PHILADELPHIA (AP) — They all make their professional home at a shared sports complex. But the four men responsible for making Philadelphia’s four pro sports teams go rarely share a stage.
With the local playoff calendar bare, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman, Flyers president Peter Luukko, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., and 76ers CEO Adam Aron made a rare — possibly, first — joint appearance together on Wednesday to talk all things Philly sports.
Just like the fans, they’re tired of losing.
For various reasons, they all believe they’re headed back in the winning direction and appear set to jump into the thick of championship contention over the next few seasons. The Eagles and Sixers each have a new coach. The Flyers are taking the summer to regroup. The Phillies hope to overcome a crop of injuries.
“The four of us on the dais have four of the most enjoyable jobs on the face of the earth,” Aron said, “when our teams are winning.”
The four executives were part of a panel on The Impact of Sports sponsored by The Rothman Institute. Gov. Tom Corbett, team physicians and media personalities were part of discussions at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Eagles, that mostly centered on athletes and their injuries.
The Phillies have been hit hard by injuries, with ace Roy Halladay sidelined after shoulder surgery and John Lannan (knee) also on the disabled list. Second baseman Chase Utley was a late scratch Tuesday night against the Marlins with a rib injury suffered during batting practice and needed an MRI.
Amaro said Utley “felt a twinge” in his side and could miss some time. Utley had been healthy this season after battling knee issues last year. A free agent at the end of the year, Utley’s health and production could determine if the Phillies offer him another long-term deal.
Last July, the Phillies gave Cole Hamels a six-year, $144 million extension to forgo free agency. He’s off to a 1-7 start with a 4.45 ERA.
Amaro said balancing health, age and dollars in determining a contract offer is one of the trickiest parts of his job.
“Cole didn’t have a pristine medical background,” Amaro said. “It was very good, but we waited long enough to watch him pitch in the year prior to becoming a free agent and continued to analyze his health before we made the decision to go ahead and make the long-term commitment. We’ll do the same with Chase. We hope to make an intelligent decision.”
The Sixers saw their gamble on a player with a sketchy medical history backfire when Andrew Bynum didn’t play this season because of bone bruises in his knees. Bynum, an All-Star with the Lakers, was acquired with some of the greatest fanfare in recent Philadelphia sports history and was welcomed to the city with a public press conference at the National Constitution Center.
“It is now folk hero status in Philadelphia,” Aron said. “It sure seemed like a good idea at the time. We had every confidence Andrew would take us to glory. Whatever it was, six weeks later, we learned on the MRIs his knees were very different in September than they were in August. They got worse and worse as the season went on.”
The NHL, MLB and NBA all usually make teams disclose injuries and an expected length of absence. In the NHL, injuries are simply designated upper body or lower body, making the concealed ailments tough for fans and media clamoring for the latest medical update.
“I know it frustrates the media,” Luukko said, “but we really don’t care.”
Because each person responds differently to injuries, Luukko said it’s often tough to put an exact timetable on a return.
“If we think it’s eight weeks, we’re going to say 10,” Luukko said. “You don’t want to rush an athlete back. You want that player playing healthy and you want them to be effective.”
All four executives said they’ve never asked part of a team’s medical staff to clear an injured player to play because he was needed in action.
“Not once have I ever sensed any pressure from the owner, coach or GM to get that athlete back on the field or ice,” Flyers and Eagles physician Peter DeLuca said. “It just doesn’t happen. … Have I gotten pressure from an agent? Yeah.”
Also, Corbett defended his federal lawsuit against the NCAA over the penalties handed down against Penn State. Corbett sued the NCAA in January, claiming the $60 million fine and other penalties levied against Penn State over its handling of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal violated federal antitrust rules. He will learn within the next few weeks whether the lawsuit will be allowed to continue.
“We have an obligation to protect the interest of our local community,” he said.
Corbett also said he’d like to see an NBA team in Pittsburgh and gave Pocono Raceway credit for boosting the state’s profile in auto racing.
The Sixers, Flyers, Eagles and Phillies all made their version of the finals from 2000-10. The Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and lost in 2009; the Eagles lost the 2005 Super Bowl; the 76ers lost in the 2001 NBA finals; and the Flyers lost the 2010 Stanley Cup championship.
“We had a difficult year,” Luukko said. “But we had a great decade of success.”
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