A filmmaker approached me recently and requested my participation in a documentary honoring the brilliance of Flyers chairman Ed Snider. At first, I thought it was a joke. It wasn’t. After 38 consecutive seasons without a Stanley Cup, Snider still inspires gushing tributes.
The timing of this invitation was especially puzzling because it came during the Stanley Cup Final, at the conclusion of a playoff season in which the Flyers didn’t participate. I tried to make that seemingly obvious point in my polite email response, but it was not compelling enough to merit a reply.
Of course, if you’ve been paying any attention to the Flyers in the past few weeks, you know why it is absurd to be collecting platitudes for an 80-year-old man who has done far more harm than good in Philadelphia sports over the past two decades. Not only has our hockey team failed repeatedly to recapture the glory of its two Cups in the 1970s, but Snider also found time in his busy schedule to dismantle the Sixers.
After the chairman had stupidly pushed out Sixers president Pat Croce at the peak of the team’s popularity in 2001 — and then watched the franchise fade into oblivion — he turned his attention back to his first love, a Flyers team that has been a victim of his jarring mood swings for a generation.
Snider remains a legend in Philadelphia, especially among those who were alive the last time the Flyers won it all, in 1975. He remains popular to most fans because, like them, he wants to win so badly. He will make any move, spend any amount of money, in pursuit of his elusive goal. No owner has ever tried harder to win than Ed Snider.
But clearly the raw emotions of the boss are strangling the Flyers now. In the past two weeks, the team has written off $25 million in amnesty buyouts for Ilya Bryzgalov and Danny Briere, paid $22 million for a 35-year-old defenseman (Mark Streit), paid another $22 million for a 15-year declining veteran (Vinny Lecavalier) and signed Claude Giroux — after a bad season, no less — to a $66 million extension. That’s a total of $135 million, and the Flyers still stink.
The worst part is, Snider no longer understands how much harm he is doing to the team. He admitted last week that the Byrzgalov signing was “a mistake,” but quickly added that he doesn’t make the personnel decisions. Hello? His public edicts led to the Bryzgalov fiasco and many of the others.
In fact, all of the Cup-less seasons are the fault of Ed Snider. If no one else wants to say it, I will. He has failed, spectacularly.
And that’s why you won’t find me in that documentary.
Last stand for Uncle Charlie
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. is already on record saying that the current homestand will determine whether he buys or sells at the July 31 trade deadline. Then doesn’t it make sense that the next week should decide what happens to manager Charlie Manuel for the rest of this season, too?
Manuel is having a terrible year, both in managing the personalities in his clubhouse and in deploying those same people strategically. Just last week, Domonic Brown got thrown out at third after an error because he wasn’t running hard out of the batter’s box. Who gets the blame this time? Yes, Brown, for sure … but also the manager. Manuel is the one who has allowed this lax, player-friendly approach for years.
Manuel never sees his own shortcomings. Last week, he kept harping on the holes in Amaro’s roster. At one point, he said he still had John Lannan in the rotation because “I’m trying to think who we have who’s better than him.” Later, he said the Phils were inconsistent because “who we got is what we’ve got to use.”
The longer Amaro waits, the harder he makes it for Sandberg, who is experiencing his own problems as the third-base coach. When Lannan was thrown out at the plate when trying to score from first on a double, fans actually began to question Sandberg’s intelligence. The truth is, Sandberg is merely trying to manufacture runs for the offense, which is more that we could ever say about his boss.
If Manuel finishes the season in the dugout, it will be because Amaro feels more of a sense of duty to the lovable skipper than to the team. The decision to sell, something that seems inevitable now, will require more than trading a few big stars for young prospects. It should also signal the long, overdue end to the tenure of the most overrated manager in Phillies history, Charlie Manuel.
Vick will not be the starter
ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski created a stir last week when he rated Mike Vick the 25th best quarterback in the NFL. Because Jaws is an ex-Eagle, fans assumed he would take one for the team rather than rank Vick among a group of stiffs like Mark Sanchez and (gulp) Kevin Kolb.
Of course, Jaworski is right about Vick. Now it’s time for new coach Chip Kelly to reach the same conclusion. The contrast between Vick’s still-formidable skills and his actual performance has been a theme for years here. He can still snap off laser throws, can still elude a pass-rush, maybe even scoot up the middle for a key first down. But he’s just not worth the trouble.
And I’m not talking about his personal baggage. I’m talking about three straight years riddled with injuries, horrific turnovers and painful losses. Vick is just another old player conning himself into believing he is still elite.
As training camp approaches, here’s a prediction: Vick will get every opportunity to win the job, and he will fail to do so. By the end of camp, Vick will not only trail Nick Foles in the quarterback competition, but Matt Barkley will be ahead of him, too.
Vick will ask for — and receive — his release before the start of the regular season. He will wait for another team to call. He’ll wait and wait and wait. Vick’s NFL career will end this summer. The top three on the depth chart for the first game in Washington will be Foles, Barkley and Dennis Dixon. Bet on it.
Idle thoughts from Cataldi
» Doug Collins resigned as Sixers coach on April 18. The team still has no replacement. GM Sam Hinkie said last week he had nothing new to report on the search because he was spending most of his time with the young players. Hmm. Shouldn’t the next coach be doing that, too?
» Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky agreed with his fellow Russian goalie Ilya Bryzgalov that Philadelphia fans are too demanding. OK, that’s one way to look at it. Here’s another: Russian goaltenders are soft — at least the ones who have played here.
» Cole Hamels finally won a game last Thursday after two extra days off for a “mental break.” The Phillies’ ace downplayed the effect of the mini-vacation, but pitching coach Rich Dubee deserves all the credit here for finding yet another ridiculous way to pamper athletes.
» Here’s a big story that went largely unreported. On a warm, summer night this past Saturday, the Phillies drew 37,066 fans to witness a game against division rival Atlanta. Last year, they would have filled every seat, and more. The fans are speaking loudly and clearly. The era is over.
» Delmon Young actually said this last week: “I would have been batting 1.000 except for the strikeouts, if there were no fielders out there.” Well, at least now we know the Phillies didn’t bring him here for his intellect.