By Bill Campbell
The Current Phillies
We won’t be seeing the Phillies at home at Citizens Bank Park for another 10 days. As Manager Charlie Manuel said after his team finished a 3-3 home stand with a putrid 8-0 loss to the New York Mets, “If you watch us play all year long, the inconsistent part of it, that’s how we play.” It’s not eloquent, but Charlie’s been in town for so long now we know what he means. When someone asked Manuel if his team was capable of playing better, honesty prevailed. “I have to wonder if we are capable of playing better,” he replied. Of the 44,951 in attendance for the last awful game, most had to wonder about that too.
The Phillies frequently have hit some low spots in this disappointing season, but Sunday, June 23rd, had to have been as low as it gets. The Mets grabbed an early lead of 1-0 in the first inning, scored 3 runs in the sixth and coasted from there. They were never challenged. Matt Harvey, the Mets’ best pitcher, overpowered John Lannan and the Phils after a 20 minute rain delay. The Mets’ bullpen finished the game but Manuel stayed with Lannan much too long. Not wanting to risk any injury after the rain delay, Mets Manager, Terry Collins, took Harvey out in favor of 3 relievers. No such thoughts over Lannan so the torture continued to the end. Local fans will get a break for the next 10 days, since the Phils are out on the west coast and the games will be harder to catch thanks to the time delay. Based on their present record, the team could be hitting the road to ruin. Unless they can win 50 of their remaining 76 games, they can pretty much close out the season. Based upon their performance of late, racking up any wins won’t be an easy task. They’ll play 3 in San Diego, 4 in Los Angeles and then finish with 4 in Pittsburgh where the Pirates have played better than most people predicted so far. Now 36-40, 7 1.2 games behind Atlanta, the Phillies will not return home until July 5th.
To top off that terrible Sunday game, one more guy joined the DL before it ended. Right-handed pitcher Mike Stutes has joined that column with biceps tendonitis. He’ll travel to LA to see the same doctor who operated on Roy Halladay earlier this spring. Stutes joins Mike Adams on the DL for the second time this season. Adams, who may need surgery, is 1-4 with an ERA of 3.96.
Just in case anyone should ask, the opening of the Eagles training camp is fast approaching: July 22nd.
The Future Phillies
The Phillies have great hopes for a young left-handed pitcher at Reading. Jesse Biddle is the name and, while he did lose to the Portland Sea Dogs 5-2 last week, he managed to retain his confidence and poise – which is most important. Biddle had yielded only 2 earned runs in his 2 previous starts covering 12 innings, but he gave up 5 runs in 6 innings in another game last week and gave up a season high of 6 walks, throwing 104 pitches, half of them for strikes. Speaking about Biddle, Phillies Director of Player Development, Joe Jordan, said that as young pitchers struggle, “Most guys would not even have been on the mound but, because of who he is and how determined he is, he went ahead anyway.” The team has confidence in this young man. Biddle has had a very solid season but is sensible and mature enough to realize that there is obvious room for improvement. “He might be guilty of trying too hard,” remarked Reading manager, Dusty Nathan, “There are times when he has been brilliant but other time he tries to bear down, especially in a jam, and he just tries too hard.” Nathan also added that Biddle “has to realize he needs to throttle back and when he doesn’t he just loses it a bit.” Biddle is young – he won’t turn 22 until October – and each start in the Double AA level should be a learning experience for him.
Despite a 3-7 record, Biddle has had many more ups than downs and the 2010 first round pick from Germantown Friends School has had a good year for the most part. The Phils have their eyes on him.
Meanwhile, Andrew Knapp, the second round draft choice from the University of California is a rarity: a switch-hitting catcher who is just beginning his career. He comes from true baseball roots. His father, Mike, is a former catcher who played in the minors for 11 years. Hit mother, Julie, first suggested that he become a switch-hitter after seeing his dad hit only right-handed. Knapp made the move when he was 12 years old and this past college season he hit 360 with 16 doubles, 8 home runs and 41 RBI’s in 54 games. Sounds like his mother knew what she was talking about.
If the Phillies are strong in any minor league position, it appears to be at third base. Lehigh Valley’s Cody Asche is hitting 221 at Triple A while at Reading Maikel Franco, who turns 21 in August, is ranked third. So there’s some hope for the Phillies’ future in these young guys. We seem to need more and more of that these days.
