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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, July 24, 2016

Sons of Hagler, Leonard to get it on ... and other sports notes

Marvin Hagler Jr., left, with Sugar Ray Leonard Jr. and promoter Damon Feldman, center

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Gostisbehere meets with heroic Delco police officer

Chis Dorman, the Folcroft police officer who was shot seven times in the line of duty last week, welcomed a well-wisher today at the Folcroft Police Department ... Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere.

“What he’s been through the last week, I’m pretty sure his world’s been flipped upside down," Gostisbehere said, in a statement released by the Flyers. "But I wanted to take time out to lift his spirits a bit and get him in some orange and black to make him look really good now. 

"People see hockey players and other athletes as role models. But when you see police officers and firefighters, and you see what he’s going through right now and you see how much of a warrior he is and walking around right now, and it only happened a week ago, he’s pretty amazing and I’m pretty sure kids are going to be looking up to him.”

Dorman, 25, who survived the shooting, enjoyed the visit. “It’s awesome," he said. "It’s really good to meet someone like him.”

The Flyers gave Dorman, of the 63rd police district, a personalized No. 63 jersey.

“Awesome," Dorman said. "Perfect fit!” 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Phillies complete draft

The Phillies completed their draft Saturday, adding the following players in the 11th round through the 40th rounds:
Joshua Stephen, a high school centerfielder from Newport Beach, Calif.; Justin Miller, a right-handed high school pitcher from Fresno, Calif.; Andrew Brown, a right-handed high school pitcher from Alpine, Calif.; Darick Hall, a first baseman from Dallas Baptist University; Alex Wojciechowski, a first baseman from Minnesota-Duluth; Brett Barbier, a catcher from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; Daniel Zardon, a first baseman from Nova Southeastern Florida University; Jacob Kelzer, a right-handed pitcher from Indiana University; William Hibbs, a right-handed pitcher from Lamar; Caleb Eldridge, a first baseman from Cowley County (Okla.) J.C.; Jonathan Hennigan, a left-handed pitcher from Texas State.
Also, Kyle Young, a left-handed high school pitcher from Syosset, N.Y.; Camden Duzenack, a shortstop from Dallas Baptist; Tyler Hallead, a right-handed pitcher from the College of Southern Nevada; Trevor Bettencourt, a right-handed pitcher from Cal-Santa Barbara; Tyler Kent, a high school centerfielder from Otterbein, Col.; Davis Agle, a right-handed pitcher from Spartanburg Methodist; Awa Kurok, a right-handed pitcher from Hawaii-Hilo; Alexander Kline, a left-handed pitcher from Florida Nova Southeastern.
Also, Logan Davidson, a high school shortstop from Charlotte, N.C.; Tyler Frohwirth, a right-handed pitcher from Minnesota State; James Garner, a right-handed pitcher from Northwestern State; Jackson Klein, a right-handed pitcher from Stanford; Luke Maglich, an outfielder from the University of South Florida; Carter Bins, a high school catcher from Fairfield, Calif.; Joseph Scheroler, a right-handed pitcher from Southeastern Louisiana; James Ziemba, a left-handed pitcher from Duke; Trevor Hillhouse, a high school left-handed pitcher from Canton, Ga.; Dante Baldelli, a high school centerfielder from Cumberland, R.I.; and Trey Morris, a right-handed high school pitcher from Katy, Texas.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Mackanin gives hitting coach the green light

