Monday, July 31, 2006

I don't get it...

By John McMullen

Time for a confession.

I’m a card carrying member of “The Evil Empire.”

Reggie Jackson was the pure evil that brought me over to the dark side in the ‘70s and I never left.

So when Pat Gillick handed my club Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle for a bucket of chum on Sunday, I must admit I was as giddy as a school girl. But, I quickly realized that it wasn’t because I love Abreu or Lidle.

While Abreu is a solid addition, any of my collegues can attest that I loathe the way Lidle pitches. The reason I was so happy is because Gillick affirmed many months of hard work and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, he is exactly what I said he was -- a fraud.

After throwing out names like Erik Bedard, Philip Hughes, Vernon Wells and Miguel Tejada -- the crown jewel this mastermind netted for Abreu was a 20-year old athlete, C.J. Henry, who is the baseball equivalent of Samuel Dalembert.

According to scouts, Henry will wow you with his athleticism but has no baseball instincts and is years away from sniffing Citizens Bank Park..

Of course, in reality we all know this was purely a salary dump and “Trader Pat” was so obsessed with moving Abreu’s money that he threw in Lidle. This, the same Gillick that told all of you the Phillies had a really good nucleus and were just five wins away from the playoffs.

Of course even a blind squirrel finds a nut occasionally and Gillick was right about one thing. The Phils did have a very good nucleus -- until he screwed it up -- but they were only ONE GAME from the playoffs.

The lap dogs and apologists who think Ed Wade was Billy King in a mask are still bowing at the feet of the master and are thrilled Pat is disassembling an “underachieving” clubhouse.

Even I give Gillick credit for one thing -- using his overrated past to buy time for what is a future pegged for certain failure. Even though Gillick will almost certainly be working with a checkbook few, other than Brian Cashman, will be able to match this offseason he had no problem uttering this gem:

"Realistically, it'll be a stretch to think we'll be there in '07.”


I’m sure that’s exactly what all the long suffering Philly fans wanted to hear.

With the great Pat Gillick in charge the Phillers have no chance and with the impotent Ed Wade, they were oh soooooooo close.

So I offer a mea culpa to all my critics...I admit -- I just don’t get it.

-You can reach John McMullen at or

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Bravo Pat (Gillick)...

By Jared Trexler

I am a big Pat Gillick supporter. Or at least I used to be.

I hope Brian Cashman took him out to dinner and a movie before violating him in such a way.

Taking advantage of Gillick's old age. Or maybe I should just say it like it is...

If the reported deal by is true then Gillick wasn't violated.

He was bent over a chair.

Seriously, a left-handed hitting outfielder with a .413 OBP, on pace to knock in 108 runs while scoring over 100 and stealing 28 bases plus one of the top pitchers on the trade market in return for a bust 2005 first-round draft pick (C.J. Henry), a 27-year-old relief pitcher (Matt Smith) and some other scrub that Cashman was kind enough to throw our way.

I hate the Yankees.

Truthfully, I may hate Phillies fans even more. They probably think this is great. We finally got rid of Abreu. Now we have tons of salary to go out and get a starter!


Barry Zito? The west-coast kid wouldn't step foot in Philly. Jason Schmidt? Not a chance. Mike Mussina? Maybe, but I'd rather have Abreu then the aging right-handed pitcher.

The problem is that Phillies fans wouldn't.

I have a right to be angry at this trade. I valued Abreu's skill and presence in the Phillies locker room.

All of those that hated Abreu should just keep their mouths shut.

You never know. C.J. Henry could be just One More Reason to Believe.

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Bravo Pat (Burrell)....

By Jared Trexler

The Phanatic will obviously have in-depth coverage of the Bobby Abreu trade when it becomes official.

The only official part to date is that Abreu is no longer a Phillie.

The outfielder was a late pull from the lineup for Game 1 of Sunday's doubleheader, prompting speculation that he was moments from being traded.

That seems to be the case, as ESPN's Buster Olney is reporting the Yankees and Phillies have reached an agreement that would send Abreu and right-handed starter Cory Lidle to the Yankees for a bag of balls and some pine tar (aka a few "prized" Yankees prospects who resemble my colleague John McMullen on the mound more than they do Roger Clemens).

What wasn't known is what Olney said next.

The Phillies didn't necessarily want to trade Abreu. In fact, GM Pat Gillick would have preferred not to.

The man he wanted to trade was Pat Burrell. In fact, Gillick had a deal set for Burrell.

Done. Finished. Pack your bags Pat and don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Ed Wade must be laughing right about now. He's the one that gave a mega-deal with a full no-trade clause to a player with one good season on the books.

Burrell turned down a deal to Baltimore that would have brought Rodrigo Lopez and two minor-league prospects back to Philadelphia.

Think you hate that deal. Just wait until you see what the Phillies got for Abreu.

Burrell doesn't particularly help the Phillies on the field -- strikes out far too much, doesn't hit for average, fails with runners in scoring position, can't remotely cover ground in left field.

Now, Pat the Bat (odd nickname for a guy that can't swing one) is sticking it to the Phillies again.

This sounds like a rant because it is one. It's a rant of a sports writer who understands this city's desire for a champion.

What the inept fans in this city don't understand (that may be generalizing....let's say most fans) is that the club would be closer to a title with Abreu than with Burrell.

Once the deal is complete, I'll be back to tell an entire city how they never appreciated one of the greatest players in club history.

Enjoy Shane Victorino. Enjoy Aaron Rowand. Hope you kept pictures of Abreu.

Thank you Pat.

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Culture Change

By John McMullen

I first wrote about “changing the culture” of a team in 1999 when I was based in Minneapolis covering the Vikings, a perennially underachieving team that is seemingly always looking to rebuild its defense.

Well it’s 2006 and Minnesota is still trying to restore a semblance of competence to the unit with yet another coach that subscribes to the same, tired cover-two philosophy that has poisoned the Land of 10,000 Lakes since Tony Dungy arrived with Dennis Green in 1992.

But, this column is not about Minnesota, the NFL or the cover-two...It’s about the birth of a sports cliche.

By no means I am trying to say I created the “changing the culture” phenomenon. Like all exceptional writers, I’m sure I lifted it.

That said, I can pronounce unequivocally, you didn’t see the phrase very much when I first opined about it seven years ago. Now it’s become a trite and obvious observation....a cliche.

Everyone uses it to describe every team that’s struggling, especially in this town.

When Andy Reid runs the ball five times against Dallas, some face painting zealot calls WIP to let us all know ‘He needs to change the culture of the Eagles.’

When some South Philly housewife lets us know Bob Clarke needs to develop a man crush on a player that can actually skate, she will inevitably screech ‘He needs to change the culture of the team.’

And when some 115-year old man that actually saw Babe Ruth and Jimmy Foxx play lets us know Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell are too lazy, he too will spit out that ‘The Phillies need to change the culture of the team.’

This very week I uttered that we need to “change the culture of our newsroom” when some of the more obtuse people I work with tried to defend the fact a certain company feels a Winnipeg Blue Bombers - Hamilton Tiger-Cats wrap is of equal value and importance to Ben Roethlisberger getting hurt... because ‘We already did an NFL column this week.’

But now, I am going cold turkey and I urge you all to join me.

You see, what sealed the deal for me is when I thought about the fact that the very culture that needs to be changed in this town, Billy King, actually used the phrase himself.

How dare the guy that has devastated Philadelphia basketball actually look in the camera and let us know that he has to change the culture he carefully cultivated with an ineptitude rivaled by few in the history of sport.

With that it became official...”changing the culture” is dead to me.

-You can reach John McMullen at or

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Go Figure

By Michael Rushton

Forget Billy Penn, the Madden cover jinx or Pat Burrell's high strikeout rate; I think I may have discovered the latest hex to hit a Philadelphia sports team.

I believe the Phillies have been McFarlaneized.

Yes, I am talking about those seemingly harmless miniature replicas of our favorite Phillies that take up endless amounts of room on our shelves. Todd McFarlane -- owner of historic home run balls hit by such icons as BarryBonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa -- is to blame for our recent woes (and maybe the trio of sluggers' problems as well).

