Assessing the Phillies Trading Chips

The Phillies are talking about trading some of their players.

Before we do this, let’s recall some of the Phillies great trades of great players:

1) 1918 – traded Grover Cleveland Alexander for several boxes of cashews and cash to the Cubs.  He went on to win 300 games and go to the Hall of Fame.  And win a World Series.  the Phillies finished last 10 straight years.

some old history stuff

some old history stuff

2)  1930s – traded Chuck Klein Dolph Camilli and Lefty O’Doul for Cash and some Cracker Jack.  Camilli became the MVP and led the Dodgers to the 1941 NL Pennants, Klein and O’Doul continued to hit for other clubs.  The Phillies started to finish last every year.

4) 1950s – release Curt Simmons “because he could not pitch anymore.” – Curt Simmons came back to torture them in 1964 as a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals when the Phillies collapsed down the stretch.  The Phillies could have used a third starter other than Bunning and Short–like Curt Simmons.

Sen & Mrs. John & Teresa Heinz prior to his untimely death in 1991

i think John Heinz was US Senatory back in the 1930s and 1940s

5) 1960s – traded Dick Allen for Curt Flood and three so so players – Curt Flood sued baseball and moved to some island in the Mediterranean rather than play in Philly, saying “he wasn’t a slave” and “Philly was racist”.  Tim McCarver reported.  Dick Allen went on to become MVP of the American League in 1972, and nearly led the Chisox to the AL West Divisional Title.  The Phillies fell to last place–behind the Montreal Expos, an expansion team.  Tim McCarver was traded for a used chevy and later re-signed with the Phils as a free agent.

6) 1980s – traded Ryne Sandberg, Larry Bowa and Gary Matthews to the Cubs for dog poop.  The Cubs won the division twice, Ryne Sandberg became the greatest 2d baseman since Rogers Hornsby, and it would take until 1993 for the Phils to win a division again.

OJ Simpson was a very popular football player and actor during the 1970s and 1980s.

OJ Simpson was a very popular football player and actor during the 1970s and 1980s.

7) 1990s – The Phils traded Curt Schilling to Arizona for some table cloths and Vincente Padilla, a mexican-american actor impersonating a starting pitcher.  Arizona immediately won the World Series. Later, Curt Schilling did the bloody sock thing with the Red Sox.   The Phils also traded Scott Rolen to the Cards for Placido Polanco, who the Phils then traded to the Tigers for some used napkins.  The Cardinals went on to win several pennants and two World Series, with Rolen as their 3d baseman.  The Phils won one world series and lost another–with Pedro Feliz at 3d base.  Basically, most of the 2000s was a highlight reel of Curt Schilling and Scott Rolen going to the World Series while the Phillies didn’t.  And yes, those two are probably going to get into the HOF too.

so there’s your Phillies trading history in a nutshell.

Let’s take a statistical look at the actual value of their players.

1) Cliff Lee – Cliff Lee has a JAWs rating in the top 100 of all pitchers lifetime.  He has achieved Pitcher WAR levels above 7.0 in several of his Phillies seasons, and has been the single best pitcher aside from Roy Halladay on the Phils’ staff the past few seasons.  He works quickly and can hit and field his position.  He and Cole Hamels were together worth more than 11 WAR last year collectively–which means, since the team won 70 games or so last year, that without Lee and Hamels, the team would have won around 59 games without them in 2013, and trading Lee and Hamels means the Phils will probably drop to around that level.  He is easily the most valuable piece the Phils have to trade.  He is is great shape, should pitch well for at least 3-5 years, and should fit well as a #1 on a contender.  Lee’s ERA+ this year is 117 and his career ERA+ is 119.  He is a great pitcher, 20% better than league at all times.   Lee has had three years in the past where he was 160 plus ERA or 60% better than league, which is to say virtually unhittable, including 2011.

The Phillies Win the Series 2008

The Phillies Win the Series 2008

2) Cole Hamels – Cole Hamels has a JAWS rating in the top 120 of all pitchers lifetime.  He’s five years younger than Lee, so he should get higher than Lee eventually.  His established WAR levels are around 5.0 but he’s been higher in some seasons.  He pitches 200 innings a year, and he’s a quality starter in the postseason.  He’s been a #1 in the past, as well as a #2 and a #3, and he’s shown he can pitch under pressure.  With the established WAR levels he has, he is a quality starter.  A very valuable trading chip.  Hamels is 131+ ERA this year, and his career ERA+ is 123, very similar to Lee, but slightly better.  He’s been a bit more inconsistent than Lee, but in his good years Hamels puts up 130 plus ERA marks, in his off years he’s around league average, so he’s actually usually 30% better than league.

Chuck Bednarik flattens Frank Gifford

Chuck Bednarik flattens Frank Gifford

 

3)  Chase Utley – Chase Utley is now #13 on the JAWS list alltime of 2d basemen, and has passed Roberto Alomar.  He was the starting All-Star 2d baseman at age 35, and is currently the top offensive Phillie in WAR.  With the renaissance he is having this season, he shows that he will continue to be an excellent hitter for some time to come.  If he were traded to the Yankees or another AL club, Utley could be used somewhat like Jeter–resting some days by DHing–and could last until age 40–and most certainly will go into the Hall of Fame.  He is a 10/5 player and has to waive those rights to be traded.  Utley is a leader, and a clubhouse force.  He’s exactly what the Yankees need as Jeter is on the brink of retirement.

ON MY MARK, UNLEASH HELL!  WAIT A MINUTE, THAT' RUSSELL CROWE'S LINE FROM GLADIATOR...TONITE MEN, WE DINE IN HELL!!!! WE ARE SPARTANS!!!

