Breaking News

It has been reported that the Flyers are making moves. Talks with defenseman Dan Hamhuis have gone sour and apparently the Flyers have traded his rights to the Penguins for a 2011 3rd round pick. This basically means that we traded Ryan Parent for a 3rd round pick next year. Also, Tim Panaccio told the media that the Flyers are interested in obtaining the rights to negotiate with goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. Things are starting to heat up on the ice this offseason. More to come tomorrow.

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Offense + Pitching = A Phillies Win

The Phillies offense finally decided to give Roy Halladay some run support, but tonight he didn’t need it. Halladay threw seven shutout innings and the Phillies’ bats came alive en route to a 9-0 victory over the Blue Jays. This game was special for a few reasons. First, it was unique because of the fact that the Phillies were officially the road team in tonight’s game. The G-20 Conference is being held in Toronto this week so the series was moved to Philadelphia while still keeping it a home series for the American League Blue Jays. The Phillies looked great at the plate today and showed the patience and power we have been accustomed to seeing from them over the last few seasons. Jimmy Rollins had four walks and Ross Gload had a career high four RBI to lead the Phillies stellar offense. Shane Victorino capped off the scoring in the 8th inning with a solo shot.

Meanwhile, Roy Halladay sparkled against his former club. He pitched 7 innings almost effortlessly, walking one batter and striking out four. It was good for his psyche and that of the Phillies in general that they were able to finally give Doc some run support. His 9-6 record doesn’t accurately represent how good he has really been, and tonight was just a continuation of a great season for the best pitcher in baseball! The Phillies are playing good baseball again with four straight wins, and hopefully they keep on rolling along tomorrow.

In other news, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Edwin Jackson did something that no pitcher had done since Roy Halladay on May 29th, throw a no-hitter. Halladay’s perfect game was the 3rd no hitter of the season, and tonight Edwin Jackson added the league’s 4th of the season. I think it is safe to say that pitching is back in baseball. Jackson was a workhorse tonight, throwing 149 pitches and walking eight batters en route to his 1-0 no hitter. So far we are just about halfway through the season and five pitchers have thrown no hitters: Ubaldo Jimenez (no hitter), Dallas Braden (perfect game), Roy Halladay (perfect game), Armando Gallaraga (perfect game, I don’t care if Jim Joyce missed the call), and most recently, Edwin Jackson (no hitter). Considering I can’t remember the last five no hitters in baseball before this season it is truly remarkable what is going on in the league this year in regards to pitching. People might find it more boring than home runs, but I’m a big fan.

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June 23, 2010: What a Day in Sports

Today was an unforgettable day in the world of sports.  Let’s recap the day by looking at the highlights from sports all across the world:

Wimbledon

To start the day (and to end it), John Isner and Nicolas Mahut played 10 hours of tennis at Wimbledon, making it the longest match in history.  Tied at 59 games in the 5th set, play was suspended due to darkness and will resume for the 3rd day tomorrow.  It is by far the longest game ever played in tennis history and it isn’t even over yet.  The last match that I remember being that long and on such a grand stage was last year’s final match between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick at Wimbledon that went to 30 total games in the 5th set at Wimbledon before Federer broke Roddick.  The 5th set of this match, at over 7 hours long, is probably one of the most stunning events in sports history and it is amazing that we can watch it resume tomorrow.

Update: American John Isner finally won the match today with a 5th set score of 70-68.  The match totalled 183 games, far and away the record.

The World Cup

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks you know that the FIFA World Cup is going on in South Africa, and that team USA had high hopes of competing against the world’s best.  At 10am today USA played their third and final match in their group against bottom dweller Algeria.  If they win, they go on to the Round of 16.  Lose and the are out.  Tie and they need some help to get in.  Well, late in the 2nd half England had pulled off their victory and were moving on, so behind by two points,the USA had to win to advance.  Still tied after 90 minutes the refs gave the game 4 minutes of stoppage time.  One minute was all the USA needed.  Landon Donovan followed up the play on a great run and put a wonderful strike into the back of the net, sending the USA into the next round and allowing them to win their group for the first time since 1930.  Donovan’s goal was probably the most important goal in USA Soccer history and could inspire a new generation of soccer players in the United States.

