Thursday, February 25, 2010

What does the future hold for LaDainian Tomlinson and Brian Westbrook?

Philadelphia Eagles v San Diego Chargers

So—the harsh realities of player career mortality and the NFL's business side have struck again. A couple of the most beloved players of two different franchises have been unceremoniously released less than 24 hours apart.

First, LaDainian Tomlinson was released by the San Diego Chargers on Monday. Then, before Philly fans could spend too much time wondering how Bolts fans might be feeling, the Eagles followed suit with a similar announcement about Brian Westbrook.

For most every Eagles fan, even if they saw it coming, yesterday was still a very sad day. Westbrook has been a class act and surely one of the most electrifying and accomplished players who has ever worn an Eagles uniform.

In the space of one year, Birds fans have seen two of the team's all-time greats and most popular players walk out the door. Last February, of course, it was Brian Dawkins trading in his midnight green attire for orange and blue. And, now, it is Westbrook who is leaving with destination unknown.

Twelve months later, the wounds of Dawkins exit have yet to heal, especially since they have been frequently brushed open by seeing him continue to flourish in Denver while the obvious void left behind was painfully exposed.

Although the circumstances are different, Philly faithful will surely feel a similar emptiness as their team takes the field when the curtain goes up on next year's NFL season and "Westy" is nowhere to be found.

On the left coast, Chargers fans must be feeling much the same way as they wave goodbye to the best running back in its team history—by a long shot. LT is also one of the most accomplished players in NFL history as well, currently standing third all-time in touchdowns behind Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith, and eighth in rushing with 12,490 yards.

Both running backs share many similarities, which will surely be scrutinized around the league as personnel departments evaluate whether each might be a worthy addition to their own club.

The market for 30+ year old players at their position has historically been limited.

If, and where, each player lands with another club will be highly dependent upon individual circumstances, assessment of physical condition, finances, and personal preference.

The following is a breakdown to assess the situation and perhaps get a glimpse of what the future might hold for these two.

A look back at greatness.

Tomlinson came into the league in 2001 and Westbrook a year later, but followed different paths. LT immediately jumped into a featured back role that lasted throughout his career while Westbrook transitioned from a shared role over the first half of his career.

Additionally, Tomlinson stayed injury free for the majority of his career and racked up the more prolific numbers. LT has been recognized with three All-Pro selections, five Pro Bowls and a plethora of MVP/Player of the Year awards for his 2006 season.

Westbrook has made two Pro Bowl appearances and was elected to the All-Pro Team in 2007. Although his numbers are somewhat modest in comparison to LT, Eagles fans can attest that his contributions were similarly huge.

Tomlinson Rushing: 2,880-12,490 yards, 4.3 avg , 138 TD

Receiving: 530-3,955 yards, 7.5 avg, 15 TD

Combined: 16,445 yards, 153 TD

Westbrook Rushing: 1,308-5,995 yards, 4.6 avg, 37 TD

Receiving: 426-3,790 yards, 8.9 avg, 29 TD

Combined: 9,785 yards, 68 TD

What's left in the tank?

After enjoying spectacular seasons in 2007, both players similarly experienced a drop off in productivity the next year due to injuries. It became more pronounced in 2009 as their numbers markedly declined again.

In Tomlinson's case, he injured his toe and has never seemed to regain his trademark explosiveness. The most telling indicator was his career low 3.3 yards per carry in 2009, leading to by far his lowest rushing output at 730 yards.

The situation was a little bit different for Westbrook, though. He continued to battle chronic knee and ankle injuries; however, what kept him off the field were a pair of concussions. But, when he did get on the field, he often flashed the same darting, elusive style that made him one of the NFL's best players a couple seasons earlier.

Who might be interested?

Considering each player's injury history over the past two years, declining productivity, and age, it is doubtful that any team would consider either of them as a featured back. However, since both players have been highly effective running screens and circling out of the backfield throughout their careers, they might be attractive in a specialty back role.

Economics surely come into play as teams would only be interested if the contractual terms matched the more limited role. It remains to be seen whether these former All-Pro's are willing to accept a greatly reduced base salary, perhaps with some performance bonuses.

My suspicion is that Tomlinson would be more inclined to accept those terms due to his desire to win a Super Bowl, the urge to show he still can play, and his previous earnings. For Westbrook, he will need to weigh whether it is worth the risk of future head trauma, but the right opportunity with a championship contender might be enough of a carrot.

The list of potential suitors would be pretty similar, although Westbrook might only consider a viable Super Bowl contender or a team with a personal connection. LT might be additionally enticed by the chance for more touches.

Naming names.

Unfortunately, in both cases the inability to simply renegotiate a contract similar to what is likely to be offered by another club would have been a win/win; however, that is generally a rare occurrence without the benefit of market value validation and perhaps as each side plays a game of "chicken."

But, it would seem that the Chargers could use a Westbrook and the Eagles could now use a Tomlinson in this newly defined role. Could each involved team be interested in the other's former player?

