Yeah, I’m back. And I’m more bitter than last time.
Maybe it was because I went to a restaurant recently and there were two service dogs barking their heads off at each other.
I wasn’t mad that the dogs were in the restaurant. I perfectly understand why they are there and I have no problem with them being there.
But my issue was with the host who stupidly positioned the dogs at tables directly across from one another so that they were barking at each other incessantly.
It was a large restaurant. Plenty of booths. They could have seven service dogs in the restaurant and, if sat strategically, they wouldn’t see each other.
But, no. This guy sat them eight feet from one another… and they let them bark back and forth for 20 minutes and didn’t try to move one of the tables elsewhere. Finally, the one couple with one of the dogs got up and left the restaurant.
Just poorly played by all.
Which reminded me of a couple things going on in Philadelphia sports right now that are equally as annoying – and have me channeling my inner curmudgeon:
1. Jake Arrieta
How can anyone – especially in this sports-crazed market – have a problem with what Arrieta said? How many times do we sit around and say that we wished our sports figures were more honest and candid and didn’t give us the rehearsed speeches that they were coached to say publicly?
Now, we have a guy – who knows a little something about winning by the way – who calls a spade a spade publicly and we want to kill him because it might hurt a teammate’s feelings?
Who are we? What have we become?
There was a time when the players in this city hated their coach or manager and the coaches didn’t like them back. All sides would go to the media and bitch about each other publicly. It would lead to shouting matches, wars of words, and teams that went on to play for and/or win championships.
Now we have to throw a fake tantrum to protect wealthy athletes from being butt hurt about somebody saying something remotely negative about them.
And in this instance, it was real remote – not that we as fans, or writers, or talk show hosts want to consider the entire message – no, why do that when we can cherry pick one small sample of it and make a mountain out of a molehill, losing focus on the real message anyway?
OK… let me unpack this for a minute.
Arrieta is pissed that his team sleep-walked their way through a series in San Francisco. He doesn’t like that the team can’t hit – scoring one run in three games on a home run by Arrieta himself! He doesn’t like that their defense is terrible – the Phillies are in a tug-o’-war with the Giants for the worst fielding percentage in the National League. He thinks all the crazy shifting the Phillies are doing is leading to that shoddy percentage, and as such pointed out that they are the worst team in baseball at saving runs based on shifting – 10 times worse than the 29th place team.
He let his feelings be known after he had another five decent innings pitched implode on himself in the sixth inning because he has no damn margin for error with this Phillies offense as bad as it is right now.
So, in the course of a long answer which was really a shot across the bow of the manager and his coaching staff to get their shit together because the approaches at the plate and the defensive metrics aren’t working as we’ve been told they were going to, he mentioned that on one particular play Scott Kingery should have thrown the ball to second base.
It wasn’t a damnation of Kingery. It was just part of an answer in which he was talking about how bad the shifting is right now. In other words, Kingery should throw to second because where he was playing on that ball left him with no chance to throw across the diamond and get the runner at first base. If he was in a more typical spot for a shortstop, he wouldn’t have had an issue with the throw to first base.
But, MY GOD HE JUST TOOK A SHOT AT SCOTT KINGERY! DID YOU SEE THAT ALICE? JAKE JUST SAID SOMETHING TERRIBLE ABOUT OUR BABY BOY SCOTTY! YOU CAN’T DO THAT JAKE! YOU’VE ONLY BEEN HERE FOR LIKE 80 DAYS!
Let me shed a tear for poor Scott Kingery, who is now going to be scarred for life because Arrieta suggested he threw to the wrong base on an alternate Sunday in June.
Come on people! Kingery is a rookie, but he’s a professional athlete. He’s heard far worse criticism in the past, I’m sure. He’ll hear worse in the future once he’s no longer our lovable little boy and he’s been around for a few years.
What Arrieta said about him was harmless. And yet, everywhere you turn on social media or on the airwaves, he’s being killed for what he said about Kingery.
Which is burying the lede, Philadelphia!
What you should be focused on is that Arrieta’s frustration is likely that of his entire starting rotation. They are pitching their asses off and not getting rewarded enough for it.
The current five-man rotation has made 52 starts and in 294 1/3 innings has an ERA of 3.12 and a WHIP of 1.14. That’s sensational.
The other four guys are still relatively young. None of them have the gravitas to publicly criticize anyone – let alone the manager and his off-beat beliefs in how to win at a sport that has 120 years of information telling you what wins and what doesn’t. But Arrieta has that cache. He’s pitched very well this season. He’s a former Cy Young winner. He was the ace on a World Championship Cubs team that ended a 108-year drought two seasons ago. The guy knows a little something about winning and doing so under scrutiny and pressure.
So, after the Phillies’ worst series of the season so far, Arrieta let loose. It’s good. The team needs to hear it. They have to stop being pandered to with the faux positive cliches that Gabe Kapler throws out there after every game, win or lose.
They needed a jolt, and Arrieta just gave it to them. Good for Jake. That’s what leaders do.
As for poor, little Scott Kingery – he’ll be fine. This isn’t going to come as a crushing blow to his ego. The fact is, he’s not played great. I blame part of that on the Phillies trying to turn him into a super utility guy, when he’s really not. I give Kingery credit for playing five positions that he never really played in his career and giving it his all. But, this can’t be good for his psyche. This can’t be easy for him to try and figure all that out while trying to figure out what the hell is wrong at the plate too. He has had rookie struggles for sure. I’m confident he’ll be fine long-term – but his lack of success right now is more a reflection on his usage – and Arrieta knows that and sees that, which is why he’s saying what he’s saying.
In other words, I think Arrieta understands what’s causing Kingery to struggle and he’s pointing his finger at the manager, not the rookie playing shortstop.
