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June 08, 2015

Much like Howard & Utley, Gillick proving to be just another sad link to past

When the Phillies named Pat Gillick president early this year, fans had every reason to hope for a more rational approach to rebuilding. Gone was the overly sentimental style of his predecessor, Dave Montgomery. Back was the brilliance that won the team a championship in 2008. Or so we thought.

Unfortunately, either Gillick isn’t the genius he once was, or even he cannot overcome the cluelessness of GM Ruben Amaro Jr. There is simply no other logical conclusion based on the haphazard way the Phils are making decisions these days.

First of all, there is the insanity of declaring 2015 a rebuilding year and then clogging up one third of the batting order with three players – Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz – who will be gone before the Phillies’ return to respectability. How can Amaro say he needs to audition the kids and then keep these three relics in the lineup?

Cesar Hernandez may not be the next Utley, but doesn’t a second baseman who batted .314 and .309 in the minors the past two seasons deserve an everyday opportunity? And Darin Ruf is no longer a prospect at 28, but the man did hit 38 home runs the last time he played a full season. Isn’t he a wiser choice than a 36-year-old Howard at first base?

The bottom line on the Phillies right now is that they are not functioning well on the field or in the front office. More and more, it appears the team needs a rebuilding plan for the people in charge, too. 

Meanwhile, Gillick (or Amaro) is showing no more acumen in overseeing the minor leagues. Domonic Brown is languishing at AAA Lehigh two seasons after his one incredible month in May 2013. Brown was a big-league All-Star that season, with 27 home runs. He has no homers – zero – in the first two months back in the minors.

At what point will the Phillies give up on Dom Brown? He is the poster boy for Amaro’s failure to develop young talent, and yet – at 27 – is still drawing a $2.6-million check for no good reason in Lehigh. With his lackadaisical attitude, Brown shows no sign of ever realizing his potential. So why haven’t the Phils released him?

“He’s making some progress,” Amaro said the other day, with a straight face. “It’s just a matter of dotting some I’s and crossing some T’s.”

Does the GM really believe that? Does anybody?

The latest insult to fan intelligence is the handling of stud pitching prospect Aaron Nola, who is totally dominating at Reading. The first-round pick from LSU has a 1.76 ERA and has allowed 54 hits in 72 innings in AA ball. Instead of promoting him, the Phillies are giving Nola this week off to rest his arm. Can you spell c-o-d-d-l-e?

When I asked Amaro recently on my WIP radio show why he wasn’t moving Nola at least up to Lehigh, the GM nearly choked. He said that move would violate his “process,” which requires that a minor-leaguer experience failure before he’s ready to move to the next level.

As the entire Delaware Valley said “Huh?” in unison, Amaro remained firm in his conviction. He said it’s essential that a young player not come up too soon because an early failure could cause permanent emotional damage.

Of course, while he was saying that, the one breakout young star of the season so far, Maikel Franco, was contributing clutch home runs and making some breathtaking plays at third base. Franco came up to the Phillies last September, struggled mightily, and is living proof that Amaro’s philosophy is stupid.

If a player is star quality, he is mentally strong enough to prevail over an early setback. All Amaro needs to do is ask Utley or Howard or Ruiz. At least then their presence on the roster would serve some useful purpose.

The bottom line on the Phillies right now is that they are not functioning well on the field or in the front office. More and more, it appears the team needs a rebuilding plan for the people in charge, too. Gillick appears to be too old now. And Amaro is definitely . . . still Amaro.

These guys have no idea what they’re doing.


Well, that didn’t take long. After just a few weeks in Buffalo, LeSean McCoy has revealed himself to be every bit the selfish lout he was – very quietly – in his six seasons with the Eagles. After his cowardly retreat from his racial allegations against Chip Kelly last week, Bills fans understand far better why McCoy no longer resides in Philadelphia.