NHL Free Agency

In a (not so) surprising move, the Chicago Blackhawks relieved some of their cap problems by trading Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, and Brent Sopel to the Atlanta Thrashers for a 1st and 2nd round pick, Marty Reasoner, and a prospect.  This shakeup really shows how dire the Blackhawks’ cap situation really is and makes us question their longevity as a team, something that bodes well for the Flyers.  Even though the Thrashers gave up some good picks in the trade, I think that it was a good move for them.  Having seen what Byfuglien can do first hand, I know they got someone who will irritate the other team and be a force in front of the net, and I really can’t stand the fact that I will have to see him twice this season.  Ben Eager is another tough guy who can help a young team with no real leaders and Brent Sopel gives them a veteran on defense.  Overall, this NHL offseason is getting off to an interesting start, and hopefully the Flyers will make another big splash soon.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Henrik Sedin for winning the Hart Trophy as league MVP.  The Sedin’s haven’t gotten the credit they deserve from the mainstream media (probably because they aren’t Crosby and Ovechkin), and hopefully this is the start of their emergence as faces of the league.  Congrats to Ryan Miller as well for winning the Vezina as the league’s best goaltender, to Duncan Keith for winning the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman, and Tyler Myers for winning the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.

Around Major League Baseball

Stephen Strasburg continues to show why he signed a record contract as the 1st overall pick last season.  The man is a machine.  Tonight he received his first loss, by a score of 1-0.  Strasburg pitched 6 innings and had 9 more strikeouts, bringing his season total to 41 strikeouts in 25.1 innings.  The rookie continues to break records and is even being considered for a spot on the All Star Game in a few weeks.  If he makes two more starts and gets to 60 strikeouts before the break he has my vote.

Josh Hamilton and the Rangers have also been red hot.  The Rangers have won 10 straight games and are well atop the AL West.  Hamilton has been a man on a mission.  In the month of June the Rangers are 17-4 and Josh is batting .476 with 8 HR and 26 RBI.  Thankfully we don’t play them in interleague play, that’s all I’m saying.

Phillies Baseball

Tonight I was fortunate enough to score some tickets to the Phillies vs. Indians game so I got to see them play first-hand for the first time since Roy Halladay got hit around by the Red Sox.  Well, from a pitching perspective, Kyle Kendrick didn’t have it tonight.  He looked very nervous out there, possibly because he saw J.A. Happ making another rehab start and saw his job on the line.  In the first inning Kendrick allowed a leadoff double and then tossed up a meatball to Shin-Soo Choo who crushed a homer to the upper deck in right field.  Their second time around was like deja vu, with another double by Trevor Crowe and another home run by Choo.  After that, Kendrick’s night was done.  The bullpen actually performed well.  Mike Zagurski, who was recently called up from the minors, did a great job coming out of the pen, getting 5 outs with what looked like zero effort.

The Phillies offense wasn’t too shabby either.  Jimmy Rollins, who was only playing in his 2nd game since being back, didn’t look too sharp during the game, but let’s just say he turned it around later.  Jayson Werth hit another opposite/center field home run and Raul Ibanez had a 2 RBI double to give the Phillies a 4-3 lead.  Brian got off the Schneider (I had to use that sorry) by hitting a homer to right to tie the game at 5.  One person who really hit the ball well tonight was Chase Utley, but that won’t show up on the scorecard.  He ripped two balls foul that were no-doubt-about-it home runs and hit another one to the warning track that needed a great catch to avoid an extra base hit.  All in all, Chase was on top of the ball tonight and I really think he has gotten the confidence to break out of his slump.

Back to Jimmy Rollins.  After the Phillies allowed the Indians to take a 6-5 lead (possibly due to some poor managing by Charlie Manuel who should’ve walked Carlos Santana to load the bases and create force outs at each base with 1 out instead of pitching to him), they were down their last chance, the bottom of the 9th.  Jimmy Rollins, who was 0-4 with two miserable looking strikeouts came to the plate.  Watching him in the batter’s box brought back memories of Game 4 against the Dodgers in the NLCS when Jimmy hit a double in the gap to fuel the Phillies’ comeback.  Me, my brother, and my neighbor were discussing that at bat and getting pumped up, hoping Jimmy could provide some more magic tonight, down one run with a man on.  Just then, Jimmy took a Kerry Wood fastball and deposited into the right field seats at Citizen’s Bank Park, hitting his FIRST ever walk off home run and giving the Phillies the 7-6 victory they really needed!  While giving his post-game interview, Shane Victorino emerged from the dugout and gave Rollins his shaving cream pie to the face, showing us that this team still has the confidence and swagger that we’ve seen for the past few seasons.  At 37-32 the Phillies still have a lot of work to do, but the season isn’t even half over yet and we are only 4 games out.  Let’s go Phils!