Then there’s the gripe that he shouldn’t be throwing stones because he didn’t pitch well.
Yes, Arrieta had a bad sixth inning – and he said as much. But for five innings, he was superb. And the Phillies didn’t do anything with that. McCutchen’s home run ball was a bit of a surprise homer. It wasn’t a great pitch – nor was it terrible. It was a high, hanging curve, but it was really high, and McCutchen was late on it. It was just barely fair and just cleared the wall in right field. That was the big blow in an otherwise close contest and well-pitched game.
Point is, you can’t expect your pitchers to be perfect. They are pitching high stress innings the entire game because they are getting no offensive support.
As a team, the Phillies are hitting .233. Their OPS is .699. Neither of those numbers are good.
As for those of you who don’t think this should be aired publicly – I tell you to grow a set.
The 1980 Phillies hated Dallas Green. They hated him for calling them out constantly in the media. How’d they respond? Oh. They won a championship.
The 1987 Flyers hated Mike Keenan. The 2004 Flyers hated Ken Hitchcock. The 2010 Flyers had the captain and the coach at odds. One was one game away from winning a Cup. Another two games. The third was the best team in hockey only to be eliminated in the semifinal round by the eventual champion because of a slew of injuries on defense that had them run out of usable defenseman.
You know what happened with all three teams? There were people who bitched to the media about their locker rooms. There were players and coaches alike who aired their grievances with writers to get points across. They had incredibly successful seasons.
Reggie Jackson not only fought with his manager publicly, but the owner as well. How’d his Yankees teams do in October?
The San Francisco 49ers won a Super Bowl amidst a very public quarterback controversy played out by the coach with the media between Joe Montana and Steve Young. Steve Young was probably the right choice, but come playoff time, Walsh went with Montana. After a terrible regular season, he led the team to the Super Bowl win.
A few years later, Young was not happy with coach George Seifert benching him during a 40-8 blowout loss to the Eagles and made it very public that he was unhappy. He came back into the lineup, the 49ers went 11-1 the rest of the regular season and blew out everyone to win their fifth Super Bowl.
Sometimes the wake up call comes when the dirty laundry is aired.
Gabe Kapler wants you to believe his clubhouse is sitting around singing Kumbaya together every night. No clubhouse or locker room in sports is like that. Some are better than others, sure, but every one of them has a soap opera of some sort playing out at all times.
We shouldn’t fall for the motivational speakings of the manager. We need to look past that and see what the issues are.
Arguments have been made that Arrieta shouldn’t be complaining because the Phillies are a surprise and they are playing well-ahead of expectations.
I submit that’s a little bit untrue as well. I think the Phillies are right on the pace they should have been expected to be – .500 or slightly better and competing for a Wild Card – with next year the big breakout target.
To sit here and say the Phillies are only successful because of the culture the manager has created is asinine. The Phillies are five games over .500 because of their starting pitching alone. If they want to take it further, they’re going to have to start hitting. Stop getting in 0-2 holes at the plate because they are told to take pitches. They’re going to have to adjust, just like teams adjust to them. Defense needs to be better – starting with where they are positioned. The bullpen needs improvement. These changes need to come from the management level – or as Arrieta said, from the top down.
Keep keeping it real Jake.
2. Bryan Colangelo
Like many of you, I’m pretty sure Colangelo’s wife, or other family member, was behind the burner account stuff.
On top of that, I have no real desire to see him stay as general manager nor do I have this burning desire to fire him. The Sixers will do as they wish, and it’ll be fine either way.
What does have me screaming out my front door is this notion that the Sixers are in trouble with free agents if they keep him as GM or because they’ve taken too long to fire him.
Neither is true. Free agents will go where they want to go based on three factors:
- who they want to play with.
- chances of winning a championship.
The rest doesn’t really matter. Coaches may serve as a tiebreaker between teams, but really, players are going to play where they want to play.
So, while the independent investigation is ongoing – and it’s now reported to be wrapping up by the middle of this week – let’s assume the Twitter detectives have gotten it right and that Colangelo’s wife Barbara is behind these accounts.
If so, Colangelo will lose his job because he can’t be trusted with the Sixers’ inside information.
And that’s the perception. But let me say this:
If you think every general manager in sports doesn’t go home and talk about his team to his wife and kids, you’re wrong.
Everyone of them does. So do players talk to wives, girlfriends, even girls on the side.
Back in my days as a regular beat writer for the Flyers, I had a defenseman’s side piece as a reliable source of information. Not a star defenseman, so don’t start guessing names, but for a few years, she was great.
She used to message me inside information all the time, and it checked out 100 percent of the time.
I used to think it was out of jealousy – because the player had a regular girlfriend who lived in his hometown and my source was his girl in Philly, only – so whenever she would feel she wasn’t getting the attention she deserved as the actual girlfriend was getting more of the defenseman’s attention, she would contact me with a story from the locker room.
In other words, everyone talks out of school in pro sports. Whoever the next GM is after Colangelo – assuming he’s fired – will do the same. He’ll tell those close to him what’s going on with his players, coaches, etc. He’ll talk about his job. It’s what they do. It’s what they all do. Hell, it’s what we do. We talk about our co-workers, our employees, our bosses. Everyone has something to say.
The mistake here is it stupidly played out via anonymous Twitter accounts.
So, if you think the new guy will be so much more trustworthy, you’re sorely mistaken. All they might be is more aware that their family and extended family have no presence on social media. That’s it.
So, if LeBron wants to play in Philly, it’s going to happen – regardless of who the GM is at the time. And if he doesn’t want to play here, it sure as hell has nothing to do with Bryan Colangelo’s wife’s Twitter habits.