ON MY MARK, UNLEASH HELL! WAIT A MINUTE, THAT’ RUSSELL CROWE’S LINE FROM GLADIATOR…TONITE MEN, WE DINE IN HELL!!!! WE ARE SPARTANS!!!

 

4) Jonathan Papelbon – having a terrific season, nearly 2.4 WAR as a closer with 60 games to go.  despite the big contract, he has an established WAR of 1.0 plus per season, and despite his contract of $10 million a year, he is a known quantity closer.  Papelbon’s ERA+ this year is 317.   Valuable to a contender needing a closer, and the Phils are ready to move Giles or Diekman into the closer role for less money.  Moreover, Papelbon wants a trade.  The most valuable and most likely to be traded.

HOOSIERS - THE GREATEST SPORTS FILM EVER MADE - ABOUT INDIANA HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL - BUTLERS' KIDS PLAY HOOPS THE WAY COACH'S KIDS PLAY HOOPS IN HOOSIERS!

HOOSIERS – THE GREATEST SPORTS FILM EVER MADE – ABOUT INDIANA HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL – BUTLERS’ KIDS PLAY HOOPS THE WAY COACH’S KIDS PLAY HOOPS IN HOOSIERS!

 

5)  Jimmy Rollins – right behind Utley in offensive WAR this year, having a great season.  His defensive range has diminished, but he can still hit and run effectively, and among available shortstops, he is 2.5 WAR with 60 games to go.  He currently is 34th on the JAWS list of Shortstops, and can move up still.  Shortstops above and below him on the list are in the Hall of Fame, and he has done things sufficient to get to the Hall.  An interesting fact is that Rollins plays 92% of the games each year, and has an established hit level of 150 hits a year, and is only 738 hits away from 3000.  At his established hit level, he will reach 3,000 hits in just under five more seasons from now, at around age 40.  The odds that he will continue to be productive and hit and field as a shortstop are fairly great; and he could also move over to second base and continue to hit and field and play until age 45 conceivably.  He has home run power, alley power and is excellent from the left side.  He would be a marquee addition to a contending ballclub.  Rollins is a 10/5 player and would have to waive his no trade clause in order to be traded.  The Yankees would be wise to trade for Rollins and Utley as a package to replace the retiring Jeter and whatever 2d baseman they have.  Rolllins would hit 20 homers a year in the new Yankee Stadium, and Utley and Rollins would give tremendous leadership to the existing Yankees along with speed and veteran leadership.

PLACIDO POLANCO - only Phillies to win Gold Gloves at two different positions - second base and third base.  Defense has been a problem for the current Phillies.

PLACIDO POLANCO – only Phillies to win Gold Gloves at two different positions – second base and third base. Defense has been a problem for the current Phillies.

6) Marlon Byrd – currently has WAR of 2.2 with 60 games to go.  Ranks fairly high career wise on the all time CF list, in the top 120 JAWS list.  has an established WAR of nearly 2.0 over 13 seasons.  He can field, he can hit, and he can hit for power.  He had a 4.0 WAR last year and is on pace for a 3.67 WAR this year at age 36.  Normally a team should not trade for a guy this age, but Marlon Byrd is having his best years every right now, and he is a proven veteran.  Watching him day in day out, he seems like a proven professional ballplayer.  He seems very different than the rookie I say play here in the early part of the 2000s.  Marlon Byrd gets good cuts on every at bat, always has a plan when he’s up, and seems to drive the ball, whether its into the alley or over the wall.  He has a fairly inexpensive contract.  An excellent trade piece for a team looking for a corner OF bat.  Very likely to be traded, and will do an excellent job for any team that gets him.  Helped the Pirates last year on their way to the playoffs.

 

Big Ed Delahanty - Left Fielder who once hit four homers in a game and hit .400 in consecutive seasons for the 1890s Phillies.  In the Hall of Fame.

Big Ed Delahanty – Left Fielder who once hit four homers in a game and hit .400 in consecutive seasons for the 1890s Phillies. In the Hall of Fame.

7)  AJ Burnett – even though the stats and peripherals don’t look impressive, Burnett has accumulated 1.0 WAR as a pitcher thus far, and that is with 60 games to go, so he’s on pace for about 1.4 WAR for the year.  Not great, but not shabby.  AJ Burnett has a lot of post season experience, and was helpful for the Pirates last year.  He’s had some good outings this year, and for the right club with run support, he can go 5-7 innings.  Significantly, he’s thrown by far the most innings of any Phillies starter, has 113 Ks in 136 IP, and even though the walks are high (as they are with him), he has allowed fewer hits than innings pitched, with a WHIP of 1.361.  His numbers are a bit off, but his established WAR level in 16 seasons is 1.75–he’s had a couple seasons where he went 4.0 plus, but basically this is what he is, an innings eater who strikes out a lot of guys, but can also be a bit wild.  He’s led the league in strikeouts, but also led the league in walks twice and wild pitches three times and batters hit by pitch once–he’s a classic hard thrower who has trouble locating.  but his career ERA+ is 104+ and he can go out and give you a gem one game, and then blow up the next, as he did in 2009 with the Yankees in the World Series v the Phils, where he blew the Phils away in one Series game, but got torched in the other.  He had a 4.4 WAR season for the Yanks that year, btw.  AJ Burnett should be a great trade piece for the Phils to move.  He’s a big game pitcher, a fastball pitcher who can throw hard and long, and a guy with World Series and playoff experience.  He is the very definition of wily veteran.