Here are some possibilities for each player:


1. Denver Broncos- They collect running backs, don't they?

2. Washington Redskins- Shanahan might like to get him on his side for once.

3. Minnesota Vikings- May need a replacement for Chester Taylor.

4. Seattle Seahawks- Could make a good combo with Justin Forsett.

5. Houston Texans- Could use some star power and LT's skills.

6. Philadelphia Eagles- He could run the Wildcat and spell LeSean McCoy.

7. New England Patriots- Belichick loves veteran runners who can catch.


1. Any team that would acquire Donovan McNabb.

2. Minnesota Vikings- May need a replacement for Chester Taylor.

3. Green Bay Packers- Great addition to spell Ryan Grant.

4. Washington Redskins- As long as his brother is on the roster.

5. Denver Bronocs- Reunite with good friend Dawk?

6. San Diego Chargers- Rivers needs a veteran to run screens.

7. New England Patriots- Belichick loves veteran runners who can catch.

How would they fit?

Tomlinson could surely fit in a back-up role, particularly behind a bigger primary ball carrier. In San Diego, the mercurial Darren Sproles served as the third down back, but LT could easily fit into that type of role. And, in this age of Wildcat fascination, his 7 passing TD's might grab the attention of offensive coordinators.

Switching to a third down specialty back role would be a remarkably easy transition for Westbrook as he would be returning to his NFL roots. Besides being a proficient blocker, with a reduced role taking pressure off his knees and ankles, Westbrook could still be one of the best screen receivers in the league.

What will teams consider?

Cost/benefit and risk/reward will be the two critical elements. Neither would come without risk, so structuring a deal that limits fixed costs and pays for performance seems to be almost a necessity.

In the case of Westbrook, medical clearance regarding any ongoing neurological issues is a deal breaker. With increased scrutiny and concern about the ongoing well being of players with multiple head traumas, some teams might opt not to put themselves in a weekly position of making such decision.

Another factor relates to the veteran presence and leadership each would bring to their new team. Both players have strong track records in this regard.

Which player has more value now?

This is really a tough call and there is no clear answer. Tomlinson is the safer bet, but Westbrook has the bigger upside.

The former Charger was reportedly healthy in 2009, yet clearly never displayed the same ability to dart through creases and explode into open spaces. On the other hand, he was on the field much more throughout the season and does not have ongoing injury concerns.

This opposite is true of Westbrook. His last touch was a 27-yard catch and run in the Wild Card game that evoked memories of the 2007 version of the former Eagle. When he got on the field, he often seemed to still have his signature wiggle and elusiveness.

But, everyone knows that he is one bad hit away from retirement. Another concussion and he might well call it a career. Also, his knee is balky and both ankles are less than 100 percent.

The bottom line is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My guess is both will sign on with other teams.

LT will last as long as he is productive in his given role. Westy will last as long as his body is willing.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

2010 NFL Draft: Eight Prospects the Philadelphia Eagles Should Be Targeting

Arizona v USC

As NFL teams embark on the annual offseason process of evaluating their existing personnel and identifying team needs, the landscape will be different this year. With the absence of a collective bargaining agreement, teams will need to do it the old fashioned way.

Specifically, filling team needs will mostly have to come through trades and the draft since free agent movement will be very limited. Considering that NFL GM's have largely displaced the art of trading in a world cluttered with caponomics and combine rankings, it would be unreasonable to expect very many player for player trades.

Accordingly, this leads clubs back to the draft to fill current and future voids on their particular team. This becomes even further refined for the Philadelphia Eagles, who like their brethren across the street, are likely staring at a relatively finite window of opportunity.

Barring a trade, Donovan McNabb is currently the team's starting quarterback- and at the age of 33 projects to have 3 or 4 more years of prime production.

Additionally, as I detailed a few weeks ago in The Philadelphia Eagles: Seven Semi-Controversial Steps to a Super Bowl Title, despite a disappointing and revealing season ending, it seems that a handful of reinforcements could put the Eagles back into the Super Bowl mix.

So, simply put- the time is now. With the clock ticking and the fanbase becomingly increasingly restless, the Eagles would be very wise to avoid projects in the draft and set their sights on players who can make an immediate impact.

Certainly, this equation could change significantly if the team decides to move McNabb and install Kevin Kolb as their starting QB. But, with this situation yet to unfold, the assumption here is that McNabb will be behind center come September.

Right now, the team has the following picks: 1st round (24), 2nd round (23), 3rd round (6), 3rd round (23), 4th round (23), 4th round (29), 6th round (31)

Considering team needs and the current scenario, here are the players that the Eagles should target in the upcoming draft.

1 Taylor Mays S USC Round 1

6' 3" 231 pounds 4.45 40 Time

A few weeks ago, Taylor Mays looked tailor-made for the Eagles, but likely out of their reach at the 24th slot in the first round. Subsequently, due to a somewhat lackluster showing during Senior Bowl week, many concerns arose about his pass coverage ability and Mays has dropped in many rankings.

This could prove to be a win-win for the Eagles as he fills the teams greatest need and might now fall to them at 24. Mays is one of those rare freaks of nature that combines size, speed and athleticism. And, importantly, he brings the wood by delivering the type of bone jarring hits that was sorely missing with the departure of Brian Dawkins.

After being revered by scouts a year ago, the buzz started to surface and then hit a full crescendo at the Senior Bowl that Mays did not possess the instincts or footwork to cover NFL receivers.

