Welcome to the finest Philadelphia sports blog ran from within Temple University. This blog's focus is local sports, including Temple sports as well as news and opinions regarding the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, and Sixers.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Spotlight: Jimmer Fredette

This past week in college basketball, a star was born.

On Wednesday night, senior guard Jimmer Fredette led his ninth-ranked Brigham Young University Cougars to a 71-58 victory over No. 4 San Diego State. Fredette, the nation’s leading scorer, scored forty-three points, almost sixteen points higher than his 27.6 points per game average.

 Fredette was crazy good. He shot an incredible fifty-eight percent from the floor, including a sixty-three percent three-point percentage and sunk ten of eleven free throws. His near-perfect performance was broadcast live to a national TV audience, and had the quality of star-making performance that could become the stuff of legend.

The first half was back and forth. San Diego State sophomore, Kawhi Leonard, led his team with thirteen points. However, Fredette proved to be Leonard’s match and more. His 20 points in the first half kept the Cougars in the game, but a late Leonard three gave the Aztecs a one-point lead going into halftime.

The second half began in much of the same way, with the scoring going back and forth for the first ten minutes, but with the game tied at 44, Fredette took over. He led the Cougars on a 16-8 run in which he hit two three-pointers en route to a 60-52 BYU lead with a little more than four minutes to go.

Leonard pulled the Aztecs back to within six, but Fredette dominated the final three minutes. He made seven consecutive free throws to bring the lead back to thirteen, which held up in the final score of 71-58.

Fredette’s forty-three points only added to his celebrity on what was clearly his night. The sold-out crowd of over 22,000 Cougar faithful was in strong support of Fredette all night, starting chants such as “You Got Jimmered,” or holding up signs that proclaimed Fredette as “the real King James,” (in reference to Lebron James’ nickname).

Fredette’s performance was not merely a setting-off point for his own success in basketball, but also shined a light on the Mountain West conference, which has established itself as a formidable force in the NCAA with the matchup of these two Top-10 teams.

Brigham Young is now 20-2 (6-1 in the MWC) and is in first place in their conference. Fredette has scored over 40 points in three of his past five games. It is clear from his star-making performance that he, and the Cougars, will be a forced to be reckoned with in the NCAA March Madness tournament.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Prospects From the Lee Deal

With all of the excitement and press coverage of the Phillies’ recent Cliff Lee deal, it’s easy to forget that we traded him last December in exchange for three prospects.

The three young players, right-handed pitchers Juan Ramirez and Phillippe Aumont and outfielder Tyson Gillies, all spent their entire seasons in the minor leagues last year and each of them have had to overcome adversity in their plight to play in the big leagues.

Juan Ramirez

Ramirez, 22, pitched 13 games last year in Double-A Reading and 11 games in High-A Clearwater. He posted a combined ERA of 4.82, averaging 7.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. He underwent hip surgery this offseason and is expected to be ready for spring training. He is likely to repeat this year in Double-A.

Phillippe Aumont

Aumont, 22, was a relief prospect in Seattle before being converted to a starter in Double-A last year. He posted a terrible ERA and K/BB ratio of 7.43 and 38/38, respectively, in eleven starts and was demoted to Single-A. The Phillies have recently announced that Aumont will return to the bullpen in 2011.

Tyson Gillies

Gillies was impressive in spring training last year before a hamstring injury that eventually limited his 2010 campaign to only 26 games. He batted .238 with two home runs and six RBI’s in 105 at-bats in Double-A. In August, Gillies was arrested after police found him shirtless with a bag of cocaine along a highway in Clearwater. He was later cleared of all charges.

The recently released Top 10 Phillies prospects list by Baseball America did not include any of these three players. It is clear that each of them will have to overcome adversity in order to become successful.

Reading Introduces Mark Parent

When the Phillies announced last November that former player Mark Parent would be the new manager of Double-A Reading, they weren’t merely signing a coach; they were making a commitment to a spitfire attitude dedicated to winning.

“If you’re going to do something during a game, if it’s not toward winning a ballgame, then it’s stupid,” Parent said at a press conference last Wednesday.

Parent, 49, played in the big leagues for thirteen seasons, including two years for the Phillies in 1997-98. It goes without saying that the Phillies team that Parent played for was drastically different from the one of the past few years. In the late 90’s, the Phillies were stuck in the middle of one of the worst tenures in the organization’s history in which the Atlanta Braves won fourteen consecutive division championships.

After breaking through the drought, the Phillies have now won four consecutive division championships in a row and currently are in the midst of the golden age of the team’s history.

