Blogs > Jack McCaffery's blog

Jack McCaffery is the lead sports columnist for the Daily Times and He has spent several decades covering everything from the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers, to college hoops, to high school sports in Delco.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


There have been extra-inning games, upsets, various styles of play.
There have been teams from big markets and small.
There has been good pitching, clutch hitting, strategy, upsets and rallies.
And there have been lousy TV ratings for the most riveting postseason, round for round, in recent baseball history.
There is too much sports competition on TV. There are too many pitching changes, hitters climbing out of batter's boxes, throws to first base to hold runners, long counts. A sport that begins in March should be over before late October.
But the worst impediment to good ratings is that the baseball postseason is less organized than a rec-center league. With its play-in rounds, multi-initial intermediate-round tongue twisters (is this the ALDS or is it the NLCS?), various series lengths (best-of-one, best-of-five, best-of-seven), baseball gives its fans too much brain-work just to figure out who is playing where, when and why.
Beyond that, the pre-World Series rounds are televised by every network but Comedy Central. Then, after the World Series teams are settled, baseball waits around for a formally scheduled Game 1, losing any momentum of their league-championship series.
People crave clarity in their postseasons. Baseball should have three best-of-five series in each league, oddly enough labeled --- wait for it --- “first round”, “second round” and “third round.” Minimize the air-quote travel days. There should be one network responsible for televising each league's tournament.
The World Series, which must remain at best-of-seven, should return to its former format, with the home-field advantage alternating between the American and National League each year. Flood the market with brackets, encouraging office pools.
Make it fun, not a job to watch a game.
And how about your Hans and your Franz making a comeback? Dreams do come true.
Twice in this high school football season --- once in New Jersey, once in Pennsylvania --- a program has been shut down when it was found that unacceptable hazing of players had gone insufficiently policed.
Talk about jumping offside …
Fire the coach, if guilty. Sandblast the coaching staff. Change athletic director. Question the principal. By all means, run the hazers off the team --- and if some of their reported misdeeds are true, have them arrested. Punish the guilty. But don't punish everyone else.
To discontinue a football program because of the infiltration of thugs is to let the thugs win. Why should the band be denied an audience? Why should the cheerleaders have to pack away the megaphones for the season? Why should the opposing teams be left without opponents? Why should the people who may make a buck on high school football --- security guards, media sorts, referees, trainers, doctors, scoreboard operators, nearby pizza-joint owners, cops on OT--- be hit financially? Why should the fans be made to find something else to do?
There is always another qualified coach. There should be enough capable non-guilty players. Put them out there. Let them compete.
Bullies like to ruin things for others. In those two cases, they did.
Should I get a tattoo on the left side of my neck or the right side?
Notre Dame lost a football game to Florida State last weekend when an apparent eleventh-hour touchdown reception was overturned. Said the refs, the Fighting Irish had used an illegal pick play in order to free their receiver to catch the pass.
Good for the officials.
Good for two reasons.
One, they did not retreat into the sick “let the players decide the game” excuse to not throw a flag so late in the game. If it is a penalty during the first minute of the game, it's one in the last one, too.
Two, the play appeared to be sneaky and deliberate, the kind that too many college football and basketball teams try (and in some places are taught) in an effort to deceive the officials.
The penalty was correct. The proper team won the game --- a game not decided by the officials at all.
Get Duck Dynasty?
As the Union was finishing up its fourth non-playoff season in its five-year existence, CEO Nick Sakiewicz insisted that he did not hire one player, not one, not a striker, not a midfielder, not a goalie. That, he said, was the job of the personnel department and, by extension, the manager, Jim Curtin.
His claim was not universally saluted, just put it that way.
But just like when the Flyers make their bi-annual coaching change and Ed Snider insists that it was all the general manager's call, it would be interesting to do some forensic science on the Union's roster building and see how many of the CEO's fingerprints would be revealed under a black light.
Even Sakiewicz acknowledges some ultimate responsibility for every personnel move.
“Well,” he said, “I didn't veto any.”
n The Sixers will play their home opener Saturday night against Miami. They'll probably lose. But for one reason, the games should be more enjoyable this season: The new lighting that Josh Harris helped finance for the Wells Fargo Center. On display in the preseason, they brightened the court and darkened the seating areas, allowing for more of a grand-stage effect. Together they light.
U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp ruled this week that major sports leagues, including the NFL, would suffer permanent harm if Monmouth Park were to accept legal sports bets.
Yep, let some guys from Jersey to go into a legalized gambling hall and bet on a football game and that would be it for pro football in this nation. It would die. It probably wouldn't even make it until the Monday night game, that's how damaging it would be. They'd have to turn the Jets-Giants stadium into a used-car lot. The Linc would become a high-school lacrosse super-site.
Whew. That was close. The last thing the world needs is gambling at Monmouth Park.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Berube chat before Flyers-Ducks game

Any news on Braydon Coburn? Skate tomorrow?

