August has to be the slowest month in hockey world. Everyone (myself included) is currently gearing up for football to start and baseball division races are heating up. So I thought I’d do a piece on a broader topic to have something to talk about. The Flyers will not have anything else for us to dissect until training camp starts or they make another roster move, so what I say now will rarely differ from what I’ve already said. I’d like to talk about an awesome trend I have noticed recently… Philly sports dominance.
I am not talking about dominance in the means on championships, but three of the major professional sports teams in Philadelphia are slated as making it far in the playoffs, and possibly as contenders. And oh yeah, free agents are FLOCKING here. If one or two of these teams can manage to win a championship, there may be a ‘Golden Age of Philly Sports’ on the horizon. Let’s look at the most obvious bright spot of our Philly sports teams.
Of course for the Flyers I’ve talked so much about. While they may not have made as big of a splash in the sports world with their moves, they still are a playoff contender and one of the top teams in their conference going into this season. They signed their number one goalie in Ilya Bryzgalov while picking up some promising prospects in Schenn, Coutourier, Voracek, and Simmonds. They also landed Jaromir Jagr whom was looking to come to a team with a chance of winning the Stanley Cup. The Flyers have a long, rich history full of unforgettable players and characters that have built the foundation that this team plays on today. Philadelphia has always been regarded as a top-tier hockey town and we’ve had our fair share of talent through our doors… but we finally have a number one goalie that wanted to play here, among so many other things that make our team great. But what about our two other hyped teams at the moment?
The Phillies are defending NL East Champs year after year, and have been dominant in the NL for a few years now. Two years removed from their last World Series and they are looking to return this season. Backed up by a deadly pitching rotation with the likes of Halladay, Lee, and Hamels; the Phillies can do some serious damage in the playoffs. Their infield is sound defensively and features superb hitting all-around. The outfield is anchored by Shane Victorino and newcomer Hunter Pence. Mayberry has been great recently in relief as well, and our starting pitchers have been doing a good enough job to set Madson and the rest of the bullpen up to finish games.
After years of mediocrity in the late 90s to early 2000s, the Phillies are a premier MLB franchise. Last season they went out and signed Cliff Lee after originally trading him to bolster their line-up. And this is after a season of acquiring Halladay and Oswalt to compliment Hamels, our original ace. Guys want to play here. They love playing for Charlie Manuel at a sold-out ballpark every night. Nothing exemplifies how new Phillies feel than the story of Hunter Pence. The Phillies swooped in near the trade deadline and picked up one of the most valuable assets on the market. Besides providing a beastly right hand bat so teams will stop pitching around Howard, Pence’s energy and swagger seemingly revitalized the Phillies team and helped them to finish 9-1 on their road trip when he joined the team. And he loves Philadelphia.
The Phillies are favorites in the NL to get to the World Series, and their recent handling of the Giants has led many to believe that barring any injuries, this club should meet expectations with their league-best record of 78-41.
The Eagles have been the talk of the down for the past decade during the Andy Reid Era. While only making it to the big dance once, they have played in five NFC championship games and are perennial playoff contenders. This past off-season, the Eagles were the biggest players and signed pretty much half of their current roster through free agency. Michael Vick did something special last season, and he’s attracted many players here to help him win a Super Bowl. The Kolb trade started things off to receive a second-round pick and dynamic corner Rodgers-Cromartie. Many speculated that trade officially ended the Eagles entrance in the Asomugha sweepstakes that had teams such as the Cowboys and Jets knocking on his door. Not to be outdone, the Eagles signed the most prized free agent this off-season along with Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin to solidify our defense. They also addressed their defensive line and offensive line depth with some key signings, and even inked Ronnie Brown and Vince Young to add to our already-potent offense. And then Steve Smith (NYG) was signed. Talk about a plethora of new players.
Like the Phillies, the Eagles attracted many free agents to their team and signed them. Both of these teams are good examples of going out and getting what you want (at least this season). The Phillies and Eagles have put themselves in good position to win championships this year. Whether that was the leading cause or the excitement of playing with Michael Vick sparked interest; guys want to play here. The Yankees and Patriots are not the only team attracting top-level talent anymore… but being the paper champions doesn’t grant you a Super Bowl ring. Let’s see if they can pull it together this season.
Let me put it this way. I’m going to list some names and you tell me if you ever thought them as an eventual Philadelphia athlete.
Pedro Martinez. Cliff Lee. Roy Halladay. Roy Oswalt. Hunter Pence.
Michael Vick. Vince Young. Nnamdi Asomugha. Ronnie Brown.
Chris Pronger. Ilya Bryzgalov. Jaromir Jagr.
For once, we’re making moves on big names through trades and free agency on some of our biggest teams. The Phillies went out and got their pitcher and hitter (Lee and Pence). The Eagles got their cornerback they needed (Asomugha and DRC). The Flyers went after their top defenseman and goalie (Pronger and Bryzgalov). Sometimes I think we are not appreciative even though we want to win. I just hope some of us aren’t letting this pass us by. Watching these Phillies every night is special, and we may never see a team like this again. The Eagles are putting themselves in a position to be better than they were in 2004. The Flyers have just shored up their offensive prospects with two great additions, and finally added a great goaltender to compliment their stingy defense and scoring forwards. There are few other cities who can compare with the competitive level Philadelphia sports teams have right now. Boston and New York come to mind, but Philadelphia is quickly pushing away from their stereotype as being a second-rate or “wannabe” city. If there ever was a time for a Golden Age of Philly Sports to start, why not now?