 

NATE THE GREAT THURMOND TANGLING IT UP WITH WILT THE STILT CHAMBERLAIN - THOSE AREN'T AIR JORDANS THEY'RE WEARING

NATE THE GREAT THURMOND TANGLING IT UP WITH WILT THE STILT CHAMBERLAIN – THOSE AREN’T AIR JORDANS THEY’RE WEARING

Conclusion

This is about it for players of real value.  The Phils essentially have three wily veteran pitchers – Lee, Hamels and Burnett–all of whom could make a huge difference in the pennant races.  They have an established keystone combo in Rollins and Utley, which they should move as a unit, probably to the Yankees.  And they have a power hitting slugging corner OF in Byrd, who can make a difference to a contender looking for a RH power bat.

The rest of the team is valueless.  People may say Ryan Howard, but in fact, he has no value at all.  At best, the Phils should move him to an AL club, but the better play would be for the Phils to lobby for a change in the rules so the NL gets a DH, so they can keep Howard and use him as a DH themselves, since they will pay his contract in any event.

Howard as a DH would be useful.  Moving the entire NL to a DH would be useful, and the Phils have the votes.  The cubs want a DH, as do several other NL clubs, and only a majority, e.g. 8 clubs, are needed.  The Dodgers now have too many OFs, so they will vote for a DH.  So Cubs, Phils, Dodgers.  Then you have Brewers–they have lots of potential DH’s.  They will go DH.  They were in the AL before anyway.  That’s four.  The Mets get no offense, so they will vote DH.  that’s five.  The Marlins don’t care one way or the others, so that’s six.  The Giants will want to play their MVP catcher Buster Posey at DH, so that’s seven.  Cincinnati will definitely want to play Joey Votto at DH, so that’s eight.  St Louis will want to play Allen Craig at DH, so thats nine.  Colorado will want nine hitters period, so that’s ten.  Arizona and the Padres can’t care so that’s 12.  why Washington would object is beyond me, so that’s 13.  that leaves the Pirates and the Braves, who might object, but who might not.

a big argument for going over to the DH is the fact that there is currently interleague play all the time, and the fact that all teams have a 25 man roster and need a lot of relievers.  a DH means less pinch hitters, and thus you can keep 12-13 pitchers on your 25 man roster, and keep only 12 position players–you only need to sub out if a player is hurt, tired or you need to pinch hit in a specific situation.  What you want in a DH lineup is nine regulars who can go every day, maybe with a platoon a one or two positions.  You don’t pinch-hit, except maybe for poor hitting SS.  So you can carry a lot of pitchers, and bring in relievers early.

Once you do this, you keep Ryan Howard around as a career DH, and just bring up Franco as your 1B, or 2B if you move Utley, and put Galvis at SS, and Ruf on 1B or Mayberry on 1B.  Grady Sizemore can play RF, and Brown and Revere CF and LF.  and you wait for all those new prospects to develop.

 

Perry Mason & Della Street

I rest my case: let’s go get dinner, Della!

http://arthurjohnkyriazisgoogleblog.blogspot.com/2012/03/ncaa-bracketology-2012.html

NCAA BRACKETOLOGY FOR 2012.

Jeremy Lin doing his thing for Hahvahd Hoops 2006-2010

Jeremy Lin doing his thing for Hahvahd Hoops 2006-2010

Jeremy Lin is only the 3d player from Harvard to play in the NBA.

He was a terrific player not only at Harvard, but in the Ivies.  He established a line of records unmatched in Ivy League history, and along the way, the Harvard basketball team, which had never amounted to a bucket of warm spit until Lin and Coach Amaker arrived, found its way to the Ivy League title and the NCAA tournament.

My sons and I watched these guys, led by Lin, play a ferocious contest in the Palestra against their arch-rivals Penn in 2010, which was a double overtime contest, and as Harvard finally won, largely due to the intensity and refusal to lose of Lin, who kept penetrating, dishing off, shooting jumpers, and doing whatever it took to win, it seemed like a passing of the guard.

DP made pun of Lin's name back in 2009 at Penn

The Daily Pennsylvanian made pun of Lin's name back in 2009 at Penn, showing once again Philly was three years ahead of NYC media.

So it’s no secret why Lin is the 2d best player on the knicks in win shares per 48 minutes at .187 after Tyson Chandler’s .248; or why his PER approaching 25 leads the team.  Lin plays defense, doesn’t turnover the ball, and is efficient both on offense and defense.  Also, he hustles.  In the Ivy League, he led across a large number of categories, including points, steals, rebounds, assists, assist to turnover ration, etc. and established benchmarks for a guard across many such categories–in fact, all time records for a guard to have such all-around abilities.

What we saw, watching him two years ago, was a guy who refused to lose.  He could penetrate and score; penetrate and dish out to the three line; penetrate and dish to the man beside him after drawing the double-team;  penetrate and dish to the open man; had amazing peripheral vision; could drop the three or the jumper if left unattended; always could run the ball and locate the open man on the run; could play defense; could steal the ball; could rebound and start the break the other way; in short, he was a complete player.

And Lin never stopped to breath.  He was always in continuous motion.  Harvard had a lot of talented players, but they looked kind of confused unless Lin got them the ball and he was coordinating the offense.  He was, in short, a terrific and talented point guard who had game.

A lot of Penn players have played in the NBA, but not so much Harvard.  Hockey has always been the winter sport at Harvard, along with playing the stock market and inventing new financial instruments the SEC can’t regulate.

