Ok, we’re now into the Elite Eight, and I had the following picks and results so far;

1) East – originally, at round of 64, Kentucky v. West Va. This was also my pick before the Sweet Sixteen Round. This is looking pretty good. I really like Kentucky to win this. I thought Kentucky played an excellent game against Cornell, especially defensively. However, West Virginia is an excellent team with a tough, tough coach we used to see a lot here in the A-10 and later the Big East when he was coaching at Cincinnati. Two great teams and two great coaches. What a game. I will say, originally, I had W.Va. winning this game; i’m revising that pick in light of Kentucky looking so good in this tournament. But of course, that’s a conditional probability pick; if W.Va. does win, then it validates my original bracket pick.

DEMARCUS COUSINS DESTROYED CORNELL UNDERNEATH & INSIDE IN THE SWEET SIXTEEN ROUND MAKING ROOM FOR JOHN WALL ON THE PERIMETER

2) South – originally, at round of 64, i had picked Louisville v. Baylor to come out of the pack. Well, I got that half right, but not the half you would have expected. Before the Sweet Sixteen, knowing that Louisville was out (we call that conditional probability) I picked Duke to win, which of course they did. In light of what I know now, I would have Duke beating Baylor. Incidentally, Baylor put a hurting on St. Mary’s. How lame is Villanova for losing to St. Mary’s? And by the way, should new Baylor President get halfcourt seats or what for this team???

Final Four pick Duke/Baylor winner v. Ky/W.Va winner – this is sort of a no-brainer, and I had this on my original bracket before the tournament opened. I think both Ky and W.Va are both better than Duke, even though W. Va. got a #2 seed. So I see Ky going to the final four over Duke, or alternatively, W. Va going to the final four over Duke. I think Duke’s dance ends at the elite eight.

That’s not to underestimate coach K. Anyone brilliant with a complicated last name ending with K, hey, I have to like that guy, right?

By the way, speaking of the U.Cincinnati, think today’s players are good? check out U.Cincinnati great’s Oscar Robertson’s college stats:

Season School FG% FT% TRB AST PTS
1957-58 Cincinnati .571 .789 15.2 35.1
1958-59 Cincinnati .509 .794 16.3 6.9 32.6
1959-60 Cincinnati .526 .756 14.1 7.3 33.7
Career Cincinnati .535 .780 15.2 4.8 33.8

Yes, that’s right–the Big O averaged a double-double his entire college career–a double double that ran around 35 points and 15 rebounds a night. That was in college, and freshman weren’t allowed to play back then. Imagine what his FOUR year stats would have been.

You think that was pretty good by today’s standards? Today, we think it’s pretty good if a kid averaged barely 15 points and 10 rebounds. That earns him a first round NBA spot.

OSCAR ROBERTSON - THE GREATEST PLAYER IN U.CINCINNATI HISTORY KNOWN AS THE "BIG O" - WON AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP WITH KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR WITH MILWAUKEE BUCKS

Of course, Cincinnati is named for the Roman hero Cincinnatus. If you’ve studied Latin, you know who he is. The rest of you, Google him up. He was a famous hero of the early Roman Republic. Big O and Cincinnatus had a lot in common.

3) Midwest – Originally I had Kansas v. Georgetown in the Elite Eight of this bracket before the round of 64. That bracket was completely busted, of course. Before the round of sixteen, knowing what had happened in the first couple of rounds, I remade picks and picked Michigan State to win their game, and Ohio State to win their game. Well, I got that half right. Tennessee with their orange uniforms and orange sneakers just plain outshot and outhustled Ohio State, thus short-circuiting the Big Ten matchup we were forecasting. Instead, the Elite Eight matchup will be the improbable Mich State #5 seed vs. the Tenn #6 seed for the Midwest Regional Final. This is an interesting matchup.

My heart says to root for the Spartans and Tom Izzo, a veteran, wily coach. However, my head says that Tennessee beat Ohio State while Michigan State lost to Ohio State during the season; that Tennessee lost to Purdue by a point or two while Mich State lost by a lot to Purdue; and that Tennessee beat Kansas during the season. Also that Kalin Lucas is out for Michigan State, while Tennessee is deep and balanced in both scoring and rebounding.

