The weekend’s stormageddon made me both joyous (winter wonderland) and depressed (oh, I’ve got to shovel all that). So here are some ups and downs to enjoy with a cup of hot cocoa:
UP. I’m still uneasy about Doug Pederson, but delighted with the hiring of Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator. Schwartz is a savvy 4-3 architect, under whom linemen like Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham have flourished. And he’s a former head coach who can guide newcomer Peterson through some of the inevitable pitfalls. The Eagles gave up 430 points in 2015 under Chip Kelly and Billy Davis. Watch for that total to drop to 370 next season.
DOWN. Watching Broncos guard Evan Mathis celebrate getting to the Super Bowl just reminded me how badly Kelly botched up the Eagles roster. Yes, Mathis made a show of bitching about his contract last off-season. But he vowed not to be a distraction once training camp began. Kelly waited until after free agency and the draft, and then banished Mathis when there was no way to find a viable replacement. The Eagles stumbled through the season with backup guards, and their porous offensive line may have been their biggest failure.
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UP. My favorite young Philadelphia athlete, Shayne Gostisbehere, has eight goals and 19 points in 27 games this season. He’s smart, physically skilled and instinctive in a way no Flyers defenseman has been since Eric Desjardins. “The Ghost” has already tied the franchise record for goals by a rookie defenseman and leads all NHL defensemen in overtime scoring. It’s tough these days to invest in a player’s jersey, given the volatility of rosters. You should feel safe buying a No. 53 in orange-and-black – unless, of course, the Flyers switch him to a lower number more befitting his skills.
DOWN. It’s nice to see the Sixers winning a few more games. But isn’t their limited success even more a condemnation of Sam Hinkie’s hair-brained tanking scheme? Only after Jerry Colangelo came as an overseer and coach Brett Brown begged for a point guard did the Sixers acquire Ish Smith – whom Hinkie could have kept for nothing after last season. Since Smith’s return, the offense has improved by eight points per game, and Nerlens Noel is back to scoring on alley-oops. I remain baffled by Hinkie’s continued employment after his blatant disregard for improving this franchise.
UP. Reports say the designated hitter could come to the National League by 2017. I’m delighted. While hidebound purists may enjoy watching Bartolo Colon flail away, I’d argue that the DH adds strategy to the game. Doesn’t using a spot on someone who might be able to hit-and-run, hit for power, steal a base or display other offensive skills give you more options than trotting out a pitcher who’s more likely to foul off two bunt attempts and then strike out?
I say embrace the DH. You’re likely to disagree. Just don’t bury me in all this snow.