Just consider the list of Phillies to be immortalized in amazingly detailed plastic: Burrell, Jim Thome, Billy Wagner and Bobby Abreu.

Each player has never been the same since.

Burrell, whose figure hit stores in 2003, even got a double whammy as he was also released in a Big League Challenge uniform in addition to his Phillies wear after a breakout 2002 campaign. And how did our prized left fielder wrapup his 2003 campaign post-figure? Does a .209 batting average ring a bell? How about a whopping 64 runs batted in?

Surprisingly, Burrell's replica did not include a home plate umpire ringing him up looking as an accessory.

Thome's figure also hit shelves in 2003, but saw a delay in the curse as he clubbed 47 homers that year. However, just two years later, Thome suffered through injuries and had to leave town to escape the jinx.

Perhaps one reason Thome curved the curse until 2005 was no Phillie was inserted into one of Todd's lineups until that year when Philadelphia's former closer Wagner was released in clamshell packaging.

2005 was coincidentally Wagner's last season in Philly and I'm almost willing to bet that Wagner's 2004 injuries popped up about the same time McFarlane's manufacturers constructed Wagner's figure mold.

And what did Abreu's 2005 home run derby championship net him? How about his own figure in early 2006.

Thanks, Todd.

Now, Abreu, who has just eight home runs so far this season, will be shipped out of town to save his career in a far away land.

Why should we be afraid? Because like chicks, Todd loves the long ball, which makes it almost certain that Ryan Howard is looking at his own figure, possibly in late 2006.

And the curse and drought will live on.

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Baseball leprosy, camping and what about Bob?

By Steven Lienert

Teams around Major League Baseball have thrown the Phillies outside of the castle walls. They are stained with the stink of losers, unclean to the point of helplessness.

They have formed a society unto themselves, scrounging for scraps from the free-agent pile for a morsel to get them through to the trade deadline.

When players are mentioned in trade rumors involving Philadelphia, they act like they just been sentenced to life in prison.

When asked about a wild rumor that would land him in Philly, A-Rod chuckled and immediately said he would veto it. We didn't even get the chance to dream.

Why would any team want to infect themselves with Abreuism or Burrellitis? Furthermore, why would any decent player want to don a Phillies uniform?

All of these trade rumors are beginning to get on my nerves. Especially since I don't think Pat Gillick is going to get anyone to bite. Not for Bobby Abreu. Not for Pat Burrell. And not for Tom Gordon.

At least we know they'll slide through waivers after the deadline passes...

Things are eerily quiet up at Lehigh, which is in stark contrast from this time a year ago. Jerome McDougle was shot, Pinkston tore his Achilles and T.O. was about to become the biggest panty-waste in the history of Philly sports.

The goal now is to get through camp as healthy as possible...

Um, did the Flyers fold?

The wire has been peppered with stories of almost every single hockey franchise making significant moves to improve for the upcoming season. The Flyers, meanwhile, have done squat.
Bob Clarke has never looked good in hats, and this particular salary cap is quite unbecoming.

He's operating like he wants to forever remain the last Flyers captain to hoist the Stanley Cup...

Oh, yeah. One more thing: Shockingly enough, Allen Iverson is still a 10-9-8-76er.

Steve Lienert can be reached at or at

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Don't Believe the Hype

By Tim McManus

I was in Miami a few weeks ago, sitting poolside at a bar with my buddy's friend who has helped negotiate contracts for several professional athletes, including Grady Sizemore.

The conversation twisted and turned throughout the sports world before landing for a moment on the media, prompting this guy to say:

"Sports writers are idiots."

"Actually, " I said uncomfortably, "I'm a sports writer."

"Oh, so you know what I'm talking about then."

I probably should've been insulted, but I really wasn't. He was actually onto something.

If I've learned nothing else in my time in this business, it's not that sports media members are dumb (we'll go 65 percent on that one, although my math may be off) but rather that they're not nearly as knowledgeable as people give them credit for.

This is especially true for national commentators. Think about it: You're on the air or writing several times a week about teams or individuals that you may have never seen with your own eyes. So what do you do? You research things on the Internet, browse through media guides, talk to whatever insiders you can, and then make a judgment. Problem is, the coverage of sports has grown to such a degree that it has shrunk the time for research while the demand for opinions has risen.

So instead of digging deep into said team or individual, you're forced to recall what this person or unit has done in recent memory, throw together a few stats that support an argument, and then make a bold prediction or take a specific, non-ambiguous stance.

Being right has become far less sexy than being brash, which explains why Merrill Hoge still has a job.

Examples of this observation-sold-in-an-expertise-wrapper lies littered throughout you're everyday reading. How many national personalities predicted the Eagles would take a receiver in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft for instance?

Have they met Andy Reid?

How many tout Bobby Abreu as an underappreciated superstar stuck in a tough town; think Donovan McNabb is praised because he is black; call the Phillies cheap (check the payroll); believe Terrell Owens is a winner?

Or how about the perception of the fans as a whole? How many national personalities, when responding to something that happened with Philly fans, say: "What else do you expect from a town that booed Santa Claus"?

Do they know that that Santa was actually a drunken replacement pulled out of the stands? Or how about asking them to name three other incidents off the top of their head -- you might be able to do it, but I bet you they wouldn't.

In other words, half the time they don't know what they're talking about; believe me.

I share this knowledge because I don't want Philadelphia fans to get depressed when they read the new national NFL prognostications, most of which have the Eagles finishing last in the NFC East.

It is a classic case of knee-jerk journalism, a group of people taking the results from one season and applying it to the next without thorough investigation.

The thinking goes like this: The Eagles went 6-10...The Eagles lost T.O....The Cowboys gained T.O...The Giants won the division...The Redskins got a new receiving corps...The Eagles are the worst team in the NFC East.

Not that all of these thoughts are invalid, but they don't address a couple of important facts, like that one of the top five quarterbacks in the league was hurt from the infant stages of last season, or that several Pro Bowlers joined him along the way.

It does not take into account the palpable negativity in the locker room that Owens was largely responsible for, one that is sure to infest Dallas' quarters in the very near future.

It does not factor in the key additions at several critical positions, including linebacker, the offensive and defensive lines, and quarterback. Doesn't speak of the blazing look in the eyes of this year's squad.

And, of course, it neglects the fact that prior to the one dismal year, the Eagles went to four straight NFC Championships, with or without a star receiver.

Very boldly, these national media members say that Mark Brunell and Drew Bledsoe will be competent; that Eli Manning and the Giants will make the leap; that all three teams will vie for a playoff spot while the Eagles watch helplessly.

Maybe they'll wind up being right. Just know that it won't be because they have the inside track.

At least, that's what I've heard.

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No One Els Will Stop Ernie

Part III of British Open Preview

By Jared Trexler

Royal Liverpool continues to fry in the British summer sun. Wind jackets and wool hats have been replaced by thigh highs and tube tops.

Many patrons were even caught sunbathing during Tuesday's practice rounds.

It's un-Open-like at Hoylake, with the course playing firm and fast, which are just nice words for short and easy.

The weather and course don't resonate with a normal Open championship, but this week's winner will build Liverpool's return to the Open rotation as the likewise return of a true champion.

Welcome back, Ernie. We knew it wouldn't be Easy. But a pristine record across the Pond, coupled with recent good form at Loch Lomond and the ability to cruise into Hoylake under the radar resonates loudly with The Phanatic.

While the winds may not whip, the Open will blow back in a quiet South African.

Ernie Els will come out victorious at the British Open.

The Big Easy has three second-place finishes bundled in six top-10 finishes over the course of the last decade at the Open championship. His worst finish over that stretch is a joint finish of 34th place last year. He hoisted the Claret Jug in 2002.

That record is second to nobody in the field this week. Els is comfortable hitting the ball low or high, has a solid middle game and creativity around the large, undulating greens customary at the Open.

Many will argue that Ernie's record is overshadowed this season by poor play and continued recovery from a torn ACL. His pass to the ball looked shaky early in the season, as it appeared Els was easing into every shot with the injury in the back of his mind.