Chip Kelly’s Biographer
Mark Saltveit is a writer from Portland, Oregon, who’s not afraid to put his thoughts on the record. He just came out with a new book entitled, “The Tao of Chip Kelly” which, we’re told, is all about the Eagles new coach whom Saltviet calls “America’s most successful football coach.” I don’t know what a Tao is but I know that we local fans would like to see Kelly earn that title all over again here in Philadelphia. Saltveit wants us to know about Kelly’s approach to football so I’m at least a bit interested in what he has to say.
Saltveit, who’s also a blogger and stand-up comedian, has studied Kelly since his early days at Oregon and professes to know all there about the coach. He’s quite positive about the guy and provides the first in-depth we’ve seen or heard about the way Kelly operates on the field and in the locker room. Right now, of course, we don’t even know who his quarterback is going to be which, according to Saltveit, is pretty much the way Kelly conducted things at Oregon. But Saltveit assures us that we just have to sit back and wait for opening day. Kelly will get it right.
We’ve heard a lot about Kelly preferring “big people” for the simple reason that “big people usually beat up little people”. That preference must have worked because Kelly’s overall record at Oregon was 40-7 and in each of his 4 seasons there as head coach Oregon went to a bowl game. Biographer Saltveit is in Philadelphia on a book tour at this writing, advancing his work but also sharpening his talents as a comic and comedy writer. I wonder if he’s aware that Chip Kelly’s predecessor, Andy Reid, spent more than a few years perpetuating his own kind of comedy — like last year’s 4-12 season. Anyway, Saltveit tells us that Kelly loves speed and doesn’t like to let the grass grow under his feet between plays. He’ll run a play at practice 50 times in hopes that everyone will have it down by the 51st time and know its movements well. Then he moves on. You have to wonder if DeSean Jackson will be as interested in blocking as he is pass receiving under Kelly’s scheme. Saltveit says, “Kelly is a straight-forward guy. His whole offense is designed to get the faster guys in open spaces.” This should appeal to Jackson but we’ll see how it pans out. For now we are told the Birds have all bought into Kelly’s idea of how he wants the game played: physically as well as mentally. Let’s hope so. The season opener is set for September 9th against the Redskins in Landover, MD.
Meanwhile, there is another football team representing Philadelphia. On Saturday night, The Soul defeated the Iowa Barnstormers 54-30 at the Wells Fargo Center before 8,048 fans. Although The Soul lost 3 of their first 5 games this season, they now lead the East Division. They are second in the American Conference and second in the league’s power rankings behind the Arizona Rattlers.
In case you’ve never heard of pro golfer, Ken Duke, it’s because he’d never won a PGA tournament despite 187 starts. But he won his first one last weekend, making a birdie putt on a second playoff hole to defeat Chris Stroud and win the Travelers Championship at the TPL River Highlands Course in Cromwell, Connecticut. Canadian Graham DeLaet finished a stroke back in third place. Bubba Watson, who started strongly, finished fourth at 271. In the Traveler’s Event, little known Charley Hoffman shot a 61 in the opening round, followed by 75-66-72 for a total of 272, good for $197,000.
Here in our area, 14 members of the Philadelphia Section started play on Sunday in the PGA Professional National Championship at the Sun River resort in Oregon. The group was led by Stu Ingraham of Broomall, a teaching pro at MGOLG Driving Range & Teaching Facility in Newtown Square, who is making his 23rd appearance in the PGA.
The Union took an early lead and earned a man advantage in the 28th minute to defeat the New York Red Bulls 3-0 in the rain on Sunday before a sellout crowd of 19,013 at the PPL Park in Chester. The Union (7-4, 25 points) moved into a second place tie in the Eastern Conference but still own a game in hand over New York (7-6-4).
British Horse Racing
While horse racing in the USA has increasingly become something of a niche sport commanding attention only when the Triple Crown races are up for grabs, it’s a highly visible sport in England, contributing more than 5 billion pounds to the British economy. It’s the second most popular sport after soccer with 5.6 million people attending races in 2012. Excluding the London Olympics and Para-Olympics, 4 of the top 10 most-attended sporting events in England last year were at race tracks – an interesting note from overseas. Even the Queen’s stable won the biggest race of all last week, the Royal Ascot. It was the first time a reigning monarch’s horse had won the race in its 207-year history. I guess everything comes to us if we wait long enough – even queens.