Archive for June, 2012

OF Carlos Gonzalez leads a struggling Rockies team into Philadelphia

Fresh off a three game sweep at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays, the Philadelphia Phillies return to Citizens Bank Park for a three game set against the Colorado Rockies.

The weekend set north of the border went about as poorly as it possibly could have gone. The Phils were beaten in every fashion possible. On Friday night, Toronto RHP Carlos Villanueva (2-0) dominated in relief of the injured Drew Hutchison. A former Milwaukee Brewer, Villanueva tossed 4 shutout innings allowing just two hits. Phillies’ starter Vance Worley pitched admirably through 7 innings, but the hapless Philadelphia lineup was unable to break through against the Toronto bullpen as the Phillies fell, 3-0.

On Saturday, Cliff Lee remained winless despite pitching into the eighth inning. A costly throwing error by Jimmy Rollins, his fifth error of the season, led to a 5-2 lead slipping away. In extras, Phillies 1B/LHP Joe Savery failed to retire Rajai Davis and the Blue Jays handed the Phillies’ their 8th walk-off defeat of the season.

Sunday was more of the same for the Phils. Kyle Kendrick was not awful by any means. But, 5 earned runs over 6.1 innings will not get the job done with the Phillies’ lineup behind you. Rollins and Placido Polanco combined to go 0-7 with 4 strikeouts at the top of the order as the Blue Jays completed their first sweep of the Phillies since 2009 with a 6-2 victory.

The Phillies, losers of 12 of their last 15 games, return home against the Rockies. Here’s the pitching breakdown for the series:

Josh Outman (0-2, 8.44) vs. Cole Hamels (9-3, 3.34)
Alex White (2-5, 5.56) vs. Joe Blanton (6-6, 4.93)
Jeff Francis (0-1, 12.46) vs. Vance Worley (3-3, 2.80) 

A 10th round pick of the Phillies in 2005, Josh Outman was traded to Oakland in the 2008 Joe Blanton trade. On Tuesday, he’ll face the team he once was a highly regarded prospect for. This is not the first time Outman has faced the Phils. On June 26th, 2011, Outman lost to the Phillies, 3-1. His line: 6 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K was very Kendrick’esque. The Phillies hope to have success against the lefty. Most notably Shane Victorino, who hit Outman hard in their meeting last season. Meanwhile, Phillies LHP Cole Hamels looks to rebound. He is 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA in 3 June starts. This coming after a spectacular May in which the 28 year old went 5-0 with a 2.25 ERA. One thing to look out for: Hamels tends to struggle mightily in the middle of starts. From the fourth through sixth innings, batters are hitting .286 off the lefty. His worst inning by far is the sixth frame where Hamels surrenders to hitters a line of: .377, .393, .642. To make matters worse, Cole has struggled in three career starts against the Rockies. His 5.09 ERA against Colorado is the fifth highest such mark amongst all the teams Hamels has faced in his career. Watch out for Carlos Gonzalez against Hamels. The superstar OF is 5-6 against the Phillies’ lefty in his career.

On Wednesday night, former Cleveland Indians prospect Alex White will face the Phillies for the first time in his career. White came over to Colorado in last August’s massive Ubaldo Jimenez deal. The RHP struggles more on the road than at home. In his career, he’s 3-5, with a 6.80 ERA on the road. This bodes well for the Phillies, who send  Joe Blanton to the mound to face him. “Pancakes” Blanton has struggled in two career starts against Colorado (1-0, 5.23 ERA) but had a strong performance his last time out, tossing his second complete game of the season. Should Blanton get another CG in 2012, he will tie his career high set in 2007 with Oakland.

The series concludes on Thursday, with former Rockies’ 1st round pick Jeff Francis taking the mound for his third start of 2012 against young RHP Vance Worley. Francis has been smacked around lately, allowing 18 hits and 12 runs over just 8.2 innings this season. Making matters more bleak for the Canadian born lefty are his career numbers against the Phillies. Francis has given up 36 hits and 20 ER over 26.1 innings. Expect Mike Fontenot to get the nod for the Phillies. The veteran utility man is 3-3 in his career off of Francis. Other Phillies to look out for against the 9th overall pick in 2004 include Jimmy Rollins (6-14) and Juan Pierre (17-39). The Phillies counter with Vance Worley, whose 2.80 ERA has brought his career average down to 2.84 over his first 33 starts. Worley has never started against Colorado and will look to continue to build back the arm strength he lost during his lengthy stint on the disabled list.