His best finishes in 11 PGA Tour appearances this season are a couple of seventh-place showings at Doral and Hilton Head. He barely sneaked into the top 30 at Augusta and Winged Foot, and has slid from third to eighth in the world.

Els is the prime example that golf is 90 percent mental.

He started seeing sports psychologist Bob Rotella in hopes of pushing the apprehensions out of his mind. Somewhere inside Els is an enormous amount of talent, a skill set that has been blocked this season by constant questions of health.

Nowhere were the lingering doubts more prevalent than on the greens, with Els spending an exorbitant amount of time over each putt. He hit 16 greens in a EuropeanTour event at Wentworth early in the season...and still shot 74.

Yet, last week at Loch Lomond Els gradually began to turn the corner. He tied for ninth in the British tune-up, finishing with three consecutive rounds in the 60s.

The result indicates a possible resurfacing of a three-time major champion, one that finished second in three majors during Tiger's epic run during the 2000 season.

Els' knee is 98 percent perfect. The other two percent rests in self doubt that will be erased with a sterling start Thursday at Hoylake.

The field should take notice. If Ernie can fashion his fourth consecutive round in the 60s to start the British Open, the holster may once again be fully loaded.

Then, Els can finally start shooting bullets at the flagsticks and reappearing on the leaderboard.

We at The Phanatic think it will happen. And once the ball gets rolling (into the hole), it may even begin to look Easy.

Jared Trexler is the Golf Writer for The Phanatic. Read the other two installments of our comprehensive British Open Preview, "Will It Ever Be the Same?" and "A Continent's Hope." He can be reached at

**Picture courtesy of Getty Images**

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A Continent's Hope

Part II of British Open Preview

By Jared Trexler

Paul Lawrie pounds balls at Royal Liverpool this week with each slight draw brining guarded optimism that his golf career will not be defined by a flash in the Car-nasty pan.

Luckily for Lawrie, the simplistic-looking, yet priceless Claret Jug is forever his.

Further down the range, Colin Montgomerie displays impeccable balance as the sweet spot perfectly connects with the ball, punishing it majestically into the air time after time.

More eyes are on his progress. He carries himself more like a champion. The lines are clearly drawn on his furrowed brow from a career spent mixing it up with golf's best in the most prestigious events.

Yet, Europe's great hope for over a decade won't find his name on the Claret Jug.

Instead of Open champion, the first accomplishment on Montgomerie's permanent record is BPNTWAM. (Best Player Never to Win a Major)

Say what you will about Greg Norman's Sunday misfortunes. He has two of these jugs.

Contemplate the imbalance between's Davis Love III's talent and his victories. He at least holds a major title.

Montgomerie symbolizes Europe's deep longing for the Claret Jug with very little to show for it.

Nick Faldo is a three-time champion, with the last coming in 1992. Coupled with Lawrie's improbable victor...cough, cough, survival at Carnoustie in1999, two Europeans have hoisted the Jug in the last 14 years.

During that time, the Open champions have been a mixture of Hall of Fame names and ambiguous qualifiers.

For every Norman, Price and Woods, there has been a Curtis.


45-year-old O'Meara?

Europe has had a number of hopefuls for years, with Montgomerie's name always highlighting a short list of players with the game to tackle the course, the pressure and the elements.

When Peter Hedblom, a European, swats the opening tee shot from Royal Liverpool on Thursday morning, another year begins for my fish and chips-eating friends.

Here is a list of Europeans to watch once the British Open commences:

Luke Donald: Donald's record lends many experts to believe he will not fare well at Hoylake, however the Englishman is a straight driver on a course where the tee ball is critical. The rest of his game isn't too shabby either, and I expect Donald to be near the lead come Sunday.

Colin Montgomerie: Monty is more comfortable hitting a high ball, but with the golf course playing incredibly short because of a drought in the area and no wind in the foreseeable forecast, he could be a factor. He is playing much better of late -- save his high block on the 72nd hole at Winged Foot. He knows time is running out, so desperation may fuel his competitive edge. Or it's possible that such pressure could cause mental fatigue.

David Howell: I'm not a huge fan of Howell this week. Others are jumping on the bandwagon, but in my opinion he doesn't have the mental fortitude to last four days on such a grand stage. He hits the ball straight and putts well, but when things go south they normally continue to gravitate in that direction.

Padraig Harrington: The Irishman played at Hoylake in the 1995 British Amateur and has hovered near the lead in several majors. He is a solid ball striker who should have an advantage with at least an idea of how the course plays under tournament conditions. Along with Donald, he may be Europe's best bet.

Darren Clarke: A Clarke victory would be a great story with everything he's gone through on a personal level. However, he isn't a steady horse, rather one that normally flies out of the gate only to fall back into the pack down the backstretch. He is a possible leader midway through the Open, just don't expect him to hold on.

Ian Poulter/Graeme McDowell: These two young guns are grouped together as European dark horses. They both showed plenty of game at the United States Open (along with dashing attire), and I expect at least one them to be on the first page of the leaderboard come Sunday. Whether or not their mental games are strong enough to plot through four days is another story, but both are on the rise as Europe's next stars.

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Will it Ever Be the Same?

Part I of British Open Preview

By Jared Trexler

Propped up by a Scotty Cameron magic wand, the introvert with the wraparound shades used to conceal even the smallest hint of emotion stares blindly at Hoylake's countryside.

It's been five years since the pinnacle at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

Five long years of injury and intrigue, sulking and slicing, whiffing and wondering.

Will it ever be the same?

It's a question that crossed David Duval's mind on a daily basis. How could it not when a man that once showcased superior talent in front of an awed audience suddenly didn't feel comfortable hitting a golf shot in public.

I stood on the third hole at Shinnecock Hills during the first round of the 2004 United States Open waiting for Duval to approach the green. Many early-morning golf fans had grabbed coffee and fled to find Duval after a load roar accompanied a stylish birdie two at the daunting par-three second hole.

I followed Duval for the next three holes, never once seeing the pressed cuffs on the bottom of his pants because of thick gorse that seemed to swallow the man's ankles...

And his pride, punishing his game and damaging his fragile mind set.

On the short fourth hole, a young boy on his dad's shoulders pointed out into the fairway at a man that appeared to be Duval. The Nike swoosh dotted all accessories and facial hair had sprouted on his chin.

"That's David Duval," the kid proudly exclaimed to his father.

"It used to be, son," his dad pronounced somberly. "It used to be..."

As a sports writer and passionate golf enthusiast, that conversation will be a lasting image in my mental scrapbook of sports.

The complete free fall -- mental, emotional and physical breakdown of a professional athlete -- had been summarized in one brief conversation between a father and son.

At Shinnecock, Duval was still completely in denial. His head was full of swing thoughts jumbled into a hacker's mess. His confidence was shattered through early work weeks. His swing was a teacher's nightmare, molded into a pile of flaws due to overcompensation from numerous injuries.

Duval followed the philosophy of "Play Through Pain." He should have popped Percocet, for the agony made even those not experiencing it cringe.

After America's championship, Duval hit rock bottom. He made just one out of 20 cuts last season, earned only $8,000 and carded a 49 on the back nine during a round at the birdie festival which is the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.

He shot an 85 along the Pacific Ocean at Pebble Beach. Thoughts of jumping off the cliff had to run through his mind.

Yet, he bit his lip, wrote down "6s" in permanent ink and left the golf at the course.

That part was easy. For as Duval's golf game continued to spoil, the 30-something bachelor built himself a life outside the ropes.

He met the love of his life, Susie Persichitte, during a chance encounter at a restaurant in Denver while he was in town for The International. Along with a wife and confidant, Duval also walked into a built-in family (three children) from Susie's first marriage.

It was then that Duval realized a life lesson that began his turnaround. While the man upstairs was handing him bogey after bogey on the course, he was pouring on a pile of birdies at home.

Now, the motivation isn't just a desire for individual success, but the hope that he can show his children how good he once was. And still can be.

That's why Duval is even at Hoylake. Lonelier souls would have faded into Sunday Nassaus at the local Country Club, picked up a PGA professional job and coached tee ball.

But Duval is no longer alone -- on or off the course -- and that drives him to rekindle the form displayed during a Players Championship victory that briefly moved him into the top spot in the world rankings.

