Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Eagles preseason sked set

The Philadelphia Eagles today announced their 2010 preseason schedule, highlighted by a nationally televised contest at Cincinnati on FOX on Friday, August 20. The Eagles will open their preseason slate at Lincoln Financial Field vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

The Eagles will also visit Kansas City during the 3rd preseason weekend and host the New York Jets in the preseason finale on Thursday, September 2. The Eagles and Jets have met 25 times in the preseason over the last 25 years (they played twice in 1992 and did not face each other in 2000).

August 13, 14, or 15
Friday, August 20
at Cincinnati
8:00 PM
August 26, 27, 28, or 29
at Kansas City
Thursday, September 2
NY Jets

HBO Sports to air Broad Street Bullies documentary

The HBO Sports documentary BROAD STREET BULLIES, a look at one of pro sports' most polarizing teams, the legendary Philadelphia Flyers Stanley Cup championship squads of the 1970s, debuts on Tuesday, May 4 at 10 p.m.

The exclusive presentation will tell the backstories of these engaging and colorful athletes, who won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975 with a bold, aggressive style that sparked controversy and criticism.

"HBO's Broad Street Bullies is an excellent and well-produced documentary that portrays the evolution of the Philadelphia Flyers," said Comcast-Spectacor chairman and Flyers founder Ed Snider. "It brings back many wonderful memories for me, and it uncovers some new insights into the great story of our two Stanley Cup Championship teams. 

"We are truly honored that this part of Philadelphia Flyers history will be seen nationally on HBO.  I want to personally thank producer George Roy and his talented team for this historical tribute to the Flyers."

"This film explores how a group of characters, who also happened to be an extraordinarily talented collection of hockey players that enjoyed contact on the ice, formed one of the most prominent and controversial teams in pro sports history," added Ross Greenburg, president, HBO Sports. "We are going to re-trace the steps that led to the love affair between the city and the team, and show how to this day these players are revered in Philadelphia and despised elsewhere."

Comcast-Spectacor, along with HBO and Comcast, will host an invitation-only screening at the Wachovia Center on Tuesday, April 13, for Flyers season ticket holders, sponsors, premium seat customers, promotional partners and community leaders.

The Flyers Alumni who star in the documentary will attend the premiere screening. Season ticket holders and sponsors will receive their invitation via email.

"This special premiere is our way of saying 'thank you' to our fans, our sponsors, and our partners for their outstanding support of the Flyers over the past 43 seasons," said Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko who also serves as Flyers President. "This documentary is a moving tribute to our founder Ed Snider, as well as a great group of guys, who are so deserving of this film, we wanted to have as many of our fans celebrate with them as possible."

Playing before adoring fans at the Spectrum, the Flyers rose to prominence in the 1970s under the guidance of shrewd coach Freddie Shero. With larger-than-life figures like Dave "The Hammer" Schultz, Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, Bernie Parent, Ed Van Impe, Bill Clement, Rick MacLeish, "Moose" Dupont, Bob Kelly, Joe Watson and Gary Dornhoefer, the team won many games, fought in just about all of them and made numerous enemies.  The club's popularity soared as their physically imposing and sometimes bloody style generated headlines across North America.

Although the franchise did not exist until 1967, the team rose to national prominence in just a few short years, and some NHL teams would see their home attendance double when the Flyers came to town.  The club became a favorite of other hardscrabble cities and towns where blue-collar communities were taking an economic beating.

In a bizarre twist, singer Kate Smith's rendition of "God Bless America" became the Flyers' good luck charm.  Eventually, the team that showcased players with gap-toothed grins, funny hair and goofy nicknames evolved into one of the NHL's elite franchise.  In 1976, the Flyers engaged the vaunted Soviet Central Red Army team in the finale of an exhibition series that would do little to ease the cold war tension between the two nations.

BROAD STREET BULLIES includes interviews with Snider and former Flyers standouts Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, Bill Clement, Gary Dornhoefer, Bob Kelly, Bernie Parent, Ed Van Impe, Bobby Taylor, Don Saleski, Joe Watson, Orest Kindrachuck, and Dave "The Hammer" Schultz.

Other HBO airings include Wednesday, May 5 at 2:35 a.m.; Saturday, May 8 at 11 a.m.; Monday, May 10 at 8:30 a.m.; Wednesday, May 12 at 12 p.m.; Thursday, May 20 at 6 p.m.; Sunday, May 23 at 9 a.m.; and Tuesday, May 25 at 8 p.m. It will also air on HBO On Demand from Wednesday, May 5 through Monday, June 7.

Dalembert up for J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award

For his tireless efforts on behalf of Haiti relief, Sixers center Samuel Dalemeret has been nominated by the PBWA for the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award.

Orlando's Adonal Foyle was also nominated for his work with various groups promoting democracy and anti-smoking advocacy while Golden State's  Ronny Turiaf was named for his efforts to promote cardiac health.  Detroit's Charlie Villanueva is also in the running for helping children afflicted with Alopecia, a disorder he deals with.

For waht it's worth, I gave my vote to Dalembert.

Gaither signs tender

A day after Chris Gocong and Ellis Hobbs signed 1-year tenders, LB Omar Gaither did the same with the Eagles today.

Gaither, 26, has amassed 329 tackles, five sacks and two interceptions during his four-year career as an inside and outside linebacker with the Eagles.

In 2009, Gaither registered 38 tackles and 1.5 sacks in five games before being sidelined for the remainder of the season with a Lisfranc sprain in his foot. A 5th-round draft pick of the Eagles in 2006, Gaither has played in 53 regular season games (34 starts) and five postseason contests.

TMZ reports McNabb is not interested in playing for Raiders of all places is reporting that Donovan McNabb would not accept a trade to the Oakland Raiders.

DMac could certainly refuse to sign an extension which could temper the Raiders interest but if Oakland is willing to roll the dice for one year, there is very little McNabb could do to stop a deal.

Browns interested in Gocong

Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post is reporting that the Cleveland Browns have had "preliminary discussions" with the Eagles about acquiring linebacker Chris Gocong.

Former Eagles GM Tom Heckert is now in Cleveland and the Browns use a 3-4 defense, which is a much better fit for Gocong's skill set.

Rookie Moise Fokou supplanted Gocong on the strong side for the Birds last season and is likely the top option to start again. Gocong's lone strength, rushing the passer, is lost in the Eagles' scheme so a new address would be a good idea for both sides.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

State of the Sixers

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA - Hindsight being 20/20, it's now clear the 2009-10 Philadelphia 76ers were doomed the minute Ed Stefanski made the disastrous decision to hire his old bobo from New Jersey, Eddie Jordan, as head coach.

Jordan has made Maurice Cheeks look like Billy Cunningham. He's made Tony DiLeo look like Red Auerbach. In fact it's hard to look at the Sixers bench and not think Randy Ayers or Jimmy Lynam could do a better job piloting the Sixers.

Sports Illustrated recently quoted an unnamed Western Conference scout calling out the Sixers' players for being unprofessional and quitting on Jordan.

That's undoubtedly true but Jordan has worked for it. Players like Elton Brand and Willie Green are class acts and would run through a brick wall for you if you were able to earn their respect. Jordan lost his locker room in record time and will lose his job even quicker when the season wraps up on Apr. 14.

A new coach and possibly a new general manager will then have to pick up the pieces and try and start the rebuilding process for a once glorious franchise yet again.

With that in mind, here's the state of the Philadelphia 76ers...

Elton Brand - Injuries have robbed the Sixers' high-priced power forward of the lift and explosion to be a consistent force down low. To make matters worse, his contract makes him virtually untradeable. You can see Brand still knows how to play the game but his body is betraying him. So, Stefanski spent $65 million dollars on a gloried role player. You can blame the medical people if you want but Brand's signing, along with the Jordan hiring, are the two reasons Stefanski will be joining his coach on the unemployment line.

