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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Hector Neris (pictured) may be the third reliever to try the closer’s role if 39-year-old Joaquin Benoit, who replaced Jeanmar Gomez, can’t get the job done better than he did during Sunday’s 6-4 loss to the Nationals. Eric Fisher also points out that the gamble on Clay Buchholz didn’t pay off, Aaron Nola is off to a good start and several Phillies hitters are off to poor starts.

The Greek God of Wrestling explains why WWE’s Great Balls of Fire didn’t quite reach the heights he expected of it. Achilles Heel also provides a rundown of next Sunday’s Battleground at Wells Fargo Center, reviews a troubling incident involving Alberto El Patron, and congratulates the new CZW champion.

Bryan Colangelo has received a lot of criticism for the Nerlens Noel trade. But Eric Fisher says the blame should be directed toward former 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie.

Archive for February, 2019

Phillies finally get their man

Posted by Eric Fisher On February - 28 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

After playing hard to get all winter, Bryce Harper finally said “yes.”

According to numerous reports, the coveted free agent outfielder agreed to join the Phillies for a contract reportedly worth $330 million over 13 years. The Phillies have not confirmed the signing, but the contract reportedly includes neither a no-trade clause nor an opportunity for Harper to opt out of his contract after a specified number of years. In other words, unless both sides agree to move on, Harper, 26, could be a Phillie for the rest of his career.

That’s quite a commitment from the Phillies to Harper and from Harper to the Phillies. The $330 million is the most lucrative contract in American sports history. By agreeing to a 13-year contract without an opt-out clause, Harper is committing to being a Phillie until nearly his 40th birthday.

At times during this offseason, it might have seemed as if Harper wouldn’t sign before his 40th birthday. the process dragged on all winter. With agent Scott Boras determined to get Harper the richest contract in baseball history, he had to wait until after free agent infielder Manny Machado signed with a team. When Machado signed with the Padres for 10 years and $300 million last week, it set a standard for Harper to exceed. The eight-year, $260 million contract extension third baseman Nolan Arenado signed with the Rockies also helped set the market for Harper.

Phillies fans had reason for concern as the Dodgers and Giants made last-ditches pitches to secure Harper’s talents this week after Phillies majority owner John Middleton flew out of Las Vegas on Sunday without Harper’s signature on a contract. Fans and talk-show hosts had even started to speak as if Harper wasn’t signing with the Phillies — and there certainly were some nervous moments this week. But the Dodgers and Giants apparently couldn’t match the money the Phillies were willing to commit to Harper.

Harper instantly transforms the Phillies. He transforms their lineup and he transforms expectations for this team. Anything less than a division championship and deep run into the playoffs will be considered a disappointment.

The good news is that Harper won’t have to elevate the Phillies by himself. They added shortstop Jean Segura, outfielder Andrew McCutchen and catcher J.T. Realmuto to the lineup earlier this offseason. Those three players and Harper completely alter the Phillies lineup.

Harper only batted .249 last season, but he led the major leagues with 130 walks. When he was making contact, Harper hit 34 home runs and accumulated 100 RBI. Those are numbers that wouldn’t look bad for the Phillies this season. With the revamped lineup, however, Harper should put up even better numbers, especially if he bats third, with Rhys Hoskins hitting behind him.

During his seven seasons with the Nationals, Harper batted .279 with 184 home runs and 521 RBI. He was the National League Rookie of the Year in 2012 and the NL MVP in 2015.

However, Harper has yet to win a playoff series during his career. The Phillies certainly hope that changes this season. In fact, they must have their sights set higher than winning one series.

That’s what happens to expectations when you get your man.

Simmonds leaves behind admirable legacy

Posted by Eric Fisher On February - 25 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

After giving the Flyers all he had for nearly eight seasons, Wayne Simmonds is leaving town. The Flyers traded Simmonds to the Predators before Monday afternoon’s trade deadline, receiving forward Ryan Hartman and a conditional 4th-round selection in the 2020 NHL Draft in return.

The well-respected Simmonds, 30, was expendable because his contract expires at the end of this season, allowing him to leave as an unrestricted free agent. Negotiations with the Flyers did not result in a new contract, so the Flyers traded him rather than risk losing Simmonds without receiving anything for him.

Simmonds leaves the Flyers, who are seven points out of a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, for the Predators, who are in second place in the Central Division in the Western Conference. The Predators also added 26-year-old forward Mikael Granlund (15 goals, 34 assits) from the Wild at the trade deadline.

When he joins the Predators, Simmonds will find a familiar face behind the bench. Predators head coach Peter Laviolette was the Flyers’ head coach during Simmonds first three seasons with the Flyers.

Simmonds was acquired from the Kings in 2011 a major trade that sent Flyers captain Mike Richards to the Kings in exchange for Simmonds, center Brayden Schenn and a second-round draft pick. Simmons doubled his goal total to 28 in his first year with the Flyers, and scored at least 24 goals in every full season he played with the Flyers. (He only played 45 games during his second season with the Flyers, scoring 15 goals.)

Power player

A big part of Simmonds’ production was the power play. With the exception of the season in which he only played 45 games, Simmonds scored at least 11 power play goals in his other seasons with the Flyers, although he may have had difficulty continuing that streak this season. One reason Simmonds is valuable to the Predators is they have the worst power play in the NHL.

Simmonds’ production has dropped this season. He has 16 goals and 11 assists in 62 games, continuing a downward trend in production since establishing career highs with 32 goals and 28 assists during the 2015-16 season. He only has five power play goals this season and has a team-worst minus-20 plus-minus ranking.

But Simmonds’ contributions can’t be measured simply by the numbers. He is a physical force who stands up for his teammates. When Anthony Mantha pushed Claude Giroux’s head into the boards from behind late in the third period of the first game of a home-and-home series with the Red Wings, it was Simmonds who challenged Mantha to a fight during the first minute of the next game.

Hartman, 24, has 10 goals and 10 assists this season in 64 games with the Predators. He was selected 30th overall by the Blackhawks in the 2013 NHL Draft. He can become a restricted free agent after this season, but his salary cap hit of $875,000 is $3 million less than Simmonds’ cap hit this season, so he will be easier to re-sign.

It’s also possible that Simmonds returns to the Flyers before his playing days are over. The Flyers certainly valued Simmonds’ contributions.

Memorable farewell

In case anyone needed a reminder of Simmonds’ value, in his final game as a Flyers, a 4-3 overtime triumph over the Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field, Simmonds knocked Brian Dumoulin, one of the Penguins’ top defensemen, out of the game with bone-rattling clean check. The check sparked a mini-melee that also knocked defenseman Kris Letang out of the game.

After the game, Simmonds’ teammates let him know their feelings in what would be his final game as a Flyer by giving him the player-of-the-game helmet, which was passed from captain Claude Giroux, who scored the game-winning goal in overtime, to Jakub Voracek to Simmonds.

Although the trade makes sense from a financial perspective, practically everyone is sorry to see Simmonds leave.

Harper hits 1st home run as Phillie