It's been five years since a slow, steady avalanche began pushing Duval down golf's mountain.

Fittingly, among the Rockies, Duval reached the bottom point of his career and began the climb back with the support of a family.

Like they say, behind every good man is an even better woman.

Whether Royal Liverpool is the place where Duval's comeback comes full circle remains to be seen.

However, the question, "Will it Ever Be the Same?" is no longer permanently engraved in his mind.

There will be a time in the very near future when a son sits atop his father's shoulders looking out into the fairway.

Not certain if his eyes are deceiving him, the youngster will inquire of his pop, "Is that David Duval?"

The father, his voice not hesitating, will answer, "Yes..." then silently chronicle the American's road back to respectability before finishing the thought.

"That is David Duval."

Jared Trexler is the Golf Writer and College Basketball Columnist for The Phanatic. He can be reached at

Monday, July 17, 2006

Root for the bad guys

By Michael Rushton

The ship may be righting in Philadelphia.

The Phillies head into play on Monday against San Diego with a big series win over San Francisco, outscoring Barry Bonds' Giants 20-8 in their two victories. Brett Myers made a solid, triumphant return to the mound, RyanHoward showed there is no home run derby curse and Pat Burrell gave a glimmer of hope that he may be busting out of his slump. And hey, watch out JoeDiMaggio, Chase Utley has hit in 18 straight.

Time to get excited, right?

How about not. The worst case scenario for the Fightin' Phils right now wouldbe a useless winning streak that would make them think they are back in the thick of the wild card race.

Then, instead of unloading high-demand talent, underachieving slugs and clearing some money to start the fixing the roster, the Phils will stand Pat (pun intended). They may just keep Bobby Abreu, who is their best trading chip, and give away some prospects for overrated middle relief.

Except Gavin Floyd, because he is still untouchable, right?

The Phillies need to be sellers before the deadline because they certainly can't be buyers.

Heading into play Monday, the Phillies were 5 1/2 games back of Cincinnati for the wild card lead with another seven teams to leapfrog. However, an 8-of-10 winning streak could change that in the Phillies' favor.

To make matters worse, the upcoming schedule favors a nice winning burst. Before the trade deadline, the Phils play -- all at home -- Atlanta for four games, Arizona for three and then a five-game set against Florida ,with that series finale falling on the same day as the deadline.

In the movie Goodfellas, Henry, played by Ray Liotta, says of Robert De Niro's character Jimmy, that he, "was the kind of guy that rooted for bad guys in the movies."

I think we, the Philadelphia faithful, should do the same on the baseball diamond.

Now I'm not saying go the Bank and boo Howard when he homers, mock jeer David Bell when he hits a single or give Abreu a hard time in right field (okay, you can keep doing that). But don't be afraid to pump your fist under the table if Chipper Jones wins the game for Atlanta with a key base hit.

Also, don't be ashamed to smile if you open up the paper the next day and see Cory Lidle's line of five runs, eight hits and four walks in 5 1/3 innings. You can even cheer -- in public -- when your fantasy studs Andruw Jones and Brandon Webb do good against the Phils.

Why? Because by hoping our team fails, we are looking out for their future.

Along the way, say goodbye to Abreu, Jon Lieber, Lidle, possibly Tom Gordon and, if we are lucky, Burrell. Then, say hello to cap relief, a new manager and a painful rebuilding process.

Because, what do you do when there's nothing left? You light a match...

Michael Rushton can be reached at

They're lying to us again

By Steven Lienert

News Flash: The Sixers are going to trade Allen Iverson.

Yeah right.

The real news flash is that Iverson isn't going anywhere.

Billy King wants other teams to overpay for Iverson, and that just isn't going to happen. And King knows that if he pulls a deal similar to what the Sixers got in return for Charles Barkley, he'll be forever skewered in this town.

Frankly, he's stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Handing Iverson over to Boston for Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak and/or anybody else not named Paul Pierce would be a monumental mistake, mostly because the deal is with a team in the same division. Not to mention that if you put the players being mentioned in the rumors together, they still don't match Iverson's ability.

Denver has a more interesting group to deal, with players like Marcus Camby, Kenyon Martin and Andre Miller being bandied about. But Miller is no Iverson, and Martin and Camby are injuries waiting to happen. Put them alongside Chris Webber and you have the makings of a very competitive 40-and-over rec-league squad.

The best offer I've heard being rumored is Iverson going to Golden State for Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy, which would make the Sixers younger. But their defense would still be a sieve.

Making a deal with the Clippers makes sense; Iverson would make them the best team in their own city for the first time in years. But would the Clips part with Corey Maggette and Chris Kaman for a chance to land the Answer?

And anybody that thinks Iverson is headed to Atlanta better think twice. The Hawks have nobody on their roster that should pique the Sixers' interest. That's just a bad, bad franchise, and Iverson doesn't deserve to do any more time in basketball hell.

No, when the season opens, Iverson will still be a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. Why?


Fear of not getting enough in return. Fear of not selling tickets. Fear of what the legacy will be after the fact. Fear that Iverson will haunt the franchise for years to come.

And, after one last gasp effort to make things work with Iverson again, King will have to deal him at the trade deadline.

Perhaps King should wait for that desperate hour to get all he can for Iverson. Otherwise, King will be shown the door soon after Iverson leaves.

Steve Lienert can be reached at or at

Friday, July 14, 2006

Pure genius

By Steven Lienert

After throwing my hands up in disgust over what Phillies minority owner Bill Giles said last Monday about the Brett Myers situation, I thought there was no way the team's public relations staff could ever recover.

In case you missed it, Giles insisted Myers didn't actually hit his wife, but that the pitcher was helping her up. Perhaps Mr. Giles should go get his head examined because it seems senility is setting in.

For five days, I was on the fence on whether or not I could don my Phillies cap for the rest of the season without feeling like a fool.

But salvation came to me today, and it came from the most unexpected source: Terrell Owens.

You see, T.O. was signing copies of his new self-titled book "T.O." down in Dallas on Thursday when he was quoted as saying he was misquoted in his own autobiography.

This guy is a genius.

The apparent discrepancy lied in Owens own (or not own) description of his comeback from his leg fracture in time for Super Bowl 39. The direct quote from the book: "If you'll forgive me for saying so ... nothing short of heroic."

That was in quotes. But then he backtracked on Thursday and said: "(Heroic) was one of the words that Jason used... I can't say that I called it 'heroic.'"

This after being quoted as saying, "These are my words, straight from me to you" on the second page of the same book.

Either Owens didn't get around to reading his own book until just now or he's dumber than a box of rocks. (I'll take C: All of the above). Like it's so far fetched that Owens would call himself heroic. This is a guy that compared himself to Jesus, lest we forget.

Either way, he pretty much just threw Jason Rosenhaus under the bus, much like he threw former agent David Joseph under the bus. And much like he will throw Drew Rosenhaus, Jerry Jones, Bill Parcells and most of his Cowboys' teammates right under the bus in the very near future.

This after Jason worked with Drew to help Owens get his three-year, $25 million contract from Jones in March. Good luck, Bill. It's hard for me to feel sorry for the coach of the Cowboys, but it's happening.

Speaking of Bill, Mr. Giles should come out and say he was misquoted, too; that only certain excerpts were used from his conversation and/or everything he said has been misconstrued by foolish fans and angry members of the media.

Or just cover it up by having Dave Montgomery come out and say he misunderstood everything. Oh, wait a second -- they already did that.

Terrell Owens and Bill Giles... two shining examples of pure genius.

Steve Lienert can be reached at or at

Thursday, July 13, 2006


By The Phanatic Staff

Let's just say, the Phillies are grounded.

For fairness sake, the staff selected their grades for each position individually, then we combined them and took the median. This process did not help your Fightin's, who seemed to have underachieved in nearly every category.

Ladies and gentlemen, YOUR PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES!:

Outfield: C+

This grade might be the most alarming of the bunch, given the expectations and importance of this trio. Aaron Rowand provided the season highlight and displayed the defensive prowess that Chicago gushed about, but his offense has been unspectacular if not disappointing. Pat Burrell is one of the most inconsistent players in the majors, and has a batting average of .215 (really) with runners in scoring position. Bobby Abreu, in contrast, is hitting well-above .300 with a chance to drive runners in and his on-base percentage is again outstanding. His defense and apathy toward the game drive his grade down, however.