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Rebuilding the Phillies

Posted: June 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

Cole Hamels may be workhorse on the mound, but he sure looks like he belongs in Hollywood.

It has been a long time since Phillies fans have heard the word, “rebuild.” Not since the Ed Wade era has Philadelphia been without confidence that their team is doing everything it can to compete for a world championship. But, years upon years of gutting the farm system for aging, high priced talent eventually leaves a team with a bare cupboard. Like an aging boxer clinging on to the dream for one last fight, the Phillies remain hopeful that their 2012 campaign will turn itself around.

But, for the sake of this article, let us assume that their chances of contending are minute. If rebuilding is the method that the team must take, what are the best options for Ruben Amaro Jr. to explore? In the past, the Phillies’ General Manager has sold high ceiling prospects for top flight talent. Now, the pendulum has turned. It’s time for Amaro to hone his skills as a seller. Here are the top five moves that the Phillies can make by the trade deadline to improve their chances in 2013 and beyond:

5. Trade Juan Pierre to the New York Mets

Pierre leads the team with a .325 batting average.

Juan Pierre has been a terrific pickup for the Phillies this year. His .325 batting average is first on the team and his .363 on-base percentage is second on the team among players with at least 50 at bats. However, the speedy outfielder is 34 years old and on a one year contract. His emergence is reminiscent of Kenny Lofton’s with the Phils in 2005. But, Pierre has not hit over .300 since 2004 with Florida. He has no power whatsoever (0 home runs) and often his left field play looks awkward and uncoordinated. Should the Phillies choose to sell, I think Pierre should be one of the first to go. His value at this point in his career will never be higher. Trading him for perhaps a middle-reliever or pitching prospect would allow the team to play John Mayberry Jr. full time to truly gauge whether or not he is major league material.

The Mets, meanwhile, have been shuffling left fielders like your favorite deck of playing cards. Mike Baxter is on the DL. Jason Bay just came back from the DL and could be right back on it after crashing into the wall on a Jay Bruce inside-the-park-HR on Friday. New York is in contention for a playoff spot, but they do not have a leadoff hitter with veteran experience who can drive pitchers crazy once he reaches base. Acquiring Pierre would instill a bonafide leadoff hitter and left fielder into a Mets lineup that desperately needs it.

4. Trade Shane Victorino to the Detroit Tigers

Shane Victorino has experienced a very disappointing walk year.

Free agent to be Shane Victorino came in to this season with high hopes. Much like those hopes of Phillies’ fans, he has been a colossal disappointment. The “Flyin’ Hawaiian’s” power numbers are on par with his career averages, but his .246 batting average suggests that this is a player that is in decline. Should the Phillies decide to go the rout that they have with Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard by giving an aging player like Victorino a multi year deal, it will be a mistake. The best move the Phillies can do is to trade him before the deadline and call up Domonic Brown. We have waited long enough to see how much Ruben Amaro’s prized untouchable prospect can bring to the table.

For Detroit, this season also came with high expectations. The defending AL Central champions went out and made a big splash by handing 1B Prince Fielder a long term mega-deal. The deal forced portly power hitter Miguel Cabrera over to third base. Predictably, the Tigers’ defense suffered. But, it is not just Cabrera who has been a butcher in the field. The Tigers’ team defense as a whole is 10th in the American League. Their offense, meanwhile, has been carried by Cabrera, Fielder, and Austin Jackson the whole season. For a team with such high expectations, lagging behind the White Sox and Indians in the Central is unacceptable. Trading a high ceiling pitching prospect like Casey Crosby or Jacob Turner for Victorino would provide the Tigers with a Gold Glove outfielder and a top of the order talent. Imagine a top four of Jackson, Victorino, Fielder, and Cabrera. The pitching staffs in the American League would certainly take notice.

3. Trade Joe Blanton to the Pittsburgh Pirates

Heavy B has had his moments in Philly.

When Joe Blanton arrived in Philadelphia in July, 2008, no one knew what to expect. Four years and a World Series title later, most fans would say that Blanton’s acquisition was a success. Especially considering former top prospect Adrian Cardenas never developed in Oakland after the trade. Blanton has gone 28-22 in the regular season with the Phillies. His three year contract extension that expires this season was unwarranted, but not as bad as many made it out to be. Sure, it is strange to say that the Phillies are sellers and the Pirates are buyers, but this is the reality of 2012.

