Tuesday, August 29, 2006

We owe Carolina one ass-whooping

By Steven Lienert

Recent developments in a steroid scandal not involving Barry Bonds has gotten my ire up, and when my ire gets up, I vent.

So here it is: the 2003 NFC Champions were, in fact, the Philadelphia Eagles.

No, it wasn't the Carolina Panthers, as indicated by the 14-3 final outcome of the actual "game".

It was the Eagles. The Eagles lost to New England in Super Bowl 38, as they did in Super Bowl 39. It was Donovan McNabb that drove the Birds to a game-tying score late in the fourth quarter before Adam Vinatieri booted the game-winning field goal.

Jake Delhomme? Fraud. John Fox? Fraud. DeShaun Foster? Super Fraud.

In case you missed it, South Carolina doctor James Shortt, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to illegally prescribe steroids and human growth hormone to members of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, has been sentenced to a year in jail.

Apparently, there are tape-recorded conversations between Dr. Shortt and several Carolina Panthers in which the doctor tells the players how they can beat the league's drug tests. Some the names being floated out there? How about Todd Sauerbrun, Jeff Mitchell, Todd Steussie, Kevin Donnally, and Wesley Walls?

By the way, the doctor goes to jail, but none of the players have gotten penalized. Is Bud Selig suddenly running the NFL, too?

Hell, Sauerbrun has already been suspended for the first month of this season for violating the league’s ban on ephedra. Coincidence? I think not. And can someone explain to me why a punter needs to take steroids?

The George Halas trophy that sits somewhere in Charlotte is as tainted as can be. If the team had a shred of honor, it would give the hardware back to the NFL and try to win one without cheating.

Instead, I'm sure it will remain in whatever trophy case in which it sits.

Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, the pain of that 14-3 loss still stings. It will never go away. And it just got a little worse, knowing that the Panthers cheated us out of another party.

That should give the Birds a little extra incentive to whoop their ass in front of the whole country on Monday Night Football on December 4th. As if they needed any.

Leave a comment for Lienert at stevelienert@hotmail.com

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

J-Rolling to the playoffs?

By Michael Rushton

So the Phillies cut some dead weight, changed the complexion of their clubhouse and packed it in until maybe 2008, right?

I guess the current squad didn't get the memo.

And the man most responsible for the recent charge isn't the impressive sophomore Ryan Howard (though his homers still take one's breath away), the newest starter David Dellucci or the player dubbed as "the man" by Harry Kalas, Chase Utley.

Remember our scrappy little shortstop from Oakland?

In the middle of May, Phillies fans and even fantasy owners (including myself) were writing Jimmy Rollins off as his average dipped to .239. "Put Bobby Abreu in the leadoff spot" we cried. "Jimmy's a six hitter, not a leadoff man," we all screamed at Uncle Charlie.

J-Roll didn't change our minds by the end of May, a month in which he batted a dismal .235. Little did we know, though, Jimmy was about to get -- cue obvious pun -- rolling.

And it has all come to fruition so far in August. Think Jimmy liked taking a back seat while Utley ran off a 35-game hitting streak, second to onlyRollins' 38 in 2005-06?

While he without a doubt supported his fellow middle infielder, it had to get Jimmy reminiscing about how fun it was to actually hit the ball about this time last year.

So Rollins has responded by batting a Ted Williams-like .400 through 13 games in August with six homers and five stolen bases. That includes a .560 clip against southpaws.

As J-Roll continues to up his on-base percentage, there is no need to look any further than the Big Apple and Jose Reyes to see what a speedy leadoff hitter who gets on base can do for a club.

And while it might not be a good thing for his swing, Rollins also has a career-high 18 homers on the season, the most ever by a Phillies shortstop.

So perhaps Rollins is the key to Philadelphia's success after all. Plus, there is extra motivation to be had when you are a one-out baserunner on second and the guy batting third actually swings the bat.

And with the weak showing the NL has been putting forth, there's no reason the Phillies can't grab the wild card and roll into some extended October baseball.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Boys and the Birds

By Tim McManus

Five lessons I learned at the Linc:

1) Never, under any circumstances, try to get a rise out of an Eagles fan by pretending you're there to support the other team.

Just to mess with my buddy Jay, I told the tailgaters next to us that he was a Browns fan. Ten minutes of heckling ensued, with the alpha male in the group pointing at us and screaming "BROWNS FAN!" to every person that passed by. Not good times.

They told us they were going to put a "BROWNS FAN" sign on my car so that it would be wrecked by the time we got out of the stadium. I told them I'd put one on theirs that read "T.O. FOR PRESIDENT". They quickly backed off.

2) Be on time for a preseason game.

My co-worker Mike, who is notorious for being prompt, didn't get to the sports complex until 8:15 because of traffic. Normally this wouldn't be a big deal but he had the tickets, so Jay and I were stuck on the outside looking in. By the time we got our beers and found our seats, McNabb and several other starters were out of the lineup. On the bright side, the tickets were free and I got the following moment out of it...

3) Be polite when you ask someone to move.