Andre Iguodala - Jordan has finally admitted that Iguodala is not a top-tier offensive player and he never will be, something the rest of us knew three seasons ago. The jump shot is just not there. That doesn't make Iguodala a bad player and it's certainly not his fault that he is forced to take on the
role as go-to guy since the Sixers have no other options. Iguodala is at his best when he sticks the three in his pocket and slashes to the basket. He's an upper echelon defender and the team's best all-around player by far. The next general manager should think long and hard about moving Iguodala but he's the only Sixers' commodity that could actually bring something significant back in return. That said, his lack of leadership skills and poor body language can wear on you at times.

Samuel Dalembert - Dalembert gets a bad rap because of his massive contract, lack of offensive skills and low basketball IQ but he is the Sixers' only top- tier rebounder and shot-blocker. His deal expires after next season so Dalembert will now be tradeable in the offseason. That said, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if the Sixers held on and took advantage of the expiring deal themselves.

Jrue Holiday
- Probably the only positive in a dismal season. Since the Sixers took the training wheels off, Holiday has proven he can be the point guard of the future. He's a true quarterback that thinks pass first and he's one of the few point guards in basketball that could turn into a lockdown defender.

Thaddeus Young - In a season full of disappointments, Thad was the biggest. He was a terrible fit for Jordan's offense and his confidence eroded by the day. Young's biggest attribute before Jordan arrived was his touch around the basket and that was totally gone by February. Conventional wisdom has the Sixers trying to move Iguodala in order to hand the small forward spot over to Young but that's a real shaky proposition now. Young has always been a poor defender and rebounder and now he has to rebuild his confidence to get his offensive game back.

Lou Williams - Williams is one of the guys who finds it very hard to mask his dislike of Jordan's coaching style. Both sides are at fault here. Jordan's problems with rotations are well-documented and something a competent high school coach could have solved by midseason. However, Williams lacks the maturity to take the next step at this point and was likely one of the players that Western Conference scout was talking about. Right now, LouWill's upside is instant-offense off the bench and that's it.

Marreese Speights
- Speights is another Jordan victim but I will also throw Stefanski under the bus when talking about Mo. The Sixers' GM gushed about Speights like he was the second-coming of Kevin McHale, despite his glaring deficiencies on the backboard and the defensive end. I understand people get excited about big guys with offensive skills around the basket since so few young players come into the league with any. But, Speights has to contribute in other areas if he's every going to get major minutes in this league.

Jason Kapono - I'm aware that Kapono is a deeply flawed player that only does one thing well (shoot the basketball). But, that one thing is the Sixers' greatest weakness and the fact that Jordan couldn't find a role for this guy until Young went down is a testament to his inadequacies as a coach.

Willie Green - Green is a really nice guy but the fact he is still getting consistent minutes on this team reflects poorly on the front office. Willie is a borderline NBA player that would be a 12th man on a solid basketball team.

Jason Smith - Smith is another guy that was jerked around by Jordan all year and never got into a flow. Next year should be a make-or-break season since he will be a year removed from his ACL surgery. I'm not sure Smith has the athleticism to be more than a 10-to-15 minute a night guy, however.

Rodney Carney - Another victim of Jordan's rotations. Carney has the athletic skills to be a lockdown defender and has a nice stand-still three-pointer. The Sixers should feed him tapes of Bruce Bowen in his prime in San Antonio and say copy that.

Jodie Meeks - Meeks was a shooter in college at Kentucky but has showed very little in his rare opportunities after being acquired from Milwaukee. About the only thing you can say is he probably has a bigger upside than Royal Ivey, so it was worth rolling the dice.

Francisco Elson
- Elson was also acquired from the Bucks in the Jodie Meeks deal but hasn't played because of hernia surgery. He's just a body.

Eddie Jordan -  I didn't think Jordan was a good hire by Stefanski but I also didn't expect this type of disaster. Clearly a system coach, Jordan had no idea what to do when his system failed. He has lost his players and there is absolutely no way Comcast could sell this guy to its season ticket holders for another season. Ed Snider and Peter Luukko probably should have forced Stefanski to fire him by the All-Star break when it was clear things weren't salvageable.

Ed Stefanski - The Brand and Jordan moves have sealed Stefanski's fate. He's a Philly guy and everyone likes him but when your two high-profile moves are abject disasters in every conceivable way, it's time to update the resume.

Embracing losing

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA - The 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only perfect team in major professional sports history.

In fact, many believe the '72 Dolphins should be regarded as the best team ever. "Perfection ends a lot of arguments," the team's Hall of Fame fullback, Larry Csonka, once said.

I never bought that line of thinking. After all, it's impossible for an NBA or NHL team to go through an 82-game regular season and an entire playoff run without a blemish. Baseball teams have to tee it up 162 times every year before even embarking on a playoff run. No matter what you think, however, the
'72 Dolphins certainly deserve credit for a remarkable accomplishment that has never been matched.

Another team that tipped things off that very same year is similarly remembered for being the polar opposite of that Miami team as perhaps the worst in pro sports history.

By March 25, 1973, the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers had compiled 73 losses and just nine wins, a hearty .110 winning percentage.

Led by guard Fred Carter and forgettable players like John Block and Bill Bridges, those Sixers lost their first 15 games of the season. A few months later they embarked on a a then-NBA record 20-game skid. At one point during the nightmare of a season, Philly lost 34 of 35 games and eventually finished an NBA-record 59 games behind the Atlantic Division champion Boston Celtics.

The notoriously tough Philadelphia media forever christened the team the "Nine and 73ers".

Although threatened a few times, the 73 losses remain the all-time low-water mark for any NBA franchise nearly 40 years later.

The New Jersey Nets gave it quite a run this season but officially avoided the mark on Monday when they topped the San Antonio Spurs for their 10th win.

"I'm happy for the guys. I'm happy they continued to work hard and improve," interim head coach Kiki Vandeweghe said after officially avoiding the dubious mark. "We were playing for pride. We stepped up and fought as hard as we could."

Surprisingly, Carter was not all that disappointed. He wasn't popping corks on the champagne like some members of the '72 Dolphins do when the last undefeated NFL team falls each season, but Carter has embraced his own place in history.

"It took me 20 years to learn to deal with it," Carter told The Philadelphia Daily News. "I resented being called the MVP of that team. I resented it when I was called the best player on the worst team ever.

"I had played in the Finals, so it took me a long time to accept that. I finally decided there are a lot of ways to gain immortality, and that it's better to be remembered than to not be remembered at all."

That's a very healthy way to look at things.

No one remembers the '92-93 Dallas Mavericks or the '97-98 Denver Nuggets.

Five years from now, no one will remember this year's Nets but everyone knows the story of "Mad Dog" Carter and his '72-73 Sixers.

Author Randolph Bourne may have described it best...

"History remembers only the brilliant failures and the brilliant successes."

Union release D Myrie

The Philadelphia Union have released defender David Myrie. 

The 21-year-old started in the Union's debut against Seattle Sounders FC on March 25, logging 78 minutes.

Acquired in the 2009 Expansion Draft from the Chicago Fire, Myrie joined the Fire's senior roster last season as an international and discovery player but did not appear in any games.

Carcillo gets two-game suspension

Flyers forward Dan Carcillo was suspended two games for his unintentional high stick on Sunday against New Jersey's David Clarkson.

"I am disappointed in this decision by the league," Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said. "This was clearly an accidental high stick and I do not believe a match penalty."

SI picks Phils to win it all

Roy Halladay is on the Cover of this week's Sports Illustrated and the Magazine predicts the Phillies to beat the Tampa Bay Rays in the Fall Classic.

Hobbs, Gocong sign tenders

Eagles CB Ellis Hobbs and LB Chris Gocong have both signed their one-year restricted free agent tenders.

Hobbs was acquired by the Eagles in a 2009 draft day trade with New England after spending his first four NFL seasons as a a member of the Patriots. A third round draft choice of the Patriots in 2005, Hobbs played in eight games during his first season in Philadelphia in 2009, recording 14 tackles and returning 20 kickoffs for 481 yards (24.1 average).

Gocong, a third round draft pick of the Eagles in 2006, has recorded 203 tackles, four sacks and one forced fumble in 47 regular season games (35 starts). He also has seen action in four playoff contests, registering 19 tackles and one sack.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Raiders are most likely to land McNabb

ESPN reported on its Web site Monday that the Raiders have emerged as the leading candidate to land Donovan McNabb in a trade.