I’m going to call this a flip, but the edge to Tennessee here. So Tennessee to the Final Four. But Mich State definitely has a shot.

4) West – Well, I had Syracuse and Pitt in my original pre-round of 64 bracket picks. That’s pretty busted. After the first two rounds, before the sweet sixteen, I repicked Syracuse and Kansas State. Syracuse was upended by Butler, while Kansas State barely survived a two overtime onslaught from a feisty Xavier team.

That leaves us with Kansas State v. Butler. Here, I like Kansas State over Butler. I believe Kansas State will defeat Butler and get to the Final Four.

Moreover, I believe Kansas State will also defeat the winner of Mich State/Tenn and get to the final round.

This then sets up a final round of Kentucky v. Kansas State.

Here, again, I still like Kentucky to win it all.

–art kyriazis, philly, cradle of college hoops

The Palestra, also known as the Cathedral of College Basketball, is a historic arena and the home gym of the University of Pennsylvania Quakers men's and women's basketball teams, volleyball teams, wrestling team, and Philadelphia Big 5 basketball. Located at 215 South 33rd St. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, near Franklin Field in the University City section of Philadelphia, it opened on January 1, 1927. The arena originally sat about 10,000, but now seats 8,722 for basketball. The Palestra is famed for its close-to-the-court seating with the bleachers ending at the floor with no barrier to separate the fans from the game. At the time of its construction, the Palestra was one of the largest arenas in the world. It was one of the first modern steel-and-concrete arenas in the United States and also one of the first to be constructed without interior pillars blocking the view.

source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestra

Detroit was embarrassingly bad against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, by far the worst performance of any playoff team.

Not only that, but the games were boring.

There was one player who might have at least made the games entertaining, and here I refer to ALLEN IVERSON who for some odd reason was sitting down by order of Detroit management.

AI has the second highest career playoff scoring average in NBA history—second only to Michael Jordan—and YOU SIT HIM DOWN FOR THE PLAYOFFS?

I should think that AI would have been a bit revved up to play LeBron James, only the best player in the league.

Even if Detroit went down in flames, I think we could have seen AI go off for 40 points in at least one of those playoff games.

He’s Allen Iverson, that’s what he does.

I’m not totally sure what narcotics or drugs Detroit is on, but sitting down your best scorer against the NBA’s best team in the playoffs is crazy.

I might note, Detroit had trouble scoring even 80 points most every game in the series—they had point totals like 78, 79, and so forth. Again, an Allen Iverson would have helped that tremendously.

Over and over, even hurt, Allen Iverson has always shown up for the playoffs and played big.

Commissioner David Stern should have stepped in here and required Detroit to produced Allen Iverson for the playoffs.

It’s embarrassing for the league and for the fans that we were denied the opportunity to see an Allen Iverson-LeBron James playoff series.

This is an insult to our intelligence and to us as fans.

No other matchup in the playoffs would have been as interesting or intriguing, except possibly watching Kobe Bryant against LeBron James in the finals.

Whenever AI went against LeBron James this winter in the regular season, he had an extraordinary game on a nationally televised Sunday afternoon game, he scored 30 or 40 points, I can’t recall how many.

But it’s easy enough to look up the game logs from the regular season:

November 19, 2008: Detroit 96, Cleveland 89. Iverson leading scorer for Detroit with 23 points, followed by Rasheed Wallace with 21 points. LeBron James and Mo Williams each with 25 points. Detroit outscores Cleveland 30-21 in the 4th quarter.

February 1, 2009: Cleveland 90, Detroit 80. Iverson leading scorer for Detroit with 22 points, followed by Rick Hamilton with 16 points. LeBron James goes off for 33 points in this game, Mo Williams scores 22. Detroit is winning after three quarters, but Cleveland takes Detroit down in the 4th quarter 32-14, coming from eight back to win by ten at the end. This was actually a great game where Iverson and James were dueling, and James just came up huge in the 4th quarter. This is what the playoffs might have been like between them.