For Philadelphians though, he may represent the closest facsimile to the beloved Dawkins and would appear to be a great fit for their defensive scheme. "Dawk" was never known for his pure cover skills, and proved in recent years, that a hard hitting free safety with the versatility to support the run, blitz the quarterback, force some turnovers, and intimidate pass catchers across the middle is most important.

2 Sean Weatherspoon OLB Missouri Round 1

6' 1" 241 pounds 4.54 40 Time

The Missouri outside linebacker is the type of highly athletic, scheme diverse player that the Eagles lacked a season ago. With the absence of Stewart Bradley, opponents took advantage of the team's need to rotate personnel to mask deficiencies.

At season's end, the Dallas Cowboys took this to an entirely different level by simply using the personnel to read the defensive play call and adjust accordingly. Tony Romo repeatedly called audibles to exploit the formations and weaknesses of the Eagles players on the field.

Sean Weatherspoon fits the Eagles 4-3 scheme, possessing the size and athleticism to defend the run, drop into coverage and still rush the passer off the edge. He also has the bulk to slide into the middle if necessary should Bradley be delayed in his recovery.

Weatherspoon is also the type of vocal, fiery leader on the field that has been lacking since Dawkins left town. Scouts see him as football smart with a knack for being in the right position, which Eagles fans did not always witness with last year's linebacking corps.

The Eagles can ill afford to repeat last year's mix and match approach at linebacker. They also would be very wise to alter recent protocol of sacrificing size for speed.

3 Navorro Bowman OLB Penn State Round 1-2

6' 1" 232 pounds 4.65 40 Time

Football pundits are mixed in the assessment of Navorro Bowman and project him going anywhere from late in the first round to the end of the second round. Most everyone agrees, though, that he is probably a mid-first round talent.

So what's the rub? Bowman has had some brushes with the law and been on probation a couple times over his stay in Happy Valley, so his character and maturity are in question.

If the Eagles staff can get comfortable that these incidents relate to a kid making some bad decisions, but will not be an ongoing problem, Bowman would bring similar skill sets as Weatherspoon. Similarly, he has the potential to be a defensive stalwart for years to come with star potential.

The junior linebacker has already completed his degree and feels that he is ready for the NFL. His size, speed, instincts, and big play capability would be a great addition to the Eagles defense.

4 Nate Allen S South Florida Round 1-2

6' 1" 205 pounds 4.50 40 Time

South Florida's Nate Allen has been moving up the rankings, perhaps as teams consider him with Mays moving in the opposite direction. There is growing sentiment that Allen has better all around skills than Mays, but does not have the same high ceiling.

Although he does not quite possess the same stature, Allen does have ample height and bulk to fill the Eagles needs. He has also been a playmaker with ballhawking abilities and the range to play "centerfield."

Like Dawkins, he was a team captain, vocal leader, and a physical tackler. Having flown a bit under the radar, the Eagles could potentially move down into the last first or early second round and pick up a very solid player for the important free safety position.

5 Donovan Warren CB Michigan Round 2-3

6' 0" 185 pounds 4.40 40 Time

Could the Eagles use another Donovan? Absolutely, if it is Michigan's cornerback Donovan Warren.

Warren is still a potential value pick as he has been somewhat underrated and had once been slotted in the third round. Some scouts expect his stock to rise further once he gets more exposure at the Combine, so the likelihood of grabbing him in the third round appears to continue to drop.

The cornerback is fast, athletic, and physical— equally adept at playing the run and pass. Many love his intangibles as he is highly confident and competitive.

Grabbing a true stud safety would be ideal for the Eagles, but Warren would provide options if that does not happen. Either Sheldon Brown or Warren could slide over to play the safety position. Of course, adding depth at cornerback is never a bad thing.

6 Chris Cook CB Virginia Round 3-4

6' 2" 185 pounds 4.45 40 Time

Virginia's Chris Cook impressed scouts during Senior Bowl week. He displayed a great deal of raw talent with substantial upside.

Cook is lanky, but scouts are impressed with his smoothness and ability to maneuver. His size will allow him to play press coverage and would fit the Eagles scheme, especially with Asante Samuel lacking in that capability.

If he were to drop to the fourth round, Andy Reid would have to think hard before passing him up with one of the team's two picks.

7 Myron Rolle S Florida State Round 3-4

6' 2" 218 pounds 4.60 40 Time

Most scouts did not know what to expect with Myron Rolle when they assembled for Senior Bowl week. He elected to forego his senior year at FSU to study abroad as a Rhodes Scholar, so there was a great deal of skepticism whether he would return in shape or truly interested in an NFL career.

Most everyone was pleasantly surprised to see that he had remained in top physical condition and overall showed well throughout the week. Most teams still see him as a gamble due to being away from the game for a year and his interest in becoming a neurosurgeon.

Conversely, he is obviously very intelligent as well as an excellent physical specimen. Rolle has the size and strength to defend the run and range from sideline to sideline. While at Florida State, and during Senior Bowl week, Rolle showed excellent cover skills as well.

If the Eagles do not grab a safety earlier in the draft, Rolle might be a steal in the third or fourth round. His combination of athleticism, intelligence, character, and leadership are very rare—and would do well in midnight green.