Word that McNabb might be moved has been circulating since last week when Eagles coach Andy Reid made it clear the team was listening to offers at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando.

Philadelphia Phillies 2010 Preview

By Michael Rushton

Philadelphia, PA -  Philadelphia Phillies fans sure are getting greedy, but perhaps back-to-back World Series appearances will do that.

While supporters of just about any other club would have excitement levels off the chart in acquiring one of the top pitchers in baseball, former Toronto and now Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay, much of the talk around the City of Brotherly Love was what the Phillies gave up to acquire the 2003 American League Cy Young Award winner.

In fact, when all was said and done it took some top prospects and another former Cy Young Award recipient to land "Doc" Halladay.

The Phillies bolstered their rotation at the trade deadline last year, acquiring Cliff Lee from the Cleveland Indians when it became apparent it would cost too much to get Halladay from Toronto. Lee, who won the AL Cy Young in 2008, went 7-4 with a 3.39 earned run average in 12 regular-season starts as the Phillies won their third straight National League East title.

Lee then etched himself onto the heart of Philadelphia by posting a 4-0 mark and 1.56 ERA in five postseason starts, winning twice in the World Series versus the New York Yankees. However, Lee's performance wasn't enough as the Phils were denied a second straight World Series championship by New York, which took the Fall Classic in six games.

Aiming to become the first NL team to reach three straight World Series since the 1942-44 St. Louis Cardinals, the Phillies made a big move by acquiring Halladay from the Blue Jays for a trio of prospects, including pitcher Kyle Drabek and outfielder Michael Taylor.

But to the chagrin of the fans, Philly wasn't done dealing. Considering it had previously cost the Phils four minor-leaguers to land Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco from the Indians last July, Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. decided he didn't want to leave the prospect cupboard bare. So instead of a rotation that could have featured Halladay, Lee and 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels, Amaro shipped Lee to Seattle on the same day he acquired Halladay, getting three prospects in return.

That left many fans in Philadelphia scratching their collective heads, but even without Lee the Phillies have a club that is built to play baseball in October again.

Below we take a capsule look at the 2010 edition of the Philadelphia Phillies, with a personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein:

2009 FINISH (93-69) - First Place (NL East)

KEY OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: SP Roy Halladay, 3B Placido Polanco, RP Danys Baez,

C Brian Schneider, SP/RP Jose Contreras, INF Juan Castro, 1B Ross Gload

KEY OFFSEASON SUBTRACTIONS: SP Cliff Lee, RP Scott Eyre, 3B Pedro Feliz, SP Brett Myers, RHP Clay Condrey, INF Eric Bruntlett, SP Pedro Martinez, RP Chan Ho Park

PROJECTED LINEUP: Jimmy Rollins (SS), Placido Polanco (3B), Chase Utley (2B), Ryan Howard (1B), Jayson Werth (RF), Raul Ibanez (LF), Shane Victorino (CF), Carlos Ruiz (C)

PROJECTED ROTATION: Roy Halladay (RHP), Cole Hamels (LHP), Joe Blanton (RHP), J.A. Happ (LHP), Kyle Kendrick (RHP)/Jamie Moyer (LHP)


MANAGER: Charlie Manuel


While the Phillies made no changes to their infield a season ago, 2010 will feature a new look at the hot corner. No longer manning third base is Pedro Feliz, who has an excellent glove but struggled at the plate for most of his two years with Philadelphia.

The Phils turned to the past to fill their void at third, signing Polanco. The 34-year-old rarely strikes out and should add a consistent presence at the top of an order that fanned a collective 1,155 times last year.

This marks Polanco's second go-around with the Phillies as he was acquired by the club in 2002 in a mid-season deal that landed Scott Rolen in the Cardinals. He stayed with the club until getting traded during the 2005 season to Detroit, where he spent the majority of his time at second base. However, he shifts to third for the Phils, a position he hasn't fielded regularly since 2002.

The rest remains the same. Ryan Howard, 2006 NL MVP and 45-home run threat, mans first, while second baseman Chase Utley and shortstop Jimmy Rollins make up the middle of the infield.

Utley and Howard, expected to bat behind Polanco at the third and clean-up spots respectively, should benefit the most from their new third baseman being on the base paths. Utley topped the 30-homer mark for the third time a season ago, while Howard bashed 45 homers and tied for the NL lead with 141 RBI.

Rollins, the 2007 NL MVP, has won the three most recent Gold Gloves at short and shook off an early-season slump -- he was batting .198 on May 12 -- to hit .250 with 21 homers, 77 RBI, 100 runs scored and 31 stolen bases.

Carlos Ruiz, one of three Phillies along with pitcher Joe Blanton and outfielder Shane Victorino to sign new three-year deals in the offseason, enters his fourth year as the club's everyday catcher after hitting .255 a season ago. He is a career .303 hitter in the playoffs though and handles the pitching staff very well.


The Phillies return three 2009 All-Stars to their outfield in Victorino, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez.

Victorino mans center and is the sparkplug of the team. He has won the last two NL Gold Gloves at his position and batted .292 a season ago with 10 homers, 62 RBI, 102 runs scored and 25 stolen bases. Victorino spent most of last year batting second, but is expected to slip down to sixth or seventh in the order due to the signing of Polanco.

Werth proved again last year that he can play everyday, appearing in a career-high 159 games while hitting .268 with 36 homers and 99 RBI. He did strikeout a career-worst 156 times however, a number the Phillies hope their right fielder can decrease a bit.

Ibanez was the new guy in 2009, replacing Pat Burrell in left field. The 37- year-old got off to a hot start, hitting .312 with 22 homers and 59 RBI over his first 62 games before suffering a groin injury that sidelined him for 20 games and hindered him in the second half.


The Phillies rotation would have been very good with Lee at the front of it. It will be even better with Halladay, who comes over after spending his first 12 seasons with the Blue Jays and is hoping to pitch in the playoffs for the first time in his career.

It's tough not to get excited about getting a pitcher who has averaged 17 wins, 32 starts and 233 innings pitched over the past four seasons. Halladay has dominated the tough American League East in the past, so a shift to the more pitcher-friendly NL should prevent the 32-year-old from missing a beat.

The right-hander, who is 17-8 with a 3.02 ERA in 35 career games (31 starts) versus the National League, signed a three-year extension with an option after the trade, possibly keeping him in the mix through 2014.

It is Hamels, though, who will decide if Amaro is a genius or goat for trading Lee. The Phillies expect the lefty to bounce back from a sub par 2009 season in which he 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA in 32 starts. The 26-year-old was also just 1-2 with a 7.58 ERA in four postseason starts after going 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five playoff starts in 2008.

Blanton will be pitching out of the third spot in his second full season with the Phillies after he was their big trade deadline pickup in 2008. The right- hander was reliable in the rotation last season, going 12-8 with a 4.05 ERA in 31 stars and 195 1/3 innings of work.

One of the players Philadelphia did not want to part with last July to get Halladay was J.A. Happ, and the lefty figures to hold down a rotation spot after shuffling back and forth between starting and relieving last year. Happ had a 2.49 ERA in 12 regular-season games out of the 'pen in 2009, but also went 10-4 with a 2.99 ERA in 23 starts.

With Pedro Martinez now a free agent, the fifth spot will be a battle between 47-year-old Jamie Moyer and former starter Kyle Kendrick. Moyer won 16 games for the Phils in 2008, but struggled to a 12-10 mark and 5.94 ERA in '09. He was eventually shuffled to the bullpen late in the season before his year ended early because of a groin injury.

Moyer underwent both sports hernia and knee surgery this offseason but it is believed the job is his to lose. That could land Kendrick in the bullpen.


Many would say the Phillies reached the World Series in 2009 despite their bullpen, which was their biggest strength in '08. Philadelphia's 'pen had a league-best 3.22 ERA two seasons ago, but that group pitched to a 3.91 ERA last year, blew 22 saves and struggled in the postseason.

Nobody mirrored those struggles more than closer Brad Lidge. The right-hander was a perfect 48-for-48 in save chances in 2008, but was 0-8 with a 7.21 ERA last year while going 31-for-42 in save chances and leading the league in blown saves.