“”No. Like I said, 'We'll see tomorrow.' I haven't seen him today or anything.”

You have had 3 guys get hurt in the middle of the game and yet finished the game? How?

“I don't know. They feel like they can finish the game, so they do. I don't know.”

Do they say they can continue?

“To be honest, I didn't know any of them were bothered or anything. None of them.”

How does Bellemare compare with Lecavailier, skill wise, body type, position wise?

“I think he'll be fine. He has real good speed. I think it should be a good line. With his speed in the middle of the ice, and with Simmonds and Schenn, it's a powerful line --- a good skating line, in my opinion. So I don't see any problem there.”

That line had been going well …

“Yeah, they had been.”

What do you like about Bellemare, and has he Bellemare adjusted to the league quickly?

“His speed and his smarts. He's a very smart player. He knows how to play the game. For a guy coming over here from over there, he adapted pretty quickly. He's good on faceoffs. He kills penalties. He does a lot of good things for us.”

What did you know about him before the Flyers signed him?

“Nothing. I knew he was a good skater. That was it.”

Had you ever seen him play?

“No. I watched tape on him. And our coaches watched tape of the world championship.”

Are you committed to Umberger-Read switch for the whole game?

“Well, we'll see. I don't see it being an issue. Both of them played either side before. So I don't think it makes a whole lot of difference, to be honest with you. Read is going to be able to the ice a little better --- a pretty good playmaker. So it might help from an offensive standpoint.”

Do you like it when players are pro-active that way?

“Yeah. I've got no problem with it. I like their input. I like to know what they are thinking. And I think it's good. I think they should be able to come to me at any time with whatever they need to talk to me about.”

Was there anything that you left the preseason concerned about, and that has come to fruition here, and if so, how do you correct it?

“I don't think so. I think, in our preseason, I said, 'The schedule is tough.' We couldn't get some of the lineups we wanted to get in. But overall, besides (Claude) Giroux, who never got much time, I think everybody got their time and what they needed. I look at these first three games and we could come out of there with points. We are making some mental mistakes at times, where we can't, and start cleaning that part of it up.”

Do you feel you are a much better team at this point than when you took over --- at this point last year?

“Yes, I do. Like I said, we could be sitting here not talking about this, but we are. So we deal with it, the adversity, like everything else, and we go forward. We'll go out tonight and see what happens.”

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Flyers not hitting 'panic button'

PHILADELPHIA >> For the second time in two seasons, the Flyers are 0-and-2.
The last time, they went 0-and-3 and …
“There was a feel of huge panic here,” Claude Giroux said Saturday, after a morning skate at the Wells Fargo Center. “Guys were trying to figure out what was going on. And after three games, our coach got fired. So that was a big panic button.”
The Flyers will play the 2-0 Montreal Canadiens Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center. Craig Berube said he would not change the lines that finished the Flyers' 6-4 loss Thursday against visiting New Jersey. Nor have the Flyers promoted any defensemen from the Phantoms, even with Braydon Coburn still out with a lower-body injury.
One change: Ray Emery will be in goal, replacing Steve Mason, who played the first two games. Thursday, Mason allowed five goals on 25 shots.
“It's the third game in four days,” Berube said. “It's his (Emery's) turn. He is sharp and is ready to go.”
The Flyers remain relatively unconcerned about their 0-2 straits.
“First and foremost, we are playing an intense brand of hockey,” said Wayne Simmonds, who scored twice against the Devils. “We've been moving our feet and skating a lot. It's just the little mistakes that have sealed our fate. If we can stay away from those, we'll be OK.”

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Berube confident that Mason can handle workload

Craig Berube met with the press prior to the Flyers’ home opener Thursday against the New Jersey Devils.

