Every year, for no good reason,
I use the week before the start of a new football season to project the future.
Usually, I confine my forecasts to the Eagles and the NFL, but this time I have
decided to tackle the entire fall and winter sports calendar.
Please apply a large grain of salt to what
follows here. Remember, I predicted last year that Kevin Kolb would make us all
forget Donovan McNabb. Who knew he would also make us all forget Kevin Kolb?
The Eagles will finish with a
disappointing nine wins this season.
What? The Dream Team barely finishing
above .500? Say it ain’t so, Joe Banner.
The moment of truth for me and this 2011 edition of the Birds came in
the third game of the preseason, when coach Andy Reid challenged a touchdown
play that was already being reviewed by the refs. He never learns – and he
That’s why these Eagles have a glut of
amazing cornerbacks and not one standout linebacker, why offensive lineman Todd
Herremans is moving from guard to tackle in the final days of the preseason,
why Reid keeps telling us he’s got to do a better job while changing nothing.
Analyzing the new season starts with
Michael Vick, the newly minted $100-million quarterback, and the only thing
that really counts is the answer to this question: Will Vick stay healthy the
entire season? Not a chance – not with that offensive line working in front of
him. And without Vick for some key games, the Birds will be exposed. An
unbalanced roster and a stubborn coach do not equal a championship.
If the Eagles fail again with this team –
and this payroll – will it finally mark the end of Reid’s tenure? If you can’t
wait for my next column of bold predictions, I’ll offer it now. No.
The Phillies will fall short with the best
team in their history.
This is more about the Red Sox than the
Phillies. Boston is simply a better team – challenged far more rigorously in
the regular season and deeper in the bullpen and on the bench. The Phillies
have three excellent starters, but how well will they shut down that ominous
Red Sox lineup? Not well enough, unfortunately.
And as our hopes fade, so, too, will our
blind affection for bumbling manager Charlie Manuel. Will anybody still see him
as a lovable folk hero after winning just one World Series in seven seasons
with the best roster in team history? Let’s hope not.
- The Flyers will win the Stanley Cup.
Just when all hope is gone with our two
best bets, the Flyers will swoop in and end their 36-year Stanley Cup drought
behind a young, hungry team, a brilliant coach and an unflappable captain.
Now clip out this column and place it on
your refrigerator. If nothing else, it’ll be good for a few laughs in the crazy
In the eighth inning of a game in Florida
over the weekend, Charlie Manuel replaced Antonio Bastardo with David Herndon.
If you’re looking for a reason to get nervous before the playoffs, you should
start with that one laughable managerial decision.
Yes, I know. Bastardo was pitching for the
third straight game, and he had walked the only two batters he faced. Replacing
him is not the problem. Replacing him with Manuel’s pet bullpen project,
Herndon, most certainly is. Lefty batters have a .357 average against him. He
should not be on the roster of a great team. Enough said.
Of course, the Marlins came back from a
4-3 deficit with three home runs in that inning, and a nice September win
became a puzzling loss. The next day, Herndon coughed up another one when he
had to throw 69 pitches over nearly four innings because the manager ran out of
Charlie Manuel has a terrific array of
talent; no one can argue that point. But will he choose Roy Oswalt over rookie
phenom Vance Worley for the No. 4 spot in the playoff rotation? Will Ben
Francisco or Kyle Kendrick or – gasp – Herndon get pushed into the spotlight
just because they were here all year? Will Brad Lidge get the ball in a big
moment just to thank him for 2008?
The manager’s loyalty to players is often
cited as one of the biggest reasons for his success. If he pushes it too far
this fall, it will also be one of the biggest reasons for his failure.
Am I the only one who got squeamish when
Michael Vick popped off last week about how no team could design a defense to
stop him? Was I the first fan to wonder if that new $100-million contract was
already changing him back into the egotistical, obnoxious jerk he was before
prison humbled him?
All I could think about after his comment
was that disastrous, snow-delayed game against Minnesota last December, when
the Vikings sacked him six times, forced him to fumble twice and intercepted
him once. The Vikings were playing for nothing, on the road, against a team
desperate for a win. The design of that defense against Vick stopped him with
relative ease, didn’t it?
In fact, during his mediocre second half
of the season, Vick proved that he was hardly unstoppable – especially once
opponents began to adjust to his new style. His final, underthrown pass to
Riley Cooper ended a thrilling comeback against the Packers in the playoffs,
and with it another season. Have all of the zeroes on Vick’s new deal
obliterated that memory, too.
The Eagles made a mistake when they gave
Vick all of that money last week based on half a schedule of elite play and
exemplary behavior off the field. There was nothing to lose by waiting until he
proved his value in a full season filled with the highest of hopes.
If Vick is reverting to his arrogant form
with remarks like the one he made last week, the Eagles are going to find out
the hard way what it’s like to blow a season – and tens of millions – on
another player who doesn’t deserve it.
Idle thoughts . . . .
Is it OK for me to file a protest, too,
after that debacle in Florida on Sunday? No, not for the disputed double. I’d
like to protest the fact that the Phillies ran out of pitchers even though it’s
September and they have an expanded roster. How could that happen?
The single greatest moment of every
sports year happens again at 1 p.m. next Sunday, when the Eagles and St. Louis
Rams line up for the opening kickoff of another NFL season – a world of
possibility stretched across 100 yards on a football field.
In anticipation of the Sixers sale, the
team hired a new CEO, Adam Aron, over the weekend. With no marquee names and a
lockout to deal with, good luck to him. In fact, it might be presumptuous to
assume there will be any money for him to manage.
Chase Utley’s alarming decline
continues. After an abysmal road trip, his batting average was down to .268,
with nine homers and 40 RBIs in more than half a season. He is not the player
he once was. Not even close.
Phillies president Dave Montgomery said
over the weekend that his team’s rivalry with the Eagles is “way, way
overblown.” Eagles president Joe Banner has repeatedly said the same thing. OK,
then. I’m sure neither president would mind submitting to a lie detector,