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Consecutive games in which Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. has hit leadoff home run

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On March 7

Gabe Kapler’s positive energy is infectious. Listening to Kapler’s enthusiasm, it’s difficult not to be optimistic.

But positivity won’t make the Phillies’ pitchers more accurate or their hitters more productive.

Kapler’s unorthodox approach is certainly interesting. From working out with the players in the gym to putting players in unusual positions in the lineup (i.e. Rhys Hoskins batting cleanup) or in the field, Kapler certainly has the attention of his players and Phillies fans.

The true test for Kapler, however, will come when things don’t go well. When a player is in a slump or the team is on a losing streak, will the manager be able to do more than offer pats on the back and words of positive reinforcement?

Remember how Chip Kelly changed the culture with the Eagles? There was an emphasis on nutrition and getting enough sleep. Practices were quick and efficient. There wasn’t any wasted time.

At first, Kelly seemed like a genius. His fast-paced offense took the NFL by surprise. It felt as if the Eagles were on the cutting edge of something new in the NFL. But, when things began to turn sour, Kelly had no answers. Consequently, the players began to tune him out and the grumbling from the locker room – and players jettisoned from the locker room – became louder. Kelly never recovered and was fired before the end of his third season.

This doesn’t mean that Kapler will suffer the same fate. But Kelly’s tale provides a caution warning for anyone tempted to assume that Kapler’s attitude and fresh approach will translate into sustained success on the field.

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KINGERY EXCELS: I understand the financial reasons for having Scott Kingery start the season in the minors. Keeping him in the minors at the start of the year will give the Phillies an extra year of team control before Kingery can become a free agent. But, with Kingery batting .389 during spring training with a team-high three home runs, perhaps the Phillies should do what’s best for the team right now and have Kingery start the season in the big leagues.

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BY THE NUMBERS: Although I just cited Scott Kingery’s numbers, I’m aware that spring training statistics can be misleading. If we’re going to get excited about Kingery’s .389 average, we should be concerned that Odubel Herrera is 0 for 14. If we’re excited that catcher Jorge Alfaro is batting .417, we should be concerned that Rhys Hoskins is batting .176. If we’re excited that Aaron Altherr is batting .333, we should be concerned that Maikel Franco is batting .111.

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STARTING OFF: The key to the Phillies’ success may be their starting rotation. I’m not overly concerned by high ERAs during the spring, but I’m not sure the Phillies have a solid five-man rotation. Beyond Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff, I’m not sold on any of their other pitchers as reliable starters.

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FOLES OFFERS: It’s not surprising that the Eagles have reportedly received offers for quarterback Nick Foles. From his postseason performance, it’s clear that Foles would be an upgrade for at least 5-10 teams. What’s interesting about the reports is that the Eagles reportedly want more than the first-and fourth-round draft picks they received from the Vikings in exchange for Sam Bradford two seasons ago.

With Wentz’s knee injury creating uncertainty for next season, the Eagles are following the correct path in keeping Foles around unless they are completely blown away by a trade offer.

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COMBINE NEWS: I read some of the news from the NFL Scouting Combines in Indianapolis. Although there were some interesting stories, I didn’t learn anything about which players would be good professional athletes. Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is an off-the-charts athlete? I already knew that. What I didn’t learn was anything beyond what I already knew from watching him play for the Nittany Lions.

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RELIEF FOR THE UNION: Posting a 2-0 victory over the Revolution in their season opener must have been a huge relief for the Union, who didn’t win their first game during the 2017 season until their ninth game. But there won’t be much opportunity to build momentum from that early victory. The Union don’t play again until Sat., March 17, when they host Columbus, and then they have two more weeks until they visit Colorado.

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FAST START: Kevin Harvick is off to a blazing start, winning NASCAR races in Atlanta and Las Vegas. Not only is Harvick winning, but he is doing so in dominating fashion, winning the Pennzoil 400 in Vegas by nearly three seconds. Harvick is serving notice early that he could be the man to beat this year in NASCAR.

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SELECTION SUNDAY: We are approaching one of my favorite days of the year: Selection Sunday. The drama of seeing which teams made the NCAA Tournament and which ones did not kicks off one of the most exciting events of the year. The first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament are unmatched for hours of excitement during a four-day period. There’s nothing else in sports quite like it.

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for more than 29 years, will be sitting on his couch Sunday evening, just as he always is for Selection Sunday.

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