February 22, 2009: Cleveland 99, Detroit 78. Iverson leading scorer for Detroit with 14 points, followed by Walter Hermann. It’s pretty clear AI is injured in this game. He only played about 26 minutes. Surprisingly, Delonte West (of St. Joe’s Philly fame) led Cleveland with 25 points, followed by LeBron James with 25. This game was a blowout. Cleveland broke out 31-17 in the first quarter and never looked back.

March 31, 2009: Cleveland 79, Detroit 73. Rick Hamilton leads Detroit with 13 points, playing almost 35 minutes, Iverson scores 11 points playing about 18 minutes. This is a weird game due to the low score. LeBron scores 25 for Cleveland, but no one else on the Cavs gets more than a dozen. A close game, but the Cavs win. Here, again, Iverson is hurt, plays limited minutes, but contributes offensively and keeps Detroit in the game.

SUMMARY: In four regular season games, Detroit won once, had two close games, and was only blown out once. Iverson was their leading scorer in three of those games, and was their second leading scorer in the fourth game, and in every game except perhaps the blowout game, made a huge impact on the game. It’s fair to infer, from the box scores, that if you took Iverson away from the Detroit Pistons, in a direct Cleveland-Detroit Playoff matchup, that Detroit would probably get blown out.

Actual results:

Game 1 April 18 Detroit Pistons 84 Cleveland Cavaliers 102
Game 2 April 21 Detroit Pistons 82 Cleveland Cavaliers 94
Game 3 April 24 Cleveland Cavaliers 79 Detroit Pistons 68
Game 4 April 26 Cleveland Cavaliers 99 Detroit Pistons 78

As you can see, Detroit not only lost four in a row, but they scored 84, 82, 68 and 78 points in those games, which is an average offensive output of only 78 points a game. That’s pretty horrible, especially when you’re giving up 102, 94, 79 and 99 points to the opposition.

Even though Detroit would have lost with AI, the playoffs would have been the LeBron-AI show instead of a pathetic rollover. Detroit should be ashamed of themselves.

Art Kyriazis
Philly/South Jersey
Home of the Philadelphia Phillies

Well, no matter that Boston won in 7 incredible games, this has turned into a pleasant surprise, and a rivalry at that.

I remember well the old Michael Jordan-Larry Bird Chicago-Boston series of the 1980s, which were insane, with Jordan scoring infinity points, but Boston having a better team and winning anyway, and these games have been a lot like that.

Without Garnett, Boston has come down to earth, and Chicago has great young players, especially DERRICK ROSE the SUPER ROOKIE who’s really come to play. He only dropped 36 on Boston his first playoff game—Iverson-like intensity in the playoff cauldron. Watching Rose square off against Paul Pierce and Ray Allen was really something.

Chicago has at least six championship banners from the Jordan years, and a lot of titles, and Boston has at least thirteen from the Russell year, another five from the Bird years, and one from last year, so between them these two franchises have about half of the all the NBA championships of the last fifty years. It’s a lot of history and pride on the line.

I know Philly-Boston used to be something, and Boston-LA is always something, but Chicago-Boston is surely something too, and this year’s playoff series between the two was SOMETHING.

Chicago was assisted by at least three ex-Sixers this year—Larry Hughes, Tim Thomas and John Salmons—for different portions of the year. Hughes helped Chicago in the first half of the season, before he was moved to the NY Knicks, while Salmons was a late season acquisition from the Sacramento Kings. Thomas was over the hill, but helped them all year, including during the playoffs.

Everyone will remember the awful trade of Salmons, Kenny Thomas and Corliss Williamson a couple of years back for an over the hill, injured and not so productive Chris Webber—well, to be fair, in 2005-06, Webber’s only full season with the Sixers, he did average 20 ppg, balancing scoring duties with Iverson, and the Sixers won 38 games—and missed the last playoff spot in the east by 2 games. Such is the difference between success and failure in the NBA. Everyone thought that pairing would last forever.

That is until the two of them missed fan appreciation day the next to last day of the season. All the old fat white guys on sports radio suddenly went nuts and demanded they both be traded. Are you kidding me?

By the very next season, Webber played only 18 games, Iverson was back to scoring 30 plus ppg, but the Sixers panicked and traded Iverson after only 15 games, regressed to 35 wins, again missing the playoffs by five wins. Webber’s contract was bought out and I’m not even sure he ever played again.

