Sometimes, you’ve got to travel 5,000 miles to see more clearly what’s been going on right in your own backyard. I’m just getting back from a week in Honolulu, where I acquired with a brand-new insight into what’s wrong with Philadelphia sports. And here’s what I learned amid the hula girls and 20-foot waves: Our general managers are killing us right now.
Other than a prayer that the Phillies will find a second act for their aging club, there is no logical hope for any of our pro teams in 2013. The Eagles are 4-12 and relying on a novice coach, the Flyers aren’t even good enough to tease us, and the Sixers are a complete waste of time. They all stink.
I know, I know. Normally, people come back from vacation with a new zest for life. Sorry, not me. Being away has only enhanced my disappointment with the people running our teams. Bad trades, poor drafts and dumb comments look worse with the Pacific trade winds blowing in your face.
For example, there’s the lost spring of Darin Ruf. On a Phillies team desperate for a young star, there is no more sobering development than the spectacular failure of their top prospect. Forget Dom Brown. Ruf represented the next big promise — so far, it’s a broken one.
Ruben Amaro speaks the language of the fans far better than any other GM in our city with his win-now mentality, but he really needs to develop some young talent. Ruf’s flame-out isn’t just an indictment of the organization, but also of Amaro.
The really bad news in this dispatch from paradise is that Amaro is the one GM worthy of our guarded optimism. Can the same be said for Eagles GM Howie Roseman?
He has played a role in two terrible drafts and one horrific free-agent spree, and he shows no signs of improving. The free-agent market opens again Tuesday. Can you sense the excitement? Me, neither.
The GM who has skated through seven seasons with no Stanley Cups and no criticism is Flyers GM Paul Holmgren. He’s the No. 1 reason why the Flyers are, in the words of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, “not good,” this season. Holmgren’s free-agent fiascos with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter last summer have left the current team powerless and rudderless.
And then there is the maddening case of the phantom GM himself, Tony DiLeo, who helped to engineer the catastrophic trade for Andrew Bynum and who stupidly said last week that Bynum was still “Plan A” for the Sixers. OK, then. Here’s a Plan B: Dump DiLeo.
Unfortunately, this new insight into the plight of Philadelphia sports does not include any quick solutions. For that, I may need a second trip. I hear Tahiti is nice this time of year.
— Angelo Cataldi is host of 94 WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30-10 a.m.
Rise and shine Eagles fans
This is a very important day for Eagles fans, the moment in time when we can begin to differentiate word from deed, spin from reality. If new coach Chip Kelly is really not already locked into his read-option offense or his 3-4 defense, he will go after the best free agents available when the annual player market opens Tuesday. If he is already pigeon-holing himself with those philosophies, look out. There’s trouble ahead.
Please understand that this is not an appeal for Kelly to be something he is not— namely, predictable and stubborn like his predecessor, Andy Reid. No, this is more a test of Kelly’s credibility. The coach made such a major point of claiming he would shape the Eagles’ schemes to the talent that he will look insincere, maybe even dishonest, if his actions now contradict that vow.
And so far, even before the first free agent signs, the early evidence does not support Kelly’s initial remarks. He has already signed unproven NFL quarterbacks in Dennis Dixon and G.J. Kinne. Dixon, Kinne and surprise returnee Mike Vick all have one thing in common: mobility. Is there actually a place for slow-footed Nick Foles on this team? Shouldn’t there be?
What Kelly establishes in the weeks ahead will show just how much we can take him at his word. The Eagles’ organization has a lot at stake starting with free agency, too. Once they finally cut Nnamdi Asomugha, they will have a staggering $45 million to spend under the salary cap, including a league-leading $23 million not used last season. How can owner Jeff Lurie justify the recent major ticket hike if he doesn’t spend the payroll money he is already allotted?
Lurie rambled on incessantly when he fired Andy Reid two months ago that Eagles fans deserve much better than they’ve been getting from his organization. Starting today, we’ll find out how sincere both he and his coach are about backing their big words with honest action.
Aron, the human punching bag
In a city famous for ripping its own sports figures, the easiest target is rarely the most deserving. A case in point right now is Adam Aron, CEO of the Sixers and human punching bag of Philadelphia.
Aron has alienated fans not by the usual means of lying about his team, or jacking up ticket prices, or hiding from view. No, Aron has become public enemy No. 1 by responding to fans and offering an accessibility rare among authority figures and unique to our city.
Granted, the issues surrounding his team are horrific right now, starting with the colossal mistake to trade for Andrew Bynum. But through it all, Aron has been available for information and commiseration. Still, in a city where Eagles owner Jeff Lurie pops his head out twice a year, Aron is getting ripped for his accessibility. Amazing.
So, if you’re keeping score at home, go ahead and blister Bynum for his blasé attitude, coach Doug Collins for his bipolar behavior and GM Tony DiLeo for his shameless invisibility. The last guy worthy of your wrath on the Sixers is the one standing there, right out in the open. Adam Aron deserves better. He actually cares about the fans.
Idle thoughts from Cataldi
» Are all three of Philadelphia’s pro head coaches and our baseball manager going to be replaced in the same calendar year? It could happen. Andy Reid is gone, Doug Collins is imploding, Peter Laviolette is underachieving and Charlie Manuel is in the final year of his contract. Four for four? Let’s hope so.
» The saddest local story in recent memory is that of Chris Pronger, the former Flyer who wants desperately to play again, but never will. Seventeen months after his horrific eye injury, he is still suffering serious medical complications. And yet, the hardest part for him is accepting his sad fate. Great career, horrible ending.
» Andy Reid is already winning many admirers in Kansas City with his aggressive moves and media accessibility. Ha, ha, ha. Who wants to break the news to Chiefs fans that the honeymoon will be over soon, a victim of dumb play-calling, bad time management and countless “I’ve got to do a better jobs.” Reid’s inevitable failure with his new team will be a joy to watch.
» The World Baseball Classic is quickly emerging as the dumbest international event in sports. What exactly does it prove when countries throw together rosters and then pretend they are defending the honor of their countries? Those players, including Jimmy Rollins, should be with their big-league teams preparing for the only games that really matter in a few weeks.
» Freddie Mitchell is facing up to 10 years in jail after pleading guilty to tax fraud last week. What a surprise. All this time, we thought the former Eagles wide receiver was just a fraud in football.