8 Eric Berry S Tennessee Round 1

5' 11" 195 pounds 4.40 40 Time

This might be a pipe dream, but stranger things have happened. This scenario would have the Eagles trading Kevin Kolb and their first pick to the St. Louis Rams or Cleveland Browns in exchange for their No. 1 pick— then take Eric Berry.

With a little luck, Berry could drop to the seventh slot, and if he does, the Eagles should jump on this opportunity. The scenario with the Rams might be an even longer shot since they have the first pick overall, but considering that there is not a clear consensus top player who stands above the crowd, it might be doable.

The Rams would get a starting QB to build around and another first round talent to plug into one of their many holes. Meanwhile, the Eagles would get a true difference maker on defense who would fill a glaring void.

Many scouts and pundits compare Berry to Ravens All-Pro Ed Reed in terms of style of play and impact. If the Eagles could pick up a player with Reed-like impact, they could be a top ten defense for year's to come— not to mention a Super Bowl participant next February.

The Final Word

The Philadelphia Eagles have rarely stood pat on draft day in the Andy Reid era. They have either traded up or down based on their value board, so it is reasonable to expect a similar approach this April.

With six picks in the first four rounds, the Eagles have a good chance to grab at least two or three of these players. Their most pressing needs are clearly free safety and outside linebacker—and it is critical that they come away with talented players ready to step into the roles immediately.

Beyond that, need positions to address in the draft are cornerback, defensive end, and running back. You can add quarterback and move it up to the No. 3 spot if the team trades Kolb.

Lastly, this is not the year to draft an offensive lineman. The Eagles should look to fill any need this season by signing an aging veteran, even if it means releasing the Andrews brothers.

For many reasons, this year's draft is one of the most important for the Eagles in the past decade. If they sign one or two impact free agents and they play their cards right here, they could come away big winners with a team prepared to compete for a title.

Philadelphia Eagles Top 10 Individual Offensive Seasons (Gen X Edition)– Part 6

Philadelphia Eagles Top 10 Individual Offensive Seasons (Gen X Edition)- Part 6 of a 10 Part Series

5 Wilbert Montgomery 1981

Wilbert Montgomery rebounded from any Super Bowl XV hangover with a spectacular all around season in 1981. He was the catalyst on an Eagles offense that finished ranked no. 5 in the NFL.

In just 15 games, Wilbert rolled up 1,402 yards, gaining 4.9 yards per carry. He also recorded 49 receptions for 521 yards– a 10.6 yard per catch average. Both his rushing and yards from scrimmage (1,923) totals are the third highest in team history. And, as was the case throughout his career, Montgomery had a nose for the end zone, scoring 10 TD's.

Rushing: 286-1,402 yards, 4.9 Avg, 8 TD

Receiving: 49-521 yards, 10.6 Avg, 2 TD

Scrimmage Yards: 1,923 yards, 10 TD

Phillies All-Time Line Up—Conclusion

Dodgers and Phillies meet for Game Five of NLCS in Los Angeles

Philadelphia Phillies All-Time Line Up (Final)


So, there you have it– the Phillies All-Time Line-up:

Richie Ashburn- CF

Chase Utley- 2B

Mike Schmidt- 3B

Ryan Howard- 1B

Chuck Klein- RF

Del Ennis- LF

Jimmy Rollins- SS

Mike Lieberthal- C

Steve Carlton- P

Much of the fun in this type of exercise comes from the ensuing debate. In that spirit, let me know what you think? Did I get it about right, totally nail it, miss on a couple or make a mess of it? Who would you add or subtract? How would the current Phillies team fare against the All-Time team?

Philadelphia Phillies All-Time Line Up

Batting First: Richie Ashburn- Center Field

Batting Second: Chase Utley- Second Base

Batting Third: Mike Schmidt- Third Base

Batting Fourth: Ryan Howard- First Base

Batting Fifth: Chuck Klein- Right Field

Batting Sixth: Del Ennis- Left Field

Phillies All-Time Line Up—Batting Seventh: Jimmy Rollins- Shortstop

Phillies All-Time Line Up—Batting Eighth: Mike Lieberthal- Catcher

Phillies All-Time Line Up—Batting Ninth: Steve Carlton-Pitcher

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Phillies All-Time Line Up—Batting Ninth: Steve Carlton-Pitcher

Philadelphia Phillies All-Time Line Up (Part 9 of a 9 Part Series)

This is the other potential hot debate. Grover Cleveland Alexander is a true legend of the game, a Hall of Famer who posted some spectacular numbers in Philadelphia. Additionally, Robin Roberts recorded 234 wins in his brilliant career while in a Phillies uniform and is a fellow member of the exclusive club recognizing all-time baseball greats.

The two provide stiff competition for the final selection to the Phillies Dream team, but after careful deliberation, Steve Carlton gets this writer's vote. And, as deserving as the other two icons may be, I offer no apologies for selecting "Lefty."

Carlton, of course, was a first ballot Hall of Fame selection, too, who rung up 329 victories to place 11th all-time. Factoring out the four years that he hung on too long and his first two years when he saw limited action, an average Carlton campaign was 17-11 over 18 seasons. He also amassed the fourth highest strikeout total in MLB history with 4,136.

