Which one of these teams doesn’t belong ?

Philadelphia is one of the few cities in the country graced with 5 full time professional sports franchises. 

4 of them are established, of course I refer to the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, Sixers.  Now we also have a pro soccer team, the Union.

I played football and baseball as a teenager and in college.  I played pick up games of basketball, stickball, volleyball, hockey, golf, darts and even horseshoes.

My high school had a soccer team.

Not only did I: 1) Never try out.  but 2) Never watched a game nor: 3) was aware of the results of a game.

I have never played soccer.

All that being said, I think I may need to reevaluate the sport, at least from the perspective of being a fan or spectator.

Because, the numbers dont lie.

Let’s look at the average per game attendance of the teams over the past decade. 

Philadelphia Eagles         66,302,  66,000, 65,888, 65,670, 67,991, 67,640, 69,209, 68,169, 69,125, 69,144.

That averages to 67,000 + fans per game.  Most of these numbers occured at Lincoln Financial, with a seating capacity of 68,532, but several years were recorded at the previous stadium which held about 3,000 fewer people.  Suffice it to say, the Eagles attendance is nearly the maximum possible given the venue and their steady level of fan support.

Philadelphia Phillies       22,846,  20,482, 28,973, 40,626, 33,316, 34,200, 38,374, 42,254. 44,453, 45,054*.

That averages to 35,000 + fans per game, but there also is a stadium change, responsible for the first cresting of the 40,000 mark in 2004 when the Phillies moved to Citizens Bank Park.   CBP has a listed capacity of 43,651 so the last three years numbers reflect near constant sellouts.   The cavernous Veterans Stadium with it’s NL leading baseball capacity of 62,382 at the time of it’s demolition was rarely more than 75% full, and in lean years, 20,000 fans could look pathetic as they frequently did in 2001 and 2002 when the Phillies were out of contention by mid July.  

Philadelphia Flyers           19,634, 19,576, 19,569, 19,325, 19,375, 19,653, 19,283, 19,556, 19,081, 19,536. 

That averages at 19,675 fans per game which is jammed in like sardines numbers at the Wachovia Center which is designated as holding 19,519 when set up for hockey.  Let it be said the Broad Street Bullies always play to a full house. 

Philadelphia 76ers           19,651, 20,560, 19,685, 19,222, 17,870, 16,518, 14,843, 14,870, 15,800, 14,224.

That averages 16,000 fans per game in the Wachovia center which, when set up for basketball has a capacity of 21,500.   The telling figure here is how the numbers have dwindled from 95% capacity in 2002 to 65% this year.

The brand spanking new Philadelphia Union.  So far they have played three home games, 1 at PPL stadium, and in the first 2 they drew 35,000 and 25,000 fans, their home opener in Chester PA they drew 19,000 fans in a park designed to max out at 18,500 so by early appearances they will continue to sell out or near sell out their remaining games.  At 3-7-1, they have not made a statement regarding their ability as yet,  but still more fans are attracted then fill the Wachovia Center when the 76ers are at work.

To sum up, the Eagles and Flyers hold steady at sell out level.  The Phillies are coming off back to back records numbers in attendance and at their current pace this year, they will beat that number again.  The 76ers are fading, and if soccer mania gets a grip here, in danger of falling to the fifth biggest sports headline on the local news.

The most obvious reason for this trend is in the results.  Since 2000 the Phillies have 3 league titles and a world championship.  The Eagles have 5 division titles and 1 NFC title.  The Flyers have 3 division titles and 1 conference championship.  Philly is Philly so there are not many bandwagon fans.  Look at  the Phillies five year surge just as the team started to achieve, the same thing happened in the late 70′s and became nationally known as the Whiz Kid movement as the Phillies took it all in 1980, but by 1998, the attendance had dropped by 50%.  Why is that ?  Because the team stank. Why else ?

If you win, we will come, and pay, and cheer, and fight, and drink.

