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Sports

BLOG: The End Is Near

Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies
Campbell_Bill-FEATURE-img Bill Campbell
Bill Campbell, known to all Philadelphiasports fans as “The Dean,”...
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By Bill Campbell

Trade Time

If you thought that Saturday’s 10-0 Phillies loss to Detroit was bad, it turns out the Phils were just scratching the surface. That whitewash was followed by a 12-4 loss to the Tigers and the Phils have never looked worse. The amazing thing is that the team started out leading 3-0 but Detroit’s 8-run sixth inning had to be seen to be believed. It was the first time since May 22, 1997 that the Phils gave up 8 runs in an inning – and all of them were un-earned. This was the first time Charlie Manuel’s team had lost 8 in a row and the atmosphere in the visitors’ club house out in Detroit had to have been tense. A road trip to end them all and a silent plane ride home. I’m sure the gates of Citizen’s Bank Park looked like the ones posted up in heaven to these guys.

On Tuesday they welcomed the San Francisco Giants to town and ended the slide, beating them 7-3. But the make-up of this team could be quite different one the trade deadline passes on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. Michael Young is not expected to be there although he has a full no-trade clause and said on Tuesday night that, so far, he had not had any substantial conversations with GM Ruben Amaro concerning a trade. Young said, “Ruben has always been very up-front with me and any conversation on trades will be with him first.” There are also rumors about Jimmy Rollins going somewhere. But Rollins is a 5 and 10 guy (5 with one team, 10 in the league) and in Phillies history he ranks in the top in doubles, triples, hits and games played. He has said he wants to finish his career here so his trade-worthiness is cloudy. Jonathan Papelbon and Carlos Ruiz also are rumored to be on the block. One thing is for sure: the question of whether the Phillies will be sellers or buyers is about to be answered.

The Phils fell apart on the road with a bang, on a trip when they needed wins the most. A house-cleaning is overdue. It’s hard to believe that this team won 102 games just 2 seasons ago and looked like it would be contending for the top spot in the NL East for at least the next 5 years. While they may try to hold on to core players like Chase Utley, and have extended commitments to Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels, it’s rebuilding time now. A lot of familiar faces will be gone by the end of this season and it’s clear that Charlie Manuel won’t be the manager come 2014.

The Hall of Shame

You can feel it in your bones. Those of us who revere the Great American Game are in pain these days because the drug scandal in baseball just won’t die. We’re told that there will be between 15 and 20 players who will be suspended from baseball for a minimum of 50 games extending through the regular season. This news should be announced by major league baseball within the next 7 to 10 days. After this coming Sunday, the names of those players whose suspensions total 50 games which will disqualify them from play for the rest of this season will be revealed. We hear that Major League Baseball may try to suspend Alex Rodriguez under the prohibitions of its collective bargaining agreement rather than its anti-drug rules, which could eliminate any change of the imposition of a penalty until the case goes to arbitration.

All of this is painful for any baseball fan to digest. Sadly, the effect of the drug problem on this game has even extended to the Hall of Fame.

Last weekend was the one when people like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemons, the greatest power hitter and pitcher of a generation, should have been saluted, applauded and glorified. Instead, for the first time in almost 50 years, the only men inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown were Jacob Ruppert, the former owner of the Yankees, former umpire Hank O’Day and former catcher Deacon White. All are deceased. No living player was named for this singular honor. That’s a sad commentary on the game, isn’t it? Bonds and Clemons will never be honored in this way. It’s likely that many other players who have been revered in recent times also have put themselves out of contention with drug use. Last weekend, only 2,500 fans attended the induction ceremonies at Cooperstown where 25,000 usually appear. Only 32 living Hall of Famers, fewer than half of those living, attended. “It’s kind of sad,” said 76-year-old Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson. But he added, “I’d be very disappointed if any of those guys associated with performance enhancing drugs get in, even when I’m dead.” As Robinson put it, the drug using players do not deserve such an honor.

“Those guys cheated. They created an uneven playing field.” He’s right and it’s a sad commentary on the state of the game today. It also lays the groundwork for the bad news that’s still to come about some very well-known and admired baseball players. So it was hardly a celebration in Cooperstown where the annual joy was supplanted by uncomfortable angst. The Hall of Fame is where baseball celebrates its heritage and honors the greatest ever to have played the game. The shame and disappointment that the drug scandal has caused was, sadly, on display there last weekend.

Eagles Start In Reverse

For a moment it was hard to tell the Eagles from the Phillies on the first day of Eagles’ training camp. Bad news just kept on coming. Without any contact going on, Jeremy Maclin wilted in agony when he tore his ACL on Saturday. He said he immediately knew that he was done for the season as he planted his right leg and began to run out on a pass pattern. “I was just devastated,” Maclin said, “It wasn’t the fact that it hurt. It was the first time that I knew instantly what happened. I knew that everything was at stake. This is what I live to do, play football. And I knew instantly that I was done for the year.” Maclin will undergo surgery next Tuesday by the noted orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, in Birmingham, Alabama. This is the second time Maclin has torn the ACL in his right knee. The first was in July 2006 before his freshman season at Missouri. He’ll have to work hard to recover. Maclin is encouraged that his best friend, Danario Alexander, has had 4 knee surgeries and was the leading receiver with the San Diego Chargers last season. “Everybody in the NFL knows what we go through on a daily basis,” he commented. “They know that at any given time everything you worked so hard for can be taken away. They feel the pain. They understand that we’re putting our bodies on the line”. All of this doesn’t make such a set-back less devastating for a player. Maclin added, “I’ll miss the guys so much and there’s nothing I can do to help them.” The wide receiver concluded, “I have faith that I’ll be back stronger than I was before.” Eagles General Manager, Howie Roseman, said, “I have all the faith that he’ll be back sooner than expected. He’s only 25 years old. He’ll come back from this.”

For the moment, Riley Cooper, a 5th year receiver and a good one, will fill the bill. A day later, linebacker Jason Phillips went out with the exact same injury as Maclin’s, a torn right ACL. He’s out for the year too. All of this happened at no-contact drills. Not a good start. Maybe they should have stayed at Lehigh. But we’ll keep watching.

Notes from the News

As the football season comes into view, here are some notes to share with you:

Robert Griffin III is literally bracing himself for a return as the Washington Redskins starting quarterback in the NFL Opener on September 9th in D.C. against the Eagles. He missed the last month of last season recovering from surgery for a torn LCL and ACL in his right knee. After a long rehab, Griffin said, “I don’t really worry about my leg anymore. I just play football.” RGIII said he will wear a brace this season to protect the injured knee. After that? “I don’t know if I’ll wear it forever. Only time will tell.” The crowd attending Redskins training camp cheered his work in some special plays last week. George “Boomer” Scott, a 3-time All Star first baseman who hit 271 home runs in a 14-year career and is a member of the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame, died this past week at age 69. Boomer Scott was a strong, powerful hitter at 6’2”, 250 lbs. The Washington County Coroner confirmed that Scott died in his hometown of Greenville, Mississippi.

Donovan Mc Nabb’s career as a pro football player has come to an end. He will retire as an Eagle after a career as a much respected though controversial quarterback. His number, 5, also will be retired. Mc Nabb was a tough player, one of the toughest, having played through several major injuries and coming back to compete for 11 season here in Philadelphia. Interestingly, he and Brad Lidge of the Phillies are retiring in the same week. Mc Nabb rates as the most accomplished Eagle QB since Norm Van Brocklin. Lidge is the all-time most successful Phillies’ relief pitcher. They both gave it all to the fans, whatever the outcome. Helmets and caps off to both of them.

Forty days till kickoff, folks.