OK, maybe the Eagles’ season isn’t officially over yet. Eleven games left to go in a division that – even at 1-4 – still appears winnable.
But how much more evidence do we need Philadelphia’s football “Dream Team” indeed has become the “Scream Team?”
And then there’s the Phillies. Talk about screaming. Their season officially ended Friday night and the angry echoes from the most vocal of Phils’ fans still reverberated throughout the region as the Eagles were stumbling towards yet another loss Sunday.
Here’s my answers to questions posed by readers of this blog (actually I made up the questions myself…just go with it….):
Q: What are your thoughts about the Phillies not making it out of the Divisional Series after winning a franchise record 102 games and having the best starting pitching in baseball?
A: First some history. Did you know the Phillies are the first franchise since the Playoff expansion in 1995 to systematically win a World Series (2008), lose a World Series…then lose a League Championship Series…and then lose a Divisional Series? On one hand, most baseball cities would kill to get to just one post-season let alone in succession like this. That being said, it is ironic they are slowly going backwards considering they have continued to add alleged “missing pieces” each and every season to avoid such slippage. Against St. Louis, Manager Charlie Manuel decided to hold firm with a line-up that was not hitting well at all against one of the hottest-hitting teams in the league. That’s backwards also. The consistently posted line-up couldn’t even get one run at home in a deciding game. Solid starting pitching is great, but scoring runs in the post-season is required also. The other teams have merit once you get to October also. The Phillies’ batting average against St. Louis in five games? .226.
Q: What are the specific memories you’ll take from the Divisional Series with the Cardinals?
A: In no particular order:
1. The St. Louis “Rally Squirrel” who made not one but two appearances during Games 3 and 4 in St. Louis. The Squirrel got its own Twitter account (@BuschSquirrel). The Squirrel now has over 22,000 followers. This amused me in an otherwise horrific experience.
2. Game 4 – Shane Victorino “blowing a tire” in the St. Loo outfield trying to field and throw a ball back into the infield. I thought he was going to corkscrew himself into the Earth and wind up in China. One fan suggested he might have hit a nut storage hole the Squirrel was using.
3. The whining and complaining by everyone about shadows during the series’ twilight start times. This has been going on for decades and will continue to go on. Annoying. Stop beating your collective head against the brick wall known as Television.
4. Game 4 – Chase Utley getting thrown out at third by a car length, running the bases like a tee-ball leaguer wondering what he might have for dinner.
5. Ryan Howard swinging at a 3-0 pitch late in Game 5 when the Phillies had already well-established a walk would likely be his…and their…only chance for a base runner. The way Howard in particular was swinging the bat at that point in the Series, he should have looked at not one but two pitches. St. Louis’ Pitcher Chris Carpenter was actually seen laughing after the weak fly out. Take away Howard’s Game 1 sixth-inning home run…Ryan was 1-for-18 in the Series. No one in Philadelphia is laughing at that.
Q: What is the early word on who the Phillies may bring in to avoid missing the post-season completely next year?
A: Funny you should ask. Early reports are the Phillies are interested in the Yankees’ Nick Swisher. I would like to take this opportunity to bring up Nick’s plate appearance stat in three post-seasons with the Bronx Bombers…16-for-100. Would you care to add in his post-season at-bats with the White Sox and A’s? OK. .169. The Yankees aren’t even sure they want to pick up his 2012 option. Swisher is, like the Phillies are now tagged, great in the regular season…not so much in the post-season. Let’s hope early reports are erroneous reports on that proposed acquisition.
Q: How about the Eagles? Why is everyone pointing at Head Coach Andy Reid as the problem?
A: The short answer is upper management stepped up big time and spent big money to bring in people that were evaluated to be THEIR “missing pieces” and early returns are the pieces are still scattered all over the field and Reid is puzzled how to put them together. He made his offensive line coach the defensive coordinator. His replacement offensive line coach fancies players not much bigger than the quarterback. Reid’s teams have always had clock management issues and a failure to “close” when inside the five-yard line. All of this has come together at once, resulting in the worst start of his era.
Q: In the most recent loss to Buffalo, some people are affixing more blame to the offense for their five turnovers instead of the defense, which had been getting the majority of criticism for blowing fourth-quarter leads in prior games but actually seemed to get better in the second-half this weekend. Who gets the blame in Buffalo?
A: Both. The Eagles’ D knew exactly what they would see from the Bills on their opening drive and couldn’t do a thing to stop them. The lack of interest and ability to tackle continued throughout the entire first half. Some folks say coaching has nothing to do with players’ execution…that tackling is on the players, not the coaches. I would suggest if you continually see people not tackling you either teach them to tackle or get people in there who can. The defense stopped Buffalo when they needed to in the second half – a refreshing change from earlier games. They did indeed give the Eagles a chance to take the game…that is, until veteran defensive end Juqua Parker became the only person in the stadium who felt the Bills would run a play on fourth-and-inches at midfield with little over a minute left and jumped offside, ensuring the Eagles would not get a chance to send the game into OT. The fact of the matter is the Eagles’ defense has allowed touchdowns on 11 of the 14 trips teams have made into the red zone this season…yesterday, it was 3 of 4. Don’t give the defense a pass on this game just because of the offense’s turnovers.
Q: Do you think this is the end of the Reid era in Philadelphia?
A: No. Not yet, anyway. People in this city know the Eagles’ front office has a unique love affair for Reid and enjoy him serving as the lightning rod for the entire organization. He seems to be unfazed by being raked over the coals on every media outlet in the city. They have a waiting list for tickets and make the playoffs. They have never wavered in their support for Andy Reid and even with those “missing pieces” brought in they can always fall back on the excuse there was no true pre-pre-season or substantial prep time to fit all those new, different puzzle pieces together. They will likely find this rationale acceptable to bring back Reid again in 2012 for one more run, regardless of whether they make the Playoffs this season or not. That being said, if they would lose double-digit games and actually find themselves in the “Andrew Luck Lottery” (formerly known as the 2012 NFL Draft), there would be a slight possibility ownership might start looking elsewhere. Slight.