If you don’t, we won’t.  The honeymoon is almost over for the Union.  They need to win consistantly to keep their fan base showing up for every game.   At least it should be the case, because soccer fans seem to me to be as crazed, and fired up as any other, and the global reputation of soccer fans and what happens when teams lose and the crowds riot just makes me sweat.   If the Union finishes at .500 or above, I am considering listing them as the #4 professional Philadelphia team for 2011.  Take this as your wakeup call, Ed Stefanski, else Ed Snider and Comcast will be forced to sell the empty seats to concertgoers and have Celine Dion performing at half court during the equally boring Sixers home games next year !!

In the meantime, Soccer may well end up being the #2 drawing franchise.  (No team will ever out draw the Eagles in Philly, period)  The Flyers are restricted by the Wachovia center and the Phillies success may not last and the numbers may drop.   I don’t think so, but I have been wrong before, to be sure, and soccer is the number 1 sport in the world.   

If that happens, you can find me out back.  I will be throwing horseshoes.

*number is average so far for 2010 season.

Eagles 1999-2009, Phillies 2000-2010, Flyers 1999-2009, Sixers 1999-2009

How does Charlie stack up ?

Charlie Manual is about the most popular man about town when the Phillies win, but contemptible when they lose.  Typical Philadelphia.

I figured he has been here long enough, we could compare him to some other managers, many of whom you will recognize by name, just to put it into perpective.

There is no other team in professional American sports that has played so long, in one place, with the same name, as the Philadelphia Phillies.  No other manager is under quite the same scrutiny as the NL clubs “manager de jour”, who is to the team what the quarterback is to the Eagles.  Tough thing for Kolb that Charlie looks to be steady at the helm, because when NFL preseason starts, the Birds new young leader is going to be on the hotseat !

There have been a grand total of 52 Phillies managers.  The longest tenured was Gene Mauch, who compiled a record of 645-684 over 9 years.  He was replaced shortly before I was born, so made little impact on me, but, I know the name.

Danny Ozark was the manager I remembered from when I was little, watching ballgames with my Dad, a fan since 1944.  Ozark’s record was better at 594-510.  

After my school years, Jim Fregosi is the most memorable with the most wins at 431-463 and has a similar winning percentage to Mauch.   Terry Francona (285-363),  and Larry Bowa (337-308) both had 600 or more games at the helm.   

5 others had 600 or more games as Phillies manager last century; Eddie Sawyer on two stints (390-424) , Jimmy Wilson  (280-477) , Burt Shotten  (370-549) , Art Fletcher  (231-378)  and Red Dooin  (392-270) .

In addition, going back to the 19th century, 2 others, Bill Shettsline  (367-302)  and  Harry Wright  (636-566) on two different stints, both managed the team.

So over 128 years, Charlie Manual and 12 other guys have been Phillies manager for 600 or more games.

Charlie Manual           447-363   win percentage of .552   1 championship

Larry Bowa                   337-308  win percentage of .522

Terry Francona          285-363  win percentage of .440

Jim Fregosi                  431-463  win percentage of  .482

Danny Ozark               594-510  win percentage of .538

Gene Mauch                645-684  win percentage of .485

Eddie Sawyer             390-424  win percentage of .479

Jimmy Wilson            280-477  win percentage of .370

Burt Shotten              370-549  win percentage of  .403

Art Fletcher               231-378  win percentage of .376

Red Dooin                   392-270  win percentage of .592

Bill Shettsline            367-302  win percentage of .548

Harry Wright             636-566  win percentage of .529

In my eyes Manual is looking pretty good.  He is the only manager with significant tenure to win a championship here.  The other (Dallas Green 1979-1981) coached fewer than 500 games.  He also happens to have the best won/lost percentage since Red Dooin who coached 1910-1914, nearly 100 years ago and the second best of any manager in team history.

If Charlie stays and the team wins at their current rate for 2 more years and win another World Series, Manual  will have the most wins as a Phillies manager, the best won/loss percentage and the most championships under his belt.

Can we talk contract extension Christmas of 2012 for the crafty old skipper ?  Manual has been around a long time, has been criticized for not getting on his players enough, being slow to make a personnel change when a guy is struggling, and being too laid back in general, but somehow he has survived, and is now manager of a team poised to be the best in the country for a good chunk of time.

