What are the odds?

Posted: June 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

Four teams, 29 years, one championship. These are the facts of Philadelphia sports. Sure, if you want to throw the Philadelphia Soul’s 2008 Arena League title or Smarty Jones’ 2004 Kentucky Derby rout into the equation, you can argue that Philadelphia has had certain measures of success in their past. However, real sports dreams are fulfilled on the gridiron, the diamond, the hardwood, or the ice. As a city with a team in each of the four major North American sports, odds alone would suggest more success in 30 years than the amount that Philadelphia has received.

But, the past is the past, and the Phillies, Eagles, Sixers, and Flyers all have talented franchises capable of making runs with just a few tinkering here and there. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at each team’s chances of winning a title in the next three years.

Philadelphia Phillies

It has been 1,325 days since Brad Lidge struck out Eric Hinske to complete his perfect 2008 season and provide Philadelphia with their first world champion since 1983. 189 weeks and three playoff appearances later, the Phillies’ epic run of success may be approaching its end. Few thought that the apex of this Phillies’ team’s run would be the picture of “Lights Out” leaping into the air and collapsing on the Citizens Bank Park mound as he is embraced by a bull rushing Ryan Howard in celebration of their triumph. A team that was once infused with offensive firepower is now a shell of its former self. The Phillies are now the title character in the infamous Rocky V. Beaten, battered, and bruised, the Phillies are no longer the juggernaut of the National League. Instead, they’re just another aging franchise fraught with bad contracts and bad knees.

But, the Phillies still have Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee for the foreseeable future. With an additional Wild Card in Major League Baseball, it has gotten easier to make the playoffs than it ever was in the past. If Ryan Howard returns and plays to the level he is capable of, there’s no reason why the Phillies won’t be in contention come September. The key for this team will be the decision they make regarding Cole Hamels. The All-Star LHP is scheduled to become a free agent this fall, and will likely command a contract in the range of 7 years, $180+ million. With over $110 million already tied up into players for next season, it remains unlikely that the homegrown hurler will play out his career in red pinstripes. If the Phillies decide to trade Hamels at this summer’s trading deadline, they could improve their chances of winning in the future by handicapping their 2012 potential.

The verdict on the Phillies is still out for 2012. But, it doesn’t look good. Any time you’re 9.5 games out in your division by the time secondary schools hit summer vacation, you’re in for a prolonged and difficult race. However, the Phillies should be healthier next year, and they’ll still have the duo of aces at the top. If top pitching prospects Trevor May, Jesse Biddle, and Brody Colvin pan out, the Phillies should still have a 20% chance of winning a championship within the next three years. 

Philadelphia Eagles

Ah, the Eagles. One of my favorite arguments nowadays is whether or not Philadelphia remains a football town, or if the Phillies’ recent run of success has transformed the City of Brotherly Love into a City of Baseball Love. I’d typically side with the latter, which is why the Phillies went first in this article. But, the Eagles currently have the best chance at winning a title for multiple reasons.

First and most importantly is the desperateness factor. Andy Reid knows that if he doesn’t win a Super Bowl very soon, this city is going to revolt. We already saw the first shots fired last season, when fans picketed outside of the Novacare Complex with signs suggesting that Jeffrey Laurie should, “Fire Andy!” Instead, it was Joe Banner who left the organization, and I do not know one person who had a problem with the sniveling and snide former President’s departure. But, now it is all on Andy. If the team goes 8-8 and misses the playoffs again, he is going to be fired. He knows it, the city knows it, and Jeffrey Laurie certainly knows it. Unlike any of the other three Philadelphia teams, the Eagles are desperate for a championship.

The next factor is talent. The Eagles are bar none one of the most talented teams in the NFL. Of course, sometimes talent is not enough. Vince Young derailed a promising 2011 season by proclaiming the Eagles as a “dream team,” and set himself up to look like an idiot when he came in and got pasted by New England and Seattle as the Quarterback for this “dream team.” The Eagles’ problems in 2011 were obvious. The defense could not stop the run, which tired them out and led to multiple fourth quarter comebacks against. This problem has hopefully been remedied by the additions of Pro Bowl MLB DeMeco Ryans (trade with Houston) and rookie DT Fletcher Cox (first round pick). Add in the expected growth of LB Casey Matthews and the already dominant DE duo of Trent Cole and Jason Babin, and the Eagles front seven is expected to do monumental things in 2012. The secondary remains a question mark, but not nearly as much as the Eagles’ linebacking corps was coming in to last season.

Finally, the Eagles have the firepower on offense to compete with any team in the league. If Michael Vick could have stayed healthy and limited the turnovers last year, the Eagles would have won the NFC East and perhaps made a run (as winners of their final four games, the Eagles peaked late). DeSean Jackson was resigned in the offseason and should be primed for a rebound year after a truly disappointing 2011. Jeremy Maclin is all healed up from multiple illnesses and injuries which kept him out of his groove last year. Finally, the Eagles have perhaps the best young RB in the game today. LeSean McCoy broke personal and franchise records in 2011, as he juked, galloped, and shook defenders en route to a 1300 yard, 17 touchdown season on the ground. McCoy is a two way threat, capable of taking it to the house on the ground or through the air. With Jackson, Maclin, Vick, and McCoy, the Eagles have the best offensive core in the NFC East, capable of putting up 40+ points on any given Sunday.