Lidge also had elbow and knee surgery this offseason that he hopes will help him bounce back this season.

Not surprisingly, the Phillies' bullpen features some new faces this season. Out are Scott Eyre, Clay Condrey and Chan Ho Park, while new faces include Danys Baez and Jose Contreras.

Baez missed all of 2008 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, and the righty was 4-6 with a 4.02 ERA in 59 games with Baltimore last year. Baez does have closer experience, as he owns 114 saves, including 41 with Tamp Bay in 2005. He could serve as a backup plan to Lidge and right-hander Ryan Madson, who posted a 3.26 ERA last year but also blew six saves while subbing for Lidge.

Contreras, meanwhile, replaces Park as the long reliever. The Cuban righty has been a starter for most of his career, but the 38-year-old did pitch well out of the bullpen for Colorado after being acquired late in the season from the White Sox.

Lefty J.C. Romero (0-0, 2.70 ERA last season) and Chad Durbin, a right-hander who notched a 4.39 ERA in 59 games last season, also return to the relief group, though Romero and Lidge will likely start the season the disabled list.


The bench appears to be set in Philadelphia, with Greg Dobbs and Francisco being joined by newcomers Brian Schneider, Ross Gload and Juan Castro.

Dobbs, one of the top pinch-hitters in 2008, struggled to just a .247 average last season and should give Polanco a rest at third. Meanwhile, Gload (.261, 6 HR, 30 RBI) was excellent off the bench for the Marlins a season ago and is the left-handed answer to Dobbs off this bench.

Francisco should spell Ibanez at times in 2010, with Castro taking over for Eric Bruntlett as the middle infield reserve.

Schneider joins the Phils as an experienced backup to Ruiz after hitting just .218 in 59 games with the rival Mets last season.


Never has the Phillies franchise, owner of over 10,000 franchise losses and just two World Series wins in over 125 seasons, been better put together than now. This club is built to compete for a title and nothing less, and somehow found away to get a little better for a third straight season. It's tough to make back-to-back World Series appearances and even tougher to do it three years in a row, but that is the Phillies goal in 2010. And with Halladay, Rollins, Howard and Utley all in their primes, and Hamels and Victorino close to it, there is no reason that this club can't win a fourth straight NL East title and compete in its third straight Fall Classic.

Obama to throw out first pitch at Phils opener

President Barack Obama will throw out the first pitch before the Phillies' season opener April 5 at Nationals Park.

Flyers recall G Hutton

The Flyers recalled goaltender Carter Hutton on an emergency basis from their American
Hockey League affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms on Sunday.

"I'm a little nervous and a little excited," said Hutton. "It is all mixed together. It has been a bit of a whirlwind the past couple of days. I'm excited to be here and given the opportunity to put on the Flyers jersey and be a part of this organization."

Hutton, 24, has appeared in four games with Adirondack this season after signing an amateur tryout agreement with the Phantoms on Mar. 20, following his senior year at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell of the Hockey East Association. He has posted a 1-2-1 record with a 2.71 goals-against average and .921 save percentage with Adirondack and earned his first professional victory by making 35 saves in a 4-3 win
over the Bears at Hershey on Mar. 21.

Prior to joining the Phantoms, Hutton appeared in 27 games with the Lowell-Mass River Hawks, posting a 13-12-2 record in his final season. He led all goaltenders in the Hockey East Association with a 2.04 GAA,
.928 save percentage and four shutouts, and won the Bauer Goaltending Champion Award for the best combined goalie stats in the Conference, as well as being named to the Hockey East Second Team All-Stars.

A native of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Hutton completed his four-year career with the River Hawks with a 34-41-10 record, 2.33 GAA and .913 save percentage, including 10 shutouts in 85 collegiate games. He is the school's all-time leader in GAA (2.33), shutouts (10) and tied for the all-time lead in save percentage (.913).

Saturday, March 27, 2010

LouWill's Escalade stolen

The Sixers' Lou Williams says his Escalade was stolen last night.

"Just the got the news someone stole my escalade last night," Williams wrote on Twitter. "Oh boy, somebody is gonna get they ass kicked. He better hope police get him 1st."

Friday, March 26, 2010

Scout skewers Sixers in Sports Illustrated

Any regular reader knows I think Eddie Jordan is incompetent but that doesn't mean his players should be unprofessional. An unnamed Western Conference scout recently told Sports Illustrated just how bad things have gotten at the Wachovia Center.

"They are having dunk contests before games; they are running plays sloppily or not all the way through; and they aren't listening to (coach) Eddie Jordan," the scout said. "They have quit. They know Eddie is gone (after the season) and they think they don't have to listen anymore. The thing is, they are making themselves look like a-------. These guys think that just because Eddie is gone they will be back (next year). But nobody wants guys who give up when things go bad. Eddie's offense was a bad fit for this roster - they have to find a way to play more up-tempo - but these guys are embarrassing themselves. And everyone around the league knows it."

McNabb to Oakland?

While Minnesota is Donovan McNabb's preferred landing spot, that is all coming from the McNabb side. The Vikings have no interest and are content on waiting for Brett Favre. YAHOO!'s Charles Robinson says Oakland is in the frontrunner right now and are not requiring an extension to get a deal done.

Meanwhile, ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that McNabb spoke to Andy Reid on Thursday to tell him of his preference to spend this year in Philadelphia and not with Oakland or Buffalo. 

Obviously, McNabb doesn't want to go to a team that can't win but the Eagles can't be concerned with that.  

Union drop inaugural match in Seattle

SEATTLE, Wa. (March 25, 2010) - On a rainy night in Seattle the Sounders and Philadelphia Union officially kicked off the 2010 MLS season with an exciting affair from Qwest Field.

Starting out with a very aggressive set-up, the Union fielded a young squad that came out of the blocks pressing the Sounders for the ball. Captained by Danny Califf, who saw a yellow card under a minute into the match, Team Manager Peter Nowak didn't shackle his players' style early on.

"We need to do better on both goals, especially the first one," reflected Team Manager Peter Nowak. "The ball was coming inside and we have to cover it much better, especially on runs from the second line. It was a good (first) 10 minutes and then the goal was unexpected from something we didn't cover very well. The second goal actually was a byproduct of the red card because Toni Stahl (who was ejected) was supposed to cover Montero on the back post. Overall, the heart was there, we were playing our game, and with 10 men it wasn't a bad effort."

Very back and forth in the opening 10 minutes, the Union began to see a good chunk of the possession, while Seattle seemed content to see what the expansion club could bring at them.

When the Sounders did manage to get the ball, a Union player was on their back chipping away trying to loosen the possession from the home side. Working on the counterattack, Seattle were able to break the deadlock in the 12th minute thanks to some lovely interplay.

Sweeping balls down the right resulted in Fredy Montero holding the ball up just inside the box. He then played it through to Zakuani on the wing, who quickly slotted back into the middle of the area. Waiting on the edge of the 6-yard box was Brad Evans who coolly slotted the ball into the far corner of the net.

It wasn't long after the goal that things got a bit more physical as Osvaldo Alonso took Union striker Alejandro Moreno down from behind, warranting another yellow card, the match's second. Soon thereafter, Union rookie Toni Stahl picked up a yellow for a late challenge on Freddie Ljungberg.

The Union's best chance of the half up to that point came in the 18th minute when Moreno was able to drop the ball into former Sounders forward Sebastian Le Toux in the middle of the area. Working his way around Tyrone Marshall, Le Toux lost his balance before he could get a clean shot on Kasey Keller, who snatched the ball up confidently to avert a tying goal.

Things settled down in the middle portion of the first half, with the Union getting some quality time on the ball. Looking to work the ball along the wings to Roger Torres, the away side was certainly pressing for an equalizer.

Their hopes at getting back in the game took a huge hit in the 40th minute when Stahl went into the back of Montero as they both rose for a flighted ball. The Finnish rookie's knee was a bit high and he was shown a second yellow, which meant his first game in MLS would result in a send-off.