In the meantime, John Salmons by this past season had developed into a very fine player with Sacramento—at 6 foot seven he was a good defensive player, and he finally had learned the offensive game, pouring in twenty points a game for the lowly Kings.

Chicago, in need of a scoring guard, took notice and picked Salmons up for a song during midseason (where was Eddie Stefanski during all this?) and Salmons helped drive Chicago into the playoffs and the final seed during a late season run.

Watching a guy like Salmons who played his high school ball at Plymouth-Whitemarsh, and who spent his first four years in a Sixers uniform, help drive the Chicago Bulls to a playoff spot, was kind of annoying to me this year. It only got worse during the legendary Game Six of this years Chicago-Boston series, the triple-overtime game in which Salmons dropped 35 points on the Celtics. Now that was showing off.

Does anyone doubt that Salmons could have been helpful at the two guard position this year for the Sixers? I think the case is closed on that one. Salmons is tall, he plays good defense and he can score.

This past year Salmons earned 5.7 win shares, one of those defensive, and averaged close to 19 ppg. His field goal average was .473, very efficient, and his three point average was .415, also excellent, and he averaged 2 assists and only 1.7 turnovers a game. That goes along with 4.3 rebounds a game. Throw in a steal a game and a block a game, and you’ve got a really good player who can do a lot of good things. It’s true Salmons is now thirty years old, but so what? He might be a late bloomer, but if he’s learned to play the game, he’s learned to play the game. And he can play.

Ray Allen is what, a hundred? He was playing for Milwaukee back when the amphibians and the reptiles first walked on dry land. He’s so old that some of the cave paintings in France are attributed to him. I’m not saying Ray Allen is old, but he has grandchildren playing ball in college right now. It’s not that Ray Allen is old, but he’s the only NBA player I know who get’s Social Security checks delivered next to his NBA paychecks.

Seriously, though, Ray Allen is the ageless wonder, a beautiful player who can still play the game beautifully, and for those who think Allen Iverson is washed up or too old, I offer as exhibit one, Ray Allen. Small shooting guards who are pure shooters can play a long time in the NBA—I think here of the wondrous Hal Greer of the Sixers—a Hall of Famer—who played of course with Wilt on the 1967 team that won 68 teams and dethroned the Celtics for the title—and we should be mindful of this fact.

In short, Boston-Chicago was a wonderful, marvelous series, a beautiful thing to witness, pure basketball at its best, overtime game upon overtime game, each with its own storyline. Neither time yielded or gave quarter. It’s nice to see pro athletes play that hard and that long and give effort on that scale. Again, it’s reminiscent of the days of Jordan and Bird and when they first met in the late 1980s—those playoff series were wars between Chicago and Boston. This latest series was no less.

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

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–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the non-steroid using world champion philadelphia phillies

The Phillies begin their World Championship Title Defense tonite, hosting the Atlanta Braves.

First, I have to get ride of one of my pet peeves, and this is the often quoted statistic that the Braves won 14 division titles in a row from 1991 through 2005.

A plain look at the statistics laid out on baseball-reference dot com shows that this isn’t so.

First of all, from 1991-1993, the Braves were IN A DIFFERENT DIVISION, the N.L. West, and the league was split into two divisions, not three. The Braves did win the N.L. West in 1991 and 1992, but they tied in 1993, and were forced to a one game playoff with the San Francisco Giants (incredibly, both the Giants and the Braves won 103 games in the regular season that year); it was only by winning the one game playoff that they earned the NL West Division title. That has to have an asterisk, right?

Next, in 1994, the strike year, Atlanta was switched to the NL East–where they finished SECOND to the Montreal Expos. The Expos won the NL East in 1994, no one else did.

That would mean, by all reckoning, that Atlanta would have to have started a new streak in 1995–and from 1995-2005, they did, in fact, win eleven straight NL East Division titles–a prodigious accomplishment by any stretch of the imagination–but not the fourteen straight titles that sports commentators often ascribe to them.

That dog won’t hunt.

Incidentally, last year, Atlanta lost 90 games and finished twenty games behind the NL East champion Phillies. Hopefully they will prove once again this year to be cannon fodder for the Phils powerful bats and potent pitching arms.

