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January 12, 2015

Exposing Philly’s clowns, has-beens and frauds

Angelo Cataldi hammers them all in debut column

The sports fans of Philadelphia deserve far better than the clowns and has-beens and frauds running our four pro franchises.

How’s that for an opening line in this new gig? Well, get used to it. I have spent the last 25 years spouting strong and controversial opinions on WIP radio every morning. Writing down my observations on this awesome new website will change nothing.

In fact, I am really a bit of a fraud myself. I am known as a broadcaster, but I actually have far more training, and just as much experience, writing and reporting as I do babbling into a microphone. After earning two degrees in journalism, I covered the Eagles and Flyers at the Inquirer, and the Red Sox and Celtics for my hometown paper, the Providence Journal, before that.

What I learned by working as a beat reporter in all four of the major pro sports is that these ingrates owe the fans a lot more than the fans owe them.

The billionaire owners show no reluctance to extort personal-seat license fees, or jack up ticket prices or impose massive markups on officially licensed junk, and then cower at the expense of building a champion. Meanwhile, too many players refuse to give their full effort on the field, or their respect for the customers off it.
In this space every week, you will read the truth as I see it, taking no prisoners and suffering no fools. 

In this space every week, I will identify the clowns and has-beens and frauds, by name, without fear of lost business arrangements or longtime friendships. The truth is, I have no friends in sports, nor do I want them. The only people I care about are the fans listening to my voice on the radio, and now reading my words here.

What I have learned about Philadelphia by talking every day to the fans for a quarter-century is that they want strong opinions that make sense. They don’t have to agree with the perspective – in fact, they often disagree – but the debate enhances our shared love for sports. It’s really that simple.

On my very first day making the transition from newspapers to radio, my boss gave me a piece of advice that I have used every day since. He said the best way to determine what’s important to fans is to picture yourself sitting on the corner stool at a local bar, just listening to the conversation.

It’s not only what they’re saying, either. It’s how they’re saying it. Ruben Amaro is a clown! Ed Snider is a has-been! Sam Hinkie is a fraud! Philadelphia sports fans want the truth about their teams, delivered in plain language, preferably in a raised voice.

They want to know that the voice speaking to them cares as much as they do – cares enough to feel nauseous after the Eagles blow the season with three straight losses, or tear to shreds the overpriced jersey of shameless fools like ex-Eagle DeSean Jackson. It’s called passion. Philadelphia sports fans have as much passion as any city in America.

In this space every week, you will read the truth as I see it, taking no prisoners and suffering no fools. For example, the clown I refer to in the opening paragraph is, indeed, Ruben Amaro Jr. of the Phillies, the worst general manager in sports. The has-been is Flyers chairman Ed Snider, who hasn’t won a Stanley Cup in 40 years. And the fraud is Sixers GM Sam Hinkie, whose bogus rebuilding plan is impressive only to idiots.

There’s more where that came from – much, much more. I’ll be here every Monday, telling you what I think about Philadelphia sports. The rest of the week, I’ll be sitting in the corner stool at a local bar, listening very closely.

***

Jeff Lurie has been the owner
of the Eagles for almost 20 years now, and he still has no idea how to run a football team. He established his naivete when he hired his sourpuss friend, Joe Banner, to oversee the club for the first 16 years, and then reinforced it with the ascension of bootlicker Howie Roseman since then.

On those rare occasions when he emerges from his ivory tower, Lurie proves only how little he actually knows about the sport that made him a billionaire. For example, Lurie announced major changes in the Eagles’ power structure recently, handing all personnel duties to coach Chip Kelly, and demoting Roseman in the process.

The decision made perfect sense, considering that Roseman is a lawyer with no tangible success as a talent evaluator while Kelly is one of the most creative minds in football. Unfortunately, it took a major crisis for Lurie – a crisis that had Kelly looking for an escape route out of Philadelphia – to grasp what just about everybody else already knew.

When Roseman made a power play to remove Kelly’s personnel cohort, Tom Gamble, Kelly simply went to Lurie and told the owner that he would not place his own future, or that of the organization’s, in the hands of a dolt like Howie Roseman. With a gun pointed at his $200 haircut, Lurie suddenly saw the wisdom in that argument. The Eagles were saved. The future was bright again.

But the real story was what the crisis said about the man who owns the Eagles. After all these years, Jeff Lurie remains susceptible to the office politicking of minions like Roseman, and oblivious to the people who actually know how to do their jobs like Tom Gamble.

In the same week as the major restructuring of the front office, Lurie was asked if Roseman would remain the GM of his football team.

“Is that a real question?” he asked.

Yes.

“Absolutely.”

Five days later, Roseman was out.

It has been 54 years since the Eagles won an NFL championship. If Chip Kelly ends that drought, he will have to overcome 31 other teams, and one clueless owner.

***

The Phillies traded their most productive player in 2014, Marlon Byrd, to Cincinnati earlier this month for a pitching prospect. What made the move especially noteworthy is that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. included $4 million in the deal, just a few weeks after throwing $1 million into the trade that sent Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers.

Notice a trend yet? Interim president Pat Gillick obviously doesn’t because – against all logic – Amaro remains in place to make more deals that are so terrible, the Phils will eventually have to pay other teams to accept the contract.

Of course, five million is pennies compared to the historic payout the Phillies will soon be making to the team willing to take Ryan Howard and a portion of the ungodly $60 million left on his deal. Amaro is already on the record saying Howard would be better off finishing his career somewhere else – a dubious strategy given his desperation to move the lumbering first baseman.

Amaro took over a championship roster, in six seasons bungled it into a last-place team, has overseen an attendance plunge bigger than any in baseball and is now paying other teams to take the bloated contracts he was suckered into signing. No GM in Philadelphia sports history has ever done more damage than Amaro, and yet he is entering his seventh season as GM.

Have the people who own the Phillies lost their minds?

And finally . . . .

•    The Flyers are doing the impossible right now. They are making their partners in winter sports, the Sixers, seem interesting. The Flyers are a model of mediocrity, trapped in a time warp created by their 81-year-old chairman, Ed Snider. Hey, Ed. Retire. Please.

•    After 18 years of failure in the front office of the Flyers, ex-GM Paul Holmgren will be awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding service to hockey. Welcome to the NHL, where winning the Stanley Cup is no longer a requirement for immortality.
•    When the Cowboys lost to Green Bay on Sunday, they weren’t the only losers. Gov. Chris Christie – a man I voted for twice, by the way – placed his bull-headed allegiance to that evil blue star above his own run for president. As a result, he will meet a similar fate. Book it now. He will lose. Big.

•    Former Phillies pitcher Curt Schilling said last week that he wasn’t elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot because he’s a Republican. As someone who met him a few times, I disagree. He didn’t get enough votes because he’s an insufferable loudmouth and an incorrigible jerk.

•    The alarmingly large army of knuckleheads embracing GM Sam Hinkie’s master plan need to ask themselves one question: Are Michael-Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel actually building blocks for a Sixer championship? If your answer is yes, congratulations. You win a lifetime supply of Hinkie Kool-Aid.