After their late April stumble, the Phillies have come roaring back to go 8-2 in their last ten and rise back to 5th on the ESPN power rankings lists.  The most impressive thing about Charlie Manual in my opinion is the way he stays nearly the same win or lose, first or last, April or October.  It is one of the things I believe makes him a great manager and one hopefully, who will will be with the Phillies for years to come.   

Congratulations Charlie.  We are glad to have you, even after an occassional loss !!

what was number 5 REALLY worth ?

Well, as much as I have tried to support him and defend him to the national public that just doesnt understand sports in Philadelphia, McNabb is officially a goner.  The debate will rage for years to come over whether the Eagles got a fair shake in this deal.  Bottom line is that team management had decided on going a different way quite some time ago, and this was the best deal they could finalize.

I am not entirely sure of the wisdom behind trading Don to a NFC East competitor.  The Eagles have made their team a little weaker and the Redskins a little stronger.

Let’s look at the numbers behind those broad shoulders in his tenure here at Philly.

In his career, he played 148 games, with a QB rating of 86.5. 

He was 2801 for 4746 passing (59.0%) for 32,873 yards, 216 touchdowns and 100 interceptions.

In addition, he rushed 573 times for 3249 yards for a 5.7 average and 28 touchdowns scored. 

He also lost the ball 44 times for a total of 144 giveaways in 148 games played in the regular season.    

In games started he ranks #1 with Jaworski at #2 with 142 starts.

In yards he ranks #1 with Jaworski at #2 with 26,963 and Cunningham  #3 with 22,877.  

In touchdowns he ranks #1 with Jaworksi #2 with 175 and Cunningham #3 with 150.

In passer rating he ranks #1 with Brister #2 at 85.8 and Cunningham #3 at 78.7

In interception % he ranks #2 with Brister at 1.6 to his 1.9.  

In completion percentage he ranks #1 at 59.0% with Detmer at 57.7%

In rushing touchdowns for a quarterback he ranks #1.

In rushing yards for a quarterback he ranks #1.

In attempts, completions, yards gained from scrimmage, total wins, post season starts, post season wins, overall win loss percentage,  red zone offense, comeback wins, 4th quarter touchdown drives, average yards per rush and kicking average McNabb is also #1.

Too bad the Eagles couldn’t win a superbowl ring with him. 

I think his record speaks for itself, it was not his performance that prevented them from doing so.  It was the overall team composite during his tenure here.  The Eagles have had some great teams through the years, normally centered around world class defensive players.  McNabbs era here will be remembered for the team ability to score points in a hurry.   After trading or releasing Reggie, Clyde, Cunningham, BDawk and Westbrook, did any of us really think a great one like Don would be allowed to start and end his career here ?  Not !

Reggie went to Green Bay and took a 23rd ranked defense, made them #2, and got his.  Cunningham went to Minnesota and almost got his, but settled for a 16-1 record before losing in the chamionship game, still setting the record for team points scored (at that time)  Each player won the MVP and McNabb very well could go and get his and more in Washington.

If he does, I will be the first one cheering him on (not looking forward to the Redskins/Eagles matchups) just like I cheered for Reggie when the Packers took it all.  A Philadelphia athlete that supports this city and performs well here is still someone to cheer for once they move on.  Back in the day, a sports team may have remained essentially intact over the course of a period of dominance, and rooting for the team and it’s players were mutually exclsuive undertakings. 

Now, I have a favorite ex-Eagle on half the teams out there.  The good news behind that being that I can always find some one to root for, even though I would prefer to just sticking with rooting for the Eagles.  Now this year, I will be watching Kolb, rooting for him, and hoping trading away number 1 in 15 offensive categories is not too large a burden for this largely untested QB to overcome.

Just for fun, imagine this scenario.  The Eagles and Redskins are both in the mix this December.    The ‘skins have to come to our house, in a playoff situation,  McNabb steps up to throw for 5 touchdowns and 400 yards as he narrowly defeats the Eagles in his triumphant return to Philadelphia.

Now, are you gonna respect him yet ??

Just asking !

Best individuals, best team, best chance to repeat.

PHILADELPHIA — The Phillies enjoyed one of their best decades in franchise history in the 2000s.

They won one World Series, two National League championships and three NL East championships. They had eight winning seasons.

A few weeks ago, MLB.com chose Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels as the organization’s player and pitcher of the decade.