By Jack McCaffery
PHILADELPHIA >> Pete Mackanin was looking at his lineup card Tuesday evening, essentially concluding that he would not immediately send it out for framing.
“It's funny,” the Phillies' manager said, before a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs. “Without (Tommy) Joseph in it, it becomes a little different.
“That's the best I could come up with.”
The Phillies having lost nine of their previous 11, Mackanin used .234 hitter Freddy Galvis in the three hole, hit Ryan Howard No. 5 spot and gave Carlos Ruiz a start.
But as Mackanin ran his finger down the card, name by name, he wondered aloud why so many hitters were struggling. By the time he reached Jerad Eickhoff at No. 9, it was time to wonder: Is the manager still confident in his hitting coach, Steve Henderson, who has been around since 2012?
“Yes,” Mackanin said, without hesitation. “It’s funny because I listen to him and I go in the cage and I watch what they’re doing. And they are doing exactly what they need to be doing. And in the cage they do it. The hard part is taking it into a game.
“If they’re doing it in the cage, great you've got it, that’s it. Then they swing at the first pitch and they’re underneath the ball. Like I said, you can only teach so much. I’ve said this many times, but I can’t teach you how to ride a bike. You've got to get on it and feel it. I can’t teach you how to ice skate. I can tell you how to tie your skates and push off but you've got to figure it out.”
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Ruiz entered with a .226 average and hit No. 8, but supplied a single, stole his first base of the season and scored a run.
He's 37, has lost his No. 1 catching job to Cameron Rupp … and is testing his manager's patience.
“I don't like his swing,” Mackanin said. “He's upper-cutting the ball. And he doesn't look like the same guy. And I have talked to him about it and he's just not swinging the bat real well. But early on he did. It's a mechanical thing that I think he's got to correct. When you change your mechanics as a hitter, it's very hard to take it into the game. Because it feels different and therefore it feels uncomfortable. However, if you don't make that change, you're not going to hit. And it's as easy as that.”
Thus, Mackanin's stance, even if it is a bit wobbly: Ruiz's troubles are as much mechanical as age-related.
“I think it's a combination,” he said. “I'm looking at the cup half full instead of half empty. So that's the way I choose to look at it.”
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Howard's fourth-inning home run was the 366th of his career, tying him with Lance Berkman for 80th on the all-time list. It was his ninth of the season.
After a week in which he was benched and had a beer bottle thrown in his direction, Howard looked refreshed, sending a ball to the center field fence later in the game, and making a nice throw to second in the ninth.
“It's good,” he said. “I wasn't thinking about the week or the past 10 days. I was just thinking about that moment. I got a good pitch to hit. He hung me a breaking ball. And I was just able to hit it out.”
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Jerad Eickhoff struck out eight and walked two, allowing two hits and one earned run in seven innings.
“That was as good as he's been all year,” Mackanin said.
Gaining more command of his slider and showing velocity, Eickhoff improved to 3-8. His ERA is at 3.68.
“To win games like that you have to be fundamentally sound for the most part,” the right-hander said. “And I think we were tonight in key spots. Those guys behind me did a great job tonight.”
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With his wife, Krystle, Howard will entertain 3,000 school children at Citizens Bank Park Wednesday morning with a read-along from the Little Rhino book series. The event will be on behalf of the Big Piece Foundation.
There will also be a chance for a question-and-answer session with some players. With the Howards, Rupp will act out some of the parts of the book.
The Phillies will play the Cubs at 1:05.
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NOTES: A pregame rain chased both teams into the cages for batting practice … The Phils stole a season-high three bases … Howard had gone 50 at-bats between home runs … Jeanmar Gomez' six-out save was the first multi-inning save of his career … Vince Velasquez (5-2, 3.67 ERA) will face right-hander John Lackey (6-2, 2.88) Wednesday afternoon.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

How Sixers, Eagles plans are alike

Into just about every one of his public monologues, Jeffrey Lurie injects a form of the same phrase. Lately, Howie Roseman has been providing the chorus.

Give or take an inflection, this is how it goes: “We don't want to be risk-averse.” It's the Eagles' justification for everything; they could hire a coach and later fire the guy, both times proud that they were willing to take a chance. Lurie, for one, says it so often that he must spend his weekends leaping from Acapulco cliffs.

But no matter how many times Roseman took pride in taking the risk of trading multiple draft picks over multiple years to acquire the rights to draft Carson Wentz, the truth was the Eagles were taking anything but the dangerous route to what they believed was a championship. Rather, not unlike the Sixers, they convinced themselves that there was only one way to NFL fulfillment, and that was to do whatever it took to land a prospective superstar. In the case of football, that would be a quarterback.

The Sixers did their tanking up front, losing for years and collecting Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and other promises. The Eagles went back-door, forcing the move for Wentz, aware that they would not have many chances in future years to improve through the draft.

It's the way idealists have warped sports. Rather than letting something grow organically, they imagine a model and then try to make that model work. The Eagles have grown convinced, brainwashed even, that nothing will work without a superstar quarterback, and that once they have one, it's just a matter of how to arrange the parade chairs.

Carson Wentz may become a superstar. Or not. But the Eagles are not going to become champions just because they think they have figured out a system in a sport that is not so easily solved.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Wentz's disinterest in Bradford's situation a good sign for Eagles

PHILADELPHIA >> If Carson Wentz is going to be the quarterback the Eagles expect, he is going to have to shed the occasional tackle.

In his first call to the Philadelphia football press Thursday night, he shed one ... and broke into the clear.

Showing a minimum of concern about Sam Bradford's feelings, contract situation or developing holdout, Wentz showed that he will hit the NewsControl Compound with a winning attitude.

"I'm not really sure how it will transpire,” Wentz said, on the phone from Chicago. “I've been an Eagle now for about an hour. So we'll see how it transpires. It's out of my control. I'm not going to worry about it. It will all work out."

Wentz knows how he will react the first time he meets Bradford. And he will not be asking for an autograph.

“Professionally,” he said. “We're both professionals now. It will be what it is. And I won't make it bigger than it needs to be. I'm just going to go in there and focus on what I can control and learn as much ball as I can as quickly as I can.”