"This organization is full of people who are in it for one reason, one reason only, to win ballgames," Parent said. "When I was playing for Philly it wasn't really that way."

Parent had a relatively unsuccessful career as a player. In a 162 game average, he batted .214 with 18 home runs and 
57 RBI’s. He was a big, bulky (6’5, 215 lbs) catcher who only made the postseason once over a career that included 
stays at San Diego, Pittsburgh, Texas, Chicago, Baltimore, and Detroit, as well as Philadelphia.

But things have been different for Parent after his career as a player. In his first stint as a manager, he led the Seattle 
Mariners Class A affiliate in Lancaster to an 89-51 record, the best in the California league. 

In 2005, he became the first ever manager of the Golden Baseball League’s Chico Outlaws. After finishing in second the first two years, Parent led the Outlaws to a league championship in 2007.

Parent reunited with the Phillies last year as he took the manager job at Class A Lakewood. The Blue Claws went 84-55and Parent impressed the Phillies organization so much that they promoted him to Double-A. 

"[With] the young players that I had last year, the good players who were at Clearwater, the good players who were 
here in Reading, we'll have a pretty good club out on the field," Parent said. "The people we're gonna have are going to be very competitive, and they're going to want to win."

Parent carries his commitment to winning everywhere he goes. Despite the fact that he’ll have mostly all new players this year, Parent has proven in the past and will undoubtedly continue to demonstrate in the future that he has only one thing on his mind.

"I want players who are athletic, energetic and want to win," Parent said. "I want them to want to win. Every day you go out there you've got to try to win a ballgame so when they get to Philadelphia fans are proud of the product that's out there.”

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

TTN: Women's Tennis Splits Spring Season Opener

In the opening weekend for the women’s tennis team, the Owls got a huge contribution from unexpected sources.
In a loss to Dartmouth on Saturday and a win against Southern New Hampshire on Sunday, the women’s tennis freshman trio of singles/doubles players Jordan Batey, Alicia Doms and Yana Mavrina went 6-2 to lead the Owls in their season-opening weekend.
“We have high expectations for the freshmen,” coach Steve Mauro said. “It’s going to take them a little time to get used to the college game, but we expect them to play regularly for us.”
The Owls dropped a 5-2 decision to No. 61 Dartmouth on Saturday. Mavrina and Doms provided the only doubles win as they defeated the Big Green pair of freshman Rachel Decker-Sadowski and sophomore Sarah Leonard in the lone set, 8-6.
“Every year Dartmouth is a real strong opponent,” Mauro said. “I knew we had a good chance to win. Doubles [were] close. We could have pulled out the match, but unfortunately Dartmouth was just a little bit stronger at this time of year.”
Batey shined in singles play as she defeated Big Green senior Georgiana Smyser in straight sets 6-4, 6-4. Senior singles/doubles player Elyse Steiner got the other point for the Owls, defeating Dartmouth freshman Sabrina Stewart 6-1, 3-6, 6-2. It was Steiner’s first match in more than a year, as she was recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
“I was very impressed with [Steiner],” Mauro said. “She had a really good performance.”
Owls senior first singles player Lucie Pazderova had a tough time against the nationally ranked Big Green senior first singles player Molly Scott. Scott won 6-1, 6-1.
Pazderova and Steiner lost in second doubles to Big Green senior Ryan Reichel and Smyser 8-2. Owls senior Theresa Stangl and Batey lost in first doubles to Big Green freshman Melissa Matsuoka and Scott, 8-1. Dartmouth won the doubles point and added four singles wins to get the decision, 5-2.
“We definitely have to improve in both singles and doubles; it’s just a matter of getting more practice time in,” Mauro said. “If we played them a month from now I think the results would be different.”
The freshmen continued their strong play on Sunday in a 7-0 win against Southern New Hampshire while Pazderova sat out due to a back injury.
Mavrina, Batey and Doms collected wins for the Owls in second, fourth and fifth singles, respectively. Mavrina and Doms won at second doubles to complete a perfect record for the freshmen.
“Our freshmen are just strong players,” Mauro said. “A lot of times, they come in and have to take some time to develop, but we just did a good job recruiting good players and good student athletes.”
Stangl defeated Penmen senior Amber Chandronnait at first singles 6-3, 6-3. Steiner edged Penmen senior Catalina Echeverry 7-6, 7-2, 7-5 in a close match at third singles. Owls senior Josephine Bergman won her 2011 debut at sixth singles 6-0, 6-1 over Penmen junior Kara Pease.
Steiner and Pazderova won first doubles, 8-5, and Bergman and junior Mellana Cramer won third doubles, 8-1, to give the Owls the doubles point and complete the 7-0 sweep.
“[Southern New Hampshire] wasn’t quite as strong as Dartmouth, yet they did have some good players,” Mauro said. “We beat them last year, so we were pretty confident.”
In addition to the dominance over Southern New Hampshire, Mauro maintains the match against Dartmouth is not representative of the team’s potential.
“We’ve only been practicing since a couple of days before school started, we weren’t allowed to practice over break,” Mauro said. “We haven’t really had that much time to prepare.”
With the promising talent of the Owls’ freshmen and the opportunity for more practice experience in the upcoming weeks, the women’s tennis team’s future looks promising.
“We’re confident,” Mauro said. “We think we could’ve beaten Dartmouth and they’re a very strong team. We’re very optimistic about our upcoming matches. We feel that there’s no one left on the schedule that we can’t beat.”

