Thursday, January 13, 2011

The hierarchy of Philly sports is as follows:

1. The Phillies
2. The Eagles
3. The Flyers
4. Union (Just kidding)
5. The Sixers

Its too bad for the Sixers, but its true and well-deserved. Each of the other Philly teams went to the playoffs this year with a decent chance of a title. That opportunity doesn’t exist for the Sixers, at least not this year or next. Even though these rankings might not change very soon, the Sixers shouldn’t give up yet because ten years ago the rankings looked like this:

1. The Eagles
2. The Sixers
3. The Flyers
4. The Kixx (Same joke, different soccer team)
5. The Phillies

The Phillies, kings of the city today, were a miserable franchise back in 2001. The team hadn’t played a meaningful game in years. The roster was UGLY, the fans were apathetic, and the franchise seemed to be going nowhere. Over the next couple of years the Phillies started to come together, they added some pieces that worked: Howard, Werth, Hamels, Chooch, and some that didn’t: Milwood, Eaton, Bell etc.

In the end the Phillies turned the franchise around, brought the fans back, and conquered the city. The Phillies then used the revenue generated by that excited fan base to establish themselves as a fixture in the elite of MLB. So not all hope is lost Sixers fans, but keep in mind that this turn-around didn’t happen overnight.

So with an off day today, let’s go back to the pre-dynasty Phillies and see what parallels can be drawn to our current Sixers team.

Doug Collins=Larry Bowa

The hard-nosed coach comes back to manage the team he started his playing career with. Doug Collins, like Bowa, is very well-liked among folks who remember him as a player. The hiring of both men was very well received by the fans at the time. Like Bowa, Doug made several all-star teams despite not being among the more physically gifted athletes in the league, both used smarts, hustle, and desire to get to the most out of their abilities as a player. That quality, in theory, should make both men into great coaches. If they could get their players to maximize their talents the way Bowa and Collins both did when they were pros, then any team they coach should be become greater than the sum of its parts. Unfortunately, Bowa didn’t always connect with young players, often confusing a lack of talent or instincts with a lack of desire or effort, and over time it became apparent that Bowa couldn’t coexist with his players. They resented him, and his belief that they just didn’t work hard enough. Doug Collins faces a similar road, he has a roster that needs to learn how to win, and one that has to be held accountable for mistakes both physical and mental. Can Doug avoid Larry’s mistakes and keep both the players’ attention and their respect, or will we have to bring in a ‘nice guy’ in two years to repair Doug’s damage.

Andres Nocioni=Aaron Rowand

Just a quicky here, both guys are gritty, the play hurt, they play physical D, and hustle every play. The crowd appreciates both, but neither is anything more than a role player. I like both guys though, so thought I’d include them.

Elton Brand=Jim Thome

Elton Brand was the big money free agent the Sixers signed amidst a huge media buzz to turn their franchise around and be the superstar the team was lacking since Iverson‘s decline. Jim Thome played the same role for the Phillies, as his signing was also supposed to usher in a new era of winning. When Elton left LA, much like Thome in Cleveland, he left behind a very disappointed fan base that was upset at losing the face of their franchise. Although in both instances the signings failed to live up to expectations. Thome was very good in his Philly years before injuries slowed him and a young kid named Ryan Howard made him obsolete. Brand, on the other hand, started his time slowed by injuries, playing just 105 of a possible 164 over his first two seasons in Philly. Although Brand has played very well this season, it appears that like Thome, Brand will have moved on before the team actually makes the deep playoff run he was signed to lead.

Thaddeus Young=Jimmy Rollins

Back in 2004, Jimmy Rollins took the next step as a player, already a touted prospect and gifted athlete, that was the year Jimmy finally cut out all the strikeouts that plagued his first few seasons. After Rollins learned to play the game smarter and stop making the same mistakes (swinging at the high fastball, Jesus he used to drive me crazy) Rollins became one of the game’s elite players at his position. Just a few years later Jimmy was NL MVP and his team had won the division, the next season he led them to a title. This is all a lot for Thad Young to live up to, but Thaddeus is a dynamic young player with as much physical talent as just about anyone in the league, but poor decisions, especially in his shot selection, are holding him back from being an elite player. Thaddeus needs to mature the way Jimmy did, play smarter, and begin to be a leader on this team. Thaddeus, like Jimmy, will be the one guy who will be a contributor throughout the entire rebuilding process. Hopefully, like Jimmy, Thaddeus will become an All-Star who learned to avoid the mistakes that stifled his game early on.

