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August 07, 2017

Phillies should turn Rose’s weekend into a celebration of Darren Daulton

Darren Daulton and Pete Rose are two of the biggest stars in Phillies history, and the impact both have had on our lives came into perspective this week in entirely different ways.

Daulton, who passed away last night, will be a hero here forever.

Rose, whose Wall of Fame Induction was canceled, will never again be a hero here.

During my WIP radio show this morning, Daulton’s many fans clogged our phone lines with every kind of tribute imaginable, everything from personal encounters with the legendary catcher to memories of the beloved 1993 team that he led all the way to the World Series. He left behind a city whose love didn’t dissipate after his career. If anything, it grew larger.

What resonated throughout the morning was the admiration that Daulton had cultivated not just because he was a terrific ballplayer but also because he was an honorable man. He exhibited this strength of character during his career and then after it, both in his friendly encounters with fans and with his courageous four-year battle with brain cancer.

His former teammate, Mitch Williams, called Daulton “the real manager” of the ’93 team, a force in the clubhouse like none Williams had encountered before or since. After a key series sweep late in the season, Daulton warned his teammates not to gloat in public.

“Not one word,” he threatened.

And after Williams gave up the homer to Joe Carter that ended the World Series, Daulton placed his hand on Williams’ head, the only sign of consolation the pitcher needed after the worst moment of his career.

Ricky Bottalico, who joined the ballclub the year after that 1993 near-miracle, said there was so much more to Daulton’s contribution than the average fan could see. For example, his leadership behind the plate – his ability to frame pitches, his knack for lobbying the home-plate umpire and his pitch selection – was something only a teammate could see.

Bottalico told the story of the one time he shook off a sign from Daulton during a game, leading to an immediate confrontation on the mound.

“What’s your E.R.A. when I’m catching?” he asked the rookie pitcher.

“I don’t know,” Bottalico replied.

“It’s zero,” Daulton said. “Throw the damn pitch I call.”

Of course, Daulton’s impact went way beyond the field. He was a man who embraced his role as a sports hero by raising money for worthy causes and by paying back the fans with a firm shake of the hand or maybe just a slight nod of the head. It was an honor to have known him, and that was the message the fans delivered on the radio this morning.

It is a message Pete Rose will never again hear here, even though he was a better player than Daulton. Rose was a ferocious competitor, but that attribute evolved into a fatal flaw when he employed the same reckless style in his life.

The gambling allegations that led to his lifetime suspension were horrific enough, but the revelation last week that Rose had also engaged in sex with an underage girl was the final blow to his already battered image.

“I thought she was 16,” was his only defense when he admitted, in court papers filed for a defamation lawsuit he himself filed. The girl was 15. He was 34. Case closed.

When the Phillies called off the ceremony to induct Rose onto the Wall of Fame last week, they said they would proceed with the weekend just the same, to honor the many great players who had already agreed to attend. Well, how about turning the event into a celebration of Darren Daulton? Why not offer a tribute to someone who truly deserves it?

The fans deserve one last chance to honor Darren Daulton, a man who deserves their acclaim. And if they take a moment to lament the memory of Pete Rose, a man who doesn’t, that would be fine, too.


Ten days into a placid Eagles training camp, Malcolm Jenkins shattered the calm with a statement last Thursday that was both illogical and counterproductive. The veteran safety said the NFL owners were “cowards” for refusing to sign controversial quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Last year, Kaepernick combined another unimpressive season with a weekly protest of the national anthem – a stand against police brutality toward blacks that he took by sitting on the bench during the song – a move that all major polls suggest was the biggest reason why NFL TV ratings dropped eight percent in 2016.

In other words, Kaepernick insulted NFL fans, hurt business, played poorly and now expects another chance to revive his career? The owners are not cowards for taking this stand. They are smart. I wouldn’t sign that dour, over-the-hill political activist, either. And neither would you.

The truth is, the owners are exercising their free will in snubbing Kaepernick just like the quarterback did in executing his protest last year. If he couldn’t anticipate that there would be repercussions for his actions, he deserves his current fate, even though he has vowed not to continue the protest this season.

As for Jenkins, until last week he had always used the pulpit of a high-profile athlete in a constructive way, starting with his own quietly symbolic fist-raising during the anthem last season. He is a leader on and off the field, and he should know better than to paint all of the owners with the same wide brush.

For example, was he calling Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie a coward, too? Remember, Lurie also ignored Kaepernick in the off-season when his team brought back Nick Foles as a backup quarterback. Is Jenkins saying that Lurie, by nature a political activist himself, should have brought in Kaepernick instead?