Monday, January 24, 2011

Spotlight: Ben Roethlisberger

With the clock stopped for the last time and the game on the line, Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger executed yet another unforgettable play.
There were two minutes left in the AFC championship game. The Pittsburgh Steelers had a 24-19 lead and the ball at the New York Jets’ forty-yard line. It was third and six; a first down would seal the victory and punch a black and yellow ticket to the Super Bowl.

Roethlisberger took the snap, avoided a sack, and rolled right in the face of three Jets defenders. It looked surely like a broken play and that the Jets were going to get the ball back with the chance to win the game. But Big Ben, like he has done so many times in big situations in the past, made a play.
He lobbed a pass on the run over the Jets’ initial defensive line that somehow found its way into the breadbasket of Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. It was a miraculous fourteen-yard gain that gave the Steelers a first down and allowed the clock to run out on a wild AFC championship game.
The Jets were stunned. To the rest of the world, it was nothing new.
Roethlisberger has compiled an incredible resume so far in his young seven-year career. In his rookie season, he set records for most consecutive wins to begin a quarterback’s career (six) and most total wins by a rookie (thirteen), leading the Steelers to a 15-1 record and an AFC championship appearance and winning the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Roethlisberger helped the Steelers secure a spot in the playoffs as a Wild Car team with an 11-5 record in his second season, despite missing four games due to knee injuries. After Pittsburgh won two upsets in the AFC playoffs, Roethliserger became the youngest quarterback to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory.
After off-seasons in 2006 and 2007, Roethlisberger and the Steelers returned to the Super Bowl in 2008. In one of the greatest Super Bowls in history, Roethlisberger executed one of his trademark miracle plays by making a seemingly impossible throw to the corner of the end zone that was caught by Santonio Holmes for the game-winning score with thirty-five seconds left in the game.
In just four seasons, Roethlisberger had already led his team to two Super Bowl victories. He has already established himself as one of the great young quarterbacks this game has ever seen. He played immediately his rookie year and has had a non-stop positive impact on his team ever since.
With his most recent heroics, he has given his Steelers an opportunity to win a third Super Bowl during his tenure. He now joins Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, and Tom Brady as the only quarterbacks to have three or more Super Bowl appearances.
If the Steelers win next Sunday, discussion of who is the greatest quarterback of this generation could be generated. Move over Brady and Manning, Big Ben is coming through.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Phillies to Host Braves in Annual Civil Rights Game

PBR - The Phillies will play the Braves in the fifth annual Civil Rights game in Atlanta on May 15, MLB announced Thursday.

The game will cap off four days of festivities dedicated to honoring civil rights in baseball.

The Phillies were an ideal pick for MLB as the club has two African American stars in Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, and two popular Hispanic American players in Raul Ibanez and Carlos Ruiz.

"We think [the Phillies are] very representative of what we're trying to do," MLB vice president of baseball development Jimmy Solomon said. "I think it kind of speaks to the kind of team, the kind of diversity, the kind of cultural inclusion that we're talking about in baseball. I think that would be an appropriate opponent for the Braves in this setting."

MLB announced last summer that the 2011 and 2012 Civil Rights ceremonies would be hosted in Atlanta, the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr. and the center of Hall of famer Hank Aaron’s career.

"When you look at it, this is where the game ought to be," Aaron said. "I'm not trying to take anything away from 
anybody else. But when you talk about Dr. King…you talk about all the civil rights beacons who are here, and this is certainly where the game should be."

