THE MLB REPORT
THE MLB REPORT - THE HOT, HOT, HOT MONTH OF JULY IS HERE BUT THE ONCE-PROUD PHILLIES ARE AN ICE COLD CREW ...
PLUS MORE NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM CAPSULES AS WE BRING YOU A QUARTET OF CLUBS (THAT’S THE CHIEFS, JAGS, CARDINALS & 49ERS)
There has not been a whole lot to celebrate for Philadelphia Phillies fans this year:
Not only is the National League East crew floundering badly after just getting swept down in Miami - 6-2, 3-2 and 5-2 was the “straight sets” results -- but right now manager Charlie Manuel’s club is residing in the basement with a wobbly 36-45 record - and note there are only four NL teams with worse winning percentages (at .444) than the Phillies and that list includes the likes of the Chicago Cubs (.372) and the San Diego Padres (.375). Ugh!
This past weekend the Phillies not only prolonged their losing streak to a Major-League Baseball-worst five in a row but they dealt away ultra-popular pinch-hitter and part-time 1B Jim Thome to the Baltimore Orioles. Okay, so that might have felt like a minor deal but could it be the tip of the trade iceberg for Phillies GM Reuben Amaro Jr.?
Note the Phils dealt righty reliever Chad Qualls to the New York Yankees on Sunday and there’s a strong sense that the Phillies actually could deal away LHP Cole Hamels (10-4, 3.08) and/or Sunday loser RHP Joe Blanton (7-6, 4.87) sometime during this month of July.
The Phillies find themselves 11 games behind NL East-leading Washington and way back of a bunch of teams in the wild card race that these days rewards two teams from each league ... and how about the fact that LHP Cliff Lee (0-5) is still winless this season and the club is 9-20 in day games and 11-22 combined in either one-run or extra-inning affairs?
As New York Yankees Hall of Famer Yogi Berra allegedly used to say, “It’s getting late pretty early around here.”
It’s not even the Fourth of July and yet you could make the case that the Phillies are ph-inished!
And now hear this ...
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NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM CAPSULES - LET’S CHECK OUT THE CHIEFS, JAGUARS, CARDINALS AND 49ERS
Let’s continue on with our summertime look at all 32 NFL teams.
On today’s busy pigskin menu, we bring you the Kansas City Chiefs, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers:
KANSAS CITY - Last year’s Chiefs finished in the basement of the AFC West with a 7-9 SU (straight-up) mark and one of the major culprits was a passing attack that ranked a lowly 25th in the league (192.5 yards a game) and the free-agent signing of TE Kevin Boss (Oakland) should help ... but why didn’t KayCee draft a high-octane pass-catcher in the first three rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft?
True, the Chiefs drafted WR Devon Wylie (Fresno State) in Round 4 and his speed could help stretch the field but count us among the folks that believed QB Matt Cassel (1,713 yards passing with 10 TDs and 9 INTs) needed some additional pass-catching help on Draft Day.
Note that head coach Romeo Crennel’s stop unit held five of its last six foes a year ago to 16 points or less but if the Chiefs really want to stay a defensive force than SS Eric Berry and FS Kendrick Lewis will have to bounce back neatly from injuries/surgeries a year ago.
Might new newly-minted CB Stanford Routt (last seven years with AFC West rival Oakland) be one of the best off-season signings in the NFL? Stay tuned.
JACKSONVILLE - Only five NFL teams sported more losses last year than these 5-and-11 Jaguars who scored a grand total of 98 points in their eight pre-bye games in 2011 ... ouch!
Naturally, this fan base - or what’s left of it! - is buzzing when it comes to playmaker WR Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State) who was the fifth player nabbed in last spring’s draft but he’s already found himself in off-the-field problems with the law and the Jags also believed they beefed up their putrid attack by signing free-agent WR Lee Evans (Baltimore) who last year dropped the most important pass in the whole NFL post-season.
Hey, maybe QB Chad Henne (Miami) pushes incumbent QB Blaine Gabbert (2,214 yards passing with 12 TDs and 11 INTs) this summer but is either guy really gonna get you all that excited right now? Call the quarterback position just about dead-even heading into the first week of preseason games (even if that’s not what the Jags are saying publicly).
ARIZONA - No question that the Cardinals’ most pressing issue is who starts at quarterback this preseason as Kevin Kolb (9 TDs and 8 INTs last year) is hardly a lead-pipe cinch to get the lead role as he must fend off John Skelton (11 TDs and 14 INTs in 2011) but in any event there’s another high-quality target on hand to join veteran WR Larry Fitzgerald as Notre Dame alum WR Michael Floyd in on board. Still, don’t be surprised if the Redbirds spend much of their preseason attempting to sort out the ground game that last year ranked a crummy 24th in the NFL (101.6 ypg).
On the flip side, Arizona ranked 21st in rush defense last year while yielding 124.1 yards a game and yet this NFC West team didn’t spend a single draft pick on a D-lineman ... go figure!
No doubt the Cards hope free-agent LB Quentin Groves (Oakland) can add some grit to this rush defense unit.
Will Arizona preseason games tend to go “under” now with running the ball a key for both the Cards and their opponents? Hmmm.
SAN FRANCISCO - Last year’s runaway winners of the NFC West (see 13-3) surrendered just 14 points a game in regular-season play and even with DE Aldon Smith recovering from stab wounds this unit should be rock-solid in nature once again but all eyes will be on San Fran’s wide receiver corps that caught just one pass in the NFC Championship overtime loss to the New York Giants. The 49ers drafted Illinois WR A.J. Jenkins with the 30th overall pick (many considered it a major “reach”) and he’ll be targeted often in the preseason after nabbing 84 balls worth 1,196 yards and 7 TDs as a senior in Big 10-land.
The Niners also inked free agent WR Mario Manningham (Giants) and added RB Brandon Jacobs (Giants) via free agency but maybe the team’s most important move was re-signing Pro Bowl P Andy Lee who probably will get plenty of rest this summer while the team brings in some other punters simply to fill out roster spots - so SF could be surrendering field position in the preseason if that happens to matter to you.
No doubt it will be interesting to see how many snaps rookie RB LaMichael James (Oregon) gets this summer as he could be a game-breaker against other second-string defensive units.
NOTE: Get more NFL Team-by-Team capsules in the next Jim Sez plus keep track of all the NBA Free Agency moves too all this week right here.
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