Three players including Lin played in the NBA:

http://www.basketball-reference.com/friv/colleges.cgi?college=harvard#stats::none

first was

Saul Mariaschin

http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/m/mariasa01.html

who was a 5 foot 11 inch player on the 1947-48 Boston Celtics.  The Celtics were in a predecessor league to the NBA, but who cares?

Here were Saul Mariaschin’s teammates on the Boston Celtics of 1947-48:

riebe_spector_sadowski_garfinkel_mariaschin_1948

riebe, spector, sadowski, garfinkel with Saul Mariaschin Harvard Grad on 1948 Boston Celtics

http://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/BOS/1948.html

Here’s another of his teammates from that legendary Celts team:

CHUCK CONNORS.  Yes, the guy who later played the RIFLEMAN on TV.  Lucas McCain himself.  And a 6’5″ grad of Seton Hall, which in 1947-48 would have made him a giant player.  And he was a CELTIC.  You can look it up.

http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/c/connoch01.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_Connors

Chuck Connors was a Celtic and played with Harvard Grad Saul Mariaschin in 1947-48

Chuck Connors was a Celtic and played with Harvard Grad Saul Mariaschin in 1947-48

Chuck Connors also played baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers!

And he was a TV Star!

Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain the Rifleman

Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain the Rifleman

Chuck Connors was a Boston Celtic and and Brooklyn Dodger

Chuck Connors was a Boston Celtic and and Brooklyn Dodger

The second player that went to Harvard and played in the NBA was

Ed Smith

Edward Bernard Smith (Ed)

Ed Smith was a New York Knick in 1953-54.  On that Knicks team, Ed played with Vince “Moose” Boryla, Nate “Sweetwater” Clifton, Al McGuire and Dick McGuire, and the famous Ernie Vandeweghe, and others well-noted.

That 1953-54 Knicks team finished 1st in the Eastern Division, going 44-28 under the helm of the legendary Joe Lapchick.  And they played in the old Madison Square Garden, which many hold in as high esteem as the old Boston Garden.

Nate "Nat" "Sweetwater" Clifton of the 1953-54 NY Knicks played with Harvard's Ed Smith

Nate "Nat" "Sweetwater" Clifton of the 1953-54 NY Knicks played with Harvard's Ed Smith

and here’s ernie vandewege v bob cousy:

Bob Cousy and Ernie Vandeweghe Reaching For Ball

Bob Cousy and Ernie Vandeweghe Reaching For Ball

Of course, Ernie has some bloodlines. Kiki Vanderweghe was a great NBA player, and now his granddaughter is a professional tennis player:

CoCo Vandeweghe professional tennis player and granddaugher of Ernie Vandeweghe who played on the NY Knicks with Ed Smith in 1953-54.  Ed was the last Harvard alum to play for the NY Knicks, nearly fifty years ago

CoCo Vandeweghe professional tennis player and granddaugher of Ernie Vandeweghe who played on the NY Knicks with Ed Smith in 1953-54. Ed was the last Harvard alum to play for the NY Knicks, nearly fifty years ago

The Madness Begins

March 15, 2010

I can’t believe Temple got the #5 seed while Nova got a #2. Georgetown played really well down the stretch, by the way. That was a great Big East final.

I took my boys to the penn-cornell ivy league championship game in november. that was fun, at franklin field. i still can’t believe penn won at harvard.

cornell won the ivy over harvard barely, but they have to play temple in the first round, and temple is very, very good this year, that’s a bad draw for cornell. temple almost never loses in the first round of the ncaa. coming out of the bracket, temple has uphill all the way, but texas might actually beat kentucky, although john calipari has to be the best coach on the planet, he used to torture temple when he was at umass, he drove john chaney crazy.

also, i like richmond to win their first round game, and then upset villanova in the 2d round. richmond has a really good team and nova never plays well in the tournament. jay wright is a horrible tournament coach. richmond gave temple all they could handle inthe a10 final and richmond beat temple in the regular season. richmond is a great team this year, much better than a #7 seed. that’s a 2-7 matchup that’s bad for nova.

i was watching spike lee on 30-30 on espn on that reggie miller thing and 3 points.

first, reggie miller has to be the most overrated player in NBA history.  he could only do one thing, the three point jumper, and that was it.  He did it well, but he couldn’t pass, penetrate, dunk, rebound, run, steal or do any of the other things that an NBA Hall of Fame guy does.

second, Patrick Ewing, for all his greatness, came up short in two of the biggest games of his life, game 7 against Hakeem in the NBA finals, and the NCAA title game against Villanova in 1985, of which this is the 25th anniversary of Nova upsetting Georgetown, or Patrick Ewing choking unbelievably, depending on how you look at it.  Based on how awful Ewing was in his NBA finals against Hakeem, i’d bet Nova could have beaten Georgetown in a 7 game series, and, in fact, Nova did handle Georgetown if not outright beat them pretty well that season in Big East play.

Third, Spike Lee claimed “New York is the cradle of basketball.”

Uh, Spike, New York is the cradle of incredible wealth and incredible poverty, a lot of models and caviar and restaurants, and some good hoops players, but PHILLY is the cradle of liberty and hoops, pal.

ALL the great hoops players (and jazz players) have been from philly, not NY.  Earl the Pearl Monroe, Wilt the Stilt Chamberlain, Rasheed Wallace, Tyreke Evans, Kobe Bryant, the list is endless.

John Coltrane is from Philly.  Dizzy Gillespie grew up here.  Lee Morgan was from Philly.  Philly Jo Jones.  Hank Mobley, McCoy Tyner, Archie Shepp, Byard Lancaster, Mickey Roker, Bill Harris, Calvin Massey.  Are You Kidding Me?????

