Good Riddance to 2015, the worst year in Philadelphia sports since 1972. That’s when the Sixers went 9-73, the Flyers got knocked out of a playoff spot with four seconds left in the regular season, and Dick Allen finally won an MVP Award – playing for the White Sox.
This coming calendar year has to be better than the dreck we just endured. Has to. We’ve never endured a two-year post-season drought, so one of these four franchises must make the playoffs. I just can’t tell you with any confidence which one it might be.
Anyway, it’s always easier to look back than to project the future. So here are the worst and best from each of our teams from 2015.
Worst – Ninety-nine losses provide endless opportunities for dreadful moments. But the most painful ongoing story of 2015 was watching the shadow of Chase Utley trying to play baseball. That wasn't “The Man” hitting .118 through mid-May and stumbling around second base in red pinstripes. That was some elderly imposter.
We were saddened, but also relieved, when Utley was shipped to Los Angeles in August for two mid-prospects whom we may never hear from again. Here’s hoping 2016 brings us similar relief from watching the carcasses of franchise legends Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz.
Best – June 27, the day Ryne Sandberg quit as manager. It was the clearing out of bad rubbish for the Phils. And it led to the news conference where we learned that part-owner John Middleton and incoming president Andy MacPhail were now taking the stale franchise in a new direction. It may take a while to see results, but this change all seems for the better.
Worst – Chip Kelly first flexed his GM muscles between March 10-12 and tore up a team that won 20 games the prior two seasons. Six new players came in. LeSean McCoy left. We’re still up in the air on Sam Bradford, and not unhappy with Walter Thurmond or Ryan Mathews. But there’s no doubt the moves for DeMarco Murray, Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell have been disastrous. Those three days in March started the rock tumbling downhill.
Best – The Eagles went to New England on Dec. 6 at 4-7 and about to be drubbed from the playoff race. But touchdowns on a blocked punt, interception and punt return – along with a clean game by Bradford – put them back in the thick of the NFC East. It didn’t hurt that Tom Brady had no weapons and that Bill Belichick coached his worst game in a decade.
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Worst – Former coach Craig Berube’s mishandling of Steve Mason baffled everyone throughout the 2014-15 season. It came to a head in March when Berube pushed out Masons’s guru, goalie coach Jeff Reese. A few nights later, the head coach pulled and humiliated his goalie in Calgary after a screened shot eluded Mason. It was a disloyal, panicky and counterproductive move. And it contributed to Berube losing his team – and ultimately, his job.
Best – In his fourth NHL game, on Nov. 17, Shayne Gostisbehere blasted a shot from the point to beat All-Star goalie Jonathan Quick for his first career goal. “The Ghost” is exactly what the Flyers have long needed – a young power-play quarterback with creativity and incendiary skills. It says here that he will be the city’s next superstar.
Worst – Hey, they’re on pace for a 3-81 record this season, so how do you pick one episode? But I’ll go with this: All the high hopes for potential franchise changer Jahlil Okafor came into question Thanksgiving week when we learned he had been in two bar fights, had a gun pulled on him and drove over the Ben Franklin Bridge at 108 mph.
Best – The hiring of Jerry Colangelo on Dec. 7 to tow this broken-down truck out of the mud suggests we are nearing the end of that nightmare known as “The Process.” Colangelo has since brought in Mike D’Antoni as an assistant coach, explaining that the franchise desperately needs more experienced basketball minds. The bet here is that Sam Hinkie is no longer with the Sixers when this column gets written next December. And that will be cause to celebrate.
So Happy New Year everyone. As I said, the coming year has to be better than 2015.