MLB Trade Deadline - NFL Notes: Saints, Bengals,Rams and Jaguars



By Jim Hurley:

If folks in Major-League Baseball don't like want the New York Yankees have done in recent years (see expensive contracts, etc.) to make a mockery of the words "competitive balance" in this sport, than what do they have to say about the here-and-now Philadelphia Phillies?

The Phils may not be sporting some $200 million-plus payroll as do the Yankees but they've sure been cornering the market on mega-star pitchers the past couple of years from that 2009 MLB Trade Deadline acquisition of LHP Cliff Lee to this past off-season's move to bring in RHP Roy Halladay and now yesterday's deal with Houston that imported veteran righty Roy Oswalt (143-82 lifetime in the "bigs") - so why not the public outcry against Philadelphia now too?

We'll get to more on this deal plus more MLB Trade Deadline News & Notes ahead but first this important reminder:

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Editor's Note: The National Football League Training Camps are popping up all over the land and we'll have extensive in-depth coverage in the days ahead right here in our Jim Sez columns. Plus, the NFL Preseason '10 is just around the corner - the Annual Hall of Fame Game is set for Sunday, August 8th as the Cincinnati Bengals tangle with the Dallas Cowboys and so make sure you sign up in the coming days for all the NFL Preseason Winners. Go online here for the sign-up info or call 1-800-323-4453 and speak with one of Jim's service representatives. Do it today!



No doubt that yesterday was a good news/good news day for the two-time defending National League champion Philadelphia Phillies:

They crashed the Trade Deadline party with the move to get Oswalt (officially completed by mid-to-later afternoon) and then they turned around and won their eighth straight game last night with a 3-2 triumph in 11 innings against the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks.

In just the past week alone, the Phillies (56-46) have made up 4 ½ games in the NL East standings and thus enter Friday night's action just a mere 2 ½ games back of the division-leading Atlanta Braves.

The Phils will not waste any time getting Oswalt (6-12, 3.42 ERA this year) indoctrinated as he will start this evening in Washington (he was scheduled to start for the Astros tonight at home against Milwaukee) and so that means the Philadelphia rotation right now includes the likes of Halladay, Oswalt and Cole Hamels at #1, #2 and #3 and about the only NL team that can either match or come close to that trio is San Francisco's rotation of two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez (and you may wish to include kid lefty Madison Bumgarner into that mix too).

Still, does the Oswalt trade - one that sent lefty hurler J.A. Happ as part of a youth-oriented package to Houston (and then note the Astros traded one of those players - speedy OF Anthony Gose -- to Toronto for Triple-A 1B Brett Wallace) - practically assure the Phils will be headed to a third straight World Series title?

Well, the odds on'em getting that far no doubt increased greatly with yesterday's mega-deal but is anyone out there worried that the 32-year-old Oswalt will be able to stay in once piece from here through early November?

Oswalt's been bothered in the past year-plus with a bad back - maybe from sitting on a fat wallet! - and there is some reason for the Phillies to be worried that he'll get to the finish line this season. Folks, besides the balky back there is a whole lot of tread off the tires and so we won't be totally surprised if/when Oswalt runs out of gas before October is in the books.

Consider that Phillies GM Ruben Amaro managed to get clueless Houston to pay nearly half of Oswalt's salary through next season (it's being reported that the'Stros will pay $11 million of the $23 million that's owed to the talented righthander) and really only parted with one in-the-moment player in the aforementioned Happ and you could consider Philadelphia's front office star to be elected the city's mayor any day now but there is always another side to the story and that other side is both Halladay and Oswalt will be asked to go to the whip these next two months of the season and what they leaves'em for the post-season is anyone's guess.

So, will the Phillies become the first NL team since the early 1940s St. Louis Browns to make it three World Series appearances in succession now that Oswalt's in tow?

First reaction is to say "yes" but something's telling us there are other holes that need to be plugged on this team (late-inning bullpen comes to mind right away) and Amaro might well regret the say he didn't pursue a new closer - so stay tuned.


Talk about your kid-in-the-candy-store deal:

If you're a die-hard football fan - and who isn't! - than the fact that the National Football League's 32 teams already have opened or will open up camp from sea to shining sea is truly exciting stuff and we'll continue to feed your appetite for all things pigskin with a look today at four more NFL squads that swung into action these past 24-to-48 hours.

Just remember to check back with us for tomorrow's Jim Sez as we'll dig into a few more teams that are just opening up camps and - as stated up above - the NFL Preseason is now just mere days away with the Bengals and Cowboys battling in Canton next Sunday night and then a full Preseason schedule follows just days later.