Lefty gave his best years to the Phillies, accumulating a 241-161 record with a 3.09 ERA- winning four Cy Young Awards in the process. Five times he eclipsed 20 wins in a Phils uniform, including one of the best seasons in the history of baseball.

After being acquired from the Cardinals prior to the 1972 season, Carlton pitched 346 innings on his way to posting a 27-10 record, 1.97 ERA, 8 shutouts, and 310 strikeouts. What made this particular season almost astonishing was that he did it on a last place club that only won 59 games. Putting that in perspective, he personally accounted for 46% of his team's total wins that year.

Although Alexander tallied a 190-91 record and 2.18 ERA in Philadelphia, and is third all-time in Major League Baseball with 373 wins, I still have a hard time getting over the era in which he played.

Alexander's career spanned 1911-1930 and a huge chunk of his wins were registered at a time when 8 -12 HR's would lead the league. It was also a time when leagues were still racially segregated.

Another factor that helped tip the scale relate to the success of the club while Carlton was the staff ace. The 10-time All-Star anchored a team that made six trips to the postseason, won two National League Championships and the 1980 World Championship.

Sporting a mid-90's fastball and arguably the best slider in the history of the game, Carlton was truly one of the most dominating pitchers of his period and all-time. Well, maybe with a small apology to Alexander (may he rest in peace), I'll stand by Lefty.


Phillies 241 161 .600 3.09 1252 3031 39 0

Career 329 244 .574 3.22 1833 4136 55 2

Honorable Mention:

Grover Cleveland Alexander- See above.

Robin Roberts- Carlton and Alexander edge out Roberts in the rankings due to his higher ERA and lower winning percentage.

Philadelphia Phillies All-Time Line Up

Batting First: Richie Ashburn- Center Field

Batting Second: Chase Utley- Second Base

Batting Third: Mike Schmidt- Third Base

Batting Fourth: Ryan Howard- First Base

Batting Fifth: Chuck Klein- Right Field

Batting Sixth: Del Ennis- Left Field

Phillies All-Time Line Up—Batting Seventh: Jimmy Rollins- Shortstop

Phillies All-Time Line Up—Batting Eighth: Mike Lieberthal- Catcher

Monday, February 22, 2010

Philadelphia Eagles Top 10 Individual Offensive Seasons (Gen X Edition): No. 6 Brian Westbrook 2006

Philadelphia Eagles v Oakland Raiders

Philadelphia Eagles Top 10 Individual Offensive Seasons (Gen X Edition) Part 5 of a 10 Part Series

6 Brian Westbrook 2006

After sharing backfield duties for his first four seasons, Brian Westbrook was finally handed the featured back role in 2006. He did not disappoint as he turned in the team's fourth highest yards from scrimmage totals (1,916) in team history.

With Donovan McNabb being lost to a knee injury, Westbrook was forced to play the lead role and came up big down the stretch. The Eagles rode Westy and back-up QB Jeff Garcia to five wins in the last six games to capture the NFC Eastern Division crown.

For the season, Westbrook accumulated 1,217 yards rushing at a hefty 5.1 yards a pop. He also hauled in 77 passes totaling 699 yards, while racking up 11 TD's.

Rushing: 240-1,217 yards, 5.1 Avg, 7 TD

Receiving: 77-699 yards, 9.1 Avg, 4 TD

Scrimmage Yards: 2,104 yards, 11 TD

Phillies All-Time Line Up—Batting Eighth: Mike Lieberthal- Catcher

Philadelphia Phillies All-Time Line Up (Part 8 of a 9 Part Series)

Detroit Tigers v Philadelphia Phillies

This is probably one of the two most controversial and debatable players in the line-up. From a stats perspective, Mike Lieberthal belongs on the team, but many discount his accomplishments because he played in a down period in Philadelphia and was not viewed as a classic receiver.

During his 13 seasons in Philly, the team never once qualified for the postseason. Accordingly, purists argue that Bob Boone was the best backstop in the team's history as his career aligned with one of the greatest periods of prosperity in team history.

Lieberthal was clearly the better offensive player, hitting for a decent average and with some pop in his bat. His best season was 1999 when he hit .300 with 31 HR's, and 96 RBI's. Overall, he batted .275 in his Phillies career with a .450 slugging percentage.

Boone hit for a 16 point lower batting average and 80 point lower slugging percentage. And, while Lieberthal never experienced the postseason, Boone played on six different clubs that advanced to the playoffs and, of course, the 1980 World Championship team.

Although his team's top pitcher preferred not to pitch to him, Boone was recognized around baseball for his defensive excellence as he garnered 7 Gold Glove Awards. He was also elected to four All-Star squads versus two for Lieberthal.

"Lieby" never carried the reputation with the glove, but he was recognized with one Gold Glove. In terms of throwing, "Booney" gunned out 10% more runners over his career.

This is a true toss-up, but because Lieberthal was more than adequate behind the plate and substantially better at the plate, he gets the nod.


Phillies 528 150 609 .275 8 .338 .450

Career 534 150 610 .274 8 .337 .446

Honorable Mention:

Bob Boone- See above.

