The Phillies’ Latino Uprising

The Phillies’ emerging Latino core (from left): Odubel Herrera, Hector Neris, César Hernández and Maikel Franco. Illustration by Gluekit, photos by AP

For teenage big-league hopefuls at the brand-new baseball academy the Phillies opened (with the Minnesota Twins) in the Dominican Republic this January, the box score from the home team’s April 26th victory over Miami had to provide inspiration.

Vince Velasquez got the win. Joely Rodriguez, Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris provided solid relief work. Maikel Franco slugged a grand slam, and Freddy Galvis hit a solo dinger. The Phils’ fifth straight victory had a distinct Latin flavor. Read more »

The Best Thing That Happened This Week: The Awakening of Aaron Altherr

Philadelphia Phillies’ Aaron Altherr in action during a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners, Wednesday, May 10, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Some weeks are so full of hope and wonder that we have a hard time choosing amongst all the Best Things That Happen. Then there are weeks like the one we just had. While the Republic crumbled around us, we stood in the rubble and said to ourselves, “Oh, yeah, right, Best Thing … ” And it’s not as if we could turn to our sports teams to save us (though the Union did win their second straight game). The Phillies got spanked, 10-9 and 11-6, in their abbreviated midweek stand against the Mariners (in the midst of six straight games against the Nats; who makes up these schedules?). They also got beat on Saturday night in the bottom of the ninth by a walk-off homer by—wait for it—Bryce f’ing Harper.

On the other hand — and, yeah, we’re digging deep here — left fielder Aaron Altherr is tearing it up these days. In Wednesday’s game he smacked two home runs and became just the third Phil since 1929 to hit three-run home runs in three straight games. (His company? Mike Schmidt, in 1981, and Whiz Kid catcher Andy Seminick in 1949.) Through Wednesday, he’d had nine extra-base hits in eight games, prompting coach Pete Mackanin to marvel, “He’s turned into a monster.”

Oh, and we got to see Carlos Ruiz again. You see? There’s always something, if you dig deep enough.

Follow @SandyHingston on Twitter.

South Jersey’s Mario Tobia Is America’s Top Blind Golfer

Mario Tobia (left) with his coach, Frank Hesson. Photo by Joe Trinacria.

Imagine yourself standing on the uneven green of a meticulously manicured golf course, the soft turf giving slightly beneath each step of your spikes, the smell of freshly cut grass and the sounds of birds chirping in the air as you set up your putt.

Now, reading the break on a green is difficult enough for any golfer, but how do you think you’d fare with your eyes closed? How about setting up a shot off the tee box without being able to visualize where you wanted to place the ball?

Is there a dogleg left or right? How far are the trees from the start of the rough? Are there even trees there at all?

Golf Digest’s Dan Jenkins once said, “Golf is 90 percent mental. Once you know how to hold the club and swing it, it’s all in the mind.”

For South Jersey’s Mario Tobia, the president of the Middle Atlantic Blind Golf Association, vision is overrated. Read more »

Should We Get Behind Jeff Lurie’s Push for the Return of Kelly Green?

Photo illustration by Joe Trinacria. Photos by AP

Photo illustration by Joe Trinacria. Photos by AP

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie made some noise recently when he confirmed, at his annual state-of-the-franchise address, that a leaked rule change proposed (and later rescinded) by the team was put forward with an eye toward reintroducing the classic kelly-green uniforms, last worn full time in 1995.

“I want to see us use kelly green as our alternate and Thursday-night type of uniform. The only thing blocking us is we can’t get the kelly-green helmet yet,” Lurie said on March 28th at the NFL’s owners meeting in Phoenix, making reference to the league’s one-shell rule. “That’s what we’re waiting for.”

Many Birds fans have cheered the idea of the return of the team’s iconic colors of yesteryear — but I’m a bit more skeptical. While I wholeheartedly welcome the idea of bringing back the true Eagles — the colors of Randall Cunningham, Reggie White, and rookie-year Bobby Taylor — what makes the faithful so sure that Lurie would not succumb to a number of tempting mistakes along the road to seeing that back onto the field? Read more »

Sixers Post Is Coming to an End

Over the last two years here at Philadelphia magazine I’ve had the freelance opportunity of a liftetime, given the leeway and the freedom to craft a somewhat different method of covering your favorite NBA team. I knew I was at the right spot when, in my first week, I asked Brian Howard, my editor at the time, whether I could run an article talking about the Sixers’ Expected Effective Field Goal Percentage. Likely not knowing what the stat was, but without blinking an eye, Brian gave me the green light and let me run with it.