The conversation:

Were you tempted to rest Mason tonight, or are you confident he can handle the back-to-back workload?

“He can handle it. He proved it last year. Second half of the year, he was playing a lot of back-to-back.”

How did he play last night?

I thought he played well. I thought he looked sharp in net. I thought he was getting out of his net with the puck. And he was involved in the game.”

How did Lecavalier’s line play?

“They had some good O-zone time. I think that they killed some of their O-zone time with ‘just hope’ plays and not keeping the puck a little longer. I’d like to see them keep the puck a little bit longer and hang onto it a little bit longer rather than trying plays that are ‘hope’ plays. I’d rather them keep the puck a little bit longer, and move and protect it. They are a big line. They should be able to do that.”

Any line or defensive changes tonight?

“You’ll see when the game starts, right?”

How did Del Zotto play?

“He got better as the game went along. He was competitive last night. I thought he checked well, actually. I think he was just average with the puck. But I thought he checked well. I thought he was competitive defensively. With the puck he could be better.”

Any thought on the Chris Pronger situation, and how it could affect your cap?

“I’m not worried about that. Whatever he does, he does. There is nothing I can do about it.”

But it could affect your cap?

“I’ll call him up tomorrow and tell him not to do that”

Does Del Zotto still jump into the play like he used to?

“That’s probably a confidence thing, for sure. I thought he jumped up into the play in New York the first couple of years. When we played against him a lot, I’d see him in the rush all the time. But that’s a fair assessment, I think. It’s a confidence thing. But we’ll try to get him back to where he is involved in that rush. That would be a big part of his game.”

Zac Rinaldo talked about discipline, but took two penalties.

“Zac can’t retaliate. He’s got to skate away. I thought he had a good game. I thought he was physical. I thought he disrupted their team. He’s an effective player, even though he got a couple penalties, whether deserving or not. But he is trying to do the right thing.”

Any special home-opener memories as a player?

“Not really. No. I probably didn’t do a whole lot.”

Were Flyers outplayed last night or just out-shot?

“I’d say the shots --- and I looked at it today  --- their ‘D’ had like seven more shots from the point than us. I don’t think we got enough puck-shoot from the points. And our forwards at times didn’t shoot the puck and they should have. I think the first period, they had the zone time. They had the jump on us. But after that I thought it was pretty even.”

Giroux only two shots?

“I thought on the power play they just didn’t execute plays. They got a little bit cute at times, trying ‘hope’ plays instead of doing the simple things, shooting pucks and just being a simple power-play unit. Just overall, the whole game for me --- execution --- wasn’t great. But that’s where you look at Boston’s execution, and it was much better than ours. I don’t think they outplayed us. I don’t think they outworked us. I thought it was a physical game. If anything, I thought we were more physical than they were. But the work ethic was probably even, both ways. They executed with the puck better than we did.”

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Berube encouraged by Giroux skating

Craig Berube gave his usual pregame press interview Thursday before the Flyers played the New Jersey Devils in a preseason game at the Wells Fargo Center.

The transcript:

On Claude Giroux skating today: “I think he was fine. He had a good skate yesterday, on his own, and went out there and skated with some guys today. He seemed OK.”

Is that encouraging?: “Yeah. Definitely. Any time you can get back on the ice this early, it is really good.”

In picking a final roster, how much emphasis is placed on the preseason games, and how much on the practices? “I’d say it’s more the games. I think that you have to see how people play in the games and under pressure and stuff.”

Anybody catch your eye so far? “Well, we have a lot of young guys that have been really good, I think, and pretty impressive players who have a real good future here. They’ve all played well, the young guys, I think.”

Does Samuel Morin have a shot to make the team? “I don’t know that about anybody. I don’t go into that stuff. I really don’t. It’s not fair to anybody, including the kid. He’s played well.”

When the final roster is chosen, it’s it Ron Hextall’s call or the head coach’s call?: “I think we all sit down as a whole group and look at things and see what we’re all seeing. We have our opinions. And we will figure it out.”

Goaltender for tonight: “Mason and Zepp will split.”

How has the team played so far?: “I wasn’t up in London, but the guys seemed to play pretty good there. I thought we had a pretty good half a game here against Washington. We weren’t very good in the first period. In the Toronto game, we lacked energy. A lot of guys played back-to-back games that night.”

