Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hey there's this column I wrote that I can't find on the Daily Times website at all, so here it is


The really hardcore pessimistic sports observers -- the true cream of the crap -- had a thing for scoffing at all the attention the Taney Dragons and their ace pitcher, Mone Davis, received during and after a Little League World Series run that resulted in a third-place finish in the United States bracket.
Why all the attention for a team that didn't even win, they groused.
Here is the return volley: Which Philadelphia-area team in high-profile athletics had a better 2014?
The Eagles certainly ran away with the Best Major Sports Franchise ... but what they have to show for calendar year 2014 is a playoff loss to the Saints to open it, then a regular season that while playoff-worthy is, in truth, pretty similar to what the team did after September last season -- that is, a Super Bowl longshot.
The Phillies, Flyers and Sixers have been at varying levels of disaster in 2014. It would be a perfect time in the pro-sports cycle for the Union to vault soccer into the major-sport conversation, but they are just as oddly constructed as the Flyers and in as much leadership disarray as the Phillies.
The collegiate teams haven't gotten there, either, although Villanova football is preparing for the quarterfinals of that-alphabet-soup-they-call-Division-1-AA-football-these-days tournament.
So we will let Villanova football take its stab at giving Philly a title. But there's time to look to 2015 and provide a theme for each team as it tries to bring a modicum -- heck, a freakin' scintilla -- of hope to the coming sports year.
n Eagles: They will be in the postseason dance. That much is a virtual lock. But Seahawks' defense sent a clear message Sunday that there is no way it is going to let Mark Sanchez beat it. It's tough to imagine a convalescing Nick Foles would have much of a chance, either. Even worse than the reality check was the fact that with the win Seattle is closing on Arizona in the NFC West standings, meaning that the back-door hope a home game against the defending champ could offer a sliver of hope is slipping through the Birds' fingers, too.
What is the hope for 2015? Clarity at quarterback. The longer Chip Kelly's innovative system doesn't end in a Super Bowl appearance, the tougher it will get for a pedestrian QB to guide the Eagles there.
n Villanova basketball: There's a lot of college hoops left, but this Wildcats team has that early scent of something very special. Jay Wright's squad is nine-deep, a huge benefit. It also is one of the most intelligent teams around. Josh Hart is reminiscent of Shane Battier, his stats not doing his hoop IQ justice. The only thing the Wildcats have going against them is that this seems to be the most high-quality depth within the Top 10 rankings in a decade. Duke, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Arizona, Gonzaga, Louisville ... it is hard to remember this many well-rounded teams.
What is the hope for 2015? The Wildcats have Final Four ability. It truly can be Wright's best squad, and if he has a desire to move on to bigger and better things, this is the team to load the catapult.
n Phillies: Did anyone at the end of 2011 think this franchise would have choked its fan base to death in three years? It reeks of 1997, when there were zero expectations and Scott Rolen was allowed to mature in a dead zone. Maybe Maikel Franco can do the same. Everything else about the franchise is series of Joy Division lyrics.
What is the hope for 2015? That the ownership and leadership gains some direction. Ruben Amaro Jr. is a lame-duck GM. The team president is a 78-year-old interim. The silent ownership has gotten more silent, because most of them are passing away. Someone needs to take charge. It can't continue like this.
n Flyers: They are getting almost as depressing as the Phillies, except there isn't even a championship season to recall in the recent past.
What is the hope for 2015? Does anyone have a suggestion? Because it seems the franchise is being dragged into rebuilding kicking and screaming. Maybe some young defensemen will get a chance to develop next year. If they succeed it would e a novel turn of events.
n 76ers: They are on the upswing! Provided winning two out of three games after losing 17 straight qualifies.
What is the hope for 2015? Unlike the Phils and Flyers, there is substance to this question. The hope is Brett Brown's optimism is bottomless and his coaching is impeccable. The hope is Joel Embiid plays before this season ends. The other young players deserve the presence of the franchise's centerpiece at the end of what will be a long, loss-heavy season. And there is hope that Sam Hinkie, beyond the unfair hand he has dealt his coaching staff this season, really does know talent. There are hints on the roster and overseas that he does.
There you have it: Villanova hoops could bring Taney-esque excitement to Philly. The Eagles are entertaining. Otherwise, it would be appreciated if 2015 would at least live up to this motto: At least it wasn't 2014 again.
To contact Dennis Deitch, email

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Phillies again turn to Braves for scouting direction