Andre Iguodala=Bobby Abreu

A great player that can’t be one of the two best guys on a championship team. A player that has the stink of 10 years worth of their franchise’s failure on them. Bobby and Iggy both made/make money on par with MVPs and superstars. In the fans eyes, they are both players whose caliber of play is a level below their pay grade. In the end, Iggy and Abreu both may be guys who were traded for fifty cents on the dollar in order to clear them out and bring in the next generation. I like Iggy, but can’t imagine other leaders emerging while he remains on the roster and in the locker room, so like Abreu he should go, and let the knew generation of leaders take over.

Jrue Holiday=Chase Utley

The 1st round selection from UCLA, that was the first of the ‘new guys’ to make it into the starting lineup. Jrue has to be one of those leaders I was referring to if Iggy were to go. Hell, even if Iggy stays Jrue has to be a leader. Jrue has the talent to stand out among his peers much as Utley has established himself among the game’s elite middle infielders. The early version of Jrue has some rough spots to work on, as did Utley (not always a great defender), and hopefully Jrue can stay healthier than Utley has. Jrue also needs to live up to his potential, which is something Utley never fully has. Injuries play a major part, but Utley is a bit overrated in my eyes. Utley sure gets a ton of MVP votes every April, and not very many in October, why is that? (Chase I love you, and I’m really criticizing the perceptions of you, not your actual performance) Anyway, for the Sixers to become a perennial contender, Jrue need to be every bit the leader, defender, and offensive producer that Chase Utley is for the Phillies.

Evan Turner=????

It is still way too early to know, but this one could go one of two ways:

ET=Pat Burrell
A top draft choice that was touted as the next big thing, but never lived up to it. A guy that struggled mightily at times and never lived up to his draft status. The thing about Burrell is once he started to struggle, his relationship with Bowa crumbled, and since I already noted how Bowa and Collins are quite similar, I am afraid of Doug souring on ET. Like Burrell, I don’t think ET could ever be a total flop, but instead of being THE guy, like he was drafted to be, ET may end up as just A guy, which would be a great disappointment. Let’s not forget that Burrell was a main contributor on the championship team, so bust or not, Burrell helped us win a title and because of that he is well liked among the fans here. Also, like Abreu the fans considered Burrell to be outrageously overpaid, so that should spare ET some of the ire Burrell drew, at least for now.

The other option for Turner:

Evan Turner=Ryan Howard

Evan Turner has been among the very best at every level he has played at. He has in him the talent and instincts to be among the game’s very best, we think. Like Howard, Turner is a little old for an elite prospect, debuting in the NBA after 3 years in college. Also like Howard, Turner has his at-bats (so to speak) blocked by older, higher paid vets, specifically by Iguodala, much like Howard was blocked by Thome. ET has shined at times when Iggy is out, although not on the level Howard did during Thome’s stints on the DL. By proving himself during the usually durable Iguodala’s absence, the rookie has shown he deserves (in my mind) the chance to start in this league and see if he can live up to his potential. Like Thome and Howard, it is tough for the Sixers to play both guys together, without a partner on the wing that stretches the defense with outside shooting, neither ET or Iggy is as effective offensively.

Right now, whichever way ET goes, so goes the franchise. If he becomes an elite power hitter (a fairly efficient high volume scorer) then the team has the punch it needs to compete. If ET ends up being a good guy that never quite made it, then the team still has pieces to find before we can move forward. I just wanted to remind everybody that there is always reason for optimism, even when your team is as bad as the Sixers are, or the Phillies were.


cricket series said...

As I've so often said, "Fortunes change very quickly in MLB." Just the latest examples are the current fates of the LA Dodgers and the St Louis Cardinals. The Dodgers won last night 3-0 in Greg Maddux's team debut (six innings and no hits!) and enter the weekend with MLB's longest active winning streak (six straight).

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