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What to do at #2? A 76ers Draft Preview

Probably the first time a ball bounced our way all season

Will the Sixers Turn to an Ohio Stater to fix their problems, or do they Favor a Yellow Jacket? Maybe they will take a risky bet on their Cousins to bring them back into contention…

..but enough with the overused puns. Thursday night is the 2010 NBA Draft, one of huge significance for our 76ers. Coming off of a disappointing 27-55 season the Sixers got some lottery luck (unlike our Flyers from 2007) and moved up in the draft to the #2 overall pick.  With this pick they should be able to take a high quality player that they could build around for years to come.

This stroke of luck (and bad play in the previous year) came at just the right time, with a new and highly motivated coach in Doug Collins and the departure of the un-fundamentally sound Samuel Dalembert.  The 76ers have a unique opportunity to start fresh, with a new coach and system to groom a young nucleus of players, and even for a person who isn’t a fan of the NBA you can’t help but have some hope for the Sixers in the coming seasons.

I hate Ohio State, but I'll take it

The consensus choice at this pick (after sensational freshman John Wall goes #1) is Evan Turner, the 6’7 shooting guard from Ohio State.  Turner has been compared to Scottie Pippen and is probably the most athletic and NBA ready player in this year’s underwhelming draft class.  The Sixers were the only team that Turner worked out for so it is highly likely that he will be the pick at #2, but with the departure of Samuel Dalembert there are now some questions about who the Sixers will take.

It has been reported that Doug Collins has fallen in love with Derrick Favors from Georgia Tech and that he also likes the immature, hot-headed, but extremely talented DeMarcus Cousins of Kentucky.  Either player could replace Dalembert at Center and would provide much more offensive skill than Slammin’ Sammy could ever provide.

When is the last time Sammy did that?

Favors, the highly talented Center from Georgia Tech, averaged 12.4 PPG, 8.4 RPG, and 2.1 BPG, while Cousins, the extremely talented freshman from Kentucky, averaged 15.1 PPG, 9.8 RPG, and 1.8 BPG.  A side note on Cousins, when asked if he had ever been challenged in high school he said no.  When he was asked about college, he said no.  Let’s see what he thinks about the challenge that the NBA will bring, but that said, I do like his confidence.

With backcourt options like Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, and Andre Iguodala and a frontcourt including Elton Brand, Thaddeus Young, Marreese Speights, Spencer Hawes, and Andreas Nocioni the Sixers could go any way with the 2nd pick in the draft.

Many analysts who covered the Sixers talked about Andre Iguodala playing out of position in Eddie Jordan’s scheme.  Picking Evan Turner and playing him at the shooting guard position would allow Iguodala to play his natural position as small forward.  With a lineup of Turner, Holiday, Iguodala, Brand/Young, and Speights/Hawes the 76ers could be much improved.

On the other hand, if the Sixers go for a big man in the draft it shows that they have confidence in the development of Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams and they trust them to run the backcourt.  The Sixers haven’t had a dominant big man since Dikembe Mutombo, but even then he was more of a defensive player and didn’t contribute much on offense.  Favors or Cousins could contribute offensively and grow into a strong defensive player.

It could be a while until we see this again

No matter what the Sixers do at #2, or even if they trade down, it will still be a while before they are contenders in the NBA.  The fact is, they are a young team with a new coach that needs to learn how to play as a cohesive unit, and that takes time.  Maybe they could land one of this year’s blockbuster free agents, but as of right now it looks like the Sixers will focus on making the best pick for their team.

Now I don’t know much about basketball (I prefer hockey, baseball, and football), but personally, I think the best pick would be Evan Turner.  As a Penn Stater I saw him tear up the Big Ten even after suffering a serious back injury.  Who knows what they will do though.  After Wall there aren’t any “sure things” in this draft, but Turner is the closest.  Let’s just hope that they pick their Kevin Durant and not their Greg Oden.

