Mike Richards wears a “C” on his sweater, but it is a lie. He is not a captain. He is not a leader. The first positive change the Flyers can make this offseason is to rip that “C” right off his chest.
For the past two-plus months, the Flyers have collected millions from their fans for an effort that wasn’t worth 10 cents. They stole money in March, when they lost interest in a season they had dominated. And they returned to that apathy in a May swoon.
Have we ever had a team that showed less interest in a playoff game than the Flyers did in Game 1 against Boston? Shame on these Flyers for failing to win a Stanley Cup for the 36th straight year. And shame on Richards for staining the captaincy. If you’re looking to place blame, start with him.
Not only did he provide little on the ice — one goal in 11 playoff games — but he was equally impotent in the locker room. Where was Richards when his coach was exhausting his arsenal of motivational tricks? Where was Richards when it became obvious that Chris Pronger would be physically unable to lead?
Richards said very little or refused to speak at all during the collapse of his team. When he did speak, he inspired only sleep. He may have the talent to be a very good hockey player, but he would be far more effective as a hypnotist. With him around, your eyelids always feel heavy.
The most revealing moment in a season of absentee leadership came just before Game 4 of the Boston sweep, when Richards refused to address his teammates, saying they didn’t need to be reminded of the gravity of the situation. Of course, they were saved in the first round when Danny Briere felt compelled to address his teammates before Game 7. Apparently, that reminder worked.
Mike Richards is the wrong leader for these Flyers, and the wrong player for Philadelphia. He has cashed the big check, but he feels no obligation to assume the responsibilities associated with that reward. If he were a real leader — like Bobby Clarke, Rick Tocchet and Keith Primeau before him — there would have been no need to acquire Pronger two years ago, no reason to replace a comatose John Stevens with the rabble-rousing Peter Laviolette.
And that’s why something good must come from this collapse. That’s why the Flyers need desperately to correct this blatant case of fraud. That’s why the Flyers have to rip the “C” off the chest of Mike Richards before they ever play another game.
Not a lot of answers
Last week, Roy Oswalt did something very unusual — something that could compromise the magical season we all anticipate for the Phillies.
Oswalt left the team for his home in Mississippi after tornadoes had ripped through his community. At the time, his departure wasn’t just understandable, it was expected. GM Ruben Amaro pointed out that the only concern was for the pitcher’s family.
Fortunately, everyone was fine. Unfortunately, Oswalt stayed for eight days helping with the cleanup. When he returned, after driving an excavator to clear away trees, he had to go on the DL with a recurrence of a back injury.
As usual, the Phillies have offered very little to explain why Oswalt stayed so long and what effect the physical labor had on his balky back. The closest anyone came to shedding any light was Amaro’s statement that “moving trees probably didn’t help him much.” What Amaro didn’t address was why Oswalt stayed so long and why he didn’t hire someone to do the heavy lifting.
Oswalt said that baseball is no more than No. 3 or No. 4 on his list of priorities in life. Fine. We can live with that. But when one of the four arms comprising MLB’s best rotation is hauling debris instead of throwing baseballs, we all have a right to wonder why.
Practice what you preach
Every time Ruben Amaro speaks about the Phillies’ roster, he emphasizes the need to plan for the future. So why does his manager keep refusing to develop young talent?
A case in point is the criminal way Vance Worley is being jerked around. He replaced overpaid and overweight fifth starter Joe Blanton and pitched back-to-back gems, allowing one run over 12 innings. His reward was a return to the bullpen.
Worley is what Amaro has been preaching — young (23), talented and ready for the bigs. With Roy Oswalt talking about retiring at the end of the year, there is no pitcher in the organization more suited to a move into the rotation than Worley.
That message hasn’t reached Charlie Manuel, who restored Blanton to the No. 5 spot after some minor elbow problems. And with Oswalt on the DL, journeyman Kyle Kendrick filled his spot brilliantly, and will continue to do so indefinitely.
Worley told me last week in an interview on my WIP radio show that he would prefer not to go back to Lehigh. Not only has he earned the chance to win a permanent spot on the staff, but also a fair shot for the No. 5 job.
Now, who’s going to tell Manuel to cast aside his blind — and illogical — loyalty to his veteran players, and do what’s right for his team?
–Angelo Cataldi is host of 610 WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.
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