It didn't take the Sounders long to capitalize on the newfound strength in numbers as Montero was able to extend the lead off of a Sounders corner. Put in by Ljungberg, the ball was fisted out of the area by Union keeper Chris Seitz. Taking it on the edge of the area, Alonso neatly bounced it back into the box to a waiting Montero who nodded the ball past Seitz for the 2-0 lead in the 43rd minute. Completely unmarked, it'll go down as one of the easier goals the Colombian will score.

Playing out the last two minute in desperate fashion, it was clear the Union were playing for the locker room, a place that Seattle was happy to go in to being up 2-0.

Despite being down two goals and a man, the Union came out in the second half pressing the ball once more, trying to work one back and keep the match competitive.

Seattle were again content with letting Union take possession of the ball and come at them as best they could. It was the home team who won the first chance of the second half though as a deep ball played into Seitz was parried by the keeper at the edge of the box. Unfortunately for the former Salt Lake player, he played it right to Steve Zakuani who barely missed slotting it into an open net.

Seattle had a nice chance in the 65th when substitute Sanna Nyassi took the ball along the left side of the area. Cutting inside a Union defender, Nyassi took a rip at the near side of Seitz's goal, only to see it cut by the post on the advertisement backing.

Slow play dominated the next 10 minutes of the second period as it appeared that the teams had switched off and were ready for the final whistle. Using the extra man to their advantage, the Sounders began to take their time with the ball, not forcing the issue, but at the same time, eating up tons of clock with each measured pass.

The best second half chance for the Sounders came in the 82nd minute when they won a corner that Brad Evans stepped up and took from the far corner. Winding the ball in, Evans spotted Roger Levesque who had an open header. Nodding it wide, the Canadian wasn't able to add to the Union's misery.
Unable to get anything back in the match's final minutes, the Union were forced to settle on a 2-0 result in the Sounders' favor in their inaugural MLS match. They'll welcome D.C. United to Lincoln Financial Field on April 10th in their home opener and hope for a better result in front of the Philly faithful.

"We have a lot of work to do, but I think we fought hard as a team, we ran a lot, we're pretty fit," commented Danny Califf, who served as Captain. "But there are some areas we definitely need polishing. But if we put that kind of effort in we'll get good results."

Scoring Summary:

SEA -- Brad Evans 1 (Steve Zakuani 1, Fredy Montero 1) 12

SEA -- Fredy Montero 1 (Osvaldo Alonso 1) 43

Philadelphia Union -- Chris Seitz, Jordan Harvey, Danny Califf, Toni Stahl, David Myrie (Jack McInerney 78), Andrew Jacobson, Danny Mwanga (Stefani Miglioranzi 46), Roger Torres (Amobi Okugo 71), Michael Orozco, Sebastien Le Toux, Alejandro Moreno.

Substitutes Not Used: Shavar Thomas, Nick Zimmerman, Kyle Nakazawa, Brad Knighton.

TOTAL SHOTS: 9 (Sebastien Le Toux 5); SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (Sebastien Le Toux 3); FOULS: 8 (David Myrie 2); OFFSIDES: 2 (Alejandro Moreno 1, Sebastien Le Toux 1); CORNER KICKS: 6 (Sebastien Le Toux 3, Roger Torres 3); SAVES: 1 (Chris Seitz 1)

Seattle Sounders -- Kasey Keller, Zach Scott, Tyrone Marshall, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez, Roger Levesque, Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Steve Zakuani (Michael Fucito 76), Freddie Ljungberg (Sanna Nyassi 60), Fredy Montero.

Substitutes Not Used: Patrick Ianni, Nathan Sturgis, Tyson Wahl, David Estrada, Terry Boss.

TOTAL SHOTS: 12 (Fredy Montero 7); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (Fredy Montero 2); FOULS: 13 (5 tied with 2); OFFSIDES: 3 (Roger Levesque 2); CORNER KICKS: 9 (Brad Evans 5); SAVES: 4 (Kasey Keller 4)

Misconduct Summary:

PHI -- Danny Califf (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 1

SEA -- Osvaldo Alonso (caution; Reckless Tackle) 14

PHI -- Toni Stahl (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 23

PHI -- Toni Stahl (caution; Reckless Foul) 41

PHI -- Toni Stahl (ejection; Second Caution) 41

PHI -- David Myrie (caution; Reckless Tackle) 63

PHI -- Alejandro Moreno (caution; Reckless Tackle) 86

Referee: Ricardo Salazar

Referee's Assistants: -Corey Rockwell; Peter Manikowski

4th Official: Paul Ward

Attendance: 36,241

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Flyers' Carter to have foot surgery

The Flyers announced today that center Jeff Carter will undergo surgery on his left foot on Friday and is still expected to be out three to four weeks.

“He will have a screw inserted to aide the healing process,” said GM Paul Holmgren.

The surgery will be performed by Dr. Steve Raikin at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Carter, 25, suffered a non-displaced fracture in his left foot as a result from a blocked shot during the Flyers-Thrashers game on Sunday, Mar. 21. In 72 games this season, he has 60 points (33G,27A) and 38 penalty minutes.

His 33 goals and 60 points lead the Flyers, while also leading the team in shots on goal (310) and tied for the team lead in game-winning goals (6). Prior to missing his last game, Carter had a 286 consecutive games played streak, which stands third all time in Flyers history.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Flyers recall G Backlund

The Flyers have recalled goaltender Johan Backlund from their American Hockey League affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms, and have loaned goaltender Jeremy Duchesne to the Phantoms.

Backlund will be available to play in Thursday's Flyers-Wild game at the Wachovia Center.

Backlund, 28, has a 21-17-2 record, with a 2.79 goals-against average, .906 save percentage and two shutouts in 41 appearances with Adirondack this season. This is his fourth recall with the Flyers this season. In
addition to his time with the Phantoms, he dressed, but did not play in eight games for the Flyers and also appeared in two contests with the Flyers during the preseason, stopping 14 of 16 shots in 29:27 of play in
their game vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs at the John Labatt Centre in London, Ontario on Sept. 17, and 11 of 14 shots in 33:38 of play vs. the Minnesota Wild on Sept. 29.

A native of Skelleftea, Sweden, Backlund signed a one-year contract with the Flyers on March 26, 2009.

Duchesne, 23, dressed, but did not see action in the last four Flyers contests.

Rating the contenders

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA - Former NFL coach Bill Parcells once said "you are what your record says you are."

Truer words have never been spoken in professional sports. At the end of the day, no matter what obstacles were placed in front of you, winning is the only option. It's about as unforgiving a business as there is.

There are no excuses, there are no bailouts and there are no government mandates requiring the haves to help the have-nots. Coaches that complain about injuries or a lack of talent might as well reserve their place on the unemployment line.

No one wants to hear it. It's sink or swim, win or get lost.

Kobe Bryant remains the best closer west of Mariano Rivera.
The NBA is about three weeks away from wrapping up its regular season. That's quite the sample size and we have all seen enough basketball by now to differentiate the pretenders from the contenders.

At one end of the spectrum, teams like New Jersey, Minnesota and Golden State are dreaming of a John Wall or Evan Turner. At the other end, a few teams are quietly thinking about unfurling a championship banner.

Who has a legitimate shot?

It's time to rate the contenders...

1. - Los Angeles Lakers - The reigning champs have coasted through the regular season. Kobe Bryant remains the best closer west of Mariano Rivera and Pau Gasol is the top sidekick in all of basketball. But, there are a few chinks in the armor. Ron Artest is a better all-around basketball player than Trevor Ariza but Ariza was a more competent role player in LA, secure in toning down his game, knowing Kobe and Pau need the majority of shots in key moments. Meanwhile, center Andrew Bynum just suffered his annual leg injury and Gasol is starting to make waves about wanting to be "the guy," a ridiculous sentiment with Bryant around.

2. - Cleveland Cavaliers - The Cavs have the NBA's best record and the league's best player in LeBron James but it remains to be seen if they have done enough to match up with an Orlando team that can still spread the floor better than anyone. Adding Antawn Jamison to the mix should help Cleveland avoid those long offensive lulls and take some of the pressure off James.