Darren Daulton- "Dutch" was a key leader on the Phillies 1993 last-to-first World Series team. He played 14 of his 15 seasons in red pinstripes, but did not find his hitting stroke until mid-way through his career. Daulton blossomed in 1992, putting together back-to-back years that were amongst the organization's best for a catcher. In '92, he clubbed 27 HR's, drove in an NL leading 109 runs and hit .270 with a .385 OBP. He followed that up with 24 HR's, 105 RBI's, a .257 batting average and a .392 OBP. Dutch was on his way to his best season in 1994 when he got injured and never regained the same form.

Philadelphia Phillies All-Time Line Up

Batting First: Richie Ashburn- Center Field

Batting Second: Chase Utley- Second Base

Batting Third: Mike Schmidt- Third Base

Batting Fourth: Ryan Howard- First Base

Batting Fifth: Chuck Klein- Right Field

Batting Sixth: Del Ennis- Left Field

Phillies All-Time Line Up—Batting Seventh: Jimmy Rollins- Shortstop

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Philadelphia Eagles Top 10 Individual Offensive Seasons (Gen X Edition)– Part 4

Philadelphia Eagles Top 10 Individual Offensive Seasons (Gen X Edition) (Part 4 of a 9 Part Series)

7 Mike Quick 1983

In 1982, a disappointed Dick Vermeil settled for Mike Quick in the first round of the NFL draft after his prized target was "stolen away" before their turn to pick. After learning the ropes for one season in a supporting role, Quick rapidly demonstrated in 1983 how lucky Vermeil and the Eagles truly were to land him.

That season, the aptly named wide receiver got off to a running start and by season's end had arguably assembled the best year for a receiver in team history. He racked up a team record 1,409 yards on 69 receptions– for a phenomenal 20.4 yards per catch. Quick also found the end zone 13 times, a team record that was later broken by Owens in 2004.

The five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro provided a rare combination of abilities. Quick possessed excellent hands, speed to separate, a knack to make ball adjustments often resulting in acrobatic catches, and elusiveness after he had secured the ball. Although he went on to have a fine career, 1983 was truly special.

Receiving: 69-1,409 yards, 20.4 Avg, 13 TD

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Philadelphia Phillies: Key No. 2- Can Cole Hamels Go Back to the Future?

The Philadelphia Phillies 5 Keys to the 2010 Season (Part 2 of a 5 Part Series)

MLB 2008 - NLCS Game5 - Phillies Beat Dodgers 5-1

A significant factor in Ruben Amaro's decision to trade Cliff Lee relates to his "leap of faith" that this season's version of Cole Hamels will look a lot like the 2008 model.

If the Phillies hope to have another successful season, Amaro and everyone else in the organization know full well that it will require a return to form by the young pitcher who's stock had been sky rocketing until experiencing some heavy turbulence last season. This certainly applies to the fate of the regular season, but will be especially critical in the spaced, short series format of the postseason tournament.

As the Yankees demonstrated, along with many teams before them, two top notch starting pitchers at the top of the rotation can provide a decided advantage towards navigating to a championship. And, surely, two dominant hurlers taking the ball four or five games in a short series has been a proven postseason formula. The 2002 Arizona Diamondbacks are the poster boys for this approach.

Last season, the Phillies proved the inverse to be true as well. The wheels teetered a little in the playoffs, but finally came off the bus in the World Series when the team could not follow up Lee's other worldly performances with the type of quality outing expected of a true No. 2 starter.

This is not to suggest that last year's World Series defeat all falls on Hamels, although his now infamous comments after another failed performance suggest that he was seemingly feeling his team's collective weight on his shoulders. Pedro Martinez kept the team afloat in the playoffs by filling the void, but when his life raft started to leak in the Fall Classic, the hole in the rotation's second slot was glaringly exposed as the 2008 Phillies' achilles heel.

Of course, it would be foolish to get ahead of ourselves since there is a full 162 game marathon in between to determine who will compete in the year-end tournament. Simply put, there will be no need to worry about the postseason rotation if the team does not qualify in the regular season race.

To that point, it cannot be overstated to say that Hamels will be instrumental in his team's chances of both garnering a fourth consecutive National League Eastern Division crown and a playoff spot. The competition has gotten tougher and the current construct of the squad puts pressure squarely on the shoulders of the starters to perform to their potential.

The team can ill afford the potential death spiral triggered by faltering starting pitching leading to a burned out bullpen. There is little reason to believe that Roy Halladay will be anything other than a rock at the top of the rotation– an unquestionable ace that harkens back to the days of Steve Carlton.

Accordingly, the discussion and scrutiny begins with the pitcher who will be handed the ball the following day. As was covered yesterday, the rotation's fifth slot is currently a large question mark at best and has the potential to be a season long trouble spot, so this just ups the ante for Hamels.

Besides avoiding undo stress on the relief corps, a solid season by Hamels will greatly diffuse pressure on J.A. Happ as he embarks on the encore challenge that comes with winning "The Sporting News Rookie of the Year." And, a strong season the likes of Hamels' 2007 and 2008 seasons (that resulted in a combined 29-15 record) will evoke an air of invincibility throughout the clubhouse.