I decided to look at Phillies players of the decade based on statistics alone.

Gotta go with Lieberthal behind the plate. He played 705 games in the decade, led Phillies catchers with 318 runs, 713 hits, 166 doubles, four triples, 83 home runs, 357 RBIs and 207 walks. He hit .280 with a .346 on-base percentage and a .446 slugging percentage. He started more games at catcher than any other player on the team from 2000-2010.

Howard is unarguably the top first baseman.   Period, no need to go into statistics.

Utley is second baseman of the  decade and arguably the greatest player at that position in franchise history.

Jimmy Rollins, the ultimate leadoff man, shortstop,  run producer, and offensive instigator.

Scott Rolen has to be the Phillies’ top third baseman of the decade even though he is no longer with us. After only playing for the team three seasons of the decade, he leads this category with 236 runs, 11 triples, 68 homers, 262 RBIs and 177 walks. He was second behind David Bell with 401 hits and 92 doubles. He also hit .284 with a .510 slugging percentage during his time here.   He won two Gold Gloves.

Bobby Abreu must be considered.  In addition to his efforts in the field, and giving some leniance to his playing balls off the wall,  offensively he led outfielders with 703 runs, 1,131 hits, 282 doubles and 208 stolen bases. He was second with 31 triples, 158 homers and 644 RBIs and batted .298 with a .412 on-base percentage and a .511 slugging percentage. He also made two All-Star teams, and won an NL Silver Slugger Award and an NL Gold Glove Award.

Pat Burrell earned the second outfield spot. He led Phillies outfielders with 235 homers and 763 RBIs. He was a fixture in the middle of the Phillies’ lineup throughout the decade.

The last spot came down to a battle between Shane Victorino and  Jayson Werth.  Victorino had 31 triples, 98 SB’s. and played the third most games (2,000), with 337 runs, 579 hits and 110 doubles.  But Jaysen Werth was the ultimate in cool, playing only 387 games,  but hit 68 homeruns and drove in 215 runs in his short time here. With a .275 BA and .396 OBP he was a large factor in the team going to 2 World Series and winning one.

Jamie Moyer, Cole Hamels and Randy Wolf started a lot of games and won a lot of games. Myers who I have been saying is underappreciated by the team, although he is back this year to finish out his contract at age 43,  led the decade with 73 wins. Wolf finished second with 63. Hamels finished fourth with 48, and went 4-0 in the 2008 postseason. Moyer joined the franchise in 2006 yet ranked fifth with 47 wins.

Lidge’s one season (2008) makes him the best reliever/closer/spectacle, since MItch Williams.   OMG !! BUT, can’t wait to see him pitch this year,  nuf said. 

There is the Phillies team of the decade, and it is interesting to note, 80+ percent of these selections continue to play on the current team, which bodes well for the Phillies this year as they return to the fray and attempt to return for the World Series in 2010.

Howard may be the greatest Phillie EVER !

I am not by nature a sports reporter.  I started my writing career early in life as a lyricist, then compiled several volumes of short stories, then became a novelist.  I did this as I got my degree is Broadcast Telecommunications and it was always expected I would become either a broadcaster or producer/director/editor.  My life has taken a different path, and so while I remain a wordsmith, I am essentially reporting sports from the viewpoint of a fan with a good degree of statistical analysis thrown in for good measure.

That being said, I did some research.  This is what I found.

There have been rumors of a Howard-Pujols trade and sentiment seems to pretty pretty well divided.  I am a traditionalist and loyalist so I firmly believe Ryan should remain big man on the Phillies teams for his entire career.  And here is why.

Currently the modern player who holds the most offensive records for the Phillies is the incomparable Micheal Jack Schmidt.   Mike still holds the marks for hits, total bases, homeruns, RBI’s, walks and strikeouts.  Howard can certainly challenge some if not all of these.  Schmidt’s 548 homeruns and 1595 RBI represent 11 full seasons for Howard at his current pace, which means he should be getting there around 2016 when he is still 36 years of age.  And Howard has been working himself into better shape as he ages, so I firmly believe he will be a player, barring serious injury, who will play until he is 40.  Schmidt played until he was 39 himself so no reason why Ryan Howard can not do the same.

