One thought on each of our four local franchises, as I consider whether it’s fair to call Jay Wright and Villanova perennial chokers:
The anemic spring performance and Triple-A demotion of Phillies prospect Maikel Franco really concerns me. Yes, Franco is just 22, and could roar back. But the Amaro Regime’s handling of prospects is so abysmal that I fear the third baseman becomes the next casualty. The Phils jerked Dom Brown up and down the system, badmouthed Darrin Ruf, and still can’t agree whether Jesse Biddle sustained a concussion. Each may have failed on his own merits. But in an organization that hasn’t developed a position player since Carlos Ruiz, there’s every reason to worry that Franco becomes the next casualty. Beyond that, Franco and Ken Giles were the only two Phils I was anticipating for Opening Day. Is there any other reason to watch this ballclub?
I’m always reluctant to call for a coach’s head, but Craig Berube pushed me there last week when he drove the Greyhound over Steve Mason, one of few players who’ve given the heartless Flyers an honest season. Berube pulled and humiliated his goalie in Calgary after a screened shot eluded him. It was a disloyal, panicky and counterproductive move. Mason has kept mum all season after losing games in which he got no goal support. The Flyers woes go well beyond Berube, but he’s exacerbating them. And here’s the saddest part: Fans are starting to forget when this franchise stood for something with its personality and work ethic. I’m not going back to the Bullies, I just need to recall players like Roenick, Laperriere and Primeau who regarded it as special to wear the black-and-orange.
Is it safe for me to fall in (sports) love with Nerlens Noel? Since the All-Star break, the skinny kid has been the NBA’s best rookie – a shot-blocking, rebound-grabbing, point-scoring force. In short, everything the Sixers hoped for when they took him with the sixth pick in 2013. I also love that he wants to be part of the franchise’s rebirth. And yet, I foresee the team trading him. Let’s say they get lucky in the lottery and land Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns, to go along with rehabbing Joel Embiid. In the mind of Sam Hinkie, that’s probably one big man too many. Guess I need to hold off buying that No. 4 jersey.
The passing of the legendary Chuck Bednarik opened a debate on who now holds the distinction of Greatest Living Eagle. As Hall of Famers, Tommy McDonald or Bob Brown probably deserve the nod. But I’ll nominate Brian Dawkins (a future Hall of Famer), whose spirit and excellence embodied everything this fan base cheers for. Other at the top of my list: Eric Allen, Bill Bergey, Seth Joyner and – yep – Donovan McNabb. Remember, No. 5 will always love you.