After entering last season with an intense hangover induced by an offseason of celebrating a starring role in the Phillies second World Series Championship, Hamels struggled with injury, shaken confidence and ultimately the growing frustration of unmet expectations.

Having learned a valuable lesson that so many before him have also experienced, this season will presumably be different. The young hurler reportedly dedicated himself to a regimen of physical preparation through the offseason that was largely missing a year agoand the presence of Halladay with his "lead-by-example" work ethic will only help.

A quick start would not only bolster the somewhat tenuous confidence of Hamels, but it would also send a ripple of positive current through his teammates. But, for that to happen, "Hollywood" will need to re-gain command of his curveball and revitalize his signature change-up to the point of restoring his confidence to throw it at anytime in the count.

The Phillies' "No. 2" needs to find the form that had fans, pundits and players singing his praises throughout the previous two seasons before encountering last year's difficulties. For 2010 and probably beyond, Ruben Amaro and the Phillies are banking on Cole Hamels going back to the future to once again become the guy they rode to a World Championship.

Philadelphia Eagles Top 10 Individual Offensive Seasons (Gen X Edition)– Part 3

Philadelphia Eagles Top 10 Individual Offensive Seasons (Gen X Edition) (Part 3 of a 10 Part Series)

8 Ron Jaworski 1980

Philadelphia Eagles v San Francisco 49ers

It is not mere coincidence that the Eagles made their first Super Bowl appearance in Ron Jaworksi's finest professional season. With star running back Wilbert Montgomery limited due to injury during the season, the Eagles relied more heavily on Jaws' right arm on the way to a 12-4 regular season.

The "Polish Rifle" earned the "Bert Bell NFL Player of the Year Award," the UPI All NFC Team, and his only Pro Bowl appearance for his efforts. In 1980, Jaws registered full season career bests in yards (3,529), touchdowns (27), interceptions (12), and quarterback rating (91.0.)

The loquacious quarterback was an ideal fit for what Coach Dick Vermeil wanted at the time. He was a blue collar worker who was willing to burn the midnight oil with his coach studying game film and mastering the "X's and O's" of the sport. Jaworski and the Eagles parlayed that into an NFC Championship over the hated arch rival Cowboys.

Passing: 257-451, 3,529 Yards, 57.0%, 27 TD, 12 INT, 91.0 QB Rating

Phillies All-Time Line Up—Batting Seventh: Jimmy Rollins- Shortstop

MLB 2008 - NLCS Game5 - Phillies Beat Dodgers 5-1

Philadelphia Phillies All-Time Line Up (Part 7 of a 9 Part Series)

As strong testimony to the talent assembled on the current Phillies team, Jimmy Rollins breaks the Dream Team line-up along with fellow infielders Utley and Howard. And, like the other two, he is still in his prime at 31 years old with the promise of many more good days ahead.

This remarkable trio has served as the foundation for the current Phillies era's success, both on and off the field. Utley's work ethic and intensity, and Howard's humble leading man approach are complemented perfectly by "J-Roll's" warmth and infectious smile. Together they serve as role models for the rest of the team to emulate– a perfect blend of fun, focus, drive and selflessness.

Rollins is arguably the best defensive shortstop in the team's history, with opinion likely split down the middle with Larry Bowa, the only other shortstop even in the debate for the all-timer team. J-Roll makes less errors, has an overall better fielding fielding percentage, and possesses a slightly stronger arm; whereas, Bowa had greater range.

The two players are pretty much polar opposites. Bowa is a Type A++ who played like his hair was on fire and with a perpetual snarl, while the nickname J-Roll accurately embodies the player's smooth, calm, and pleasantly upbeat persona.

The comparisons quickly end when considering the offensive side of the ledger. Bowa was a workmanlike player who scratched out hits by punching the ball and using his excellent speed. He averaged 24 steals per season and hit .264 during his Phillies career, but was a true singles hitter with only 13 HR's total and a .320 slugging percentage.

Conversely, Rollins has averaged more than 16 HR's and a .439 slugging percentage over his 9 full seasons. Although he is sometimes criticized for not drawing enough walks, he has been the team "igniter" averaging 104 runs scored and 36 stolen bases per campaign while hitting .274.

In 2007, Rollins was recognized with the NL MVP Award after putting together a truly spectacular campaign that was one of the best ever by a shortstop. That season, he collected 139 runs, 212 hits, 38 doubles, 20 triples, 30 home runs, 94 RBI and 41 stolen bases while hitting .296. And, as a true all around player, he committed just 11 errors while turning 110 double plays in playing all 162 regular season games.

In terms of hardware, Jimmy has been awarded the Gold Glove each of the last three seasons, the 2007 NL Silver Slugger Award, and the 2007 NL MVP. He has also been a three-time All-Star.


Phillies 945 146 621 .274 326 .329 .439

Career 945 146 621 .274 326 .329 .439

Honorable Mention

Larry Bowa- See above.

Philadelphia Phillies All-Time Line Up

Batting First: Richie Ashburn- Center Field

Batting Second: Chase Utley- Second Base

Batting Third: Mike Schmidt- Third Base

Batting Fourth: Ryan Howard- First Base

Batting Fifth: Chuck Klein- Right Field

Batting Sixth: Del Ennis- Left Field

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Philadelphia Phillies 5 Keys to the 2010 Season

Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals

Part 1 of a 5 Part Series

As the Philadelphia Phillies come together in the warm Clearwater sunshine to begin preparation for the long journey of another major league baseball season, keen focus will be placed on some aspects of the team more so than others. Although history and human nature teaches us that nothing should be taken for granted, that wisdom does not apply equally across the board.