Some random notes on the Phillies as they start their season:

1) Chan Ho Park was named the fifth starter ahead of J.A. Happ. I’ve already reviewed this in a prior blog and stated that Happ should be starting. Happ is a 26 year old 6 foot six lefty who strikes out a lot of ballplayers, while Park is a righty with age-related decline issues whose ERA outside of Dodger Stadium is more than 5.00 career. Happ’s minor league stats are impressive, and his starts last year for the Phils were good, as were his spring numbers. This is just a mistake by the Phils, much like when they blocked Ryan Howard with Jim Thome.

2) I predict that Happ will eventually replace Park in the starting rotation, and that Happ will develop into a superior starting pitcher in this league.

3) Having said that, either Park or Happ is CLEARLY an upgrade from Adam Eaton or Kyle Kendrick.

4) Cole Hamels might be on the shelf for a while. I’d rest Hamels and start Park AND Happ during April. It’s April, why risk injuring your meal ticket in Hamels? Let the man have a month off. He pitched an extra month last year, and might have to do it again this year. It’s not like you need him in April, is it?

5) The Phils released Geoff Jenkins, in a puzzling move, since they still owe him $8 million salary. But they also kept Matt Stairs, who is 41 and can only play first base, and Miguel Cairo, who is about a thousand years old, and can only play second base, and can’t hit anymore. Why keep those two old fuddy-duddies, and release Jenkins, who is a legit ballplayer? This is a truly imponderable move.

6) The Phils should have kept Jenkins, and released Stairs. Jenkins can play left or right fields, he can pinch run, and he can pinch hit, plus he’s already on the payroll, and he’s a power hitter. Stairs can’t field, and Cairo can’t hit, so Jenkins is a more useful bench player than either of them. Jenkins had key hits in the postseason off the bench. He’s shown he can be useful off the bench.

7) Jayson Werth is injury prone, and the Phils will need a corner outfielder to spell him. That guy had to have been Jenkins.

8) Eric Bruntlett can spell anyone in the infield, and Dobbs can spell anyone in the outfield or third base or second base. Why keep Cairo? Cairo hasn’t had a hot hitting streak since the pyramids were built, and his fielding range is about as narrow as the Nile at that point where you can step across it. I don’t think Cairo has hit a home run since Moses led the chosen people out of Egypt right after the Passover miracle and the slaughter of the first born of Egypt. The last time Cairo took an extra base, they were filming the Ten Commandments. I’m not saying Miguel Cairo is old, but I’m pretty sure he and Edward G. Robinson used to make gangster films together in the 1930s. Miguel Cairo is so old, he has a card in my oldest Strat-O-Matic baseball game that was just cards and dice from back in the 1970s. Miguel Cairo is so old, that even his wife has forgotten how many years he shaves off his real age whenever he crosses the border and lies about his birthday to immigration officials. I’m not saying the man is old, but Miguel Cairo is the guy who recruited Roberto Clemente to play baseball. It’s not that Miguel Cairo is old, but Cairo once played minor league ball with Fidel Castro in 1950s pre-Communist Cuba. I’m not calling the man old, but Julio Franco, who retired last year at age 50, calls Miguel Cairo “Uncle Mike” out of respect for his elders.

9) Jenkins, Bruntlett and Cairo were the obvious ones to keep. Cairo’s career stats are mind-numbingly awful. Jenkins by contrast is a career power hitter. Bruntlett can field and has good sped while Dobbs is a good hitter. Stairs can’t field, he’s a dh basically and should go to the AL where he belongs.

10) The Phils made no effort to sign Garry Sheffield, but on the bright side, he signed with the Mets. I’m about 90% sure at this stage of his career, stuck on 499 homers, Sheffield only wants to get into the Hall of Fame, and is only about Sheffield, not the team, so I think the Mets have bought into a problem there. Sheffield will demand playing time to pad his stats, and even if he’s hitting .220, which is what he hit last year with Detroit, he will demand more playing time. Plus he’s another over the hill superstar, which the Mets seem to collect boatloads of.

11) Having said all this, I still think the Phils will make a good run and repeat as NL East champs and go on to win the world series yet again, for all the reasons I set forth in my earlier blog on this.

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

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