Ed Snider’s Debacle
There will be fireworks and music and – no doubt – a giant flag this afternoon when the Phillies commence the home portion of their 2010 schedule against the Nationals, everybody’s preferred home opener guest. Short of wondering if it will be possible to send Roy Halladay to the mound every game, the Phils will have very little to worry about, thanks to a 5-1 start and an aura of supreme confidence that will make anything less than a National League pennant as surprising as a balanced city budget.
It will be a festive time for all, and even if Cole Hamels continues his recent struggles – 100 pitches to complete five innings? – the team’s ever-growing legions will remain devoted to their heroes. [SIGNUP]
Across the street, however, there are no such good times. At the Wachovia Center, which used to host meaningful games, they are celebrating a last-ditch playoff save by the Flyers and rejoicing in the prospect of at least two post-season paydays before scattering the lads to their off-season havens. The Stanley Cup playoffs may be unpredictable, and the Flyers did own Jersey during the regular season, winning five of six, but they won’t be hanging any banners this year. Again.
Meanwhile, the building’s other tenants, the woeful 76ers, have two games remaining and seem hell-bent on ruining their Draft Lottery status, as usual. Winning in Memphis Saturday night pushed the Sixers into seventh place in the horrible hierarchy. Defeat the Heat tonight or the Magic Wednesday, and it’s possible the team could fall to eighth, behind the miserable Clippers. In a draft that lacks depth, every win could have serious ramifications for the future. Word is out that Rodney Carney and Jason Smith are available for action these next couple games. Use them. A lot.
But this isn’t a call to tank. No, that was made months ago, when it became evident this franchise was incapable of playing winning basketball. Blame it on management, the coaching or the players. In fact, blame it on all of them. This is a rotten team that doesn’t always play hard and lacks the leadership necessary to succeed.
The Sixers won’t be taking part in the playoffs, unless you consider a Thursday-morning tee time the post-season. They, however, share plenty with their fellow Wachovia tenants. Both have serious personnel issues, the Flyers’ primary weakness is in goal and the Sixers’ troubles are just about everywhere. Neither has been blessed with particularly stellar game management. But mostly, they share a problem at the top. As long as Ed Snider continues to run the teams, their hopes for big success are minimal.
His insistence on operating the Flyers as if it were 1975 has put the franchise well behind the rest of the league. By refusing to embrace European players and especially Russians, Snider has hurt the team in an NHL that is becoming increasingly global. Seven of the top 15 scorers this year are from Europe. None is from the Flyers. This is not a new refrain; nor is it a new outcome. Until the Flyers decide the hockey across the pond is worthy of intense scouting efforts, they will flounder. Mr. Snider, take down that wall.
There are those, your humble narrator among them, who believe Snider’s love of hockey has been detrimental to the Sixers, since it’s tough to pay attention to both teams equally, and it’s still possible a bit of sibling rivalry exists. That was all okay when Pat Croce was around to run the Sixers day-to-day and push for strong moves like the hiring of Larry Brown. But Croce is long gone, and the Sixers have been poor for years. (No, first-round playoff defeats do not count as “successes.”) The team made a horrible decision signing Eddie Jordan as coach last summer, since Jordan’s offense was all wrong for a team without intuitive players and no proven point guard. GM Ed Stefanski was dead wrong to offer Andre Iguodala a huge contract. And Elton Brand has provided little of what was expected when he came to town, although it’s hard to rip anybody for that signing, since the whole city was in favor of it. Just goes to show why the fans shouldn’t handle general-manager duties.
Fixing a mess of a team that is already beyond the salary cap for 2010-11 and refuses to lose enough to get a better lottery spot is almost impossible. This year was bleak. Next season doesn’t promise much more. Don’t get too excited about the time after that, either.
There will be much rejoicing in South Philly this afternoon, as the Phillies bring their gaudy start and winning pedigree to town. Later on, the Sixers will thank their fans for enduring a season of fetid basketball. Next Sunday, the Flyers hope to win, largely to fill the building for a sixth game against the Devils. It’s hardly an ideal situation, and it begs a question:
Can Halladay skate?
* It was great to see Phil Mickelson win the Masters, especially after how he has stuck with his wife during her battle with breast cancer.
* The Union gets big marks for making its home debut a winner, and the 35,000 fans were deliriously happy. The trick now: sustaining the good times. Soccer isn’t guaranteed to succeed here.
* Inning count for Roy Halladay in two starts: 16. Inning count for four other Phillies starters: 20. Not good.