Events scheduled for the occasion include a screening of the documentary “Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream” and the presentation of the Beacon Awards that are presented to a beacon of life, change, and hope. Past recipients of the 
award include Willy Mays, Muhammad Ali, and Bill Cosby.

Phillies and Braves players will wear throwback uniforms in reference to the Negro League years and the game will be broadcasted on national television for the first time in the event’s five-year history.

The Civil Rights game is a special honor for Howard, who has voiced his opinion of the importance of civil rights and whose parents marched with King during the Civil Rights movement.

"I think it's great for Major League Baseball to recognize this, and to allow us to play in this game," Howard said. "It's definitely an honor. I'm glad they're broadcasting this to America. I think it shows everybody just how far we've come as a country with the civil rights moment. They paved the way. And not just for African-Americans, but for an entire nation."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

On the Beat: Citizens Bank Park Upgrades Video Screen

PBR - The Phillies have announced that Citizens Bank Park will have a new high definition video screen for the 2011 season.

The HD screen, which will replace the old one in its spot under the Phillies sign in left field, will measure 76 feet high and 97 feet wide, making it the largest such screen in the National League.

"We're truly excited to bring the HD experience to our fans," Broadcasting and Video Services Director Mark DiNardo said. "The new technology and dramatically larger image will bring our fans closer to the action than ever."

Construction has already begun on the transition. The Phillies old mega-screen will be moved to the team's spring training facility in Clearwater. The likely first glimpse that Phillies fans will be able to get of this massive new screen live will be the On-Deck series against the Pirates on March 29-30.

On the Beat: Blanton Likely to Fill Fifth Rotation Spot

PBR - It seems that the chances of the Phillies trading Joe Blanton before the 2011 season keep getting smaller and smaller.

Following the Cliff Lee acquisition in December, there was much speculation that the Phillies would clear salary space as a result of the now extremely high payroll. Right-handed pitcher Joe Blanton, who is projected to receive $17 million this year in the would-be fifth starter's spot, was the most likely player to be traded.

The Red Sox, Tigers, Rangers, Nationals, and Brewers were all supposed interested bidders, however, all five teams have signed other pitchers this offseason. Meanwhile, the Phillies effort to find a reasonable fifth starter for a more affordable price has been ineffective.

Blanton, 30, went 9-6 with an ERA of 4.82 and 134 strikeouts in 28 games started last year. Although his contract is a little pricey, having him on the team will not seem like such a bad thing if any one of the Phillies' first four starters gets injured this season.

Right-handed pitchers Kyle Kendrick and Vance Worley would likely compete for the fifth rotation spot if the Phils somehow manage to deal Blanton.

On the Beat: Kendrick and Phillies Avoid Arbitration

PBR - The Phillies and Kyle Kendrick have avoided arbitration and agreed to a one-year, $2.45 million contract.

It was the first time in Kendrick's career that he was eligible for arbitration. The Phillies also signed outfielder Ben Francisco to a one-year contract last week to avoid arbitration. They now have no remaining  remaining players eligible for arbitration.

To compare Kendrick's contract to other big-league pitchers, first year eligible Yankees pitchers Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes received $2.7 million and $1.4 million, respectively. Nationals left-hander John Lannan received $2.75 million.

Kendrick, 26, went 11-10 with a 4.73 ERA in 31 starts last year. He will probably be in line to compete for the fifth starting rotation spot if the Phillies get rid of right-handed pitcher Joe Blanton. If not, he will most likely fill a middle reliever spot in the bullpen.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

On the Beat: Kendrick: Arbitration Exchange

PBR - Today is arbitration exchange day, in other words, the day in which teams and players eligible for arbitration exchange potential contracts that each side decided would be a fair salary for the player in 2011.

After the Phillies signed outfielder Ben Francisco to a one-year contract last week, the Phillies lone arbitration case on the team is right-handed pitcher Kyle Kendrick.

In December the Phillies offered Kendrick arbitration which guarantees him a contract for the 2011 season. In early January, the Phillies and Kendrick separately came up with a figure that each side thought would be a fair contract that is to be used if the two could not reach a contract agreement prior to arbitration exchange day.

Today, the Phillies and Kendrick will reveal the specifics of their respective deals and try come to an agreement between the two contracts. The Phillies are probably looking to sign Kendrick for around $2 million, but if they are unable to reach a deal, the case will go before a judge and he/she will choose a salary (between the player's or the team's) that he/she deems fair.