There was nothing for Jenkins to gain by saying what he said, whether he believes it or not. Kaepernick still doesn’t have a job, and he’s not getting one because Jenkins called the owners cowards.

Jenkins needs to remember that the Eagles are paying him $7.5 million this year to play football, not to make political statements more likely to hurt the Eagles than to help them.


Phillies GM Matt Klentak uses a precise mathematical equation to procure and optimize talent. Doesn’t he? After all, he is the brains behind the new analytics approach adopted by the organization. He must have numbers that tell him when to bring up a young player, no?


What the past week exposed is just how arbitrary, and how absurd, Klentak’s thinking is on the promotion of the valuable young players clamoring for a chance to play in the big leagues. If there are statistics to support these decisions, he needs to share them with an increasingly confused – and rapidly shrinking – fan base.

The bottom line is, Klentak is making this up as he goes along. He failed with his free-agent signings, squandered $70 million on veterans for a handful of lottery tickets at the trade deadline, and the early returns on his first-round draft picks are discouraging, too.

Let’s consider the current status of two of the elite prospects in the organization, Jorge Alfaro and Scott Kingery. Perhaps as early as next season, they are projected as the starting catcher and second baseman of the Phillies. No one would argue that point, not even the current catcher and second baseman, Cameron Rupp and Cesar Hernandez.

To the shock of many – including Alfaro himself – Klentak summoned his young catcher from Lehigh last week even though he is having an abysmal year on the top rung of the minor leagues. In fact, Alfaro was batting .214 since May 1 (.241 overall), and Klentak himself had already said he had no plans to bring up the 24-year old this season.

Then backup catcher Andrew Knapp suffered a bruised hand, and voila. The plan instantly changed. Instead of getting the essential work at Lehigh, Alfaro is riding the bench in Philadelphia. Next season, there will be no choice but to keep him here, since he would have to clear waivers if the Phils tried to send him down.

Meanwhile, Kingery is batting 57 points higher than Alfaro at Lehigh (.298) and is likely to remain there for the rest of the season. Klentak said Kingery needs more seasoning. Yes, Kingery is a year younger than Alfaro, but the Phillies saw no problem with bringing up the catcher last year when he, too, was 23. What does Kingery lack that Alfaro had last year?

The bottom line is, Klentak is making this up as he goes along. He failed with his free-agent signings, squandered $70 million on veterans for a handful of lottery tickets at the trade deadline, and the early returns on his first-round draft picks are discouraging, too.

Not enough people are paying attention right now, or they’d be asking a very important question about the immediate future of the Phillies: Does Matt Klentak have any idea what he’s doing?

And finally ...

• The Tony Romo experiment just keeps getting better. The former Dallas quarterback is cramming for his debut as the No. 1 analyst for CBS next month, and his latest classroom was a dank shed perched about 60 yards from the field at the Hall of Fame game last Thursday. Since NBC was doing the broadcast, Romo (and partner Jim Nantz) were just practicing. NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth couldn’t help but mock the effort. It won’t be the last time Romo is the butt of jokes this season. Bet on it.

• When Mike Trout wasn’t killing the Phillies with his bat in Anaheim last week, he was also teasing them with his words. The pride of Millville, N.J., said he would love to come home to play someday. He also said he loves Anaheim, of course, but he kept open the possibility that he would join the Phils when his contract runs out in three years. The Phillies must – MUST – make that happen.

• Doug Pederson said he is so intrigued with new running back LeGarrette Blount that he often finds himself firing up a highlight reel of Blount’s best plays. Great. Now Pederson needs to start a highlight reel of his own for Blount by handing him the ball on short-yardage situations every chance he can. Blount will make all of those fourth-down gambles pay off this year, if Pederson gives him the ball.

• Because no organization is more arrogant, the New England Patriots already sent out 2017 playoff tickets last week. Yes, a few other far less worthy teams also include playoff tickets in with their regular season tickets, but the Patriots took it a step further. The first set of postseason tickets was for the second round. They already are anticipating a bye. That’s not confidence. That’s arrogance.

• Meanwhile, Tom Brady celebrated his 40th birthday last week in a circus-like atmosphere in New England that included five goats – because he’s the Greatest Of All-Time (G.O.A.T.), and he has won five rings – and an endless stream of tributes from teammates and celebrities. My only comment is that the balloons seemed a little underinflated.