Philly is like the Jazz/Hoops capital of the earth.  Doesn’t anyone remember Grover Washington Jr playing the national anthem at Sixers games? and he was like the WORST sax guy ever to come out of philly!  and he was great!  but hey, he was no JOHN COLTRANE soloing for hours on soprano sax!

Dr. J played here for TWELVE YEARS.  He played in New York for four years.  New Yorkers like to remember that it was longer, but hey, too bad.

We were at the Palestra the other week and there were no less than several HUNDRED NBA all stars who played their high school ball in philly pasted on the walls there.  Maybe a thousand.  Maybe more.  I couldn’t count them all.  That doesn’t count the guys who were kept out of the league for gambling, or who blew out their knees, or just didn’t have the grades to go to college.

It’s not even close–Philly v. NY in hoops is like PROS V JOES–NY being the JOES.

Oh, and by the way, Alex Rodriguez took steroids and needed an instant replay to win the world series last year.

And I didn’t see him tying Reggie “Reggie Bar” Jackson’ HR record of 5 dingers in a World Series like Chase Utley did–and Chase being about 1/2 the size of Reggie, by the way, who was enormously strong and had arms like a bricklayer.

Hey, the Yankees are great.  But Philly’s got the Hoops.  Even the guys at Sports Center know it’s Philly when it comes to Hoops.

And when was the last time a NY university made it into the NCAA exactly?

Columbia never gets in.  NYU doesn’t have a team.  St. Johns has fallen off dramatically.  Syracuse is way upstate.  CCNY had its glory days when the court was surrounded by caged wire fences.

In all the years, NY had exactly one great player–Kareem Abdul Jabbar, aka Lew Alcindor.  But he hates NY.  He changed his name, became a Muslim, and never goes back to NY.  He’s become such an LA/Cali guy, you’d never know he was a NY guy to begin with.

But i loved the guy in Enter the Dragon with Bruce Lee, doing kung fu and all.  Now that was awesome–way better than Wilt in that Conan movie.

–art k, philly

1) Tom “Odysseus the Wise” Izzo is Italian, which means that he’s practically greek, which means he’s practically Spartan. On the way to the final four, in round two, the Spartans of Michigan State defeated the Trojans of USC. The Spartans defeated the Trojans. Funny how that battle always comes out the same, millennium after millennium. Michigan State baffled USC throughout with their famed “Trojan Horse” defense, with Raymar “Achilles” Morgan’s ally-oop, the Kalin “Ajax” Lucas’ give and go, the “Nestor” low post kickout and the “Odysseus” trick ball play. Magic “Homer Hercules Son of Zeus” Johnson sat on the coach’s side on the bench, singing their tale of triumph in fifteen syllable heroic poetic rap to all that would listen. Plus, their fans hectored the USC Trojans during the entire match, telling them to go back to Paris when they were from. Plus there was this blind guy Ty Reesias on the sideline predicting that USC would lose. Bottom Line: the Spartans could play the Trojans a thousand times, and the Spartans would always win. History is history. It’s not true that Brad Pitt was at the game doing research for his sequel to Troy, the movie. Besides which, Tom “Socrates Plato Aristotle” Izzo is one of the smartest and greatest coaches ever in NCAA history. Plus he probably has actual Spartan blood in him and he has the wisdom of a thousand greek philosophers, and can coach some ball.

2) East Lansing is a rocking college town. And Michigan State coeds are the most beautiful in all the land.

3) What in the world is a “Tar Heel”?

4) Most schools ban smoking in all buildings. At the University of North Carolina, smoking is required in all buildings. After all, tobacco pays for everything in North Carolina. In fact, babies are given their first cigarettes at age one in North Carolina per state custom. Also, cigarettes are given away at all UNC home games to undergrads.

5) “WE ARE SPARTANS!!!!”

6) Anyone who doesn’t believe the Spartans will win, is condemned to be thrown into the bottomless pit of King Leonidas.

7) Three hundred Spartans are worth two million Persians, and four millions UNC players.

8) Thermopylae save the Western World from Freedom, along with the Three Hundred Spartans, who obedient to their country’s laws, lie dead there. The Spartans of Michigan State will save the US from another Southern NCAA champion and give us a Big Ten Champion.

9) All Spartans are superior genetically, because the defective ones are thrown off the mountain at birth. This includes Michigan States hoops players.

10) The Spartans have a detailed conditioning program that starts from age four. You should see what the Michigan State Hoops players do.

11) The Spartans never lose a battle. This is well known. Michigan State hardly ever loses a ballgame that matters.

12) Michigan State is playing a home game. The Final Four and Championshiop Game are in Detroit.

13) Detroit has an immense Greek population, and many of them are Spartans. And they have a rocking Greektown. Spartans love to party after they kill their opponents.

14) East Lansing, Michigan is the coolest place on earth, and home of the Spartans of Michigan State.

15) Michigan is a sensible place full of sensible people.

16) Michigan gave us Bob Seger, Grand Funk Railroad, Kid Rock, Iggy Pop & the Stooges, and all of Motown.

17) North Carolina has given us nothing culturally, unless you want to count segregation as a cultural institution.

18) Izzo is very nearly Rizzo, Philly’s most beloved mayor ever. Frank Rizzo was cool. Tom Izzo is cool.

19) The Big Ten actually go to class and get degrees, unlike their brethren in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

20) Michigan State has beaten a series of excellent, higher ranked teams to get to the finals, including UConn, all of which are better than UNC.