Our seats were money -- second tier, 50 yard-line, first row -- and since we didn't get there until the second quarter, three guys pounced on them. After barking them out of there, it was revealed that the man in the middle had a cast around his leg and had to use crutches to gimp his way up the steep stairwell.

We almost felt bad for a second.

4) Go to a game with someone who's never been to the stadium before.

Mike is a sports writer and a huge Eagles guy, but had never stepped foot in Lincoln Financial Field. It's fun hanging out with someone who is happy just to be inside, regardless of whether it's Johnny Unitas or Timmy Chang under center.

5) Go to a game with someone who is close to being converted into a full-fledged fan.

Most of the crowd started filing out around halftime once the first and second stringers were out, but since we were late and enjoying the atmosphere, we decided to hang out and throw a few back. The Eagles scored a touchdown early in the third quarter, and the traditional fight song, chant and fireworks ensued. Jay, who is a Vermont transplant, was the most amped person in the crowd. He was swaying and spilling his beer, singing, and stayed on his feet longer than anyone in the section. So what if it was Garcia to McCants, the Eagles are kicking ass, baby!

I think we've got another one on board.

So, yeah we went in late, got ridiculed by fans, had people sitting in our seats and watched players destined for the CFL.

But it was football, and all good times that come with it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Exposing Ed

By John McMullen

I'll admit I am a bit of an elitist. And believe me, that's really kind of comical every other week when I deposit my paycheck.

Most of the other "Big Timers" I know can actually back up their haughtiness with a little more cake.

Take the boys at Comcast...

Ed Snider and Company have run the Philadelphia 76ers into the ground but they still feel they deserve a parting gift in the form of a severance check for $400 to $500 million.

That's the type of arrogant, cavalier, egotistic behavior I admire.

Sure, you ruined every local basketball fan's life but that doesn't mean you don't deserve the finer things in life.

Especially if someone is stupid enough to bite and fork over a half-billion for a moribund franchise.

I think we can all agree it's "Comcastic" news that Snider wants out of the basketball world. Just imagine if Comcast can actually swindle its asking price out of some Mark Cuban like local buyer!

Granted, that's probably a pipe dream but just getting rid of Peter Puck is a step in the right direction for our beloved 76ers. And you can rest assured that any new prospective owner would jettison the worst general manager (Billy King) Philly has ever seen.

All we need now is a buyer...

But, it's not all good news...none of this will help the Flyers, Snider's true love. While the Sixers' attendance figures are down dramatically and the team's payroll has skyrocketed since King has been at the helm, the Flyers'attendance remains solid and the team has benefited greatly from the NHL's new salary-cap.

In short, that means Snider's keeping the Orange and Black. So for the first time since this City's most overrated owner forced Pat Croce out on his ass, the Sixers long-term future looks more promising than the Flyers.

I guess 1-of-2 isn't bad.

-You can reach John McMullen at jmcmullen1@comcast.net or john@phillysportsline.com

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Are we really putting our eggs in Hank's Baskett?

By Steven Lienert

Less than a month before the regular-season opener in Houston, the Eagles will have us believe that Hank Baskett is the answer to our wide-receiver prayers.


Let me get this straight: a guy the Eagles got in a straight-up swap for Billy McMullen has been the Birds best receiver in training camp thus far.

Instead of pressing the panic button and finally admitting that the wide receiver position is in dire straits, the Eagles will have you believe that what they have is perfectly fine to go into the regular season.

According to his bio, Baskett was the University of New Mexico's leading receiver in 2004 and 2005 and earned All-Mountain West Conference honors as a senior, posting 67 receptions for 1,071 yds. and nine TDs.

But why wasn't he drafted?

He was signed as a rookie free agent by the Vikings in 2006, which means he's played as many downs in the NFL for as I have.

That hardly sparks confidence in the receiving corps, because if Baskett is the best receiver in camp, it speaks volumes about the Jabar Gaffney's and Greg Lewis's on the team.

Reggie Brown and Gaffney have had a terrible case of the dropsies. Todd Pinkston is cooked; it's obvious he won't be healthy enough to play most of this season. And Darnerien McCants and
Lewis might as well be ball boys, because I hear as much about one group as I do the other. Everyone is else is, well, bad.

Which brings us back to Baskett. The Eagles may be the only team in the NFL where Baskett had a chance to make a splash. Not because of his ability (or lack thereof), but because the receiving corps is that bad.

I never thought I'd type this, but where the hell is Freddie Mitchell? In all honesty, for all his crap, he's better than McCants, Lewis and Baskett. He'd be a decent slot receiver in between Brown and Gaffney.

But the only real answer is to get Jerry Porter from the Raiders. Now that Brodrick Bunkley is in the lineup, the Eagles can afford to part with a defensive lineman, which is a big problem area for Oakland. And don't give me Ashley Lelie -- there's a reason Denver went out and got Javon Walker.

Darwin Walker or Sam Rayburn and a second-round pick should be enough to get the Raiders to bite. And make no mistake, the Eagles will have to overpay. Teams know the Eagles are bent over the barrel when it comes to their receivers.

If Joe Banner and Andy Reid fail to land Porter, they are handcuffing themselves offensively. And Hank Baskett is certainly not the answer, just a reflection of the overall problem.