3. - Orlando Magic - I wasn't in love with Vince Carter replacing Hedo Turkoglu in the Magic Kingdom, but Carter has fit in nicely and Matt Barnes has brought a toughness to this team that wasn't there last season when they succumbed to the Lakers in the NBA Finals. Orlando remains a deeper team than Cleveland and the Magic still look like a very tough matchup on paper for the Cavs.

4. - Dallas Mavericks - Acquiring Brendan Haywood and Caron Butler at the trade deadline infused some much-needed toughness to a Dallas team most felt was soft, especially on the defensive end. That deal could end up being the final piece of the championship puzzle in Big D and at worst, certainly made the club a serious championship contender.

5. - Denver Nuggets - The Nuggets are loaded with talent but I can't help feeling the residual effects of George Karl's illness will eventually hurt this team. Adrian Dantley has done a fabulous job filling in for Karl but things get much tougher in postseason basketball, where the name of the game is adjusting from contest to contest. Karl has few peers when it comes to X's and O's and if he can't make it back on a consistent basis, it will certainly hurt his team.

6. - Utah Jazz - Year-in and year-out, it's almost Groundhog Day in Utah. Whether its John Stockton-to-Karl Malone or Deron Williams-to-Carlos Boozer, no one ever takes the Jazz all that seriously since the club is always good but never good enough to get over the top. Williams has turned up his game a notch this season and has been the game's best point guard, making Utah a little more dangerous this time around.

7. - Atlanta Hawks - The Hawks are loaded with young talent and continue to get better and better. This season, Atlanta is neck-and-neck with the battle- tested Celtics for the third spot in the East, but the team is clearly still a step or two behind both Cleveland and Orlando.

8. - Boston Celtics - The hope was that the old war horses, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, could make one more legitimate run at an NBA crown. But, it's becoming clear that the tread is wearing thin on Garnett's and Allen's tires. In fact, Rajon Rondo is the only "star" in Boston on the upside of his career.

9. - Oklahoma City - This team is scary. Kevin Durant can go off for 35 points on any night and he's not even the best all-around player on the team. That mantle belongs to Russell Westbrook, a daily triple-double threat that can also get after you defensively. Add Jeff Green, James Harden and Thabo Sefolosha to that mix and the Thunder may be the most athletic team in all of basketball. Obviously, the fly in the ointment is a lack of playoff experience, but I can't see many teams clamoring to play Oklahoma City.

10. - San Antonio Spurs - The Spurs are like the West's version of Boston. Their big three - Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili - is also aging rapidly and one of them seems to always be battling some kind of injury. That said, I wouldn't bet against any of them with the game on the line, but San Antonio just doesn't have enough support on hand. Richard Jefferson has been a big disappointment. The young players certainly have their moments, but are too mistake-prone for postseason basketball.

St. Joe's to induct Griffin, Phillips into Basketball Hall of Fame

Saint Joseph's University will induct former standouts John Griffin and Bill Phillips into its Men's Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday, April 9, at the Hawks' annual Men's Basketball Awards Banquet. The event will be held in the Campion Banquet Facility on campus.

The 13th coach in the program's history, Griffin served as head coach from 1990-95 and compiled a 75-69 record in five seasons. Taking over in 1990-91, he guided the Hawks to 13 wins in each of his first two
seasons, and to an 18-11 record in 1992-93, which ended a four-year streak of sub-.500 campaigns. Griffin led the Hawks to NIT appearances in 1993 and 1995 and coached Hawk greats such as Bernard Blunt, Rap Curry and Craig Amos.

Griffin played for the Hawks from 1974 to 1978 and appeared in 65 games, and was a team captain his senior year. He returned to Hawk Hill in 1980 and spent two seasons as an assistant coach on the
staffs of Jim Lynam and Jim Boyle before leaving to become the head coach at Siena College. Griffin went 70-44 at Siena and worked in private business for a few years before returning to his alma mater in 1990.

"John Griffin gave every ounce of his energy to the SJU basketball program as a player, coach and alum.  His work ethic and passion were clear indications that he embodied "The Hawk Will Never Die" spirit. John is a very deserving member of Saint Joseph's Basketball Hall of Fame," said current head coach Phil Martelli, who was a member of Griffin's staff for all five years.

Phillips played from 1999 to 2002 and was one of the top scholar-athletes in SJU basketball history. In three years with the Hawks, after transferring to SJU, Phillips scored 1,007 points to rank 47th on the all-time scoring list, and grabbed 686 rebounds to rank 22nd all-time. He averaged 11.6 points per game both his junior and senior seasons and ranks fifth on the all-time list in career field goal percentage (.527).

Phillips was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Conference and All-Big 5 teams in both his junior and senior years, earning second-team recognition on both squads in 2002. He is also the only Hawk to be named an Academic All-America, and was a third-team selection in 2001 and a second-team honoree in 2002.

"Bill Phillips embraced the college basketball experience.  Truly a scholar-athlete, he accomplished greatness on and off the court here at Saint Joseph's.  His selfless style of play allowed those around him to achieve significant accomplishments," said Martelli. "Highly skilled, tough minded, and cerebral are the characteristics that Bill Phillips utilized to achieve Hall of Fame status."

The banquet, which also recognizes the 2009-10 Hawks, begins with a reception at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. For reservations, call 610-660-1706 or email:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Elliott, Sens blank Flyers in contest marred by miscalls

by Bob Herpen
The Phanatic Magazine

Brian Elliott stopped all 26 shots he faced to post his second consecutive shutout as Ottawa topped Philadelphia, 2-0, in a testy contest at Scotiabank Place.

Elliott, who blanked the Canadiens in Montreal on Monday, recorded his fifth shutout of the season and sixth in his career.

Chris Kelly and Daniel Alfredsson scored for the Senators, who have won two in a row following five straight losses and moved four points ahead of Philly and idle Montreal (83-79), who are tied for sixth in the Eastern Conference.

Brian Boucher made 24 saves in a tough defeat for the Flyers, who have dropped three in a row and six of eight and failed to record a tally in their first game without leading scorer Jeff Carter who will miss the remainder of the regular season with a broken foot.

Ottawa went ahead 2-0 at the 18-second mark of the third period as Alfredsson potted a Chris Phillips rebound, but following the goal, the home team incredibly received a seven-minute power play.

Immediately prior to the score, Sens defenseman Anton Volchenkov leveled Flyers forward Simon Gagne with a hard check from behind and several feet from the boards with no call from the officials. Gagne caught up with Volchenkov after the goal was scored, and dropped the gloves.

Somehow after the bout, Gagne wound up with a double minor for instigating while wearing a face shield, major and misconduct while Volchenkov received only a minor for roughing.

Incredibly, Ottawa hit two crossbars but failed to increase its lead on the power play.

On a power play with 3:55 left, the Flyers were deprived of a goal, when a lengthy review determined that Volchenkov swept out Kimmo Timonen's backhand chance from the crease despite replays showing the puck wholly over the goal line.

Boucher went to the bench for an extra skater with over two minutes to play, and the visitors' best chance came when Scott Hartnell missed a half-open net in the final 30 seconds.

The Senators had a goal wiped out on a power play less than 2 1/2 minutes in, when Nick Foligno clearly threw a puck past Boucher from the left post.

Despite failing on two successive advantages, Ottawa took a 1-0 lead with 9:26 to play in the first as Kelly ripped a wrister high to the glove side off a 2-on-1 break.

Philly failed to convert a 5-on-3 advantage for well over a minute late in the second period and Elliott made 11 saves in the second. Boucher stopped six shots to keep it a one-goal game.

NOTES: Ottawa won three of four games in the season series and have taken six of eight over Philadelphia since the start of last season...The Flyers were shut out for the sixth time this season and first since February 3 at Edmonton...Elliott also blanked the Flyers on December 10 in Philadelphia.

Experts Question WADA Blood Test for HGH

Catlin wants more research data on current 'isoform' test Sonksen criticizes officials, touts his 'marker' test for HGH

By Matt Chaney

Preeminent anti-doping scientists are citing problems about the Olympic "isoform" test for synthetic human growth hormone, in response to the ongoing campaign of WADA and USADA officials who want pro sports like baseball to adopt their controversial blood scan.