21) Michigan State has a number of experienced seniors on its roster who have played together for a while. Again, this is a big advantage in this era of players leaving after a year or two for the pros.

22) This one is for King Leonidas, and also for the auto industry and the unemployed auto workers of Michigan.

23) Gov. Granholm of Michigan told the boys, come home victorious with your shields, or dead upon them.

24) The best reason the Spartans will win—they are unfraid to lose, unafraid of death, unafraid of anything, and totally playing with house money at this point.

25) Because this is America, and we root for the UNDERDOG. So what if the TAR HEELS have amassed an army of two million and the Spartans are but three hundred? What does this matter to the SPARTANS????? Did they not fight and win the moral battle at Thermopylae? Don’t they still make movies about those guys 3,000 years later?

My money’s on the SPARTANS!!!!!

P.S. What IS a Tar Heel?

–art kyriazis, philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

PART ONE – VILLANOVA HAD A GREAT RUN – ANOTHER BIG FIVE WINNER FOR THE BOOKS

There is no denying Villanova had a great run in this year’s NCAA tournament, making it to the Final Four before losing to North Carolina last night. It was a hard loss to swallow, especially after watching the Spartans of Michigan State make such a statement game of upsetting UConn in the opening of the Final Four doubleheader, but Villanova shot very poorly from the three point line, and could not establish its inside game against UNC. Moreover, Villanova’s normally excellent defense failed them against UNC’s superb inside-outside attack of attacking at the low post but also kicking out to the three point line, and here, UNC shooting 50% or better from the three point arc sealed Villanova’s fate—if Villanova sagged to defense the low post, UNC simply killed them from the three point arc. When Villanova came out to play perimeter defense, UNC exploited the seams to get easy buckets inside. One final point is that UNC seemed to be taller overall than Villanova, and this seemed to make some difference on the defensive side of the ball; Villanova was not getting out in transition, and in the half-court offense, was having trouble shooting over, or matching up with, the taller UNC players.

Having said that, Villanova was by far the best Big East team in the tournament this year. They beat UCLA handily, they crushed a very good Duke team (with an RPI of one), they got past a Pitt team that had been ranked #1 at times this season, and got to the Final Four.

This year’s Villanova team was a team of seniors and juniors, experienced players who had played together a long time. I had them bracketed to get to the finals of the NCAA, not just the Final Four, because I felt that having three seniors who had played together as long as Villanova’s seniors had played together, was an incredible advantage in today’s college basketball.

In today’s college game, your best player usually leaves after one season to seek out pro contracts and a sneaker endorsement. It’s hard to find athletes who will commit to four years on campus.

But we all know why they stay at Villanova. Howie Long tells the story every week on that NFL pre-game show. It’s the nuns, the professors, the small campus atmosphere. Villanova feels like home. It’s the kind of place you don’t want to leave. For many of the kids who come to play basketball there, they will learn much more than basketball at Villanova, they will learn life skills and many other things.

Having said that, it should be pointed out that Villanova is now spending as much money on its basketball program, according to the Philly Daily News and other sources, as any other major Division I basketball program, around $5 million annually, which compares to $6 million annually spent by UConn or by UNC. And yet $5 million annually isn’t even close to the top in the Big East.

However, because Villanova does not have a Division I football program that earns a lot of money, Villanova’s sports programs run an annual deficit of around $16 million which have to be picked up by NCAA revenues, boosters, and the like. It’s hard to believe that Villanova has continued to stay committed at this level, given their size and endowment.

At the same time, we can now more easily see why Temple, St. Joes’s, LaSalle and Penn are not competing at the same level as they used to ten or twenty years ago vis-à-vis NCAA competition—it now takes $5 million annually to really ramp up a program to final four viability.

That St. Joe’s made the Final Four a few years back with Jameer Nelson and Delonte West for a fraction of that budget is a testament to the recruiting and coaching skills of Phil Martelli.

That Temple got to the elite eight so many times with John Chaney and almost to the Final Four for a fraction of that budget is likewise a testament to the recruiting and coaching skills of Chaney, a hall of fame coach.

A school that has a big time football program—like Penn State or Michigan State—should be able to afford to spend on their basketball program—and Michigan State has been successful in basketball, as has Penn State to a lesser degree (they’re doing well in the NIT this year after being a bubble team that didn’t get an at-large bid with the NCAA). Those schools don’t have to deficit spend on basketball, they can take plus side monies from football and invest them in basketball.

I think this explains why, for so many years, President Liacouras of Temple, who was instrumental in getting the Liacouras Center built in North Philadelphia where Temple Basketball now plays its home games, was so interested in putting together a Division I Temple Football program which would be a money maker. He wanted a football program that would make enough money that basketball would be able to share revenues from football, rather than having the university deficit spend on basketball.

Given today’s economics of big time NCAA basketball, this was a far-sighted view of the situation. Temple today remains in Division I football, though they’ve dropped down a conference, and can still be a profitable football team. That dream is still alive for them. Al Golden is doing a good job as football coach.

To summarize, Villanova had a magnificent run in the NCAA this year, capping off a four year run by these seniors that was nothing less than magical. Kudoes and cheers to Villanova and to coach Jay Wright. For a long time I was a Steve Lappas guy, and I always thought he got a bum deal from Villanova, and I was very slow to come around to Jay Wright, I will admit I have a bias there. At first I thought Wright was glib and not too bright, and that he couldn’t coach in tough games. He’s proven me completely wrong. He’s both a good recruiter and an excellent coach.