Left-infield: D

The only thing preventing this grade from being an F is Jimmy Rollins' sensational ability at the shortstop position. As a leadoff hitter the man is a failure, though, batting just .259 with a PUTS (Pop Up To Short) percentage of .928. David Bell, simply, is the worst starting third baseman in all of MLB.

Right-infield: A-

One of the top sluggers in the game in Ryan Howard and the best offensive second baseman in Chase Utley. Add in their youth and clutch hitting, and it's easy to see where the strength of this team lies. Their defense, particularly from Howard, is suspect at times, making the grade a little less than perfect.

Catcher: D-

Tough to give a failing grade when starter Mike Lieberthal has been absent for nearly the entire season; easy to bash the performance of the men who have replaced him. Sal Fasano and Carlos Ruiz combine for a whopping .224 average with 13 collective RBI. Chris Coste shows considerably more promise, but has appeared in only 16 games.

Starting pitching: D+

Injuries and off-field issues really hindered this squad down the first-half stretch, leaving the Phillies without their top two hurlers. Brett Myers was pretty magnificent before the alleged occurrence with his wife in Boston stained his accomplishments. Jon Lieber was pretty poor before he got hurt for an "ace". Cole Hamels did not dazzle as hoped, Ryan Madson was terribly inconsistent, Gavin Floyd did his best Ramon Henderson impression, and Cory Lidle was what a No. 5 should be (which is to say, pretty bad).

Relief pitching: B

Without Tom Gordon this looks completely different, but when a supposed downgrade outshines Billy Wagner and makes the All-Star team, you need to give credit where credit is due. Also, Rheal Cormier has been very good, and the bullpen was respectable when called upon in the absence of some of the starters. Arthur Rhodes has been downright crippling.

Overall grade: D

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

City of Champions?

By John McMullen

I am proclaiming the so-called Philadelphia drought over. OK...more like pretending.

Call it reverse psychology.

Let’s all quit complaining, enjoy our very own back-to-back Home Run Derby champs and pretend it‘s a significant accomplishment.

Sure, the Phillies have disappointed us all but thanks to Ryan Howard and Bobby Abreu; we are unbeatable in the derby baby!

When Howard bested the Mets’ David Wright to give the Fightins their second long ball winner in as many summers Monday night, he certainly overstated its impact.

“That’ll give the fans in Philly something to cheer about,” Howard told the assembled media. Of course Ryan is either nuts or he just doesn’t understand the city he plays in. Winning a ludicrous TV spectacle hardly makes up for the fact that Pat Gillick has cobbled together a donkey of a team.

Or does it?

Maybe if we pretend, the worm will turn.

Heck, if Howard’s derby win doesn’t do it for you, perhaps you can rejoice in the fact that the WWE and ECW championships changed hands on back-to-back nights (July 3-4) at the Wachovia Center right here in Philly.

Maybe, just maybe if we pretend these things are significant accomplishments, the dark entity that hovers over our city’s sports teams will return to where it belongs -- Cleveland.

-You can reach John McMullen at or

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Sources: Manuel out during All-Star break

By Jared Trexler

Sometimes it pays to know people in important places. It also may pay to know a few people with great seats.

Two Philadelphia Phillies season ticket holders with access into the Diamond Club told The Phanatic in confidence late Sunday afternoon that they overheard a conversation between several Philadelphia area media members and organizational staff about Charlie Manuel's impending dismissal.

From what they could gather, the conversation dealt with the club going "in a different direction" based on what the organization feels is a nonchalant attitude that begins with the on-field staff and has leaked into performance on the field.

Obviously, they did not hear the entire conversation, but did state that the dialogue took place in a public area where many people could hear pieces of the conversation if they were paying attention.

The sentiment that they gathered from the dialogue was this: Manuel will be fired as Phillies manager sometime during the All-Star break.

At no point did they hear a name, interim or otherwise, that would take over the club starting Friday in San Francisco.

Manuel's dismissal has not been reported in either of the Philadelphia area newspapers nor on any area sports talk radio station.

General manager Pat Gillick last spoke of Manuel's status in an article on Friday. In that interview, Gillick seemed to contend the club's lackluster play was not a direct reflection on Manuel, and that the manager's job was safe for the moment.

That moment may have passed when Manuel looked lost on the podium while talking to the press later that evening. He told a stunned press core, "if you guys are very religious, please go to church. Pray for us."

Those The Phanatic have talked to said Manuel looked like a lost soul, almost begging to be relieved of his misery as manager.

He may now get his wish.

Again, two season ticket holders told The Phanatic late Sunday afternoon that they overheard a conversation between several members of the Philadelphia area media and members of the club's organizational staff (the sources said that two people were referred to as "club staff" at one point in the conversation, though they were not recognizable, i.e. Gillick, assistant general manager Ruben Amaro or media guru Scott Palmer).

The gist of the conversation brought about one resounding conclusion: The club is prepared to fire Manuel.

If any other information becomes available, we at The Phanatic will report it to you.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Seller beware

By Tim McManus

Well, looks like the city's decided to make a withdrawal from the Bank.

The Eagles chants started last night; not the I'm-excited-about-the-Phils-but-we-have-no-cheer-so-I'll-use-the-one-from-the-other-Philly-team chant, but rather the This-team-bites-and-I'm-done-investing-hope-so-I'll-scream-E-A-G-L-E-S-Eagles!-to-express-my-displeasure-sarcastically chant.

And (looks at calendar) it came right on time. Moral victory that we made it into July, really.

All of the local analysts and self-diagnosed diehards agree: The Phillies need to grip the ACME detonator with knuckles white, garner their collective strength, and slam that baby down like Joe Carter was at the end of the fuse.

Too late to salvage the season; time to remake the club with young talent. Ship Abreu, Burrell, Gordon -- whatever it takes.

I feel like I'm screaming into a hailing wind here, but can we hold off the fire sale for a minute?

Believe me, I'm the last person to let the facts get in the way of a good anarchy. But there's these two numbers that I can't quite get away from: 6 and 78.

Six games removed from the wild card. Seventy-eight to play.

We've seen teams make that up in two weeks. Heck, this club already did it once this season.

It's hard, I know, to gather any optimism that the Phillies can turn it around, seeing as they've dropped 17 of their last 22 and all.

Remember, though, that their top two hurlers were missing for a bulk of that time, replaced by the likes of Adam Bernero and Scott Mathieson. Really, what team's not going to lose most of their series when Ryan Madson and Corey Lidle are fighting to be called team ace?

Lieber's back tonight, and while he's certainly not a savior he's fully capable of putting together a solid month or two. Myers will return to the mound a bit humbler and just as importantly rested (for all the wrong reasons) after the All-Star break. And have we given up on the Cole Hamels era already? Is it impossible to think that this man might go 5-1 down the stretch?

The offense will be there, even minus a component or two. So instead of dealing Abreu or Burrell for a high school prospect, let's ship one of those guys for a veteran arm in a three-way deal. Or swing David Dellucci for a solid reliever before dumping Arthur Rhodes into the Schuylkill River.
Maybe all this team needs is to get their big arms back and acquire a couple new faces to enhance their confidence and ability. Remember, this team is streaky by nature, and it's just about that time when they streak upward again.

So kill the Eagles chants, restrain your judgment and for the love of God, don't encourage this organization to make cost-cutting moves -- they'd be more than happy to appease you.

Give it another month. It's too damn hot for football, anyway.

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The Phanatic's Ultimate Depth Chart

By Jared Trexler

Unlike my colleague, I think ESPN's Ultimate Depth Chart provided interesting pigskin fodder in the beginning of July. ESPN, surprisingly, didn't overblow the Depth Chart for more than it was -- a best-chance prognostication at the NFL with training camp still several weeks away.

Below, I take a stab at ranking the skill positions for the upcoming NFL season. I list the Top 10 in each category and then (if they fall outside the Top 10) where the E-A-G-L-E-S stand to the rest of the field.