Check out the Daily Times and Friday for my column on the Eagles unnecessarily crowded quarterback room.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Goaltending battle brewing, other Flyers notes

By Jack McCaffery
VOORHEES, N.J. >> Early in the postseason, Steve Mason faced a barrage of Washington Capitals shots. Late in it, he faced a more threatening barrage. That was the one to his long-term status as the Flyers' No. 1 goaltender.
In a 3-0 series hole and with little alternative, Dave Hakstol replaced Mason with Michal Neuvirth, who won two games, including Game 5 in Washington, with a 44-save shutout. He was almost, but not quite, as spectacular in Game 6, a 1-0 Flyers loss.
“Neuvy came in and he had an unbelievable year,” Mason said Tuesday, as the Flyers rolled out of the Skate Zone for the final time this season. “All the credit to him. He deserved the ice time that he got. As a goalie, you want to play every game. But sometimes you’ve just got to accept the fact that a guy has come in and earned his ice time.
“Moving forward, next year is an entirely new season and both of us have to earn the ice time.”
That seemed to be the message Mason received after meeting individually with Hakstol and Ron Hextall.
“Over the course of the summer I’m going to prepare to be a No. 1 guy,” he said. “Nothing is given. Nothing was given this year. Both of us had to earn playing time. So I think I’ll just go into next season not expecting to be given anything and having to come in and earn everything.”
As for Neuvirth, who will be entering the season in the final year of a two-year contract, he understands that there will be a healthy competition for playing time.
“You know, it’s been a very good year,” Neuvirth said. “Mase has been good as well. I think it’s going to be open for anybody. My goal is to be a No. 1. That’s what I’m hoping for.’’
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When last seen in public, Scott Laughton was being carried off the Wells Fargo Center ice on a stretcher after an oddly unfortunate hit from John Carlson in Game 4 of the Washington series.
Hospitalized and then unavailable for the rest of the series, Laughton resurfaced Tuesday at the Skate Zone.
“I feel great,” he said.
As per Flyers and hockey custom, Laughton would not share the particulars of his injury. But he did say he never lost feeling in his extremities, which was among the early fears.
“I was conscious the whole time,” he said. “It was just a tough play, a really weird play. I know it was scary for a lot of people including myself. Like I said, I really appreciate all the support from all the people who did reach out and everything like that. It really did mean the world to me. It was definitely a scary moment.”
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Not that there was great doubt, but Sean Couturier admitted it was a shoulder injury that kept him out of all but the first 30 minutes of the postseason. Specifically, it was an AC joint separation.
If the Flyers had taken the Caps to a Game 7, Couturier said he was prepared to play.
“I was close to returning,” he said. “I was skating by myself. I tried skating after Game 3 and I couldn't shoot at all. After Game 5, I started skating and I could skate a little bit. It was getting better. But it's tough to say if I was going to be able to play or not.”
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Ryan White's one-year contact with the Flyers is up … and he wouldn't mind an encore.
“I'd like to be back,” the right-wing said. “I think it's a good fit to be here in Philly. I mean, my family loves it here. I love playing here.”
White, 28, played for the Canadiens for five seasons and has been with the Flyers for two seasons. But he had a productive year under Hakstol, playing regularly on a line with Chris VandeVelde and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and also down low on the second power-play unit.
“When you get to a spot where you're getting some opportunity and people around the team all kind of have the same mindset as you do, you don't really want to test too many waters, I guess,” White said. “Business is business. Hopefully we can get something done.”
White provided 11 goals and 16 points as a fourth-line player, along with a gritty relentlessness.
“I hope, obviously I had a better season, so maybe it will be a little bit better a market,” he said. “But I would like to be back and be a Flyer.”
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Radko Gudas is a restricted free agent. He, too, hopes and expects to remain a Flyer.
“Obviously I thought I had a good year and I want to stay here as much as possible,” the defenseman said. “I really enjoy playing for Philly. I’m looking forward to staying here.”
Gudas, a key piece acquired from Tampa Bay in the Flyers' 2015 trade of Braydon Coburn, provided five goals, nine assists, some controversial hits and some postseason energy against Alex Ovechkin, among other larger Washington Capitals.
“I’m sure they talked throughout the season, but I think it’s going to be time now that they’ll start talking more,” he said. “We’ll see where the negotiations will go.”
Gudas, 25, will be entering his fifth NHL season, aware that his reputation for rough play and heightened visibility will leave him as a target.
“I think there’s always going to be a target on my back,” he said, “no matter what.”
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Brandon Manning, successfully paired on the blue line with Gudas late in the season and in the playoffs, was also playing on an expiring contract.
He is not aware of any ongoing negotiations, but hopes to return.
“Oh yeah, definitely,” he said. “The Flyers have been good to me. Hexy has been a straight shooter over the few years he's been running the show here.
“Everything moving forward, it's going to be a good time to be a Flyer.”
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Promoted to the Flyers early in the season from the AHL, Shayne Gostisbehere did manage to play 64 games, score 17 goals and help lead a charge into the playoffs. For that, he is expected to be among the finalists for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie.
“It would be a tremendous honor to be associated with the award,” he said. “It would be very nice. I can't do it without my teammates. They really helped me along the way.”