Art Kyriazis Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies

Collectively, the Big Five of Temple, LaSalle, Penn, Villanova and St Joes have made more than a dozen final four appearances since the NCAAs began in 1939; Villanova was in the first NCAA tourney back in 1939, and in every decade of the NCAAs, one or more of the big Five has had an impact on the tournament each and every decade the Tournament has been running, whether it was Temple getting to the Final Four twice in the fifties, St. Joe’s to the Final Four in the sixties, Villanova and Penn to the Final Four in the seventies, Villanova winning the NCAA in the 80s, Temple dominating and getting #1 rankings and seedings in the 80s and 90s and getting to the elite 8 three times, and Villanova getting #1 seeds and reaching the elite 8 in recent years, and St. Joes getting to the final four in the last decade and getting a #1 seed.

Folks, we have the best college basketball in the country, bar none. Collectively, the Big Five does better in NCAA than almost any other region or school, excepting possibly Duke, UCLA, Kentucky and a handful of other such bigtime programs–and yet Duke has only won three NCAA titles in 14 Final Four trips, etc. The Big Five is not doing so badly.

I really like the underdogs of the NCAA–Marquette in 1977 with Al McGuire, the late Jimmy Valvano and North Caroline State (who can forget the triple overtime opening round win over Pepperdine?) in 1983, Rollie Massimino and the Villanova Wildcats upending Patrick Ewing and Georgetown in 1986, and so on.

My personal favorite big five upset of all time has to be St. Joe’s beating #1 seed and #1 in the country DePaul and Mark Aguire in 1981 in the first round of the NCAA (maybe it was the 2d round).

This brings us to 2009. Villanova and Temple are in. Villanova had a very good season, but lost to Louisville in the semis of the Big East tournament. Nova’ had a good RPI and a good strength of schedule, but still, they got a #3 seed, which I thought was pretty generous for a team that really hadn’t won anything–they were third or fourth in their conference, and finished third/fourth in the tournament of their conference. Even if it’s the best conference in basketball, does finishing fourth in that conference make you the 12th best team in all of college basketball? I think a #4 seed would have been more appropriate. The NCAA worships the big east a little too much.

Next, Temple. Temple got an #11 seed, which puts them against Arizona State, a #6 seed. Now Temple actually won something–they won the A-10 Tournament. Second year in a row, in fact. Also, best player in the conference, Dionte Christmas, plays for Temple. Also, Temple has by far the toughest non-conference schedule of any A-10 team. But they beat all of those teams too, except maybe Villanova, and they gave them a tough time. Maybe if Nova’ didn’t insist on playing at the Pavilion, but at the Palestra, it would be a fair game.

Temple’s RPI is very good, and their strength of schedule is very good. In fact, if you look at most of the teams seeded from around #7-#10, Temple’s RPI and strength of schedule are BETTER than most of those 7-10 seeds. Take Michigan for example, a team that didn’t win anything, lost 13, won only 20, and was an at-large from the big 10. Michigan has a higher seed than Temple but why? Michigan’s RPI is worse, their strength of schedule much worse, and they have a much worse record than Temple.

I could pick out many more examples (UCLA?) of this, but the point is that Temple plays a big-time schedule, has been in the elite eight in three of the last twenty years, and has been ranked #1 more than once in the last twenty years, including most of 1987-88. They’re a good ballclub, and deserved at least an 8-9 seed matchup in the first round.

Frankly, i would have given Temple about the same seeding as Xavier, and higher than Dayton, a team Temple dominated during the season.

I believe Temple and Villanova will both win. Arizona State is a fine team and that game could go either way, but Temple will win this year. Villanova has a ridiculously easy first round game. Their second round matchup will be much tougher

Also, I really like the fact that the new President offered his own “bracketology” on ESPN. that was pretty cool. I don’t think we’ve had this sports minded a president since Jack Kennedy, an old football player, was going to the harvard-yale and army-navy games. A lot like Teddy Roosevelt, too.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

A very unusual thing happened the other night–something that hasn’t happened in a long time–the Sixers beat the Lakers, with Kobe Bryant playing, in LA, 94-93 on a three point buzzer beater by Andre Iguodala. I’m pretty sure some of the many celebrities that watch Laker basketball were stunned and sullen as they filed out of the building into their ferraris and maseratis and hybrids. This win capped off a four game win streak for the sixers, who have looked very fine indeed without Elton Brand weighing them down.

Coach Tony DiLeo has finally woken up to the fact that he has a three point shooter on his bench named Donyell Marshall, and has been deploying Marshall in key situations in games lately to, uh, shoot the three ball, something I’ve been lobbying for all year long. Notably, this strategy has been working quite well. When Marshall and Royal Ivey hit the three, Young and Iguodala and Speights can go to work inside without drawing double teams, or else Marshal and Ivey get free looks from the three line.

Even thought the Sixers lost in Phoenix last nite 125-116 and have three more games on the road this western trip, the Sixers are now 34-32, hold the 6th seed in the NBA east, and project to a 98% chance of making the playoffs. They are five games ahead of the Bucks who are 9th in the NBA east with 16 games to play, and 3 1/2 games ahead of the Chicago Bulls who are in the 8th seed, and 1 1/2 games ahead of Detroit, which continues to struggle without Iverson, who is hurt and out.