So you are looking for more energy tonight?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Jackson should have received Eagles' message

PHILADELPHIA --- For their choices, for their philosophies, for the way Chip Kelly wanted to run his program, the Eagles were destined have their 2014 season measured one way. They were going to be judged by how they performed without DeSean Jackson.
There would be defensive issues, and special teams dynamics, and the ever-evolving Nick Foles Experience. But, no, that would be their No. 1 issue, because they made it be their No. 1 issue by giving away their best receiver, in mid-career, for the low, low price of nothing. Could they be as potent a point-producing, yard-line-crossing, defense-confusing handful, even with Jackson still in their division, making his standard contributions?
In a 37-34 victory Sunday over the Washington Redskins, they had a quick answer, one stuffed in a handy package. For even on a day when Jackson would predictably torment them with an 81-yard touchdown reception and three-plus hours of freestyle celebrating, they would prove their head coach's leading offensive theory. They would show, to borrow Kelly's phrase, that they are an equal-opportunity offense, one able to win with the run, or with the short pass, or by the long pass, or by action inside, or outside, or both.
“You see the firepower on this offense,” Zach Ertz said as the Birds completed their first 3-0 start since their Super Bowl effort in 2004. “Between Maclin, Jordan, Coop and the running backs, we are never going to be out of a game.”
That would be Jeremy Maclin, who had 10 receptions Sunday, a touchdown included. And that would be Jordan Matthews, the rookie, who would score twice. And it would be Riley Cooper, who had seven catches. Three tight ends, Ertz included, caught passes. Two backs. Jeff Maehl made a cameo. If the game had lasted another 10 minutes, Kelly probably would have worked-in a tackle-eligible completion, just for the art.
That's how the Eagles play. More, that's how Kelly knew they could play without Jackson. Even more, that's how they played against Jackson, whose team did not win, even though he'd caught 11 passes.
Ever aware of the politics of football, Kelly pretended not to see much of Jackson's day-long carry-on. Hey, he was busy trying to rebuild his disintegrating offensive line. So maybe. But what competitor was ever too preoccupied to savor a last-laugh moment? And that's what the Eagles were enjoying Sunday, countering Jackson's effort with every exhibit of evidence why they felt they could bounce him off their roster.”
By winning the way they won, the Eagles didn't just grab early command of the NFC East. They proved a point.
“If they are going to try to take away our run game,” Kelly said, “then we have to make them pay through the air.”
They could have made opponents pay that way even if had retained Jackson. That's why the topic is not going to go away easily, and why it likely will hover when they visit Washington Dec. 20. But in their first chance to demonstrate to Jackson why they were confident enough to let him leave, the Eagles provided a different kind of taunting.
“Out there, I am just trying to help my team win the game, and I'm going to give everything to give a great effort,” Jackson said. “I think it was a great game and a credit to the other team who also did a great job. But we fought all the way to the end. It's just unfortunate that we didn't win the game.”
The Skins had a 33-yard field-goal attempt clang off the right upright in the fourth quarter. And the Eagles did mix in a 102-yard kickoff return TD. So some football variables did help make the difference in a three-point game.
But there were also the givens. And all along, Kelly believed it was a given that the Birds had enough pass-catchers to succeed without one more.
“We can score,” Maclin said. “And we can score in bunches. That is a credit to Chip, to (offensive coordinator) Pat (Shurmur) and to the guys we have on the offensive side of the ball.”
And it was a message to one no longer around.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Phillies Home Run Derby results

Before the Phillies-Marlins game Sunday, Julia DiSands of Prospect Park won the Girls' 9-10 division of the 44th annual Phillies Home Run Derby. DiSands scored 25 points. Ella Gamber (Millville, N.J.) was second, Jordyn Hemingway (Walnutport) third.

In the Girls' 7-8 division, Briana Benedetto of Ridley Park finished third, behind winner Kayley York of Souderton and Lauren Martino of Stone Harbor, N.J.

Colin Schumm of Prospect Park was third in the Boys' 9-10 competition, trailing winner Kaleb Powell (Upper Moreland) and Aaron Merlkein of Glendora, N.J.

The other winners: Theresa Beck (Lansdale), Girls' 11-12; Jeffrey Lougee (Sea Isle City, N.J.), Boys' 7-8; and Michael Baginski (Millville, N.J.), Boys' 11-12.