Schmidts hit record stands at 2234, Howard has 750 after less than 5 full years.  Again, Ryan beats it if he maintains his current pace until 2018.   Schmidts total base record of 4404 represents 10 more years of Howards current level of production so he might not get that one, but could if he plays to age 40. 

Schmidt’s BB and K’s records at 1507 and 1883 may be challenged by Howard as well.  He is certainly on track to break the strikeout records after 4 1/2 seasons with 878 of them, but his strikeouts are slowly going down as his walks go up and he gets more selective at the plate.  If he plays 11 total seasons to get the homerun and RBI team records, and you extrapolate out his current BB and K numbers he would be at 1116 and 2146 !  Hopefully he will strikeout less and walk more, especially if he continues to hit 40 dingers and drive in 140 plus year after year so I am expecting both his career numbers will exceed Schmidt’s before he is done.  

Billy Hamilton still holds 3 team records he established in the 19th century, with 508 stolen bases (OK ! No worry Howard will challenge that one !)  a career .361 average and .468 OBP.  The latter two records will never be touched, even in the new era of steroid influenced statistics, simply because pitchers are better, ballparks are different and seasons are longer with more at bats, allowing batters to need to sustain these percentages for more overall AB’s over the course of a career.   Delahantys career marks for doubles (442)  and triples (157)  are all the more astounding because he set these marks in that same era prior to 1900 but again, outfield arms were not what they are today along with larger ballfields so doubles and triples were a higher percent out of total balls hit back then than today. 

Ashburn the great still holds the record for singles, my guess this is because that is about all he hit in his career here,  with 1811 of them !! And the great Chuck Klein holds the remaining offensive records with an unreal .553 career slugging percentage and  .935 OPS.    Howard is currently at .586 and .961.  If he stays there, two more team records will fall.  

So currently, 5 greats hold all the Phillies batting records over the past 127 years and nearly 20,000 games.   And Howard is the only Phillie to play since Schmidt retired that even had a hint of besting ONE of these records, and I think he stands a good chance to hold 8 or more of them if he finishes his career here.

Now, one word about Pujols.  He rocks, no doubt about it.  But look deeper at the big picture here.

Pujols got an earlier start than Ryan did, and in his 9 years with the team, they have gone to 2 World Series and won 1.  In Howards 5 seasons with the Phillies they have gone to 2 World Series and won 1. 

In Pujols career his team has averaged  90.8 victories per year getting to the post season 6 of 9 seasons.  In Howard’s 5 full seasons the Phillies have averaged 88.8 victories and gotten to the post season 3 of 5 seasons. 

All statistics considered, excpet for the fact that he got an earlier start, these two sluggers are nearly identical on output and team contribution.  But consider this.  Pujols has been in the big leagues nearly a decade now, while Howard is still relatively fresh by comparison.  And Pujols came to a team that had 17 NL championships and 10 World Series appearances in their history, whereas Howard came on to the losingest team in professional sports history, that had a glimmer of hope way back in the 80′s when the above mentioned Mike Schmidt anchored them en route to a lone World Series win they had waited nearly 100 years to achieve.  Here is Ryan Howard taking them there twice in as many years after his team only won their division once since he was born. 

Therefore, is is my assertion that Howard has made more of an impact on Philadelphia than Pujols did in St Louis.  I also believe Albert will be on the decline by his 35th birthday (look at GriffeyJr and his fast early start) which may actually allow Howard to exceed him in career numbers in some categories by the time all is said and done.    The next 5-7 years will tell us if this is truly the case, but I expect to see Howard’s slugging and OPS go up, while his strikeouts continue to drop.  He already averages more homeruns and RBI per year than Pujols does. 

So while I see merit in exploring the rumored trade, I think it would be in the Phillies best interests to continue to groom Ryan Howard to be the anchor on a team that statistically compares more favorably then any team in Philadelphia history.  The current group of players could easily win 5 or more World Series before the older group starts to decline and retire.  And with a strong farm system and the current emphasis on upgrading the pitching staff at every opportunity, I believe team management and ownership is looking at this big picture as well and will make the right moves rosterwise to give these Phitens a chance at becoming the dynasty we have all been waiting for.