Kendrick, 26, went 11-10 with a 4.73 ERA in 33 games last year. If the Phillies are serious about possibly dealing right-handed pitcher Joe Blanton to clear some salary room, a contract agreement for Kendrick this year is vital to the team's success.

TTN: Owls Pummel Pioneers

The hockey team defeated William Paterson, 6-3.
William Paterson outshot the hockey team, 43 to 24, controlled the puck for most of the game and was consistently on the attack. However, the Owls took advantage of every open opportunity.
Junior goalie Will Neifeld made 40 saves and the Owls scored three power-play goals en route to a 6-3 win over the Pioneers, who were ranked No.2 in the Northeastern Division.
“[We’re] very optimistic after tonight’s performance,” coach Jerry Roberts said. “We talked about playing 60 minutes, we struggled the entire first semester with that. Although it wasn’t pretty at times, this was the first time all season that we got 60 minutes of effort.”
The Temple offense dominated the first half of the first period. The Owls dumped and chased the puck to perfection, allowing for opportunities with loose pucks in front of the net.
In the eighth minute, after senior left winger Ryan Frain’s breakaway attempt was denied, freshman forward Andrew Rafferty’s shot from the point rebounded directly to senior center George Rutter who was in front of an open net. Rutter netted the easy goal to give the Owls an early lead.
“Rafferty had the puck at the point; shot it right to the net,” Rutter said. “I actually went to try to tip it, and it kind of stuck to my stick, so I came around and stuffed it in with a backhand.”
A minute later, the Owls got another goal. Sophomore forward Nick McMahon collected a puck that had sprung loose from a scuffle in the corner and found himself alone in front of the net.
He made one move before sliding the puck through the Pioneers’ freshman goalie Andrew Sullivan’s five-hole to increase the Owls’ lead to two.
“We weren’t really sure of what we had tonight,” Roberts said. “We only had one week of practice coming into this game. We just wanted to contain as much as we could and wait for our chances to come.”
The Owls didn’t let up, and the chances continued to come. After a William Paterson penalty in the tenth minute, the Temple offense quickly set up the power play.
The team moved the puck to the point where freshman forward Matt Benedetto fired a shot past the opposing goalie, who was screened by two Owls, for his first career goal as an Owl. The Owls had a three-goal lead.
“It’s better to be up than to be down,” Neifeld said. “We’ve proven we can come back from deficits, and we’ve proven we can blow leads too, which is why it’s important to play 60 minutes, which is what we played tonight.”
William Paterson did not give up. Just like the Owl’s domination of the first half of the period, the Pioneers controlled the second half, registering 11 shots-on-goal and constantly pressuring Neifeld.
The Pioneers’ relentlessness paid off. After moving the puck into the Temple zone and setting up their offense, the Pioneers’ junior forward Shaun McTique deflected a shot from the point past Neifeld to cut the Owls’ lead to two.
William Paterson continued to get opportunities for the rest of the first period. The team had two more power plays and had four more shots, but Neifeld shut them down. The first period ended with a 3-1 Temple lead despite the fact the Owls were outshot nine to 18.
“It’s not just my effort, it’s a team effort,” Neifeld said. “We made a couple great blocks in front of me. I can’t stress enough – it’s a team effort.”
William Paterson carried its momentum into the second period but was unable to capitalize on its strong play. The Owls got a break in the fifteenth minute after a Pioneers penalty. Temple used the man advantage well, and with a little less than three minutes left, junior forward Pat McHugh was on a breakaway.
He moved to the Pioneer goalie’s left before switching to his backhand and scored the Owls’ second power-play goal of the game. The Owls regained their three-goal lead.
“It’s great to score powerplay goals,” Rutter said. “It’s a great chance to capitalize on bad mistakes by the other team.”
Two minutes into the third period, McTique sent a shot through Neifeld’s five-hole to cut the Owls’ lead back to two. But the Owls came right back as Rafferty tipped in a rebound off of a McHugh shot on a powerplay opportunity three minutes later to ice the game.
“That’s a big part of the way we like to play offense,” Rutter said. “Get the puck to the red line, dump it in and get the puck on net, bang around at the rebounds.”
The Pioneer added a sixth goal by McTique with six minutes remaining, but it came too late.  The Pioneers lost to the Owls, 6-3.
“You got to capitalize when you have the opportunity,” Neifeld said. “In order to beat these better teams, we have to capitalize on their mistakes.”
The Owls are now 7-2 in Mid-Atlantic College Hockey Association play and rank second to the University of Maryland – Baltimore County. Their next game is Jan. 21 against Kutztown.