Each season is a new chapter that brings a series of new issues and unanswered questions that will undoubtedly be instrumental to the fortunes of the team. Surely new story lines will emerge as the season unfolds, but as the team looks over the hood with 99% of the journey still in front of them, a handful of matters get the spotlight as having particular import in the quest for another World Championship.

The Phillies are in the midst of one of, if not the greatest, period of prosperity in team history. The magical and cathartic 2008 World Series Championship season along with another terrific run to repeat last year that fell just short serve as strong testimony.

But, the normal process of addressing perceived weaknesses combined with the economic complexities of the current era of the sport bring about inevitable changes. Certainly the defending National League Champs are not immune, nor chose to remain static, as they venture to take another triumphant trip or two down Broad Street come November.

In just a few months since last year's journey ended in disappointment on that cold Bronx night, many events have occurred and many players have shuffled in and out. The biggest news, of course, involved the surprising switch of Cy Young pitchers at the top of the team's rotation.

The Philadelphia media, fans and players alike will most assuredly maintain a keen watch on and contrast the performances of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee throughout the season, but success or failure for the Phillies in 2010 will more likely revolve around other areas of the club.

Today, I begin a five part series highlighting the five keys to the Phillies 2010 season. Although an unforeseen injury or an off year by one of the team's core players could have significant impact on the season, those occurrences are largely unpredictable and accordingly not anticipated.

Key No. 1– The Fifth Starter in the Rotation

The hope (and perhaps necessity for another World Series run) is that inserting Roy Halladay at the top of the Phillies rotation will result in at least 18 wins, but ideally 20-22 victories. Barring some freak of nature, the former Cy Young Award winner's track record suggests that this is a likely scenario.

Penciling Halladay's name in at the top of the rotation provides a great deal of comfort to Manager Charlie Manuel, but what keeps him up at night is the spot on the opposite end of the starting staff.

With Pedro Martinez still a free agent seeking a new home, and Jamie Moyer coming off a sub-par season that ended with three separate surgeries, the fifth spot in the rotation is a source of angst. Throw into the mix the Kyle Kendrick conundrum and you have the potential for multiple Maalox moments throughout the season.

As much as Halladay is a sure thing, the other end of the pitching quintet is currently one large question mark. And, with the minor league cupboard currently a little bit bare, the fall back provisions are somewhat limited in regard to finding a replacement within the organization or via trade.

The front runner is currently Moyer by virtue of his $8 million salary and the view that he is not ideally suited for the bullpen. Also in his favor is his 47-31 record in a Phillies uniform over the past three plus seasons.

The good news is that Moyer is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation efforts and is already in camp.

The bad news is it remains to be seen whether his surgically repaired body can withstand the rigors of another major league season at the advanced age of 47. Additionally, his fastball routinely clocked in at 82 mph– before going down with a torn groin muscle.

Moyer has made a living, particularly in his twilight years, of skating the fine line of future retirement through guile and precision. Would losing a couple miles per hour on his pitches or an ever so slight alteration in his mechanics tip the scales toward the Adam Eaton end of the pitching effectiveness spectrum?

The next potential option is Kyle Kendrick, who came out of nowhere to have some early success with the big club in 2007 and 2008, but was exiled to the pen and later the minor's after beginning to falter in his second season. The Phillies brass felt that it was a matter of the league catching up to his limited repertoire of pitches.

During last year's all expense paid trip to the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, Kendrick worked diligently on adding a change-up, improving his slider and getting more bite on his cutter. Based on the empirical data and the assessment of Phillies coaches- mission accomplished.

This is not to say that he is the answer for the fifth slot, but there is a great deal more optimism about his ability to compete at the major league level. Surely the decision to add Kendrick to the NLDS roster was a good indicator, and letting Pedro walk was another.

A factor in the decision might relate to the cozy dimensions of Citizen's Bank Park, where Kendrick's sinker is a good fit. Conversely, Moyer soft tosses can often have hometown onlookers holding their breath against hitters with some pop.

Another potential candidate is recently signed Jose Contreras, but he would not seem to be the answer. He is several years removed from a couple good campaigns and has mostly had a high ERA a starter. What seemed to spark Ruben Amaro's interest in signing him anyway was his work out of the bullpen at the end of last season.

As great as it will be to have Halladay taking the ball every fifth day when the regular season gets underway, the ball will be given almost an equal amount of times to someone occupying the bottom spot.

The first four members in the rotation are pretty much set in stone– Halladay, Hamels, Blanton and Happ. But still, the team needs a solid contribution for the pitcher that completes the set to win an improved NL East and make another trip to the postseason.

Best case scenario is Moyer finding his 2008 groove and/or Kendrick proving Phillies coaches right that he now has the well rounded stuff to keep major league hitters on their heels. Worst case scenario is a bullpen taxing, record deflating pitching adventure every fifth day.