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Monday, August 15, 2016

Rob’s Rants on Sports: First Glimpse of the Eagles and Wentz; Thome on the Phillies Wall of Fame?; Flashes of old Ryan Howard; more

It was a busy weekend for Philadelphia sports, including the Eagles playing their first game Thursday against Tampa Bay. I guess if I’m calling Thursday part of the “weekend,” I can call the glorified practice that is preseason football a “game.” Since the Birds will dominate my sports Rants, I thought I’d shift gears and start  posting it on Mondays (or Tuesdays when they play on Monday night) after the game.

  • I don’t know what to make of Sam Bradford’s 3-play appearance in the preseason opener, which included his one pass for 3 yards. The drive started in the red zone after the Bucs fumbled the opening kickoff, and ended with a Ryan Matthews rushing touchdown. If Bradford was an established veteran starter, I’d assume head coach Doug Pederson was happy to get the quarterback’s feet wet and get him out on a positive note. But playing his first season last year after missing a season-and-a-half due to injuries, and having his team trade up to the second pick in the draft to select quarterback Carson Wentz, Bradford appears to be anything but the established starter. It only encouraged the “We Want Wentz” chants from the crowd and added to the head scratching about the Eagles quarterback situation. (The head scratching only increased with news breaking on Saturday that Wentz suffered a hairline fracture of his ribs.) Maybe Pederson has plenty of confidence in Bradford and wanted to see more of the backups. My two cents is the guy should have played more.

  • Doug Pederson surprised everyone and put Carson Wentz in for the last two minutes of the first half. He reportedly told the broadcast team that he wanted to get the jitters out of the rookie. I wonder if unexpectedly throwing Wentz into the first half is evidence that a touch of the “gambler” from early Andy Reid vintage has rubbed off on Pederson. (Remember the onside kick to open the season against Dallas?) I’m probably giving him too much credit, but I liked it and think it bodes well for fans who want to see Wentz play this season assuming his injury doesn’t linger.

  • Poised was the word of the night for Wentz. I don’t think the preseason reveals much about a player, especially after the starters are out. Wentz made some throws and missed some others playing with and against some guys who won’t be in the NFL. It’s also unclear how the rib injury impacted his play.

  • Overall, I saw nothing to excite Eagles fans for this season. The team seemed to have no depth on the offensive line, which might end up being a great reason to keep Wentz on the sideline. (Believe it or not, I noted this prior to news breaking that Wentz ended up with an injury in the game.)

  • Jim Thome is a class act by all accounts and was a great player. But there’s no way he should have been put on the Phillies Wall of Fame. He essentially played two seasons for the team in 2003 and 2004, being traded to Baltimore after playing sparingly in 2005, and finally returning in 2012 for 30 games to retire. Thome’s basically the guy in Philadelphia who delayed Ryan Howard’s career in the Majors. He had very good numbers with the Phillies (89 home runs in the first two years, batting .266 and .274, respectively) and played on decent teams (86-76 in both ’03 and ’04), but it was just before the Phillies run that culminated in the 2008 World Series Championship. Putting him on the Wall of Fame cheapens a pretty cool display at Citizens Bank Park, and proves they shouldn’t be adding new members every year.

  • Ryan Howard will rightly be on the Wall of Fame someday, and as painful as his final years have been to watch, I almost wish he had walked off into the sunset after the game Friday night. He hit a grand slam to break open 3-3 game against Colorado, and finished 3-for-5 at the plate with 5 RBI. He’s actually hitting .381 with 12 RBI and 4 HRs in the last 15 games, and .284 with 19 RBI and 7 HRs in the last 30 games. Is it possible a contender actually takes him in a waiver trade with his contract expiring? I doubt it. But I can’t believe it’s even a thought. In a way, I’m happy for him to go out on a little bit of a high note. But it also makes us all wonder what could have been.

  • Cody Asche was sent down to the minors and I wonder if he’s done as a Phillies player. He seemed to be doing OK in the outfield, but he’s really not hitting at all (.203), certainly not providing power (4 home runs since returning from the minors on June 2), and he was originally a third baseman. I don’t think Maikel Franco is going anywhere. I wasn’t sure why Asche came up from the minors after starting the season there due to a spring training injury. If memory serves, the rehab stint was extended because he wasn’t hitting in the minors, and he never actually gave the Phillies a reason to bring him up.

  • A higher voice has spoken? I can’t resist this national note from the weekend. The headline on (now changed) was beautiful—“Thunderstorm cuts short Yankees’ pregame ceremony for A-Rod.” According to the story, Alex Rodriguez, who was suspended for the entire 2014 season for using performance enhancing drugs, came out of the dugout at 7:02 PM for his pre-game We’re Releasing You ceremony (my words). By 7:07 PM he was heading for cover from a thunder and lightning storm. Don’t mess with Mother Nature.

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