The Phillies had to find a replacement for fired director of amateur scouting Marti Wolever, even though the general manager is on unstable ground, the team president is serving in an interim role and the ownership group has unavoidable shifts in control to address in the near future.
As they had done the last time the team had to fill this front-office opening from outside the organization, the Phillies turned to the Atlanta Braves for the hire.
Johnny Almaraz, who had been the Braves' director of international scouting for the last five seasons, was hired as Wolever's replacement Wednesday. Almaraz, 49, has spent a quarter-century in the scouting realm, the first 16 years as a member of the Cincinnati Reds' scouting department following a brief minor-league career as a pitcher in the Reds' organization.
Almaraz spent three years running the Braves' Dominican Baseball Academy before receiving his promotion to head Atlanta's international scouting. During his years in the scouting field, Almaraz received credit for the Reds drafting and/or signing the likes of Johnny Cueto and Adam Dunn, and the Braves getting pitcher Julio Teheran.
His biggest move since taking his latest role with the Braves was the signing of shortstop prospect Edward Salcedo to a $1.6 million bonus in 2010. Salcedo, 23, has struggled at the plate as a pro and was forced to move to third base, then the outfield in the middle of this past season. Playing for Triple-A Gwinnett in 2014, he batted just .212 with 10 homers in 110 games and committed 16 errors in 47 games at third before being sent to right field, where he made eight more errors in 48 games. Almaraz could be bailed out of that clunker by a lower-profile signing he made that year, Jose Peraza. Peraza, a 20-year-old second baseman, got $350,000 from the Braves in 2010 and seems to have high-end leadoff-hitting skills. He batted .339 with 60 stolen bases in 110 games between High-A Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi in 2014.
Almaraz joins a Phillies organization reeling after back-to-back 89-loss seasons despite spending $350 million in payroll those two years. G.M. Ruben Amaro Jr. remains on the job, although he hasn't received a contract extension and his deal ends at the end of the 2015 season. Team president David Montgomery stepped down while he continues a difficult battle with cancer that cost him part of his jaw earlier this year. Pat Gillick, who was the general manager when the Phillies won the 2008 World Series, is filling in as team president until either Montgomery returns or a permanent replacement is hired.
Wolever, who was fired late last month, had been the in-house successor of Mike Arbuckle as the man in charge of the Phillies' draft. Arbuckle, who had received much of the credit for reviving a minor-league system in disarray in the early 1990s, was hired away from the Braves in 1992 to serve that role. Arbuckle was the odd-assistant G.M. out when the Phillies decided to hire Amaro instead of him as Gillick's successor. He joined the Royals' front office in 2009. Kansas City reached the postseason for the first time since 1985 this year, swept the Angels in the American League Division Series and are facing the Orioles in the ALCS.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

2015 Phillies Schedule

Here is the unofficial schedule for 2015 for the Phillies. Subject to mild tweaks, but all in all this should be dates for all the games.


6, 8-9 vs. Boston
10-12 vs. Washington
13-15 @ New York Mets
16-19 @ Washington
21-23 vs. Miami
24-26 vs. Atlanta
27-30 @ St. Louis


1-3 @ Miami
4-6 @ Atlanta
8-10 vs. New York Mets
11-14 vs. Pittsburgh
15-17 vs. Arizona
18-21 @ Colorado
22-24 @ Washington
25-27 @ New York Mets
29-31 vs. Colorado


2-4 vs. Cincinnati
5-7 vs. San Francisco
8-10 @ Cincinnati
12-14 @ Pittsburgh
15-16 @ Baltimore
17-18 vs. Baltimore
19-21 vs. St. Louis
22-24 @ New York Yankees
26-28 vs. Washington
29-30 vs. Milwaukee


1-2 vs. Milwaukee
3-5 @ Atlanta
6-9 @ L.A. Dodgers
10-12 @ San Francisco
13-16 All-Star Break
17-19 vs. Miami
21-23 vs. Tampa Bay
24-26 @ Chicago Cubs
28-29 @ Toronto
30-31 vs. Atlanta


1-2 vs. Atlanta
4-6 vs. L.A. Dodgers
7-9 @ San Diego
10-12 @ Arizona
14-16 @ Milwaukee
18-19 vs. Toronto
20-23 @ Miami
24-27 vs. New York Mets
28-30 vs. San Diego
31 @ New York Mets


1-2 @ New York Mets
4-6 @ Boston
7-9 vs. Atlanta
10-13 vs. Chicago Cubs
14-16 vs. Washington
18-20 @ Atlanta
22-24 @ Miami
25-27 @ Washington
29-30 vs. New York Mets

1 vs. New York Mets
2-4 vs. Miami

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Jonathan Papelbon won't be picky about which contender welcomes him

For the third straight night the final three outs of the Phillies' win were delivered by Jonathan Papelbon, who has 22 saves, a 1.24 ERA, a 0.853 WHIP and hasn't allowed a long ball all year.
Those are dominating closer numbers, the type that more than a few contending teams could use as they try to patch their spotty bullpens. A year ago no one wanted to touch Papelbon, who had two years remaining on a four-year, $50 million contract.
You would think a healthy hip and a return to dominance would change that thinking. Papelbon certainly hopes it has.

"Of course, what kind of question is that?" the quippy closer queried when asked if he wants contenders to come calling for him. "Some guys want to stay on a losing team? That's mind-boggling to me. I think that's a no-brainer."
It isn't to every player (see: Jimmy Rollins), but at least Papelbon is honest about his desire to find a path back to October baseball as soon as possible. The right-hander nodded his head in affirmation when asked if he would waive his no-trade clause for pretty much any contender who wanted to make a deal to land him.
Papelbon didn't have any insight into any possible landing spots. He knows Detroit could use his help. Pittsburgh and Anaheim also are scrambling for ninth-inning consistency.
"My gut hasn’t told me anything," he said about where he will land. "I go day by day. Whatever happens, I cross that bridge when I get to it … I don’t have that crystal 8-ball."
Although Papelbon has made it plain that he would like to leave a team that is an also-ran for a third straight season, there are things about the Phillies he would miss.
"You know, I came here for a reason," he said. "But I'm with a group of guys in the bullpen that can do very special things in the future. I've been waiting for that, you know what I mean? It's fun to be a part of that, it really is. We are there finally with our bullpen. So that aspect of it would kind of suck to leave. But at the same time, winning is the cure-all of cure-alls.
"One word explains it all -- inconsistent. It's just the way we've been all year."