"It is simply not a useful test, no matter how you cut it or spin it," said American testing engineer Don H. Catlin, M.D., director of the non-profit Anti-Doping Research laboratory, speaking in a telephone interview last week from Los Angeles.

Catlin said he hasn't seen "any scientific discussion" on the blood scan's disputed reliability, only "warfare" rhetoric exchanged through media, pitting anti-doping officials against administrators of sports and unions.

In London, England, growth-hormone testing pioneer Peter H. Sonksen, M.D., said WADA officials erred years ago by casting aside his bio-marker scan, going instead with the assay for GH isomers. Sonksen
says his bio-marker system can confirm artificial GH in the bloodstream for as long two weeks, while the isoform's detection window lasts about 24 hours.

“I don’t know why they chose the isoform,” Sonksen said of anti-doping officials in a webcam interview. “I think they thought this was a more direct test than our marker method. I think that they were, ah, too thick to understand it. They weren’t experts in the field, and they don’t really understand it. The isoform test would be every bit as difficult to defend in court as our method.”

Sonksen receives research funding from the anti-doping agencies, including their parent WADA. Major League Baseball and the Amgen biotechnology firm fund Catlin’s work, among his current grants.

WADA officials administer and market the long-standing GH isoform test, which only recently returned a positive result leading to suspension of an athlete, British rugby player Terry Newton, who did not contest the finding.

That positive result, announced Feb. 22, was the first confirmed among about 1,500 tests conducted since the 2004 Olympics. WADA and USADA hail the development as proof of the isoform method’s validity and reliability.

But Catlin dismissed that claim for the present, maintaining too little is known about the isoform for proper review by independent science. He is confident WADA has conducted clinical trials on subjects, presumably including athletes, but no scientists have the data outside those employed within agency “working groups,” as officials term the closed network.

“I believe they have data,” Catlin said. “I mean, it would be silly not to. But they don’t display it.”

Echoing Catlin, American sport officials argue the WADA test for growth hormone needs scientific airing in public. When MLB and union officials recently reiterated the call, WADA president John Fahey replied “nonsense” to their charge of inappropriateness about the test.

“If I were baseball, I’d want to see the [research] numbers,” Catlin said, “but WADA won’t show the numbers. They recognize, rightfully, that as soon as they do show the numbers, there could be difficulty.”

Sonksen, Catlin and other scientists say WADA practice to limit information on the isoform model dates to its patenting a decade ago by German researcher Christian J. Strasburger, M.D., who became an in-house scientist of the agency. Previous to the test’s launching six years ago, a WADA spokesperson told ABC Science Online that “we won’t comment on specifics and, for obvious deterrence reasons, we won’t give those details even when a test is in place.”

Charles E. Yesalis, Sc.D., historian and researcher on doping, rebuked the WADA blockade on testing information. “I’m just astounded,” said Yesalis, the epidemiologist and Penn State professor emeritus who co-authored the first comprehensive surveys of teen steroid use in the United States.

Yesalis contends sport anti-doping technology must be more precise than many standard medical tests, since positive findings virtually assure punitive consequence for athletes. “It’s almost criminal. I mean, if you’re going to ruin somebody’s life, and if you don’t have [credible testing] totally locked up, to me that is immoral and unethical. I’d rather see five million cheaters compete than see scientists bastardizing themselves.

“And this has been going on since that testosterone ratio test,” Yesalis said, noting the epitestosterone-testosterone assay, introduced in 1983, that has been debunked for reliability by recent studies and statistics review--yet remains in use by anti-doping agencies.

Yesalis posed an analogy to illustrate the disregard for scientific convention: “If you and I had a proprietary laboratory, and we did a press conference where we said we just had a major breakthrough in a screening test for cancer. And we just said, ‘Well, you’ve got to trust us.’

“Well, immediately other epidemiologists would ask, ‘What’s your sensitivity and specificity? What’s the percent of positives that are truly positive, and what’s the percent of negatives that are truly negative? And please show us exactly how you do this test so we can replicate it.’

“If you couldn’t answer those questions, you’d be laughed out of the scientific community. I’ve said this for years, about the way they behave [anti-doping officials]. Yeah, they do publish some stuff, but it’s very difficult to understand, historically.”

Among concerns, Catlin says establishing precise baseline for human GH secretion is problematic and unverified by scientific consensus. The concept of isoform testing relies on a consistent GH baseline to pinpoint amounts of the dominant isomer known as 22kDa—or molecular weight in kilodaltons—when it’s suppressed by presence of identical versions that are synthetic or “recombinant” growth hormone. Natural GH pulsates irregularly in the human body while activity, gender, age and ethnicity also spur levels to fluctuate.

And Catlin wants to know more about the test before he would implement the protocol in his own laboratory, particularly for the prospect of defending it in court, including against affluent athletes and unions likely to contest positive findings of growth hormone.

Sonksen believes the isoform is reliable for readings within 24 hours of rHGH introduction to a body physiology, if a sampling captures enough of the synthetic drug. But he said the specter of court challenge looms, even if the first-case Newton chose to confess his illicit use.

“I think there’s a certain fear amongst the, ah, [WADA] politicians that if it comes to a case in court, they won’t win it,” Sonksen said, adding the isoform has undergone little modification since 2004. “You only have to go to [engineers] Strasburger and [Martin] Bidlingmaier, and see how many papers they’ve published on the subject. Most of them are reruns of their original papers.

“There’s very little new [data], and I think it would be quite easy for a lawyer to drive a cart and horses through it in court.”

Sonksen does believe WADA would win a court test of the isoform method. But he contends the agency should strengthen its testing by finally implementing his serum-marker detection for growth hormone, which over time builds a profile of an athlete’s natural levels in “outcome” substances like insulin growth factor-1 and collagens. He says his test in complement with Strasburger’s isoform model would produce effective prevention against GH doping by athletes.

WADA has considered Sonksen’s HGH test before, but put it aside for every Olympics since the 2000 Sydney Games, perplexing him and more experts worldwide, such as Catlin. They say the marker method has credible peer review in scientific publication.

Sonksen and WADA have often battled in public over their differences.

Catlin intoned: “I’m a great fan of [marker testing]. It should be done. But, again, there’s all the publicity that goes around this. Now, Peter Sonksen has said some pretty tough things to WADA, but I think he’s rightfully saying them because the [isoform] test alone doesn’t work. It’s political. This whole thing’s political.”

Sonksen is optimistic his test will be adopted for the 2012 London Olympics on his home turf, and he claims backing by U.K. Anti-Doping officials. But he’s wary of the WADA administration.

 “Yes, they’re politicians, aren’t they,” he surmised. “They’re sports politicians, not scientists, although they’ve got scientific training. Their interest is in the politics of sport.”

Matt Chaney is a journalist, editor, teacher and publisher in Missouri, USA. E-mail him at For more information, including about his 2009 book Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, visit the home page at

Monday, March 22, 2010

Around The Rink

by Bob Herpen
The Phanatic Magazine

The tenor of the start of this column, about where the Flyers can end up in the playoff race despite a weekend and season-series sweep by Atlanta, was going to be guardedly optimistic.

That is, until the news broke hours ago that Jeff Carter, the club's leading goal (33) and point (60) scorer will miss 3-to-4 weeks with a broken foot suffered in Sunday's loss when he blocked a shot.

Aside from acutally playing the games, this is as close to the precipice the Orange and Black can come in terms of finding a foothold in the perennially-cluttered Eastern Conference postseason race without falling off.

It is one thing to lose your bargain-basement off-season free-agent goaltender signing to repeated injury (Ray Emery) but have one former starter (Brian Boucher) in the wings and a waiver-wire claim (Michael Leighton) pan out beyond anyone's wildest dreams, only to see the former starter return to the form which saw him bounce around the league for five years.

Peter Laviolette and his coaches are smart enough to do a patch job in terms of the system employed, to adjust things slightly where the defensive aspect is tightened up a bit without sacrificing the offensive capability. In addition, the mental reserves and leadership qualities of the players on the bottom two lines can provide some sense of urgency and focus.

It is entirely another when you're top goal scorer, your most counted on sniper, is expected to missing for the final and most critical 10 games of the season. This club is not strong enough, as in previous eras, to withstand the absence of their star player and stay on an even keel. The ship was listing in moderate seas even before the news broke this afternoon, having looked awful in a 5-2 loss in Atlanta on Saturday before coming up two goals short in a better effort yesterday at home.

