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Consecutive wins for Saints, who host Eagles on Sunday

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On November 4

With the Eagles at the midpoint of their season and the Flyers and Sixers working out their early-season kinks, the team for which this might be the most important week is the Phillies.

Free agency started this weekend. With plenty of money to spend, the Phillies could drastically alter their future by signing the right players.

The Phillies have both money and flexibility – and they have plenty of needs. Scott Kingery and Odubel Herrera are the only two players signed beyond 2020, although, obviously, the Phillies will need to retain players such as Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins. Considering the lack of long-term contracts and players locked in at specific positions, the Phillies have a ton of flexibility in free agency.

The two major prizes in free agency are outfielder Bryce Harper and shortstop Manny Machado. There is speculation that the Phillies could try to acquire both of them. Acquiring both Harper and Machado could create salary issues down the road, but the fact that the Phillies have the potential to sign both of them indicates how much flexibility they have.

There is no question that Harper and Machado would fill some of the Phillies’ needs. The Phillies, despite winning 80 games, have so many needs. They need power hitters, better defensive players, relievers and a starting pitcher. The only position player who should feel comfortable that he has a starting position locked in for next season is Rhys Hoskins, who is expected to move back to first base.

How drastic are the Phillies’ needs? In a column for mlb.com this weekend, Mike Petriello lists the Phillies’ rankings in runs scored (21st); on-base percentage (18th); slugging (23rd); strikeout rate (28th); OPS (24th); and defensive metrics (last in nearly every category). In other words, there is room for improvement just about everywhere.

The Phillies have a golden opportunity to improve through free agency. The addition of either Harper or Machado, let along both, would be a huge step in the right direction.

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ROSEMAN IS GOLDEN: The Eagles found yet another way to improve at the trade deadline. Recognizing that the offense needed more weapons, Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman acquired veteran receiver Golden Tate for a third-round draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

With 44 receptions for 517 yards and three touchdowns this season, the versatile Tate should immediately the Eagles offense. Having Tate to complement Alshon Jeffery, which also allows Nelson Agholor to move to his more comfortable position in the slot, provides Carson Wentz with a top-flight receiving corps. Trading for Tate is yet another feather in Roseman’s cap.

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THE WAITING: There’s nothing the Eagles (4-4) can do during their bye week except heal their bodies and watch the opposition. In the NFC East, the first-place Redskins (5-2) host the Falcons. The Eagles don’t face the Redskins until December, so, obviously, they would like some help in closing the gap. A Redskins victory over the Falcons would give them a two-game lead over the Eagles, who, barring a collapse by the Redskins, would have to sweep their December games with the Redskins to win the NFC East.

It’s also worth keeping an eye on the Cowboys (3-4). With a victory over the visiting Titans on Monday night, the Cowboys can move into a tie with the Eagles.

For those looking beyond the NFC East, the Saints (6-1) host the undefeated Rams (8-0) on Sunday (4:25 p.m.). The Eagles have little chance of catching either of those teams, but the Saints and Rams are the Eagles two non-NFC East road games during the second half of this season, so Sunday’s game is an opportunity for fans to do some advance scouting.

The good news in the NFC East is the Eagles, with two games remaining against both the Redskins and Cowboys, are somewhat in control of their own fate.

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TIME FOR CHANGE? The Union have to be happy that they made the playoffs, but they have to be disappointed about settling for sixth place and finishing their season without the franchise’s first playoff victory.

This is the first offseason for sporting director Ernst Tanner. One of the most important decisions Tanner must make is whether to retain head coach Jim Curtin. Having local roots, attending Bishop McDevitt High School and Villanova University, won’t help Curtin retain his job. He seems to have the support of his players, but if Tanner decides that many of those players won’t be members of the Union for much longer, what difference does their support matter for Curtin?

Regardless of whether or not Tanner retains Curtin, the question is whether he will tweak the roster or overhaul it as he attempts to create a more aggressive attacking team.

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MORAL VICTORY: Although some say there aren’t any moral victories in sports, I think Temple affirmed its improvement during Thursday’s 52-40 loss to 9th-ranked Central Florida. The Owls (5-4) actually held the lead at halftime before succumbing to the undefeated Knights.

Temple’s previous game was a victory over then-undefeated and 20th-ranked Cincinnati, so Thursday’s competitive game with Central Florida wasn’t a fluke. The Owls have certainly come a long way since starting the season with losses to Villanova and Buffalo.

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COACHING GRAVEYARD: This wasn’t a good week for coaches in Cleveland. The Cavaliers fired head coach Tyronn Lue after an 0-6 start. The Cavaliers, of course, lost LeBron James via free agency after being swept by the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

Hue Jackson followed Lue to the unemployment line one day later, having been dismissed by the Browns after a three-game losing streak. The Browns were 1-31 during Jackson’s first two seasons, so this season’s 2-5-1 record represents an improvement. But that wasn’t enough to save Jackson’s job. The Browns have lost some close games and there were reports that Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who also was fired, weren’t on the same page.

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CUP HALF FULL: Four of the final eight drivers in NASCAR playoffs compete for Stewart-Haas Racing. Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola are all still alive in NASCAR’s playoffs, but all but Harvick have their work cut out for them to qualify for the championship race.

With just two races left before the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, only Harvick is above the cut line for qualifying. Busch is 25 points away from the cut line, Bowyer is 42 points away from qualifying, and Almirola must overcome a 50-point deficit. That’s a lot of ground to make up in two races. It may take a victory Sunday in the AAA Texas 500 or next week at the Can-Am 500 in Phoenix for Busch, Bowyer or Almirola to reach the championship race.

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TIP OFF: College basketball season kicks off Tuesday. Locally, Villanova begins defense of its second national championship in three seasons when it hosts Morgan State (7 p.m.). The City Six rivalries get under way immediately Tuesday with Temple hosting La Salle (7:30 p.m.). Penn also opens its season Tuesday (7 p.m.) with a visit to George Mason.

But the preseason has been filled with overreaction to everything Fultz does. He scored 12 points in the Sixers’ first preseason game, including a 3-pointer. That was good news, but it was hardly worthy of the overanalysis that followed. It was one preseason game. When Fultz makes shots during the regular season, that’s when we can start to get excited.

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CORPORATE CULTURE: Fighting against corporate sponsorship in sports is like tilting at windmills, but I am still saddened to see an iconic venue like the Palestra get a corporate name. The University of Pennsylvania split hairs by selling naming rights to the court rather than the building, but the court will now be known as the Macquarie Court at the Palestra. Macquarie Investment Group is a global asset management firm with headquarters in Philadelphia.

I understand that this was an opportunity to generate substantial revenue, but the Palestra, which opened in 1927, is one of those special venues that should never have its name sullied by a corporate association.

Eric Fisher, who has been writing about sports for 30 years, would welcome corporate sponsorship of his Fish ‘n Chips column. 

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