep throwing syringes and keep thinking your team and your favorites are beyond reproach.

Just understand, you are about to be disappointed very, very soon.

-You can reach John McMullen at or