Finally, I take an early gander at my crystal ball and crown a champion IN JULY. I, however, reserve the right to change my picks once training camps get into full swing, injuries become an issue and The Phanatic makes its official 2006-07 NFL Predictions later in the summer.

NFL Signal-Callers (rankings based on the following traits: arm strength, field awareness, pocket presence, mobility in and out of the pocket, winning mentality, performance with game on the line)

1. Tom Brady, New England: I hate to say it, but Brady is a proven winner with an above average NFL arm, superb field awareness and above average mobility in the pocket. There is no other quarterback in the league I would rather have leading my team with the game on the line.

2. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis: The most physically gifted PASSER in the NFL. Equipped with a quick release, above average arm strength and the NFL's most accurate right arm, Manning will never move ahead of Brady until he proves he can win in the playoffs.

3. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati: This ranking comes with an asterisk. If healthy, Palmer is a quarterback with super-stardom in his near future. He is the complete package -- mixing a cannon arm with a strong QB intellect. Coming back from a torn ACL is never a sure thing, but all accounts from Bengals camp have Palmer improving daily. If he is 100%, Palmer belongs in this spot.

4. Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia: McNabb is used to playing with a no-name receiving corps, so the loss of Terrell Owens is actually a positive. Last year was a major headache on and off the field for McNabb, yet no one can argue with the QB's enormous talent. He throws on the run better than anybody and should get back to using his legs more often now that he is fully healthy.

5. Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle
6. Drew Brees, New Orleans
7. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh
8. Jake Delhomme, Carolina
9. Daunte Culpepper, Miami
10. Trent Green, Kansas City

Noticeable Emission: Michael Vick, Atlanta: The West Coast offense doesn't suit Vick's game, and though every year we hear the quarterback has been working to improve his accuracy, the results on the field never back up the extra "work." Vick is the best athlete at the position, but ranks somewhere below the middle of the pack when talking about the drop-back ability necessary at some point for success in this league.

Running Backs (rankings based on the following traits: running between and outside the tackles, pass blocking, ability to find the end zone, overall running style, pass-catching skills).

1. Larry Johnson, Kansas City: Out of the big three, Johnson runs behind the best offense line and Kansas City just feeds this workhouse the ball. Johnson will find the end zone more than any back in football and has above average hands to haul in passes out of the backfield. His pass blocking needs work, but one must remember the kid is entering just his first full season as a starter.

2. LaDanian Tomlinson, San Diego: The best all-purpose running back in football. Tomlinson gets to the corner faster than Johnson, but is nowhere near LJ's equal in-between the tackles. Tomlinson has great hands out of the backfield and will be called on to carry the load as Philip Rivers adjusts to the quarterback position.

3. Shaun Alexander, Seattle: Alexander is a great back, but isn't the receiver nor the blocker that Johnson and Tomlinson are. The Seattle star also has more mileage on his body, making him more injury prone during the upcoming season.

4. Edge James, Arizona: Imagine an offense featuring Boldin, Fitzgerald, Johnson, Leinart and James in the coming years....Scary. James will be sorely missed in Indy, as he fits into the same mold as Tomlinson. LT is slightly faster and a better receiver, and James isn't as good in-between the tackles as Johnson or Alexander.

5. Tiki Barber, NY Giants: Barber is coming off a career season when he showed the multi-purpose skills that make him an elite back in this league. He rectified a fumbling problem to an extent last season, but asking him to step it up another notch may be asking too much at this point in his career.

6. Clinton Portis, Washington
7. Rudi Johnson, Cincinnati
8. Willis McGahee, Buffalo
9. Caddy Williams, Tampa Bay
10. LaMont Jordan, Oakland

18. Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia

Wide Receivers (rankings based on the following traits: route running, pass-catching, blocking ability, intangibles)

1. Chad Johnson, Cincinnati
2. Hines Ward, Pittsburgh
3. Steve Smith, Carolina
4. Terrell Owens, Dallas
5. Randy Moss, Oakland
6. Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis
7. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona
8. Torry Holt, St. Louis
9. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis
10. Chris Chambers, Miami

45. Reggie Brown, Philadelphia



East champion: Washington Redskins
Central champion: Chicago Bears
South champion: Carolina Panthers
West champion: Seattle Seahawks

Wild Cards: Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals

#5 Dallas over #4 Washington
# 3 Chicago over #6 Arizona

#1 Seattle over #5 Dallas
#2 Carolina over #3 Chicago

Carolina over Seattle


East champion: New England Patriots
Central champion: Pittsburgh Steelers
South champion: Indianapolis Colts
West champion: Denver Broncos

Wild cards: Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals

#5 Cincinnati over #4 Denver
#6 Miami over #3 Indianapolis

#2 Pittsburgh over #5 Cincinnati
#6 Miami over #1 New England

#2 Pittsburgh over #6 Miami

Carolina defeats Pittsburgh in the Steelers quest for back-to-back Super Bowl titles.

Again, I have the right to change my picks when The Phanatic unveils its NFL Preview sometime in August. Until then, enjoy training camps.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Whipping In the Midwest Wind

By Jared Trexler

United States Senior Open Championship Blog -- Prairie Dunes in Hutchinson, Kansas

9:27 A.M. (et) - It's just before 8:30 a.m. at Prairie Dunes and play has been underway for almost one hour at Perry Maxwell's Midwestern masterpiece. Before the championship began, Ben Crenshaw called the course a "work of art." Tom Watson called it "a minefield." Jim Thorpe pleaded for Mr. Maxwell to "stick to making coffee."

Various player perceptions don't take away from the fact that the 66406-yard, par-70 is a true test of golf. With great players like Jay Haas, Hale Irwin and Curtis Strange the tour is in great shape. Add the over-50 circuit debut of fan-favorite Fred Funk and the championship has a quality field.

Sadly, Arnold Palmer and Greg Norman pulled out on the eve of championship week. Palmer's game isn't in competitive shape, and probably never will be again. Norman is only weeks into practicing after a significant layoff due to knee surgery. He says the knee is fine, but the game isn't there yet. Factor in a pending divorce and I can see why The Shark decided against coming to Prairie Dunes.

Tournament officials were skeptical of Norman's entry from the beginning but held out hope. Ticket sales reached record levels partly due to two legends of the game that aren't here this week. They will be missed from a professional standpoint, and more importantly, from a marketing standpoint.

It's a warm morning with a light wind. A perfect opportunity for the early starters in make some hay before finding plenty of it later in the week.

Four men, including Brad Bryant, are tied for the lead at one-under. Loren Roberts made a bogey-five at the long par-4 11th and sits at one-over in early action.

Coverage begins on ESPN at 2 p.m. (et), but I'll be back with news, notes and scores far before then.

10:04 a.m. (et) - Vicente Fernandez has always been an expert with the flat blade. He already has a pair of "2" on his card and only six putts through the opening four holes. Tom Wargo, one of the initial Senior Tour players, is one-under very early in his round. The Boss of the Moss has gone on a string of three pars following the bogey at the 11th hole, a diabolical par 4 with no let-up. It plays into a north wind, albeit only a slight breeze at the moment. More than anything else the hole is long, especially by senior standards. Coupled with hole number nine -- and depending where the USGA decides to put the tees each day -- it is the longest par-4 on the golf course.

For those looking for a Fred Funk update, the just turned 50 year old tees off at 1:58 p.m. By that time I expect someone will have posted or is finishing up a 66. These players better get the scoring while the scoring is good, the course will only get tougher from here.

11:40 a.m. (et) - He of the CBS Sports ilk stands atop the leaderboard at the United States Senior Open. No, it's not Bobby Clampett. Or teaching guru Peter Kostis. Nor is it Jim Nantz, though Nantz is a solid amateur player who learned the craft from roommate Fred Couples while in college at Houston.

It is Gary McCord, three-under through eight holes and coming off back-to-back birdies. McCord is joined at the top by Vicente Fernandez, who is three-under at the turn. I wonder if the Masters will invite McCord to play -- since they banned him from announcing the event after comparing the Augusta greens to bikini wax -- if he is the reigning Senior Open champion.