The Pirates, meanwhile, lost SP Charlie Morton to Tommy John Surgery. Couple this with Eric Bedard’s recent struggles and injury history, and Pittsburgh should be scanning the league for arms this July. Pittsburgh sits in second place, just four games behind Cincinnati for the NL Central lead. Blanton would combine with Bedard, AJ Burnett, Kevin Correia, and James McDonald to provide the Bucs with a very formidable veteran laden staff for the stretch run. If the Phillies could poach a player like Rudy Owens or Starling Marte from Pittsburgh, this would be a win-win situation.

2. Shut Doc down.

Halladay has thrown more innings than anyone the past two seasons.

The definition of workhorse, Roy Halladay has thrown more innings since joining the Phillies than any pitcher in baseball. Sure, he has had a rubber arm in the past. But, this season’s shoulder injury, which will shelve the good doctor for at least 6 weeks, is proof that no one is invincible. The Phillies, should they be out of contention by August, might want to consider shutting Doc down to allow his body to fully recuperate for 2013. Let’s face it, Roy is no spring chicken. The 35 year old only has so many miles left on that superhuman right arm of his. If the Phillies are focused on contending in 2013, they should consider shutting him down and seeing what the younger arms can do when given a chance to pitch at Citizens Bank Park.

1. Trade Cole Hamels to the Los Angeles Dodgers

The farewell tour of Cole Hamels.

When Cole Hamels made his Phillies debut on May 12, 2006, the hype surrounding the 2002 first round pick was deafening. The Phillies had not made the playoffs in thirteen seasons, and had come agonizingly close in 2001, 2003, 2004, and 2005. This home-grown hurler was supposed to put an end to an era of defeat. Unlike most prospects, this young man lived up to expectations. He slayed the Reds with 5 shutout innings en route to a 9-8 rookie season. Two years later, this Southern California boy would go on to win NLCS and World Series MVP honors, as he forever won a place in our hearts with a postseason for the ages. Now, this SoCal boy is primed to go home this offseason. A free agent to be, Hamels is expected to make at least $180 million this offseason. With over $110 million already tied up into six players for 2013, the Phillies seem unlikely to kowtow to Hamels’ demands.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, are the best team in the National League. Their offense has emerged even without Matt Kemp, and adding another ace at the top of the rotation to go along with Clayton Kershaw would be nearly deadly come October. If the Dodgers want to sign Hamels in the offseason, they would have a much better chance if they acquire him in July. This would also allow the Phillies to recoup some of their investment by receiving prospects instead of nothing should he walk in the winter. Hamels is by far the most valuable of any of the players mentioned in this article. Should the Dodgers trade for Hamels, the Phillies would have to demand 2010 first rounder RHP Zach Lee in return. Lee, 20, has great stuff and a high ceiling. The Phillies could also be interested in fellow right hander Nate Eovaldi, who has made a cameo in LA this season, pitching to a 1.82 ERA in 24.2 innings. Giving up on Hamels would be painful. But, like Tom Hanks said in “A League of Their Own,” there’s no crying in baseball.

Jim Thome will always hold a special place in my heart. After a childhood filled with summers of 95 loss seasons, this mountain of a man came to Philadelphia in November, 2002. Armed with his titanic club and his blue oxen named Bess, Thome instantly transformed the Phillies from a group of overpaid, spoiled punks (a euphemism for his predecessor at 1B, Travis Lee) to a force to be reckoned with in the National League.

Thome’s stay in Philadelphia was shorter than expected. Injuries and the emergence of Ryan Howard forced Pat Gillick to ship Thome to the Chicago White Sox for Aaron Rowand, Daniel Haigwood, and Gio Gonzalez following the 2005 season. However, his power, leadership, and charm left a lasting impression on a city that is often difficult to please. Now, seven years after he played his last games in red pinstripes, Thome has returned to the City of Brotherly Love.

His first few months in Philadelphia were unceremonious. At this point in his career, prolonged position play is out of the question. The team attempted to play the future Hall-of-Famer at first base in April. This plan, predictably, backfired. Thome was placed on the 15-day Disabled List and was more of an afterthought than an impact in the struggling Phillies lineup.

Now, the tides have turned. Big Jim, who was two for his first twenty at bats this season prior to inter-league play beginning, is hitting a spectacular .458 (11-24) in six games as the Phillies’ Designated Hitter. During this run, he’s walloped three HR and 13 RBI, raising his overall batting line to .295/.392/.545. That’s right, as of right now, Jim Thome is a superstar once again.

Of course, the “small sample size” police would arrest me right now if I didn’t make a point of the obvious. Six games is hardly anything to get overtly excited about. The question now, however, is what becomes of Thome once inter-league play ends after this week? The team seems hesitant about putting his aging body at first base. But, he has shown he struggles when coming in cold to pinch hit.

