Cataldi: Wallets now optional for jaded Philly fans

Miami Marlins v Philadelphia Phillies
Halladay’s apology was a good start, but is it enough for fed-up Philly fans?

The fans of Philadelphia have launched a quiet rebellion against our pro sports teams, and they are doing it with the biggest weapon in their arsenal — their wallets.

In fact, if the teams joined together for an ad campaign, the most accurate slogan they could roll out right now is: Good seats still available. Very simply, fans have finally grown weary of mounting losses and broken promises. They are disgusted with a playoff shutout by our winter teams, a horrific 4-12 season by the Eagles and now a sub-.500 start by the Phillies.

The biggest story in Philadelphia sports is not the Roy Halladay saga or Chip Kelly’s first public practices. It is what happened at the box office last Thursday, when the Eagles put single-game tickets on sale, and — for the first time in more than a decade — had them available the next day, and the day after that, and even now. That’s right. You can buy tickets to an Eagles game right now.

For a team that had a waiting list for season tickets of 50,000 just a few years ago, this sudden turn of events came as a surprise to everyone, including the Eagles. Their decision to raise ticket prices after a 4-12 season reflected an arrogant belief that the fans would answer the call, regardless of the quality of the product. Welcome to the real world, Jeff Lurie.

Equally clear now is the fact that this Eagles ticket issue is not an isolated case in Philadelphia. Remember, Sixers tickets were selling for as low as four cents on the secondary market during the Andrew Bynum fiasco, and even Flyers tickets — always the least vulnerable to fan dissatisfaction — were available for a small fraction of their face value in the final month of a terrible season.

Then there are the Phillies. Somehow, in a single year, the Phils went from selling 44,021 tickets a game to 37,321. Last year at this time, you could not buy a Phillies ticket on the primary market. Today, you can sit behind home plate.

Why are the fans rebelling? Well, the obvious answer is that the teams are all pretty awful right now. They aren’t worth the money. But it goes beyond that. Fans are tired of watching players like Jimmy Rollins not run hard, they are fed up with ticket hikes by billionaires like Lurie and they have been insulted one time too many by bums like Bynum.

The fans have had enough. They aren’t buying tickets the way they have been, and they won’t reach back into their wallets until the teams fix what they broke. And what the teams broke is the trust of their fans.

 

Sixers finally get something right 

 

The Sixers finally took a positive step last week when they reportedly hired Sam Hinkie — that move will become official Tuesday at a 4:15 p.m. press conference — to become the face of their lost sports franchise. I know almost nothing about the former Houston Rockets executive, but I can say with great confidence that he will be a major upgrade as GM. The truth is, a sea otter would be a major upgrade.

Hinkie subscribes to what owner Joshua Harris calls “analytics,” which sounds a lot like an NBA version of Moneyball. Through the study of sophisticated statistical models, Hinkie plans to rebuild a team that hasn’t interested Philadelphia since 2002. The good news here is that Sam Hinkie actually has a plan. At this point, any plan would do.

And the better news is that Tony DiLeo has left an organization that he put to sleep for most of the past decade: as an assistant GM, a coach and GM. After DiLeo’s snoozefest, Hinkie can win huge public acclaim immediately by announcing that Andrew Bynum will never play for the Sixers.

As for the rest of the roster, Hinkie should set aside Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young, then fumigate these hopeless underachievers. With a player option at $3 million next season, Kwame Brown’s permanent spot on the bench should be declared a toxic-waste site.

As for Spencer Hawes, soft center tweeted after Hinkie was hired “Hate, Hate, Hate” and then made an idiotic remark about statistics that was aimed right at the new GM. Well, at least a Sixer has actually exceeded our expectations. Hawes is even dumber than we thought. Good riddance to you, Spencer — and to most of your loser teammates, too.

 

More apologies, please

 

Roy Halladay issued an apology last week to Phillies fans for his horrible pitching this season. Good for him. After lying for months about the condition of his aging, sore pitching shoulder, he owed us some expression of accountability.

Now, while they’re at it, how about some more acts of contrition? At the top of the list is GM Ruben Amaro, Jr., who actually said — it’s on tape — that he was OK with Halladay hiding his sore shoulder for two weeks while the Phils absorbed two straight 14-2 losses with the former ace on the mound.

Next in line is Rich Dubee, the dour pitching coach, who has refused to discuss Halladay’s pitching (or arm condition) because he didn’t like the tone of questions being asked when Halladay was getting crushed early in the season. Dubee is a bad pitching coach with a worse attitude. He needs to apologize for being such a black cloud over the organization.

Of course, no expression of regret over this Halladay mess will be complete without a few well-chosen words from manager Charlie Manuel, who gets paid $4 million a year to  let his players manage themselves. The skipper allowed Halladay to pitch with a sore arm at the end of last season — ever wonder what kind of damage that caused? — and was still ready to send him back out there until Halladay fessed up.

That noise you heard when Halladay’s arm problem became official last week was the slamming shut of an era of prosperity unrivaled in Phillies history. They are not going to find their way back from this nightmare of a season. Deep down, we all know that now. What they can do is show some dignity in these difficult times. At least Halladay started that process with his apology last week.

 

Idle thoughts from Cataldi

 

  • In nine years of strategic bumbling, Charlie Manuel just finished his worst week ever. He blew three straight one-run games with illogical moves, the most glaring when he replaced Antonio Bastardo with Mike Adams to face Miguel Montero in Arizona. Asked why he didn’t exploit the lefty-lefty matchup, Manuel said: “Adams is my eighth-inning guy.” Oh.
  • Jimmy Rollins was lollygagging on the basepaths so badly last week that broadcaster Chris Wheeler called him out on it by shouting, “Run, Jimmy, run.” The shocking part of this is not that Rollins failed to hustle again. No, it was that Wheeler — the ultimate homer— actually told the truth for once.
  • Tom Heckert got yet another personnel job last week after dreadful runs with the Eagles and Browns. Denver hired him, raising the question: Does anyone ever scout the scouts in the NFL?
  • Ilya Bryzgalov had a busy week, even if the Flyers didn’t. The goalie ducked under a puck in the hockey world championships, got caught playing Angry Birds after being benched, and then ripped the Philadelphia media again for being unprofessional. Hmmm. Is Bryz trying to get the Flyers to dump him?
  • Eddie Jordan, a fraud during his brief tenure as Sixers coach, apparently is a fraud off the court, too. He never graduated from Rutgers, which recently signed him to a five-year deal, even though he has always claimed he did. Soon, we’ll find out his Princeton offense comes from a community college.


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