Hey, a writer can dream.

Updates on two early-tournament favorites: Loren Roberts is +2 through 10 holes, while Jay Haas is coming off back-to-back birdies to move to one-under through seven holes.

Conditions are still ideal for scoring and I expect a 66 to be carded by at least one individual from the morning wave...

It's time for lunch.

1:35 p.m. (et) - No one has yet reached my magic number (four-under) as Japan's Massy Kuramoto just (as I type) made bogey at the 16th to back up into a host of players at two-under. That group includes Jay Haas, who still has a golden birdie opportunity at the par-5 17th and is looking straight in the face at 67.

Gary McCord's mustache is curling up after dropping strokes at an alarming rate on the front nine (his back). After fashioning an outward nine of 32, McCord has preceded to bogey four of five holes to slide down to one-over.

Name watch:
Loren Roberts +1 through 16
Peter Jacobsen +3 through 15
Bobby Wadkins +4 through 14

I'm starting to get concerned about my projected number as it seems players are having a difficult time reading these greens. Driving is also at a premium, especially for seniors who don't necessarily have the strength to muscle a ball out of this rough.

An interesting comment by Fred Funk earlier in the week, stating that the rough in spots here was thicker and more difficult than the rough at Winged Foot. If Funk is accurate in that assessment, shank could be the word of the week if players try to get greedy out of the think hay at The Dunes.

Another update comes when our good friends at ESPN come on the air.

2:10 p.m. (et) - 6th shortest course in United States Senior Open history, which explains why short hitters like Dave Barr and Bruce Lietzke are fairing well in round one. Tom Watson, a Kansas native, just missed the fairway at the opening hole in pursuit of his first USGA championship.

Dana Quigley thinks he is in Hawaii with the colorful outfit and just birdied the 18th to shot an even par-70. Haas is now coming up the 18th trying to post a three-under 67 (it will be tough since he missed the fairway).

If as a viewer you are looking for stories to follow over ESPN's four hours of coverage consider the following:

1) the rounds of Watson and Fred Funk
2) How the players deal with the undulating greens at the Dunes
3) Count how many 3 woods are used to keep tee shots from going through the doglegs.

The short course becomes longer because it forces players to think off the tee, and in many cases use utility woods and long irons.

The wind is blowing slightly harder this afternoon so scores (while not low in the morning) will be higher this afternoon.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Birthday wishes

By Michael Rushton

Today, I turn the oh so tender age of 24 but gone are the days of birthday parties and cake. Instead, it's replaced by friends buying you drinks and shots so that your next day of work is brutal. But hey, I still get some pretty
good gifts so the occasion can bring some excitement.

And of course, my Philadelphia management brethren ask me every year what I want. I thought this year I would share my list with you.

First, Mr. Billy King. From you Mr. King, all I want is something new. 10 years ago, your club gave me one of the best gifts I have ever gotten in the form of Allen Iverson. But since then, and I don't mean to sound ungrateful
when it comes to gifts, your follow up gifts have been a little sub par. None of the other pieces you gave me ever fit right with Iverson so I've only had the same old thing to play with year after year. So, I just want something new. Don't worry, I sure one of my other friends will put Iverson to good use.

From Mr. Bobby Clarke, I just want you to show me you have learned your lesson. With your gift, I want you to prove to me that you now realize the NHL has changed. I don't want anymore punishing players or hulking
defenders. I want some skaters who can move, create and keep up with the other team. I'm sure you can't top last year's present (Peter Forsberg) and that's okay. You've been consistent over the past years and I thank you for that. Now I just want to know you are wiser and maybe that gift will end up being a Stanley Cup.

From Mr. Joe Banner, I simply want a return to glory. You have the easiest task of all the others. Thankfully, you kept your gift receipt on that wide receiver you got me so now I just want to go back to how it was. I want to
go back to a time before the media circuses, before No. 81 and before losing. I just want a healthy Donovan, a versatile Westbrook, a controlling Trotter and an explosive Dawkins. I know you have those things just lying
around. And if you want specifics, I'll take an extension for Dawks.

And from Mr. Pat Gillick, all I want is a sign. I want you to show me we aren't going anywhere with this club and you know it. I don't need my gift now - I can wait until the trade deadline. I just want, no I need you, to
show me that you're going to blow this thing up. After all, fireworks and dynamite sound like a solid gift idea to me. I just want you to show me that you know Uncle Charlie and our corner outfielders need to go. I'll take some solid arms for the rotation as well, but I know those are hard to come by. And, would it be too much to ask for a new third baseman and catcher for next year?

And for the Phanatic readers, I'm sure you are all asking yourselves what you can get me. Well, I saw Billy Wagner on a TV interview a few days ago and he said the biggest difference between playing in Philly and New York was the booing. He said you'll get booed wherever you go, but in the City of Brotherly Love, it seems to be personal. And you know what, he may be right. Maybe we are so mistreated by our teams and so championship starved that we have gotten a little out of control. So, maybe we can take a step back, root
for the home team and begin to show a little patience.

I know that's asking a lot so if you can't do it, screw it and just get me a Ryan Howard bobble head.

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Why bother?

By Steven Lienert

ESPN recently came out with its annual summer filler, which was dubbed the Ultimate NFL Depth Chart. According to this, Eagles fans are in for yet another long, frustrating season.

The so-called experts, which for some strange reason didn't include Merrill Hodge, ranked the Eagles as the 23rd best team in the NFL, just ahead of the Houston Texans.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Sure, some Canadian Football League teams have better receiving corps and the running game is lacking that bruising-back that will pound out the tough yards. But ranking both positions 31st out of 32 teams? The pass defense was ranked no better than 15th, while the run defense came in at No. 24.

Is it really that bad?

If so, when is it okay to start pointing the finger at Big Red?

I mean, something has to give here, right?

Either ESPN is completely out of whack with its prognostication, or the Eagles really are no better than the 23rd best team in the entire National Football League.

If the Eagles have fallen that far, there really is just one guy to blame: Andy Reid.

Stubbornly, he has not replaced Terrell Owens. For all the problems T.O. brought with him, he undeniably made the Philadelphia Eagles a better team on the field. The team has reverted back to a No. 1 receiver by committee offense -- which is okay, as long as you don't run into Ricky Manning Jr. in the playoffs.

As far as the running back situation is concerned, I'm guessing that Reid and the Birds are taking a wait-and-see attitude regarding Correll Buckhalter, which is why the team hasn't inked a reliable veteran like Stephen Davis. Either that or Bruce Perry really did show them something in his audition at the end of last season. And the lack of depth behind Brian Westbrook is quite disturbing.

But that kind of thing can be said about almost every NFL team. If Drew Bledsoe gets hurt, the Cowboys suddenly look a lot like last year's Eagles. The same thing with Mark Brunell down in D.C. And how much longer can Tiki Barber carry the Giants' offense?

As a fan that bleeds green, I'd like to think that ESPN is off its collective rocker.

For one, the NFL has taught us to forget everything we know entering a season. For example, entering training camp last year, there was no doubt the Eagles were a playoff team. Yet we know how all that worked out.

Secondly, the pass defense will be markedly improved IF (and it's a big if) Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson can get some push in the middle of the defensive line. That'll free up Jevon Kearse and Darren Howard, one of whom most certainly will end up with double-digit sacks in 2006.

The presence of Bunkley should help bolster the run defense as well. Bunkley routinely got penetration at Florida State, wreaking havoc in the opposition's backfield. While that will be tougher to do in the NFL, at worst he'll occupy a blocker that would have gotten in Jeremiah Trotter's way.

Third, the only real hole in the Eagles defense is at outside linebacker. Shawn Barber is a definite upgrade, considering he stays healthy. And I'm excited to see what Chris Gocong brings to the table. If Gocong is the real deal or the bow-tie guy (Dhani Jones) decides to hold off on his career in fashion, the Birds' defense might not give up more than 20 points per game.

Offensively, Jabar Gaffney, Reggie Brown and a healthy Todd Pinkston may not keep defensive coordinators up at night, but they are better than anything the Eagles had prior to T.O.'s arrival. To steal a line from Major League, "These guys might not be that freakin' bad."