Steve Lienert can be reached at stevel@phillysportsline.com or at stevelienert@hotmail.com

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Get over yourself

By John McMullen

The Philadelphia Eagles remind me of K-Fed.

For those of you not well versed in the realm that is pop-culture, K-Fed is short for Kevin Federline -- aka Mr. Britney Spears.

Despite designs on being the next Eminem and snaring what was the hottest female on the planet, people really haven’t warmed up to this moron’s undeserved sense of accomplishment.

That said, as a man, I have to respect K-Fed, who may be the greatest overachiever since Ron Jeremy was lighting up the porn world during the ’70s and ’80s. I mean women who look like Britney rarely have the time of day for a dude who doesn’t own a pot to piss in.

Of course, I also understand some men are ticked off at poor ole K-Fed since Spears now looks like a very worn stripper manning the afternoon shift at ‘Les Gals'. You know the type -- the kind you look at and say, “I bet she was really hot a few years ago."

But, turning Spears from an uber-hot sex vixen into a dumpy Mom was the smart move for K-Fed. He certainly isn’t going to be able to support himself so you have to think long-term.

With that in mind, it’s safe to say Federline has some redeeming qualities. He realizes he won the lottery and has manipulated the situation to the best of his abilities.

So why is Mr. Spears so reviled?

According to numerous entertainment reporters, Federline makes George Clooney look self-deprecating.

In short, he’s so smug....nobody likes him.

Sound familiar?

Like K-Fed, the Philadelphia Eagles have redeeming qualities.

They have given you a lot on the field. Four straight NFC Championship Game appearances, even without a Super Bowl win, is a resume any one should be proud of. In fact, it should have given the Eagles a decade of goodwill to play with.

And...it would have...if the team wasn’t so damn smug.

We can all see the Birds need receivers, a big back and some competence at outside linebacker. Heck, if they owned up to that fact, few would have a problem waiting for the team to rebuild.

But, the arrogance of this team is so astounding that it enables the omnipotent sports giant to contradict things the rest of us can see with our own eyes.

Most realize counting on Hank Baskett, Bruce Perry, Ryan Moats, Chris Gocong and other assorted refuse isn’t the answer.

But, we have no right to question “The Gold Standard.”

Well let me be the first to pull no punches -- The Philadelphia Eagles organization is unpleasant and offensive.

From the owner all the way down to the Nazis that man the team’s media relations department, their undeserved sense of superiority sickens me.

Just like K-Fed.

-You can reach John McMullen at jmcmullen1@comcast.net or john@phillysportsline.com

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Radical Conservative

By Tim McManus

As his nickname suggests, “Stand Pat” Gillick built a reputation for being conservative in his approach as general manager.

Especially during his days in Seattle, he was criticized for failing to pull the trigger on trades that arguably could have solidified his teams as odds-on World Series favorites.

The moniker hardly encompasses the man’s past, however. In fact, he made some of the most radical decisions of recent baseball past -- moves that appeared nonsensical at first but ultimately proved rather visionary.

If you think the backlash from the Abreu/Lidle trade was rough (as seen in the columns below), imagine how people in the Seattle area reacted when Gillick traded away Ken Griffey Jr., only considered the greatest player on the planet, back in 2000 for Brett Tomko, Mike Cameron, minor league pitcher Jake Meyer, and minor league infielder Antonio Perez.

After that 2000 season, Gillick watched as Alex Rodriguez departed for the Texas Rangers as columnists and fans called the new GM insane.

In 2001, that Mariners team won 116 games to tie a Major League Baseball record.

"Sometimes you have to sacrifice talent to get the type of character you want on your club,” Gillick said at the time.

During his tenure in Seattle, the Mariners had the best record in baseball.

Before joining the Mariners organization, Gillick had a brief stint with the Orioles, who went to the playoffs two straight times (1996 and 1997) with him at the helm. They have not recorded a winning season since his departure in 1998.

And, of course, Gillick helped put a black cloud over the Phillies organization by constructing a Toronto Blue Jays team that won five division titles under him. After trading for players like Roberto Alomar, Rickey Henderson
and (gulp) Joe Carter, the Jays won two straight World Series in 1992 and (crying) ‘93.

Nine of his teams over his last 17 full seasons have made the playoffs, and this year’s Phillies squad will be just the second in that span to not post a winning record.

It’s easy to look at Gillick’s latest move as unconscionable, given the proven talent that was shipped out in the name of four people you’ve likely never heard of. But without having seen these prospects for yourself or waiting to see how they progress and pan out, isn’t it a little early to call this deal a fleecing? And should we maybe see what he does with that extra money first?

The arguments I’ve heard so far against this GM is that Gillick is overrated (see below) and/or suffering from Alzheimers.

This is not the first time he has been accused as such.

In each stop along his accomplished journey, though, Gillick has answered that criticism by guiding his team to the postseason.

When the body of the man’s work is examined, it reveals a history of bold decision making, innovative thinking and overall success.

It is a history that shows his risks are calculated, and that patience is required to see his vision come to life.

It requires you to Stand Pat while this whole thing plays out.

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