PhilliesThe most anticipated season in the 128 year history of the Philadelphia Phillies is officially underway. Forget the sunshine of Clearwater, Florida. This weekend the Phillies returned north to the cold, windy, rainy and snowy comforts of Citizens Bank Park.

The expectations are as high as they have ever been and that is because General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has done an outstanding job of putting together this team, the pitching rotation in particular.

Two seasons ago the Phillies acquired left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee. Last offseason they acquired right-handed pitcher Roy Halladay. A day later they traded Lee to the Mariners. Last season they acquired right-handed pitcher Roy Oswalt. And this offseason the Phillies signed Lee to a five-year, $120 million contract; the largest contract ever given to a pitcher.

These moves, along with the young left-hander Cole Hamels, give the Phillies the best rotation in baseball, and maybe even the history of baseball.

This is why there are such high expectations for our Fightin’ Phils. But what could derail this potentially historic season? First, let’s start with injuries. During spring training, second baseman Chase Utley didn’t take an at-bat and is starting the season on the disabled list. Closer Brad Lidge is also starting the season on the disabled list.

Second, offensive consistency. Over the last couple of seasons, the total number of runs scored for the Phillies has decreased. And with the departure of Jayson Werth, the Phillies will need to find the offense to score enough runs; something that hindered them in the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants.

Finally, the Phillies cannot rely on the long ball. They have to start playing small ball. With Shane Victorino at the top of the lineup and Jimmy Rollins in the three-hole for now, they have to use their speed to create run scoring opportunities. And the big man Ryan Howard has to get back to his homerun hitting, RBI producing ways.

Years ago the Phillies had to rely on young guys like Rollings, Utley and Howard, who at the time were not nearly as popular as they are now.

In 2011 with all the injuries, the team may only go as far as today’s young guys take them. Wilson Valdez is not going to be Utley, however, he did have a big clutch hit in the opener against the Astros. Also, John Mayberry Jr. will have to step up and be a contributor.

Hopefully Dominic Brown comes back from a hand injury and adds some pop to the Phillies lineup. Ben Francisco is decent but he is not going to be as good offensivley or defensivley as Jayson Werth was.

What will happen this season? In my opinion, the Philadelphia Phillies will win 100 games, win the National League East and make another trip to the World Series, this time against the Boston Red Sox. From there, it’s anyone’s ballgame.

LJ Harrell is a graduate student majoring in communications studies. He can be reached at LH639694@wcupa.edu.

Sixers

With only five games left in the season, the Sixers have earned themselves a trip to the NBA playoffs. By the way the standings looked at the beginning of this week (April 3), the Sixers would meet Boston in the first round.

Although Boston is constantly on the top of the standings, Sixers fans can be optimistic about this matchup.

In their last meeting with the Celtics on March 11, the Sixers beat Boston 89-86. In their only other regular season match-up, the Celtics just slightly topped the Sixers 84-80. So, if nothing else, Sixers fans could expect a series full of close games.

Aside from Boston, the teams sitting atop the Eastern Conference can prove to be a tough challenge for the Sixers. The Miami Heat are sitting in the number two position now and their big three of Wade, Bosh and James have been a thorn in the side of the entire NBA all season long.

Chicago leads the Eastern Conference behind possible MVP Derrick Rose.

Philadelphia will be led into the playoffs by Doug Collins, who was named the NBA’s Coach of the Month for February. This is Collins’ first season on the Sixers bench, but he has won Coach of the Month honors with three other franchises.

Jrue Holiday has played and started in all 77 games for the Sixers this season. He averages 35.3 minutes and almost 14 points per game. Holiday is young and doesn’t have much playoff experience, but can lead this team throughout the playoffs.

Elton Brand leads the team in points per game with 14.9. In comparison to Holiday, he is a veteran of the NBA and has the experience to lead the team throughout the playoffs.

The Sixers end their season with four straight home games against New York, Toronto, Orlando and Detroit.

The NBA playoffs begin on Saturday, April 16.

Amy Festa is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at AF649219@wcupa.edu.

Flyers

What is wrong with the Flyers? Everyone keeps asking the same question day-after-day. They have lost to some teams that they should beat; however, they did recently defeat the Penguins 5-2. In fact, they are perfect inside the CONSOL energy center, taking all three games from the Penguins this season.

Of course it’s frustrating when they lose to the Atlanta Thrashers three times in one month. Occasionally their goaltending is less than stellar, and it seems as though when they do get a good outing from Brian Boucher, or Sergei Bobrovsky, their offense does not show up.

Flyers fans need to relax, and here’s why. Need I remind everyone that they are sitting atop the Eastern Conference? Not just first place in the Atlantic Division, but first place overall in the East.

Chris Pronger is going to be out for the rest of the regular season but should be ready in time for the playoffs. He has not played in weeks and the team is still doing well. Typically one man does not make that much of a difference on a team, but Pronger does. With the addition of Pronger coming back for the playoffs, the powerplay should immediatly benefit from his presence on the blue line.

Although I am not making excuses for what a dreadful powerplay the Flyers have right now, Pronger’s absencce does hurt. Not only can he unload a heavy missle from the point, he is decisive. Often times, Flyers players look hesitant to shoot while on the man-advantage. Pronger knows when to shoot and when he does, he get’s it on net.

In addition to Pronger’s absence, the upcoming playoff season means that there will no longer be shoot-outs. We all know they suck at shootouts, but they will not have to deal with that come late April.

Also, let us not forget the magical playoff-run they put together last season. The Flyers defeated their arch-rival the New Jersey Devils in just five games. After going down 3-0 in the series against Boston, they shocked the hockey world by winning four straight and advancing to the Eastern Conference finals. After quickly running through the Montreal Canadiens, they did collide with a good team in Chicago.

Perhaps this team plays their best when their backs are up against the wall. In that case, I would reccommend all of you Flyers fans to keep putting them down. It will be difficult for any team to beat the Flyers three out of four times come playoff time.

At least we know that they will definitely be in the playoffs. Would you rather them go through last year’s chaos just to capture the seventh seed? I don’t think winning a playoff spot on the last day of the season, in a shoot-out no less, makes anyone feel any better heading into the post-season.

So stay optimistic about this year’s Flyers team. Relax and enjoy the ride once again, because you never know when it will be Philadelphia’s year to hoist Lord Stanley’s cup again.

Steven Fisher is a fourth-year student majorin
g in communications. He can be reached at sf674180@wcupa.edu.

Leave a Comment