Both lines have depth, the quarterback is returning healthy and, presumably, with a chip on his shoulder. I think the team wants to show that it is better than its record indicated.

The Eagles should contend for the division crown. They are much better than ESPN gives them credit for -- there's no way they'll repeat their 6-10 debacle.

But if they do, the onus falls directly on Andy Reid.

Steve Lienert can be reached at or at

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

You Need a Team

By John McMullen

It's been pointed out by more than a few readers of this blog that I am a little negative. Heck, it's even been pointed out by my colleagues...

Well, I plead guilty as charged...I am certainly not going to deny it. But, I am happy at least one reader came to my defense and the rest of you will have to admit -- it's a pretty simple defense...

Just what am I supposed to be positive about? I cover sports in this town.

Believe me, in my real life, I could care less about the mess that is Philadelphia sports. When you have been in this industry as long as I have -- you have ceased to care about who wins and who loses.

I root for good storylines and good games, not teams. And I am lucky in that regard...I work with a number of younger writers who still live and die with their "favorite" teams.

I don't believe in curses. I don't believe in karma and I certainly don't believe in quick fixes. What I do believe in is this -- solid management wins championships.

We just don't have that in Philadelphia and that's where I take umbrage with the "Bizarro Phillies," a very interesting and entertaining look at a season gone awry.

Just like the graphic novel Michael Rushton based his piece on, his take is pure fantasy. Any of you who think the Phillies would be riding high like the Tigers if Jim Leyland was here should check yourself in for immediate therapy...And block off a couple of are gonna need them.

Because, as Jerry Seinfeld would say, you don't need the once a week stuff for $70-80 bucks. You need a team -- working around the clock -- talking about you-- having meetings about you.

If Leyland were in Philadelphia, he would still have to deal with Dave Montgomery, the "Gang of Eight" and "Stand Pat" just like poor ole' Charlie Manuel.

Perhaps more importantly, he wouldn't have inherited a pitching staff stocked with Justin Verlander, Nate Robertson, Mike Maroth, Jeremy Bonderman and Joel Zumaya. Any of you Leyland fans think those names might have a little to do with why the Tigers are a tad more difficult to handle than the Phils?

That's not to say Leyland isn't a better manager than Manuel -- He is.

But, if Jimmy was trotting out the likes of Scott Mathieson, Gavin Floyd, Adam Bernero and Eude Brito -- you can bet he wouldn't look like the second coming of Miller Huggins.

He would look like a decent manager with bad ownership and an overrated general manager.

Some things never change -- even in the "Bizarro World."

-You can reach John McMullen at or

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Newport Showcases a True Champion

By Jared Trexler

Many sportswriters surmise women's golf has risen in popularity for two reasons -- an overwhelming youth movement led by 16-year-old Michelle Wie and courses similar in length to those tackled by weekend hackers and corporate executives.

However, the United States Women's Open at Newport Country Club broke from that trend. Surrounded by a group of kindergarten kids on a wet, long track, Annika Sorenstam taught them all the Golden Rule of USGA supremacy.

Hit the fairway. Hit the green. Make par and move on.

While Wie, Jeong Jang and Jane Park among others were bombing tee balls through a heavy fog and into even heavier rough, the silky-smooth Swede calmly went about her business.

You see, it takes more than a controlled game to win America's championship. It takes a controlled mentality -- a rock-solid fortitude without ebb and flow. The highs are never too high, the lows never bring thoughts of jumping off the rock cliffs that hug the Rhode Island shoreline.

You can't blame players like Wie and Jang for outward expressions in the face of overwhelming pressure. The Hawaiian is under a constant microscope, and when the "lefts" entered her mind, a championship dream was over. Jang, or J.J. as she likes to be called, never mentally recovered from a double-hit on a side slope off the 18th fairway during round three.

Both acted exactly like they normally would. They acted like teenagers.

On such a grand stage, the level head of a wily veteran survived the wind and undulation of Newport.

Her game was pretty good as well thanks to some small changes implemented during a "fogged" out Thursday.

"I think this week I've been actually focusing a lot on my game," said Sorenstam. "I've done a lot of changes in my swing; not major changes but just changes."

A stronger grip, staying balanced and releasing her right side were some of the swing changes Sorenstam implemented in winning her third U.S. Open and first in a decade.

In the grand scheme of such a humbling game, this victory is unbelievably satisfying for the world No. 1. After winning two straight titles from 1995, thoughts can creep into a player's mind:
How easy is this? Two U.S. Open titles at the age of 25.

However, golf can't be completely dominated the way MJ conquered hoops or Roger storms through the ATP.

Thoughts of grandeur usually precede bogeys. And Sorenstam was making more of them than usual this year, almost to the point where she stepped foot onto the Williams Davis design as a footnote in the teenage craze.

Ninety holes and five days later, Sorenstam is again hoisting the hardware. After a birdie on the 15th hole Sunday, the Swede raised her fist and brought it to her heart.

A ticker that beats like a champion.

An homage to Mr. Iverson

By Tim McManus

For better or worse, the direction of my life was dictated by Allen Iverson.

In the late high school/early college years, my attention faded from the sports world and zeroed in instead on things like cars, partying and girls (and if it was a good night, all three at once).

The condition worsened when I went up to Rhode Island for college: University campuses always have a way of making you forget that there's life going on outside their limits, and the isolation was compounded because New England is pretty sure that nothing exists south of Connecticut. So there were a lot of obstacles, and I was way too content (and oblivious) to try and fight through them.

But things changed in the spring of 1999. I went to college with two of my best friends from Philly, who started throwing the Sixers into our conversations after they made the playoffs for the first time since '91.

So one day we decided to turn off Dazed and Confused and throw on Game 1 of the Philadelphia-Orlando series. I watched AI as he spastically sped around the court like a water bug, diving and stealing and driving and falling but above all scoring. Iverson dominated, the Sixers won 104-90, and I was hooked.

A few days later, while laying in bed with my ex-girlfriend, she asked me, "So, what do you wanna do?"

Amazingly, I replied: "Do you mind if I throw a game on real fast?"

And with that, my passion for sports was completely rekindled. I can tell you that on that day -- May 15, 1999 -- the Sixers dropped the Magic 101-91 in Game 5 to advance to the second round against the (detestable) Indiana Pacers. I have been fully aware of the state of every Philadelphia sports team ever since.

Two years later, I'd begin my career as a sports writer. And it was all because of one undersized man.

I bring this up because we are just days -- maybe hours -- away from Iverson's departure from this city, and no one seems to be talking all that much about it.

And I find that strange because he has influenced the lives of every single person in Philadelphia, whether it be to a greater or lesser degree than his affect on mine.

The change he created was often tangible. From the city to suburbia, kids began wearing their hair in cornrows while rocking jeans that had enough room for two. The basketball courts were filled with guys wearing No. 3 and trying to pull off a crossover before flailing into the lane.

More than just his skills and style, Philly gravitated toward a personality that was sometimes arrogant and disarming but always genuine and captivating. His rants and at times suspect behavior pushed people away, but he'd pull you right back in with a shy smile or a Hulk Hogan-like hand to the ear.

The entire country was soon sucked in, forcing the NBA to embrace and market a star unwilling to fall into line and become a drone. They had to conform to a man that represented rebellion.

Behind Iverson, Philadelphia finally turned back into a basketball town and became the greatest place in the world to live in the spring and summer of 2000.

In my life, I've never seen a collective heart rise and fall in unison quite like that. At least for me, riding in the car was one of the highlights of my day because sports radio seemed so important and you couldn't go a block without seeing someone with a Sixers flag flapping out out of their window.

Even if you weren't a sports fan you were affected by this run. The town's mood changed upon a win or a loss, and it was impossible not to feel it.

No, the Sixers didn't win a championship that year, nor any year under Iverson. Yes, he hogged the ball and was aggravating a lot of the time.

Regardless, he's about the biggest ball of energy that ever charged through this town. He made Philly nationally significant in the hoops realm. He gave us a real-life Rocky, one that wasn't afraid to show off his flaws.

He gave us all something. And on behalf of the city, thank you, A.I.

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