Speaking of the Bulls, ex-Sixer John Salmons dropped 38 points on the Celtics the other night in beating the Celtics. Even though he only scored 14 as the Sixers beat the Bulls in Philly, Salmons has become quite a much better player, and the Sean Webber trade is beginning to look worse and worse in hindsight. Salmons has become a great player and Webber was just a bust. Salmons could have been the two guard the sixers are now needing, and all we had to do was do nothing but hold onto him and let him develop. The Sixers have let a lot guys like Larry Hughes and John Salmons get away from them over the years, and after a while, you have to wonder, who is evaluating the talent around here? Would you keep Willie Green and Lou Williams and trade away John Salmons and Larry Hughes and Kyle Korver????

i don’t think so….but yet that’s the way this franchise has gone the past few years. They’ve let some explosive scorers leave for very little in return.

In addition, Eddie Stefanski, the GM, does not seem anxious to re-sign andre miller the point guard, who right now based on win shares and everything else, is the most valuable sixer on the team other than Iguodala.

If you take miller away from the sixers, the team cannot run the floor as well or as effectively, and they will need an entire season to adjust to a new point guard. It would be wiser to just re-sign Miller and let him play here until he can’t play anymore, and then work a new guy into the mix. Miller deserves it.

Also, Miller is durable. He has played something like 530 consecutive NBA games, the longest such streak in the NBA. Right now, he is more durable than Allen Iverson, or at least as durable as AI was when AI was in his prime. Miller is the youngest 32 year old I’ve ever seen play, he’s fast, he’s durable, he doesn’t get hurt, and he plays about five years younger than his age, and his game is beautiful to watch.

This signing is a no brainer. Dump elton brand, re-sign andre miller. please. please please.

–art kyriazis, philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

Big Five Basketball has been dying a slow death in Philadelphia the past few years, unnoticed and unmourned by the schools involved and by the sportswriters, telecasters and other media figures who once celebrated it so ardently. At its height in the 1970s and 1980s, all of the Big Five games were at the Palestra of Penn, a neutral site, many of those games were locally televised, and often there were doubleheaders, meaning you could see two basketball games for the price of one, perhaps a non-Big Five matchup paired with a Big Five Game.

The unraveling of the Big Five has been well-documented. It started with Villanova’s demands after it’s national title in 1985 for Big Five home games at the Pavilion and to be released from its contractual obligation to play all of the required Big Five Games. Once all the dust settled, the restructured Big Five agreement no longer required the games to be played at the Palestra, but rather alternated to home and home series between each school involved, and even that was negotiated by the schools involved, e.g. Villanova might want two home games for every away game.

Consequently, for example, although Villanova recently won a “Big Five” game against Temple this year, it really wasn’t a “Big Five” game in the traditional sense of the term. The game was a home game for Villanova, held at the Pavilion at Villanova, meaning it was a home game for Villanova with few or no Temple fans. Temple has a good team this year, but there’s an enormous difference in playing a Big Five Game at a neutral site like the Palestra in front of a crowd of half your fans and half their fans, and playing the same game at the Villanova Pavilion in front of a hostile audience.

Villanova has completely dominated “Big Five Play” as we now know it in recent years, but they’ve done so by playing two or more of the annual Big Five games at Villanova’s Pavilion each year, thus giving Villanova home court for two of those Big Five games plus a large gate share. The main reason for this is that Villanova is more concerned about their national ranking and Big East ranking than they are about the Big Five.

Well, I have a modest proposal to salvage the Big Five as we once knew it and put it back on the road to what it once was. It will involve a bit of radical surgery, but it might be the best thing overall.

My proposal is as follows; expel Villanova from the Big Five for the next five years and replace them with Drexel. All Big Five games will once again be at the Palestra, a neutral site. The new Big Five will be Temple, LaSalle, St. Joes, Drexel and Penn. Drexel will be delighted with the arrangement and Villanova might actually come crawling back asking to be let in on the new/old terms of playing at the Palestra at the end of five years. Then you could have a six team league of Big Five teams.

The situation is pretty clear; since 1985, Villanova has gotten too big for its britches. Unfortunately, they mistook a Cinderella season in which they overcame unbelievable odds to win an NCAA championship for a sign from the heavens that they were better than everyone else in the big five, and ever since, Villanova has been spending more money on recruiting, coaching and building a big-time program, all in an ill-conceived quest to be a nationally ranked team each and every year, oblivious to the fact that the odds against Villanova ever winning another NCAA title again are stratospheric (especially with Jay Wright, a great recruiter and great regular season coach, but a poor NCAA tournament coach at the helm).

The rest of the Big Five is under no such illusions. St. Joes’s even after it’s national run with Jameer Nelson and Delonte West under Phil Martelli remains a locally minded program that aims to field a good team every year without having its head in the clouds; Temple with Fran Dunphy has continued the tradition set by his predecessor of attaining A-10 excellence and making the NCAAs each year and building from there, and Temple continues to put out more good NBA pros than Villanova does year in and year out; Penn continues to be the class of the Ivy League, though currently they are going through a rebuilding time; while LaSalle is struggling they have shown signs of coming around again; and finally, Drexel has really shown signs that they are truly a major college program to be reckoned with.

At this point in time, Drexel is a better fit for the Big Five than Villanova. Drexel is better suited to playing its Big Five games at the Palestra by geography and location, and Drexel would benefit by joining the Big Five in every way. Villanova can continue to have home and home series with any and all of the big five schools—they just won’t be Big Five games.

Finally, it should be incumbent upon the new Big Five to get a TV or cable contract to televise the new Big Five locally so that the new Big Five games are televised locally in the region. A new generation of fans should be built up loyal to philly college basketball.

These are modest proposals, but necessary ones. The Big Five must be saved.

–Art Kyriazis, Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champions Philadelphia Phillies
Happy New Year 2009