FINAL NOTE:   Pujols is a career .992 fielder and Howard .990, so all the talk about how much better Albert is in the field doesn’t wash with me either.  And Howard is rapidly improving in that arena as well.

Whiz Kids or the New and Improved Phitens, who is better ?

 From 1976 to 1980 they won 4 NL East titles, 1 National League Pennant and 1 World Series.

 From 2005 to present they have won 3 National League East titles, 2 National league Pennants and 1 World Series.

The first team included the group known as the Whiz Kids, with nearly every member of the team either in the hall of fame, or close to it, and known nationally as household names due to the exposure they recieved during their dominance.  The second team is still playing so does not have the advantage of securing a historical place in our minds and memories as of yet, but may equal or exceed the ability and statistics of the first group of Phillies superstars. 

This article will attempt to compare the two squad’s core group of players, then and now to determine which team is truly the best Phillies team of all time.  It might be noted the first team played just prior to the advent of steroid allegations and performance enhancing drugs becoming the norm, whereas the second group has played and does play in “the steroid era” of baseball with equal or better statistical results, yet has received no substantiated press regarding the use of these illegal and banned substances.  That by itself in this modern era of sports is remarkable, but what this group has acheived in a short period of time may be more so.

The first group-of Phillies included; Michael Jack Schmidt, Pete Rose, Bob Boone, Greg “The Bull” Luzinski, Tim McCarver, Larry Bowa, Garry Maddox and was led by pitchers Steve “Lefty” Carlton, Tug McGraw and Larry Christensen. 

The current group of 21st century Phillies includes; Ryan Howard, Jaysen Werth, Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, and has had Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer, JA Happ and Brad Lidge leading the way from the mound. 

For purposes of a direct comparison, I am not selecting players that only played 2 years or less with either team during the peak, hence the noticable lack of names such as  Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Juan Samuel, Pedro Martinez and the like.

The 1976 to 80 team, over their five seasons averaged  747 runs, 113 Homeruns, 696 RBI’s, 136 stolen bases and a .270 batting average while the pitching staff posted an ERA of under 3.50 for the span.   The two offensive leaders would have to be Rose and Schmidt, with Rose batting .291 with 390 runs and 255 RBI and Michael Jack posting over 200 homeruns, 600 RBI and 600 runs scored over the same 5 year span.

The leaguewide change of focus from defense to offense over the ensuing 30 years is evident when one realizes the Whiz Kids pitching staff ranked 7th league wide with an ERA around 3.00 while the 2008 staff was ranked 4th league wide while the ERA had risen to 3.88.

The offensive numbers of todays Phillies correlate to this change.  The current team is averaging 837 runs scored, 207 home runs, including a team record 224 last year, 706 RBI’s and 120 stolen bases.   Todays squad is led by Ryan Howard, with 220 homeruns, 630 RBI’s, and 460 runs scored over his first 5 full seasons.

The Phillies offensive output has increased by 30-40% while the team ERA has risen by 20% at the same time the league ERA has risen accordingly.   Between the Phillies dominance in the late seventies and early eighties and the current Phillies rise to prominance, the National League East was owned by the Atlanta Braves.  But those Braves dominated by virtue of their excllent pitching staff led by Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.  There has not been a National League team that has ever had the dominant lineup from 1st to 7th position that the current Phillies possess.

Last years Phillies saw 4 players hit 30+ homeruns and drive in 90+ runs, as well as six players score 90+ runs and 8 hit 25 or more doubles.   They also had 4 players steal 20 or more bases.  This is the most balanced team to play in the National League in 50 years.  The Whiz Kids were famous simply because the perennial basement dwelling Phillies went to and won the World Series.   The current club should be afforded more respect because they are a better rounded and higher achieving team, and I for one, can not wait for them to close out the National League for 2010 so they can return to the World Series and go 2 for 3 as they take the championship away from the hated NY Yankees and return it to it’s rightful place, in Philadelphia.  This is a team that could easily win 3 or 4 of the next 5 World Series and establish itself in history as a baseball dynasty.

Based on these numbers, I would have to state, the current Phillies ballclub is the best statistical team ever to play baseball in Philadelphia, and I have a feeling the best is yet to come.