As stated before, the Eagles have the best chance of any of the four teams to win a title. If they had just limited one or two turnovers last year, or if rookie K Alex Henery could have made those chip-shot field goals against San Francisco in September; the Eagles would have won the NFC East. With a new season, a full training camp, and an opportunity to silence the doubters, the Philadelphia Eagles have a 50% chance of winning a Super Bowl in the next three seasons. Believe it or not, but this has the potential to be the golden era for Eagles football.

Philadelphia Flyers

Many Philadelphia Fans felt dismay over the Los Angeles Kings recent championship. With former Flyers Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne, Ron Hextall, and John Stevens all receiving rings, it feels a bit as though the hockey gods are playing a cruel game with the Flyers’ faithful.

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren made the risky move of shipping out both Carter and Richards last offseason to make room for Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov’s massive ego contract. The moves may have helped Los Angeles win a cup in the short term, but they also gave the Flyers long term cap flexibility and an abundance of young, top-six talent at the forward position. Brayden Schenn showed in the postseason why he was considered the #1 prospect in hockey last summer. He has the potential to be every Richards was for the Flyers and is only 20 years old. Sean Couturier, the #8 pick in last summer’s NHL Entry Draft, emerged as the best defensive forward on the team before he even took the ice for his first NHL game. His dominance of likely Hart Trophy winner (and likely Communist) Evgeni Malkin in the first round beat-down of Pittsburgh was a performance for the ages. Add in the acquisitions of Wayne Simmonds (28 goals) and Jakub Voracek (49 points) and these trades set the stage for what should be an exciting few years in Philadelphia.

The problem right now is defense. Chris Pronger’s devastating concussion last year hamstrung the team. With a 35+ contract (a multiyear contract signed by a team after the signing player was 35 years old), Pronger’s contract will not come off the books until after it expires, regardless of whether or not he plays another game in Philadelphia. This means that Chris will cost the Flyers about $7 million each of the next two seasons, followed by $4 million in 2014/2015. The best the Flyers can do to alleviate the problem is to place the future Hall-of-Famer on Long Term Injured Reserve, which will remove his cap hit from the books for the duration of the amount of time he is on LTIR. Recent cases of this include Ian Laperriere (recently retired) and Mike Rathje (spent years on the books even after he had stopped playing). If the Flyers hope to win a cup, not just win a round, they need to find a replacement for Pronger. Nashville Defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are both on the market, but Suter is unlikely to prefer Philadelphia over remaining in the Western Conference. Weber, meanwhile, will cost the Flyers a boatload in a trade followed by what is likely to be a contract totaling at least 7 years at $8 million per season. With Matt Carle and Pavel Kubina both Unrestricted Free Agents, the Flyers have a lot of work to do this summer to tighten up the blue line, and hopefully improve a team that has recorded over 100 points each of the past two seasons.

They have the offense, they have the superstar (Claude Giroux, pictured above), and they might have the goaltending if Bryzgalov can shake off the nightmares of last year. Right now, the Flyers need to focus on defense. If they do that, they will have a 35% chance of winning the Stanley Cup in the next three years.

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers were the pleasant surprise of Philadelphia this year. Few predicted that this rag-tag group put together by Doug Collins would seriously contend with the Chicago Bulls once they made the playoffs. But, thanks to fate and Derrick Rose’s knee, the 76ers emerged as one of the bright young franchises in the NBA. They dispatched the Bulls in six games, then took the vaunted Boston Celtics to seven games before bowing out in an exciting finish at the TD Garden.

But, what prospects do the future hold. After all, the NBA is the toughest sport to win a title in, especially if your team doesn’t have a superstar. The Sixers have plenty of decisions to make this offseason. First, both Lou Williams (their leading scorer) and Spencer Hawes (their only interior presence) are Restricted Free Agents. Under the CBA, the Sixers can match any offer that these players receive. However, one has to wonder if the Sixers believe that these two players are in their long-term plans. After all, Williams has never been a strong defender and Hawes is as soft as the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Reports have already surfaced stating that the team is going to let their UFA’s walk. We’ll get more into the Sixers’ offseason prospects in a future article, but they currently are looking at a core of Jrue Holiday (pictured), Evan Turner, Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, and Elton Brand. Questions remain as to whether or not the team with entertain offers for Iguodala or if they’ll choose to amnesty Brand’s contract. One thing is for sure, however. The Sixers, as currently constructed, do not have the makeup to win an NBA title. As exhibited by the Thunder and Heat, a team needs at least one and maybe even two superstars on their roster to win. Without a star, the Sixers have a 3% chance of winning a title in the next three years. It seems low, I know. But, I was almost tempted to give them a 1% chance and call it a day. The NBA is just not kind to teams without superstars, and the Sixers are severely lacking in this field.

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