Do the Phillies decide to try Thome at first? This is a risky proposition. Not only will they be subjecting Thome to increased injury risk. But, their fielding will suffer in the process. After witnessing the team lose two-out-of-three to Baltimore due in large part to fielding woes, I doubt that Charlie Manuel will risk throwing Thome to the wolves.

Will they treat Thome like the stock market and sell high? It’s an interesting idea. With the extra Wild Card in place this season, more teams than ever are in contention for a playoff spot. There are undoubtedly a couple of American League teams who would like to improve their DH spot with a veteran presence like Thome. The Phillies would not be able to get much in return, but when the bullpen is as bad as it is now, any arm or combination of arms in return would be better than a bench player.

Or, will Thome continue to languish on the bench whilst bringing leadership and perhaps a Matt Stairs’esque quality to the Phillies? Judging from his first few months of the season, this does not seem like it’s the most fair option to Mr. Thome. But, he chose to sign here knowing that this was a possible role for him. If the Phillies cannot get the offer they’d prefer in a trade, I believe that this is the best route for the team to take. A veteran, playoff proven performer would be a better option off the bench than, say, Laynce Nix or Domonic Brown; whose only proven talent as ballplayers is the ability to incite interminable hair-pulling by Philadelphia fans every time they step up to the dish.

Jose Bautista will be a player to watch this weekend.

The Philadelphia Phillies, fresh off their first series victory of June, head north of the border to Toronto for a 1993 World Series rematch with the Blue Jays. Both the Phillies and Jays are struggling of late and come into this weekend set with losing records. The pitching match ups for the three game set are as follows:

Vance Worley (3-2, 3.00) vs. Drew Hutchison (5-3, 4.66)
Cliff Lee (0-3, 3.18) vs. Ricky Romero (7-1, 4.15)
Kyle Kendrick (2-6, 5.08) vs. Brett Cecil (1st start of 2012)

Just by gazing at the match ups, we should be in for an exciting series. The Blue Jays, currently tied for last with Boston in AL East (6.5 games behind first place New York), send young Drew Hutchison to the mound against Vance Worley in the opener on Friday night.

Hutchison, 21, is making his 11th career start and second straight inter league start. He gave up 7 hits and 5 earned runs over 6.1 innings in Atlanta last week. Meanwhile, Worley continues to recover from injury and hopes that the cookin’ is good north of the border. Vance is 1-0 with a 1.61 ERA in 5 career June starts and is 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA in 4 career inter-league starts. If these trends hold up, the Phillies should be in good shape on Friday.

The Jays send their ace to the hill on Saturday against the Phillies’ winless wonder, Cliff Lee. 

Romero, 27, has been brilliant during inter-league play during his career, posting a 5-2, 2.12 line in 11 career starts. In 20.1 career innings against the Phillies, he’s 1-0 with a 2.20 ERA and 19 strikeouts. Meanwhile, Lee is a mediocre 2-5, 4.23 against Toronto in his career. This has the potential to be a rough one for the Phillies, especially considering the futile offensive effort that has been exhibited during Lee’s first 10 starts of the season.

Finally, Kendrick and Cecil duel in what is the most anti-climactic matchup of the series. It’s spot-starter versus spot-starter in the potential rubber match of this three-game-set.

Cecil, 26-22, 4.64 in his career, is making his first start of 2012. The Phillies should be confident in their offense, as Cecil’s career peripheral numbers are mediocre at best. In 6 career inter league starts, the left hander is 0-4 with an 8.44 ERA and in his only start against the Phillies in 2010, he was lit up for 10 hits and 7 runs over 4.1 innings.

Meanwhile, Kendrick has performed his usual Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde routine. He has been brutal in two starts following his first career complete game shutout in St. Louis at the end of May. Now, the Phillies are relying on him to defeat an AL team on the road. Kendrick, who has been with the team since 2007, has been dominated during inter-league play in his career. In 12 career games, he is 3-4 with a 6.09 ERA. To make matters worse, Kyle has struggled mightily against the Blue Jays in two career starts. He has lasted just 8 innings, giving up 8 hits and 6 earned runs. If the Phillies hope to win this series, they’ll have to rely on their offense against Cecil on Sunday.

Those of you who are fantasy players will want to put your money on Juan Pierre this weekend. Juan has seen his career reborn with the Phillies this summer, hitting .326 as the Phils best contact hitter. He is just a career .232 hitter against Toronto, but, his numbers against Romero (.375 BA) and strong series against Minnesota suggest that his high average will only escalate this season.

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.