Now, let's check out a quartet of teams that just opened Training Camp:

CINCINNATI - Hey, it didn't take long for the aforementioned Bengals to discover what life will be like now with both WRs Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens on board. The over-the-top selfish duo arrived on the practice field last night at Georgetown College (in Kentucky) some three-plus minutes after all the other Cincy players took to the practice field and so the circus officially has arrived in town!

Good luck to you, Marvin Lewis.

The thing that should bother Bengals veterans is the Owens - while wasting no time at all - has displayed his diva tendencies and he's only been a part of this organization for a few days. Heck, with Ochocinco you expect this sort of nonsense but how about posing the question what happens this 2010 season if Owens is catching more balls than Ochocinco?

You don't actually believe the Dancing with the Stars guy is gonna stand for that now, do you?

Meanwhile, Bengals QB Carson Palmer gave his blessing to the Owens free agency signing after the two famously worked out in recent weeks in California but last night the former Heisman Trophy winner from USC was quoted as saying, "As far as rythym and timing of the passing game go, we have a long way to go."

JACKSONVILLE - No question that 2010 is a super-important year for the Jaguars who've stumbled through 7-9 and 5-11 SU (straightup) seasons the past two years and maybe the face of this franchise already is setting the tone for better things ahead after dredging up last season's Week 17 loss to Cleveland.

"We're here (working) 70 hours a week, and to lose like that was embarrassing," said star RB Maurice Jones-Drew.

The Jaguars ended '09 on a four-game losing streak that included a 23-17 setback at the 2-point favorite Browns and note that marked the ninth time that J'ville scored below 20 points in a game. If this offense is gonna perk up then young WR Mike Thomas will have to be a big-time contributor to the scene. Last year Thomas set the franchise's single-season record for total receptions (48) and receiving yards (453) and right now the talk in camp is that he'll settle in as Jacksonville's #2 wide out behind Mike Sims-Walker. Still, Thomas scored only one touchdown all of last season.

Note that when the Jags just welcomed in rookies and veterans yesterday, there were no rookie wide receiver draft picks - maybe the emergence of Thomas last year quelled any doubts about who's next in line after Sims-Walker but count us among the folks who believe the'Ville should have found the time/place to draft a pass-catcher with its six selections.
ST. LOUIS - Much of the focus on Rams camp is on QB Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) who may or may not be inked in the next couple of days but an under-the-radar aspect to this club's off-season was the import of veterans defensive players such as LBs Bobby Carpenter and Na'il Diggs along with D-linemen such as tackles Chris Hovan and Fred Robbins. Last year's Rams allowed 27-or-more points in 10 games and (surprise, surprise) St. Loo didn't win a single one of those games en route to a humiliating 1-15 SU campaign.

If second-year head coach Steve Spagnuolo can get some prime-time play from these journeyman vets, than maybe the Rams' defense won't be on the field as much as last year's unit that wore out and wore down along the way.

P.S., if the Rams don't get worn down on "D" than maybe it'll be the schedule that gets'em.

Or haven't you yet noticed that this NFC West crew has road games in 2010 at Oakland, San Francisco, Denver, Arizona and Seattle and so that's five games in the Western time zone with the latter two on back-to-back weekends with a third straight road game at New Orleans to follow. Ugh!

NEW ORLEANS - The champs marched into nearby Metairie with a full contingent ... save for first-round draftee CB Patrick Robinson (Florida State).

The defending Super Bowl champions didn't endure a whole lot of personnel turnover this past off-season but one thing GM Mickey Loomis said to media members following yesterday's initial day of summer practice is that this N'Orleans crew must improve its rush defense. Loomis pointed out how last year's stop unit surrendered a slew of long runs up the middle and so the heat will be on starting DTs Sedrick Ellis and Remi Ayodele to get more physical at the point of attack.

Last year's 4.5 yards-per-carry yield wasn't great but often was camouflaged by the fact that the Saints forced most opponents to play catch-up and thus the ground game was neutralized - plus this year's Saints are concentrating on forcing more fumbles (note that last year's New Orleans defense recovered 19 fumbles and that equaled the amount of fumbles lost by N'Orleans).

One final note here: The only key player that the Saints lost from last year's crew was LB Scott Fujita (Cleveland Browns) but the NFC South club expects Jo-Lonn Dunbar to snag that LB vacancy this summer.
NOTE: Catch more NFL Training Camp News & Notes - and lots more MLB goodies - in the next edition of Jim Sez.


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