At a time when fans have supported the Phillies with their money and their hearts, the team has responded with disrespect and deceit. The biggest thing lacking from our 2012 ballclub is not hitting or pitching. It's honesty.

 

From the very first day of spring training, the pattern of lies was established. It all began when GM Ruben Amaro Jr. disclosed that Chase Utley was going to proceed slowly this spring because of his brittle knees. Slowly? Didn't Utley finish the 2011 season reasonably healthy? And didn't he have four months of rest after that?

 

The explanation seemed illogical, but we all went along with it for a couple of weeks, as Utley disappeared from sight. When I visited the spring training complex two weeks ago, Utley was treated like a mob snitch in the Federal Witness Protection Program. The only thing more elusive was an honest answer as to why he still hadn't played a single exhibition game.

 

There was no reason for Amaro to deceive the fans with his assurances that Utley was fine. Eventually, we were all going to know the truth, weren't we? And now we do.

 

First, Utley headed to an undisclosed location last week for a series of clandestine examinations, and then -- after another six days of insulting silence -- he finally said he has started a new rehab program with no timetable for a full recovery.

An angry debate has erupted over the past few days about who is most to blame for this mess, the ultrasecretive Utley or the paranoid Phillies. Does it really matter? A team already struggling for offense has lost its No. 3 hitter. The Phils are officially in trouble, and now they have a deepening credibility gap, to boot.

And speaking of boots, we also have the ongoing fiasco involving Ryan Howard. The slugger removed a protective boot from his surgically repaired left foot last Thursday, exactly 17 days after we were told it would be on for only about a week. Howard sports an open wound in the incision on his Achilles tendon, the result of an infection that the Phils still refuse to call a setback.

The Phillies had the highest attendance in baseball last year, at 3.68 million. They also had the top local TV ratings in the game, the ninth consecutive year of increased viewership. The value of the team, according to Forbes magazine, went up $114 million in the past 12 months, to a record $723 million.

For all of this, the team has responded with weasel words and blatant lies. What Amaro and the rest of his truth-challenged aides need to understand now -- today -- is that the fans who have stormed through the gates of Citizens Bank Park for the past decade can turn right around and stampede out the same way.

If the Phils keep treating their fans this way, believe me, they will.

Reid still not in control


The very last thing an Eagles fan needed to hear was that Andy Reid has won a power struggle within the organization and re-established final say over personnel.

Fortunately, the story was complete bunk. Reid is one season away from having no power -- and no job.

Despite the report in the Los Angeles Times, Reid never lost the last word on who plays for the Eagles, and who coaches for them, too. All you need to know is that Juan Castillo was the defensive coordinator last season. Is anyone else capable of making a decision that blindly loyal? Not a chance.

The danger in the report -- if it were true -- is that it implies Reid has regained some footing since the bitter news conference by owner Jeff Lurie in which the coach was given a public win-or-else ultimatum. If anything, Reid seems to be losing his voice within the front office. Exhibit A is new middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans.

Whether Ryans has fully recovered from Achilles surgery in 2010 really is not as important as who brought him here. Did Reid instantly change his philosophy on linebackers, or did he get a nudge from bosses who are planning for life without him? Bringing in an injured player at a bargain price sounds more like something from president Joe Banner's playbook, doesn't it?

The best guess is that Reid made the final decision, with a hearty shove by the guys above him. The coach should expect the next push to be an even stronger one -- right out the door.

Best in the Bryz-ness


The sports world is full of surprises, and there is no more bizarre twist than this: Our best chance for another parade rests on the twitchy shoulders of Ilya Bryzgalov.

That's right. The unpredictable Russian goalie who started the season so horribly is emerging as the star of the Flyers and holds the immediate championship fate of an entire city in his gloves. He is more important to our current sports fortunes than Roy Halladay, Mike Vick, or anybody on the Sixers.

Let's be realistic for a second. Does anybody really believe that the Phillies are going to repeat the magic of 2008? Without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard? And the Eagles aren't going to rebound from 8-8 behind a brittle Vick and clueless Juan Castillo. Deep down, you know that. Just as you understand the Sixers are one-and-done again.

Bryzgalov presents an interesting new proposition, a player who has spent the past month hiding the many flaws of his teammates with the best sustained goaltending the Flyers have seen since Ron Hextall. If Bryzgalov can steal so many games in March, why not in May and June? Why can't he become the craziest, most exhilarating story in Philadelphia sports history?

- Angelo Cataldi is the host of 94 WIP's Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

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