There was a lot of crowing over having six 20-goal scorers a season ago. But Joffrey Lupul was shipped to Anaheim and Mike Knuble signed with Washington. Now the third piece to the puzzle is injured and the hand-wringing begins.

Can Simon Gagne (three goals in seven games) or Danny Briere (three goals, seven points in last 12 games) suddenly re-ignite if Mike Richards (28 goals, 58 points) draw more heat? Will Powe, Laperriere, Asham and Carcillo be able to stretch themselves offensively a la Hull/Manderville/Ranheim or Klatt-Otto-Podein?

The only saving grace may be this: in a league which hands out points like Halloween candy, it's entirely possible that the Flyers keep losing, but in a bizarre parallel to the corporate world, continue to keep falling up. All every other team below them has to do is lose in regulation with the Flyers collecting any points available beyond regulation.

Today, after not being able to separate themselves from the middle of the pack, Philly still has 79 points and is locked in a three-way tie for fifth place with Ottawa and Montreal – despite having lost five of their last seven lcontests. Every game from here out, except Thursday's home tilt with Minnesota and an April road game with the Islanders, has intense meaning for the standings.

Let the rollercoaster ride begin.

Not So Fuzzy Memories

Aside from the tug-of-war that is the NHL playoff picture, this time of year always stirs up a different patch of emotions, stemming from my undergraduate years at Boston College.

I realize college hockey isn't even an accidental jelly stain on the collective sports radar around these parts, but that's why I love conference finals and NCAA tournament time. Following the Division I game makes me feel part of a secret society, one that nobody cares to join and looks at from the outside like we're an alien race.
Every year BC makes a move in Hockey East and on the national stage is an event, but one that challenges the mental and physical health of its fan base.

Take Saturday for example. BC and Maine hooked up for an uncharacteristically wild Hockey East playoff final which the Eagles eventually won. But...Jerry York's club blew leads of 4-2, 5-3 and 6-4 – seeing the Black Bears tie the game with 27 seconds left in regulation – only to win on a trickling stuffer attempt in overtime by a senior who netted his first career hat trick.

I was at work, sneaking the game on the satellite, exalting and seething at every little thing. My co-workers thought I was getting emotional over the Flyers. Fat chance.

It erased the memory of the 2000 final contest, which saw one-time Flyer Niko Dimitrakos of Maine beat current Panthers goaltender Scottie Clemmensen for the game-winner with seven seconds left in the third period. Ten years ago, I was high above TD Garden ice, calling the game for my student-run radio station with a friend and fellow Communication major colleague who now does TV sports in North Carolina.

The game itself and how it ended still haunts me to this day, and the images of that night sprint to the front of my brain without fail at this time of year.

During my four years in Chestnut Hill, BC made the national finals twice, losing to Michigan in an overtime heartbreaker at Boston in 1998 and to a high-octane North Dakota squad in 2000 at Providence. They lost in a national semifinal in OT to – guess who – Maine in 1999. In a cruel twist of fate, the Eagles won it all in 2001, the Spring after I graduated, avenging losses to all three above-mentioned teams en route to the title.

Boston College now plays in an equally balanced 16-team tournament, one with no byes. I will be sweating out every second of its first game against Alaska-Fairbanks, then possibly the winner of North Dakota-Yale this coming weekend. After that, I'll have to slip down to CVS and get refills for my heart pills because every successive round and potential opponent bears significant memories of time and space when such things mattered too much.

Even with a decade in between, the current unparalleled run of success (two NCAA titles, four championship-game berths, nine tournament selection) stirs up feelings that are too vibrant to merit description. You simply have to be one of the faithful to know the rewards.

Fabulous Finns

Teemu Selanne became the 18th member of the 600-goal club with a score in Anaheim's Sunday-night win over Colorado. He is just the third European, besides Jaromir Jagr and Jari Kurri, and second Finnish-born NHLer besides Kurri, to reach the milestone.

Kurri left the game in 1997 with 601 goals, which means, barring freak happenstance, Selanne will finish his season and his career with the all-time record for goals from a Finnish forward.

No matter if he decides to hang up the skates after the year's up, and even before the milestone marker, Selanne has cemented himself as the greatest Finnish player in NHL history.

Even though Kurri was one of the few Oilers to stay around long enough to win all five Stanley Cups, and though he ripped off six 100-point seasons and posted an incredible 290 goals in a five-year stretch from 1982-87, he did not enjoy the consistency that Selanne has.
Selanne's insane rookie season (76 goals, 132 points) came without the benefit of a Gretzky-like set-up man on a barely-.500 Winnipeg Jets club. The 39-year-old Duck enjoyed his prime from the third to eighth years of his career, just like Kurri, and he did connect with Paul Kariya in a Kurri-Gretzky-like fashion at that time, comparatively so for the defense-first mindset of the late 90s.

However, what distinguishes the four-time Olympian from the Hall-of-Famer is the end of his career.

Kurri's goal totals dropped noticeably after Gretzky left the Oilers and the NHL began to turn away from its explosive offensive mindset from the 1980's. After 1989, Kurri never scored more than 33 goals in any one season, only posted a high of 93 points (in 1990) after that, and was reduced to a role player strung along in his career by ex-Oilers wanting to recapture the old days. He ended his final NHL season, in 1997-98, with five goals in limited action over 70 games.

On the other hand, Selanne enjoyed a career rebirth after the cancelled 2004-05 season with rest and rehab on a botched surgically-repaired knee. He's posted 90, 94, 23 (in 26 games), 54 and this year, 36 points in 45 games. That averages to slightly under one point per game as he approaches age 40, making Selanne a much larger impact player at that age than Kurri ever was at the end. He also was one of a few key players called on to lead the Ducks to a Cup title three years ago, whereas Kurri was simply one of the pantheon in Edmonton.

Infamous Last Words

With the current offense in crisis mode, it's appropriate that we celebrate March 22, 1984 as the date of the Flyers' club record for goals in one game, after a 13-4 demolition of Pittsburgh.

Dave Poulin and Ilkka Sinisalo each posted a hat trick, with Tim Kerr scoring twice to reach the 50-goal mark for the first time in his career. Also strafing Pens netminder Denis Herron were Len Hachborn (twice), Mark Howe, Thomas Eriksson and Ron Sutter.

If you don't recognize any of these names, what can I say? Go ask your parents or uncles. This was a time in the NHL before Mario Lemieux, and in fact, Pittsburgh was tanking games intentionally to successfully get that Number One pick they'd use to snag Super Mario anyway.

How different an era was it from the current one? Marty McSorley was a young puncher just trying to stick to an NHL roster. Herron was left in net for all 13 goals (on 46 shots), and the Pens almost erased a 6-1 deficit before Philadelphia scored seven goals in the third period alone. 

Eagles' Jordan signs tender

Eagles linebacker Akeem Jordan has signed hos one-year tender with the team.  

The 24-year-old Jordan set a career high with 82 tackles in 2009 despite only playing in 12 games (ten starts). He also notched his first career sack and became the first Eagles linebacker to post two interceptions in a season since Ike Reese did so in 2004. 

Originally a rookie free agent signing of the Eagles in 2007, Jordan has totaled 154 tackles, two interceptions and one sack in 37 career games (17 starts). Also a valuable contributor on special teams, Jordan has amassed a team-leading 55 career special teams tackles since entering the league.

A product out of Division I-AA James Madison University, Jordan played four years at JMU and earned first-team All-America honors as a senior. In 2007, he became one of five former JMU players to start a game in the NFL, joining Macey Brooks, Gary Clark, Charles Haley and Ed Perry.

The Harrisonburg, VA, native attended Harrisonburg High School, where he helped lead his team to a state title as a junior. 

Flyers' Carter out 3-4 Weeks

Flyers foward Jeff Carter will miss the next 3-to-4 weeks with a non-displaced foot fracture, according to GM Paul Holmgren.

“It was a harmless play. Took one off the side of the foot," Carter said. "Got home last night and just started getting worse."