As a side note, I would like to mention the passing of former Sixer Manute Bol.  For many years I only knew of him because trivia questions frequently brought up his extraordinary height of 7’7.  I never knew much about the man besides what my dad told me: the fact that he was insanely tall and was a blocking machine, but he was much more than that.

As a native of Sudan, Bol did all he could to try and help his people out of a devastating situation.  His humanitarian efforts didn’t go unnoticed and he was widely regarded as one of the most genuine people in sports.  When watching a highlight clip of his accomplishments they showed a charity event where he even dressed up as a hockey player for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

If you’ve ever watched hockey you know how awkward tall people look when they aren’t comfortable on skates.  Imagine seeing a man over 7 1/2 feet tall on skates.  I, for one, commend him for the effort that he gave throughout his life and it’s sad that a man who gave so much passed away at such a young age.  Hopefully the Sixers will honor Manute Bol and continue his efforts during the season and show the world that the NBA does care.  Hopefully current players can stop playing with guns and drugs and instead focus their free time on things that are more important.

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Flyers Bolster Defense by Trading for Hamhuis

On Saturday the Flyers announced their plan for the offseason: build a stronger team that has the ability to contend for the Cup yet again through free agency.  With no picks in next week’s NHL Draft until the 3rd round the Flyers knew that free agency was going to be key to their success next season.

After the playoffs it was apparent that there were three holes on this team.  First and foremost, the Flyers need a solid goaltender that can be a #1.  Next, they need to develop James van Reimsdyk and/or bring in another forward who has some scoring potential and who can float between the top three lines.  Finally, after relying on the “Core Four” for the playoffs, the Flyers realized that they need another top defenseman.

Well, we can cross one of the three needs off the list.  The Flyers traded the injury-plagued Ryan Parent for the rights to 6-year veteran Dan Hamhuis.  For the past six seasons, Hamhuis has been the most reliable and consistent defenseman on a Nashville Predators team that has been good, but not good enough in a very skilled Western Conference.  At 27 years old, Hamhuis is set to enter his prime, and is ready to win.  This season the Predators got ousted from the playoffs by the Blackhawks in six games, so he should fit in with this hockey club perfectly.

Hamhuis, who has played 483 out of a possible 492 games in his career, brings more consistency to the Flyers blueline that, though great, definitely felt the strain of a long season.  His 22+ minutes of ice time per game should also help save the legs of Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen, who aren’t getting any younger.

As a Flyers fan the addition of a strong defenseman like Hamhuis has to make you ecstatic for next season.  When they sign Hamhuis the Flyers will have three dangerously good defensive pairings.  The young and ever improving Matt Carle learned a lot from Chris Pronger this season, and the two of them should continue to put a pounding on top lines across the league.  Braydon Coburn, who had a very inconsistent season riddled with mistakes, seemed to have reverted back to his 2008 self when playing with the smart, tactful Kimmo Timonen throughout the playoffs.

Whether these pairings are broken up or not remains a mystery, but the addition of Hamhuis gives the Flyers the flexibility and experience to put any of their defensive lines on the ice against any player in this league.  The young Oskars Bartulis definitely benefitted from all of his play this season, whether it was in the Olympics with his native Latvia or during his play throughout the season and playoffs, so even pairing Dan with Oskars could produce high quality results.

The fact is, the Flyers now have, arguably, the best defense in the NHL due to this acquisition.  Not only does Hamhuis add a strong defensive presence, he was Nashville’s top penalty killer and he even contributed on the scoreboard every now and again.  Now the just need to sign him to a deal.  After swapping rights with the Predators the Flyers now have until July 1st to sign Hamhuis to a contract before he becomes a free agent.  I’m very confident that the Flyers will be able to do this because for once they actually have room under the cap, and since we just made a run to the Finals I’m sure Hamhuis would be pretty happy to play in Philadelphia.

So, for now, the Flyers have solved question #1 on their three part quiz for the summer.  With Jaroslav Halak being traded to the Blues there are less quality goalies on the market, but let’s hope that the Flyers can make a few more big splashes in this already interesting offseason.

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