That kind of flexibility allowed me to experiment in ways that, quite honestly, were the reason I reached out to Philadelphia magazine in the first place. Admiring the unique gem Sheil Kapadia and Tim McManus had built with Birds 24/7, I viewed Philadelphia as the place that I could build something similar. From the moment I came aboard my editors, from Brian to Tim Haas to Tom McGrath, put their faith in me, and gave me all the freedom and flexibility I could ever hope in looking to craft something unique. For that, I cannot thank them enough.

You can continue to follow me on twitter, @DerekBodnerNBA, to keep up with my thoughts on the Sixers and the NBA.

Meet Sachin Gupta, The Driving Force Behind Many of Sam Hinkie’s Trades

Left: Joel Embiid (Cal Sport Media/Associated Press); right: Ben Simmons (Steven Freeman/NBAE/Getty Images)

Joel Embiid (Cal Sport Media/Associated Press) and Ben Simmons (Steven Freeman/NBAE/Getty Images) were acquired as a result of the Sixers’ rebuild. Was it worth it?

The Philadelphia 76ers — winners of 11 of their last 16 games, sitting just 4.5 games of the playoffs, and, most importantly, led by the kind of generational superstar that promises to make them relevant for the foreseeable future — have started to capture the imagination of the Philadelphia sports fan in a way almost nobody could have predicted just a few short months ago.

Almost nobody.

Much of that excitement is predictably centered around Joel Embiid, the third-year rookie taking the NBA by storm. Embiid is averaging 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 2.5 blocked shots per game, despite having his playing time limited to just 25.4 per contest as he works his way back from two missed seasons because of an injury to the navicular bone in his right foot. Despite the limited playing time Embiid has showcased the diversity of skills that could, perhaps should, make him one of the best two-way players of his generation.

Read more »

Joel Embiid Is Not An All-Star, And That’s Okay

Joel Embiid's 20 points and 7 rebounds weren't enough as the Sixers fell to the Thunder 103-97 | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Embiid was not selected as an All-Star reserve | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Last night the NBA announced the 7 reserves for the Eastern Conference All-Star team. Joel Embiid was not one of them.

Fellow Eastern Conference coaches selected John Wall, Kemba Walker, Isaiah Thomas, Kyle Lowry, Paul George, Kevin Love, and Paul Millsap to round out the All-Star roster.

Embiid came in 3rd among all Eastern Conference frontcourt players in the fan vote, with his 922,714 votes narrowly edging out Kevin Love‘s 909,488. In previous years, this would have earned Embiid a starting spot on the All-Star team.

Read more »

Joel Embiid Is Single-Handedly Changing the Sixers’ Outlook

Joel Embiid celebrates late in the 4th quarter during the Sixers 101-94 victory over the Miami Heat | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Embiid has captured the attention of Philadelphia sports fans. | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

“I’ve said many times you don’t want it to be a coach driven formula. Ultimately it needs to be player coached team, a player driven formula. The players determine the behavior. The players determine the culture. Where somebody will say that’s just not good enough. That’s not how we act. That’s not how we guard. We show up on time. That’s not respectful. Whatever it is. …And through discussion I have with Joel I’m trying to achieve that.”
— Sixers head coach Brett Brown, speaking to the media before the season.

That statement by head coach Brett Brown, at a media luncheon with reporters prior to the start of the season, seemed patently absurd at the time, made less than a year after Joel Embiid was the subject of a scathing report from Sports Illustrated alleging chronic insubordination, immaturity, and a ballooning midsection.

Rather than have Embiid lead the franchise, conventional wisdom said at the time, Embiid needed to have a strong personality alongside him to show him the way.

Under normal circumstances, that may have been true. But Embiid is no normal 22-year-old rookie.

Read more »

Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Their Wildly Separate Paths to the Sixers

Left: Joel Embiid (Cal Sport Media/Associated Press); right: Ben Simmons (Steven Freeman/NBAE/Getty Images)

Left: Joel Embiid (Cal Sport Media/Associated Press); right: Ben Simmons (Steven Freeman/NBAE/Getty Images)

Ben Simmons wears the face of a kid getting dragged to Sunday school when he’d rather settle in for a Call of Duty marathon with friends. He looks the part, too, a neatly buttoned white dress shirt and skinny black pants clinging to his lanky six-foot-10-inch, 20-year-old frame. His teammates on the 76ers are within arm’s reach, laughing and joking as they go through a pregame practice in gray t-shirts and blue shorts at the Wells Fargo Center.

Simmons wants to be out there with them, but for the moment he can only hover at the edge of the court and stare at the gleaming maple floor and the UFO-size Sixers logo. Pockets of fans who show up early for this mid-December matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers start to notice him standing there — the savior in the flesh. Ben. Ben. Hey, Simmons! Bennnn! He turns and walks down a tunnel to the locker room, frustrated, injured, alone. Read more »

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