As I pointed out, clairvoyantly, in this space last week, McCoy wants nothing to do with his petulant tirade in ESPN Magazine over Kelly’s banishment of “all the good players – especially all the good black players.” McCoy fended off questions about it last week, threatening to walk out if reporters continued their interrogation.

One of those scribes, Matt Fairburn of the Syracuse Post-Standard, told me that the Buffalo media was surprised and puzzled that McCoy would level such a vile accusation and then not stand behind it. Fairburn said reporters have every intention to bring it up again, no later than McCoy’s scheduled return here on Dec. 13.

During his historic career as an Eagle, McCoy was always successful in burying his human shortcomings under brilliant play on the field. The missed personal appearances, the bus incident, the 20-cent tip were all swept aside by his impeccable performance. Then last season happened, when his talents started to erode, and his flaws began to emerge.

What happened last week – the ferocity of his arrogance – had an effect on his Eagles fans that is hard to calculate. An Internet poll I conducted right after his rant showed that 87 percent will no longer root for him, but the memory of his great career here is bound to win back some of those people.

We will all find out together on Dec. 13 just how far his reputation has fallen when the most prolific runner in Eagles history returns to Lincoln Financial Field.

Will he still get a hero’s welcome?

After his obnoxious behavior last week, don’t bet on it.


Andre Iguodala’s pursuit of an NBA championship with Golden State has polarized Philadelphia fans. According to a recent Internet poll I conducted for my WIP radio show, half the fans admire the former Sixer’s athletic skills and wish him well. The other half hopes he and his off-putting attitude fall short again.

Needless to say, I have aligned myself with the latter group. Iguodala – once known as “the other AI” – is a perfect example of the modern player who wants it all, but is willing to give nothing of himself outside the basketball court. The spotlight may not be as bright with Stephen Curry as a teammate, but Iguodala remains an enigma to me.

No one will ever dispute his athletic ability, but he never could handle being the face of a franchise. And the reason for this failure is his ignorance of the demands of the job. Not only does he remain one of the worst interviews in sports, last week he even crashed Curry’s party and called reporters “nosy” when they asked about his teammate’s infant daughter, Riley.

The problem with Iguodala is, he never wanted to feed the media monster the way the first AI, Allen Iverson, did, but he demanded the maximum pay of an elite star. Unfortunately, the Sixers were dumb enough to pay the price, until they finally figured out Iguodala couldn’t sell tickets at a time when they needed it the most.

When he returned to Philadelphia in 2012 after eight seasons here, reporters asked him how the fans would respond when he ran out onto the court.

“I don’t really care,” he said.

And now I’m supposed to root for him to win an NBA championship?

No, thank you.

And finally . . . 

     • Can we stop all of these ridiculous media tributes to Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper, please? First of all, he is a below-average wide receiver. We all have eyes. And second, he is the main reason for the racial debate over coach Chip Kelly. He is not worth $5 million a year, whether he can block well or not.

     • Ryne Sandberg continues to confound baseball wisdom with his mindless managing decisions. The Phils’ manager actually sent Cole Hamels out to start the eighth inning last week because Sandberg didn’t get reliever Ken Giles up soon enough. Before Hamels threw another pitch, Sandberg came out to get his starter. When Amaro leaves, he needs to take Sandberg with him.

     • After an amazing documentary of his life last month on Showtime, Allen Iverson is now the subject of an equally impressive book, Not a Game, by Washington Post writer Kent Babb. There’s only one problem. The film is very complimentary, but the book is not. Hero or drunk? Who was Allen Iverson? Can he be both?

     • Tampa is the worst sports city in America. Not only does it refuse to support a perennially good baseball team, the Rays, but now the Lightning has banned out-of-staters from buying tickets to the Stanley Cup finals over fears that Chicago fans would take over the building. Tampa doesn’t deserve any of its pro teams.

     • If the presidential candidates ever choose up sides for a charity softball game, it’s a safe bet that New Jersey governor Chris Christie will be the last pick. Did you see the video last week of his athletic exploits at Yankee Stadium? Have you stopped laughing yet?