Philadelphia sports is in a transition period. A transition period that is rather long.
The city is counting on Carson Wentz, Fletcher Cox, Jordan Hicks, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, a collection of Lehigh Valley IronPigs and Nolan Patrick [less than a week after being drafted] to take its four major professional sports teams out of “The Dark Ages.”
I know the Phillies are generating little to no interest right now. That was evident when I was a guest on the Philly Influencer Spotlight earlier this week. One of the comments left on Facebook Live was, “Phillies. OMG. Later.” That’s only one person, but I get it, you’re finding it harder and harder to watch.
That being said, something happened this week with the Phils that should be a lesson to anyone who associates themselves with the Philadelphia sports scene, especially the potential cornerstones listed above: Leadership is a necessary prerequisite.
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Following another brutal loss in Arizona on Monday, dropping the Phils to 24-51, Freddy Galvis vented his frustrations about effort and the team’s play when speaking to the media. It wasn’t the first time he spoke out this season. But the Phils are 2-0 since then with both wins being come-from-behind victories. After the second win, players like Tommy Joseph and Andrew Knapp acknowledged that Galvis’ comments struck a chord within them.
Will it lead to a longer stretch of victories? Probably not. The Phillies are what they are. However, at least the two games in Seattle were competitive, tolerable to follow, and ultimately victories.
Now, Galvis isn’t expected to be around in the future, unless J.P. Crawford completely falls apart. But, the players listed at the top are with their respective teams.
Embiid showed leadership last season when he said the 76ers are trying to make the playoffs. The result of that statement was an excellent month of January.
Wentz is supposedly developing in to a fine leader. We’ll find out if that’s true come Sundays this fall.
Steve Mason could be on his way out, but another example of the positive affects of vocal leadership was the Flyers goalie questioning the team’s effort following a loss in Winnipeg late in the season. The Orange and Black won five of their next six, making the final couple of weeks somewhat hopeful for postseason play. It obviously didn’t happen, but where was Claude Giroux when that type of statement was necessary? Where has he ever been in moments like that? Notice the guy once dubbed by Peter Laviolette as “the best player in the world” isn’t in this column’s second sentence. As talented as Giroux is, from an outsiders perspective he doesn’t appear as captain material and thus why his team rarely competes into late May and early June.
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Talent is needed, and so is hard work. Remember, the 1980 Phillies don’t win without Pete Rose. If Jimmy Rollins doesn’t say the Phillies are “the team to beat,” that amazing Phillies run from 2007 to 2011 probably starts a year or two later. Julius Erving was much more understated, but a leader nonetheless. One doesn’t always have to be loud to lead.
Still, it’s sometimes assumed that publicly calling out the team or being unusually vocal are recipes for a bigger mess. Galvis proved otherwise this week. He wouldn’t stand for the losing product that’s occurred the past two months and did something to stop the bleeding. Despite dropping 51 games, losing isn’t acceptable to the shortstop.
The question is, how far are the athletes of the future willing to go when the words nobody wants to hear has to be said?
Before I forget…
-On the topic of leadership, Phillies centerfielder Odubel Herrera is talented enough to be a fixture in the team’s future. When he’s at his best, he’s a very dangerous hitter, solid fielder and athletic base runner. As written in this column before, he doesn’t play smart and this past Saturday was the latest example. Pete Mackanin fined Herrera an undisclosed amount of money for disobeying a base running sign. Herrera got picked off trying to steal second base, when he didn’t have the green light. Herrera admitted his concentration must be better, while Mackanin said on The WIP Morning Show, “Herrera is tough to deal with because he’s just a different kind of guy and I appeal in different ways to him.” This remains a puzzling situation, but I’m convinced if this kid can wise up on the field, he’ll be a headache for other teams, and not his own.
-In his first three Triple-A games, second baseman prospect Scott Kingery proved he’s more than capable at that level, hitting .308 with two homers and driving in five runs. Phils Director of Player Development Joe Jordan admitted they kept Kingery in Double-A for as long as they did so he could get 425 to 450 at bats. If Phillies games become even tougher to follow as the season goes on, and Kingery is continuing to rake in Triple-A, don’t hold him back for at-bats.
-Joel Embiid and Dario Saric losing rookie of the year to Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon wasn’t as annoying as Brogdon not acknowledging in his acceptance speech or press conference that he doesn’t win that award if Embiid plays about 20 more games. Saric should’ve won anyway with how he performed once Embiid was done for the season and Ersan Ilyasova was traded.
-Markelle Fultz seems like the perfect fit for the 76ers. He’s clearly talented, level headed, focused and should mesh well with Simmons and Embiid. But the most enticing aspect about him is his willingness to face adversity. Fultz bounced back from getting cut from high school varsity. He’s not bothered by those who question him for losing a lot at the University of Washington. And, it didn’t bother him one bit that the Boston Celtics essentially passed on him. This guy is what Philadelphia is all about. Summer league should be fun starting next week. Will it supersede the Phillies in sports and newscasts?
-This popped up on my Twitter feed Thursday morning and my mouth dropped to the floor. I don’t remember Lou Williams saying obnoxious things when he was a 76er, but Williams tweeted “So crazy to me that all these nerds cover all sports. Not one athletic bone in their body with all the opinions and analysis.” No one knows what prompted this, but I hope he realizes media members cover sports so the fans can receive information on their favorite teams and players. Without coverage, sports wouldn’t be as popular as they are today because there would be less access to them. But, it’s his First Amendment right to tweet what he wants. It’s also my First Amendment right to share my opinion on the matter.
-Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said the team isn’t rebuilding even though he traded Brayden Schenn, a player who scored at least 20 goals three of the last four seasons, including 17 on the power play in 2016-17. For a squad that struggled scoring, wouldn’t losing one of its top scorers without getting immediate value in return signal rebuild? I thought so, but what in the world do I know? Lou Williams generalized the media as “nerds.”
Dave Uram is a weekly contributor to Philly Influencer. You can follow him on Twitter (@MrUram) and email him at [email protected].